A Bellevue resident looks at upcoming projects during DDOT's open house. Image by the author.

Safer streets and better places to bicycle, walk, and scoot are coming to Ward 8. On Saturday, July 27 residents got to see what transportation projects are planned for their area at the District Department of Transportation’s Open House.

The event is the first in a series, said DDOT Director Jeff Marootian, who was on hand with several agency staff members to talk with attendees. “We hope to share a lot of information about the projects we’ve got being planned and in some cases projects already in construction,” Marootian said, “and we want to hear from residents about what their safety concerns are, and really more than anything, build relationships with the community.”

Residents were encouraged to walk around the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC) on Mississippi Avenue SE and talk to agency staff about projects. Specifically, the agency was soliciting feedback about where they would like to see safety changes.

Better bicycle infrastructure is coming

Ward 8’s first protected bikeway is slated to be installed along Mississippi Avenue SE from 13th Street to Stanton Road. It’s an important safety update because there are several schools along this route.

The plan calls for a two-way, eight-foot-wide protected bikeway to be inserted along the northbound side of the 35-foot-wide street. Signs and pavement markings are expected to be installed by the fall.

The new design for Mississippi Avenue. Image by DDOT.

Keith Haynes, a Ward 8 resident who used to ride his bike to the gym and around the city, attended the event to see what was being done about bike safety and access. “I used to ride my bike everywhere. I don’t even own a car anymore because I enjoyed riding my bike,” Haynes said.

But safety concerns dampened his riding routine, Haynes said, and concerns around Alabama Avenue and bike access were particularly troubling to him. “I feel like yes, maybe there are issues dealing with parking, but I feel like my life is just as important as your having a parking space,” Haynes said. “And right now my life is in danger riding on Alabama Avenue.”

Alabama Avenue is a dangerous street: Just last year two school children and a grandmother were hit there. It’s been in the news again recently because bike lanes were recently installed to calm traffic, but after an outcry from some drivers, DDOT removed a portion of the bike lanes and reinstalled 12 parking spaces. Alabama Avenue is still being reconfigured, and we’ll keep you updated.

In the meantime, here are six other transportation projects worth keeping an eye on.

1. Bike lanes on Stanton Road SE

Bike lanes are coming to Stanton Road SE.

To better connect the area’s bike lanes to one another, DDOT is adding bike lanes which will run from Suitland Parkway to Tubman Street. Five-foot-wide painted bike lanes will be installed on both sides of the street, and they should be completed this fall.

2. A better I-295/ Malcolm X interchange

Project area by DDOT.

Construction started last summer on reconstructing the I-295 interchange with Malcolm X Avenue SE, which will improve access to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) headquarters and to the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB). The project includes modified ramps and a new access road to the St. Elizabeth’s West Campus. Expect retaining walls, better lighting, landscaping, and a shared use path for people biking, scooting, and walking, along with other updates.

3. Traffic calming and more on Southern Avenue

Southern Avenue project area. Image created with Google Maps.

Traffic calming measures are slated to be installed along Southern Avenue from Barnaby Road SE to the United Medical Center (UMC) campus by early 2020 to help reduce speeding. The safety changes are needed: Joshua Lorenzo Williams was hit and killed by a driver while trying to cross the street on foot in May 2019. The project also includes better storm management infrastructure and landscaping.

4. Better lights and sidewalks on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE

The intersection of Martln Luther King Jr. Avenue and Malcom X Avenue. Image by the author.

One of the biggest projects planned for the area is revitalizing Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE from South Capitol Street to Milwaukee Place. Phase One, which will cover 4th Street to Milwaukee Place SE, is a $9 million project that’s part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Vision Zero initiatives.

Five new traffic lights and a HAWK pedestrian signal will be added, as well as an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramp for people on wheels and better sidewalks, drainage, and pavement, plus a new median. Construction is supposed to begin in the spring of 2020.

5. Traffic calming on Wheeler Road

A traffic calming proposal for Wheeler Road. Image by DDOT.

Wheeler Road is another street that sees a lot of speeding drivers and crashes. To help address this, the street could get a road diet, and the outside lanes may be transformed into bike lanes, parking, curb extensions, and turn lanes. This project is currently in the preliminary design stages.

6. The Frederick Douglass Bridge

Mockup for the new Frederick Douglass bridge. Image by DDOT.

The new Frederick Douglass Bridge, which spans the Anacostia River and connects South Capitol Street, Potomac Avenue, and Q Street SW, is one of DC’s largest construction projects. The bridge is slated to be completed by 2021, and there are plenty of videos and photos of the project to enjoy in the meantime.

Residents want to know what’s coming to their neighborhood

Residents walk through DDOT's open house. Image by the author.

A bird’s eye view of DDOT’s plans really helps residents understand what’s coming to the area, said Gregg Adams, who lives in the ward. Adams was pleased “to just learn what is going on or what could be going on.”

“With the plans that I have seen, I have reasonable optimism that okay, Ward 8 has not been forgotten,” Adams said. He says he’d like to see these types of presentations and discussions with residents continue.

Marootian said that DDOT has been building an engagement team and already has three staff members who work specifically with issues east of the Anacostia River. “We continue to work at making our community engagement stronger,” Marootian said. “We know we are at our best when we build community partnerships.”

Upcoming open house events are in the works for all wards, Marootian said. If you’re interested in attending one, you can find more information on the DDOT website. The agency is also working to update its website to include information about all of these projects.

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George Kevin Jordan is GGWash's Editor and Correspondent writing about urgency and equity in transportation in the Washington region and also the transformation of Tysons. He is a proud new-ish resident of Hillcrest in DC's Ward 7. He was born and raised in Milwaukee and has written for many publications, most recently the AFRO and about HIV/AIDS issues for TheBody.com.