Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in DC by the author.

Ward 8 residents have long expressed frustration over lack of information about transportation projects in the area and government processes that seem opaque. Now several local advisory neighborhood commissioners are puttting together a group to close the communication gap and help residents be more informed and engaged.

ANC commissioners in Anacostia, Fort Stanton, Hillsdale, and Fairlawn are in the process of appointing several residents to a new transportation committee. Appointments started in August 2019, and will continue until all resident committee seats are filled.

“There was an opportunity for more resident input,” Ty’on Jones, an 8A06 ANC commissioner and treasurer, told me in a phone interview. “And we thought it was important to reactivate these committees…Our biggest goal was to allow for additional community engagement, which is sometimes rare in our community.”

The transportation committee will consist of seven appointed residents along with the seven ANC commissioners. Each of the seven commissioners in 8A gets to appoint one resident for each of six committees, which include The ABRA Committee, which covers alcohol and beverage control issues; the Economic Development Committee, covering zoning and development; the Public Safety Committee; Education Committee; and the Community Outreach Committee.

The transportation committee will be crucial in working with key agencies like the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) on the day-to-day issues of transportation, infrastructure, and policies, Jones said. He hopes the committee can “become educated on how transportation affects our residents, and also what we can do as commissioners to be more educated and proactive.”

According to the ANC 8A bylaws, committee members will serve for one year in the appointed position. One commissioner will serve as a liaison to help residents get acclimated to the ANC office and answer any questions, Jones said.

Transportation matters

Sidney L. Woods, a Hillsdale resident, shared how transportation in the area impacts his life every day. While he drives to work, his wife usually takes Metro or the Circulator bus to her job. “I want to make sure she is safe,” Woods told me by phone.

“Transportation is an integral part of a lot of development going on in Ward 8,” Woods said. “I have seen a lot of things happen in the ward where a lack of information causes a disruption….It’s all about sharing information.”

Road safety has been a concern for many DC residents, but particularly for some living east of the Anacostia River. As we have covered on the blog, residents here are disproportionately impacted by dangerous infrastructure as well as other safety issues. Over the last Memorial Day weekend, two simultaneous vigils were held for both victims of gun violence and pedestrians killed by drivers.

Jones hopes a key focus for the transportation committee will be infrastructure, especially on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. “There have been a lot of concerns about the pavement, and the parking,” Jones said. “We know there were a lot of concerns about four-way stop signs.”

“We want to see some of the infrastructure built up so we feel safe,” Jones added.

Lauren Wolfe, an Anacostia resident who will also serve on the committee, told me via email, “I wanted to join the transportation committee because I have been disappointed by the lack of safe sidewalks, the difficulty of crossing MLK and Good Hope as a pedestrian, and I am very frustrated with the bus to subway transfer charge.”

“Bus service needs to be more reliable in general and run more frequently,” Wolfe added.

Image of the revitalization plan on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE Image by DDOT.

Lots of projects in the pipeline

DDOT 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, better sidewalks, drainage, and a new median. Construction is supposed to begin in the spring of 2020.

With several transportation projects starting, wrapping up, or in the middle of construction, in Ward 8, a committee like this is critical to helping residents understand and weigh in on what is happening. If you’re interested in learning more, head to the next 8A ANC meeting on October 1.