The new alignment of Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park has been the subject of neighborhood listserv posts, comment streams, Facebook pages, blog posts, and now two upcoming public meetings with high ranking local officials.
Councilmembers Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and District Department of Transportation (DDOT) Director Terry Bellamy will attend a discussion Monday at Georgetown’s monthly Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting. In May, Cheh has scheduled a roundtable to allow the DDOT to present its preliminary data and for the public to provide feedback.
The streetscape project’s wider sidewalks and new streetlights have received generally positive responses, with most people Patch interviewed about the project saying those improvements should remain.
But it is the changes to the lane configurations that have pitted groups of residents against one another. The project reduced the number of lanes for traffic from three to two during peak hours and from two to one during non-peak hours. Select intersections now have left turn lanes.
To date the project cost $4.41 million, which includes about $1.83 milion in local money, according to figures provided by DDOT.
One of the goals of reducing the number of lanes of traffic in Glover Park was to calm traffic and to make Glover Park more pedestrian friendly.
Between January 2008 and December 2010, there were 11 reported crashes involving pedestrians in the project corridor, between Whitehaven Parkway and Massachusetts Avenue, NW, according to the most recent data Patch was able to obtain.
DDOT declared the project substantially completed in December and has since begun taking preliminary traffic counts to see what impact the new lane configuration has had on Wisconsin Avenue traffic.
Patch’s request for project data, including traffic counts before and preliminary after counts on both Wisconsin Avenue and side streets, was ignored by DDOT in a response from the agency Friday.
When Patch spoke with DDOT in February, project manager Paul Hoffman said the preliminary results suggested things were working according to plan. Traffic was moving slower, but was still flowing. He called the results thus far preliminary and said the agency would need more time to offer a complete view of the project impacts.
Most of the businesses and locals who spoke with Patch last week said they had little in the way of complaints about the traffic.
Lisa McCluskey lives on W Street NW and was with her children at the Guy Mason playground on a gray February afternoon. She said she was initially a “skeptic” of the plan to reduce traffic lanes. She had worked for a transportation association until her new baby was born several months ago.
She said she makes the trip between Glover Park and the Safeway at the edge of the project area almost daily and that she has not really noticed a difference in how long it takes her. She does, however, have high praise for the new wider sidewalks.
McCluskey said for someone like her with a double stroller, the new sidewalks make it easier for her to frequent businesses along Wisconsin Avenue even when the “going out” crowd is also out and about.
Her only complaint is the timing on the light at Calvert Street, NW. She said it is not long enough to allow pedestrians, especially older residents carrying groceries, to safely make it across the street.
And to the extent there is congestion on Wisconsin Avenue, McCluskey said she is withholding judgement for the time being.
“I know you have to be patient,” she said.
Brendan Sullivan, the founder and president of Headfirst Camps, said he feels like there is “significant clogging” now along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor. He has an office in Glover Park in the project area.
He said he understands the desire to slow traffic and improve the pedestrian experience in Glover Park. He was walking his dog at the time and said he likes the new sidewalks.
But, he asked, “Is it worth the congestion?”
Sullivan’s friend and Wisconsin Avenue neighbor, Bo Blair, thinks the answer to that question is unequivocally “no.”
“My entire life is going up and down Wisconsin,” said Blair, who said he travels the corridor sometimes as much as 15 times a day. He owns Surfside, 2444 Wisconsin Ave. NW, in Glover Park and Smithpoint, 1338 Wisconsin Ave NW, in Georgetown and his mom lives in an apartment on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown.
Blair said he likes the streetscape improvements like wider sidewalks and better lighting.
Other business owners in Glover Park told Patch that construction was the biggest gripe they have with the streetscape.
David Choi, who owns Pearsons’s Liquor, told Patch he has seen no difference in his business because of the streetscape project. Jay Choe at Georgetown Valet expressed the same sentiment.
While Blair says he has not necessarily noticed a drop off in revenues from the project, he has been hearing from friends and customers who used to drive to Surfside that they are no longer willing to because of traffic.
Blair said the problem as he sees it is “what they’ve done on the street,” meaning the lane reductions and reconfiguration. He'd like to see the old lane configurations returned.
“The amount of traffic [on Wisconsin Avenue] cannot be shoved into one lane,” said Blair.
Even he has stopped using Wisconsin Avenue. Now he says he cuts through the side streets, using Foxhall Road and 37th Street to avoid Wisconsin Avenue.
The impact on side streets is another concern raised frequently on the listservs and will be among the topics of concern at the Monday night ANC meeting.
DDOT agreed to redesign the intersection of 37th Street and Tunlaw Road to address residents’ concerns about cut-through traffic. Construction is expected to begin in the spring.
The agency took traffic counts at seven intersections along Tunlaw Road and 37th Street between July 2007 and April 2012. Four of those intersections were counted in April 2012 as construction began.
The agency has said at various public meetings and in a variety of documents that the expectation is for traffic volumes to return to roughly pre-construction levels once the 37th and Tunlaw work is completed. DDOT has also said there would be more traffic counts once the Wisconsin Avenue portion of the project is completed. Those numbers are not available online and were not provided to Patch when requested.
DDOT has also said previously that it plans to collect data over the course of a year after the project to provide a full picture of how traffic is behaving and to inform anything that might need to be changed.
Monday, just a few short months since the project was deemed "complete," the agency will face a room full of people with anecdotes—but no data—about how the project is working or not and what, if anything else, needs to be done.
The meeting should be a lively one.
See More on Patch
- Construction Begins at 37th and Tunlaw, Roundtable Scheduled
- Could New Pedestrian Signals Work on Wisconsin Avenue?
- Construction, Detours to Impact 37th Street Travelers
- Wisconsin Avenue Requires Near-Term Fixes, Additional Study
- Wisconsin Avenue Changes Bring Cheh, Evans and Bellamy to Georgetown ANC