D.C. commits to projects to advance the city’s long-range transportation plan

Over the next two years, cyclists in the District will have more bike lanes, pedestrians will have more sidewalks and bus riders will enjoy stops equipped with digital screens that show bus arrival times.
In addition, some of the city’s major bridges will begin undergoing repairs and several key studies of the city’s rail infrastructure and the transit needs of the growing 16th Street corridor will be completed or be well underway.

At least that’s the plan of the District Department of Transportation, which last week unveiled a list of projects and initiatives it aims to pursue over the next two years as the first steps in its long-range transportation priorities.

MoveDC, which looks ahead to 2040, envisions a wide transit network that includes a streetcar system, dedicated bus lanes in major commuter corridors, expanded Metrorail service in the downtown core, an active water taxi system and 200 miles of on-street bicycle lanes.

With the plan, the city aims to expand transit options while deterring driving through the use of toll lanes on the city’s gateways and charging a congestion fee to motorists entering downtown.

“MoveDC is about being able to expand choices for all modes or methods of getting around the city and making transportation increasingly safe and accessible,” Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said in releasing the plan. “It continues to lead us down the path of being greener, healthier and more economically competitive as well as a safe city for everyone.”

To get there, DDOT plans on tackling 36 key steps over the next two years. These include capital investments in critical infrastructure, the advance of several transportation studies and policy changes.

Transportation officials say they plan a major undertaking in repairing critical infrastructure, with a goal to reduce by half the number of structurally deficient bridges. Work began last week on the replacement of the 16th Street Bridge over Military Road, and DDOT says it plans improvements at several other bridges, including the Key Bridge in Georgetown and the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge over the Anacostia River. That project will begin next year and includes a new bridge with wide sidewalks and space for bicycles, officials said.

Other key steps over the next two years include:

  • Completion of DDOT’s traffic signal optimization project to improve timing and traffic flow and increase pedestrian safety. The city plans to finish optimizing its 1,600 signals by 2016.
  • Adding sidewalks in at least 25 blocks where they are missing, with priority given to areas near schools, parks and transit.
  • Improving pedestrian safety at 20 or more intersections.
  • Completion of the Klingle and Kenilworth/Anacostia Riverwalk Trail projects and advancing the Rock Creek and Metropolitan Branch Trail projects.
  • Expanding the bike network by installing or upgrading 15 miles of on-street bicycle facilities.
  • Completion of bus priority improvements. DDOT plans to create dedicated bus lanes on Georgia Avenue from Florida Avenue to Barry Place, provide transit signal priority on 16th Street and offer real-time arrival information in bus shelters citywide. DDOT officials say they plan to work with Metro to implement signal improvements in at least 10 locations on high-ridership corridors to expedite bus service.

As part of its short-term goals, DDOT will proceed with several studies, including how to increase bus capacity in the 16th Street NW corridor, where some transit users and advocates have been calling for the implementation of dedicated bus lanes. The agency also plans to advance a study on bicycle infrastructure on the east side of downtown, the federal environmental review process for the streetcar system and a comprehensive rail plan for the city.

DDOT Director Matthew Brown said the short-term action plan will keep DDOT and other agencies on track to advance the big ideas in the plan. Officials say a discussion of the 25-year, $54 billion moveDC initiative and a plan for funding it are still needed. Gray said the plan also recognizes the need to create a reliable long-term revenue source for Metro. And among the most immediate concerns are restoring funding for the proposed 22-mile streetcar network. The D.C. Council voted to sharply roll back Gray’s proposed budget for the streetcar lines. Last week, Gray administration officials announced they will push to spend $800 million for a transit network with only about eight miles of streetcar line within the next decade.

Gray said he has every confidence that the moveDC plan will be carried out. “I don’t know what changes future mayors will make in this document, but I really think the fundamental direction in this plan will be sustained.”
Some transportation advocates say the plan sets reasonable goals and will serve as a strong framework for where the city wants to be in 25 years, and they expect future administrations to follow it.

The plan was crafted after a year-long public process to provide D.C. residents, and nonresidents who commute to the District, a guide to a variety of alternatives to driving.

“The moveDC vision plan sets out the right overall agenda for the city,”said Cheryl Cort, policy director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “It’s based on important sustainability goals, like how do we give people better transportation choices by making walking and bicycling safer and more appealing and how do we make transit work more efficient and more reliable.

“The two-year action plan shows us step by step how we are going to move forward,” she said. “We think that this plan is not really the possession of any one administration, but was created through a very thoughtful, inclusive process with the public and we certainly feel that we are owners of this plan and will be pushing on the decision-makers to speed up implementation.”

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