City Paper is not for tourists
Commuters beware: Your northbound launching pad is in peril.
The District’s Department of Transportation is weighing proposals to turn this four-lane expressway into a sleepy, two-way neighborhoody street. Rerouting would affect the portion of 15th from the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue NW all the way up to Florida Avenue/W Street.
According to DDOT spokesman Erik Linden, the stretch of asphalt in question has “become increasingly residential” in recent years. “The general theory behind converting such a corridor to two-way is to help calm traffic and improve access for residents. Too often our one-way streets downtown become speedways instead of livable city streets. If we move forward, the goal would be to change that.”
And Linden emphasizes that the “if,” in this case, is pretty big. “It’s important to note that no decision has been made – DDOT is studying the feasibility of this option and engaging residents and businesses before moving forward,” writes Linden via e-mail. “We are in the early stages.”
Those early stages have yielded an assortment of proposals for the thoroughfare. In addition to the status quo (one way, four travel lanes, two parking lanes), they include the following:
1) Three northbound lanes, two expanded parking lanes, and a bike lane.
2) Three northbound lanes, two parking lanes, and bike lanes going both ways.
3) Two northbound lanes, one southbound lane, two parking lanes, and bike lanes going both ways.
4) One northbound lane, one southbound lane, one turn lane, two parking lanes, two bike lanes.
Why is DDOT taking a hard look at such a reliable route to the north? Community-building gets us part of the way there. With people repopulating the city, Linden says, “many are requesting a more neighborhood feel to their surroundings, and converting one-way streets to two-way streets is one way to do this.”
Another factor: “Preliminary” DDOT studies suggest that this part of 15th Street is underutilized, a suggestion that seems a bit at odds with the daily rush-hour scene of motorists piled up at lights along the corridor, revving their engines in hopes of beating the next red light up the street.
The city is now gathering input from residents on the plan and has already given a look-see to nearby advisory neighborhood commissions. If a change is made, says Linden, it’ll happen within the next year or two.
It’s not hard to foresee the battle lines on this plan. Anyone who lives in Dupont East/Logan Circle will welcome a break from the raceway that is now 15th. And just about anyone who lives north of U Street—Maryland commuters, sure, but also Mount Pleasanteers and Ward 4 people—will lament the loss of their conduit out of downtown.