By Deirdre Bannon
More than five years after the D.C. Office of Planning made recommendations to renovate the street and sidewalks along Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park, the D.C. Department of Transportation is working to choose a contractor for the work.
The streetscape project, which was first recommended in a 2006 report from the Office of Planning, will involve widening sidewalks, installing traditional streetlights and implementing traffic-calming measures on the busy commercial corridor of Wisconsin Avenue between Whitehaven Parkway and Calvert Street.
The proposed design calls for a “pedestrian refuge island” down the center of Wisconsin Avenue, which the Transportation Department will test with cones and other temporary materials before laying down concrete.
The work will also include changes to the vehicular traffic flow of Wisconsin Avenue. The Transportation Department will test a proposal to use four lanes for cars during rush hour — two lanes in each direction — and one lane in each direction during off-peak hours. In addition to making the area more pedestrian-friendly, the lane adjustments would allow room for a bicycle lane on each side of the road for travel during off-peak hours.
Monica Hernandez of the Transportation Department said the project should break ground in early 2012 and the work should take 12 to 18 months.
Residents at last month’s Glover Park advisory neighborhood commission meeting expressed frustration that it has taken so long to see movement on the streetscape improvements, which the Office of Planning proposed as part of a report on how to improve Glover Park’s commercial district.
“The city spent time and effort getting the reports out, and to see them languish for years, it’s frustrating,” commissioner Brian Cohen said in an interview. “As a taxpayer, if we pay for these reports and they just sit on a shelf, what’s the point?”
But after hearing from an Office of Planning staffer at the Oct. 13 meeting, Cohen said he and others felt “more satisfied” about where the project stands now.
“The Wisconsin Avenue streetscape is the biggest, most high-profile part of the plan, and we’re relieved to see that it’s finally moving forward,” said Cohen. “We feel that the administration is now also engaged on other parts of the plan that have yet to be implemented and that they will move forward on those, as well.”
Of delays to the work, Hernandez explained that after the Office of Planning proposed the Wisconsin Avenue streetscape improvements, the Transportation Department followed up with a transportation study of the area. That study was completed in January 2008, and the resulting designs, which took three years to finalize, were completed this summer.
“It’s typical for DDOT to conduct a more specific traffic study after they receive recommendations from the Office of Planning,” said Hernandez.
The Transportation Department accepted bids from contractors through Oct. 25 and is now evaluating those proposals, a process that will take the next month or so. Work is expected to start 30 days after a contractor is selected.
Paul Holder, a co-owner of the Town Hall restaurant at 2218 Wisconsin Ave., said the project’s slow movement has been a burden to the area.
“A lot of tax dollars go into the planning and studying, and the citizens are not seeing a lot of value,” Holder said. “These are important infrastructure and streetscape plans, and I would like to see them enacted.”
Cohen noted that Glover Park has changed significantly since the original recommendations came out, and he would like to see the Office of Planning revisit its report with an eye toward improving public transportation options.
A special meeting to discuss the status of the Wisconsin Avenue streetscape project is scheduled for 5 pm on Nov. 10 at Stoddert Elementary, two hours before the regularly scheduled meeting of the neighborhood commission. Representatives from the commission, the Department of Transportation and the Office of Planning are expected to attend.
This article appears in the Nov. 2 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.