The Capitol Riverfront BID is spearheading a redesign of the M Street Southeast corridor, between South Capitol and 11th Streets SE.
The corridor very much reads as a highway, said Ted Jutras, Capitol Riverfront BID VP of Planning and Development, presenting at the Sept. 14 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B. Currently, M Street has three travel lanes in each direction, with parking in off-peak periods and in Southeast, curbside car-free lanes during peak periods.
The goal is to make the corridor more cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly, reducing speeds while still allowing vehicle use and broadening the mix of mobility uses that can safely share the street.
Another goal is to make M Street more of a connector between the north and south sides neighborhood, whereas it is now more of a divider, said Jutras. In the long term, planners want to provide better connection between the rapidly-growing Buzzard Point through Capitol Riverfront and Capitol South to Union Station.
Two Years in Making
The project actually kicked off two years ago, funded by a US Department of Transportation (USDOT) Technical Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant, provided to look at redesigning the M Street corridor.
The M Street corridor has been identified as multimultal transit corridor since the first MOVE DC plan was drawn up in 2014. The $100,000 TAP grant, matched by a DC DDOT grant, allowed Capitol Riverfront to hire a consulting team. Working closely with DDOT, Capitol Riverfront is currently in Phase 2 of the project, which will result in a 30 percent design.
At the end of Phase 2, Capitol Riverfront will hand the project over to DDOT, which will potentially begin construction in 2022, said Ted Jutras, BID VP of Planning and Development. Jutras said the Southwest BID (SWBID) is funding a separate project that envisions how concepts developed by the M Street project could be extended into Southwest corridor.
“It doesn’t really make sense to plan in a vacuum for something that very naturally and obviously ties together,” Jutras said, “so high-level plans will be developed for how an extension of the project could go into Southwest, looking at North-South connection, especially with Buzzard Point.”
M Street has four travel lanes and two parking lanes. DDOT recently converted parking lanes to car-free in rush hour. Even on game days, Jutras said, traffic moves fairly freely along the corridor.
Two design alternatives are ready. Each features dedicated bus lanes and one lane for vehicle travel in each direction, with a center protected corridor for turns. The number of travel lanes would be reduced, but the center turn lane is intended to keep traffic moving smoothly, Jutras said.
The primary difference betwen the two is that one includes a protected two-way cycle track, while the other suggests protecting one-way cycling lanes on either side. At this point, construction will involve paint and post; there is no budget for new curbs, Jutras said, but a larger long-term M Street corridor improvement plan is underway.
The outer lanes designated for bus-use in rush hour on the outer lanes could be used to preserve the car-free lanes that were established by DDOT along M Street during the pandemic for other peak periods.
Jutras said that there is an opportunity to reduce width of both vehicle and cycling lanes to create pedestrian islands at intersections. The design envisions use of curbside areas at cross streets for pick-up and loading zones. Jutras said that the critical aspect of those plans is enforcement. “We can create all the zones we want and designate things how we want, but if enforcement isn’t there, it doesn’t exist,” Jutras said.
You can see the plans and discuss these concepts in person at the two PARK(ing) Day sites on Friday, Sept 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.. Join the Capitol Riverfront BID on the northeast corner of First and M Streets SE and the SWBID at Fourth and I Streets SW (in front of Christ Church).
Learn more about the Capitol Riverfront Mobility Initiatives at www.capitolriverfront.org