ANC 6D Discusses Problems with Traffic and Parking Planning

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Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6D met on March 13 via Zoom. Commissioners Bob Link (6DO1, vice chair), Ronald Collins (6D02, treasurer), Gail Fast (6D03), Ashton Rohmer (6D05), Bruce Levine (6D06, secretary), Fredrica (Rikki) Kramer (6D07, chair) and Rhonda Hamilton (6D08) were in attendance, along with commission’s newest member, Andrea Pawley (6D04).

The Safeway Blues
The Southwest Safeway’s general manager, Michael Bigelow, briefed the commissioners on the store’s plans for improvement. He acknowledged the store’s issues with inadequate stocking, general cleanliness, shoplifting and public safety. Bigelow has hired contractors to conduct deep cleaning and retained another company to decontaminate bathrooms. He has organized daily, weekly and monthly cleaning by employees. High employee attrition is contributing to the store’s issues, Bigelow acknowledged. There are issues of attendance and punctuality with checkout staff. He has placed assistance managers on the floor at peak hours.

Commissioners complained about the lack of grocery carts. The store received 100 carts this past January, Bigelow stated. They disappeared in a month. In February, another 100 were sourced, a new cart containment system was installed and 40 of the carts had the locks installed. Despite this, half were stolen. Now, there are 180 carts on order.

The store, Bigelow stated, would undergo remodeling in the next 90 days. Most activity will take place at night. Plans include new lighting, kiosks, self-checkout stations, cases and flooring. A reset of the store’s inventory system will produce better and more diverse provisioning.

Commissioners expressed their appreciation for Bigelow’s efforts but questioned whether improvements can be sustained and institutionalized.

DDOT Spins Its TOPP
The DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) Ward 6 community engagement specialist, Abraham Diallo, and Traffic Operations Program Manager Charles Tenbrook briefed commissioners on the agency’s 2023 Traffic Operations and Parking Plan (TOPP). Among the new elements for 2023 are:

  • resident access placards
  • ADA shuttle schedule for Audi Field
  • incorporation of Wharf events
  • new traffic signals and timing
  • additional Traffic Control Officers for Audi Field
  • active special event management
  • a loading zone for Potomac and First Street SE.

The changes came after an electronic survey of residents. Diallo emailed the survey link to ANC 6D and 8F offices and to Councilmember Allen’s office but conducted no follow-up. It garnered only 90 answers.

Commissioners had only recently received a written copy of the TOPP and were aghast. The soccer season has started and Nationals opening day is only two weeks away, pointed out Kramer. This discussion should have started much earlier, Link concurred.

Most critically, commissioners pointed out, the scope of the TOPP was geographically too narrowly defined. The current plan, unlike its predecessors, places its western boundary on Second Street SW. This ignores, commissioners pointed out, the major congestion and disruption that games generate throughout the Southwest road network.

Moreover, the TOPP made no mention of enforcement, Kramer said. Also, it eliminates the 74 bus route on Buzzard Point during game days, leaving this area further isolated.

“DDOT deservers a lot of grief for what has happened in Southwest,” stated Pawley. “These kinds of things can’t happen,” stated Kramer.

Charles Allen Visits
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D) briefed the commissioners on the 2023 budget. District revenue growth has slowed due to reduction in downtown commercial real estate taxes, he stated.

Education is at the top of his concerns. He said that the budget of Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) resulted in severe cuts to many schools. Public (DCPS) and public charter schools (PCS) are facing a crisis in teacher retention. 30% of DCPS teachers failed to return and 17% left the profession entirely; 38% of public charter school teachers did not return. The biggest issue, Allen argued, is compensation, exacerbated by tardy contract negotiations.

Allen has assumed chairmanship of the DC Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment. Traffic safety is his number one priority. He planning to hold hearings to solicit ideas from the public. With nearly $3.5 billion in federal transportation and environmental funds headed for the District, there are lots of opportunities to make a difference, he said. In particular, he wants to ensure a robust charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and a smooth transition from gas to electric appliances.

On issues relating to public safety, Allen emphasized a two-track approach: “great policing” and investment in at-risk communities. “We need to do both,” he stated. He wants the District rec centers to be open all weekend. Allen pledged to fund the waterway management legislation that recently passed the DC Council.

Commissioners shared concerns. Kramer requested that Allen walk the new Fourth Street protected bike lanes with her. She also questioned whether electric-vehicle charging stations could be retrofitted into Southwest midcentury-modern buildings.

Commissioners raised issues relating to the cleanliness, reliability and public safety of WMATA bus and rail service. “The bus service has never been reliable since I have lived in SW,” stated Pawley. Allen concurred. Fare-free bus service will likely reduce altercations, he argued. He is holding hearings on improving frequency and reliability. Commissioners also noted the paucity of bus service in Southwest.

Allen will hold a budget townhall on April 6 at the School Within a School. Details are available at www.charlesallenward6.com.

Other Matters
The commissioners voted unanimously to oppose the design of the 13-story building proposed for One K Street SW.

Naomi Klein, planning manager of the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA), updated on the Long Bridge project. The proposed new structure will separate passenger rail from freight to improve safety, reliability and speed. A pedestrian bike bridge will be added. Construction starts in 2024.

Metropolitan Police Department Captains Harding and Roth briefed the commissioners on public safety. Motor vehicle thefts and thefts from have autos increased. A police search of 1900 Half Street SW recovered 100 rounds of ammunition and guns. A daylight armed robbery occurred behind a condominium at 700 Seventh St. SW.

ANC 6D meets at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of every month. The next meeting is March 13, 2023. For more information and links to join ANC meetings, visit www.anc6d.org.