Construction on the Pennsylvania Avenue SE Corridor Project is winding down. The changes are intended to provide safer mobility options for all users. But for now, change also comes with some confusion.
We spoke to District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to get an update on the project and get clarification on what that means for you.
First things first: yes, you can park in the red bus lane on Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Most of the time, anyway.
DDOT started construction on the Pennsylvania Avenue SE Corridor in fall 2022. The project reduced dedicated traffic lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue between Second Street SE and 13th Street SE to two in either direction. Protected bike lanes were installed along both curbs, separated from vehicular traffic by a 3 feet space occupied by Flexi-posts interspersed with concrete barriers.
In between the barriers and the travel lanes, one lane on each side of Pennsylvania Avenue SE is painted red from the 200 to 1200 blocks. That is indeed designated for parking —except during peak traffic hours, when they become bus priority lanes.
During the morning rush the red lane on the north side (westbound, towards the Capitol) becomes a dedicated bus lane from 7:00 a.m. through 9:30 a.m. In the afternoon, the south side or eastbound red lane will be bus priority from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Parking is permitted outside of those hours right now, even as construction is completed. Note: the only exception is if there are paper “emergency, do not park” signs posted on a block undergoing construction.
The Department of Public Works (DPW), which is responsible for parking enforcement in the District, did not respond to questions about enforcement in the months after construction is complete. But WMATA has announced that the Clear Lanes project will begin pilots in Fall 2023. The project uses automated camera technology to identify illegally parked and stopped vehicles in dedicated bus lanes, transferring info to DDOT for enforcement. Pennsylvania Avenue SE could be a good candidate for the program.
What’s Going on In Front of Frager’s
At the intersection with 12th Street SE near Hype Cafe (1108 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) and Frager’s Hardware (1115 Pennsylvania Ave. SE), the loading zone was reduced in length and moved nearer to the intersection.
Paid parking is now permitted in front of these businesses —except Mondays to Fridays from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. during the p.m. rush hour, when it becomes a bus lane for two and a half hours. A parking spot was lost on the block when the metro stop was moved from the west side of E Street to the east of 11th Street; however, a spot was gained near 12th Street SE due to the shrinkage of the loading zone.
A total of 30 parking spaces were lost along the mile that was redesigned, mostly where DDOT updated the street to reflect updated standards for loading zones and approaches to intersections. Loading zones are now the standard 40-foot length and at the end of blocks to allow for ‘head-in/back-in loading’ as opposed to mid-block parallel parking. Parking is 25 feet from the stop line.
A Limbo Period
In May 2022, DDOT said they hoped to be finished all the work on the Pennsylvania Avenue SE project by this spring. That has been pushed back to mid-June, said project manager Greg Matlesky. Bike lanes remain closed as contractors work to add the concrete wheel stops that separate the bike lane from the bus lane along the avenue. Installation has been held up due to issues with contractor machinery, he said.
DDOT is also working to ensure all signage is updated for the length of the project. As of May 23, signage updates are only complete for about three or four blocks in either direction.
Matlesky said he is aware that the inconsistent signage is currently causing confusion, but said he feels confident that it will be clear once the update is complete. Still, DDOT will monitor the situation, he said. If there’s confusion, DDOT might add additional signage.
The agency would also consider adding roadway paint if needed, Matlesky said, referencing the bus lanes on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE where this was done. For instance, “BUS LANE PM ONLY” is painted there in the southbound lane to indicate no parking during the afternoon rush hour. However, roadway paint is not currently part of the Pennsylvania Avenue plan, as DDOT hopes that people will understand once everything is complete.
Bus Stop Movement
The concrete blocks and signs aren’t the only things left to get into place. The corridor plan calls for some bus stops to be relocated along Pennsylvania Avenue. Two are supposed to be removed completely, both from the 400 block of Seward Square SE, in order to balance bus stop spacing for transit efficiency. Before the redesign, there were three bus stops within that two-block area.
For safety reasons, some bus stops are being relocated across streets, so that buses will stop on the far sides of intersections. At 2020 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B Matlesky said that DDOT tries to make these relocations where possible, because drivers tend to make left turns around buses despite a lack of visibility. That endangers pedestrians and cyclists potentially riding in the curb-adjacent bike lane.
But not all of the bus stops are relocated as of late May. DDOT does not move bus stops, or flags; that falls under the jurisdiction of WMATA, which must co-ordinate construction staging with contractors doing other work along the street. With work still incomplete along parts of the corridor, WMATA has to be able to access both the stop to be moved and the area where it is to be relocated. (WMATA did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication).
The Future: Phase II
This is only Phase I of the Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast Corridor Project. The project is intended to remake mobility from the Capitol Building all the way to the Anacostia River.
However, it is broken into two phases in coordination with the team working on the renovation of the Pennsylvania and Potomac Avenue intersection. Funding for the project was moved up and construction is expected to begin sometime in 2024.
Coordination is ongoing between DDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and in cooperation with the National Park Service (NPS). The federal agencies are in charge of the intersection project. Once the intersection is complete DDOT will implement Phase II, continuing corridor improvements to Barney Circle.
Get details and contact the project team at www.pennavese.com