Eighth Street Bus Project Stirs Controversy


Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B met via Zoom on Sept. 12. Frank Avery (6B01, treasurer); David Sobelsohn (6B03, secretary); Frank D’Andrea (6B04); Kasie Durkit (6B05, parliamentarian); Chander Jayaraman (6B06, vice chair); Vince Mareino (6B07); Edward Ryder (6B08, Chair); Matt LaFortune (6B09). Jerry Sroufe (6B02) did not attend.

Voices at the Sept. 12 meeting of ANC 6B were at times emotional as they discussed the addition of bus priority lanes on Barracks Row.

District Department of Transportation (DDOT) DDOT Planner Andrew Grinberg shared concepts for the Eighth St. SE Bus Priority Project at the meeting. The project aims to improve bus operations and safety on the street between East Capitol and M Streets SE. In addition to improving bus speed and reliability, the project aims to alleviate concerns with deliveries, loading and walkability.

The project is part of a DDOT bus priority program launched in 2021 to improve the efficiency of public transit. 51 bus corridors were identified as part of the program, including Eighth Street NE and Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

The Eighth Street SE Study focuses on Metrobus routes 90 and 92, routes that were assessed by WMATA in 2022 as having the second highest contribution to the bus network. 2,900 riders pass through the corridor on those buses daily; 1,200 board there, Grinberg said. 380,000 riders (about half the population of Delaware) ride the two routes annually, he added. Current maps show congestion hotspots for buses in all parts of the day. Buses are largely running under eight mph and are rarely on time.

Key Proposals

DDOT concepts, which Grinberg stressed are in the very early stages, showed a revamp of the north side of the Eighth and D intersection (near Trader Joes). Pedestrian Refuge islands will be maintained but the crosswalks will be consolidated to increase safety. A contraflow bike lane will be added to the north side of D Street SE and traffic will be reversed on the 800 block.

Angled parking on the 500 block of Eighth Street SE (between E and G Streets) would be converted to parallel parking, creating space for a southbound bus lane. Streeteries will be preserved. Lighting has already been improved for the underpass car park between I Street and Virginia Avenues SE. The currently proposed changes will result in a loss of 51 of the 660 parking spots along this segment of Eighth Street, half of which (25) will be removed to bring the street into compliance with DC regulations.

There was some discussion about bus stop bulb-outs proposed for some of the bus stops, including the ones at Eighth and G Streets. Vice Chair Chander Jayaraman said he was concerned about the bulb out on the north side, arguing that if a bus cannot pull up to the curb there, it will instead stop in the traffic lane, frustrating traffic, which will then speed right onto G Street towards Tyler Elementary, endangering children.  Later, Chair Edward Ryder pushed back against that idea, calling that characterization “disingenuous” and arguing that it is the current status quo that endangers children.

Reversing D Street Proposed (Again)

Perhaps the most controversial proposal from DDOT was to reverse traffic on the 700 and 800 blocks of D Street SE. North of the playground on D Street, traffic would be directed eastbound (towards RFK Stadium); in front of Hill’s Kitchen, traffic would be redirected westbound, away from Eighth Street SE. DDOT says these changes will increase pedestrian safety.

A similar proposal to reverse the flow of D Street SE was made in 2019 around the construction of the Eastern Market Metro Plaza Park (EMMP). Former ANC commissioner Steve Holtzman said that while DDOT might be able to mitigate resident concerns now, the agency did not provide any details on how to do so when asked by the ANC four years ago.

ANC 6B supported a letter to DDOT and DC Council that asks DDOT to work with Barracks Row Main Street (BRMS) to address the concerns of businesses on the corridor. The ANC thanked DDOT for sharing plans, but flagged neighborhood concerns about the impact of the change in direction on the 700 and 800 blocks of D Street SE. The letter also expresses concern with parking for employees of the businesses and recommends investigation of “geofencing” to redirect delivery drivers during periods of high area traffic, encouraging DDOT to work with businesses on these issues.

DDOT is collecting feedback on the project until Oct 10. Design will begin in January 2024 with 30 percent designs expected in March and final designs in June, with a goal of construction beginning in Fall 2024.

DDOT is looking for public input right now. See the presentation and give your views at buspriority.ddot.dc.gov

In Other Business

The ANC voted unanimously to support:

• A letter to the Department of General Services (DGS) listing maintenance needs at EMMP. It requests a maintenance plan for the park and an outline of which agency will be responsible for each task.

• A resolution requesting the DC Housing Authority (DCHA) to take steps to improve work order processes, place urgency on maintaining and preparing vacant apartments for occupancy; and to address security concerns and ensure security technology is maintained and monitored. The letter urges the Mayor and DC Council to ensure sufficient funding and resources are available to DCHA.

• A letter to DCHA asking DCHA to address issues at Potomac Gardens along the above lines, particularly around the poor state of vacant apartments, issues with the work order process, concerns around safety. The letter says that residents are being pressured to move rather than have maintenance issues addressed. The ANC also urges communication to address concerns around the long-term plans for the future of the building.

The next full meeting of ANC 6B takes place online via Zoom at 7 p.m. on Oct. 10. Get full details at anc6b.org.