There were a few groans and a lot of questions from those who attended the public meeting hosted by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) on Wednesday, Nov. 7, regarding plans to improve the Pennsylvania Avenue and Minnesota Avenue intersection at Twining Square. Partnering with Sheladia Inc., DDOT claims the plan’s design is 100-percent finalized with construction set to begin in late 2019.
As it stands now, the intersection is composed of two major avenues, Pennsylvania and Minnesota SE, with thin, non-consecutive medians and daily bumper-to-bumper traffic. Sidewalks, like those along Pennsylvania Avenue, are only five to six feet wide. Complaints about the intersection focus on a lack of pedestrian safety, insufficient time for pedestrians to cross the street and the cut-through traffic on L’Enfant Square SE.
According to DDOT, Twining Square will be consolidated into two separate parks, removing both Minnesota Avenue cut-throughs and the two bus stops near L’Enfant Square. One of the bus stops will be moved to the northern end of Minnesota Avenue and the other will be added to the existing stop on Pennsylvania Avenue near the I-295 ramp. All other bus stops will remain the same, according to Melany Alliston-Brick of the Sheladia design team.
Additionally, DDOT plans to install 10-foot sidewalks, high-visibility crosswalks, curb extensions, consecutive medians and new street lighting all along the intersection. There are plans to lengthen the left-turn lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue and install speed humps along L’Enfant Square.
While the number of lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue will remain the same, DDOT plans to add a third left-turn lane from northbound Minnesota Avenue to westbound Pennsylvania Avenue, usable during rush hour, and another left-turn lane from southbound Minnesota Avenue to eastbound Pennsylvania Avenue. DDOT also plans to implement two-stage crossing along Pennsylvania Avenue, separated by a median. It’s important to note, however, that no bike lanes will be established on either of the major avenues.
DDOT’s new plan is also designed to create more greenspace. DDOT plans to consolidate the greenspace available in Twining Square into two separate but undivided parks, with no cut-through streets.
“We’re hoping that it’s an attractive space that the community can use for events, or just go and have a greenspace,” said Brian Ruhl, a landscape architect with Vika Capitol, part of the Sheladia design team, at the public meeting on Nov. 7. Both parks will be outfitted with bus shelters, bike racks, benches, improved lighting, paving patterns for bicyclists and plenty of native plants and trees.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners Patricia Howard-Chittams (7B01), Tiffany Brown (7B02) and D.L. Humphrey (7B07) all voiced concerns at the Nov. 7 meeting.
Residents along L’Enfant Square and Minnesota Avenue have not yet been informed of the changes occurring right on their doorsteps, Howard-Chittams stated “There’s been a turnover in residents and they have not gone back to them.”
Humphrey echoed Howard-Chittams. A proposed WMATA bus stop would bring trash, noise and an increased number of vagrants, he said. “Ward 7 gets tired of people that don’t live in Ward 7 making these decisions for us,” Humphrey said, over the sound of clapping. “Please. Talk to the residents.”
“DDOT has and will continue to inform all stakeholders of the plans to redesign the intersection at Pennsylvania Avenue and Minnesota Avenue SE,” wrote DDOT project engineer Ola Igho-Osagie in an email.
“The residential area in L’Enfant Square is fully aware of the details of the plans that are being refined at this time for this targeted area. Once the agency has finalized its plans and issued a notice to proceed (NTP) to a contractor, the residents, businesses, churches in the immediate area and all other stakeholders will get another notification prior to all work beginning,” Igho-Osagie stated.
“During that same window, a public meeting will be held to share traffic management plans and work schedules. Our project website has been sent to all community Listservs and the Ward 7 Council Office and the executive office of the mayor’s constituency service staffers to further aid in keeping all stakeholders abreast of what is planned at this location,” Igho-Osagie continued.
Alberta Paul, DDOT’s communication specialist, preached patience at the Nov. 7 meeting. “What we’re trying to do, over the next five years, is give you all the projects you’ve asked for,” Paul said.
No additional meetings regarding the intersection are currently scheduled.