ANC Votes to Support Reconfiguration of K and Water Streets

After a long a contentious meeting, the ANC voted to approve a resolution supporting the proposed plan to reconfigure K and Water Streets in Georgetown.

The project has been in the works for nearly two years. It was led by the Georgetown BID, which hired planners at Toole Design to evaluate the road as-is and proposed changes.

Part of that effort involved meetings with various stakeholders from the neighborhood. (GM, in his role representing the Citizens Association of Georgetown, participated in those meetings.) The plan that emerged has two distinct versions: one for the “near and mid term” and one for if the streetcar ever gets built to Georgetown. (Probably the less said about the second version the better, given the dim chances that it will come to pass).

The overall thought with the proposed redesign is that in its current state, the street is unsafe because it does not adequately delineate between uses. Wide lanes encourage fast drivers and fast bicyclists, which together make for less safe pedestrians. The solution is to install a protected bike lane along the south side of the street. In addition, the plan calls for bulb-outs, which reduces the distance pedestrians have to cross the street. This is safer for the pedestrian as well as reducing the delay for drivers waiting for pedestrians to pass.

The plan also calls for the removal of tour bus parking on the west end of the street. This is a terrible use of the street because it’s extremely dangerous for the buses to turn around. The plan would provide for a new tour bus drop off at the base of Wisconsin Ave. Buses would be encouraged to park in spots near Georgetown, including, for example, Whitehaven St. east of Wisconsin or the side of the Potomac River Freeway, by the Kennedy Center.

Detractors of this plan, led by Jim Wilcox (who represents a completely different part of Georgetown) point to the loss of 40+ parking spots and assert that that is too high a price to pay for all the other benefits. Wilcox also seems to fixate on the fact a strip of asphalt in the waterfront park (which is supposed to already be a bike lane, but rarely gets used as such) should be where bicyclists go. The problem with that argument is that the asphalt currently functions mostly as a pedestrian sidewalk, since the actual sidewalk along the street is so poor. Moreover, the strip of asphalt ends at 31st, so bicyclists have nowhere else to go. Finally, he seems to not even realize that it’s perfectly legal for bicyclists to use the street, even with the “path” next to it.

Ultimately the Commission voted for it 6 to 2. Several of the yeas couched their vote either on the expectation that the number of parking spots lost would be effectively reduced, or that the construction would be re-evaluated six months later to make sure it has actually improved the situation.

Thanks for this project firstly go to Will Handsfield, and his colleagues at the BID, for taking the initiative to put this plan forward. But GM wants to also publicly congratulate Commissioner Lisa Palmer on stewarding this proposal through the ANC. She has worked tirelessly advocating for this plan. Commissioners rarely have such an immediate impact like she has, having only served since January. Last year GM decided to endorse her opponent in the election, but she has done a fantastic job and has done enough in her short time to earn GM’s support if she has the stomach to run again.

This will be a great project we will all be proud of and will complement the beautiful park that it runs along.

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