WASHINGTON — The District Department of Transportation announced plans to start the 14th Street Streetscape project Thursday afternoon.

The project looks to improve bus transit, decrease traffic congestion and reduce accidents along three sections of 14th Street Northwest in Columbia Heights.

Between Euclid and Irving Streets NW, DDOT plans to:

  • Combine existing parking and bike lanes to create shared bus and bike lanes.
  • Install flex‐posts, and eliminate 66 parking spaces, to physically separate the shared bus and bike lanes from other traffic 
  • Paint pavement red on the bus lanes to make them more visible.
  • Consolidate from a bus stop on each block to a bus stop on every other block to improve safety and bus operations.

Between Irving and Park Road NW:

  • Create a Pick-up/Drop-off Zone to replace 15-minute parking outside the DC USA complex.
  • Create reserved space for police and emergency services vehicles along the west curb of 14th Street NW.
  • Replace metered parking to create a Pick-up/Drop-off Zone along the east curb of 14th Street NW.

Between Park Road and Newton Street NW:

  • Create a northbound left-turn lane to reduce traffic congestion at Newton Street NW.
  • Remove and redesign the traffic island north of Park Road to improve safety.
  • Create a southbound bus lane between Monroe and Park Road.

DDOT said it plans to start the project in either the Spring or Summer of 2020.

A major part of the department's plan is to rework how buses travel through Columbia Heights. 

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DDOT said a recent study it conducted showed buses move, on average, 3.6 mph between Euclid and Newton streets on 14th Street NW. The agency added that study also discovered bus performance on 14th Street NW was the worst among nine different priority bus corridors in D.C.

"We know that if we improve bus reliability, more people will ride the bus and that's what we're focused on doing," DDOT Director Jeff Marootian said. "Taking one of our most congested bus corridors and making it a better experience for everyone who is using the bus."

DDOT said it believes the changes will improve efficiency for the 15,500 daily customers who ride the D.C. Circulator and Metrobus through Columbia Heights.

Marootian said DDOT also wanted to make 14th Street NW safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

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WUSA9 examined MPD crash data between August 2016 and August 2019 that showed 14th Street NW between Harvard and Quincy streets was one of the most dangerous streets in D.C. for vehicular/pedestrian collisions.

Thirty-four pedestrians and another 52 cyclists were involved in collisions on that roadway, according to the data.

"We know there are a number of pick-up and drop-off challenges and real safety issues," Marootian said. 

In November, WUSA9 biked along 14th Street NW where it discovered ride-share vehicles blocking both bike and traffic lanes.

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Rachel Maisler, chair of the D.C. Bicycle Advisory Council said she likes that the area will get a protected bike/bus lane.

"I also really hope that there is enforcement to ensure that DDOT's plan works," she said.

In February, the DC Department of Public Works announced it would launch a new procedure to allow parking enforcement officers to take photographs of drivers that are seen blocking bike lanes. The agency also announced it would begin to issue $150 tickets instead of $65.

Marootian said the 14th Street Streetscape project has been discussed for the last year with local civic leaders and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners. He said he does not expect the project's implementation to increase traffic issues in the area.

"This is a project that we're using very quick build materials to install, so it will be several quick weeks of construction, not several years or months," he said. 

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