Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

ANC Approves Canal Road Project

ANC Approves Canal Road Project

Vote Passes 5-2 at Meeting

By Tracy Zupancis Hoya Staff Writer

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E approved plans for the Canal Road Project with a vote of 5-2 on Tuesday evening.

Designed by the Federal Highway Administration, the proposed plan calls for a traffic signal at the Canal Road entrance to the university and the removal of a section of the median strip on Canal Road that would facilitate left-hand turns into campus. Also, the road would be widened and a lane would be added to build a ramp from Canal Road to the Whitehurst Freeway.

Assistant Vice President of External Relations Linda Greenan said the project was designed to alleviate the extensive rush-hour traffic problems in Georgetown. “The purpose of this project is to provide an alternative route out of the university to more equally distribute University-related traffic,” she said.

The ANC’s approval of the plans is an “important step” in the project’s development, University Director of Media Relations Dan Wackerman said.

“What happens next, since the plan is a federal building project in the District of Columbia, is that the plan will go to the district’s National Capital Planning Commission for approval,” Wackerman said.

“We’re very confident that it will be approved,” he added. “The issue has been studied for years; the Federal Highway Administration has approved it, and now the NCPC is looking at the design . we’re very positive about making it through the rest of the process.”

In 1987, Congress authorized $6.9 million for the Canal Road project. Greenan said the project has taken so long because it is naturally “a long process.” The FHWA first released a draft of the environmental impact of the project in 1995, which assessed four build alternatives and one no-build alternative. From 1995 to 1996, three public hearings were held on the study. In 1998, FHWA released a final environmental impact statement and a year later, it produced a record of decision pointing towards a traffic light at the Canal Road entrance as an alternative for further project development. The university, along with the Citizens Association of Georgetown and the Business and Professional Association of Georgetown chose to support the traffic light idea, which would not have a significant impact on the environment.

The project has long been a source of controversy. As recently as this past September, a group calling itself the Canal Road Protection Coalition released a flier written by Co-Chair Sally Fallon, that said, “Georgetown University proposes to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on a new entrance to Canal Road.”

Fallon was unavailable for comment.

“The flier made it sound as if it’s something unusual for Universities to be allotted money for such projects. In fact, it is very common,” Wackerman said, adding that the flier was “filled with factual errors.”

The flier stated, “The new entrance would allow the university to build 3.8 million square feet (the size of the Pentagon!) of development on their campus . such development would create a nightmare for commuters and add thousands of new cars, trucks and buses to our already congested residential streets.”

In a response to this charge, Greenan clarified that the 2000-2010 campus plan “proposes less than one million square feet of development . and does not request an increase in the parking cap imposed under our 1989 campus plan.”

The coalition’s flier also said, “the proposed new traffic light would allow cars to enter and exit the university, impeding the flow of traffic on Canal Road.”

According to Greenan, during morning and evening peak traffic hours, studies conducted by the FHWA demonstrated that there was no decrease in the level of service on the road.

“Further,” she added, “morning inbound traffic will never be stopped because this proposal specifically prohibits left-hand turns out of the university across Canal Road in the morning . left-hand turns into the university will be allowed.”

The university will work with the D.C. Department of Public Works and/or the FHWA to put in to place a monitoring system to evaluate the new traffic light and ensure that morning inbound traffic is not impeded by such left-hand turns, according to Greenan.

In the flier, the coalition said, “the lane next to the C&O Canal would no longer be dedicated to the Whitehurst Freeway. Cars in that lane would be able to go to Key Bridge or the Whitehurst Freeway. If the bridge backs up, we would be unable to freely access the Whitehurst freeway.”

However, Greenan said the situation would be “quite the opposite.” The third lane would be added in order to facilitate a better flow of traffic “through the intersection onto Key Bridge and straight onto M Street,” she said.

Wackerman said that the recent community outreach concerning the project had two goals: “to inform people and to involve people who were interested.” According to Wackerman, the outreach project included e-mails to District residents, those who park in Lot 3, and employees of the Office of Alumni Relations, many of whom park in Lot 3. Fliers were also placed on cars in the lot, as well as on the GUTS bus from Georgetown to Rosslyn, he said.

“We wanted to inform people of the facts and why the university supports the project, as well as giving the community an opportunity to get involved if they support the project. It has been a very successful outreach in terms of numbers,” Wackerman said.

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