The Wisconsin Avenue Streetscape Project was hotly debated at the March monthly meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E last Monday.
The District of Columbia Department of Transportation began construction on the project April 2012 in an effort to make the portion of Wisconsin Avenue that runs through the Glover Park neighborhood more attractive and safe for pedestrians. The stretch now features improved lighting, wider sidewalks and fewer lanes of traffic.
However, some residents complained that the changes have increased traffic volume.
“I think the improvements on Wisconsin are absolutely terrible — they defy common sense,” EricLangenbacher, a member of the Burleith Citizens Association and professor in Georgetown’s government department, said. “We should revert back to the way things were before.”
Others have also grown frustrated with traffic increases.
“As soon as the project was completed, we just started getting a whole host of emails [with complaints about the traffic],” D.C. Councilman Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said.
Evans said that he has experienced the gridlock firsthand. He drives along the reconfigured portion of Wisconsin Avenue multiple times a day as he takes his children to and from school. “Going north has become very, very difficult,” Evans said. “Going south is much easier.”
Area businesses are also concerned about the new levels of congestion. Joe Sternlieb, CEO of the Georgetown Business Improvement District, said that some retailers have received complaints from customers about the increased traffic. Because many visitors to Georgetown who come from northwest D.C. travel via Wisconsin, he said that the lane reconfiguration might discourage consumers from coming to the area.
“What we are fearful of is some people saying, ‘Let’s just not go to Georgetown,’” Sternlieb said.
Some people said that the increased traffic has discouraged them from shopping in Glover Park.
John Gill, a broker at local real estate firm H.A. Gill & Son, said that the traffic has made him less likely to shop the Whole Foods in Glover Park, and ANC 2E Commissioner Bill Starrels added that while he and his family used to shop at the Glover Park Whole Foods, they now go to the Foggy Bottom location.
Other residents noted that traffic on Wisconsin has encouraged drivers to cut through residential areas to circumvent the traffic.
Some residents, however, say that a rise in congestion is a small price to pay for greater pedestransafety. Ken Archer said he moved to Georgetown 12 years ago because he knew it was a walkablecommunity. Before the recent changes to Wisconsin, however, Archer feared for his children’s safety every time they walked to the park.
“It was terrifying walking to Glover Park before these changes were made,” he said. “It’s just terrifying when you have small children.”
Despite the number of doubts expressed about increased gridlock, many praised the project for improving the appearance of the area.
“We all love the new streetscape,” Starrels said. “The sidewalks are great. The lighting is great.”
Opponents to the current project offered alternatives that they believed would improve traffic flow without detracting from pedestrian safety.
Evans suggested switching one of the southbound lanes to northbound. Resident J.P. Montalvanproposed extending the rush hour parking restrictions to open up more lanes for traffic that would otherwise be reserved for parallel parking.
According to D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), DDOT plans on expanding its analysis of traffic patterns in the area as it looks for ways to reduce congestion. Cheh has organized a public roundtable with DDOT to discuss the project that will take place May 1.