By Susie Taylor, co-chair of the Streetscape Committee of the Cleveland Park Revitalization Team
The commercial area of Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park is about to undergo a long awaited transformation.
Connecticut Avenue is designated as a principal arterial by the Federal Highway Administration. This means many administrative, inter-agency, and Federal guidelines limit options for physical changes. The Avenue’s six lanes carry upwards of 40,000 cars per day. During weekday morning and evening rush hours, center lanes reverse and parking is eliminated on each side. Thus, in the 1960s, a wide sidewalk on the east side of Connecticut Avenue was reduced to create a service lane and parking. Local retailers depend on this parking and strongly favor the service lane.
In 1981, Metro completed the Cleveland Park Metro station. Metro’s “zone of influence” under the Avenue extends many feet on either side, further restricting roadway changes. Additionally, critical underground utilities are now tightly packed. Climate change has exacerbated an already bad drainage situation into an urgent condition. Over the years, Connecticut Avenue has undergone piecemeal adjustments to accommodate increased traffic, public transportation demands, more pedestrians, and a growing number of cyclists. At last, we have a plan that addresses the issues raised by each of these interests and resolves matters when they compete.
Highlights of the Streetscape and Drainage Project
The presence of sandbags along both Metro entrances signals a dramatic water runoff and flooding problem. Water flows from Wisconsin Avenue and the Van Ness area across Connecticut Avenue toward Rock Creek, and the existing drainage system is inadequate. However, given Metro’s zone of influence and existing packed underground utilities, not enough underground clearance exists along Connecticut Avenue for larger pipes, and WMATA nixed approval of bio-retention ponds out of fear they would lead to increased water infiltration in Metro’s tunnels.
The good news is that this congestion means that none of the work, particularly the work associated with the service lane, will be affected by any future drainage mitigation. DDOT plans to mitigate the remaining storm water through a future project along Porter Street. Additionally, DDOT is looking to mitigate storm water west of Connecticut Ave which may extend as far as Wisconsin Avenue in the near future.
The plan incorporates a shared space concept for the entire lane, similar to many areas of The Wharf in southwest DC. The roadway will be raised to the same level as the sidewalk, using bollards, plants, and varying pavement materials to denote how pedestrians and drivers should use the space. The changes will give pedestrians more comfort walking along the lane, while still allowing drivers to park outside the businesses.
At the southern end, an arch will signify a gateway into the shared road and limit the height of trucks entering the road. At the northern end, the service lane will shift left for vehicles to exit directly onto Connecticut Avenue rather than onto Ordway Street. This simplifies the Connecticut-Ordway intersection for drivers and pedestrians and creates a pedestrian plaza adjacent to Ordway.
Connecticut and Newark Streets:
A “bulb out” will be constructed on the library side, changing the geometry of the intersection. Vehicles will no longer “slip” into southbound Connecticut Avenue traffic, and pedestrians will have a shorter road span to cross.
Connecticut/Porter and Quebec Streets:
This intersection will be simplified. The slip lane on the northeast corner will be eliminated and replaced with a pedestrian plaza. The pedestrian crosswalk near the Exxon Station across to Quebec Street will be pushed further east, and the third Exxon curb cut close to the intersection of Connecticut and Porter will be relocated a few feet south.
New sidewalk pavers in a subdued color palette with a consistent, simple paving pattern on the east and west sides of Connecticut Avenue will create a coherent design. The pattern is inspired by the art deco character of the area.
Granite from a quarry that used to exist under the Uptown Theater was used to build many foundations of Cleveland Park’s houses. Granite will be used to create the new paving pattern, as well as the bollards in the shared road. Rough granite cobblestone banding every 40’ in the shared road will aid traffic calming. New furniture, trash receptacles, trees, and tree boxes will be added. In addition, three areas are designated for public art installations–the shared road entry arch, the Ordway Street pedestrian plaza, and the Porter Street pedestrian plaza.
Unfortunately, the utility conflicts have delayed the project by several months. DDOT is currently working on the relocation design of DC Water lines to resolve utility conflicts between its proposed drainage lines and the existing DC Water lines at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Ordway. This is necessary to comply with the minimum clearance requirements between utility lines. The design project is scheduled to be completed by the end of September 2019 and construction to start early spring of 2020.
Look for more updates in the fall as design is completed and the construction bid out. If you’d like to get involved in the work of the Streetscape Committee, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more details about the project, visit DDOT’s website.