DDOT Director Shares Transportation Priorities

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has a lot of impact on our day-to-day life. They fix that annoying pothole or that congestion-plagued and dangerous intersection. They plan for and build visionary projects that allow for future growth and livability.

Transportation and infrastructure have long been at the heart of FC2 work, going back to the days of the original Metro feasibility study in the 1950s. We continue to work to improve Metro, with an op-ed by Tony Williams in last weekend’s Washington Post calling for more system accountability and oversight.

On March 20, 2019, we hosted Jeff Marootian, who heads up DDOT, to talk about Mayor Bowser’s transportation priorities and what exciting projects are in the pipeline. The Mayor was set to release her budget just a few hours later, filled with new transportation funding. With FC2 Trustee Jake Jones leading the discussion, Jeff gave us a flavor of what to expect.

Priority number one is safety—and specifically pedestrian safety. Since 2015, the Mayor has been fighting for Vision Zero, or a future with zero pedestrian fatalities. All projects related to safety are being accelerated. One of the most dangerous intersections in the city at Minnesota and Benning Ave is being redone. Traffic lights are being reoriented to benefit pedestrians and buses.

Another priority is getting folks out of cars and onto transit. DDOT’s Circulator system is now permanently free. They hope to expand its service and capacity. They may extend the also-free streetcar on H Street, which has seen ridership increase.

Redoing K Street will be a big part of improving transit and safety, as well as reducing congestion. It’s the center of the city and yet its design is a mess. Navigating between the main and side road is confusing. Motorists turning from the main road too often endanger pedestrians. It’s also where cross-town buses get slowed down the most.

Jeff acknowledged the importance of partnerships—including with the business community—to build transportation capacity. Several FC2 Trustees have been key DDOT partners. Matt Klein, of Akridge, was involved in work that led to the development of the streetcar. Ginger Latham, of the Clyde’s Restaurant Group, and Richard Levy, of The Levy Group, are working to advocate for the Georgetown Gondola.

Capital Crossing is another great P3 example. FC2 Trustee Sean Cahill and PGP Development have been working on the project for more than a decade. In an incredible engineering feat, several new city blocks and buildings are being built on top of the I-395 highway. Because of this P3 partnership, the city will get new and safer highway on-ramps and intersections, along with upgraded underground infrastructure.

The city has several other ongoing high-tech projects. In partnership with Pepco, DDOT is burying power lines (called DC Plug), which also provides an opportunity to upgrade roadways and underground infrastructure. Every streetlight in the city is being converted to LED and will have wifi hookups. Dynamic pricing is being tested in Chinatown, with prices varying depending on parking availability.

The city is also preparing for a future where there is less parking and more ridesharing. In the first pilot of its kind in the country, DC is reimagining curbside use by removing parking spaces for ridesharing pickup and drop-off zones. As an example, three spaces near the bustling U Street/14th Street intersection that previously served 20 parked cars a day now (safely) allows for 500 pickups/drop-offs.