Mark Lee’s column made so many unsubstantiated and biased claims, it demands a strong response.
Lee claims that the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), which manages the use of the District’s public space, has bent its own rules to “placate a tiny number of noisy naysayers” as it reviewed the Traffic Control Plans (TCPs) for two private developments on opposite sides of 14th Street, N.W. In reality, DDOT staff has worked diligently with both developers to accommodate their needs while at the same time protecting – not placating – the tens of thousands of residents, workers and visitors who walk, bike, ride and drive through this crowded corridor every day. Safety was our overarching concern: the safety of pedestrians, business customers, school children, bus passengers and cyclists. It would be unsafe and irresponsible of the District to allow large dump trucks to queue on 14th and U Streets during the hours when pedestrian and vehicular traffic is at its highest.
We also note that this is not bending our own rules. This rule prohibiting construction activity in the right of way has been part of DDOT’s Standard Specifications for Highways and Structures for years. And DDOT itself follows this rule regarding deliveries on “arterials” (roadways that handle a high volume of traffic on a daily basis). For example, on its U Street Streetscape Project, DDOT limits delivery hours to between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., the same hours it is applying in this instance.
Lee goes on to say – without any supporting evidence – that DDOT’s decision to limit delivery hours for these two projects will “cost the city more than $4 million in lost tax revenues of various types and suddenly increase construction costs by nearly $3 million.” He also claims it will extend construction a full six months. Both claims are unsubstantiated in the column and completely exaggerate the impact of the conditions DDOT has set for approval of the permits. The truth is there is no evidence the Traffic Control Plans will cause any significant harm to the companies or the city.
Despite this prohibition on deliveries, DDOT has been very flexible in its negotiations with the developers, offering options including supporting Sunday deliveries, and the agency remains open to remedies that will keep the construction on schedule without compromising public safety.
The fact that there are two new buildings going up simultaneously on the same block is indicative of the tremendous growth taking place in the District of Columbia. DDOT fully supports that growth and works with developers and builders every day to help get their projects off the ground. But the agency also has a fundamental responsibility to ensure our sidewalks and streets are safe for everyone, and cannot sacrifice safety for expediency. — Terry Bellamy, director, District Department of Transportation