Nearly a decade in the making, the Cleveland Park streetscape is finally getting a sorely needed upgrade! DDOT is in the final stage of hiring a contractor to implement a new design for our sidewalks, intersections and the service lane.
What began as an effort to reimagine the pedestrian experience early in the last decade, and which fell apart over a highly contentious battle over the service lane, was resurrected when a torrent of storm water cascaded down the escalators at the Cleveland Park Metro in June of 2016, Images made the rounds on social media and DDOT and Council Member Mary Cheh were spurred into action. More on the drainage projects below.
In 2017, the Streetscape Committee of the Cleveland Park Business Association’s Revitalization Group, led by Susie Taylor and Jane Treacy, began planning with DDOT a new look for the corridor. The design for the streetscape required several reviews by the Commission on Fine Arts, which approved the plans in October 2017. Sincere thanks to Susie and Jane for keeping this process moving! Why it has taken D.C. government fours years to execute is somewhat of a mystery.
Service Lane to Become Shared-Use Area
One of the big changes to the streetscape will be raising the service lane to sidewalk level creating a woonerf – a shared road – where the pedestrian will have the right of way at all times. The narrow sidewalk would be a refuge protected by bollards spaced ten feet apart, while differential paving will demark the driving and and parking lanes for vehicles. The single-level service lane will be ready made for streatery and pedestrian-only use if the decision is made to bar cars from the lane for planned events, regular periodic closures such as weekends or to close if to car traffic permanently.
Cars will exit the service lane onto Connecticut Ave rather than onto Ordway. The lane exit will have its own signal. This would transform the Ordway intersection from a car-dominated mess into one that prioritizes pedestrians.
Street art (not yet selected) will form a gate over the entrance to the shared-use area (formerly known as the service lane) which will block access to vehicles over a certain size. Commercial loading via small trucks will be allowed, but larger trucks will be blocked.
If cars return to the shared-use area, we hope a mechanism of retractable bollards can be used to block vehicle access at the entrance and exit while the area is being used for pedestrians and streateries.
Another big change will be to the Porter/Quebec/Connecticut intersection, making it more pedestrian friendly. It seems no matter where you are at this intersection as a pedestrian, you feel unwelcome and and at the mercy of aggressive drivers. The new plan reduces some of the conflict, such as removing the curb cut on Connecticut Ave closet to Porter at he Exxon station. Eastbound Porter St will lose the right turn slip lane on Connecticut Ave, removing a pedestrian hurdle that made crossing both Connecticut and Porter challenging and dangerous. Currently there is no access ramp to the pedestrian island that connects the east and west sides of Connecticut Ave. The new plan solves this. Quebec Street also loses its right turn slip lane in favor of a little parklet.
Overall the design of the sidewalks will be unified and unique to Cleveland Park, with design influenced by the design of the Uptown Theater. Street art, furniture, trees and bioswales have been incorporated into the redesign.
Much of the construction we have seen over the past year, first by Washington Gas, and then by PEPCO, has been to move and upgrade those underground utilities to accommodate the upcoming storm water sewer improvements. In a nutshell, our current drains are too small to handle the massive downpours, hence the periodic flooding around the Metro station entrance.
The current project will address the sewers on and immediately adjacent to Connecticut Ave. There is already a Phase 2 of the project in the works which will address similar shortcomings in the street sewer pipes both up and down hill from the Avenue. The following map shows where the Phase 1 work will happen (in blue) and the areas that Phase 2 will address (in red).
The drainage work will address storm sewer system improvements including new drainage inlets and upgrading size of existing storm sewers. The projects will also incorporate Green Infrastructure and Stormwater Management Facilities such as bioretention, green alleys, permeable pavement and underground detention. In other words, upgrade the pipes to handle more water but also attempt to reduce the amount of water that makes it to the pipes. Phase 2 is expected to begin construction in 2023.
Messy Big Dig
According to Cassandra Hetherington, the Manager of Cleveland Park Main Street (CPMS), the project “is still in the Procurement Phase which means the project is unlikely to start in earnest until early 2022.” When the construction gets going, it will be a big mess for pedestrians, for retailers and Connecticut Ave commuters. According to Hetherington, CPMS will be holding a “Construction Fest” event in the Spring. “This will be a month-long event ‘celebrating’ the DDOT Construction Project on Connecticut Avenue because laughing is better than crying,” said Hetherington.
However bad the construction headaches will be, the final product welcome improvement for our Main Street.
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