Since January, 2003
            
 Sliding from Before to After

Having just about reached my limit when it comes to writing about stadium parking, I'm going to cut to the chase and pass along the biggest items from today's hearing by the Committee on Economic Development on parking and traffic issues at the new Nationals ballpark. (It's a torrent of words, so I've bolded the most important items.)
The session began with ANC representatives testifying about the community's concerns that no traffic and parking management plan has yet been unveiled, and with not many days to go (no one was sure whether it was 82 or 81 or 80 days--it's actually 79, but I didn't pipe up), neighbors are getting increasingly nervous that plans and signage won't be ready by Opening Day. While Tommy Wells's proposed Performance Parking plan could eventually become the mechanism for handling on-street parking near the ballpark, it won't be able to be in place by Opening Day, and so residents want to know how parking is going to be restricted to prevent stadium-goers from descending on nearby streets in search of free parking and bringing what has frequently been referred to as "controlled chaos."
Kwame Brown became frustrated when trying to find out who is actually in charge of coordinating all the government agencies who have a hand in the ballpark and communicating information to the public--"Who do I call? Who's driving the train?" he asked a number of times. After much back and forth with Greg O'Dell of the Sports and Entertainment Commission and Judi Greenberg from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, it was finally agreed that DDOT is now in charge of organizing and implementing the stadium's traffic and parking plans.
Determining this was a good step for this hearing that had been convened to discuss those plans, except for one small detail--council member Brown's Committee on Economic Development does not have oversight responsibilities for DDOT, so no one from the agency was in attendance.
Oops. (Apparently there had been plans to hold this hearing jointly with Jim Graham's Committee on Public Works and the Environment, which oversees DDOT, but that did not come to pass.)
It was said that DDOT will be unveiling the traffic operations and parking plan next week, though of course no one from DDOT was actually there to confirm or deny this.
Greg McCarthy of the Nationals testified about the team's continuing efforts to plan for the onslaught of fans, ranging from the mailing next week of parking information to season ticket holders to a planned media onslaught beginning in February to educate stadium-goers about the best ways to get to the park. (Short version: Take Metro! Walk! Bike! Park in Metro parking lots! Don't drive to the ballpark unless you've already got a parking pass!)
There still is no signed agreement between the Nationals and the city for use of RFK as free satellite parking for non-season-ticket holders, though clearly both sides anticipate it will get done, especially since the Nationals are working out the best routes for the free shuttle buses they plan to provide from RFK to the new stadium. (But Kwame Brown did not seem too enthused that the city might not be getting any revenue from the parking spaces.)
The team anticipates having 5,000 spaces for season ticket holders available in lots within walking distance to the ballpark--and, other than one lot that sits on the west side of South Capitol Street underneath the freeway, all lots will be in Southeast and none will be in Southwest.
Tommy Wells focused a number of times on the idea of the neighborhood embracing the ballpark as part of its culture and part of the character of the community. How neat it will be for residents to be able to walk to games, he said, expressing his hopes that the ballpark is a positive experience for both fans and residents. (Putting the stadium there "was not a hostile act by the government," he said). He also spoke of how the stadium's on-time and on-budget completion should be a real celebration for the city, but that he doesn't want it to become known as the "ballpark with a traffic catastrophe."
My favorite moment of the hearing was when discussion turned to how exactly the onslaught of papal groupies will be handled when the Pope comes to the ballpark on April 17: I realized that all this time I had assumed Pope = Mass = Sunday, when in fact the event will be on a Thursday morning, which will make traffic and parking that much more of a challenge. Start planning your vacation day now.
Other items of interest:
* Charter buses are expected to be parked across the South Capitol Street bridge during games.
* The Nationals have secured 4,000 of the 5,000 spaces they are eyeing near the ballpark, and expect to have the other 1,000 by Opening Day. There will be about 3,000 spaces at RFK, in Lots 7 and 8, and the team will be running a test of the RFK shuttle buses on Friday.
* There will be 130 handicapped parking spaces in the two lots on the ballpark site.
* The Navy Yard Metro station is expected to be ready by Opening Day.
* The Nationals will be responsible for clean-up around the ballpark and surrounding streets after games, most likely through an augmentation of the Capitol Riverfront BID's "clean teams".
* There are still plans for two job fairs to be held in Southwest, perhaps on Feb. 9 and 23 at Greenleaf Rec Center.
There's probably other items I missed that some people might be interested in, but I think that's more than enough for a Friday night.
It's anticipated that a joint hearing of both the Committee on Economic Development and the Committee on Public Works and the Environment--which oversees DDOT--will be scheduled soon.
The broadcast of the meeting is already available on demand, if you have three hours of your life you're not doing anything with. I've also posted the prepared statements of the witnesses from today, which you should definitely read to get more information than I've been able to summarize here. Also available is a press release from Kwame Brown's office about the hearing, in which he calls for "enhanced coordination from DC agencies and increased public involvement."
UPDATE: Here's the WashTimes article on the hearing. And the Examiner's.
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Joe says: (1/17/08 4:22 PM)
How about this for a plan DDOT? Build a ginormous parking lot on Poplar Point - Anacostia Park. Build an inexpensive pedestrian bridge from Poplar Point to Diamond Teague Park. Easy access to 295 for people driving to and driving from the ballpark. Come on people, this isn't rocket science.

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