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I did not attend last week's meeting on the plans for Virginia Avenue's streetscape once construction on the tunnel is completed, but detailed notes taken by DDOT have been posted. And there are some items that caught my eye:
* TREES: It's reported that 176 trees have been cut down as part of the tunnel construction, and that there will be approximately 305 new trees planted once the work is done. DDOT's preferred species include oaks, elms, and honey locust, and the planting scheme is such that it is expected to provide 50 percent "canopy coverage" after 20 years, 10 percentage points higher than the required minimum.
* PARKING: "The design team recognizes that parking is a critical issue for the neighborhood, and will ensure that the number of parking spaces in the neighborhood remains the same. DDOT will explore the possibility of providing additional parking."
* I STREET: Plans to have the 400 block of I Street end in a stub east of the church have apparently been shelved: "Based on community feedback, the connection of I Street to the 400 block of Virginia Avenue has been restored." As seen in this revised image.
* MORE VIRGINIA!: My personal favorite out of all of this: "The Architect of the Capitol will complete their construction project in 2018, and has indicated willingness to reopen Virginia Avenue between South Capitol Street and 2nd Street SE." This would also "enhance" connections to Garfield Park, allowing for passage in locations other than just the skate park-area under the freeway.
* TWO-WAY: Once construction is over, the 800 blocks of both Virginia Avenue and L Street SE will be converted to two-way traffic.
* LIGHTING: Replacement streetlights will be LEDs, which emit a whiter light than the current streetlights. There are apparently LED streetlights now installed on 1st Street near the ballpark as a test case for the city, and the "fixtures specified for Virginia Avenue will be similar to the first series of lights on the right hand side of First Street moving away from M Street."
* VIRGINIA AVE. PARK: The final post-construction design of Virginia Avenue Park is actually the responsibility of the Department of Parks and Recreation, and there will be a "design charrette" to discuss the park's future on Oct. 15 at 7 pm at the Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Ave., SE.
Go ahead and read the notes for more details (and you can even see all the comment sheets handed in by the attendees). And the most recent designs for the streetscapes are here, plus you can check out my look at the initial designs.
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Some transportation-related meetings are on the calendar for next week that may be of interest to neighborhood folks:
* DC STATE RAIL PLAN OPEN HOUSE: The project to create an official "State Rail Plan" (ahem) for DC is kicking off, and DDOT is holding an open house on Monday, Sept. 28 to "introduce the plan to the community." This rail plan is a requirement for any state (again, ahem) wishing to be eligible for grants and other federal financial assistance, and is going to focus on "passenger and freight rail infrastructure shared by CSX, VRE, MARC, Amtrak, and Norfolk Southern." The intent is to have a completed plan that will provide a high-level strategic framework, goals, and objectives to leverage the District’s rail network for continuing economic competitiveness and quality-of-life investments while also addressing ongoing concerns about rail safety and oversight."
The open house will run from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm at Friendship Public Charter School-Chamberlain Campus, 1345 Potomac Avenue, SE. This start time is 30 minutes earlier than originally announced, because....:
* VIRGINIA AVE. STREETSCAPE RESTORATION REVIEW MEETING: Also on Monday, Sept. 28, beginning at 6:30 pm at 200 I St. SE, a joint meeting by DDOT and ANCs 6B and 6D will go over CSX's draft plans for rebuilding Virginia Avenue once construction is complete on the Virginia Avenue Tunnel. The first 30 minutes will be an open house, and then presentations and discussions will begin at 7 pm. There will also be a special public meeting of DDOT's Public Space Committee about the plans on Nov. 12.
(And then maybe for Christmas we can pitch in and get DDOT a group calendar, to perhaps avoid in the future scheduling two meetings with a very similar audience on the same night at nearly the same time in not-particularly-adjoining locations.)
* CIRCULATOR STOP CONSOLIDATION MEETING: On Wednesday, Sept. 30, DDOT is having a public meeting to talk about possibly consolidating some stops on the Union Station-Navy Yard line "to improve on-time performance and reliability." The only south-of-the-freeway stops on the potential chopping block are the ones at 4th and M SE in both directions, with the 6th and M stops being the closet ones to use instead. (The announcement gives the full lineup.) The meeting is from 6pm to 8pm at the Southeast Neighborhood Library, 403 7th Street SE.
* CSX'S "COFFEE WITH CHUCK": If you want to go for the 72-hour quadfecta of transportation sessions, there's also the next edition of CSX's monthly meetings with the community to discuss the Virginia Avenue Tunnel project, on Wednesday, Sept. 30 from 8 to 9 am at the Courtyard by Marriott at 140 L St. SE. Items that might be up for discussion include the coming closure of the 300 block of Virginia Ave. (in "early October") and also the temporary closures of 4th Street SE from just north of the I-695 underpass down to I Street from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm this week and probably into next week.

It's hard to believe that in a few months the first batch of students will return to Van Ness Elementary, for the first time since 2006. With initial renovations and plans for the 2015-16 school year underway, the school is hosting a "Showcase" community meeting on Wednesday, June 17, from 6 to 8 pm.
Note that it is at 200 I St., SE, not at the school itself.
The Head of School, Cynthia Robinson-Rivers, will be there, as will the initial teachers. The interior and exterior renovation plans will also be on display, as will the new playground designs.
The school is opening with PK-3, PK-4, and kindergarten classes, with plans to add one grade each year until 5th grade is reached.
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More posts: meetings, Van Ness Elementary

As preparations ramp up to reopen Van Ness Elementary School this fall, DCPS is holding a "Design Slam" on Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 6 pm in the school's auditorium at 5th and L streets, SE.
As the flyer says, the goal of this session "is to listen to your ideas in order to develop a design that celebrates the best characteristics of the Van Ness community," looking toward what elements of the neighborhood's history and its riverfront location should be incorporated and "celebrated" in the design.
Architectural firm Quinn Evans is working on the project, and the bidding process for the construction itself will happen this spring.
Free childcare and food at the Slam will be provided by the Van Ness Parent Group.
And while it's still a couple of weeks away, this is a good time to also mention that the Near Southeast Community Partners group is hosting a Van Ness Elementary School Fundraiser on Feb. 17 at Nando's Peri-Peri. From 6 pm to 10 pm, the restaurant will donate 40 percent of its receipts from all sales made to people with the fundraiser flyer in hand. [insert "Winner winner chicken dinner reference here]
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More posts: meetings, Van Ness Elementary

If you are looking for some light Christmas reading, you can sit down by the fireplace with all 335 pages (plus appendices!) of the newest revision to the plans for reconfiguring much of South Capitol Street, including the construction of a new Frederick Douglass Bridge.
This document, technically known as the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS), describes the new "revised preferred alternative" (RPA) design that tweaks the original preferred alternative in the Final EIS released back in 2011.
The bullet points for what the project plans are north/west of the Anacostia River are in the graphic at right (click to enlarge). The changes in this new RPA include:
* Changing the design of the bridge from a moveable span to a fixed-span bridge, which would save approximately $140 million in construction costs;
* Shifting the orientation of the new Douglass Bridge to an alignment parallel to the existing bridge, 30 feet down river, which avoids the need and lengthy process to acquire some land from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling as well as a number of expensive relocation and reconstruction issues that a new alignment avoids (see page 2-91 of the SDEIS for details);
* A slight reduction of the size of the traffic oval on the western side (at Potomac Avenue):
* Replacing the previously designed circle on the eastern approach with an oval, located entirely in the DDOT right-of-way;
* And several other changes on the east side of the project that I will leave to others to discuss in detail. (See page ES-6 of the SDEIS.)
The initial design of the ovals and of the bridge itself were met with some consternation during this revision process. The SDEIS notes that in response to these concerns, DDOT has created a "Visual Quality Manual" for the project, which identifies design goals that are to "reflect the vision of providing a grand urban boulevard, which will be a gateway into the nation's capital, an iconic symbol of the District's aspirations in the 21st century, and a catalyst to revitalize local neighborhoods and the Anacostia Waterfront." (page 2-26).
As for the bridge itself, the version in this RPA will support three travel lanes in each direction, along with 18 feet of bicycle and pedestrian paths on *both* sides of the bridge--an 8-foot lane for pedestrians and a 10-foot birdirectional bike path. (Enlarge the image at right to see that I'm not lying about the bike/ped stuff.)
And the design of the bridge is to "make its primary aesthetic impact through its position (alignment), and the shape and sizes of its structural elements" and is to " aesthetically appear to be part of a continuous urban corridor." This includes the avoidance of "using elements, solely for aesthetic effect, which do not contribute to the support of the bridge." (page 2-28)
Plans for the reconfiguration of South Capitol Street as a "grand urban boulevard" have all along called for changing the intersection of South Capitol and M streets to an "at-grade intersection" (page 4-79), which would also mean that K and L would have signalized four-way intersections with South Capitol, unlike today. The wide median seen south of N would be established on the north end of the street as well, now all the way to D Street SE in the RPA. Also changing in this new plan are a few new left-turn options at I Street SE/SW and L Street SE.
Revisions have also been made to the ramps from South Capitol Street to I-395 and I-695, but the basics from the original plans remain, most notably the demolition of the existing suspended ramp from northbound South Capitol to the SE/SW Freeway.
Even with the revisions made to cut the costs of the new Douglass Bridge, this isn't a cheap project. The five phases together are anticipated to cost over $1 billion, with Segment 1, including the new bridge and traffic ovals, estimated at $480 million. The "grand boulevard"-izing of South Capitol Street is estimated at $153 million, and planned streetscape improvements to New Jersey Avenue between D and M streets SE at $42 million, plus another $358 million in east-of-the-river improvements (page 2-11).
Worn out yet? I sure am! (I've mostly lost track of how much of this is truly even "new" news at this point.) But perhaps you can regain your strength by Jan. 22, 2015, when the public meeting on this SDEIS will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, 2616 Martin Luther King Ave., SE. The public comment period is running until Feb. 2. DDOT is also still amidst the design/build proposal process, with proposals expected sometime in the spring.
The web site is now focused mainly on this SDEIS, of which clearly I've just scratched the surface; you can slog through my piles of posts on all of this over the years for the historical rundown.
UPDATE: Here's the WashCycle take on the latest plans, from a bike/ped perspective.

A community meeting is on tap for Thursday (tomorrow), Dec. 11, to discuss the future Southeast Blvd., specifically the ideas emerging from the neighborhood study currently being spearheaded by ANC 6B, the Office of Planning, and DDOT.
The meeting is from 7 to 9 pm at Friendship Chamberlain Elementary School, 1345 Potomac Ave., SE, across from the Jenkins Row Harris Teeter.
Councilmember Tommy Wells will be there, and will be part of the discussion on how to best integrate into the neighborhood this road that will run from Barney Circle to the new intersection at 11th Street, SE, along the path of the old sunken portion of the Southeast Freeway.
A "temporary" version of the road is opening in early 2015, and residents have been concerned both about this becoming the de facto new version of the road, a feeling that came on the heels of the original new designs put forth by DDOT, that were basically replacing an old freeway with a new freeway, albeit it one that has a stoplight at 11th Street rather than just a free-and-clear approach to the Southeast Freeway. After those designs were released, with a push from Wells, the Office of Planning stepped in to help shepherd a neighborhood study--initial design concepts were unveiled back in August, and this week's meeting is to continue the process of refining the possibilities.
(And I am well aware that I have completely failed at keeping up with photographs of that area of 11th and of the work underway on the temporary road. All of the construction there, and the futzing with the traffic flow configuration of 11th Street while work continues around it, have made me very cranky about going over there to take pictures. Maybe this will finally spur me.)
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More posts: meetings, Southeast Blvd., Traffic Issues

As part of the path toward the planned reopening next fall of Van Ness Elementary School at 5th and M streets, SE, DCPS has scheduled public meetings on Nov. 18 and Nov. 20 for residents in Near Southeast and Southwest to learn about the plans for the school, and to be able to provide feedback on those plans.
These sessions follow a meeting back in September between parents' groups and Dr. Nathaniel Beers, DCPS's head of specialized instruction, in which the parents were displeased with some of the information coming from the school system, specifically the plans to not have a principal in place during the planning process, and also DCPS's intent to open the school with only two PK-3 and two PK-4 classrooms, and no kindergarten.
A subsequent communication from Dr. Beers to the Van Ness Parents Group indicated, however, that an "Executive Director" will be put in place in early 2015, a person "whose primary responsibilities are to functioning as the leader of Van Ness, including engaging deeply with future parents and community members and actively recruiting students to ensure Van Ness opens fully enrolled."
In addition, the plea from parents for kindergarten offerings in the initial 2015-16 school year was not fully ignored, with DCPS agreeing to review community analysis data again before making a final decision. This has the parents' group working hard to find kindergarten-age children who could be sent to Van Ness in 2015.
These meetings should also have some information on the School Improvement Team process for the school going forward.
The meeting schedule:
* Tuesday, Nov. 18, from 6 to 8 pm, at Van Ness Elementary; and
* Thursday, Nov. 20, from 6 to 8 pm at the James Creek Resident Council Office, 100 N St. SW.
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More posts: meetings, Van Ness Elementary

I'm not sure how many people made this afternoon's meeting on the SE/SW Transportation Improvement Study (I sure didn't thanks to that 4 pm start time), but apparently there is a web site devoted to the project, and the meeting materials are posted there:
This study is actually an Environmental Assessment, meaning there are very specific structures and steps that DDOT will be following.
Its stated purpose is "to develop a premium transit system that improves transportation capacity, connectivity, mobility, and safety through an integrated, multimodal transportation corridor" across Near Southeast, Southwest, and the Anacostia Historic District.
Also, the study is to address "east-west transportation needs between the Southeast and Southwest Washington communities of Anacostia and the Waterfront."
One tidbit in the materials that may be news to people: If streetcars are chosen as the area's "premium transit mode," there will be a need for storage and/or maintenance, and so this Environmental Assessment "will review and analyze potential sites for a Streetcar facility."
Eight potential sites meeting the initial minimum requirements have been identified: three near M Street, SW, three at Buzzard Point, and two along 7th Street, SE, including, believe it or not, the Blue Castle, aka the Navy Yard Car Barn, where streetcars were stored and maintained during the many years they ran through the city before being shut down in the early 1960s.
A second public meeting is expected in early 2015, with the draft Environmental Assessment and associated public hearing in spring and the final document late in the year.
(Thanks to Josh Hart for the heads up about the web site, and no thanks to DDOT, who didn't mention it in their releases about the meeting. BAH!)
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From DDOT: On Wednesday, Oct. 22, DDOT and the Federal Highway Administration will be holding a public meeting to discuss the Southeast/Southwest Transportation Improvement Study and Environmental Assessment, which is actually now a formal NEPA study (hence the presence of FHWA).
Officially, "The purpose of the study is to develop a premium transit system that improves transportation capacity, connectivity, mobility, and safety."
This is an off-shoot of the first M Street SE/SW study from 2011 and 2012 as well as the subsequent Special Events transportation study that was completed earlier this year. In other words, the study after the study after the study.
The meeting will be held at at Van Ness Elementary at 4 pm (! - I asked if that was a typo, and was told no). DDOT's announcement of the meeting says that "the public will be provided an opportunity to discuss the transportation issues and potential solutions that will be addressed in the study."
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More posts: meetings, Traffic Issues

The second public meeting about the Virginia Avenue Tunnel Final Environmental Impact Statement has now been scheduled for 6:30 pm on Thursday, July 31, at the Capitol Skyline hotel at South Capitol and I streets, SW.
The release from the tunnel folks says that this meeting "will include a presentation responsive to input by citizens from the public meeting held on July 1, 2014 with a question and answer period focused on the July 1 input."
This is the additional meeting sought by DC delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, along with the extension of the comment period from 30 to 60 days.
The official web site has the presentation and boards from the July 1 meeting.
I already posted the video animation released to show how the construction would go, and now I see this additional video showing the completed east and west portals (entrances) to the tunnel, along with how Virginia Avenue is expected to look after construction is finished.
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More posts: CSX/Virginia Ave. Tunnel, meetings
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