DC Budget Talks Focus On K Street Transitway and Downtown Revitalization 

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As the D.C. Council continues budget negotiations for fiscal year 2024, Mayor Muriel Bowser called on the members to pass a budget that would support D.C.’s Comeback Plan, a three-pronged plan for revitalizing the city.

The thrust of the plan is to add 15,000 residents to Downtown D.C. and create 35,000 new jobs in high-demand sectors over the next five years. 

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The roadmap includes funding for a planned transportation project along K Street, known as the K Street Transitway, which Bowser called “a transformational project for the future of public transportation in Downtown D.C.”

The mayor argues that current budget proposals put forth by the council, including eliminating funding for the K Street Transitway and making it more expensive for people to take rideshares, will delay efforts to bring back downtown as a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood. The council is proposing a $2 fee to rides starting and ending in downtown. 

“When we’re talking about our downtown comeback, we’re not just talking about Ward 2 — we’re talking about our ability to invest in residents and programs in every single ward and every single neighborhood,” Bowser said Monday at a community event. “The K Street Transitway has the ability to transform the way we think about and use public transportation in Washington, D.C. It will make buses faster, more reliable and more efficient — and that is what bus riders are asking for.” 

The current proposal for K Street includes creating a two-way, median-running busway in the center of K Street Northwest from 12th Street to 21st Street. The project will maintain 95 percent of the existing street trees along the sidewalk, add pads for future public art, and ensure wider sidewalks are available with landscaped tree boxes, benches and bicycle racks.

Additionally, the funding will also support the redesign of L Street Northwest to include a two-way protected bike lane. Currently, L Street has only a one-way protected bike lane. 

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) “has completed historic projects that built better bridges, safer roads, protected bike lanes, transit projects, all with the goal of making Washington D.C. the most livable city in the country,” said Everett Lott, DDOT’s director, at Monday’s event. “Our goal is to deliver a transportation project that will change the city for the better, and the K Street Transitway Project does that.” 

However, the plans for K Street, which were inexplicably changed last month, are not to the liking of bike enthusiasts, who expected improved bike lanes as part of the project. Cyclists say the K Street plans also violate the spirit of Vision Zero D.C., a program to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety.  

“The mayor’s current ‘11th-hour’ K Street Transitway design that includes the removal of protected bike lanes would make life dangerous for bikers and walkers, and the mMayor’s design changes go against the District’s stated VvisionZ zero goals,” Jeremiah Lowery, advocacy director at the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, told Commercial Observer in an email. “We stand with Councilmember Chales Allen’s request to send this project back to the planning stages. Going forward, we request that the process be transparent while including different stakeholders.”

The budget is slated to be passed by the D.C. Council sometime in the next two months..  
Keith Loria can be reached at Kloria@commercialobserver.com.