Tuesday, January 08, 2008

MLK Ave Gets Reconstructive Surgery (Minus the Botox)


Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE had been eyeballed as an upgrade- needy thorough- fare long ago; but since late 2006 the Great Streets Initiative, a partnership between the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and a slew of other government agencies, held design charrettes and open forums for Ward 8 residents to design and create an enticing MLK corridor for the future. The conceptual design process, headed by RTKL, was completed in November of 2007. Now, DDOT has chosen a consultant, Volkert and Associates, Inc., who will take RTKL's vision to the table for final design and construction drawings. The beginning of the final design phase was estimated to begin in late February until put on hold by DDOT due to a DC Water And Sewer Authority (WASA) storm sewer separation and water main expansion project in the same area.

The MLK Jr Revitalization Plan has involved a mix of processes, requiring transportation and pedestrian traffic research, urban aesthetics and contextual meshing, streetscape analysis and (probably most challenging) public involvement and approval. The Ward 8 Business Council, Fairlawn Citizens Associates and ANC 8A, among others, were all given the opportunity to offer their two cents throughout each of the three public meetings.

RTKL's concept plan is comprehensive (see picture below), involving the revitalization of a big chunk of MLK Ave. from the 11th Street Bridge to Suitland Parkway, transportation improvements to ease traffic circulation and an overall attempt to enhance the streetscape image with "respect [for] the area's historic nature," according to the concept plan. As if the task weren't large enough, concept designs call for the modification of four branching streets: Howard Road, W street, Good Hope Road and 16th street. Some of the technical details involve the reconstruction of all roads but 16th Street. Changes would include the reduction of one northbound lane on MLK Jr., and the removal of curbside parking along Good Hope Road to alleviate congestion during peak-time commuting. Metrobus' U2 and B2 are also planned to be re-routed to use MLK Jr. from the Anacostia Metro Station to Good Hope Road; the current routes follow W and 16th streets. To increase pedestrian activity, architects have also proposed a new bike route along Shannon Place.

As for beautification, sidewalks will be reconstructed throughout the corridor and will feature decorative brick patterns, public art and curbside foliage in order to to "introduce visual interest," according to RTKL's design. Two types of streetscape furnishings were suggested; traditional benches and the like for MLK Jr. Ave, Good Hope Road and W Street, and contemporary furnishings (ever heard of an avante-garde trash can?) for Howard Road.

The current timeline, provided by Great Streets, indicates that final design drawings could last as long as ten months, which would put the start into Spring of 2009, with completion sometime in 2011.

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