Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Department of Transportation voices support for AU Campus Plan

Representatives from the District Department of Transportation said they support AU’s Campus Plan, with the completion of a full transportation impact study.

DDOT presented its evaluation Sept. 24 at the fourth D.C. Zoning Commission hearing on the plan. The representatives said AU’s plan would very minimally increase traffic delays and the number of students traveling to campus.

DDOT also determined that the relocation of the Washington College of Law to Tenley Campus would decrease the number of students who drove to the law school.

Neighborhood representatives challenged that determination, saying many drivers commute from Virginia or Maryland.

“Often it’s more important that the destination is in close proximity than where [the driver] is coming from,” a DDOT representative said at the meeting.

DDOT suggested AU:

• build a mid-block crosswalk across Nebraska Avenue from the proposed East Campus to Main Campus near Hurst Hall;

• maximize the shuttle system, possibly removing stops on Massachusetts Avenue and relocating the Tenleytown stop near Whole Foods;

• complete a study on students parking in the neighborhood;

• and establish a transportation demand coordinator to work with AU, DDOT and the community on initiatives such as decreasing the number of people who drive to the University.

DDOT: East Campus pedestrians not a traffic challenge

The block of Nebraska Avenue from Ward Circle to New Mexico Avenue is large, so people often cross in the middle of the block, said Anna Chamberlain, a DDOT transportation planner.

“A mid-block signal would help to create a safe crossing for pedestrians,” Chamberlain said.

ANC 3D Chair Tom Smith asked DDOT if East Campus pedestrians would impede Nebraska Avenue traffic.

“There’s basically no way that more pedestrians will cross at those three locations [on Nebraska Avenue] than the signals can handle,” Chamberlain said.

Smith also asked about the impact of traffic related to possible retail locations on the East Campus.

“It depends on who the retail will serve,” a DDOT representative said. “If it’s student-serving retail, the impact will be nil or limited or will even take traffic away.”

ANC 3D opposes AU Campus Plan

Smith also presented ANC 3D’s unanimous opposition to the Campus Plan at the hearing.

“AU failed to meet the burden of proof that the plan won’t have an adverse impact on residents,” he said.

The district members specifically oppose South Hall, the Reeves Field bleachers expansion, East Campus and the mid-block pedestrian crossing.

Smith said East Campus student density was “too intense” and proposed retail on the campus would “undermine” Wesley Heights retail.

“Although it would not endear me to my friends in 3E, I suggest AU continue housing on Tenley,” Smith said.

Later in the night, a representative for ANC 3F said she was “stunned” by his suggestion.

“No neighborhood should not share in the sometimes burden, sometimes responsibility of housing students,” Smith said. “Tenley should also be part of the housing solution.”

He also expressed concern that AU will eventually use its commercial properties, such as the AU-owned buildings on New Mexico Avenue, for student housing. ANC 3D suggested the Commission require AU establish a population cap that excludes commercial properties.

“Without some measures from the Zoning Commission, AU would have no limits on potential growth,” Smith said.

Zoning commissioners questioned Smith’s claims about traffic, parking and East Campus.

Commissioner Peter May challenged Smith’s assertion that two East Campus buildings would adversely affect Westover Place neighbors and impinge on their privacy. The two buildings closest to the Westover townhomes would be administrative buildings used only during the day.

“That’s kind of the nature of the [Westover Place] development,” May said. “Is it so much more objectionable to have buildings used during the day?”

landerson@theeagleonline.com


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