Bowser’s budget funds fixing “Dave Thomas Circle,” Circulator to Ward 7, bike lane towing, streetcar, and more

This will be gone. Dave Thomas Circle 2010 by Tom Bridge licensed under Creative Commons.

DC will extend the Circulator bus to Ward 7, demolish the Wendy's at New York and Florida avenues NE, extend the DC Streetcar to Benning Road, and more under the proposed 2020 budget just released by Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Here are some key transportation items:

Take the Dave Thomas Circle Wendy's

The much-maligned corner of New York Avenue NE, Florida Avenue NE, and First Street NE got a redesign in 2010 that routed traffic around the triangular Wendy's property in a "virtual circle," but to really make this intersection work requires getting rid of the Wendy's restaurant that sits in the center.

The District Department of Transportation studied the area and devised a pretty good option that connects First Street to the south and Eckington Place in the north with a new road through where the Wendy's now sits. The idea got a boost when Ward 5 councilmember Kenyan McDuffie asked for funds to demolish the Wendy's; Bowser has followed through with $35 million for this, WAMU's Martin Austermuhle reported (the document released online doesn't break this out specifically).

As I've written, with the idea now moving forward, DDOT must complete its design in a way that fulfills its Vision Zero commitments by putting safety, and pedestrian and bicycle accessiblity, first instead of designing it for maximum vehicle speeds. That includes making the First Street/Eckington Place connector two-way, with a bike lane on the east side to line up with the one in NoMa, and reducing some of the many turn lanes the design has added everywhere but which lengthen the time to cross the streets.

Vision Zero, bike lanes, trails, and Alabama Avenue

Among $177 million over the next six years for streetscape work in the capital budget, Bowser will dedicate $63 million to "capital investments, including bike and pedestrian safety improvements, a crosstown bicycle lane, an expansion of the District’s trail network, and a major redesign of the District’s most dangerous corridor, Alabama Ave SE, covering four miles from Ridge Road in Ward 7 to Randle Place in Ward 8."

The Alabama Avenue project is indeed a high priority; of four schoolchildren struck by drivers in the first days of this school year, three (!) were in this vicinity. The other projects were not specified in particular.


DC has not consistently enforced rules around driving and parking in bus and bike lanes, and there's been a growing intensity of awareness around it. The mayor has allocated "$2.8 million for additional towing and bike lane enforcement along 20 major corridors during morning and evening rush hours to support safer and more efficient commutes for both drivers and bikers."

It's not clear from the budget document if this will only focus on bike lanes or also include bus lanes. With bus lane plans in the works for H and I streets, 14th Street, and 16th Street NW, enforcement will be critical — not just at rush hours, but that's a key time.

More of these, and in a transitway. Circulator at 14th and K by Elvert Barnes licensed under Creative Commons.

More free Circulator for all

We now know that making the Circulator free will cost $3.1 million per year. This won't quiet debates about whether $3.1 million would be better used for funding late night bus service. Surveys have shown that better transit is a higher priority for nearly all riders than free transit, but many people are excited about the free Circulator.

The other criticism of Bowser's plan to make the Circulator free was that the Circulator, while a nice bus system, mostly serves the downtown area and not at all in Ward 7. Perhaps in response, the mayor's budget provides $13 million "for new Circulator buses including new expanded routes to Ward 7." It's worth noting that DDOT will need to identify new and/or larger maintenance facilities to manage a larger fleet, and hopefully the new bus purchases can all be battery powered electric.

Streetcar and transitway

As announced Monday, Bowser has allocated $122 million to build the K Street Transitway, a two-way busway (and maybe, in the future, streetcar-way) in the center of K Street that's been proposed for over a decade. Further, the budget has $188 million to extend the streetcar to Benning Road Metro in Ward 7.

This post will be updated as people digest the budget. The above came from the 297-page executive summary, while the full detailed budget should provide more specifics.

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