DC will build a tunnel from the NoMa Metro, delay the K Street Transitway, replace lead pipes, and fund more affordable housing

Rendering of Armature Works with the new Metro entrance by Trammell Crow Company.

A long-awaited moment in budget season comes when DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson releases his package of budget changes, which combine, reconcile, and sometimes reverse things from the individual committees. Here are some of the changes most connected to issues we cover, particularly on transportation and the environment as well as housing and other hot-button issues.

On transportation, this year Mendelson kept most of the changes proposed by Mayor Bowser and Councilmember Mary Cheh, with a few key changes. The most notable change is to add $23 million to build a tunnel from NoMa Metro to the east side of the railroad tracks. This would bring Union Market and homes on the east side four minutes closer to the station, likely substantially increasing ridership.

WMATA analyzed the feasibility in 2015. Trammell Crow is building the Armature Works development on the other side of the tracks, and agreed to leave space for the tunnel at the request of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C and area commissioner Tony Goodman, who is now chief of staff to Councilmember David Grosso (at-large). Charles Allen (ward 6), whose ward includes the tunnel area, has been making this project one of his major budget requests.

Meanwhile, Mendelson cut funding in 2020 and 2021 for the K Street Transitway and increased funding in later years, likely delaying the project by at least a year. DDOT did not have immediate comment about whether this cut will still allow them to move forward with a one year delay or stymie the project entirely.

Other Cheh-nges survive

The council listened to our community and retained the Residential Parking Permit (RPP) increases proposed by Cheh (ward 3) to $50 for the first car in a household, $75 for the second, $100 for the third, and $150 for the fourth and up. Seniors pay $35 for the first. The budget also retains a 1% increases in the tax on soda and other carbonated beverages, which encountered significant opposition from some councilmembers.

As Cheh recommended, the Circulator will go back to a fare of $1. Traffic cameras will stay under the purview of the police instead of moving to DDOT. Bowser tried to move them to DDOT, which Cheryl Cort says will make the camera program focus more on safety. Cheh rejected the change, partly because she thinks the issue needs to be debated as standalone legislation, and partly because she's not convinced it's a good idea.

Charles Allen, who oversees the judiciary committee, didn't accept the transfer back in his budget markup, which forced Mendelson to decide. He resolved this in favor of keeping the cameras at MPD for now, at least until there is regular legislation including a hearing and more debate on the issue.

Other Cheh elements which are still in the budget including a decongestion pricing study requested by DCST and a program to add one staff member at DDOT who will create scooter and bike parking spaces in commercial districts. There will also be three new public space inspectors focusing on walking and biking paths in construction sites, a new full-time person at DDOT to work on Safe Routes to School.

The council added funding to finish designing the Eastern Downtown Cycletrack on 6th or 9th streets NW (but as yet no consequence if the mayor doesn't build it). The mayor funded the Crosstown Cycletrack between Columbia Heights and Brookland, funding the council kept.

The council will vote Tuesday morning on the final budget, and then take a second vote in two weeks.