The Northwest Current is the latest to weigh in on the Metro missteps that led to the stalled closure of the Van Ness station’s west entrance with an editorial in the May 6th issue (download the paper here). Current Newspapers has given us permission to reproduce it here:
Metro’s community outreach about its three-year closure of the Van Ness/UDC station’s western entrance to replace escalators was practically nonexistent – so lacking, in fact, that even a high-ranking D.C. Department of Transportation official was uninformed.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials say they told the community of their plans a year and a-half ago, when they were working on a simpler effort to update the east-side escalators. But residents contend that the notice was little more than an off-hand mention that eventually the work would have to extend across the street.
Matthew Marcou, deputy associate director of the Transportation Department, spoke out at a community meeting on the issue last week, saying he was disturbed to just be learning about the plans, which called for a May 4th closure. He promised to put a hold on Metro’s application to use public space outside the station for its work while resident concerns are addressed.
The main issue is the impact on pedestrians, many of whom already must cross Connecticut Avenue a few blocks north of the Metro entrance because construction on the Park Van Ness project has closed the east-side sidewalk there, at least through the end of 2015. To access Metro, these folks will now have to cross twice, impacting both pedestrian safety and traffic flow.
We imagine these troubles could have been addressed had Metro taken the time to inform stakeholders of its plans a few months in advance. Mr. Marcou said transportation officials could look at a possible lane closure or other measure to make room for pedestrians, but Metro says there’s little time now for delay: Van Ness is just one in a long line of sites due for escalator replacement, and the custom parts it requires are in the works, so putting the project on hold to move ahead with another station is unfeasible.
Yet had Metro sent anyone with decision-making authority to the meeting, the official might have eased community concern by agreeing on the spot to a brief delay while the agency works with the Transportation Department to address the pedestrian issues. The time could be made up if residents agreed to a few weekend-long closures of the station – which in some instances can make up for a whole month of overnight construction.
We hope Metro officials will try to reach a compromise as they work with city authorities to identify a new start date for the on-site work.