In November 2013, when Metro closed the eastern entrance to the Van Ness Metro station to replace the escalators, the project’s five-month timeline seemed an eternity. I was also concerned about the increased potential for conflicts between pedestrians and drivers as more people would have to cross Connecticut Avenue to enter the Metro system on the west side.
Five months is nothing compared to what Metro has planned for the western entrance at Van Ness. Metro intends to close that entrance on May 4th, again for escalator replacement work. And this time, it estimates the project will take three years.
Why so long? Metro is not only replacing the one escalator at the western entrance. It is also replacing the three long escalators that descend into the station to the mezzanine. The workers will tackle each escalator replacement one at a time, and the work will be done only when the station is closed. That will stretch the work to 40 weeks per escalator, or approximately three years. It’s not clear why Metro needs to keep the west side closed while the work on the internal escalators is under way.
An alert reader brought WMATA’s notice to our attention, and notified our Ward 3 DC Council member Mary Cheh and ANC 3F commissioner Sally Gresham. He is concerned about more pedestrian-driver conflicts to the north of the station since the sidewalk on the east side of Connecticut is closed for the Park Van Ness construction project and will remain so until at least the end of the year. Metro-bound pedestrians crossing Connecticut at Albemarle to avoid the Park Van Ness work zone will have to cross the avenue again at Windom Place, which only has a crosswalk on the north side, or at Veazey
Street Terrace. Conflicts between walker and driver will abound here as well, especially during the morning rush hour. Every weekday, Metrobus carries scores of commuters to the Van Ness Metro stop. They, too, will be crossing busy Connecticut Avenue at Veazey.
It is frustrating to receive notice of this project less than two weeks before it is to begin, especially since the planning process likely took months. This would have given WMATA time to reach out to DDOT and prepare a pedestrian safety plan. But nothing of the sort is mentioned in Metro’s news release. In October, 2013, shortly after Metro announced the five-month closure of the eastern entrance, I spoke to Ann Chisholm in the Office of Government Relations at WMATA. She mentioned the possibility of lengthening the crossing time on Connecticut at Veazey. However, she was concerned that DDOT spoke of the need for a traffic study, which would hold up the project. WMATA dropped the ball then. I intend to learn more about what it plans now.