DDOT has signed off on WMATA’s original plan to replace four escalators at the Van Ness Metro station. And so, WMATA says work will begin one week from today, on Monday, June 22nd.
That means the west entrance to the station will close for most, if not all, of the project’s three-year timeline so WMATA’s contractor can use it as a conduit to remove old escalator parts and bring in the new.
The District Department of Transportation had blocked the project from starting on May 4th, as Metro had intended, after the community raised concerns about the lack of notice and about pedestrian safety during at least the first six months of the three-year project. That’s because a section of sidewalk to the north of the station on Connecticut Avenue is closed until the end of the year, and it will force many people to cross busy Connecticut Avenue twice during trips to and from the Metro station. This increases the potential for conflicts with drivers trying to turn onto Connecticut.
And those conflicts won’t be much reduced even after the sidewalk reopens. UDC students will need to cross from the eastern entrance to the west side of Connecticut, or crowd the Metro escalator that emerges on the west side of the street. The southbound busloads of Metrobus commuters that normally pour into the western entrance each morning will need to cross over to the east.
Matthew Marcou, head of public space regulation at the District Department of Transportation, alerted ANC 3F commissioners of the agency’s latest decision on Friday afternoon. He explained in an email that “at this point, DDOT is satisfied that the method WMATA originally proposed for performing the work is the best option and is preparing to move forward.”
Alternative options included using Veazey Terrace as a staging area and closing the station on certain weekends in an effort to accelerate the work. During a May 29th walkthrough of the Van Ness station with DDOT and ANC officials, Metro said that closures would not shorten the project enough to make them worth the trouble. Metro has also said that moving on to another station due for an escalator overhaul (Cleveland Park is next in line) is impossible because many of the escalator parts intended for the Van Ness station cannot be used anywhere else.
The east entrance at Van Ness closed for 4.5 months in 2013 while both escalators to the street were replaced. Metro has said this project will take three years because each escalator is being removed and replaced one at a time, and because the work will be done only when the station is closed. Outside of setup and cleanup time, that will leave Metro’s contractor with a maximum 4.5 hours each weeknight.
Marcou’s email and WMATA’s public notice still leave us with questions. What accommodations are being made for pedestrians? Has Metro determined whether the staircase at the west entrance can reopen at intervals throughout the project?
These are questions we hope Metro will answer tomorrow (Tuesday) night. Representatives will give a presentation at the ANC 3F meeting at 7:30 p.m. at Forest Hills of DC (4901 Connecticut Avenue). Plan to attend or listen in on Livestream to hear about how they propose to handle the closure of the west entrance to the station.