DC could ban cars in 3 corridors and create pedestrian zones

Cars could be banned in three corridors of the District in favor of creating pedestrian zones if a recently introduced D.C. Council bill is successful.

The “Public Life and Activity Zones Amendment (‘PLAZA’) Act of 2023,” introduced by Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen would establish three pedestrian corridors “to designate more desirable areas for people to gather and local businesses to thrive.”

Allen’s bill would direct D.C.’s Department of Transportation to identify one corridor that is at least one-quarter mile long to be closed to personal vehicle traffic at least 24 daytime hours per week, starting in 2026, with two more corridors to be designated by 2027.

The District has successfully prohibited vehicle traffic for select events: “Open Streets and Adams Morgan Day are incredibly popular for a reason, and pedestrian-friendly City Center and the Wharf are driving economic activity in our city,” Allen said in a news release.

Allen’s plan would increase the scope of the District’s participation in the Open Streets movement, that began during the pandemic. DDOT continues to allow “streeteries” — where diners sit at tables set up in closed travel lanes.

“The most desirable places in D.C. and in countries across the globe have one thing in common: they put people first to create public plazas for walking, shopping, art, dining, entertainment and importantly, building community,” Allen said.

Under the proposal, DDOT would identify three possible streets, and seek feedback from community groups, before issuing a report by January 2025, which would include challenges and possible solutions if the roads were closed to vehicles.

The initial corridor would be chosen and announced by Sept. 30, 2025. At that point, DDOT would be empowered to issue up to $2.5 million in grants to residents, businesses, and other organizations to enhance the pedestrian zone.

The District would also dedicate $2.5 million within the Capital Improvement Plan to fund infrastructure improvements within the selected corridor.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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