DC Council members add controversial Connecticut Ave. bike lane project to budget proposal

Some D.C. Council members are reviving a controversial plan to bring bike lanes to a busy stretch of Connecticut Avenue in Northwest by adding it to the city’s budget package.

During a Friday meeting, lawmakers revealed the Committee on Transportation and the Environment’s recommendations for the fiscal 2025 budget.

One of them, according to council documents, is proposing a budget support act subtitle that “requires smart, multimodal, and safety-based decision making by reincorporating a protected bike lane into the final design for the Connecticut Avenue Multimodal Safety Improvement Project.”

The recommendation comes about a month after Sharon Kershbaum, acting director of the D.C. Department of Transportation, said changes to the busy road wouldn’t involve bike lanes. Initial plans for the over 3-mile stretch between Calvert and Oliver streets Northwest included a one-way protected bike lane on both the east and west sides of the road.

In December of 2021, Mayor Muriel Bowser directed DDOT to move forward with those plans, but in January of 2023, the agency asked project staff to review all of the proposed concepts. Then, in April, Kershbaum said the bike lanes had been removed from the project, but that the city is exploring other alternatives for the area.

Now, the bike lanes are included in the budget, which is still subject to full council approval. Bowser still has to approve the final version, too.

A spokesman for Bowser declined to comment on the council adding the project as part of its review of her budget proposal. A DDOT spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“We’re being asked to drop an idea that had been vetted for a player to be named later, and I don’t think we can do that,” Ward 3 Council member Matt Frumin said Friday.

The exact language, Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen said, will prevent DDOT “from expending funds in FY25 in furtherance of the Connecticut Avenue Reversible Lane Operations and Safety project” unless protected bike lanes are included.

In budget hearings, Allen said members of the public and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners criticized the decision to remove the bike lanes from the Connecticut Avenue redesign project.

Supporters of the bike lanes argue they’re essential for keeping cyclists safe on a busy road. Critics, though, said they would make traffic worse and eliminate parking spots.

Some of those concerns, Frumin said, “are resolvable with some innovations in where you place the bike lanes, so that you can address the needs of businesses and people with disabilities in the area. It’s a very important thing that we build out our multimodal and bike infrastructure.”

The exact language, Frumin said, allows for “an element here of ‘show us your work, let the community evaluate it.’ But don’t proceed with something that doesn’t include bike lanes, at least until that happens.”

Lee Mayer, president of the group Save Connecticut Ave., said he’ll keep fighting to prevent the bike lanes from getting constructed.

“We will be fighting that tooth and nail, because we know it’s a bad idea,” Mayer said. “We know it’s bad for downtown revitalization. We know it’s bad for the businesses on Connecticut Avenue, and we know it’s bad for the residents.”

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Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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