Testimony submitted by the Eckington Civic Association with regard to changes to “Dave Thomas Circle” on March 1, 2018

Dear Committee Members,

Thank you for the opportunity to testify here today. My name is Austan Mogharabi and I am the Vice President of the Eckington Civic Association. I am here today to talk about the Florida Avenue Virtual Circle, affectionately referred to as Dave Thomas Circle. I admit, however, that you may not sense any feelings of affection in the rest of my testimony.

Before discussing the concerns - and hopes - of our community in regards to this circle, I want to acknowledge and thank ANC Commissioners Pinkney and Powell, as well as our partners at DDOT, for their engagement to date. As you’ll hear, however, much more is needed from DDOT to address this problem.

In 2010 DDOT created the Florida Avenue Virtual Circle between the intersections of New York Ave, First Street, and Florida Ave. While DDOT sought to address the problems facing the community in 2010, traffic in Eckington and NoMa around the circle has increasingly gotten worse, leading to pedestrian, bicyclist and driver safety issues, including numerous car accidents. As an example, some residents have reported it taking up to one hour just to try and leave our neighborhood due to the heavy traffic caused by the circle.  

Here is a quote from a recent DDOT report:

This layout has resulted in safety and operational issues for travelers, freight movers and various modes of transportation. Wayfinding is challenging for drivers due to the need to navigate multiple intersections, and pre‐position for upcoming turns. Improper lane use and lane changing occurs during nearly every traffic signal cycle at some locations. Lack of defined bicycle lanes through these intersections creates unclear connections between the Eckington and NoMa communities.

This is a problem that will only get worse. New residents continue to move into our neighborhood and we are expecting numerous multi-family unit developments, the NoMa Park, and extensive retail over the next couple of years.

This is also a problem that has many knock-on effects. Addition to the discomfort, delay, and frustrations, addressing the problems with Dave Thomas Circle is critical to achieving the District’s plans for Vision 0 and the Safe Passage to Schools initiatives. As you know, McKinley Tech is located in our neighborhood and I have, more often than I’d like, seen near accidents caused by frustrated drivers trying to make a light or young kids eager to get home crossing illegally to get to the metro quicker.

These are problems we can fix. Our community is eager to work with DDOT in addressing the problems. We want to be part of the solution.

At this time, however, our community is discouraged by the lack of progress. It appears, from our perch, that very little is being done to actually implement changes to improve the circle. DDOT has presented different options to fix the Dave Thomas circle over the last few years and we welcomed the NEPA Review for the Florida Ave Multimodal Transportation Project that was recently released. We have noted and studied the two DDOT-proposed “options” for the future of Dave Thomas Circle - one “build” and one “no build.” We are now left wondering whether anything will come of this work as there has been no budget detailed nor any concrete timelines for engagement between DDOT and the community nor any clarity on moving forward with the necessary additional studies and negotiations to affect the changes proposed.  

That is why I am here today, to ask the Oversight Committee, what is being done to solve this issue?  When can I tell our community to expect a concrete DDOT engagement and review plan to be effectuated?