Editorial: DDOT’s Problem with the Public  

D.C. Department of Transportation planners and outreach experts met online with Georgetown residents and business owners on April 3 to discuss 17 recommendations to improve the town’s transportation access and circulation. The previous evening, there was an in-person meeting at St. John’s parish hall that displayed each proposal on an easel. The hall was filled with concerned citizens and DDOT employees. Residents were encouraged to leave comment post-its on each recommendation display. There was some individual discussion at each numbered bulletin board, as it were, but there was no public forum, per se. Most residents were unhappy with the set-up.

In both meetings, DDOT officials asked that the meeting be respectful, civil and productive with constructive questions and ideas. They asked for kindness. Kindness? Respect? Were they scared? 

There have been tensions lately. There have been open grumblings by former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners that DDOT hasn’t been as transparent as they used to be. Particularly on repairs of sidewalks and streets. No prior notice to residents immediately impacted by a pending project seems no longer to be de rigueur, even for a street building project. 

Particularly concerning is DDOT’s persistent parking space removals in Georgetown’s commercial areas. This is part of D.C.’s long-running war on automobiles — which for many is how they came to Georgetown to visit, shop and dine — that goes back decades. Just two months ago, DDOT erected no parking signs for all the 3200 block of M Street. The signs go east and west, having no yet removed spots along the 2900 or 3000 blocks of M. Of course, there was little or no public discussion of such changes. (We’re not even going to talk about bike lanes, plastic flex posts or Connecticut Avenue and elsewhere.) 

DDOT does what it does, because it’s DDOT — and they have a public relations problem.   

In March, for instance, a Georgetown reporter barely got to her car on 27th Street NW in time to have the tow-truck bars under her vehicle removed. There were no signs. The tow-truck driver said she had been ordered to put a sign up on the corner about the road repair that day, to issue $50 tickets on the cars parked along the east side of 27th street, and then to tow each car away. 

In another case, it took months for the DDOT to respond to a hazardous sidewalk in front of an elderly couple’s home on O ST NW. Loose bricks there had caused serious injury after a woman tripped and fell on them. A few brick sidewalks in Georgetown suddenly and without notification, have been replaced by non-brick toppings despite numerous ANC resolutions asking for prior notice and discussion.  

Such lack of transparency and communication between DDOT and Georgetown leaders didn’t happen 20 years ago, when the two entities had relatively good communication, several former ANC commissioners recall. Anger at the growing lack of transparency has been increasingly expressed.  

No wonder the bureaucrats assigned to discuss the study of traffic circulation and access in Georgetown were scared and asked for kindness — which most meeting participants gladly supplied. 



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