May 2, 2023 - News

Leaders clash over the future of K Street

A rendering showing two center bus lanes and four car lanes on the left, and three on the right

No bike or service lanes here. Rendering courtesy D.C. government

D.C.’s leaders are again divided over how to fix downtown’s decline amid the rise of teleworking and the absence of federal workers.

Driving the news: Mayor Bowser wants to build bus lanes through the heart of downtown as part of the K Street Transitway project, which was originally conceived before the pandemic.

  • The project would remove the existing service lanes from 12th to 21st streets and create a new tree-lined median for buses to escape gridlock.

Yes, but: Two key names on the D.C. Council want to use the funding for the K Street project to pay for free citywide Metrobus services. They blast the project as outdated and geared toward office commuters.

  • They say downtown needs a shot-in-the-arm strategy that will boost its economy quicker than a construction project which would tear up the ailing commercial corridor for several years.

Meanwhile, bicycle advocates are upset that the K Street Transitway no longer includes bicycle lanes over the nine-block stretch. (The Bowser administration has instead proposed making the westbound L Street bikeway bidirectional.)

What they’re saying: “We have to take our comeback seriously,” Mayor Bowser said yesterday at a press conference in Franklin Park. “Killing the K Street Transitway is a downtown killer.”

The other side: Council member Charles Allen told Axios he plans to advance $1 million in the budget for the Bowser administration to rethink the project’s design.

  • “We got to stop calling this thing a transitway. Seven lanes for cars is a K Street freeway,” he said.

The big picture: Council chair Phil Mendelson slammed Bowser’s vision for reviving downtown, arguing that her proposals — such as the K Street re-do and raising the Height Act to allow taller buildings — would take up to a decade to make an impact.

Between the lines: Bowser is also hitting back at the D.C. Council for advancing a proposal to add a $2 fee onto rideshare trips taken into downtown.

What we’re watching: The D.C. Council will approve the final budget over the next several weeks.

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