Leaders clash over the future of K Street
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 They blast the project as outdated and geared toward office commuters.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.
- “I am disappointed with some of these so-called strategies to turn around downtown,” Mendelson told reporters on Monday, the latest tussle between D.C.’s top two leaders.
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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