The residents of a once tranquil, tree-lined street on Capitol Hill may soon get some peace and quiet if Metro honors their request to reroute the buses which rumble along their street day and night.
Metro has scheduled a public hearing on Dec. 4 on a proposal to reroute the buses which travel along E Street between Canal and 3rd streets SE.
The request to reroute the buses was made last October by Roland Dority, chairman of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B, which represents Capitol Hill. But it was not the neighborhood request as much as a D.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) report which prompted the pubic hearing. The DOT report, issued in August, concluded that continued bus traffic along E Street could result in $293,000 worth of damage to streets, according to Dick Dawson, Metro's principal bus operations specialist.
Dawson said Metro's own investigation revealed that buses traveled along E Street SE 500 times a day; more times than in any other residential area in the city, although only 300 people in the area rode buses.
"The (final) straw was when we found E Street was in very bad shape," Dawson said. "It substantiated residents claims" that too many buses traveled the street.
Residents of E Street became aware of the volume of bus traffic during a nine-day strike by Metro bus drivers in 1978, said Bill Renfro, and E Street resident who spearheaded the rerouting campaign.
In the midst of the strike, neighbors suddenly realized "it was very pleasant and quiet," Renfro said. "People began to sit outside like in a residential neighborhood. People were walking their pets. Children were skating on the street."
When the buses returned, Renfro said, the activity declined.
The proposed rerouting will focus on the route traveled by the A1, A2, A4, A4/,A6 and A8 buses that make up the Anacostia-Congress Heights Metro line which runs between Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Anacostia and the National Archives area downtown. The route is heavily used by passengers from outside the E Street area, Dawson said.
According to a 1978 Metro report, the buses transported more than 12,000 people daily between the hours of 6 a.m. and noon, Dawson said. Most of the buses run at five-minute intervals.
Residents of E Street suggested that the buses be rerouted down Virginia Avenue. Metro and DOT said the street cannot handle the traffic.
The rerouting proposed by Metro would direct all of the buses, except the A8, down South Capitol Street to M Street SW, a six-lane commercial thoroughfare. The A8, which runs at 20-minute intervals, would continue its present route.
Until 1956, Providence Hospital and several low-income housing complexes were located in the neighborhood and caused a greater need for bus stops in the area, Dawson said. The hospital has since relocated and most of the low-income residents have been moved out by redevelopment, he said. A park has been built on the old hospital site at 2nd and D streets SE.
Requests to reroute Metro lines are infrequent and are usually accommodated "if there's a logical solution," Dawson said.
The public hearing is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Van Ness Elementary School at 5th and M streets SE.