Various people have been wanting to close 18th St. to traffic for years, either occasionally or permanently, but until June of 2020, it had only happened on Adams Morgan Day. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in the Spring of 2020, various community organizations, individuals, ANC1C, and the Adams Morgan Partnership BID (AMPBID) proposed the street be closed as a tool to help restaurants survive. In June of 2020, Mayor Muriel Bowser implemented that proposal, closing the street to traffic from Friday evening, June 26 through Sunday evening, June 28 (the street was reopened to traffic overnight each night). The closure was hugely popular both with the businesses as well as residents and we immediately began planning to make the closure a regular occurrence. Unfortunately various Covid-related guidelines and other unforeseen obstacles prevented that from happening.
In February of 2022, we were awarded a grant of $525,000 in federal ARPA infrastructure money, administered by the DC Office of Planning. Of that money, 75% was designated to pay for permanent infrastructure improvements and 25% for other costs.
Our initial proposal was for 18th St. to be closed from Friday evening through Sunday night once a month from April through November. We are still hoping to do that going forward, but we are subject to MPD staffing constraints which have limited us to certain Sundays on which no other large events are happening. Our initial proposal included the street being closed on Adams Morgan Day (September 11 this year). This day was rejected but we will be pushing for that next year.
Closing 18th St. from Columbia Rd. to Florida Ave. was looked at back in the Spring of 2020 but was rejected for a number of reasons including the Marie Reed Elementary School and Recreation Center being in the middle of that zone and the larger proportion of residences to businesses. The Columbia to Kalorama Road portion of 18th Street is dense with commercial activity.
MPD based their deployment on their prior experiences with 18th Street being closed to traffic. Most of those were for Adams Morgan Day. We are hoping the rest of the pedestrian zones we are executing this year, coupled with the installation of permanent road closure devices, will demonstrate that much fewer officers and no dump trucks will be needed in the future.
The grant we received for the Adams Morgan Pedestrian Zone was primarily (75%) designated for infrastructure improvements. We initially looked at installing retractable hydraulic bollards, but those proved impractical for a number of reasons. We are currently exploring a solution that would block the north and south ends of the zone (at Columbia Road and at Kalorama Road) with a retractable, crash-rated cable. It’s a solution that is cheaper, easy to deploy, and will be able to be installed with minimal traffic disturbance. The side streets and alleys that intersect with the AMPZ will also have devices installed to prevent traffic from entering the zone. Our hope is that this infrastructure will eliminate the need for dump trucks and police cruisers to be stationed at each closure area, saving a significant amount of money and minimizing the need for many MPD officers.
We are keenly aware that food delivery has become a vital part of restaurants’ business models and to that end we have established three Pick-up/Drop-off locations (PUDOs) outside the AMPZ that are actively enforced by traffic control officers. These zones are exclusively for pick-up and delivery of food and passengers. Two zones are located on Columbia Rd. at 18th St. (the NW corner adjacent to Starbucks and the SE corner adjacent to McDonald’s) and one zone is located on 18th St. south of Kalorama Rd. on the east side adjacent to the Sorrento apartment building and the basketball court at the school.
The AMPZ is similar to “Open Streets” road closures in other parts of the city in that the purpose is to open the streets to pedestrians, bicyclists, scooters, penny farthing, families with strollers, etc… While there is programming in the streets with free exercise classes, face painting for kids, dance workshops and jugglers it is not an Adams Morgan Day-type event. Also, a 20 foot fire lane must be maintained, which is roughly the distance between the jersey barriers on either side of the street that protect the streateries.
- Unfortunately no you can’t. The open container laws still are enforced. You can purchase alcohol from businesses to consume at home but you can’t drink it in the street. Depending on the success of this pedestrian zone, we may try to acquire one of the commercial lifestyle licenses that recently were made available but that is a project for another time.