Wells Anticipates Fast Nod for Parking Plan

Posted January 23, 2008 at 5:02pm

It will be a race against the clock, but Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells (D) said Tuesday that he believes his plan to alleviate congestion and parking problems around the Washington Nationals’ new baseball stadium can be enacted by Opening Day on March 30.

The plan, which calls for additional meters on residential streets around the ballpark and on Capitol Hill and expanded enforcement hours, will be the subject of a public hearing at the Wilson Building on Jan. 30. At a town hall meeting Tuesday in Southwest, Wells said that assuming a markup can be scheduled immediately after next week’s hearing, the bill could pass as an emergency measure at the City Council’s session on Feb. 5.

Passing it as emergency legislation would enable the District Department of Transportation to install meters and signs immediately, rather than exposing the law to Congressional review and a waiting period.

Wells said he’s been assured that if the bill passes on Feb. 5, it can be implemented in time for baseball season.

“I’ve not proposed anything DDOT says it can’t do,” Wells said. “If they’ve promised something they can’t do, that’s on [City Administrator] Dan Tangherlini, the mayor and [DDOT Director] Emeka Moneme.”

DDOT has 120 modern meters, each capable of serving about 10 parking spaces. They are ready for installation, but the city can’t act until Wells’ legislation is passed. When that happens, DDOT will begin work near the ballpark before fanning out to the Eastern Market and Barracks Row areas on Capitol Hill.

“DDOT has already said there’s no way it’s going to be able to have all meters for all streets ready to go by Opening Day,” said Charles Allen, Wells’ chief of staff. “What they’re looking at is how to phase it in by the ballpark.

“On good faith that we’re going to be able to move the legislation through, DDOT can have whole plan lined up, so the moment the legislation gets passed they’re not starting from scratch.”

Southwest residents raised concerns at Tuesday’s meeting that fans from Capitol Hill would drive to games and park on residential streets with their Ward 6 stickers — a move that would be allowed under Wells’ plan. But Wells said DDOT is unlikely to support a subzone sticker to protect ballpark-area residents from other Ward 6 residents.

“I’m not saying it’s off the table, but right now it’s not on the table,” Wells said.

Residents also scoffed at the notion that the Department of Public Works could enforce the enhanced regulations, saying DPW hardly enforces existing rules.

Wells’ bill has the support of Council Chairman Vincent Gray (D), but Wells said he might encounter opposition from At-Large Councilmember Carol Schwartz (R), who wrote the current law banning most metered parking on weekends — a rule that would be changed by the Wells bill.

Wells was still optimistic that the bill will pass “unless there’s something I don’t see coming.”

The Nationals will host Atlanta on March 30. If the parking regulations aren’t in place for that game, the city would have another week until the team returns home on April 7.

— Daniel Heim