Yesterday, Ward 5 experienced some, as is used on Twitter, #GoodWard5News.
The Ward elected a new Council member to replace Harry Thomas Jr., and the victory of Councilmember-elect Kenyan McDuffie was done without bundling of campaign contributions. Something novel (and far more ethical) in DC politics. But something else happened that may have been missed with all of the hype of the special election: The Committee of the Whole passed the first reading of the 2013 DC budget which includes $1 million for infrastructure needs per the Rhode Island Small Area Plan. In Chairman Kwame Brown‘s letter to his colleagues on the Committee, he said:
Recognizing the need to continue to invest in the economic growth of the District, we found a way to fund the Small Business Technical Assistance Program; transferred $3 million to support the tourism industry, a major pillar of the District’s economy; created the first Retail Priority TIF Area for Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast to catalyze the development that is sorely lacking in this neighborhood; and funded the creation of the Eckington Small Area Plan as well as the capital improvements recommended by the Rhode Island Small Area Plan.
The RIA Small Area Plan, found here on FoRIA’s website, is highlights infrastructure as one of the most critical needs for the Avenue to move forward with other aspects of the plan. The Insider spoke privately with Chairman Brown about this fund and what it will mean for RIA NE. Here are some points from our conversation:
What kind of infrastructure projects would you like to see done with the $1 million?
These funds will pay for the redesign of transportation and infrastructure improvements along the Rhode Island Ave NE corridor pursuant to the Rhode Island Avenue NE Small Area Action Plan, which Council passed in May 2011. A streetcar line, other transportation options, utility relocations, road and intersection realignments, streetscape improvements, and landscaping are the types of improvements that the design team will consider.
Who is going to administer the money and is the community going to have any input?
DDOT is expected to lead the design and community engagement processes. The District engaged the Rhode Island Ave NE communities during the formulation of the action plan. These communities are eager to see the plan implemented, and the design process is the first step toward implementation.
What are the next steps for the Small Area Plan and ensure that it stays funded?
The transportation and infrastructure design package will be the basis for estimating the cost to implement the improvements. After these costs are estimated, the District will arrange to allot the necessary capital funds in future fiscal years to pay for the construction of the improvements. Implementing the transportation and infrastructure improvements will create a more vibrant and pedestrian-friendly environment and ultimately will attract greater private investment along the corridor, in terms of retail, commercial, and housing development.
Council Chairman Brown has once again shown that he is listening to our concerns! Keep them coming! Take this assistance to get our infrastructure going, a new Councilmember, a new library underway, bikeshare coming to Woodridge, Rhode Island Row opening up, and new small businesses opening along the Main Street, Rhode Island Ave NE is very much going to be #GoodWard5News!
(editor’s note: the second reading on the budget will take place in the near future. Stay tuned for more information on this)