East Campus Construction to Route Trucks through Tenleytown


Trucks similar to this one will be used at the East Campus site. Photo courtesy of American University.

Trucks similar to this one will be used at the East Campus site. Photo courtesy of American University.

The usually predictable quarterly meeting of the American University Community Liaison Committee (CLC) threw Tenleytown residents a curve ball during an otherwise routine update on the University’s construction of its new East Campus.

David Dower, Assistant Vice President of Planning and Project Management, informed the committee that excavation at the former Nebraska Avenue surface lot will begin this month and run through early fall. As with the Tenley Campus, AU anticipates that 80 to 100 trucks per day will be necessary to haul dirt from the East Campus during excavation.

Dower surprised Tenleytown residents, though, when a map of the anticipated truck routes indicated that vehicles are projected to travel along Nebraska Avenue, up Wisconsin Avenue and then take Brandywine Street to River Road as they head north out of the District – a route that would take them through the heart of Tenleytown. The River Road route was one of a handful included on the map shown to the CLC.

In April, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 3E, which includes Tenleytown, AU Park, and Friendship Heights, passed a resolution urging the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) “not [to] allow River Road to be used as [a] construction route,” noting that “River Road NW and Brandywine Street NW… are not designated truck routes.” The resolution further cited the residential nature of River Road and Brandywine Street, and that trucks would have to travel along a route that includes “a Metro stop, the city’s largest public High School, Middle School, [and] Elementary School.”

ANC 3E proposed instead that DDOT allow Foxhall Road to be used as a route as “DDOT’s truck route map indicates that Foxhall road is an approved truck route.” Neighboring ANC 3D (AU, Foxhall, Kent, New Mexico/Cathedral, Palisades, Spring Valley and Wesley Heights) has been an ardent opponent of construction traffic traversing Foxhall Road and was successful in stopping AU from using the road as one of its routes during Tenley Campus construction. Indeed, Commissioner Kent Slowinski (3D-01) during the CLC meeting complained of recent construction vehicles on Foxhall Road and asked for AU’s assurances that prohibitions against travel on Foxhall would be enforced.

Sema Tokel, a River Road resident, spoke up in protest against the proposed River Road route, which is already overburdened by traffic from other projects surrounding Tenleytown. She detailed concerns about noise and air pollution from the large volume of dump trucks, as well as damage to residential properties along the road, saying that her house “rattles like crazy” when trucks pass by. Tokel also raised concerns about pedestrian safety, especially around Fort Bayard Park and its toddler playground. She and other River Road residents are currently petitioning DDOT for a traffic calming assessment for the thoroughfare.

Dower and his colleagues from AU listened closely to objections to the use of River Road, but it was unclear whether he intended to revise the proposed truck routes as a result. While AU had not submitted the routes to DDOT yet, Dower and Linda Argo, Assistant Vice President of External Relations and Auxiliary Services, were quick to note that DDOT had been the one to suggest the use of River Road for both the Tenley and East Campus construction. ANC 3E commissioners are following up with Dower’s office.

As for the Washington College of Law at Tenley Circle, work is proceeding as planned. As Tenleytown, D.C. reported previously, construction moved into the concrete phase. Crews have laid the underground garage foundations and the first elevated garage slab above grade. Dower told the CLC that construction is “a little bit behind” schedule due to the unexpectedly harsh winter, but he “believes we can recover” to met the fall 2015 deadline for completion.

Note: This post was updated to include a picture of the type of vehicle that will be used at the East Campus site. A previous version included a stock photo.