- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2003

The D.C. Department of Transportation has created 26 new daytime parking spaces near the city’s convention centers in response to complaints from businesses and churches about the lack of parking in the area.

The new parking spots are on the periphery of the old convention center in the 900 and 1000 blocks of H Street NW. Parking spaces also were made available on Ninth and 11th streets and New York Avenue NW for approximately 20 full-size tour buses from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Bill Rice, DOT spokesman, said the 20 bus spaces will accommodate 43 regular-size vehicles after hours. The tour-bus spots will be also be available for weekend automobile parking.

“It’s a classic win-win for everyone in downtown,” said Terry J. Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, an organization representing 39 churches that pushed hardest to improve safety and parking for downtown visitors.

A number of churches in the Northwest neighborhood near the city’s conventions centers have complained about the lack of parking on Sundays. Mr. Lynch said several churches were being forced to move because of parking shortages.

“This is a real step for parking convenience, enhanced business and improved safety,” he said.

Mr. Rice said the DOT also worked closely with the National Park Service, Ford’s Theatre, the Metropolitan Police Department, the General Services Administration and Penn Quarters Neighborhood Association to resolve the parking problem.

“The bus parking and traffic situation in the area has been an issue we have aimed to resolve for years. We’ve been working for a long time with a lot of groups in the community to fix this problem,” Mr. Rice said.

As first reported by The Washington Times on May 8, tour-bus drivers are circling downtown city blocks to avoid paying a hefty $500 fine for illegally parking or standing with engines running. Some bus drivers told The Times that the constant parade of buses could explain why a tour bus struck a woman and her 7-year-old son as they crossed the intersection of Ninth and F streets NW last month. The bus was headed to the International Spy Museum. The boy was killed, and the mother was seriously injured.

Mr. Rice denied that the May 1 incident played a significant role in the decision to allow buses to park in the area.

“No, [the accident] was not a major factor in the decision to free up the spots,” Mr. Rice said. “We want to encourage tourists as well to frequent the area and the attractions, like the Spy Museum and various hotels and restaurants.”

Mr. Lynch, whose organization has been involved in resolving the parking issue since January, disagreed.

“A boy was killed by a tour bus. Something had to be done to ease congestion and improve safety. It was a no-brainer to utilize the space for parking.”

Mr. Rice said meters will be installed on H Street within the next few weeks because it is a rush-hour street. “It will be metered from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will have a two-hour limit,” he said.

Once the old convention center is torn down, additional parking may become available if the department can convince the city to dedicate the space, he said.

Arlo Wagner contributed to this article.

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