Memorial park for Metro crash victims delayed

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Local,DC,Transportation,Liz Essley,Metro,Metro and Traffic

A park memorializing the victims of the 2009 Metro Red Line crash is delayed, two years after Mayor Vincent Gray pledged to build the $1.8 million project.

Gray pledged in 2011 to build a park near the site of the crash in which nine people died and dozens more were injured outside the Fort Totten Metro station.

The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities issued a call for designs last year, asking artists to be ready to unveil their ideas in June 2012.

But the city does not have a design and is still seeking the National Park Service's approval to create the park on the south side of the New Hampshire Avenue bridge, near South Dakota Avenue Northeast.

Officials had to move the location to the south side of the bridge after neighbors opposed the original site north of the bridge, worrying, among other things, that installing benches would exacerbate the problem of teens having sex there. Neighbors said the original site was shady and out of the way and already had a problem with teen sex. But the new location is more open and across from a church, area resident Richard Lambert said.

"The likelihood that anything would happen there is diminished," he said.

The move to the new site, along with seeking park service approval, is delaying the project, city officials said.

"We decided to step back

and put a hold on it," said Tony Robinson, a spokesman for the City Administrator's Office. "We did not want to put something where the community didn't want it. The site we settled on the community is in full support of."

Robinson said the city is waiting on the results of an environmental assessment ordered by the National Park Service. The arts commission has three design finalists, he said.

The city budgeted $1.6 million for the park, parks department spokesman John Stokes said, as well as $165,000 for the design.

Tawanda Brown, who lost her daughter Lavonda "Nikki" King, in the crash, said she's disappointed by how long the process is taking.

"Truthfully, I don't even know if it's going to come into fruition. I don't believe it will come during [Gray's] term," she said, vowing to fight for the park. "I'll be pushing forever. It doesn't matter how long it takes. It will come into existence in my lifetime."

Both Metro and the city previously posted plaques honoring the victims.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner