It was an hour and a half into the Zoning Commission’s tenth hearing on American University’s campus plan this fall, and chairman Anthony Hood was asking how the school planned to respond to days of testimony from neighbors, mostly complaining the plan would bring a crush of new cars to their residential streets. Hood leaned onto the dais towards the school’s traffic consultant and said something unusually frank.
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“I think you said that traffic impacts will be minimal. That’s what I got out of your presentation, that we won’t even notice it,” Hood told Dan VanPelt, a principal with Gorove/Slade Associates, which handles the lion’s share of traffic engineering for developments in D.C. Anything that needs wholesale zoning changes has to come with a traffic study, which describes how a project might affect pedestrians and cars, and what can be done to mitigate its impact. “I’m going to tell you the truth: I like you, I know you got your job to do, but I don’t believe it…Come on, man. Let’s be realistic. I understand, make it sound good. But let me tell you, this is one commissioner that does not believe it.”