The D.C. Government opened March 1 a new Department of Motor Vehicles center on Benning Road in Southeast to replace an older facility that was located on Pennsylvania Avenue. (Photo by Shantella Y. Sherman)

Beginning March 1, residents utilizing the Penn Branch Motor Vehicles Service Center in Southeast D.C. will find it shuttered, and its replacement at 4525 Benning Road SE. The Benning Ridge Service Center, a state-of-the-art facility, is easily accessible to drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and Metrorail/Metrobus riders. The location, in addition to being more centrally located, is believed to offer residents an opportunity to explore the changing neighborhood, now populated with small retail businesses and restaurants.

Ward 7 resident Sharlisse Freeman told the AFRO she welcomes the idea of being able to get necessary DMV business achieved in a hospitable and safe space, especially if she is forced to wait for services. “The Penn Branch location has been nightmarish for years because it is in the middle of nowhere with the type of blight surrounding it that makes you want to come in and get out as quickly as possible,” Freeman said. “I applaud the city for pressing forward with these new initiatives that enhance the quality of life for residents.”

The environment around the Penn Branch location had been one of its major drawbacks. Located in a largely rundown strip mall, the DMV site offered free parking, but on a lot at the back of the property, which made visitors feel unsafe.

Anthony Ransom, a Ward 8 resident, said he was grateful the new center was opening at a time when more diverse people are moving into the city. “The city has allowed a lot of service centers whether they are health clinics or the employment services to run down into the ground. It looks bad to the residents and it messes with the morale of the workers as well,” Ransom told the AFRO. “Even though many long-time D.C. residents have gotten used to inadequate and run down places, with the shifting demographics of the city, it is important that we represent better than we have. All of our DMVs should look like Georgetown.”

D.C. DMV Director Lucinda Babers said in a press release, “The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles is pleased to open our newest location, the Benning Ridge Service Center. It is our largest service center and is accessible to customers by various modes of transportation. Benning Ridge will be a full service facility and customers will be provided with the same services that are provided at the three other service centers: Georgetown, Rhode Island, and Southwest.”