Archive for the ‘Streets and Trees’ category

Could Rock Creek Church Road Be D.C.’s Oldest Street?

December 18, 2013

On December 10th, the Georgetown Metropolitan posted their quest to figure out what the oldest continuously named street in the District of Columbia was. Based on the assumption that this street would be in Georgetown — founded in 1751 — they came up with the answer as Water Street (tossing aside Dunbarton Street and Prospect Street because each of them were once referred to as avenues). However, I think this view is too narrow.

To begin with, I think minor variations in names need to be forgiven. In searching through old newspapers and maps, inconsistency in spelling or wording often exists. Secondly, focusing only on established settlements and towns discounts rural roads, several of which existed in the territory that later became the District of Columbia. So, if one accepts this broader view of street names in D.C., I propose that Rock Creek Church Road has a good claim to being the oldest continuously used street name in D.C.

For context, take a look at the 1799 “Partial cadastral map of southern part of Georgetown, Washington D.C.” housed in the Library of Congress. This map does not contain either Dunbarton or Prospect streets. It does contain a Water Street, but it is located in the wrong place. The 1799 Water Street is the section of Wisconsin Avenue south of M Street.

Now, let’s look at a map from 1793, also from the Library of Congress collection. The Territory of Columbia map attributed to Andrew Ellicott predates the Georgetown map by six years. It does an excellent job of showing the major rural roads in what became the District of Columbia. Most of these roads are designated by where they go rather than by a true name. The map contains three roads labeled “Road to Bladensburg” for example. Other roads lead to Great Falls, Frederick Town, and Upper Marlboro. However, one road stands out. It has an established name, and that name has been more or less consistent since before the map was drawn. That road is Rock Creek Road, known today as Rock Creek Church Road. These rural roads also appear prominently in a later 1819 map.

Both the name and the contours of today’s Rock Creek Church Road closely conform to the appropriate section of the 1793 map. The detail from the map below generally shows the section of Rock Creek [Church] Road from the 18th century that still exists today.

Rock Creek Church Road 1793 detail(Detail of the 1793 map showing location of today’s 7th Street/Georgia Avenue in green and section of Rock Creek Road that still exists today between the orange lines.)

It makes sense that Rock Creek [Church] Road would be both ancient and established. According to the history shared by St. Paul’s Rock Creek, the church was established in 1712. Colonel John Bradford pledged 100 acres of land to serve as a Glebe for the parish in 1719. This land today contains Rock Creek Cemetery and St. Paul’s church (i.e. the Rock Creek church). For this land to be useful to the church community, it had to be located along a road that would allow worshipers access. So, Rock Creek Road must have predated the founding of the church. It is also likely that the church was informally referred to as the Rock Creek church, taking its name from the road rather than the other way around. That the parish was not officially called Rock Creek Parish until 1856 seems to support this.

With regards to when the word “church” was officially added to the name of Rock Creek Road is difficult to say for certain.  I’ve been able to find references to “Rock Creek Church Road” as early as August 13, 1855, in newspapers and this predated the renaming of the parish. There are also many examples of “Rock Creek Road” in newspapers as late as the mid-1950s. To add to this confusion, in searching the Library of Congress Name Authority File, there is also a listed reference to the road as Rock Creek Cemetery Road which dates to December 18, 1837.

All of this suggests that early road names had a certain fluidity to them. Rock Creek Church Road and Rock Creek Road were interchangeable for a very long time, but I’ll grant that early maps have a preference for the shorter version. Still, I suspect that if one asked for directions to Rock Creek Church Road in 1793 (or before), that the question would have been easily understood and an accurate answer would have been given. Keeping that in mind, I think it’s safe to consider that Rock Creek Church Road may very well be the oldest stable street name in the District of Columbia.

Would you Like to Live on Putnam Street Instead of Rock Creek Church Rd.? The U.S. Senate Once Considered It

December 4, 2013

While the renaming of Brightwood Avenue to Georgia Avenue in 1908 by an act of Congress is well documented, I’ve recently learned that the U.S. Senate also contemplated renaming Rock Creek Church Road to Putnam Street in late 1910 and early 1911. Below is an article from the Evening Star dated December 14, 1910, which provides some background on that effort and linking it to a resident on the street who happened to be a member of Alabama Senator Joseph F. Johnston’s staff.

Name change for Rock Creek Church Road 1910

Apparently, the proposal to rename the thoroughfare was opposed by residents of the area, but supported by the District Commissioners. The article below — from the Evening Star dated January 1, 1911 — provides more details, including the origin of Rock Creek Church Road’s name.

Name change for RCCR Jan 1 1911 Evening Star

In searching through the Congressional Record, I was able to find that Senator Gallinger presented “memorials of the Park View Citizens’ Association and of sundry citizens of Washington, D.C., remonstrating against the proposed change of the name … ” on January 13, 1911 and he further “presented a memorial of the Citizens’ Association of Petworth, D.C. … against the enactment of legislation proposing to change the name … ” on January 16, 1911. In both instances, the memorials were referred to the Committee on the District of Columbia. (46 Cong. Rec. 835 1911; 46 Cong. Rec. 923 1911).

Thus far, I can find no reference to the legislation making it out of Committee … and as the street still bears the original name of Rock Creek Church Road … can only presume that the immediate and broad-based community opposition to the Senate proposal won the day.

MPD Launches New Photo Enforcement Technology Designed to Make the District’s Streets Even Safer

November 27, 2013

mpdc-logoAccording to a news release that the Metropolitan Police Department announced on November 22nd, they have begun deployment of several new types of automated traffic enforcement as part of a new traffic safety campaign called DC Street Safe.

The following explanation of DC Street Safe is from the announcement:

DC Street Safe is aimed at using new photo enforcement technologies to combat aggressive and dangerous driving habits that endanger some of our most vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vehicle drivers and passengers.  Additionally, DC Street Safe allows traffic safety enforcement in areas and circumstances where it could be dangerous or impractical for police officers to pull over vehicles for violations.   DC Street Safe will be comprised of the following new technologies:

  • Gridlock enforcement units that will improve traffic flow by targeting “blocking the box” at intersections;
  • Portable stop sign enforcement units to reduce violations in residential neighborhoods ;
  • Portable crosswalk enforcement units that will enhance pedestrian safety at crosswalks near schools, parks, and recreation centers;
  • Speed enforcement units that will focus on intersections with known speeding problems;
  • Units that will enforce rules on oversized and overweight commercial vehicles in order to reduce infrastructure damage and enhance quality of life in our neighborhoods.

The deployment locations for the automated traffic enforcement units were selected based on a variety of criteria, including sites with crashes and injuries, calls for service, high speed volume, near schools, or in zones prohibited for use by certain commercial vehicles. MPD also considered recommendations or requests from the Department of Transportation, Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, and community organizations.

The new automated traffic safety enforcement cameras will be activated on Saturday, November 23. Cameras at new locations will issue warnings to vehicles for violations until Sunday, December 29. Beginning Monday, December 30, cameras at new locations will issue fines for violations.

For more information about the new technology, the locations of all automated enforcement units, and DC Street Safe videos, please visit

The video below is one of five that are from the DC Street Safe program.

First Weekend to Rake Leaves in Eastern Ward 1 for the 2013 Fall Season

November 15, 2013

The first round of leaf collection for residents of Ward 1 living east of 16th Street is from November 18th to November 30th. If you have leaves please have them raked and out by Sunday, November 17th for collection. Below is the map showing the area where leaf collection will begin on Monday.

Ward 1 2013 leaf collection map

DPW uses vacuum trucks to collect the bulk of the leaves, which are then composted. DPW urges residents to follow the schedule when planning to rake loose leaves into piles in the curbside treebox space for collection.

DPW will collect bagged leaves from the treebox space as well. In neighborhoods with alley trash/recycling collections, bagged leaves also may be placed where trash and recycling are collected. These leaves will be disposed with the trash as space allows in the truck.

Tips for a Smooth-Running Leaf Collection Season

  • Rake leaves into the treebox space the weekend before your street’s schedule collection week. Once DPW serves the area, they will not return until the next scheduled leaf collection week.
  • Please – leaves only! Tree limbs, bricks, dirt, rocks, etc., will damage the equipment and delay collections.
  • Do not put leaves in the street.

There will be a second round of leaf collection later in December. To participate in that, rake leaves out by Sunday December 15th for collection the week of December 16 to 28.

Thoughts on DDOT’s North-South Corridor Meetings

November 13, 2013
Detail of the Conceptual Alternatives map showing streets in the greater Park View area that are part of the North-South Study (click for full map)

Detail of the Conceptual Alternatives map showing streets in the greater Park View area that are part of the North-South Study (click for full map)

Having attended both the November 4th North-South Corridor meeting and the less formal November 11th presentation during the Georgia Avenue Economic Development Community Task Force (GAEDTF), its time to pull together some of my initial impressions. To begin with, the area under consideration involves a lot of streets, many of which I can’t imagine will be on the table for long. But, in essence, the study area includes the traffic currently handled by three of the top five busiest routes in the District. The overall corridor handles a quarter of the District’s bus ridership, which is over 60,000 bus riders per day.

During the presentations DDOT was fairly clear that they were open to listening from residents on whether the solution to meeting the transportation demands would be streetcars or something else. However, for several years now, streetcars have been the mode of transportation most discussed, and I think it has an advantage over alternative modes at this time. But … it was also clear that this phase of meetings was a very early step in the process and there will be other opportunities for the public to weigh in. The second series of meetings during Phase one are likely to be conducted in January/February 2014 and the third series could be around May/June 2014. Once they are completed, the study will move on to Phase 2: the environmental study.

Planning process graphic

The purpose of the meetings was also to gather community input on which routes were desired, which routes residents didn’t like, and gather concerns so that the study team has more information to work with. Jaime Henson, the chief DDOT presenter, stated that we, the residents, know our neighborhoods and streets far better than the study team ever could, and that was why community input was so essential to the process. They also made it clear that if someone stated they didn’t like one option over another to tell the team why. That was the best way for the study to understand the underlying issues connected to  the corridor.

One thing I found interesting was that many residents in the SW Waterfront and upper Georgia Avenue areas tended to respond to the presentations positively. I would say that the overall vibe in the room at the GAEDTF meeting wasn’t that keen on streetcars — among the comments expressed were an interest in more circulator bus service, concern about overhead wires, concern that a disabled streetcar will snarl traffic, and that there isn’t room on Georgia Avenue for streetcars, buses, parking, and cars.

However, when compared to alternative routes in the area, I don’t see 14th Street, 11th Street, or Sherman Avenue being superior choices to Georgia Avenue. 14th Street, in particular, is usually a congested mess during morning rush hour and much of that has been in response to efforts to slow traffic down in the area around Park Road.

In looking at the comparison above, a streetcar's capacity is 65 riders greater than an articulated bus.

In looking at the comparison above, a streetcar’s capacity is 65 riders greater than an articulated bus.

In comparing modes of transportation with their size and rider capacity, I think it is fairly easy to see why DDOT has been considering streetcars so seriously. An average streetcar can carry 65 more passengers than an articulated bus. In such a comparison, the streetcar is also only 6 ft. longer than the articulated bus. In comparing width, streetcars and buses are roughly the same. However, driving lanes for buses are typically wider than those needed for streetcars because streetcars travel on rails and remain on their tracks, whereas a bus will naturally travel from side to side a bit more within a lane due to its unfettered nature.

Transportation comparison widths

So, the question becomes, if the District’s goal is to improve traffic between Buzzard Point in the South and Takoma Park/Silver Spring in the north, how does the Ward 1 section of the corridor want to participate? Do residents want the plan to include Georgia Avenue, or do they want it to bypass Georgia Avenue? Considering that a streetcar system would increase capacity the most, is the community willing to give anything up to accommodate this service — or do residents merely want to continue to add buses to the existing 70 network?

From my viewpoint, removing metered parking and establishing dedicated streetcar lanes would make a lot of sense. This would be especially true if the improved transportation service decreased visitors needing to drive to the corridor. The dedicated lane would also address the concern that a disabled streetcar would snarl traffic. Of course, an alternative to this would be to keep the metered parking and have streetcars share the road with automobiles. This is similar to the build-out on H Street where streetcars will share lanes with traffic.

All-in-all, there will be a lot for the community to consider. I’m certainly looking forward to the next round of public meetings to learn what insight DDOT gained from the last round of meetings and how that will move the process forward.

The full library of presentation materials used during the community presentations is available here. It’s worth a look to become more familiar with the study parameters and the challenges DDOT is attempting to address.

DDOT North-South Corridor Meetings Begin Tonight

November 4, 2013

As I posted a few weeks ago, DDOT is hosting its first series of public meetings beginning tonight to begin discussions on the future of transportation on the North-South Corridor. It is my understanding that this will include other north-south corridors besides Georgia Avenue — such as 14th streets — but most of the past focus has been and will continue to be on the 7th Street/Georgia Avenue corridor. The meeting schedule is below.

Subarea Date/Time Location
South Monday November 4, 2013
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
St Augustine’s Episcopal Church 600 M Street
Central Tuesday November 5, 2013
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Frank D Reeves Municipal Center 2000 14th Street
North Thursday November 7, 2013
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Emery Recreation Center
5701 Georgia Ave NW
Business Wednesday November 6, 2013
2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Frank D Reeves Municipal Center
2000 14th Street

In addition to these meetings, members of DDOT will also be at the November 11th meeting of the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force to give the community an additional opportunity to provide feedback on the future of transportation in the area. That meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and is schedule to be at Koffys Lounge at 2632 Georgia Avenue NW (the corner of Georgia Avenue and Fairmont St, 2nd floor).

You can also learn more about the meetings, and their intent, from the two page flyer below (flyer printable version here)

N-S page one

N-S page two

2013/2014 Tree Planting Map Released

October 24, 2013

2013 2014 tree planting map(Click on map to explore tree locations and species. Best viewed in Firefox)

The ending of street sweeping and onset of leaf collection also heralds the start of street tree planting season. Recently, DDOT’s Urban Forestry Administration created this year’s tree planting map for the public to depict the location and species of street trees that will be planted during the fall & winter of the 2013-2014 planting season.

According to DDOT, this year’s planting effort involves the installation of approximately 8,000 new street trees.  Installation will be divided into 2 separate phases: Fall 2013 & Spring 2014.  The Fall 2013 component will commence on or around October 1, 2013.  This year’s upcoming street tree planting aims to increase the number of trees in 2012/2013 by at least 1,000 more trees, or from 7,000 to 8,000.

Street trees, in addition to beautifying our neighborhoods, also make them more walkable and cooler in the warmer months. While I am quick to report empty tree boxes, the biggest challenge Park View has is on the handful of streets that have no room for street trees. I’ve yet to come up with a good solution to this challenge, but don’t hesitate to point these blocks out to DDOT when the opportunity lends itself.

Visitor Parking Pass Distribution Now in Progress

October 17, 2013
DDOT is in the process of issuing new visitor parking passes.

DDOT is in the process of issuing new visitor parking passes.

The following information was distributed via the Listservs yesterday regarding the visitor parking pass program.  Knowing that many residents have been asking about this, and have concerns about visitors being ticketed, I’m sharing it here:

2012/2013 Passes Will Remain Valid Through December 2013

(Washington D.C.) Today the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced it has started to distribute the 2013/2014 Visitor Parking Pass (VPP). The new passes are being distributed via mail to households located in Wards 1, 3, 4, 5 and parts of Ward 6 (H Street and Ballpark District) and DDOT plans to complete the mailing by December.

The residents in these Wards may expect to receive their pass no later than December 2013.

Although the 2012/2013 pass will remain valid through December 2013 residents are reminded to discard their old pass upon receiving the 2013/14 pass.

The new pass will be made available free of charge and only one pass will be provided per household.

Households located outside of the 2013/2014 VPP participating area may visit their local police station or substation to request a temporary parking pass.

Questions about the VPP program may be directed to DDOT’s customer service line at 202-673-6813 during normal business hours.

About the Parking Pass Program

The VPP program is designed to allow guests of District residents to park for more than two hours on RPP<> zoned blocks. A VPP is only valid during the hours of RPP enforcement and in the same RPP zone and ANC boundary as the residence.

Please Note:
District residents cannot use a VPP in lieu of registering their vehicles with the District Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If residents who receive a pass have guests that stay overnight frequently, then the visitor should register their vehicle through the Registration of Out of State Automobile<> (ROSA) program once a Warning Citation is issued by DPW parking enforcement personnel.

Casey Trees Map Highlights Most Colorful D.C. Corridors

October 11, 2013

Casey Trees fall colors map(Click on map for interactive citywide fall color guide)

For anyone who loves fall — and especially loves the changing leaves — Casey Trees has created an interactive map highlighting some of the District’s most colorful corridors. Click on the map above to see where in the city you may want to take a walk to enjoy beautiful fall foliage. Below is the introduction from the Casey Trees blog post:

As the start of October often marks the rapid onset of fall, we have decided to celebrate the changing seasons by highlighting some of D.C.’s most colorful corridors in a new fall color map. As a visual guide, the map provides suggested viewing routes for five vibrant species. Check out more details about two of them, the ginkgo and the American elm, below and three more in October’s edition of the Leaflet.

DDOT Studying Congestion and Signal Timing on Georgia Avenue

September 26, 2013
The Georgia Avenue corridor.

The Georgia Avenue corridor.

Here’s some news that came my way yesterday. DDOT is currently undergoing a corridor-wide signal optimization effort along the entire Georgia Avenue corridor — from the Montgomery County line in the north to Florida Avenue in the south.  The signal optimization effort is an in-depth engineering analyses of items such as current conditions, areas of the most congestion, and the causes.

Once this data is collected and evaluated a model on the current conditions will be developed.  The model will be used to develop a new timing plan.  The new plan will be implemented in the late fall.



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