Archive for the ‘traffic’ category

Irving Street Express Way & North Capitol Cloverleaf Remnants of Unrealized Freeway System

December 8, 2017

While creating a good crosstown transportation connection between Brookland and Adams Morgan is a goal of the recent Crosstown Multimodal Study, this is not a new idea. Creating a good crosstown transportation network has vexed District transportation planners for more than 90 years. DDOT’s Multimodal Study is notable for taking all forms of transportation into consideration. Unfortunately, efforts in the 1920s and 1950s did not do this and prioritized automotive transportation at the expense of walk-ability and the environment. This resulted in blocks without street trees, a four-lane expressway that leads nowhere, and the District’s only transportation cloverleaf at North Capitol and Irving streets.

Both the Irving Street expressway and the cloverleaf intersection at the Washington Hospital Center date to the 1950s and were intended to solve two problems. The first was to establish a better crosstown route. The second was to connect that route to the freeway system in Maryland. Neither of these goals achieve their promise.

One of the earliest efforts to identify Columbia Road as part of an improved crosstown route dates to 1927. It came out of a recommendation to the National Capital Park and Planning Commission by a subcommittee designated to study the traffic plan developed by L.D. Tilton, a St. Louis traffic expert. Tilton’s traffic plan attempted to place all sections of the District of Columbia within a quarter or half mile distance of a selected major thoroughfare. Recommendations to the NCPPC were divided into two divisions – crosstown and radial.

While 18 major traffic thoroughfares were definitely recommended, the proposal to include Columbia Road was tabled to be decided at a later date. This was due to the fact that it was considered unduly narrow between Sixteenth Street and the Soldiers’ Home. While all agreed it was ideally located to serve as a crosstown route, there was doubt that the street could be widened to serve in that capacity.

Never-the-less, two important routes were identified in 1927 that would later play a role in creating the North Capitol and Irving cloverleaf. The relevant radial route consisted of North Capitol Street, Michigan Avenue, Harewood Road, and Blair Road to the District boundary. The relevant crosstown route was Garfield Street, by way of Cleveland Avenue, Calvert Street, and Columbia Road to Sixteenth Street (from Sixteenth Street to the Soldiers’ Home, the matter of widening Columbia Road or combining the route with another street to be decided later). From the Soldiers’ Home the route would continue along Michigan Avenue and Franklin Street to Bladensburg Road.

In 1931, NCPPC used the 1927 thoroughfare plan to prioritize street improvements and paving. While the matter of the crosstown route between Sixteenth Street and the Soldiers’ Home was still undecided, the proposed solution was to develop Colombia Road for westbound traffic and Harvard Street for eastbound traffic – and then to realign the road north of McMillan reservoir to connect this pair with Michigan Avenue to the east.

While the basic corridors were identified in 1927 and expanded in 1931, it wasn’t until the beginning of the 1950s that genuine efforts were made to realize these corridors. The plan consisted of constructing two new highways through the Soldiers’ Home.

The north-south freeway was proposed as a six-lane highway that would end the detour around the Soldiers’ Home and connect North Capitol Street directly with Maryland.

Rather than construct a full-fledged east-west freeway, planners proposed a cheaper alternative. Instead of a freeway, planners proposed a new one-way network – Irving street one-way west and Columbia Road one-way east. Irving would be cut through the Soldiers’ Home to connect with Michigan Avenue at Harwood Road. Other suggestions from this plan included:

  • Making Park Place one-way northbound;
  • making Warder Street one-way southbound; and,
  • realigning Irving Street at 14th Street and Georgia Avenue.

(Map from the Washington Post, February 20, 1952.)

After two-years of negotiations, the southern 42-acres of the Soldiers’ Home was transferred to the District in late 1954 paving the way for the highway project to move forward. As construction was geared to begin in late 1956, the original plan to use Irving and Columbia Road was altered to include Lamont and Kenyon streets as well. Each street would parallel each other as far as Klingle Road, NW. Harvard Street would later be identified to replace Lamont.

(Overview of configuration in 1954 from the Evening Star, September 26, 1954.)

From the Evening Star, 1958.

The narrowness of the streets between the Soldiers’ Home and Sixteenth street was identified in the 1927 plan and not entirely solved with the one-way street scheme. To receive Federal aid for the crosstown street project, the streets included in the network had to be a least 30 feet wide. This meant that several of the streets had to be widened, some as little as 6 inches on each side. This requirement doomed more than 100 street trees which were cut down to make way for the widened streets and new curbs.

For example, Harvard Street between Georgia Avenue and 14th Street was 29 feet wide. To gain the needed extra foot the curbs were moved six inches on either side. To make way for the new curbs on Harvard, 27 trees – 18 pin oaks and nine ginkos – were cut down. To widen Irving Street west of Georgia Avenue by two feet, 40 street trees were cut down. While some of these streets have wonderful tree-line blocks today, other blocks on these routes are still tree-less with no room for street trees.

The one-way street network east of 14th Street and the Irving Street expressway across the former Soldiers’ Home grounds was completed and opened to motorists on October 20th 1958 as work continued on the North Capitol cloverleaf and connecting Kenyon Street to Park Road west of 14th Street. The final stage of the crosstown route project was completed on August 19, 1959, when the final one-way streets were implemented. These were Irving Street between Adams Mill Road and 11th Street (eastbound), Kenyon Street between 11th Street and 14th Street (westbound), and Park Road between 14th Street and 17th Street (westbound).

In a twist of irony, while the effort to complete the crosstown network and cloverleaf intersection were being completed the District Commissioners put a halt to the north-south freeway effort. Even with construction of the North Capitol street extension underway across the Soldiers’ Home grounds, in 1960 the Commissioners followed the recommendation of city highway officials to cancel the contract. While the goal was to tie the North Capitol highway into a major Maryland highway, Maryland officials were uncommitted to the goal.

(Map of street network configuration in 1958, from the Evening Star, Oct. 19, 1958.)

References

“3 Streets Turn One-Way Today.” The Washington Post, Aug. 19, 1959, p. B1.

“18 Thoroughfares Proposed to Serve for Major Traffic.” The Washington Post, Oct. 23, 1927, p. M2.

“Committee Draws Radial Street Plan, Enlarging System.” The Washington Post, Nov. 4, 1927, p. 22.

Deane, James G. “One-Way Crosstown Network Cuts Cost of Freeway Solution.” The Evening Star, Feb. 20, 1952, p. A-14.

Deane, James G. “Two Fast Arteries Would End Roadblock at Soldiers’ Home.” The Evening Star, Feb. 19, 1952, p. A-7.

Gwertzman, Bernard. “Street Widening Dooms More Than 100 Trees Along New Crosstown Route in Northwest.” The Evening Star, Apr. 10, 1958, p. A-21.

“N. Capitol Corridor Plans Job Canceled.” The Evening Star, Feb. 19, 1960, p. B-3.

“Park Road Partly Open For Traffic.” The Washington Post, Dec. 25, 1958, p. B1.

“Priority Paving of Main Streets Urged by Group.” The Evening Star, Dec. 26, 1931, p. A-12.

“Soldiers Home Crossing to Open.” The Washington Post, Oct. 19, 1958, p. B6.

“Soldiers’ Home Crossing To Speed D.C. Traffic.” The Evening Star, Oct. 19, 1958, p. A-23.

“Soldiers’ Home Expressway Will Ease Crosstown Traffic.” The Washington Post, Aug. 20, 1956, p. 34.

Stepp, John W. “42-Acre Soldiers Home Tract Given D.C. for Street Project.” The Evening Star, Sept. 26, 1954, p. 1.

14th and Irving Barnes Dance to Operate Soon

June 14, 2017

The Barnes Dance at 14th and Irving streets, NW, are scheduled to be in operation this month (perhaps has early as Thursday). Below is the flyer from DDOT explaining how it works. More information is available here.

New Crosswalks Signs Installed on New Hampshire at Otis Place, NW

May 25, 2017

Yesterday new signs were installed for the HAWK light at the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and Otis Place, NW. Unlike a traditional stoplight, at this intersection pedestrians push the button to activate flashing lights, which in turn are intended to stop traffic so that the pedestrians can cross the street. However, cars frequently do not stop for the flashing lights.

As you can see from the photos, the new signs include a stop sign graphic, include the phrase “DC Law”, and have a separate sign below the flashing lights that states “Up to $250 fine”. This is a significant upgrade from the old signs installed in August 2010 which merely indicated that there was a crosswalk.

Time will tell if the new signs increase the number of vehicles that stop for pedestrians, but I’m happy to see DDOT is aware of the need to improve safety at this intersection.

Checking Out Pedestrian Safety in the Neighborhood

May 10, 2017

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran an article that included a map showing the worst D.C. intersections for pedestrians. I found it interesting, particularly when looking at the intersections in our area. A glance at the map quickly shows that the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Park Road is a location with a high incident rate. In fact, in looking at the entire map, two of the worst intersections for pedestrians are located in Ward 1. In addition to the intersection of Georgia and Park Rd (ranked #8) is the intersection of 14th and U Street (ranked #4)

(Click on map for citywide interactive version).

One thing that is really useful in the map is how each intersection with a dot shows the related statistical data. So going back to the Georgia and Park Rd example, you can click on the dot and see the injuries, crashes, fatalities, and overall danger index.

(Detail from pedestrian safety map showing statistics for intersection of Georgia and Park Rd, NW)

Pedestrian Scramble Coming to 14th and Irving Streets

February 17, 2017

scrambleYesterday, I received a notice by DDOT of their intent to install a pedestrian scramble at the intersection of 14th and Irving streets. This was one of the recommendations to come out of last year’s Crosstown Multimodal Study.

According to the notice (NOI 17-37 TOA), “the intersection of 14th and Irving streets, NW is controlled by a traffic signal. The Crosstown Multimodal Transportation Study conducted in 2016 recommended installation of an all-red phase to reduce the conflicts between pedestrian and vehicular traffic navigation through the intersection. Following the planning study recommendations, DDOT conducted further traffic analysis and subsequently completed the intersection design to implement the recommended all-red phase. The all-red phase, also known as “Pedestrian Scramble” will be implement along with diagonal crosswalks and “No Turn on Red” restriction. New traffic signals, curb ramps and signage will be installed at this intersection to complement the Pedestrian Scramble.”

Comments on this matter must be filed in writing to DDOT no later than 30 days after February 16th.

DDOT Releases New Mobility Website to Track Traffic Congestion

February 15, 2017

district-mobility

In exploring DDOT’s new District Mobility Website (full press release below), there is some interesting data on population (broken down by education, race, and income), the District’s transportation network, the modes of transportation that are used, and which routes are the most traveled and which bus routes & stops are the most used. It is an interesting site that provides a good overview of traffic in D.C.

Full DDOT News Release from February 13th below:

(Washington, DC) – The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) today announced the release of the District Mobility website as part of an effort to clearly communicate how the District’s transportation system is performing.

District Mobility is a dynamic web tool that shows the District’s state of mobility for surface transportation modes and outlines DDOT’s recommendations for managing and operating built infrastructure to meet growing demand.

“The goal of the District Mobility Project is to better quantify and qualify the state of the District’s transportation system performance from a holistic, multimodal perspective,” said DDOT Director Leif Dormsjo. “The interactive, data-rich design of District Mobility provides an innovative platform for sharing the state of mobility and DDOT’s progress towards reducing congestion on our roads.”

District Mobility is part of the ongoing District Mobility Project. The Project was established to increase understanding of mobility issues in the District and define a program of improvements to address them. It builds on national advances in transportation system performance management to track District-wide trends in congestion and travel-time reliability, among other key system performance metrics.

The District Mobility Project leverages transportation data for multiple modes (walking, bicycling, transit, and driving) to inform DDOT’s short- and long-term investment strategies. The metrics, data, and recommendations developed through the District Mobility Project are presented in both the District Mobility website and a District Mobility Report.

“The District has a diverse, multimodal transportation network that serves District residents, regional commuters, and tourists from around the world,” said Project Manager Stephanie Dock. “District Mobility is arranged into a series of stories describing the people who travel in DC, the transportation modes that they use to move around, and how they experience different aspects of congestion and mobility. Interactive maps allow website users to see how transportation demand in the District changes over the course of a day and how those changes impact all modes.”

By highlighting areas with high congestion, low reliability, and poor accessibility, District Mobility shows where DDOT will target near-term investments to improve multimodal mobility.

The District Mobility website and the District Mobility Report are both available at DistrictMobility.org. Feedback is welcome. Contact information is available on the website.

Could Bioretention Bulbouts Increase Safety and Parking at Park Place and Quebec?

February 8, 2017

Recently I began thinking about how to improve safe access to the small triangle park at Rock Creek Church Rd. and Park Place after a neighbor asked if it would be possible to close the street or add speed bumps to the small section of Park Place that directly abuts the neighborhood on the west of the park. After giving it much though, I think the best solution would be to add a few bioretention bulbouts to the area. However, it would require buy-in from the neighbors and a lot of sustained advocacy from the community. Below is a quick and dirty illustration that conveys the idea.

park-place-bump-outs(Areas outlined in green could be reconfigured as bioretention bulbouts, adding additional green infrastructure and calming traffic.)

The main problem with Park Place minor as it is configured today is that cars using this street take little heed for pedestrians and others as they travel from Rock Creek Church Road to Park Place major. The street is necessarily wide, and the crosswalk and stop sign at the southern end are set back, so as that anyone stopping at the stop sign is too far back from the road to see traffic on  Park Place major. Driver that do stop have to creep to the end of the street to see oncoming traffic — both cars and cyclists in the bike lanes — and this is if they stop at all. Frequently, drivers on this small stretch fail to stop at the stop sign and do a rolling stop as they turn to head south.

Closing the street doesn’t seem to be a good solution either, as the residents who live on the street would lose three parking spaces and it would make it necessarily difficult for delivery vehicles, moving vans, fire trucks, and ambulances to serve the these houses.

Strategic placement of bioretention bulbouts could narrow the entrance and exit of the street to a single lane. The benefit of this is that is would calm traffic and make the crosswalks shorter (and safer) to cross. A bulbout on the southern end of the triangle park would remove one parking space, increasing viability and safety for drivers and cyclists … and the bulbout on the southern end could be configured to add street parking by one to three spaces depending upon configuration.

The only significant down side I see is cost, so there would need to be both consensus among the neighbors most impacted and a sustained advocacy.

Perhaps the way to “sell” this to DDOT, DOEE,& the Council would be to bundle a number of these smaller projecting into a pilot program.


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