Posted tagged ‘streetscape’

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.

After Long Wait, New Topsoil Coming to Tree Boxes on Otis

November 4, 2016

Getting the new trees established on the Otis Place side of the Park View school has been both an exercise in patience and rewarding in seeing how residents pull together to get things done. Earlier this year, when the summer heat threatened the new trees’ survival, neighbors who live near the trees pulled together, came up with a weekly watering schedule, and cared for the trees for the entirety of this growing season.

Park View neighbors working together to add fill dirt to the tree boxes on Otis Place in September.

Park View neighbors working together to add fill dirt to the tree boxes on Otis Place in September.

A related issue has been getting topsoil to fill the tree boxes in the same section of Otis Place. Initially, I was told that the city would not supply topsoil even though DDOT had created the tree box areas that had subsequently sunk by 5″ or more. In September, the tree watering group attempted to find free fill dirt to accomplish the task. While there was some success in finding the free dirt, ultimately much more topsoil was needed than we could find.

I’m happy to report that after working with the Mayor’s office and DDOT, this work has finally been scheduled to be accomplished today by the Urban Forestry Administration (soil, mulch, labor) and should occur in the morning between 8:00 am and 1:00 pm.

Update 9:01 am:

DDOT’s UFA is already out filling the tree boxes with topsoil and mulch. See photos below.

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Public Space Plan Proposed for 3701 New Hampshire Project

July 14, 2016

Last night ANC 4C considered the public space application for the proposed streetscape changes that could occur as part of the redevelopment of 3701 New Hampshire Avenue (the former Sweet Mango property). While the overall plan is fairly basic (see below), I was happy to see that the Rock Creek Church Road frontage of the development will remove the curb cut/loading zone and will replace it with two new trees and permeable pavers. This should also increase street parking by one or two spaces.

I don’t yet know ANC4C’s feedback but expect we’ll find out shortly. The public space hearing is scheduled for August.

3701 streetscape(Site plan page from Rooney Properties public space submission.)

Admiring the Tree Boxes by Casey Trees

November 9, 2015
The tree box area outside of Casey Trees on 12th Street, NE.

The tree box area outside of Casey Trees on 12th Street, NE.

Yesterday, I was by Casey Trees on 12th Street, NE, and noticed the tree box area outside of their location. I was impressed with the mix of trees, liriope, pebbles and other plants arranged in a way that becomes a green oasis where grass generally is. I also liked that the curbing was cut in places to guide storm water into the planted areas for drainage and watering.

This is an example I’m going to make a note of with the hopes that something similar might be possible in our neighborhood during street improvement projects.

I’ve also been taking note of bioretention areas and bulb outs when I see them, which more frequently happens when I travel west of the Park.

New Seasonal Park on K Street — Could this Work on Georgia Avenue?

July 16, 2015
The ParKIT sign expalin

The ParKIT sign explaining the concept.

On Tuesday, a new Parklet was opened on K Street in front of the Gensler building at 2020 K Street NW. The seasonal park takes the place of two parking spaces. As I checked it out (and I know others in the community have also been thinking along these lines too), I wondered if a seasonal, temporary park would be something that could be done on Georgia Avenue. More-so, I wondered if a parklet could be paired with a bike corral in an area like DC Reynolds, Looking Glass Lounge, and Walters.

One of the issues with Georgia Avenue is that the sidewalks are too narrow to accommodate outdoor cafe space. Furthermore, in an area like the 3600 block of Georgia, on a popular night their just aren’t enough bike racks to accommodate cyclists. If we could identify an area where three parking spaces aren’t needed, or, where the benefit of removing them for a seasonal park and bike corral would outweigh the loss of three spaces, we might be able to create the outdoor vibrancy that is definitely needed on Georgia.

Parklet(The new parklet on K Street, NW.)

While the parklet on K Street is a great place to sit, read, and relax, these aren’t the only activities that could be accommodated. As the photo below shows, the space could also be configured as an outdoor cafe or summer garden. This is precisely the type of activity that would help enliven Georgia Avenue but that we can’t accommodate with our current sidewalks.

San Francisco parklet(1300 Fulton Street Parklet (Hosted by Cafe Abir) Photo By: SF Planning (AS))

So the questions become: 1) Would the community be interesting in swapping out a few parking spaces for some type of seasonal park? 2) What activities should this park support? and 3) Ideally, where should this park be located?

DDOT Replacing Sidewalks on Otis Place, Fails to Consider Street Trees

July 2, 2015
State of sidewalk work on Otis Place, evening of June 30, 2015.

State of sidewalk work on Otis Place, evening of June 30, 2015.

Readers of this blog will now that I’ve been a strong advocate for trees and improved streetscapes for several years. Sadly, despite walking the streets of the neighborhood with the Urban Forestry Administration and getting a good sense of which treeless streets could support street trees, I discovered at the beginning of the week that DDOT began a project to replace the sidewalk on the north side of Otis Place — along the Park View Recreation Center — exactly as they found it. In short, the treeless block of Otis between Warder Street and 6th Street will remain treeless.

I contend that the one way street is wide enough to accommodate a slight narrowing to make room for trees. Additionally, no parking is allowed on the north side during school hours.

Upon learning of the sidewalk project which also included a complete replacement of the curb and some of the road, I contacted DDOT immediately and was told by the end of June 30th by a DDOT representative that “I confirmed with the team that the work can stop after today and investigate the cost and feasibility of adding tree boxes.” This sounded like good news, as at that stage only half of the new curbing had been installed and none of the sidewalk had been poured.

Sadly, DDOT did not honor their word. The following day the rest of the curbs were poured along with most of the sidewalks. To my knowledge, there was no investigation regarding cost  or feasibility. Furthermore, the stretch of street where this occurred contains no storm water catch basins. This should have been the easiest win/win for both DDOT and the community.

State of sidewalk work on Otis Place, evening of July 1, 2015.

State of sidewalk work on Otis Place, evening of July 1, 2015.

I feel strongly that it is critical that the long term goals of the community not be ignored when real opportunities present themselves, such as this sidewalk on Otis Place. I also feel it is important that the voice of the community — your voices — not be silenced because DDOT and others choose to work around their ANCs who I can assure you receive many, many emails with suggestions, concerns, and ideas on how to make our neighborhoods great.

Moving forward, I have written and will introduce a resolution at the July 8th meeting of ANC1A urging that the ANC law be amended such that DDOT be required to provide notice when significant streetscape & sidewalk replacement projects are undertaken. DDOT already does this for curb cuts, public space permits, and handicapped parking requests. Significant streetscape work should be no different.

I will continue to press DDOT on this issue, both specifically on Otis and more broadly on our other treeless streets. As for Otis Place, I’ve reached out to the Mayor’s Office, Councilmember Nadeau, and others to bring light to this epic fail.

Dedicated Bus/Bike Lanes Coming to Lower Georgia Avenue

October 10, 2012

If you drive, ride, or commute along southern Georgia Avenue, here’s something that should be of interest. I’m sure this will be particularly true of the many area bikers. DDOT is proposing exclusive bus lanes on Georgia Avenue between Barry Place and Florida Avenue. To assist them in designing the bus lanes and streetscape, they want community input in this process.

DDOT will be presenting two options.  The first is for exclusive shared bus and bike lanes north and southbound, with a left turn lane northbound at Barry and a left turn lane southbound at Bryant.  The second proposal includes the first, but makes Barry one way westbound and provides flashing yellow lights 24 hour northbound on Georgia at Barry and southbound at Georgia at Bryant.

According to information shared by Sylvia Robinson on the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force e-mail blast, meetings have been scheduled for the following dates and times:

The following meetings will be held with DDOT to discuss these options:

Monday October 15th from 5-7 p.m. at the DC Housing Finance Auditorium – 815 Florida Ave. NW (click on flyer above for details)

Wednesday October 24th at 7 p.m. (GA Ave Community Development Task Force Meeting) at ECAC – 733 Euclid St. NW (accessible entrance in the rear – call (202) 462-2285 if assistance is needed)

For questions on this proposal contact:
Wendy Peckham
Phone: 202-671-4581
Email: wendy.peckham (at) dc.gov

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