March 24th accident at Park Place and Irving Streets, NW. Photo by Christopher Chambers.)
A pair of accidents at the southern end of Park Place this month again underscored the need for better safety along this stretch of road. The first accident occured on the afternoon of March 16th at the corner of Park Place and Kenyon in which a vehicle sped through the red light. After the accident, the occupants fled the scene leading to a police search and snarled traffic.
A more recent accident occurred on March 24th around 9 pm. This time the accident was at Park Place and Irving with the vehicle coming to rest upside-down.
From its start at Rock Creek Church Road in the north to Kenyon Street in the south, Park Place is only nine blocks with a speed limit of 25 mph. Yet, the street runs fast. It’s constructed as a two-lane one-way southbound street with no cross streets, stop signs, or traffic lights for to slow traffic as it vehicles travel the nine blocks along the Soldiers’ Home. Vehicles entering Park Place from the north have no incentive to slow down and frequently speed well above the speed limit.
Over the years, speed cameras have been placed at various spots along the route to encourage drivers to slow down. This works for a while, resulting in the speed cameras being removed and eventually brought back at different locations. There is currently a camera located just north of Quebec Place.
Yet, until the street is redesigned, speeding traffic will continue to be not just a nuisance, but a public safety issue. It is long past time to have DDOT re-evaluate the layout of Park Place. While the easiest/cheapest solution would likely be stop signs or traffic lights, I think a better long-term solution would be to narrow the street to one lane, and in so doing add a pedestrian sidewalk along the Soldiers’ Home fence on the east and a protected bike lane between the sidewalk and a parking lane on the west. This would increase bike safety, encourage slower driving speeds, and make the stretch more pedestrian friendly. If done well, it could also enhance beauty and providing room for street trees (especially on the southern stretch of the street which currently lacks trees).
Not only would narrowing Park Place to one lane help slow traffic leading to Kenyon and Irving, once a driver arrived at the southern end of the street there would be less confusion and jockeying for lane position as the intersections become a maze of choices leading to east bound Irving, east bound Michigan, south bound 5th Street, and west bound Columbia Road.
(Protected bike lane diagram from Streetsblog LA)