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Florida Avenue gets closer to a "complete street"

DDOT has developed 3 options to redesign 9th Street and Florida Avenue, NW from U Street to just past Sherman Avenue. All make the road move closer to being a complete street, but also leave a few disappointing gaps.

All 3 options widen the notoriously narrow sidewalk on the east side of 9th Street between U and V Streets. All 3 options also redistribute sections of the right-of-way to pedestrians, cyclists, and permeable surface.

Intersection of 9th, Florida, and V Street in Option 3.

Option 3 stands out as the best option. Its most notable feature is to reconfigure the intersections with Vermont Avenue and Sherman Avenue to traditional right angles. Currently, the intersections are designed like highway ramps to aid drivers in speedy turns between the avenues. As expected, when you engineer a road for fast driving, people will drive fast regardless of the speed limit signs.

Vermont Ave & Florida Ave. Left: Now. Right: Option 3 proposal.

To discourage speeding, option 3 curves both of these avenues to intersect Florida Avenue a right angles. This will require sharper turns that will calm traffic and reduce the distances pedestrians must traverse to cross the avenues.

The elimination of the high-speed turn lanes creates the opportunity for two small plazas at these intersections.

Option 3 also reduces the amount of impervious surface (orange) and allows for a planting strip with trees on the east side of Florida Avenue just south of Vermont Avenue. Furthermore, it includes for curb extensions that reduce the distance pedestrians must spend in the path of traffic when crossing the streets.

Bike lanes will extend from Sherman Avenue to 9th Street and will connect the bike lanes on V Street, W Street, and Sherman Avenue.

These changes are very welcome, but there are several regrettable omissions. The intersection at V Street lacks a crosswalk on the north side, as does the north side of the intersection of Vermont Avenue. The intersection with W Street lacks any crosswalks for crossing Florida Avenue at all.

To cross Florida at W, a pedestrian will have to detour nearly 900 feet to and from the nearest crosswalk, or cross without a marked crosswalk. Under DC law, any edge of an intersection is still a legal crosswalk, but by avoiding striping one, DDOT is sending a signal that it isn't designing the intersection to be safe to cross.

W St & Florida Ave. Left: Option 3. Right: Author's proposed improvement.

As Howard University increases the number of students living on campus while encouraging walking and biking, the city must build the infrastructure that makes walking safer, easier, and more comfortable.

Curb extensions and crosswalks at W Street would provide an excellent pedestrian accommodation, yet options 1 and 2 show one isolated curb extension at W Street and option 3 shows none.

In 2009, DDOT agreed to add a crosswalk to a Fort Totten intersection which had a missing leg. Including safe crossings at all intersections in street designs should be one of the ways DDOT follows through on its "complete streets" policy.

Another disappointment is that DDOT's 3 design proposals ignore the roundabout envisioned in the Office of Planning's Duke Plan.

Left: Intersection of Florida and Sherman today.
Right: Older plan for the intersection with extended Bryant Street.

A roundabout would lie at the intersection of Florida Avenue, Sherman Avenue, and a newly created Bryant Street, which would be constructed on a DC-owned parking lot that lies east of the intersection.

DDOT staff will present this design and take questions at tonight's meeting of the ANC 1B Transportation Committee. The meeting starts at 7 pm at the Thurgood Marshall Center, 1816 12th Street NW.

Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 


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We're next to a university, with presumably many (potential) enthusiastic CaBi members, within blocks of two CaBi stations, and no bike lanes at these complex intersections?

I thought GGW was for complete streets?

by Jasper on Aug 22, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

Is there any reason why this segment of road needs 2 travel lanes? It's always seemed WAY wider than it needs to be.

The extra space could be used for something nice, like wider sidewalks or a planted median.

Also, the fact that Bryant St got scrapped from the plan is seriously disappointing.

by andrew on Aug 22, 2011 1:34 pm • linkreport

Ooo thanks for the heads up, Eric. I'll try make it up to the ANC meeting.

by Bossi on Aug 22, 2011 1:35 pm • linkreport

I tend to think of U Street between 18th and 9th Sts. NW as "Florida Avenue" and forget that the actual street by that name is farther north.

by Frank IBC on Aug 22, 2011 1:41 pm • linkreport

I don't like the roundabout idea. On a bike it would be hell to get around.

by Ward 1 Guy on Aug 22, 2011 3:14 pm • linkreport

These ideas are unimaginative. How about taking the whole triangle between U, Vermont, and Florida and turning it into one big traffic circle? Then you would have plenty of room for pedestrians, bike lanes, vehicles, and even metered parking.

by movement on Aug 22, 2011 5:57 pm • linkreport

Not having crosswalks on every side of an intersection is dumb.

by JJJJJ on Aug 22, 2011 7:27 pm • linkreport

What an awful maze of parking lots between Barry Place, Georgia Avenue, V Street and Florida Avenue. I agree that it's a shame that they dropped the proposal to extend/restore Bryant Street.

by Frank IBC on Aug 22, 2011 7:47 pm • linkreport

I had assumed that there had been east-west streets in this "superblock" that had been abandoned in recent years as Howard U. expanded.

However, I found a map from 1908 on Richard Layman's blog, and there are none. But it would be nice if they added some.

by Frank IBC on Aug 22, 2011 7:58 pm • linkreport

To clarify, the Office of Planning's Duke Plan contains a traffic circle, not a roundabout. Still a good design, but it shouldn't be confused with a modern roundabout.

by Alek on Aug 23, 2011 9:26 am • linkreport

Eric: Any chance you'll post an update based on what happened at the meeting?

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Aug 23, 2011 10:29 am • linkreport

@ movement

We don't need another New York Ave, Florida Ave, First ST problem that is hell for everybody; traffic back ups for cars to North Capitol, wasted time and more walking for pedestrians, rerouting for buses which created wasted time and moved bus stops

by kk on Aug 23, 2011 7:19 pm • linkreport

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