Greater Greater Washington

Positive resident activism: C Street, NE

Like Dupont's 15th Street and many others around DC, C Street, NE in the Rosedale section of Capitol Hill is a neighborhood street that traffic engineers turned into a high-speed traffic raceway. After crossing the Anacostia on East Capitol Street, the freeway-like road passing RFK Stadium dumps traffic onto C Street. According to the 2005 Capitol Hill transportation study, drivers regularly speed on this portion, making it unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists.


The high-speed portion of C Street, NE.

Instead of waiting for a streetscape project from DDOT, residents are proactively designing a better C Street. Resident Ken Granata created a blog for the street that explores potential redesigns. Granata, who also maintains the Rosedale Citizens' Alliance neighborhood site, advocates removing one lane between 16th and 22nd Streets. On this stretch, C is a divided highway of three lanes in each direction. Heading west on C, the road divides at 16th, with C continuing west as a narrower road and North Carolina Avenue heading southwest to Lincoln Park. This creates a bottleneck around 16th.

Instead, Granata argues, a narrow C Street will move the bottleneck to the ramps around RFK, out of the residential areas. Instead, the C Street site shows potential designs (16th Street, 17th Street, 17th Place, 18th Street, 18th Place). The proposals include bulb-outs at the corners and a widened median containing a two-way bicycle path in the center:

Residents arranged for a walkthrough of C Street with DDOT Ward 6 Transportation Planner Allan Fye on January 5th. Fye suggested also considering a physically separated bike lane on one side of the street, similar to those NYC recently added on Eighth and Ninth Avenues or one proposal for 15th Street.

Such a lane would allow cyclists to enter and exit without crossing half of C Street. On the other hand, there may not be enough space on C Street for one of these on each side including the landscaped buffers between parked cars and the bicycle lanes, whereas a two-way path in the median occupies less space. It also adds pedestrian refuges for people to stop in if they can't cross the entire street on one light cycle. Area resident Lance Brown also suggested widening the sidewalks, writing that "Many streets, including the north side of C Street [in this area], have sidewalks that are much too narrow."

Often, some residents reflexively oppose bulb-outs or medians because of ingrained habits through years of designing streets for cars above all else. It's good to see residents of the Rosedale part of Capitol Hill thinking about creative solutions to reorient their streets for the benefit of all users.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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"Like Dupont's 15th Street and many others around DC, C Street, NE in the Rosedale section of Capitol Hill is a neighborhood street that traffic engineers turned into a high-speed traffic raceway."

Assumption made by facts not in evidence. Again! Look, you have 49 posters over at the pedestrian entry saying it's CONNECTICUT that is the high speed raceway, and it is. And it's two way.

by Jazzy on Feb 5, 2009 4:16 pm • linkreport

There's only one high speed raceway per quadrant now?

by David Alpert on Feb 5, 2009 4:18 pm • linkreport

I can certainly vouch for the existence of the "15th St. NW Freeway!" As a pedestrian, the scariest part of it for me is where 15th St. leaves the L'Enfant City. It's a sea of asphalt at the southeast corner of Meridian Hill Park where 15th, W, New Hampshire and Florida all come together. There are random little concrete medians meant to direct traffic, with little refuge for crossing pedestrians. It's also the point at which 15th is reduced from 4 lanes to just 1, meaning that cars will often race even faster in the stretch between U St. and Florida to get to the front of the queue. I once saw (perhaps on this blog) a proposal for a reduction of traffic lanes and the implementation of a circle at that intersection. I would be all for that! Perhaps I should start my own blog called "15th St. NW..."

by David T on Feb 5, 2009 4:34 pm • linkreport

It's a fine premise, but I see two flaws with it.

First, it does not eliminate the bottleneck...it simply moves it towards RFK.

Second, it may reduce the spillover effect into the neighborhood, but unless and until there's an actual reduction in vehicle travel, it's not going to eliminate that spillover effect.

by Froggie on Feb 5, 2009 4:37 pm • linkreport

I prefer to speak of the Connecticut Motor Speedway.

by Steve on Feb 5, 2009 4:49 pm • linkreport

One other thing I should've mentioned:

I'm skeptical of a center-running bicycle path, as the C Street NE folks are proposing. Downtown Minneapolis (MN) has center-running bike lanes on Hennepin Ave, and the city has found that center-running lanes had the effect of increasing accidents...they're doing away with them over the next year and following through with a shared right lane on Hennepin and side-running bike lanes on 1st Ave N (an adjacent parallel street).

I'd be much more comfortable with side-running bike lanes (separated or not) along C Street than the proposed center-running configuration.

by Froggie on Feb 5, 2009 4:53 pm • linkreport

C Street currently has standard bike lanes

by washcycle on Feb 5, 2009 6:05 pm • linkreport

David,

Wow, great exposure piece; really appreciate mentioning the RCA blog too. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Ken

by Ken Granata on Feb 6, 2009 9:51 am • linkreport

Froggie,

Thank you very for the comments. To clarify based on your comments,

"It's a fine premise, but I see two flaws with it.

First, it does not eliminate the bottleneck...it simply moves it towards RFK."

"Second, it may reduce the spillover effect into the neighborhood, but unless and until there's an actual reduction in vehicle travel, it's not going to eliminate that spillover effect."

I wish "eliminating" the bottle-neck or more accurately, eliminating the commuter and commercial traffic from using the residential street grid, such as C Street and subsequent streets (primarily C Street, North Carolina Ave, Constitution Ave, 17th Street).

Until the regional systemic problems such as connections between I-295 & I-395 are solved (11th St. bridge project for example), are we going to "eliminate" out-of-District traffic flowing through our neighborhoods. In my opinion, we should make it "more appealing" for commuters and commercial vehicles to use existing major east-west arterials (such as, M Street, SE, Pennsylvania AVE, SE, Benning RD/H Street, NE and New York Ave, NE) and make it "less appealing" to use the antiquated DDOT layout of the residential neighborhood street grid.

That is the premise of "moving the bottleneck to RFK." If commuters are stacked up where there are no outlets into the neighborhood street grid and we educate them to use existing major arterial corridors (using advisory displays for example), we might make it less appealing to use C street and more appealing to use Benning Rd for instance.

Now, DDOT would have to adjust Benning RD/H Street signals and signage move traffic through to downtown in the morning (most commercial establishments are not open, so it should minimize business operations, but does give them exposure to a potential customer base).

We also have an underutilized metro rail and bus depot on our side of the city Blue/Orange at Stadium/Armory Station and we have a greatly under-utilized surface parking lot at RFK. Why not marry the two, offer reduce or free parking and educate commuters to use the mass transit site.

"One other thing I should've mentioned:

I'm skeptical of a center-running bicycle path, as the C Street NE folks are proposing. Downtown Minneapolis (MN) has center-running bike lanes on Hennepin Ave, and the city has found that center-running lanes had the effect of increasing accidents...they're doing away with them over the next year and following through with a shared right lane on Hennepin and side-running bike lanes on 1st Ave N (an adjacent parallel street).

I'd be much more comfortable with side-running bike lanes (separated or not) along C Street than the proposed center-running configuration."

As for the raised-median bike/pedestrian path, we are not necessarily 'sold' on anyone design, so we are definitely open to learning about different configurations. Please note, this portion of C Street is complete medium-density residential which includes Eliot-Hines JHS school zone. This is not downtown or in a high-density area of the city.

That said, we believe a center raise median path might be the right balance of the following:

1. Once on the median path, the user potentially has less vehicular lanes to cross to access the neighborhood and the Anacostia River Trail, less direct exposure to vehicles parked or moving. If the path was to begin at 14th, North Carolina Ave and Constitution Ave intersection and go the 7 blocks to 21st and C streets, a user would only have to cross 3 perpendicular intersection (17th St, 19th St & 21st) to access the recently complete phase of the Anacostia River Trail. We have recommended an "all-stop" at these intersections to safely move pedestrians/cyclist in, out and along the path.

2. It provides greater area for vegetation, including a buffer between the Eliot-Hines JHS & C Street and median-path users & C Street.

3. It provides a more constricted visual perception to the motorist, potentially slowing overall vehicular speeds.

4. It provides a more residential "boulevard" look and feel to residents, pedestrians and motorist.

DDOT's feasibility study hopefully will consider different layouts to achieve the best balance of the above items. We'll have to wait and see.

Again, I am not a Transportation Engineer, so I personally welcome all ideas and opinions. Thank you for the chance to discuss.

Whew, I am out of breath!

Ken

by Ken Granata on Feb 6, 2009 9:54 am • linkreport

Washcycle,

You are right. We successfully worked with DDOT in 2007 on the re-striping issue. They were able to reduce the width of the vehicle lanes, some were as wide as 12ft! With the speeds on C Street and some of the large commercial vehicles, it is admittedly a nice buffer when you get in and out of your parked car.

A Big thanks to DDOT's Derrick Hardy with Transportation Operations Admin. He has been exceptionally responsive and has implemented multiple short-term fixes, such as: re-striping the lanes/cross-walks, adding bike lanes, adding school-zone and speed-limit signs and C Street west-bound rumble strips prior to 21st St.

Ken

by Ken Granata on Feb 6, 2009 10:20 am • linkreport

If our DC city planners had any real testicles, they would stand up to the Northern Viagaran tyrants and US Congress and put a physically separated bike way on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue right thru the central city.

However- I do not see this happenning at all.

The streets & avenues in DC where bike ways are most desperately needed are not getting ANY ATTENTION from the planners. This is BOGUS and clearly shows political ineptitude , cowardice, and lack of imagination.

We who live here need to take back our city from N Virginia, maryland, and the Congress and fix our streets right.

While they are at it- for cripes sake- where is fu(king trolley system? I'm here waiting - and Im not going anywhere. when I open my eyes I want trolley /streetcars and dedicated bike lanes.

NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

by w on Feb 10, 2009 3:34 pm • linkreport

I'm sorry I like to use 15th street to get from Georgetown to Brookland. It would pain me to have anything less than four lanes

by Adam on May 17, 2009 11:46 am • linkreport

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