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DDOT completes temporary bulb-outs at 15th and W

DDOT installed "quick curbs" at one corner of the "death star" intersection of 15th and W Streets, NW yesterday. This is one of the most important elements of their interim plan to make this intersection safer for pedestrians, which they put into action after a driver killed a pedestrian there in May.

Cars are now making a sharper turn, with more opportunities to see and brake for pedestrians.

According to DDOT spokesperson John Lisle, DDOT also installed a "Turn on Green Arrow Only" sign to prevent drivers in the slip lane from turning right on red into pedestrians crossing W Street. Quick curb for the remainder of the intersection is on order, as are signal improvements for pedestrians, though Lisle did not say when these final changes would be installed.

Although Lisle did not elaborate, the signal improvement might be the installation of a Walk/Don't Walk signal for eastbound pedestrians crossing from the south corner of Florida and 15th to the south corner of W Street and the slip lane. Currently there is no pedestrian crossing signal at this location, leaving pedestrians to guess when it is safe to cross.

On Monday, we asked why DDOT hadn't completed the project. There was an initial burst of activity where they restriped the intersection and put quick curbs around the striped "pork chop" area to the south. A DDOT representative told us that they had to wait to get the rest of the equipment. However, the quick curbs at the corners were more important than on the "pork chop," which wasn't even part of the original plan. And other sources gave us a strong reason to believe that the project wasn't moving forward on its own.

What really happened? Did our article spur them into action, or were we just three days too impatient? We probably won't know for sure. Nevertheless, DDOT has now done what they promised, and it's an improvement. They could make the intersection even better by closing the slip lane entirely and reclaiming the extra public space between V and W, but this is a good start.

David Alpert also contributed to this article.

Stephen Miller lived in the District from 2008 to 2011 and is now a student at Pratt Institute's city and regional planning masters program. 


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DDOT is not beyond only doing things when prodded, or changing things in response to well-connected resident pressure, at least in my experience with them.

by Ugh on Jul 16, 2009 1:56 pm • linkreport

The "Turn on Green Arrow Only" sign is frequently ignored at 4th & Michigan NE. In that case, there is no accompanying red turn arrow (only a solid red and a straight green arrow) and motorists are always illegally making right turns when the green straight arrow is on.

I've written to DDOT several times to try to get a red arrow light at 4th and MI, and they said it was "in the works", but nothing has been done for ~18 mos.

Not sure if the setup is the same at 15 & W, but I bet if there is no red turn light, it won't help a whole lot. I guess it is better than nothing.

by Pat O on Jul 16, 2009 2:10 pm • linkreport

The "Turn on Green Arrow Only" sign is frequently ignored at 4th & Michigan NE. In that case, there is no accompanying red turn arrow (only a solid red and a straight green arrow) and motorists are always illegally making right turns when the green straight arrow is on.

That is a constant problem at Washington Circle and New Hampshire Ave. Drivers think "hey I'm in the circle so I can exit whenever I want." Unless there's a red arrow, they will always think they are allowed to leave the circle onto New Hampshire Ave. Crossing New Hampshire requires you to assume the cars aren't paying attention to the lights.

by Reid on Jul 16, 2009 2:33 pm • linkreport

I think the problem at this intersection is the two traffic lights on 15th New Hampshire and W. They don't exactly sync, which often (and understandably) confuses drivers heading north on 15th. When the light is green for the 15th/W intersection it is easy to miss the red on New Hampshire/15th that comes about 100' before. I see near misses often. Seems easy to fix: make sure the second green (W) always happens after the first green (new hampshire).

by Josh on Jul 16, 2009 3:23 pm • linkreport

@Reid: Living there for the better part of the last 5 years, it's just best to walk when you know you have the right of way. A driver that nearly misses the red arrow trying to turn off onto New Hampshire won't have a leg to stand on once realizing that he has the red and you have the walk sign. And if the worst should happen, the ER is like 100' from there. The MPD PSA is on the Wash Circle North on 23rd. As a pedestrian, driver (and resident) of that area, you have to be assertive to get through that circle as long as you are following the signals.

by DC on Jul 16, 2009 3:33 pm • linkreport

I've lived at that intersection for a decade. It's a disaster of urban planning - vehicles can't navigate the sharp turn in the on florida avene a few yards north and routinely cross the double yellow on the blind curve (yet is an emergency vehicle route) tour buses attempt use it all the time, and cars traveling southwest lose control and total several vehicles parked on the northern side several times a year. if anyone knows how to connect the DDOT with people in the community maybe they would hear pleas to consider making Florida one way coming from the south (New Hampshire Ave already is up until the Death Star intersection before it inexplicably dumps out onto Florida Avenue, a two way street. Rerouting high speed emergency vehicle and buses off that block since they can't navigate the turn and stay in lane would help too. It's ridiculous.
Who do we write to?

by nate on Jul 16, 2009 6:53 pm • linkreport

New Hampshire is one-way between U and V streets. It's two-way from V to W.

by Steve on Jul 17, 2009 1:47 am • linkreport

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