What would make Connecticut Avenue safer for pedestrians?
Bulb-outs, elimination of slip lanes, introduction of Leading Pedestrian Intervals, left-turn restrictions, raised crosswalks and improved visibility at crosswalks are some of the many pedestrian safety recommendations from a recent audit of upper Connecticut Avenue.
IONA Senior Services and Murch Elementary's Safe Routes to School Program partnered to create Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action. CAPA raised funds, including a grant from the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, to hire Toole Design to create recommendations that would inform DDOT and other stakeholders of the community's priorities.
As part of the assessment process, Toole and CAPA recruited and trained 80 volunteers to audit current conditions at 156 crossings and 160 street corners along the corridor in the past few months. In addition, the team received 652 survey responses, hosted four community meetings and received over 200 comments on an online map.
The section of Connecticut Avenue under study, from the bridge over Rock Creek Park to Chevy Chase Circle, runs for 3.28 miles through through five neighborhoods. From curb-to-curb, the street is approximately 60 feet wide for most of its length. It includes 43 blocks and 44 intersections; 26 of the intersections are signalized and 18 are unsignalized.
As a result of this outreach and audit process, the team learned that top concerns for pedestrians included turning vehicles, traffic speeds, insufficient time to cross, mid-block crossings, visibility and ADA accessibility. For motorists, top concerns included poor visibility at crossing locations and a lack of dedicated turn lanes.
Although the final report is not yet available, Toole's Bill Schultheiss gave a sneak peek of many of the planned recommendations at a meeting on Saturday.
At numerous locations along the corridor, Toole recommends bulb-outs to slow turning traffic and reduce the distance pedestrians must cross. The plan also recommends the elimination of the slip lane from southbound Connecticut Avenue to Veazey Terrace. The slip lane from northbound Nebraska Avenue to southbound Connecticut Avenue would be narrowed and redesigned to include a raised crosswalk.
Many crosswalks along Connecticut Avenue have push-call buttons that require a pedestrian to press a button to request a crossing phase. Toole recommends eliminating many of these buttons in favor of signals that automatically include a pedestrian phase. Where push-call buttons remain, it recommends replacing them with newer models that inform a pedestrian when the button has been pressed by emitting a small noise and light.
Toole also recommends instituting a Leading Pedestrian Interval, perhaps first during off-peak hours, at many intersections to give pedestrians a head-start on crossing the street before turning traffic. The elimination of visual and movement barriers at crosswalks by installing advanced stop lines and moving poorly-placed bus shelters, newspaper boxes and parking zones that are too close to crosswalks are also key recommendations.
One recommendation that might do as much to ease the nerves of drivers as those of pedestrians is the proposed elimination of many uncontrolled left turns, especially when it would require crossing four lanes of traffic. Drivers, already busy looking for a gap in four lanes of moving traffic, are often not concentrating on the pedestrian who may have just entered the sidewalk. By reducing the number of places where these left turns can be made, it would improve pedestrian safety but perhaps increase traffic on those roads where left turns are permitted.
Although this is not an official DDOT plan, it aims to inform official plans that may come down the road. Toole estimates that it would cost appoximately $1 million to install the recommended curb ramps, curb extensions, signs and markings along the entire corridor. It would cost $1.5 million to signalize all 6 currently unsignalized intersections that have bus stops, and it would cost $3 million to signalize (perhaps with HAWK signals) all 12 crosswalks that currently are not signalized.
While this plan is more about putting forth a vision and less about project implementation, there are opportunities to advocate for implementation of these pedestrian recommendations. Tonight at 6:30 at the Chevy Chase Community Center, DDOT is hosting a public meeting of the Rock Creek West II Livability Study, which includes reconstruction of the intersections of Connecticut Avenue with Northampton Street and Nebraska Avenue. If you live in the area, show up and let DDOT know what pedestrian improvements would make you feel safer on this busy corridor.
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