Upper NW livability study, part 2: Circles and conflicts
Yesterday, we looked at the recommendations for bike boulevards and pedestrian improvements in DDOT's Rock Creek West II Livability Study. It also considered recommendations from several other studies, including traffic studies of two circles and a pedestrian audit of Connecticut Avenue.
For the study, Parsons Brinkerhoff analyzed two large and often vexing circles, Chevy Chase Circle on Connecticut Avenue and the DC line, and Ward Circle at Massachusetts and Nebraska Avenues. DDOT analyzed Chevy Chase Circle in 2002, and Ward Circle had its own safety audit in 2009.
At Ward Circle, Nebraska Avenue cuts through the center while Massachusetts Avenue and turning traffic circumnavigates the edge. The earlier study analyzed the possibility of closing those lanes, as DDOT did to Thomas Circle years ago. The study estimated that doing so would, not surprisingly, slow traffic. The new report avoids recommending this, though it says such a move still might eventually be "desired for placemaking reasons."
At the Massachusetts Avenue intersections, the report recommends adding traffic signals. This would help pedestrians cross more safely, especially as more development at American University increases the numbers of people crossing streets in this area. It would also simplify the merging and weaving between cars already in the circle and cars entering at Massachusetts Avenue.
At Chevy Chase Circle, the recommendations include the same guide signs, as well as large overhead signs for each cross street. To help pedestrians, the crosswalks to the center of the circle would get more signs and stop bars in the short term, and signals in the long term.
Finally, the study recommends signals where Western Avenue touches the circle, which would reduce delays for both Western Avenue drivers and those on some other streets where they often have to wait as cars come into the circle from Western.Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action (CAPA) audit, such as a HAWK signal and curb extensions at Connecticut Avenue and Northampton Street.
Another CAPA recommendation, for adjustments to the intersection of Veazey and Connecticut, conflicts in some ways with UDC's own recommendations, and the Office of Planning is doing a streetscape study of the area as well. DDOT plans to integrate all three to create a final plan for this area.
CAPA also suggested narrowing the slip lane and adding a raised crosswalk on the south corner of Connecticut and Nebraska and retiming the signals to help pedestrians; these recommendations didn't gain the needed consensus within DDOT. Finally, CAPA wants to increase pedestrian crossing times at many intersections on Connecticut; DDOT says their safety and signals team is reviewing those recommendations.
DDOT has many different groups that try to balance conflicting needs and often come to different conclusions about moving vehicles as fast as possible versus maximizing pedestrian safety. Sometimes one view wins out; sometimes another.
Implementing the recommendations will require money, though federal funding can pay for much of it and, at least for now, there are pots of federal money that have to go to pedestrian and bicycle projects. Everything in the Rock Creek West II Livability Study would cost about $9.4 million.
DDOT has identified funding for some of these items, though projects not completed quickly could wait some time. However, having a plan for pedestrian improvements makes it more likely that future road reconstruction projects or development projects would incorporate these changes, if DDOT hasn't been able to make them already.
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