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Gene Weingarten is right: M Street SE is too wide

Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten is the latest commentator-driver to be angered by speed cameras in DC. Weingarten says M Street SE's 25-mph speed limit doesn't match its 6-lane highway form, and he's absolutely right. That's why M Street needs to be redesigned.

Photo by Pak Gwei on Flickr.

Weingarten complained this morning about getting two tickets, for $125 each, for speeding on M Street SE en route to buy seafood at the waterfront.

He writes that trying to obey the speed limit is "unnatural and frustrating, like trying to type with mittens." He also employs his clever wit to formulate new digs at speed cameras, like compar­isons with Soviet Communism and claims they "extort money from drivers having the audacity to travel city roads at the speed of—this is literally true—a hippopotamus, running."

Weingarten is absolutely right about one thing. M Street SE's design is totally incompatible with the 25-mph speed limit. At three lanes each way, it's far too wide.

The limit was lowered to 25 mph last year in response to a series of pedestrians—this is literally true—getting killed hit crossing the street at New Jersey Ave and M St, SE, ironically right in front of the headquarters of the US Department of Transportation. That's also why the camera is there, not to entrap drivers but to actually get them to slow down.

Update: In fact, minutes after this article first ran, DC Fire and EMS tweeted about a pedestrian being struck on the 500 block of M Street, SE—on this very road we are discussing.

This road, heavily used by pedestrians traveling around the neighborhood or going to and from the Metro, should be more of a neighborhood main street than a high-speed raceway to bypass the SE-SW freeway. But years ago, traffic engineers using the "move traffic as fast as possible" mindset built the road as a raceway anyway.

Just two lanes each way would be sufficient for the traffic volume west of South Capitol, and one lane each way on the east, according to DDOT metrics. If the road is 50% to 200% too wide for the traffic, no wonder Weingarten thinks of hippopotami when he drives there.

The solution is to redesign the road. If it feels like typing with mittens, make it a touch-screen iPad instead where you don't need to type so much. Fortunately, a well-respected road design firm, Toole Design, already analyzed this road for us.

Concept sketch for M Street. Photo by volcrano of diagram by Toole Design.

Toole's plan would give M Street a "road diet" from 3 lanes each way to two. A narrow median would go in the center to create small pedestrian refuges, and each side would get cycle tracks.

Tommy Wells tried to promote this idea, but a few of the very residents of the Southwest Waterfront and Near Southeast whose walks to the store would become safer objected. Opponents focused on some elements of the plan that would encourage cycling, while giving short shrift to its pedestrian enhancements.

Meanwhile, however, David Garber won election to the ANC for 6D07, which encompasses all of M Street SE, and Grace Daughtridge, one of the most strident critics of the plan (who claimed neighbors were "bad parents" for biking with their kids to school or the store) lost a bid for an ANC seat in Southwest.

Maybe it's time for the ANC to take another look at this plan, especially if the commissioner for the eastern half will support the concept. Not only can it make the neighborhood safer and more pleasant for residents, it could help Gene Weingarten drive slower and feel better doing it.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. 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 two children in Dupont Circle. 


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I agree that M Street needs to be redesigned, but considering that it's one of DDOT's streetcar corridors any redesign should include a dedicated median transitway.

DDOT has mentioned that as a possibility in the past, and I'd hate to see the opportunity lost.

by BeyonDC on Mar 22, 2011 11:52 am • linkreport

You're being very kind with the "clever" modifier! :)

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Mar 22, 2011 11:56 am • linkreport

One has to ask though, if the District intended it for traffic going at 25 mph, why did they make the street capable of carrying far higher speeds? Before we just to the conclusion that that 25 mph is correct, we need to get down to what should be the right speed there. I.e., Was the street intended to carry only local traffic or to be an arterial? Once that's been determined (and yes it might involve public meetings ... ), then we can redesign the street accordingly ... if appropriate.

by Lance on Mar 22, 2011 12:03 pm • linkreport

Yes, please!

As someone who works in this corridor and takes a hodge-podge of fairly pleasant, but discontinuous e/w bike routes (mostly on "Eye" SW/SE) across the city each day, I'd welcome this safe, direct bicycle route.

Was Toole's cycle-track proposal just for the section between 6th SW and Capitol? I'd think it would make sense to continue up Maine Ave at least to the fish market as Phase One. How far east would it go? Theoretically, it could go all the way to 12th SE as the current M Street design is pretty consistent from end to end.

The improved M Street route would also make it easier/more inviting for M street employees to walk/bike to the new Safeway at lunch time.

by KG on Mar 22, 2011 12:07 pm • linkreport

Lance: Intended when? In the L'Enfant plan, it was not even a through street, as there were rivers there. The McMillan plan doesn't seem to address it specifically.

At some point, it was turned into more of a high-speed raceway. But it still doesn't even carry the traffic that would warrant that. Just as it was changed from a non-through street to a through street to a high-speed street, it can be changed back based on the needs of the neighborhood and the time.

by David Alpert on Mar 22, 2011 12:09 pm • linkreport

I'm with BeyondDC - let's use that space for a dedicated transitway and streetcar tracks.

by Alex B. on Mar 22, 2011 12:14 pm • linkreport

There definitely needs to be a rethinking of M Street, since Weingarten is right that a 25 mpg speed limit on a 6-lane road makes no sense, but Alpert is also right that a roadway that size no longer makes sense for a newly re-forming neighborhood.

The same issue exists for that stretch of M Street/Maine Avenue all the way down to the Fish Market. It's a naturally fast road due to its width; but that will have to change as the area re-develops (although that will cause a traffic mess at Maine Avenue where it goes under the SW Freeway bridge).

As for a streetcar median, maybe we should wait until we actually have a single, successfully functioning streetcar line before we lay down tracks all throughout the city.

And speed cameras raise massive amounts of essentially free revenue for the city. Some make sense; others are essentially a revenue source (e.g., the speed camera on outbound NY Avenue by the Arboretum).

by Fritz on Mar 22, 2011 12:15 pm • linkreport

I thought the hold-up with re-doing M Street SE was lack of $

by goldfish on Mar 22, 2011 12:16 pm • linkreport

I completely agree and have been working with Tommy Wells to try to jumpstart this. Will bring in front of the ANC. Funding is obviously an issue in this climate -- any ideas for how to get this funded?

by David Garber on Mar 22, 2011 12:18 pm • linkreport

@Lance: The district didn't intend it to be 25 mph. The neighborhood became a place that current requires a 25 mph road. Whether the district intended it or not, it is that way.

Should the district just keep it high-speed and prohibit pedestrians?

by Tim on Mar 22, 2011 12:21 pm • linkreport

Very interesting article. I agree M Street SE is a curious road and would love to see it developed to include the streetcar/dedicated bus lanes, bikes, pedestrians, and cars safely. I do wonder what the streetscape along M will look like in 5 years, 10 years, or longer with so much development moving forward or anticipated. Would reducing the lanes now only force a reversal down the line when more people live and work in the area? Does DDOT have projections as well as statistical data they can share?

by JP on Mar 22, 2011 12:26 pm • linkreport

Just to be sure that things are accurate--one pedestrian has been killed on M St SE in the past 8 or so years, in 2010 at Half and M ( Another was struck and injured in August at First and M (

(PS, David, I tried to post this numerous time from my Nexus One, but it told me every time that I wasn't getting the captcha right, even though I definitely was)

by JD on Mar 22, 2011 12:27 pm • linkreport

Because the street was designed when vehicles couldn't run faster than 25 mph.

by Neil Flanagan on Mar 22, 2011 12:28 pm • linkreport

>As for a streetcar median, maybe we should wait until we actually have a single, successfully functioning streetcar line before we lay down tracks all throughout the city.

Fair enough, but we should at least keep enough space reserved.

by BeyondDC on Mar 22, 2011 12:28 pm • linkreport

I attended T Wells the meeting where this was discussed. I couldn't believe the folks complaining about it. DC has way too many streets designed to allow high speeds, yet posting 25 mph limits. That is dangerous for pedestrians and bikers and frustrating for motorists.

by Cap on Mar 22, 2011 12:29 pm • linkreport

On my way into work this morning, I noticed that M Street Westbound had lost the far right lane due to construction of the park, with pedestrians shifted onto the lane (protected by a barricade). Depending on how long this would last, perhaps this would be a good demo project to see if speeds reduce with only two lanes for that stretch?

by Daniel on Mar 22, 2011 12:33 pm • linkreport

>Was the street intended to carry only local traffic or to be an arterial?

Let's not forget there's a huge interstate expressway parallel to M Street 3 blocks to the north. How many east-west through highways does this one neighborhood need?

by BeyondDC on Mar 22, 2011 12:34 pm • linkreport

JD: Thanks, I've changed it from "killed" to "hit" to not imply that all the people hit were killed.

by David Alpert on Mar 22, 2011 12:44 pm • linkreport

Anyone have details on today's ped crash? It looks like one of our buses got through the area about 15 minutes after DC Fire & EMS tweeted it without any slowdowns, so I'm guessing (hoping) it was a fairly minor crash.

by Ginger on Mar 22, 2011 12:47 pm • linkreport

@David Garber: Look into the performance parking funds, DDOT has collected about $800,000 in a couple of years that has to go to "non-automobile transportation improvements". Columbia Heights is getting some sidewalk extensions with their money.

by Michael Perkins on Mar 22, 2011 12:53 pm • linkreport

I think it could easily go on a road diet to 4 lanes and still have a center lane for turning. Future streetcar, good idea but a ways off.

I work on 1st NE in Noma, and that street is somewhat narrow, but the space between the curb and the building front is wide, with two sidewalks and a good sized planting strip. If the M St corridor is destined for higher density, then it needs generous sidewalks, particular due to the metro station entrance.

by spookiness on Mar 22, 2011 12:55 pm • linkreport

@David Alpert 'Lance: Intended when?'

Intended when this area was designed a few years ago. Everything there was basically rebuilt at about the same time that the Baseball Stadium was being constructed. M Street wasn't that wide before then. So, someone somewhere (at DDOT?) decided it needed to be wide for a reason. What's that reason?

Now, if you want to go by the L'Enfant Plan, then your reasoning that because there was water there that the plan wouldn't apply is flawed. There was also water where Consitition Avenue now runs ... as well as a creek running throught what are today many of the streets traversing Dupont (e.g. NH Ave, S and T Street, 16th Street and even Dupont Circle park). The plan was never meant to be constrained by 'what is'. It is a vision/master plan for 'what can be'.

Incidentally, even Penn. Ave. .... where the bike lanes are now ... had to be drained in order to be built ... The early residents complained about it running along swampy lands that flooded it often and made getting from the Capitol (and the built up part of town) to the White House and Georgetown a difficult trip during rainy weather.

by Lance on Mar 22, 2011 1:19 pm • linkreport

Lance, NCPC's planning for the South Capitol Street district a few years ago (prior to the baseball stadium) called for M Street to be the core a pedestrian-friendly urban district, and for there to be a new square at the intersection of M and South Cap.

I'm not sure how specifically their plan discussed M, but the implication that it isn't supposed to be a through highway was very clear.

by BeyondDC on Mar 22, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

This brings up an interesting debate between design speed and the speed limit.

The way speed limits are supposed to be set is by observing the natural flow of traffic and setting the speed limit so 85% of drivers are obeying it. Unfortunately, roads are currently over-engineered so the design speed is usually much higher than the speed limit, making it feel safe and natural (for the driver) to speed.

This leads to a dangerous environment to pedestrians and bikers. I agree that either the lanes or the road should be narrowed to create a lower design speed that will essentially force drivers to slow down.

by Andrew S on Mar 22, 2011 1:40 pm • linkreport

This seems like the perfect opportunity to try a number of different ideas to see what works to calm traffic: wide medians with trees (or other objects), HAWK (flashing in-road lighted) crosswalks, gates at intersections (like at toll booths), and other things. If we can find things to calm traffic on an empty, six lane road, presumably they would work in other areas.

by Stanton Park on Mar 22, 2011 1:44 pm • linkreport

@stanton park: I dunno, kinda seems like if we're going to "experiment", going with the plan proposed by the traffic design consultants we paid to analyze the situation would be a good place to start.

/I ride my bike here 2x per day, sometimes scary.

by Michael Perkins on Mar 22, 2011 1:59 pm • linkreport

Not true that M Street was widened during the past few years. Was six lanes in 2000:

(though my site server is not a happy camper right now, so that link may not work)

During 1999 and 2000 they put in all new curbs and medians and bricked crosswalks, but I'm pretty sure it was 6 lanes then, too. The sidewalks in front of 80 M and 300 (where construction started in 1999) are plenty wide and not indicative of any widening after work on them started.

And it certainly wasn't widened during the ballpark reconstruction of the streets in the neighborhood. The medians went away when 100 M was being built (because they took the curb lane and DDOT wanted to keep M 3 lanes in both directions), but they came back once construction was done.

by JD on Mar 22, 2011 2:07 pm • linkreport

A similar argument could be made for the speed trap on North Capitol. That stretch of road could easily be 45mph between Rock Cr. Church and Michigan as the natural flow. However, the posted limit is 35mph and there's a regular cop camera there making tickets.

I support speed cameras whole heartedly, but not in places that don't serve a safety purpose or where there's an obvious mismatch between road speeds and limits.

M ST SE also has schools on it, so that may serve to derate the speed limit.

by eb on Mar 22, 2011 2:16 pm • linkreport

You guys crack me up thinking that streetcars are ever going to actually happen.

by beatbox on Mar 22, 2011 2:37 pm • linkreport

I know most of you dont believe there are stupid pedestrians, but when you're talking about pedestrians involved in accidents, how many of these accidents involve stupid pedestrians?

Any time I've ever come close to hitting a pedestrian its when they've been doing something unimaginably stupid.

by Curious on Mar 22, 2011 3:02 pm • linkreport

Typical of assholes like Weingarten. They don't live in the neighborhood so they feel entitled to bitch about the speed limit and proceed to drive as fast as they please. Screw you, Gene.

It will be a great day in SW/Near SE history when they put a fucking island on M St all the way from Maine Ave to 14th SE. It is absolutely insulting to see commuters treat my hood like shit with impunity.

by SW on Mar 22, 2011 3:12 pm • linkreport

The real problem with M is that it represents wasted space (and resources), just as much as the DCUSA parking lot. A 3-4 lane road, with bike/bus lanes, a median and wider sidewalks (especially closer to 11th SE where they aren't ADA compliant) would be a wiser use of a limited resource.

by David C on Mar 22, 2011 3:16 pm • linkreport

SW: thanks for commenting, but please be aware that calling people "assholes" is not allowed by our commenting policies. I hope you will continue commenting but please refrain from ad hominem attacks.

by David Alpert on Mar 22, 2011 3:25 pm • linkreport

@ beatbox,

Hold on just a minute there, sir.

Didn't you hear about the upcoming meeting on the Anacostia Streetcar line?

Finally, the latest public meeting for the Anacostia Streetcar is Saturday, March 26th ...near the Anacostia Metro. DDOT officials will present various alternatives for streetcar routes through Anacostia and how they will evaluate the options.

Sounds like this is moving along smartly, no?

by Trulee Pist on Mar 22, 2011 3:32 pm • linkreport

This brings up an interesting debate between design speed and the speed limit.

The way speed limits are supposed to be set is by observing the natural flow of traffic and setting the speed limit so
85% of drivers are obeying it. Unfortunately, roads are currently over-engineered so the design speed is usually
much higher than the speed limit, making it feel safe and natural (for the driver) to speed.

Something has to be done about that algorithm. If people keep driving faster and faster because cars are so much more capable of it than (say) 40 years ago, how do we figure out when the limiting factor of speed might not be road design, or car capability, but driver skill?

There aren't enough Skip Barber classes in the world to fix that.

by KadeKo on Mar 22, 2011 3:47 pm • linkreport

JD on Mar 22, 2011 2:07 pm,
I was going to comment on the same thing. I Google Earthed backwards, its always been 6 lanes wide from what I could tell. Was wide pre urban renewal, but could not see detail.

by spookiness on Mar 22, 2011 3:48 pm • linkreport

(ugh-sorry about not word wrapping)

by KadeKo on Mar 22, 2011 3:50 pm • linkreport

Suck it up Gene. They got cameras all over town now, and they nab everybody.

Now, as for those wide lanes, how about a cycletrack?

by Jack Love on Mar 22, 2011 3:50 pm • linkreport

I'm sorry but how is the street incompatible with a 25mph limit ? Can you could 25 mph on yes do you choose to no. There is nothing physically stopping the driver or the car from going 25 mph. You can go above or below 25 mph on any street; what we have here is someone using this as an excuse to blame the city instead of putting the blame on yourself.

The street being too wide is another issue in itself which has nothing to do with speed limit.

by kk on Mar 22, 2011 5:02 pm • linkreport

@Lance, JD and spookiness: M Street from 11th SE to 6th and Maine SW has had its present poorly designed configuration for at least three decades. The only changes have been temporary lane closures for construction projects, like the current one by Canal Park mentioned by Daniel.

@SW: Okay, Weingarten doesn't live in Southwest or Near Southeast, but he does live in the next neighborhood over, in Capitol Hill. Moreover, he wasn't commuting, he was trying to travel between his house and the fish market on Water Street SW. There are no reasonable public transit connections and it's a fairly long walk (about two miles), so this is one of the (relatively few in this part of town IMO) situations where a private automobile may indeed be the most appropriate way to travel. (I myself would normally make the trip by bike, but Weingarten has physical limitations and may not be able to do that.)

But none of this justifies speeding on M Street, and I strongly support reconfiguring it to encourage, as well as require, reasonable speeds.

by davidj on Mar 22, 2011 5:03 pm • linkreport

Correction to above

Can you drive 25 mph on yes do you choose to no.

by kk on Mar 22, 2011 5:06 pm • linkreport

Before and after Nationals games, M St (both SW and SE) gets some pretty heavy car traffic. That may not be reason enough for it to be 6 lanes, but those lanes get used.

That being said, I'd be very happy to see a larger center island for pedestrians who only get halfway across, for the sidewalks to be widened so that Nats fans wouldn't end up walking in the street so much and to have cycle tracks (they should be wide enough for the pedicabs too).

by jindc on Mar 22, 2011 5:17 pm • linkreport

@JD, The point is that whether they widened it as part of the redevelopment or left it that way as part of the redevelopment, it was a conscious decision made by the folks developing the area. And rather than assume its supposed to be a quite slow neighborhood street, we'd better served first asking why they wanted it six lanes wide and capable of carrying fast voluminous traffic. After we know that we can have a more balanced discussion as to whether it should be signed at 25 and/ or narrowed. Otherwise this is just another unbalanced opinion unsubstantiated by all the facts.

by Lance on Mar 22, 2011 6:15 pm • linkreport

And rather than assume its supposed to be a quite slow neighborhood street, we'd better served first asking why they wanted it six lanes wide and capable of carrying fast voluminous traffic.

Nah. Who cares, why "they" wanted it like that? What matters is what we want now, and what the road does now. And NOW it doesn't carry that much traffic. Now there it's because a more pedestrian oriented neighborhood. And now we want slower, safer traffic. So a road diet makes sense. I care as much about what "they" wanted and "why" as I do what L'Enfant wanted and why.

by David C on Mar 22, 2011 6:27 pm • linkreport

@Andrew S: The way speed limits are supposed to be set is by observing the natural flow of traffic and setting the speed limit so 85% of drivers are obeying it.

No, that's one way to set speed limits, but it's not the only way or a method ordained by God.

by David desJardins on Mar 22, 2011 9:47 pm • linkreport

M St definitely needs to be re-engineered. Its designed more like a high capacity suburban county road than like the urban boulevard it should be. Its certainly not safe for the influx of new workers there either because drivers do treat it as a freeway as was pointed out. Reducing it to four lanes and reconstructing it to be more like the stretch of 16th Street from Arkansas Avenue northward would go a long way. I suspect though DDOT is preserving the current condition of the road for a street car line like H Street, because it is being integrated into the 11 Street Bridge design and apart of the Phase 1 street car plan.

by Sivad on Mar 22, 2011 9:50 pm • linkreport

@Andrew S 'The way speed limits are supposed to be set is by observing the natural flow of traffic and setting the speed limit so 85% of drivers are obeying it.

That's assuming that the road is only intended for motorized traffic. (E.g., a freeway is a great example of this.) But if 'sharing the road' is part of it's design, it's right and reasonable that the speed limit be lower. Hence why I say we need to ascertain the role this road was planned to play as part of the recent redevelopment in that area where nearly every building was raised. This isn't the southeast of old. And we have to believe that the designers of the new 'Near Southeast' didn't just overlook thinking about whether M Street should be put on a diet. Thus far there's nothing there but a few office buildings, so calling it a residential neighborhood is a bit premature ...

by Lance on Mar 22, 2011 10:31 pm • linkreport

Lance, if there aren't actually any pedestrians there who need to be protected from high-speed traffic, then how do they keep getting hit?

by David desJardins on Mar 22, 2011 10:46 pm • linkreport

@David desJ? ... I said 'residents' ... not 'pedestrians' .. they're not interchangeable. I'd suspect there are pedestrians there from both the offices, the ball park .. and probably some of the bums are still there. The fact that pedestrians are in the area doesn't necessarily mean the street needs to be slowed down ... It also doesn't mean that they should be walking around vs. driving. Lots of pedestrians are near large highways in shopping centers and other places lining them, that doesn't mean they should be walking on to the highway. That's what cars are for ...

by Lance on Mar 23, 2011 12:01 am • linkreport

How does one go about petitioning the city to trim a street from 6 to 4 lanes? We have similar issues btw Dave Thomas Circle and 9th NE on Florida Ave. and would like to submit something to DDOT but there isn't a form petition on their website for said issue. Helpful suggestions would be greatly

by Yancey W. Burns on Mar 23, 2011 2:00 am • linkreport

Yancey: You read my mind!

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Mar 23, 2011 6:42 am • linkreport

Yes - Florida Avenue is a travesty. 6 lanes with ridiculously narrow sidewalks. So narrow that at some points they are nearly nonexistent. I walked to my soccer game at Gallaudet University last weekend and could not believe how poorly Florida Avenue treats pedestrians. (And the people who live on the street, who have high-speed traffic streaming right below their front doors.)

by rg on Mar 23, 2011 9:28 am • linkreport

Lance: over 3,300 residents in Near Southeast as of the beginning of the year.

by JD on Mar 23, 2011 11:30 am • linkreport

I'll probably get my head handed to me for posting this, but here goes:

The situation on M Street, SE is what happens when traffic that belongs on a freeway ends up on city streets. And in DC, M Street, SE is not unique.

Over 50 years ago, planners designed a comprehensive freeway system in and around DC that was one of the best-planned in the nation. Hysteria and demagougery shot most of it down and we've ended up with the nation's worst (or second-worst, depending on who you believe) traffic congestion in spite of building the nation's second-largest (and most costly to construct) subway.

Now, before the highway haters get their panties in a bunch, let me say I'm glad some of the the planned freeways never got built. The I-266 Three Sisters/Downtown Inner Loop, for example, was a terrible idea.

But exactly what was gained by killing the Barney Circle Connector between I-395 and I-295? Thankfully, the currently-in progress 11th Street Bridge project will rectify that folly.

And I fail to see what was "saved" by stopping I-95 from being built through the still-existing brownfields along the Red Line through Northeast.

And why hasn't NY Avenue been reconfigured to connect I-395 with Route 50 and the BW Parkway like how Philadelphia's Vine Street was rebuilt 20 years ago to connect I-95 and I-76? Can somebody please explain to me how doing that would "destroy neighborhoods"?

M Street SE makes one wonder what, if anything, the freeway opponenets actually "won".

by ceefer66 on Mar 23, 2011 12:12 pm • linkreport


I fail to see how any of the highways you've mentioned would change things on M Street.

Congestion in the DC area is bad. In DC proper it actually isn't. All the badly congested roads in the area are in MD and VA.

What freeway opponents won was keeping the city from being completely fractured the way that near SE/SW is from the areas north of it. What they won was they kept DC more walkable thereby reducing the need for a car. And, since the money for the freeways was used to build Metro, they won a subway system. Would DC be better if it had the freeways, but no Metro? I vote no.

by David C on Mar 23, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport

Please tell us what to do Mr. Alpert, Florida Avenue needs your help.

by Yancey W. Burns on Mar 23, 2011 12:29 pm • linkreport

ceefer66: I just have one small problem with what you said above—"still-existing brownfields along the Red Line through Northeast."

You're aware that the plans for the freeway through there would have torn down homes in Brookland, for example, right? Homes in the two blocks to the east of the current tracks that were taken by eminent domain, left vacant for years, but (thankfully) now reoccupied and being fixed up.

There are a couple industrial parcels along the Red Line, for sure, but there are also MANY homes that would have been plowed under. I think you paint the area with an uneducated brush.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Mar 23, 2011 12:29 pm • linkreport


You are party right. Some homes would have been taken, but they were few in number. No more, in fact, than were taken to build the Metro Orange Line through Clarendon and Ballston. The planned I-95 route is mostly vacant land and abandoned light industrial buildings to this day.

Please don't buy into the hysteria a la Bob Levey's 1999 Washington Post Magazine article that claimed some "800,000 homes would have been lost" to freeway construction. A little common sense would tell you that the entire metropolitan area didn't even have 800,000 TOTAL households at the time the freeways were being planned and built.

by ceefer66 on Mar 23, 2011 12:49 pm • linkreport

I'd feel alot better about this discussion if the premise was not that people can not drive slowly on a wide road. Why post speed limit signs and install speedometers if people can set their speed based on the look and feel of the road.

True, people have gotten into the habit of assuming that road width trumps the speed limit sign. It's a habit everybody needs to break.

by Jim T on Mar 23, 2011 1:01 pm • linkreport

I have removed several comment by ceefer66 which used ad hominem attacks. ceefer, attacking other people by accusing them of duplicity, saying "If you knew what you were talking about..." etc. is not allowed here. If you want to contribute to the discussion, you have to be civil and make your points without being nasty to others.

by David Alpert on Mar 23, 2011 1:28 pm • linkreport

@ceerfer66 Have a friend who drives take you around and show you the traffic. If you open your mind a little, you'll notice that Metro certainly hasn't made highways unnecessary.

I really like that. I was driving to lunch the other day while out at work in Herndon and thinking ... 'most of these folks would laugh if they heard the assumptions being made on GGW that everyone wants a walkable community AND that sprawl is bad '... Especially in light of the fact that THEY are now the majority in this area with all the new stores and new centers of employment and new people and homes and that what we're calling Sprawl works in many ways better for them than our mass transit does for us. We risk making ourselves irrelevent in the larger picture if we don't recognize that while, we have things they can learn from us, we have far more we can learn from them. These arean't your father's suburbs anymore ...

by Lance on Mar 23, 2011 1:30 pm • linkreport

ceefer66: I'm not buying into anyone's hysteria. I'm going off of what I learned by reading my partner's well-researched paper on unbuilt Northeast DC freeways. Her academic writing isn't hysteria.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Mar 23, 2011 1:44 pm • linkreport

Wow, looks like I have to be careful when debating road-haters. Can't make them look too wrong.

OK.' I'm sorry. No more "ad hominem attacks"

I'll just say this to David C and the like-minded:

You want to talk about "fracturing" a city? Let's do a little exercise:

Compare the sections of North Arlington and Falls Church that were "fractured" by I-66 with the sections of NE DC that were "saved" by cancelling I-95.

Use any quality of life yardstick you want - property values, crime statistics, public school achievemnent, life expectancy, amenities, aesthetics. Where would YOU prefer to live or have your sister's car break down?

Freeways don't "fracture" cities or "destroy neighborhoods". That's caused by the people who live there and the politicians they elect.

I rest my case.

Hope this meet the quality test.

by ceefer66 on Mar 23, 2011 1:52 pm • linkreport


"ceefer66: I'm not buying into anyone's hysteria. I'm going off of what I learned by reading my partner's well-researched paper on unbuilt Northeast DC freeways. Her academic writing isn't hysteria."

Sorry to make assumptions.

I'm not certain whether your partner has done any research regarding homes lost to Metro construction, but I'm sure that if she did, she would find the handful of homes slated for demolition in Brookland pale by comparison.

And on another note, no highway project ever built in DC was as disruptive as Metro construction. Were you here during the Green Line construction in Shaw during the early '90's? I lived in the neighborhood.

I've done a little research myself, Geoff. Google Doug Willinger's work (I don't want to post links for obvious reasons).

by ceefer66 on Mar 23, 2011 2:08 pm • linkreport

ceefer66: What reasons?

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Mar 23, 2011 2:20 pm • linkreport


Let's start with the fact that the problem with M is not congestion but overcapacity. You're solution to too much capacity on M SW/SE is to add more capacity in NE. I don't follow that.

If you cherry-pick your neighborhoods you can make anything look like a bad idea. I'll take Capitol Hill where they didn't build a highway on 11th and compare it to ward 7 where the Anacostia Freeway divides it.

the plans were re-drawn to place the freeways in the most-developed areas underground - that's why I-395 through downtown and under the Mall is a tunnel.

Perhaps, but that is only in the "most-developed areas", what about the other areas? And I've seen the gash the underground I-395 has left on downtown. No thanks.

As a matter of fact, I've never seen anything fromany of the other road-haters complaining about (the redline in NE)

Wel, as a cyclist I love roads. I love biking on roads in the middle of the lane at 10mph giving everyone the finger. It's stoplights I hate. But on the other matter. The redline runs along the same route - on old ROW - for the railroad. Even if you remove the red line, you have the same separation. And two rail lines hardly compare in width or impact to a highway.

And let's not forget the semantical difference between transit-spawned development and development caused by roads. Or the old "induced usage" arguments.

I don't even know what your point is. But I promise to never forget. It is like the Alamo for me.

Where you and I differ is I've never looked at roads vs. transit as an either/or issue.

Me neither - not always, but when it comes to what to do with land and money it often is.

Where you and I differ is I've never looked at roads vs. transit as an either/or issue.

Eisenhower didn't want interstates to run through cities and he was right. They're good for connecting two cities or turning one into two, but not as good for making good cities.

by David C on Mar 23, 2011 2:21 pm • linkreport

ceefer66's whole argument is bunk because the one highway that did get built was I-395, which is 3 blocks away from M Street.

If ceefer66 were right, M Street wouldn't need to carry large loads of traffic, because it's the one place in the city where the real highway did get built.

by BeyondDC on Mar 24, 2011 11:46 am • linkreport

Is now the time to be evaluating the effectiveness of the M Street road design? Capitol Riverfront is still due for a ridiculous amount of development. It remains to be seen how M Street will function (or not) when the neighborhood is fully constructed to the high density plan that's approved and under construction.

by Non Issue on Mar 25, 2011 9:21 am • linkreport

They should fix one lane on each side for light-rail and bring some more density and attractive public transportation to the area.

by JNB on Mar 25, 2011 10:38 am • linkreport

Why is no one addressing the issue of the people driving above the speed limit; the road design has nothing to do with it.

Everything here is driver fault not the road just because a road is built a certain way does not mean you have to take liberties with it.

It says 25MPH you should go 25 no matter if it is deserted.

by kk on Mar 26, 2011 9:52 am • linkreport

@kk: Why is no one addressing the issue of the people driving above the speed limit; the road design has nothing to do with it.

If you're killed by a car you're just as dead even if you get to be "right" that the car "should" have been going 25 mph.

Fulminating about how people should drive the speed limit, isn't actually going to save any lives. Road modifications might.

by David desJardins on Mar 26, 2011 5:05 pm • linkreport

Yancy: The NoMa BID, Two Rivers Charter School, Gallaudet U. and the ANC have been pushing DDOT to reduce the lanes of FL ave east of the underpass (east of the Ny/FL Ave intersection) and expand the sidewalk in the underpass and beyond. Not sure how others could weigh in but my recommendation would be to express your concerns to CM Wells and THomas (since Fl ave crosses ward 5 and 6) and also Office of Planning and DDOT ward planners and eventually the director, whenever they are hired.

by NoMa on Mar 26, 2011 9:14 pm • linkreport

I'd love to see a similar post about Florida Ave, especially since it's also slated to receive a streetcar, and is horrendously dysfunctional in its current form.

It's got 6 lanes of traffic in spots where it only needs 4 (and for some reason, 4 lanes of traffic + 2 lanes of parking in its most congested portions west of the railroad). The sidewalks are too narrow, it's completely hostile to bicycle traffic (even when said traffic is simply *crossing* the street), and traffic simply doesn't "flow."

This is especially apparent on the 90-93 buses, which move at a snail's pace, and suffer from bunching along the corridor. Clearly, the traffic problems will need to be resolved before (or when) the streetcars are installed. Personally, I think that the Anacostia-Adams Morgan streetcar line should be more of a priority than the K St Transitway, considering the benefits that good transit service would bring to the corridor.

Unsurprisingly, the houses along Florida Ave look like they belong in a slum, despite the fact that they border some very nice neighborhoods (LeDroit, Eckington, and Near Northeast to name a few specific ones). I passed up an incredibly cheap house on the Unit block of Florida NE, because of concerns about crime near Truxton Circle (which appear to have been well-founded). Good urban design can significantly reduce crime, improve property values, and attract new tenants.

(And, yeah. M St SE is awful. The sidewalks by the Navy Yard are especially scary. I'm a frequent user of the Anacostia Boathouse, and would love to see this corridor become more pedestrian/cycle/transit-friendly.)

by andrew on Mar 28, 2011 12:31 pm • linkreport

Amongst several things to consider is the height of the current buildings: I suspect they would no longer submit to the District's untouchable adjacent st vs height rule, if the streets were 2-4 lanes.

by Cliftonite93 on Mar 28, 2011 3:04 pm • linkreport

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