Greater Greater Washington

Posts about Glover Park

Pedestrians


"Stay the course" or "pivot"? Gray and Evans disagree about the ill-fated Wisconsin Avenue median

In 2012, DC changed the traffic patterns on Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park to make it more friendly to pedestrians, then reversed course following strong complaints from many Georgetown residents including Councilmember Jack Evans. The issue came up in my interviews with Evans and Mayor Vince Gray.


Photo by Abigail Zenner.

I asked every candidate about the way the government can spend a lot of time planning a project, build community support, and still then later run into a lot of people who say they never heard about it or want to block it. Gray brought up this project in his response. He said,


Vincent Gray. Image from the candidate website.
We've seen in some parts of the city when a lane was changed and it was done with the concurrence of the people who lived in that area, who then railed against it in the aftermath and now it's being put back like it was.
I think that you've got to stay the course. I happen to live on a street that was changed, where when people saw a change there was enormous negative reaction to it: Branch Avenue, which went from being two not sufficiently wide lanes on either side of the street, in my opinionwe saw lots of accidents thereto being one lane on either side. There were people that were up in arms. They wanted to put it back like it was. Now, people have adapted. It's taken a number of years, no question about that, but people have adapted.

We have to work with communities around what do these proposals mean for their lives. Make sure there's community input on how we get to the answer. And then once we do, we've got to stay the course if we believe, earnestly, these changes will make life better for folks.

People hate sitting in traffic. The answer is not to give more streets. The answer is to give other options to folks, other ways of traveling, other methods of traveling, and then you've got to swallow hard and stay with it.

Jack Evans disagrees. I asked him specifically about the Glover Park issue, and he said,


Jack Evans. Image from the candidate website.
It was a complete disaster ... Even the ANC chair, Brian Cohen who was the spearhead of it, and Jackie Blumenthal came to the position that it was a complete disaster. It wasn't just me, it was everyone who realized that narrowing Wisconsin Avenue to 1 lane going north in rush hour just wasn't working. You were backing traffic all the way past the Safeway all the way to R Street, and that wasn't working for anybody.

I think the lesson that we take from that is they try something that doesn't work, but can then pivot and maneuver rather than sticking to something that was just causing chaos. What you were doing, as you know, by having that center lane with stripes on it, people were starting to cut around, creating a very dangerous situation. I'm glad that people were starting to recognize that.

To be precise, the plan did not make Wisconsin Avenue 1 lane at rush hour; there was a part-time parking lane people could drive in during rush hour. However, it was 1 lane outside rush hour, and according to Glover Park resident and GGW contributor Abigail Zenner, times like school pick-up around 2-3 pm were worse for traffic than rush hour itself.

What if some of the details like these had worked better, I asked, but drivers still found themselves delayed by a minute or two? Evans said, "If we were talking about a minute or two. We were talking about a half hour."

At one ANC meeting last year, DDOT reported that driving times had increased by 2 minutes. But, Zenner said, "since then I have not been able to get my hands on any more data. My unscientific anecdotal experience also backed up the two minute claim. I have never experienced a half hour back-up, although I have heard a lot of people say things like that."

Evans doesn't buy it. "As you've heard me testify many times, if it was a minute or two we wouldn't be here. Don't take my word for it, take the word of the proponents of the project, Brian, Jackie and others, who came to the conclusion. 80-90% of people in the neighborhood hated it. It was a universally hated idea. "

But, I asked, any change to a roadway will engender significant opposition. How do you differentiate legitimate problems with a project from knee-jerk opposition to change? Evans said,

You have to deal with each individual situation. The 15th Street bike lanes would be an example where we got tons of complaints, but it worked and we kept it in place. We didn't respond to the complaints. It's quieted down, but we still get complaints about the bike lanes. Most people quieted down and now accept it for what it is. The important thing is you have to be able to respond and not take a rigid view.
Evans did complain about the 15th Street lane at first, also, but changed his tune. Part of that might have come from a bike ride I organized to take him around the ward to the various bike lanes (an experience he referenced in the interview). And, indeed, he has not fought the 15th Street lane, or the L and M Street lanes crosstown.

Pedestrians


Neighbors unite to tackle slippery sidewalks

Fed up with the slippery, dangerous sidewalks in their neighborhood, Glover Park residents took matters into their own hands and came together to de-ice Calvert Street.


Before (left) and after (right) neighbors on Calvert Street cleared the ice from the sidewalks on Calvert Street. Photos by Rebecca Johnson.

After last week's snowfall, we highlighted a "Hall of Shame" of residents, businesses, public agencies, and even embassies who neglected to clear their sidewalks. As the snow melted and refroze, the unkempt walks became a nasty, slippery sheet of ice.

In Glover Park, no one knew whom to call and report the slippery sidewalks. So one enterprising resident issued a call to arms to her neighbors to clear them.

Rebecca Johnson went on the neighborhood's listserv and asked volunteers to meet her Saturday morning to clear Calvert Street from 39th Street to Wisconsin Avenue. A group of seven volunteers showed up, and along the way, some college students came out and joined them.

It would be nice if homeowners and landlords took responsibility for the sidewalks in front of their properties. But it was nice to see the community come together and make their streets safer.

Roads


DDOT removes traffic calming on Wisconsin Avenue

In January, the District Department of Transportation replaced two lanes on Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park with a painted median and turn lane to calm traffic. But due to pressure from residents and local elected officials, DDOT will end their year-long trial and return the street to six lanes.


New left-turn lanes in Glover Park. Photo from DDOT.

DDOT created the median between 35th and Garfield streets NW to draw attention to the commercial strip and give pedestrians a safer way to cross the street. But after complaints from drivers and Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, the agency already removed part of the median in May.

Since DC received federal funds for this project, it must comply with federal lane width guidelines. Putting the original six lanes back would violate those guidelines, meaning the city will have to do so with its own funds.

Residents say they want pedestrian safety, but not at drivers' expense

The Glover Park ANC originally supported DDOT's plan, but reversed its position after conducting an informal online survey in October that said most Glover Park residents support a return to six traffic lanes. Just 300 of Glover Park's 10,000 residents completed the survey, but Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh agreed with the ANC's position.

Opponents claim the traffic calming has added to travel times, with anecdotal accounts citing times twice as long as the previous configuration. DDOT's official report indicates that average northbound drive times have increased by two minutes. Opponents have criticized this figure as only reflecting rush hour times and suggest that other times of day have been heavily affected as well.

Some business owners claimed a drop in customers because of difficulties driving to their locations. However, several new restaurants opened or will open in the corridor during the past year, including Sprig and Sprout, Arcuri, Einstein Bagels, and Jimmy John's. Meanwhile, Rocklands BBQ, whose owner signed a letter from local businesses saying they were getting fewer customers, recently announced that it will double in size.

At a recent community roundtable on the changes, Cheh and Glover Park ANC Chair Brian Cohen said very clearly that they did not want to change the lanes back without doing some pedestrian safety improvements to the area. Most residents testified in support of returning the street to six lanes, and some residents were open to speed cameras and HAWK lights, but little else.

DDOT Director Terry Bellamy noted in his testimony that it is difficult to both keep vehicles moving and build in safety measures. He also said that Wisconsin Avenue is too narrow for six lanes, as it is only 55 feet wide in the Glover Park commercial district.

Compromise proposal would remove just one lane

At the roundtable, Georgetown resident and GGW contributor Ken Archer offered a compromise plan, which would return one of the traffic lanes, but make them narrower, providing room for a northbound bike lane and rush-hour dedicated bus lane.

Archer argued that congestion will only get worse, pointing to residential developments all along Wisconsin. The only solution, he said, is to get drivers out of their cars. Cheh said that DDOT should consider Archer's plan for the long term, but in the short term all traffic lanes should be returned.

Political pressure on DDOT appears to work

Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh first called a hearing in May as a response to concerns from Massachusetts Heights residents about the painted median between Calvert and Garfield streets. Though this section of Wisconsin Avenue was the site of multiple pedestrian strikes, DDOT removed part of the median within weeks of the May hearing. DDOT has yet to release any empirical data supporting their decision.

The hearing this month was a response to continued demands to remove the median south of Calvert. And like the first hearing, DDOT agreed afterwards to undo its lane configuration with no empirical data supporting their decision.

This experience shows that DDOT is being particularly vulnerable to political pressure. It sets a precedent for opponents of other progressive transportation initiatives, particularly in Ward 3, where Cheh opposed converting the Cleveland Park service lane to a sidewalk. And it bodes well for opponents of the new bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue, who can only come away emboldened by DDOT's eagerness to placate many of their neighbors on Wisconsin.

Government


Enough broken promises from DDOT

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) promised to complete a number of important projects by now or by the end of this year. Quick quiz: Can you identify which of these have met or will meet the promised deadline?


Photo by Len Matthews on Flickr.

  • Start streetcar service on H Street NE-Benning Road by the end of the year.
  • Devise a better system for handling visitor parking passes and residential permit parking.
  • Start building a separated bike lane (or "cycletrack") on M Street NW.
  • Expand Capital Bikeshare to twice its original size.
  • Make pedestrian safety improvements to Maryland Avenue NE.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of a new median on Wisconsin Avenue NW in Glover Park.

The answer: None of the above. DDOT has delayed or given up on all of these promises.

Continue reading my latest op-ed in the Washington Post.

Bicycling


DC Water proposes sewer improvements, new roads

Major infrastructure projects, such as sewer construction, can cause a lot of disruption without many tangible benefits. But in Upper Northwest, proposed sewer repairs could result in new bike paths and connections to local parks.


Glover Archbold Park today. Photo by l r on Flickr.

DC Water needs to repair disintegrating sewer lines in Glover Archbold Park and the Soapstone Valley, which could include building an access road. Not fixing the lines could cause sewage to build up in the park. But both conservationists and the National Park Service, which owns the land, are afraid that it will require losing trees and disrupting wildlife habitats.

Another proposal, to completely move the pipes and build pumping stations, has residents concerned that DC Water and NPS are not fully considering all policy alternatives. At a public presentation in July, ANC3B Commissioner Mary Young, who represents Cathedral Heights, said the proposal could violate Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. "No one has spoken much about the enormous carbon footprint that the city will face with the pumping stations," she said.

At the meeting, DC Water presented several options for the repairing the sewer. Their intent is to find a way to do so while also preserving parkland. Options include lining the pipes to repair them, daylighting some of the stormwater pipes, removing the lines completely, and building pumping stations.

If the pipes are abandoned and left as they are, sewage could build up in the park and become hazardous to everyone. In an email, DC Water spokesman John Lisle says the existing pipes and manholes are structurally compromised.

While the repairs may be disruptive, they present an opportunity to make it easier to reach Glover Archbold Park and the Soapstone Valley. The proposed pipe lining option will require an access road, which could provide connections to Glover Park. ANC3D Commissioner Kent Slowinski, who represents Wesley Heights, suggests that an access road created in consultation with NPS could have bike lanes and link to the future bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue, creating a direct route between Georgetown and American University.

The access road could accommodate other users as well, like visitors with disabilities. Today, the park is "totally inaccessible" to wheelchairs because of a lack of paved paths, said Young.

As with many infrastructure projects, DC Water and NPS will need to find a solution that creates needed sewer infrastructure while minimizing impacts on the ecosystem and neighbors. But the added benefit of a paved, multi-use path in the park could make this project much more attractive to the community.

Lisle notes that the design process has just started, nor have any decisions been made. It's possible that construction may not happen for at least 2 years, he says. That means now is the best time for the community to weigh in. The National Park Services will take public comments on the proposal until August 18. After that, ANC3B will host representatives from DC Water and NPS at their next meeting September 12.

Bicycling


ANC 3D votes to support bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue

Last night, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3D voted 5-4 to support adding bike lanes to New Mexico Avenue and Tunlaw Road in northwest DC. They also voted in favor of wider sidewalks on Nebraska Avenue, and asked DDOT to do a traffic study of New Mexico Avenue to help improve traffic flow and safety around Ward Circle.


Rendering of proposed bike lane on New Mexico Avenue from Greg Billing of WABA.

Ultimately, both sides on this issue wanted the same thing: a safer, less congested New Mexico Avenue. But some residents and ANC commissioners believed that bike lanes and sharrows would exacerbate the current "chaos" and "Armageddon" on the road.

Supporters, meanwhile, argued the opposite: that the project will bring more order to the street, clearly delineate a space on the road for cyclists, remove cyclists from sidewalks, and make cycling a more attractive option to people who currently drive.

As we wrote yesterday, the bike lanes would improve traffic and make cyclists and pedestrians safer. In the audience, speakers who supported the bike lane outnumbered those who opposed it by 4 to 1.

Supporters said that bicyclists tend to support local retail and that the bike lane is a vital connection between Glover Park, American University and Tenleytown, especially now that the N8 Metrobus between those areas has been canceled.

Opponents, meanwhile, declined to support the lane because DDOT didn't perform a traffic study beforehand, as the ANC had asked in 2011. Some stressed their support for bicycling and environmentalism, and claimed that by opposing the lane, they were actually supporting cyclist safety.

There are some traffic issues on New Mexico Avenue today, like trucks unloading outside the Foxhall Square commercial center and blocking the street. But fixing these problems should not be a precondition to move forward with a bike lane, as opponents say. Commissioner Rory Slatko passionately defended the plan, and said that since bicyclists are already riding on New Mexico Avenue, any additional delay to the project puts them in danger.

While the debate over better bike infrastructure may not be settled, this chapter is over. By supporting bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue, ANC 3D took a positive step to improve conditions for cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians and endorsed a much-needed connection in DC's growing network of bike infrastructure.

Bicycling


Bike lanes on New Mexico Avenue will benefit everyone

Tonight, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3D will vote on a proposal to add bike lanes to Tunlaw Road and New Mexico Avenue between Calvert Street and Nebraska Avenue in Northwest DC. The lanes will benefit cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians alike.


Rendering of proposed bike lane on New Mexico Avenue from Greg Billing of WABA.

New Mexico and Tunlaw form the only connection between two dense but transit-poor neighborhoods, Glover Park and Wesley Heights, and American University and the Department of Homeland Security's campus at Ward Circle.

While New Mexico Avenue is currently signed as a bicycle route, it has no dedicated space for cyclists. Each street has only one lane in each direction, meaning that drivers often get stuck behind bicyclists pedaling up the steep hill on New Mexico near Nebraska Avenue.


Portion of the DC bicycle map showing the New Mexico/Tunlaw route. Click for full map (large PDF).

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) proposes adding a mix of painted bike lanes and sharrows, as the corridor's width changes several times. They do not plan to take away any parking spaces, though planners say they may have to narrow the travel lanes to 10 feet in order to make room for a bike lane.

Portion of plans along the hill, with a bike lane for slow climbing cyclists and sharrows for those riding downhill. Image from DDOT; click for full plans (PDF).

Some have been skeptical about bike lanes

ANC 3B, representing Glover Park and Cathedral Heights, voted to support the proposed bike lanes in February 2011. But ANC 3D, which covers Wesley Heights, Foxhall, and Palisades, voted against it a month earlier. Then-chairman Tom Smith urged DDOT to work closely with the community before going forward.

Since then, current ANC 3D commissioners Mike Gold and Joe Wisniewski and the DC bicycling community have worked with DDOT to improve the plan. Mike Goodno from DDOT's bicycle facilities team discussed it at the board's May meeting, while commissioners held a site visit on New Mexico Avenue with DDOT representatives and local bike commuters in June. DDOT staffers revealed that month that after working with the public, they've decided not to remove any parking spaces on New Mexico Avenue.

However, some residents and ANC commissioners remain skeptical of the DDOT proposal. Many are concerned that bike lanes will add to a sense of chaos in the area and make it more difficult to turn off and onto New Mexico Avenue.

There are also numerous concerns about how the bike lane will coexist with the Foxhall Square commercial center, where delivery trucks frequently park illegally for long stretches in the bus zone. But this an issue with enforcement, not bikes. The building has 3 loading docks in the back and a wide driveway on the side that delivery trucks could use. ANC 3D should press to resolve this, as the illegal deliveries already block a bus zone as well as the sidewalk.

Bicycle lanes will create order, not chaos

We know from experience that drivers can share the road with cyclists. DDOT has built on-street bike lanes throughout the city, most with minimal disruption or confusion. This shouldn't be a contentious proposal, as no travel lanes or parking spaces are being lost. ANC 3D has pressed DDOT for answers and compromise at 3 public meetings, and DDOT has responded and adjusted its plans to address citizen concerns.

Rather than create chaos, the bike lane helps to create order. Cyclists get a dedicated right of way, keeping them safe and separate from drivers, which is particularly important on the steep hill south of Nebraska Avenue where the speed difference between the two modes is the greatest.

It will also keep cyclists off the sidewalk, making it safer for pedestrians, especially senior citizens and young children. And by making the area more attractive for walking and biking, fewer people will drive, leaving more road space for those who prefer to drive.

DC has embarked on an ambitious program to add bike lanes and infrastructure throughout the city, and New Mexico Avenue and Tunlaw Road are an important part of making a citywide network. ANC 3D has done its job deliberating about this issue and hosting community meetings, and DDOT has done its job being responsive and improving its proposal. Now it is time for ANC 3D to support this worthwhile proposal to improve bicycle infrastructure in Ward 3.

Pedestrians


Residents, officials push utilities to fix damaged sidewalks

When utilty companies tear up sidewalks in the District, they often don't put them back. The resulting bumps and holes make annoying or often hazardous obstacles for pedestrians. Residents and leaders in Glover Park have been pushing for fixes, and getting results.


Photo by HÃ¥kon K. Olafsen on Flickr.

Local groups are trying to make their neighborhood better for pedestrians. Glover Park Village, a nonprofit that supports seniors, proposed placing benches so they could take breaks. Volunteers created a snow shoveling service to clear sidewalks for older residents. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 3B is trying to get funding for pedestrian safety improvements identified in a 2007 transportation study.

So when residents began to see dangerous holes and temporary asphalt patches on Tunlaw Road and Benton Street after Pepco removed old utility poles and DC Water repaired a fire hydrant, they reached out to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), which stepped in to get them fixed.

"By the time the construction permit expires, full restoration of the concrete is expected and required by regulation," said Elliot Garrett, Chief Public Space Enforcement Officer at DDOT. The agency successfully got DC Water to replace the concrete sidewalks along Tunlaw Road. It allowed the Benton Street hole to remain until DC Water's construction permit ended 2 months later, by which time DC Water restored the sidewalk.

After the early successes, Garrett assured the community that DDOT would investigate every location someone reported. Glover Park residents kicked off a comprehensive effort to identify every sidewalk with unfinished utility construction.

Hole the in sidewalk at 39th Street and Calvert Place NW. Photo by anonymous volunteer.

Articles on the listserv and in the Glover Park Gazette encouraged residents to report problem locations. One resident, who asked to remain anonymous, volunteered to take a photo of every location to assist DDOT with their investigation.

For each location, residents created a 311 ticket using the online tool SeeClickFix to specify the location, describe the specific problem and upload a photo. Within hours or a day at most, each report gets a 311 tracking number. And residents created an online spreadsheet and a shared folder containing information and photos of each location.

Initially, the neighborhood submitted 24 sidewalk problems into the District's 311 system for evaluation. Nearly all of them were near telephone poles, water valve covers or appeared to be utility repairs. A few of the locations, however, were near recently fallen trees and probably unrelated to utilities.


Temporary asphalt patch in 2100 block of 37th Street NW.

DDOT promptly inspected each location. In 17 of 24 instances, officials assigned responsibility to utility companies: 12 for Pepco, 3 for Washington Gas and 2 for DC Water. DDOT assigned work orders to itself for the remaining 7, some of which were due to fallen trees and others for which the agency could not determine responsibility. Residents added 3 more locations later, which are pending further DDOT investigation.

Most of the agencies responsible for damaging the sidewalk restored several locations to their original state. Others no longer have a valid construction permit. For these, the utilities are required to apply for a new permit and complete the restoration in accordance with DDOT standards.

How are utilities held accountable for restoring sidewalks, streets or other public spaces? According to DDOT spokesperson Monica Hernandez, the agency has public space inspectors who "routinely monitor their respective wards for any public space work, whether done under permit or not."


Partial asphalt patch near water valve in 2100 block of Tunlaw Road NW.

Glover Park residents found 17 places where utilities hadn't properly repaired the sidewalks, meaning there could be hundreds of temporary or unfinished repairs citywide. DDOT says that they have enough inspectors, technology and training in place to make utilities responsible for their work, and does outreach work to get them to finish it.

Hernandez says that once reported, DDOT typically resolves sidewalk repair requests within 45 days, unless permitting processes or contractor mobilization cause delays. DDOT continues to hold monthly meetings with utility companies to coordinate work and highlight opportunities to ensure repairs are done on time and to their standards.

Does your neighborhood have sidewalks with unfinished utility company work? Have you reported the repairs to DDOT using SeeClickFix or 311? Have the issues been completely resolved within a timely manner?

Roads


DDOT bows to pressure, removes Wisconsin Ave. median

Last week, DC officials quietly reversed their recent traffic calming project in Glover Park and began removing a new median on Wisconsin Avenue.


New left-turn lanes in Glover Park. Photo from DDOT.

With the Glover Park ANC's support, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) replaced one lane on Wisconsin between 35th and Garfield streets with a painted median in January to calm traffic and improve pedestrian safety. However, a number of residents who drive through Glover Park, including Councilmember Jack Evans (Ward 2, including Georgetown), pushed to reverse the move.

DDOT previously said their plan was to leave the median in place long enough to study it, but in the face of pressure, the agency suddenly began removing the median between Calvert and Garfield streets. Drivers struck 2 pedestrians each year in this stretch between 2008 and 2010. DDOT spokesperson Monica Hernandez says the change is "permanent" and that "the plan is to monitor pedestrian safety going forward."

Community supported median on Wisconsin Avenue

ANC 3B, which contains Glover Park, endorsed the median after a long vetting process. In June 2009, DDOT and its consultants at Toole Design Group recommended replacing one through lane with a center left turn median lane. Studies from the Office of Planning and DDOT found that it would increase pedestrian safety, calm traffic and direct it to the commercial strip by removing turning cars from the through lanes.

While DDOT originally proposed a raised median, ANC 3B advocated to start with painted medians so DDOT could study their effect and make changes if needed. After multiple ANC meetings and ample discussion on the Glover Park listserv, DDOT finally completed the painted median in January. Some neighbors immediately began to question the new median's impact on local businesses and whether it had just pushed traffic onto other streets.

Despite some complaints, most Glover Park residents agreed that the new configuration made it safer to move around Wisconsin Avenue, whether by car, foot or transit. The Glover Park ANC was also supportive, though they advocated for continued study and tweaks to reduce congestion.

Political pressure trumps collecting data

DDOT offered to study traffic delays for a year and look at ways to change the light timing, signage and enforcement to reduce congestion, but opponents said that was too long to wait.

Evans kept pressure up on the issue, including railing against it at public forums. He made regular phone calls to Councilmember Mary Cheh (Ward 3, which includes Glover Park) while driving through the area, which he traverses several times a day to take his kids to and from their home in Georgetown.

When DDOT presented preliminary results of traffic studies showing that the median only added 1-2 minutes to driving time, Evans was incredulous. "If we were talking about just a couple minutes, we wouldn't be here," he said.

Last week, DDOT quietly began removing part of the median. The agency made this decision without telling residents of Glover Park or ANC 3B. DDOT spokesperson Monica Hernandez says they acted based on "direction provided by those at the May 1 hearing."

ANC members are disappointed in DDOT's change of heart. "It's outrageous that DDOT would make this change without considering its impacts on pedestrian safety and traffic flow and without consulting with the community most affected by the modifications," said ANC 3B chair Brian Cohen.

Cohen also says Evans' involvement shifted the decision from safety-focused to political. "The change from data-gathering to simply reversing DDOT clearly happened when Councilmember Evans inserted himself into the issue," said Cohen. "Jack Evans hasn't shown the slightest interest in the well-being and safety of the people who live, work, and play in Glover Park. ... It's galling that he's been given carte blanche to make decisions that undermine pedestrian safety in our community."

The Wisconsin Avenue median was the result of extensive study, community discussion, and eventually community buy-in. It's disappointing that DDOT would subvert its own process and put pedestrians at risk based on political pressure. Glover Park residents deserve better treatment from their officials and elected leaders.

Pedestrians


Georgetowners seek to overturn Glover Park traffic calming

Upset Georgetown residents are challenging a 2012 traffic calming project in Glover Park. They say it has lengthened their car commutes through that adjacent neighborhood. Monday, these residents will air their frustrations at an extraordinary Georgetown ANC meeting with Councilmembers Jack Evans and Mary Cheh and DDOT Director Terry Bellamy.


New left-turn lanes in Glover Park. Photo from DDOT.

The idea for traffic calming project began years ago. The Glover Park ANC, after hearing constituents bemoan the state of retail in Glover Park, complained to the city about their commercial district's struggles.

The Office of Planning studied the area in 2006. That report found that cars speed through Glover Park, particularly going downhill on Wisconsin, which makes it dangerous to the pedestrians who patronize Glover Park businesses.

2-3 pedestrians are struck each year on Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park. In fact, after a driver hit a Georgetown woman and her dog in Glover Park, commissioner Ed Solomon of the Georgetown ANC said, "I would hope that this accident would result in a comprehensive review on the safety concerns that this community has about this section of Wisconsin Avenue."

It's precisely this hostile pedestrian environment, concluded the Office of Planning, that reduces pedestrian traffic to retailers in Glover Park.

DDOT concludes median could reduce congestion and boost pedestrian safety

The Glover Park ANC then asked DDOT in 2009 for a follow-up study about making Glover Park more welcoming for pedestrians. DDOT collected tons of data on traffic at all times of day and days of the week, and reached some interesting conclusions.

The data showed that Wisconsin Avenue in Glover Park actually suffers from both congestion and speeding, due to the many left turns. When drivers are turning left they block the lanes and cause congestion; when they don't, people speed and pedestrians are at risk.

DDOT's engineering models showed that adding a middle left-turn lane would both reduce congestion and also speeding. It would calm traffic (with a single through lane) and eliminate left-turn lane blocking (with the turn lane). The models estimated that the project would not change the time to drive though Glover Park.

Officals presented these results at numerous public meetings. Anyone who was remotely involved in civic affairs by reading public meeting notices, attending ANC meetings, or talking to their ANC commissioners knew about it.

Changes aren't complete

DDOT then began the construction, and some residents in Glover Park and Georgetown complained about traffic spilling over into adjacent neighborhood streets. That was a legitimate complaint, and there is a poorly-designed intersection at 37th & Tunlaw that invites drivers to cut through adjacent neighborhood streets.

Fortunately, DDOT's study had a recommendation for that. It suggested reconfiguring 37th and Tunlaw to calm traffic and reduce cut-through traffic. That project is not done yet; it's scheduled to be completed in March.

The construction on Wisconsin, however, largely finished early this year, but the center median containing the left-turn lanes is only painted for now. That's because DDOT is spending a year measuring the results and tweaking different things like light timing, enforcement, and so on.

Changes already help some pedestrians, frustrate some drivers

Pedestrians are already feeling the benefits. It's far less stressful crossing and walking along Wisconsin Avenue. Families with children in particular report less anxiety about walking around Glover Park to popular destinations like the Guy Mason playground and area restaurants.

When the year of tweaks and study ends, DDOT will replace the painted medians between the left-turn areas with raised medians. This will be even better for pedestrian activity, because crossing Wisconsin Avenue will be safer and less threatening with a central raised median.

However, a vocal minority of drivers who prioritize a few seconds of driving time over pedestrian safety have won their first battle to reverse this project. They have secured an audience with two Councilmembers and the DDOT Director at Monday's Georgetown ANC meeting.

DDOT Program Manager Paul Hoffman says that "early returns" of data collection indicate that through time is the same for drivers headed north through Glover Park, but 30 seconds longer on average going south.

If the opponents are successful in repaving Wisconsin Avenue to add the lost through lanes, DC will not only have to pay for the repaving. We will have to pay the federal government back for the money it contributed to the project.

Use the form below and attend Monday's meeting to ask the councilmembers and Georgetown ANC commissioners to give the Glover Park traffic calming project time to succeed. The ANC meeting takes place on Monday, March 4, 6:30 pm at Georgetown Visitation School on 35th Street and Volta Place. The meeting is on the 2nd floor of the main building, in the Heritage Room.

Speak up for safety

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