by Marlene Berlin
The District hasn’t conducted a comprehensive study of Connecticut Avenue in 15 years. In about 15 months, we could have a new perspective of vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian safety on the Avenue, the reversible lanes, and the impacts on neighborhood streets and nearby arterials if reversible lanes were to be eliminated and bike lanes installed.
At a November 26th community meeting hosted by ANC 3F, DDOT Transportation Planner Robyn Jackson explained the timeline and scope of the study. In six months, DDOT expects to hire a firm to study Connecticut Avenue traffic between 24th Street north to Legation. Nine months after that, it’s to receive the study results. Then, DDOT is to decide on a course of action and secure funding.
On Connecticut Avenue, the reversible lanes shift according to a timer. From 7 to 9:30 a.m. on weekdays, signs light up telling drivers bound for downtown DC that they get four of the six lanes. From 4 to 6:30 p.m., drivers heading north on Connecticut get four lanes.
Their proponents say the lanes are necessary to keep cars moving, and without them, more drivers will end up on neighborhood streets in an attempt to avoid gridlock. Opponents say the lanes are confusing and have caused a number of crashes over the years. Drive or walk Connecticut Avenue during the lane shift, and you’ll often see drivers heading the wrong way.
Connecticut Avenue will be the primary focus, but the study will look also at impacts on adjacent streets and arterials as far west as Wisconsin Avenue, east to Broad Branch Road, south to Dupont Circle, and north to Western Avenue. Computer models will be used to simulate potential traffic impacts of removing the reversible lane on neighborhood streets. Community members suggested broadening the scope to include Nebraska and Nevada Avenues, Reno Road, Brandywine, Davenport and Albemarle Streets, and Linnean Avenue.
The attendees also called for Connecticut Avenue’s “optimization” for pedestrians and cyclists as well as motorists, and brought up traffic speeds as a major safety concern for all modes of transportation. The use of speed cameras and narrower lanes like those on Connecticut north of Chevy Chase Circle were two suggestions for solving the speed issue. The addition of a bike lane was also suggested as a way to slow down cars.
Jim Sebastian, DDOT’s associate director for planning and sustainability, also attended and participated in the discussion. He said the study will include an environmental assessment – not just on the impact on the environment, but on the road users.
Sebastian also said any plan will have to be approved the Federal Highway Administration since Connecticut Avenue is a federal highway and federal funds will be used for this project. This brought up the issue of how much clout Maryland and Montgomery County will have in the plan that gets implemented. This is yet an unknown.
Two committees will provide input as the study progresses: an advisory committee including ANC Commissioners whose single member districts overlap the study areas, and an interagency steering committee. DDOT would invite WMATA, DC Water, the Office of Planning and the Department of Energy and the Environment to participate.
Robyn Jackson is collecting comments from the community through December 5th at 202-671-5110 and firstname.lastname@example.org. The public’s next chance to offer comment will be at two public meetings. There will be a kickoff meeting at the beginning of the study and a workshop about study findings.