One measure of Chick-fil-A’s success, at restaurants across the country, is the line at the drive-thru. DDOT’s planners have concerns about that.
This company would not be making a substantial investment in what’s currently the Burger King at 4422 Connecticut Avenue if it did not see the new restaurant doing a brisk business at this location. But one thing Chick-fil-A has not revealed is how it intends to manage all the vehicle traffic it will attract.
A Chick-fil-A that opened at a busy intersection in Bellevue, Washington, last April was still snarling traffic a month later.
From April 16-30, off-duty Bellevue police officers put in nearly 297 hours in overtime costs providing traffic control for the restaurant, at a cost of $23,122 for Chick-fil-A owner Valerie Artis….
“How many of you thought it would take more police officers to open a Chick-fil-A than to open a marijuana dispensary?” said Councilmember John Chelminiak.” – Bellevue Reporter
A few weeks later, another Chick-fil-A opening 20 miles to the north of Bellevue had area police and residents bracing for “chicken chaos.”
Imagine what it might do along a major commuter route through the District. DDOT has estimated more than 37,000 cars travel down Connecticut on any given weekday, and Chick-fil-A expects more than half of its business will come through the drive-thru.
Complicating the traffic issue is the Flagship Car Wash next door, which struggles to manage the vehicle traffic it attracts. Its weekend and rush-hour business already gums up the works at the intersection of Connecticut and Albemarle Street, especially when the line of cars winds around onto Albemarle. Those cars force other vehicles to use the left hand turn lane to drive through the intersection or make right hand turns.
DDOT’s Public Space Committee will consider these factors and more as it looks at whether to grant the permits Chick-fil-A needs for the drive-thru.
Ryan Westrom is the DDOT planner in charge of vetting the Chick-fil-A traffic plan and public space elements for the site. Among his concerns:
- The Chick-fil-A drive-thru and car wash traffic blocking traffic lanes during morning and evening rush hours.
- Northbound drivers on Connecticut attempting to make left turns into the drive-thru, and then making another left from the drive-thru exit.
Westrom explained to me that when there is a change of use at a site, curb cuts are not grandfathered in. Chick-fil-A expects to continue to use the drive-thru, so that’s not a change, but Westrom should investigate whether attracting more traffic, much more than Burger King does or has done in the past, constitutes a change of use in this situation.
A change of use finding could require Chick-fil-A to bring the driveway into compliance with current engineering standards. The regulations state:
“When changes occur at a property due to redevelopment and when the proposed principal use for the property will be different from that prior to the redevelopment, all existing driveways shall be restored with new curb and gutter, tree space and sidewalk to current DDOT standards. Any existing attached curb cut proposed for the new use shall be applied for as a new curb cut and driveway at the DDOT public space permit office.” (Section 18.104.22.168 of DDOT’s Design and Engineering Manual)
Current DDOT standards require that curb cuts be at least 24 feet apart on a major arterial such as Connecticut. The curb cut on the north side of Burger King is only four feet from the car wash entrance.
Westrom has requested that Chick-fil-A do a traffic study to address these concerns and to explore the option of entering the drive thru from the alley running parallel to Connecticut behind the property. He acknowledges that the alley presents constraints, as well. It is not clear whether it could handle the additional traffic.
DDOT is working with the company on a scope of work for the traffic study, and is committed to seeking the safest solution possible. Westrom expects that it will take about two months for Chick-fil-A and his office to reach a recommendation.
The DDOT Public Space Committee can choose whether or not to follow the recommendations put forth by the various stakeholders. For now, it’s scheduled to discuss Chick-fil-A’s permit applications at its January 28th meeting. Westrom thinks February or even March is more likely.
The community can follow the permitting process on the TOPS (Transportation Online Permitting System). Use the tracking number 116016.
Victoria Cordova says
I am very concerned about the very negative effect on the traffic situation if the Chic-fil-A is allowed to come into the Connecticut Ave. spot. Albemarle Street is already being impacted by cars crossing Connecticut to continue on to Wisconsin. The alley cannot bear more traffic than it already has, given Days Inn, the car wash and car rental office. It now hampers the free flow of Albemarle into Conn. Ave., especially given the left=turn lane, which often is impacted by cars parking along ASlbemarle to close to Conn. Ave. This is a real recipe for disaster! victoria cordova (4414 35th St. NW.
Based upon my rudimentary calculations using average sales and volume at an average CFA, we are looking at at least 250,000 crossings of the Conn Ave. sidewalk by cars per year. That is insane and a huge pedestrian hazard!
Adrian Salsgiver says
Doe anybody know if Chick-fil-A serves “Auschwitz Chicken”, the kind of industrial chicken gone insane because it has been put into a tiny cage and tortured, and then you are supposed to eat it?
As the photos demonstrate, that carwash is a menace to public safety. The little thing they did on the alley side to narrow it to one lane (does it have permits?) doesn’t do much to help.
If these concerns manage to drive Chick-Fil-A out of its decision to build a popular business in Van Ness, it will have an adverse effect on any other business that is considering the area. NIMBYism is poison to businesses, especially independent ones that cannot afford the cost of lawyers to battle neighborhood complaints or regulatory delays.
Well no matter what the Chik Fil A would be a huge improvement over the tired Burger King…..
Michael Chorost says
I see no reason why Forest Hlls should welcome a notoriously conservative, anti-gay business into our neighborhood. Chik-Fil-A has donated to the Family Research Council, among others. It is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. A long list of its donations can be found here:
We do not need to fund and support the business of bigotry in our neighborhood. Let Chik-Fil-A peddle its sandwiches elsewhere.
“If these concerns manage to drive Chick-Fil-A out of its decision to build a popular business in Van Ness, it will have an adverse effect on any other business that is considering the area. NIMBYism is poison to businesses, especially independent ones that cannot afford the cost of lawyers to battle neighborhood complaints or regulatory delays.”
Not “any other business,” just ones that want insist on the unpopular drive thru. The opposition from the neighborhood has been very clear: the foremost concern is the drive thru. It has been fairly welcoming otherwise. There are other complaints specific to Chic-Fil-A, but that isn’t going to scare off non-Chic-Fil-A businesses either. I guess Hobby Lobby will also be chased off by that segment.
Clearly the two just-announced businesses in the new building weren’t deterred, nor was Bread Furst, nor is there any current business feeling adverse affects from neighborhood opposition.
Further, reducing the walkability and increasing traffic as laid out in the Van Ness Vision reduces the value of the neighborhood for current businesses, residents, and prospective non-auto oriented businesses.
Bottom Line, fighting to improve the affect on the neighborhood of the current plans of one business is not detrimental or poisonous.
George Hofmann says
This notorious, racist, right-wing chain should not be given so much as a how- do-you- do here.
And the traffic woulde be a nightmare, as others have noted.
Hate to say it, but if you check the political contributions of, say, Days Inn or Quiznos or Subway I’d bet they lean republican too….as businesses tend to do.
Travis Price says
Let’s not get too Chicken Little here.
Mario U says
There is already too much traffic chaos at Albemarle and Connecticut. And this does not mix well with the increasing number of young children in the area, especially those crossing Connecticut in their way to/from the Montessori school across the street.
This Chic-fill-a is not going to be a good thing for the residents.
What every commenter seems to neglect, is the disgusting, derelict current restaurant (if you can call it that). This place has failed restaurant health checks several times and had to be closed for a few days this year. If you don’t want “traffic” on Connecticut avenue in Washington DC, then it may be time to reevaluate your living location.
Travis Price says
Indeed a good point. Honestly , nobody wants any driveways ideally, but this exists, it hasn’;t hurt anyone to date and hardly will. This rejection is largely a veiled disdain for fast food. Let’s not kid ourselves. Of course we’d all like more BreadFursts, but the reality is that getting CFA to simply make a better urban site is something we should encourage, not demand.