by Marlene Berlin
A complicated dance happens daily at 40th Street and Albemarle, as buses, cars, pedestrians and a few cyclists try to negotiate the intersection. DDOT and WMATA are the choreographers, and the drivers and pedestrians make up their own moves as well. The result is confusing and dangerous.
This intersection is controlled in part by a one-way stop sign at Albemarle, for traffic heading south on 40th.
Buses and cars heading north on Fort Drive (a jog step from 40th) to Albemarle also have a stop sign.
Problems arise as buses standing on 40th and parked cars on Albemarle block drivers’ views of vehicle and pedestrian traffic coming from the east on Albemarle.
And the problem throughout is that many drivers forget that pedestrians have the right of way, whether crossing in marked or unmarked crosswalks at the intersection. Add cyclists to the mix (and vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist collisions), and the dynamics of intersection call for a major redesign.
It started out as an education event, with police talking to drivers who were not stopping at the stop bar for the stop sign, and pedestrians who were darting out in front of buses to cross the street.
As the traffic increased, the officers realized that stopping motorists would create an even more hazardous situation. Unlike a previous event held in April, they became de facto traffic controllers, helping cars and pedestrians cross the intersection without ricocheting off each other. The biggest impediment was an American University bus at the corner of 40th and Albemarle, blocking sight lines of drivers, who then rolled into the crosswalk and created an obstacle for Metrobuses to skirt around.American University has long used this spot to load and unload passengers, but its buses often sit here longer than they’re supposed to. In fact, it’s illegal for them to park or idle so close to this stop sign on the corner of 40th and Albemarle. The law provides for only a “momentary” stop here. Moving the AU bus stop from this place to further north on 40th Street would improve sightlines and might provide some relief.
Those who gathered here for the safety event agreed, though, that a more permanent fix for this intersection is needed and has been too long in coming. And it’s been actually been targeted for redesign for years. DDOT made some recommendations in its February 2011 Rock Creek West Livability Study (PDF, see pages 71-72). Last March, WMATA released yet another study of this intersection (PDF, see maps of proposed changes on pages 22, 25 and 28), which does not take into consideration bus stop location and its impact on conflicts between pedestrians and motorists in any of its three recommendations.
DDOT’s George Branyan reported on June 3rd that WMATA and DDOT have agreed to a trial run for a new AU bus stop location behind the Metro bus stop.
And Steve Strauss at DDOT, who has been involved with the WMATA study, says that there will be a public comment period for that study. He will be contacting ANC 3F to include them in these meetings.
Many of us interact with this intersection on a daily or weekly basis, during commutes and treks to restaurants and shopping in Tenleytown. What are your suggestions for making this a safer intersection?