Traffic changes are coming to the Rock Creek Church Road area

A bird's eye view of the intersections (photo: Google)

by Jonah Goodman
Commissioner, ANC 4C10

The DC Department of Transportation recently released a series of recommendations to address traffic flow and traffic calming in the neighborhood off of Rock Creek Church Road (between Webster and Upshur Streets).

DDOT has made various changes in the neighborhood over the past decade with ripple effects throughout the neighborhood. As a result of these previous issues, DDOT has been conducting a somewhat more holistic look at traffic that primarily is coming from North Capitol and passing through the Petworth neighborhood to get to larger corridors like New Hampshire Ave, Georgia Ave, and potentially 14th Street.

There are three areas of recommendations:

  1. Traffic flow on Webster, Varnum, and Upshur Streets
  2. Traffic speed and safety along Rock Creek Church Road
  3. Traffic speed and safety along Upshur Street

There are a lot of specific details about certain components of the recommendations. In an attempt to keep this as brief as possible some are excluded. I’d be glad to answer any specific questions either in the comments or you are welcome to contact me via email.

The most challenging of the three areas of recommendations for the most neighbors is traffic flow, meaning the direction of roads. Webster and Varnum Streets both change direction within their respective 100 and 200 blocks. There is a mix of one way and two way roads as well as a mix of direction of the one way roads that is causing an increase of traffic not understanding flow and traveling the wrong direction in parts of the neighborhood.

DDOT’s recommended traffic flow changes (DDOT)

DDOT is recommending that Webster return to a westbound road from Rock Creek Church Road through to New Hampshire. They are also recommending the 100 block of Webster become a two-way street. DDOT then wants to “pair” the street with Varnum traveling eastbound for the same span from Grant Circle to Rock Creek Church. The 400 block of Varnum will stay a two-way street.

Rock Creek Church Road has seen many side-swiped or totaled cars from traffic traveling south/west along Rock Creek Church Road and losing control near the two bends in the road. There are a lot of planning problems here that contribute to many safety issues:

  • Rock Creek Church Road from North Capitol to Webster spans an extremely wide area, nearly forty feet for just two lanes, leading to a lot of aggressive driving
  • An existing traffic light is placed at Harewood Road as a relic from prior traffic flows. Due to the direction of roads the light does not control any traffic. The light is 200 feet from Webster where there are significant traffic control needs.
  • The north/eastbound H8 and 60 bus stop is placed on the Armed Forces Retirement Home side of Varnum and Rock Creek Church. However, there is no crosswalks at Varnum for pedestrians to access the bus stop.

As a result DDOT is looking at several changes here, though details are light right now. DDOT has discussed these potential options:

  • Asking WMATA to move their bus stop to Webster
  • Using raised crosswalks at Webster, via speed tables
  • Reducing the speed of cars traveling south/west on Rock Creek Church by visibly narrowing the road as it approaches Harewood and Webster Streets. At a minimum this involves painting no parking/driving hatching on the curb sides.
  • Painting parking boxes along Rock Creek Church to visually show drivers their lanes
  • Painting shared lane markings for bicycles and cars
  • Using rumble strips
  • Moving the traffic light from Harewood to Webster
  • Fixing the accessible ramps at Webster, Rock Creek Church and Harewood

Some of the potential changes to the Rock Creek Church Road and Webster Street intersection. Highlighting (in yellow) the relocation of the eastbound bus stop, raised crosswalks, and narrowing of Rock Creek Church Road lanes before Webster. (Image: DDOT)

With the above changes to Webster and Varnum, DDOT expects Upshur to have an increase in traffic volume. As we know from past crashes or near misses involving pedestrians and cyclists versus vehicles along Upshur, traffic calming and safety improvements are needed. DDOT is planning to install curb extensions at 3rd, 4th, and Illinois along Upshur.

Curb extensions bring the curb out into the parking lane to attempt to achieve a few things:

  • Makes pedestrians more visible by bringing them in front of parked cars
  • Reduces the distance pedestrians need to cross on Upshur
  • Visibly narrows Upshur at intersections to hopefully reduce their speed and make them more aware of their surroundings
  • Prevent vehicles from making fast and sharp turns by having to make a tighter turn

Existing curb extensions or “bulb-outs” at Taylor St and Georgia Avenue NW (Image: Google)

These will likely be a quick install using flexible posts, such as the ones marking lanes in Grant Circle. Once DDOT can budget for a permanent solution they will form these out of concrete as full extensions of the sidewalks.

The next step is for DDOT to officially publish their recommendations.

Once published that starts a 30-day window for community feedback. There are a lot of details we have not seen yet, so feedback will be important to ensure DDOT understands the full impact of any proposed changes. After the 30-day window for feedback and any revisions, DDOT will start to post notices of upcoming changes and then implementing those changes.

DDOT plans to constantly be reviewing traffic volume, traffic speed, and community feedback for the short term before making any temporary changes.

You can email Commissioner Jonah Goodman with questions.