Painting safety into Grant Circle

Will paint and pylons keep drivers from zipping around Grant Circle, nearly running over pedestrians and driving with a little more sense of calm and respect? DDOT thinks so.

Over the past couple of weeks, ANC 4C Commissioners Joe Martin and Kathleen Crowley, along with several residents including myself, have contacted DDOT looking for clarification on the status of the Pedestrian Safety Plan (see my prior article) for Grant Circle. This plan called for some rather large changes to the Circle, including eliminating the inside driving lane (replacing with brick), and adding curb bump-outs to direct vehicles turning into and out of the Circle and provide a shorter lane to transverse for pedestrians. I'm a fan of this plan, but do have questions on the impact the restrictions on the travel lanes could do to vehicles trying to enter the Circle. Will one travel lane create backups?

So I contacted DDOT on June 22nd asking for an update to the plan, and following-up on a series of emails sent by residents over the past year and a half who had been asking for status and updates, urging DDOT to take action. I heard back from Keith St. Clair, the acting Director of Communications, the same day saying that DDOT will review the emails I sent them and get back to me "shortly."  I still haven't heard anything.

Instead, DDOT looks like they want to go forward with a plan (called Notice of Intent 15-113-TOA) to paint new lines and add pylons on the Circle to guide parking and ingress and egress. DDOT approached Commissioner Martin and a few others with this proposal (I received a copy). 

The plan calls for painting new lines for parking around the Circle (presumably constraining cars to the interior of the travel lanes), instead of the current situation of lanes that look wider than they are in reality. They'll paint bumpouts around 5th and Illinois on the north and south sides, and paint exit "lanes" along New Hampshire, 5th and Illinios. I don't have any idea where pylons would go, or what they would look like.

Proposed locations of new painted lines around Grant Circle, intended to slow and guide vehicular traffic. Not sure where the pylons would go.

According to the Notice of Intent:

"In an effort to better clarify the ingress and egress points for Grant Circle, and to potentially slow down vehicles as they enter, exit, and travel through the circle, DDOT is proposing to provide channelization markings and pylons at the yield controlled access points to the circle. Additionally, DDOT will provide markings within the circle to slightly narrow and better channelize the existing lanes and separate out the parking areas."

While this might make it more obvious the the outside lane of the Circle is to be used to exit the Circle, and the interior lane to travel around the Circle, I'm not clear on how this resolves the pedestrian safety issue. The crosswalks are very long, especially at New Hampshire and Illinois where most of the traffic enters and exists. Time and again we hear the same story from residents: they attempt to cross the street, and while a car may stop for them, other cars zoom around the stopped car, putting life and limb in jeopardy.

It's a long walk across the Circle -- and the current width of the lanes makes it easier for cars to weave around as they drive. 

There's been a call to have DDOT come to ANC 4C's July meeting and present this new proposed solution (presented by Gregg Steverson, in DDOT's Transportation Operations Administration). This met some resistance from an ANC commissioner (not sure why), so the first step DDOT wants to take is to meet with the ANC commissioners and some residents to discuss the proposed changes. That meeting is still TBD I believe. (Update: I first wrote DDOT met with Commissioner Crowley today, but I believe that was on a different issue.)

Commissioner Joe Martin said, regarding the Notice of Intent, "I do not believe pavement markings alone will provide traffic-calming. If drivers already ignore pedestrians' right-of-way, how will pavement markings alone make a difference?"

I lent my vocal support to have DDOT present at the next ANC meeting. I think that's a better way of communicating to residents, and hearing valuable feedback from a larger group of residents. After all, I don't live on the Circle (or in SMDs 4C10 or 09) yet I walk across the Circle almost every week. I'd use the Circle more if I wasn't concerned my family would play "dodge-car" when trying to safely cross. I know I'm not alone in this, and many people want to know what the plans are to create a better way for vehicles to move through the area, and pedestrians to cross.

More to come? Hope so.

See the follow-up articles in this series: