Glover Park Streetscape Improvements Should be Carried On to Georgetown

As discussed here back in November, Glover Park is about to undertake a significant transportation project to improve its streetscape and traffic management. The project will do many things. On the most superficial level, it will beautify the sidewalks by widening them and installing new Washington Globe streetlights.

But more fundamentally, the project will take the stretch of Wisconsin Ave. and adjust how traffic flows. Right now, through most of Glover Park there are six traffic lanes, two of which are for parking, the other four for moving traffic. The change will reduce the overall lanes to (essentially) five lanes. Two lanes for parking (except during rush hour), two lanes for moving traffic, and one lane at each intersection for turning traffic.

These changes will be great. While it is true that it means only one north-south travel lane in each direction during non-rush hour times, the reality is that with cars waiting to turn left, there is often only one travel lane as it is. This will smooth out the flow of traffic since you’ll no longer get stuck behind a car turning left when you want to go straight.

The only problem with this plan is that it stops at Whitehaven. Unless the changes are brought down to 34th St., Wisconsin Ave. will have a single block that stretches out to six lanes. This makes no sense. It forces an unnecessary merger in front of the Safeway when Wisconsin goes down to four lanes across . This is already the case and it already causes “friction” which causes more congestion than would occur if the six lane-block were not there. Keeping a consistent lane setup from Glover Park all the way down to Georgetown will provide for a much smoother traffic flow.

Furthermore, this system of having only four lanes plus a turn lane ought to be considered for the whole of Wisconsin through Georgetown. For the most part it already is the case that there are only two lanes in each direction, but south of N St. the road become five lanes. A left turn lane at M St. certainly makes sense, but it doesn’t need to be essentially a two block long lane.

Alternatively, Wisconsin between R and Reservoir is actually only two lanes across. It should probably be broken up into four lanes with a left turn lane at R. As it is, cars race down this unnecessarily wide section and many act as if there already is a second travel lane in each direction and illegally pass cars that have the temerity of driving safely. By painting a second lane in each direction, this stretch would be much safer.

The biggest concern some people have with these changes are the possible effects they’d have on spillover traffic through the side streets. That’s a real concern, but many of these changes will actually make traffic flow more smoothly. Moreover, DDOT’s traffic engineers found that no material increase to traffic through the side streets would occur. Nonetheless, it is something worth monitoring

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Glover Park Streetscape Improvements Should be Carried On to Georgetown

  1. RNM

    Agree that the one block left out between the constricted portion of the real upper Georgetown section of Wisconsin Ave and Glover Park’s beauty project at the expense of traffic flow is odd and probably should be addressed.

    This will certainly impact traffic in the neighborhood streets. I already peel off at 37th unless I see clear sailing through Glover Park and taking pipes out of the system just means the water will jam up and find somewhere else to flow (as opposed to just abandoning cars and getting bikes).

    If you factor in the delivery vehicles, often wider than the parking lane as is, and the congestion that will be created when the one and only lane of north/south bound will be backed up by someone trying to park. This just seems like a plan to force traffic off of that stretch and into the neighborhood streets. Beware of unintended or maybe intended consequences.

    The reality is we all live in a CITY which will have traffic and is limited by the historical choices and development. The space between the buildings, where those streets are, isn’t getting any wider so if people want wide sidwalks and turn lanes then cutting out some of the vital pipes is the only option. Of course maybe they could just close the road all together like PA Ave in front of the white house and build a public park, a choice that still creates unneeded traffic issues downtown for minimal security gain. No matter what choice is made it wilil not be all good.

  2. Dizzy

    The only problem with this plan is that it stops at Whitehaven. Unless the changes are brought down to 34th St., Wisconsin Ave. will have a single block that stretches out to six lanes. This makes no sense.

    Well, it makes no sense from a traffic design/urban planning perspective. It makes a great deal of sense from a political context perspective. Whitehaven is the border between Wards and ANCs. I think the folks at DDOT understood they were going to have a hard enough time getting this past one ANC/combination of neighborhood groups, much less two.

    With regard to your point that spillover traffic onto side streets is a “real concern” and RNM’s comment that “taking pipes out of the system just means the water will jam up and find somewhere else to flow” – I hate to sound like the High Priest of the Urbanist Inquisition here, but that’s kind of the point. The idea of complete streets and a highly developed complete street grid network is to diffuse traffic across many streets, rather than bottling it all up on a few thoroughfares, which inevitably will have congestion, which will breed demands from drivers that the road be expanded, which induces greater demand, wash, rinse, repeat.

    There will, of course, be opposition from some people within the street grid, who believe that their streets are “residential” and therefore should be off-limits to public transportation or, really, any vehicles other than their own and those of their guests (especially with regard to parking).

    Georgetown’s case obviously has the specific problem that a big chunk of the traffic heading southbound at peak times is all going to one place (Key Bridge), and there’s only a few real routes (Wisconsin to M, down 34th, down 35th and over on Prosect to 34th, down 37th and over to 34th, and Foxhall). So we end up with a couple of traffic sinks. Diffusing those sinks would require spreading the traffic out across more streets, though, which is politically unpalatable.

  3. The anger and oppositon is a result of the continued lack of action, despite repeated requests over the years, for amelioration of very dangerous intersections in our, yes, residential streets. It’s ridiculous to plan for the major roadway to receive radical changes in the name of pedestrian safety and traffic calming, without regards to the rest of the neighborhood.

  4. Nemo

    This proposal, which has its good points, seems largely intended to address the fact that the Glover Park Strip has become a satellite entertainment district, boasting destination-quality restaurants and clubs. By all means, broaden the sidewalks, especially between W Street and Calvert, where they are ridiculously, dangerously, narrow. It would be far more logical, however, also to ban Wisconsin Avenue parking completely and at all times from Calvert Street south to R Street, while retaining two lanes of traffic in each direction to keep the INEVITABLE through traffic moving. As to the loss of on-street parking, it’s not a constitutional right, last time I looked, and besides, there is ample commercial pay parking in lots east of Wisconsin Avenue, again between W Street and Calvert. Merrymakes descending on the strip’s fleshpots can avail themselve of frequent Metrobus service along the avenue, with reasonable proximity to both Tenleytown and Foggy Bottom Metro, plus, the Circulator’s route could easily be extended to Calvert Street, using the Guy Mason lot as a terminal/turnaround. With respect to parking spillover into the neighborhood, why can’t Glover Park (or Georgetown, for that matter) get the same sweet deal Capitol Hill got when the new ball park opened: many blocks are fully restricted to neighborhood permit holders — no two-hour limit for out-of-area parkers. Believe me, it has made a huge difference for people who live on the Hill.

  5. asuka

    Why a median and no bike lanes? They should have banned parking all together – there isn’t enough commerce on that strip to justify it, and there never will be. Same can be said for widening the sidewalk; the only reason to do so is for aesthetic reasons, not utility or demand.

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