Tuesday, October 24, 2006

14th Street Sledge - Revisted

A few months ago found me busting the District’s chops over the delays and overrun costs of the construction at Thomas Circle. Man, was I complain-y. But that was in the distant past and recent trips up 14th show that things seem to have progressed as re-scheduled. Today, Mike Grass was kind enough to let me know that the re-dedicating of the place was scheduled for lunchtime.

Hey, I eat lunch! Let’s go check it out.

Now, when I worked in London I attended traffic circle openings all the time so I can safely report this one was pretty standard. And though I arrived late to the steps of the National City Christian Church I was still in time for the praying.

God bless this mess.

Carol Schwartz was in attendance with other Thomas Circle area bigwigs and Park Service muckitymucks. There was sunshine and kind words and handshakes and smiles and two if the biggest St Bernard’s I have ever seen.

However, there was nothing to set it apart from your normal church picnic-style traffic circle opening. Not a single balloon or ribbon cuttings or General Thomas impersonator that I hear are all the rage. So after about 30 seconds of St. Bernard belly scratching I wandered away to go look at the city’s handiwork.

Verdict? It looks fine. The sod is freshly planted so it’s still green. That one weird looking tree managed to survive the construction and the much-ballyhooed new curbs and gutters are as wondrous as L’Enfant intended. The redesigned sidewalks also mean you can walk right up to the statue of Thomas and discover for yourself that the General rode a manic and soulless horse.


Now, as for the traffic aspects of this traffic circle I do have some complaints. The few times I have tried to travel up 14th I’ve still had a difficult time getting north. The G insists that if I stay in one lane I’ll be fine but I don’t trust the layout. There always seems to be someone trying to merge into you. There’s also the fact that a real traffic circle probably doesn’t need traffic lights and they just lead to more confusion. Also, while walking around I noticed the crosswalk counter said one of the red lights directing traffic from east to west was set for an infuriating 71 seconds. That’s a lot of time idling and staring at the back-end of a demon horse.

Overall, this example of District traffic construction seems to be late but successful and the issues I have will probably shake themselves out. But don’t get me started about what they’ve done over at the Lincoln Memorial because that’s complete stoplight disaster.


Anonymous said...

the traffic light headaches at the lincoln memorial are not DDOT, rather those people over at the national park service - nps controls those roads and the traffic lights.

oldirtymustard said...

I sent an email to DDOT last week about the fact that drivers on 14th seem to have trouble staying in their lanes (my problems occur when traveling South, personally). On a daily basis, I begin my morning commute with a near collision when entering the circle. I have given up on honking because it only seems to incite the offending driver leading to me getting flicked off...no way to start a morning without even a cup of coffee in my system.

Glad to know I'm not alone in my frustration. Better lane markings are needed or else the constant presence of crashed cars in the circle will negate any aesthetic benefits of the TC makeover and lead to greater traffic congestion.

DDOT's response:

Thank you for contacting the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) in which you expressed your concern with the pavement markings around Thomas Circle. Your request has been forwarded to the Infrastructure Project Management Administration (IPMA). You will receive a response directly from IPMA within the next 30 business days.

When inquiring about the status of your service request, contact Ms. Cumbess with the DDOT Customer Service Clearinghouse at (202) 671-2240. Please refer to Service Number 111xxx.

Again, thank you for contacting the District Department of Transportation.

d. Customer Service Clearinghouse


Chris said...

The nice new blacktop is great, but my hang-up with the newly-designed Thomas Circle has to do with the safety of the bike lanes. Since the lanes are on the right side of the road, and motorists are not in the habit of considering a bike lane a lane of traffic they need to watch out for, the cyclist is in danger of getting whacked by cars turning off the circle. Seriously, how many people use turn signals in circles? My admittedly unscientific observations say it's quite rare. Thus, the cyclist has to rely on looking at the front wheel of cars in order to see if the vehicle is going to turn. A better solution, which I employ, is to simply use the car lane and ignore the bike lane. This might annoy motorists, but it makes the most sense to me. However, lesser experienced cyclists - for whom the bike lane might offer what I would say is a somewhat false sense of security - won't necessarily think of this or even looking at the front wheels of the cars in the lane of motorized traffic. In my mind, therefore, I'm wondering if it's the wrong decision to install bike lanes in circles at all. It seems to me that it would be more effective to have bike lanes end at the circle, perhaps with a sign indicating that bikes share the roadway with motorized vehicles through the circle. When I compare my experiences at Logan Circle (which has no bike lanes) and Thomas Circle, I can honestly say that Logan Circle seems a lot safer to me.

the Nabob said...

Thanks, Anon.