New Maryland Avenue Traffic Plan Proposed

Plan aims to mitigate safety issues on the corridor

Maryland Avenue NE plan. (Photo: DDOT)

New renderings for a proposed plan to make Maryland Avenue NE safer between Third and 15th Streets NE revealed July 29 show a roadway reduced to one lane each way with a designated bicycle lane and parking taking up the second lane. The DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) showed the plans developed by project architect JMT (Johnson, Mirmiran and Thompson) at 30 percent of the way through the design process, which will allow for changes based on community input and review.

DDOT and commissioners put together this plan in response to a number of accidents and near misses due to speeding and unsafe pedestrian and bicycle amenities along the roadway. In June 2014, librarian Elizabeth Lang was hit by a taxi and badly injured as she crossed Seventh Street in a crosswalk. This prompted the installation of flex posts to block out the pedestrian paths and a renewed effort to push the Maryland Avenue traffic plan forward.

Two upcoming meetings invite the Ward 6 community to give input on the proposed “road diet” design: the first is on Aug. 6 at 1 p.m. in the Northeast Library (330 Seventh St. NE) with ANC 6B03 Commissioner Scott Price to discuss the latest renderings; and the second is on Aug. 10 with DDOT.

At a meeting on July 20 at the Northeast Library, community members continued to express dissatisfaction with the handling of speeding cars and dangerous pedestrian crosswalks along the route. Some did not approve of the reduction to one lane in each direction.

But DDOT asserts that analysis show a reduction in lanes is necessary to make the roads safer. 

"The analysis showed that it will only be during the a.m. peak travel time," a DDOT spokesperson said. "This is an acceptable tradeoff considering the substantial benefits to pedestrian and bicycle access and safety, and traffic calming that are the hallmarks of lane reduction projects of this type."

One person argued that Maryland commuters already jam traffic during rush hour with two lanes and taking away a lane will aggravate the situation. Also, if an emergency vehicle or ambulance needs to get through traffic, the reduced space will slow them, another community member said.

A DDOT traffic study for the roadway showed that in 2040, projected increases of cars on the road do not pose a significant impact on the flow of side streets — drivers won’t want to divert off of Maryland.

“A majority of intersections on the local streets are all-way stop-controlled and therefore have a substantial degree of delay for all drivers passing through,” according to DDOT. 

In fact in the study, DDOT used Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) data to show that Sherman Avenue NW handles more than 13,000 cars a day with the one lane in each direction plan. That volume is more than the projections for Maryland Avenue. The designated bicycle lanes also help reduce bicycle-vehicle accidents by about 29 percent, according to the FHWA.

Community member will have another chance to review and comment on the designs when they reach 90 percent completion, a DDOT spokesperson said.

The full roadway project isn’t slated to finish until 2019, according to DDOT. The process to start the project took longer than expected because the funding transitioned from local to federal, a DDOT spokesperson explained. But in the meantime, some lights and pedestrian amenities have been put in place to keep drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists aware.

Architect JMT is a national employee-owned architectural and engineering firm, and won the contract to design the Maryland Avenue traffic project.  

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