Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

Much of New Jersey Avenue NW through the Mount Vernon Triangle area has essentially been a one-way off-ramp for I-395 for years. DDOT wants to turn this broad avenue back into a 2-way neighborhood street, add bicycle lanes, and have the bike lanes cross the intersection in a way that would be new to DC but is common in the Netherlands.

Currently, New Jersey Avenue NW is a 2-way street north of New York Avenue and south of I Street. In between, it’s one-way northbound. Traffic getting off I-395 north at Massachusetts Avenue takes 2nd Street NW to New Jersey Avenue, which has 4 northbound lanes at I Street.

Drivers then race far above the speed limit to try to make it through the traffic light at New York Avenue, either continuing north into Shaw or turning right to get onto New York Avenue eastbound. Since MPD added a speed camera on 395, some cars use New Jersey Avenue as a de facto replacement for the interstate highway to avoid tickets.

As part of the Mount Vernon Triangle Action Agenda, DDOT is returning some 1-way streets in the neighborhood to 2-way. As new businesses and residents move into the neighborhood, the city wants to make the streets safer for all modes, instead of just being extended on- and off-ramps for the interstate highway stub.

Since 2006, DC has done this on the 400 block of L Street NW and 4th Street between L and Massachusetts. New Jersey Avenue is the next road in the neighborhood to get the two-way treatment, and the intersection with New York Avenue is the trickiest part of that project.

Proposed design includes 2-way traffic and bike lanes

As part of the presentation last Wednesday, the traffic engineers who have been working with DDOT presented 3 plans for that busy corner. The first plan did not include dedicated space for cyclists, but bike lanes were added to produce the third plan, DDOT’s preferred choice.

The second plan, which was produced in-house by DDOT, essentially added slip lanes to all four corners of the intersection. This plan, which thankfully appears to have been thoroughly rejected, would have sacrificed pedestrian and cyclist safety in favor of moving automobiles through the intersection as quickly as possible.

New Jersey and New York Avenues, NW. Images from DDOT. (North is to the left.)

Current Alternative 1 Alternative 2 Alternative 3 View larger version

Two additional benefits of this project are more usable park space and fewer traffic lights. The short stretch of 3rd Street between New York Avenue and M Street will be closed, allowing the small open space nearby to become a larger park. In addition, there will no longer be traffic signals at 3rd and New York, reducing confusion at a point where traffic lights are less than 100 feet apart on one stretch of a major road. DDOT suggests different bike lane arrangement The project team further refined the 3rd plan to add in a bike lane configuration new to DC, where the bike lanes follow the curb at intersections and bicyclists cross near the crosswalks. DDOT is proposing this at the 2 busiest intersections, New York Avenue and K Street.

Proposed bicycle lane arrangement in the intersection.

WashCycle pointed out this video, which describes this type of bike lane arrangement and why it could be safer and better than the classic setup. The video says that the Dutch have stopped building bike lanes that continue straight through in favor of this configuration.
At a meeting last week where DDOT presented the plan, some people worried that the small islands that would separate the bike lanes from automobile lanes at these corners would make it difficult to plow in the winter or utilize street sweepers in the warmer months. Here’s a map of the final recommended alternative.