42nd and Albemarle. Photo from DDOT.

DDOT has completed its “livability” study for upper Northwest neighborhoods, which recommends a number of changes to calm speeding traffic and improve pedestrian and bicycle safety. The study focused on Friendship Heights, Chevy Chase DC, Forest Hills, AU Park, and Tenleytown. DDOT tabulated motor vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle crashes; surveyed residents to find out about problem spots; and analyzed the street network. Recommendations include adding bulb-outs to aid pedestrian crossings, small roundabouts to slow traffic, speed cameras, and new “bicycle boulevards” that have bikes and cars share the road at slow speeds. Here’s a video about bike boulevards from New York:
The bicycle boulevards would go on certain streets which travel through residential areas but stretch long distances. This not only gives cyclists a safe and comfortable through route but also discourages motor vehicles from using the streets for long trips, instead pushing them to use the major arterial routes and making the resident streets quieter and safer.

Map of proposed bike boulevards.

Several other roads would get “sharrows,” which also promote sharing space between bikes and cars but don’t give priority to bicycles. For a number of intersections, DDOT is proposing curb extensions, or bulb-outs. Some, where there is a high volume of pedestrians, would be paved, adding space for pedestrians to wait and also shortening the crossing distance. In other places, they would be “green curb extensions,” where most of the added space is filled with plantings and designed to capture and hold stormwater that runs off from the surrounding street. Curb extensions would go along River Road at 45th/Fessenden (paved) and 44th (green), on Davenport at Reno Road and Connecticut Avenue (both green) and 36th (paved), and at a lot of corners in Tenleytown.

Recommendations for Tenleytown.

At some places where three roads come together, small side roads serve as slip lanes encouraging fast turns and speeding. The study recommends closing a small section adjacent to main streets at 36th Street between Connecticut Avenue and Fessenden Street, and Brandywine Street between 42nd and River Road. The former road space would either become a basic grass area or get additional stormwater facilities, like rain gardens, to capture and store rainwater and runoff. From Albemarle to Brandywine Streets just east of the Tenleytown Metro station, between the Whole Foods and Wilson High School, is a pair of parallel roads, 40th Street and Fort Drive. They are only a median’s width apart and serve essentially as two directions of one street with a median in between. The report calls the intersection between these and Albemarle Street “awkward, confusing, and obstruct[ing] some views.”

40th Street and Fort Drive. (North is to the right.)

It suggests reversing the direction, so cars travel clockwise instead of counterclockwise, and replacing parallel parking adjacent to the median with angled parking, almost doubling the amount of parking. A break in the median for U-turns, currently adjacent to Albemarle, would be moved to the center of the block, lining up with the Whole Foods while also adding crosswalks there.

42nd and Warren.

42nd Street and Warren Street meet in a large, gently curving triangular intersection which also encourages speeding. The plan suggests a pair of small neighborhood traffic circles, essentially small islands in the middle of the intersection which drivers have to travel around more slowly instead of zooming through the large intersection. These items are far from all the suggestions for improving safety and mobility in Upper Northwest. Part 2 will look at Ward and Chevy Chase Circles, other ideas that didn’t make it into the report, and when all of this might actually become a reality.