Thursday, December 11, 2008

the case for bringing back truxton circle

just before thanksgiving, there was some discussion on the bloomingdale listserv regarding the past, present, and future of truxton circle. for those who don't know, truxton circle was a traffic circle on north capitol street, located just north of the current intersection with florida avenue.

as you can see in the graphic to the right, q street and lincoln road fed directly into the circle, while florida avenue ran just to the south. a photo of the circle (with the fountain that resided at its center) can be seen in this graphic, provided by bloomingdale resident tim sloan. he has written a very eloquent defense of why we should bring the circle back, as part of a reconstruction of north capitol street, that would bring the road back to a more human level, away from the car-centric near-freeway that it is today. his letter, in its entirety, is below.

(note: the 2005 ddot study referred to below can be found here.)

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THE CASE FOR A NEW TRUXTON CIRCLE

I have researched the 2005 DC DDOT study to rebuild Truxton Circle. In my opinion, it was flawed. It was conducted in a way where the only conclusion could be to NOT recommend building a new circle.

My case starts with the 11th Street bridge project in SE over the Anacostia River. That project begins construction next spring. When completed in 2015, the new 8 lane highway speed bridge will take thousands of cars off of New York Avenue. These cars will bypass NY Avenue and the 395 tunnel in NW for the faster, direct connection to the SE/SW freeway along 295.

Currently, DC DDOT is doing a feasibility study to close the entrance to 395 at New York Avenue NW. This closure cannot happen until the bridges over the river are open in my opinion. The hope is to return NY Avenue into a “grand boulevard” with green median strip.

All these traffic flow changes will affect North Capitol, as well, making the 2005 Truxton Circle study data obsolete.

Traffic heading south on North Capitol Street at R Street in the morning rush is about 2500 vehicles an hour. By the time you get to H Street, that number has dropped to 1250 vehicles an hour. Where are the 1250 cars going that turned off North Capitol? I suspect they are headed to the 395 tunnel entrance on NY Avenue, NW.

The other flaw in the Truxton Circle study is they focused on building a traffic circle that ONLY allowed 2 lanes of North/South traffic to enter the circle. North Capitol has three travel lanes in each direction crossing Florida Avenue currently. So, of course, the wait queues would be enormous due to merging traffic entering a two lane circle.

Chevy Chase Circle in NW has 3 traffic lanes entering and exiting the circle along Connecticut Avenue. It has no problems and higher traffic numbers than those of North Capitol Street.

DC DDOT still has the mind set that New York Avenue, Florida Avenue and North Capitol streets’ sole mission in our neighborhood is to feed the 395 highway beast. This is why cars on North Capitol wiz by at over 50 mph in our neighborhoods. They have no interest in stopping, shopping or slowing down. They are just cutting through, many on the way to Virginia via the 395 tunnel.

The right-of-way for North Capitol Street at Rhode Island Avenue is 110 feet wide, including the very narrow sidewalks. Some are only 4 feet wide. By comparison, the grand section of Pennsylvania between the White House and the US Capitol averages a 100 foot wide roadway width and 20 to 40 foot wide sidewalks on each side. On Pennsylvania Avenue, the 100 foot wide road way provides 4 travel lanes in each direction with a 16 foot wide median.

What do we get for our 110 foot wide road way? Two high speed lanes in each direction with a median barely wide enough to stand on and all buried 25 feet below grade (street level). At grade, we have 1 local lane in each direction, 1 parking lane and narrow sidewalks. Pedestrian deaths and high speed accidents are common on this section of roadway.

The highway designers of the 50’s and 60’s tunneled North Capitol to serve the unfinished 395 freeway, making a bad transportation plan even worse. We lost a walkable and connected neighborhood.

North Capitol Street will never be a thriving retail district and majestic northern gateway” to the “old city” until there are significant transportation changes in this area:
  1. Complete the 11th Street bridges in SE connecting 395 to 295. (completion 2015)
  2. Closing the 395 tunnel entrance at New York Avenue NW (entry to the Tunnel will be from Massachusetts Avenue NW).
  3. Building a modern three lane Truxton Circle at North Capitol and Florida Avenue.
  4. Return the intersection of North Capitol and New York Avenue to a grade intersection.
  5. Eliminate the long below grade section of North Capitol Street (W Street to Randolph Street), thus returning Rhode Island Avenue to a grade intersection with North Capitol Street and in the process creating a grand vista L’Enfant would be proud of.
"We must invest in our neighborhood commercial corridors so that they can thrive and flourish." - Councilmember Thomas while talking about the burying of utilities on 12th street NE.

Now imagine cars traveling 25 mph along a tree lined North Capitol with pedestrian friendly intersections and wide medians with trees. Walk along wide brick sidewalks once the underpasses are removed and the street correctly proportioned. Only then can you begin to imagine cafes, shops, restaurants and new housing along North Capitol Street.

The success of a thriving North Capitol Street business district will depend on new infrastructure and transportation projects, not street light flower baskets and banners. Now, let’s get to work.

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here's a comparison of the circle before it's removal, and the same view up newly widened north capitol street immediately after reconstruction.

this graphic, from the 2005 ddot study, shows the proposed circle being centered on the intersection of north capitol and florida avenue. this would require the condemning of property to the southwest and northeast of the intersection. i believe that placing the circle in its proper former location would be more intelligent, and less damaging to the existing neighborhood.

10 comments:

JohnDC said...

Just today I was walking down north capitol and imagined if it was at grade with just two lanes each way how much that would improve North Capitol.

How feasible is this traffic circle if they build something on the empty party lot. It seems like the circle will only work if it can take a bit of land from that lot & the vacant KFC

IMGoph said...

johndc: i don't think that building on the empty lot to the northwest would eliminate the possibility of bringing the circle back. it looks to me like it could fit in the space that is currently taken up by the slip lane from southbound north capitol to westbound florida, as well as taking up some of the "park" where the usual crowd hangs out every day.

Anonymous said...

The three lane circle is a nice idea, however it doesn't fit without razing several buildings. If we look at chevy chase circle, it has a diameter of 110m for traffic alone, not counting sidewalks and clearance to buildings. Logan is ~130m in diameter. The study showed the paved portion of the two-lane circle at ~46m. Even if you managed to get a smaller circle with three lanes, ie Scott (~80m) it would still take out several extra houses. Since you want to align the circle on n cap and fl, not further north like the original, the expanded size may start to affect Bates to the south

IMGoph said...

anon: you misread my last sentence. i said i don't want to see the circle at north capitol and florida. i want to see the circle where the old one was.

Anonymous said...

I was responding to the original article that mentioned the ddot plan where the circle is centered at n-cap and fl. As for locating the circle at the original location, it still couldn't be three lanes as mentioned w/o taking half the vacant lot and houses on lincoln. I would love to see the original circle back if they could thin traffic enough to fit into the smaller circle. Even with closing the NY-Ave 395 entrance, I'm not sure how that would thin n-cap traffic. Traffic would most likely continue down to h/Mass and then to 395. It just seems that to get a circle that doesn't create the mother of all traffic jams the construction project would have to be quite large

dano said...

i like the letter and the intent, but my biggest question is how does florida ave interact with the circle at its original position. it seems awkward at best without lights and the thing that kills me about dc roundabouts is the light. im looking at logan and especially dupont. traffic is supposed to flow, and the lights just make it jam up. chevy chase, i think, is one of the few high traffic roundabouts that actually functions because it has no lights.

i'd live to see a sketch of traffic flow...

bamoll said...

This is a great idea - slow traffic and improve pedestrian safety and walkability. This will lead to safter streets, more connectivity between Bloomingdale and Eckington and a more vibrant (and retail-friendly) North Capitol St. We shouldn't care if this might impact N Cap or Florida Ave. traffic slightly. The logistics (2 vs. 3 lanes of N Cap traffic, etc.) are minor issues when considering the bigger picture. This is our neighborhood - we must demand that DDOT respond to our desires and not the needs of Marylanders passing through (sorry, no offense meant to those from MD!).

David C said...

What happened to the fountain?

IMGoph said...

david: that's a good question. i don't know. does anyone out there reading this know where the truxton circle fountain is now?

M said...

According to an Answer Man column:

When North Capitol Street was widened after World War II, the Truxton fountain was put into storage.

The last reference Answer Man finds to it is in the first edition of James Goode's "Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C.," where it was said to be in Park Service storage in Fort Washington and in dilapidated condition.