September 16, 2013
Mr. James Cheeks, Jr. FITE
Chief Traffic Engineer
Transportation Operations Administration
Ms. Endrea Frazier, Consultant
Vice-President, Legion Design
DC Department of Transportation
Dear Mr. Cheeks and Ms. Frazier:
The ANC 4B Transportation Sub-committee is generally pleased with the direction of the redesign of the intersection of Blair Road and Cedar Street NW, and pleased with the progress that has been made to reach the 65% design. However, several key concerns arose at the Sub-committee’s last meeting with DDOT on August 29, 2013, which need to be addressed before moving forward.
Removal of Crosswalks
As you know, the Sub-committee has serious concerns about the proposal to remove both crosswalks from the tip of Triangle Park across Blair Road to the east and across 4th Street to the west. We believe that doing so would be detrimental to both the project and the neighborhood, for the following reasons:
1. It would significantly decrease pedestrian safety. Our understanding is that according to federal law, those two areas are considered crosswalks whether or not they are marked, and as a result, ADA requires curb ramps even in the absence of pavement markings or signals that facilitate pedestrian use. These crossings serve important walking routes / desire lines in the neighborhood, and we expect pedestrians will continue to use those two crosswalks whether it is safe for them to do so or not.
2. It would significantly impact the businesses on both sides of 4th Street and Blair Road, by making pedestrians walk much farther to cross to establishments on one side or the other or simply cross illegally.
3. It would significantly reduce access for all of our neighbors who walk to the Metro from the area south of Butternut Street and use 4th Street or Blair Road as their route to and from the Metro. This includes Takoma Village Cohousing, Butternut Court, Whittier Gardens, Coolidge High School and the Takoma Recreation Center, as well as the residential areas along 3rd Street NW.
4. It would preclude the future Metropolitan Branch Trail, as it's currently envisioned, from passing through the intersection. The MBT has been planned as a separate trail with its own right-of-way, and current plans call for the western leg around the Metro Station to use the east side of 4th street. This would be impossible without a crosswalk from S&S Liquors to Triangle Park.
Proposed Signal Timing / Phasing
The Sub-committee understands the challenges DDOT faces in balancing various factors in the operation of the intersection. In particular, once 4th Street NB is closed and its corresponding signal phase removed, it will be difficult to protect pedestrians using either of the two crosswalks from Triangle Park while vehicles move southbound from Blair Road or Cedar Street. Further, DDOT does not wish to create additional vehicular delay by taking time out of the signal phase dedicated to Blair Road.
Considering this context, we respectfully submit one possible way in which we believe signals could be timed to provide pedestrians with enough protected time while at the same time keeping the Blair signal at more or less its current length. Please see attached diagram.
Because the crosswalks to the west and east of the tip of Triangle Park would be short, we believe that a short all-pedestrians signal phase would provide sufficient time for pedestrians to clear either of those two crosswalks. The Blair and Cedar crosswalks further north are much longer, but we believe the signal phases could be staggered so that the all-pedestrian phase (Phase 5 on the diagram) would overlap with the Blair and Cedar crossings (Phases 4 and 1 on the diagram, respectively) – i.e., overlap with the end of the first and the beginning of the second, providing enough time for all the crosswalks in the intersection. By arranging the pedestrian crosswalk phases in this way, we can then allow for additional phases dedicated to just vehicular traffic without pedestrian conflicts, which we believe would help vehicles clear the intersection more quickly than they currently can.
We ask that you consider the signal timing proposal in concert with the other comments in this letter before moving on to your next stage of designs.
Response to Other Design Features
1. The Sub-committee supports the widening of the sidewalk on the south side of Cedar Street (west of the intersection in front of Watkins) and the addition of a parallel curb ramp, both of which will help to address ADA impediments along this segment of roadway.
2. The Sub-committee supports the realignment of the sidewalk on the north side of Cedar Street (west of intersection in front of BP) so that it extends further into the intersection to shorten crossing distances and improve visibility.
3. The Sub-committee supports the relocation of the crosswalk on the northern approach of Blair Road (BP station to Little Bistro) to the south so that it is closer to the center of the intersection.
4. The Sub-committee is disappointed that the curb extension on the northeast corner of Cedar and Blair (Little Bistro) has been removed from the 30 percent plans. The committee would like the project team to:
a. Share the “queuing analysis” with the Sub-committee so that it can understand the traffic back-up impacts of removing the right turn lane.
b. Consider whether a dedicated right-turn lane is unnecessary when a westbound vehicle-only phase is applied as shown in Phase 2 of the attached signal timing proposal.
c. Explore design options that would keep the right turn lane but make modest changes to the corner geometry that would create a tighter / more perpendicular angle at this location.
5. As noted above, the Metro Branch Trail runs through this project but was not considered. The committee would like to see a connection designed and constructed along 4th Street in order to link with the trail behind Cedar Crossing to Spring Place.
6. The Sub-committee believes the conflict at the driveway off Blair Road (leading to S&S Liquors and other businesses) still remains. Northbound vehicles on Blair Road routinely block the driveway while stopped at the traffic signal, and prevent vehicles attempting to turn left into the driveway. As a result, traffic back-ups occur on SB Blair Road into the intersection. The committee suggests that relocating the driveway at least 60’ to the south (in compliance with DDOT’s Design and Engineering Manual) and bolder pavement markings showing drivers where not to stop in front of the driveway would help to resolve the problem.
We thank you for your time and hard work, and look forward to your response in resolving the issues we have outlined above. We stand ready to assist further in the design process and look forward to working with you.
ANC 4B’s Takoma Transportation Improvements Sub-Committee
Faith Wheeler, Coordinator of Sub-Committee
Sara Green, ANC 4B Chair