Washington, DC: Road Diet would connect city’s waterfronts

September 26, 2012

David Cranor

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) recently presented to the public three alternatives for integrating transit, bicycling and walking with motor vehicle traffic on M Street SE/SW in order to better serve the neighborhoods in this burgeoning section of the city. M Street has long been recognized as over designed for the motor vehicle traffic it gets and this is the latest, and perhaps most serious, attempt to better utilize its space. One of the three alternatives presented includes a green lane that would connect the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, the Anacostia waterfront and a major bridge on the east end to the District’s southwest waterfront and, again, the Riverwalk Trail on the west end as well as key bike connections at 4th and South Capital Streets. The proposal would also change cycling on other neighborhood streets namely I Street (normally written as ?Eye? Street) and K and L Streets.

M Street SE/SW is a nearly 2 mile long road connecting the cities two rivers, the Anacostia and the Potomac. It connects three major bridges, two metro stations, the historic Navy Yard, Nationals baseball stadium, dozens of businesses and an ever-increasing number of homes. It is the only uninterrupted east-west connection between the river and the SE/SW Freeway, and at 6 lanes it is much wider than needed.

At the recent presentation, three alternatives were put forward.

1. M Street “Main Street” — This alternative would remove one lane of vehicular travel in each direction and replace it with an exclusive transit lane. Bike lanes on Eye Street would be removed to handle spillover traffic, but Eye as well as M, N and Tingey streets would get sharrows. People who wish to bike on P, 1st and 2nd would be encouraged to use the new sections of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail in that area.

2. “Balanced Linkages? — The Balanced Linkages option would also remove a lane of vehicular traffic on M Street but would instead replace it with green lanes in the form of protected cycletracks separated from motor vehicle traffic by on-street parking. Eye Street would again lose its bike lanes, and it as well as K, L, N, and Tingey streets would get sharrows. Cyclists on P would be encouraged to use the planned Anacostia Riverwalk Trail and 1st and 2nd would get bike lanes where feasible. An animation of this option is below. Animations of all three options are available at the project website.

3. M Street “Mobility Arterial” — This alternative, designed to maximize automobile throughput would keep all lanes on M Street for car use. People on bikes would be encouraged to use parallel streets where traffic would be calmed. Eye, K and L would be reconnected in places where the street grid was interrupted and K, L, M, N, and Tingey streets would all get sharrows. Cyclists on P, 1st and 2nd would be encouraged to use the planned Anacostia Riverwalk Trail.

Comments are still being accepted and much of the discussion has been about how unfortunate it is that the three alternatives rigidly pit transit against cycling. For example, adding a transit-only lane on M Street means removing the bike lanes on Eye Street.

A final report is expected by November.

This is not the first time that the District has attempted to utilize M Streets extra capacity. In the 90’s the street was one of the only places where DDOT, then the Bureau of Traffic, experimented with transit prioritized ?Diamond? lanes.  In 2010 a ?Complete Streets? study, paid for by local businesses, proposed removing motor vehicle lanes and adding protected bike lanes; which while seemingly popular with citizens was rejected by neighborhood leaders. The most recent study by DDOT is done in the wake of dramatic changes in the type and number of businesses and in the numbers of people who call it home. 

The cycletrack would connect to bike lanes at both 4th Streets (SE and SW),  both 1st streets and at 11th Street SE. The 4th Street SW bike lanes connect with the National Mall and the Pennsylvania Ave cycle-track and might one day be a green lane candidate themselves. The 4th Street SE bike lanes continue north for nearly two miles to the Capital City Market and the 11th Street bike lanes continue north to Lincoln Park and south to the 11th Street bridge. 

See all Protected Bike Lanes blog entries

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