Last year, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) made important progress on the pending redesign of the dangerous intersection of Florida and New York avenues NE, colloquially known as “Dave Thomas Circle.”
After a series of updates since then, it appears that the agency’s most recent plan is even more aligned with advocates’ vision of a safe intersection for pedestrians and cyclists.
In March 2019, the agency released a redesign plan dubbed Concept 6 that involves removing the Wendy’s fast food restaurant from the center of the intersection.
The design represented a major improvement on the status quo, but safety advocates highlighted some key opportunities to further improve pedestrian and cyclist safety.
DDOT was receptive to the feedback, and the next version of the design, dubbed Concept 6D, included a number of those recommendations — specifically, the closing of O Street, an additional crosswalk on the east side of 1st Street and New York Avenue, and straightening out the 1st Street bike lane.
There was one key recommendation that the updated design didn’t incorporate though. Rather than extend the Florida Avenue cycle track all the way through the intersection, the new plan left it unchanged, curving around the southern edge of the intersection to 1st Street.
Advocates continued to press for that change, and now it looks like they may have earned at least a partial victory. While the next formal street designs aren’t expected until later this year, a related presentation gave some clues. On May 18, the NoMa Parks Foundation (NPF), DDOT, and design firm SWA/Balsley hosted a webinar debuting potential designs for the 43,000 square feet of new park space that would be created as part of the redesign.
The park concepts are interesting in their own right, but the street maps they include also reveal new information. They seem to indicate that DDOT has already decided to edit the bike lane path in their next official design, showing Florida Avenue lanes extending across New York Avenue to 1st/Eckington Place.
While it’s not the full extension advocates asked for, this allows a direct connection to the Eckington neighborhood to the north and sets up a potential future extension in further planning of Florida Avenue NW.
Perhaps more revealing though, is that the plans show a change in the design of that bike path. Instead of Concept 6D’s two-way cycle track on the south side of the street, these drawings show single-direction bike lanes running on each side of the street (many transportation experts recommend split lanes as they reduce complexity and conflict points for road users).
After the meeting, DDOT Bicycle Program Specialist Will Handsfield confirmed the design change on Twitter, saying that the lanes would be protected on each side.
The change, however, has implications bigger than just this intersection. This plan, of course, connects to the rest of Florida Avenue NE, which already has a two-way cycle track installed as part of the interim improvements added last year. The most recently released designs for the permanent changes maintain that structure.
But if DDOT is switching to split one-way lanes for the Florida-New York intersection, it will either require a tricky north-south crossing to connect to the two-way cycle track or, more likely, indicates that they may be applying this split-lane change across the whole corridor.
Such a change would represent a significant alteration at this point in the design process, but highlights the value of planning both of these projects at the same time, allowing for decisions that best serve the entire corridor.