Bloomingdale’s traffic calming plan gets some new updates

This post was also published on Greater Greater Washington

Some additional traffic calming measures are in the works on First Street NW, including adding striping to the bump-outs and new higher-visibility LED stop signs. However, flex posts from all but one side side street have been removed.

When the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) installed traffic-calming curb extensions on First Street NW this February, it was the culmination of over six years of advocacy from Bloomingdale neighbors.

Marked by flex posts, the extensions (also called bump-outs) increase safety by visually cueing drivers to drive slower through the narrower area, requiring slower, more controlled turns, daylighting the intersection so all road users can more easily see each other, providing additional space for pedestrians to wait and reducing the distance they have to physically cross.

Flex posts at the 1st and R St NW intersection have also been integrated into the Bloomingdale Farmers’ Market’s socially distanced procedures.  Image by the author.

Unfortunately, their implementation was immediately met by some backlash from a local ANC commissioner concerned that the new posts made it harder for drivers to move quickly through the intersection (and were ugly to boot). Thankfully, however, the pilot program was allowed to move forward in order to evaluate its impact on neighborhood safety.

Last month, DDOT returned to the neighborhood to announce both some additions to the infrastructure, but also what appears to be a concession to the project’s critics.

Additions:

  • DDOT announced they would complete the originally planned striping which will delineate the bump-out area in paint in addition to the flex posts.
  • The agency also confirmed they were still working with the Bloomingdale Civic Association to install planters within the bulbouts for added protection and beautification.
  • In response to particular concerns about stop-sign compliance at the 1st and R Street NW, the agency is going to install solar-powered LED stop signs. (This intersection in particular suffers from poor stop sign visibility and has seen multiple related crashes.)

Subtractions:

  • DDOT also announced that they would remove the flex posts along all of the East-West side-streets aside from R Street (which will receive further study with the new stop signs first). Flex posts will remain along First Street.
Left: Northbound approach to 1st St and R St NW showing visible obstruction of stop sign. Photo by the author. Right: Example of solar powered LED stop sign DDOT plans to install at the intersection. Photo from DDOT.

DDOT’s statement said the decision was in response to community concerns that there were too-many flex posts, but they declined to respond to questions about whether those concerns were about the efficacy of those posts or simply aesthetic distaste.

The risk is that removing the flex posts could reduce compliance with the parking limitations that improve visibility at the intersections. While the flex posts provide a physical barrier, these side streets reduced only to striping may see a return of illegal parking that would require additional enforcement resources to rectify.

In the weeks since the announcement, DDOT has completed the removal of the side-street flex posts; the other changes appear to still be in progress.

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