DDOT efforts at 5th and Mass create new hazards

Late in June DDOT implemented several improvements to the intersection of 5th, Eye and Massachusetts Avenue NW targeted towards increasing pedestrian safety. Nine crosswalk segments were widened and striped with fresh paint. Additionally the pedestrian refuges on the northwest and southeast corners were expanded with striped paint to reduce crossing distance and disjointed traffic flow on the Eye Street stubs.

Aerial rendering of expansions to pedestrian refuges at 5th and Mass

These upgrades seemed to reflect an evolution of DDOT into a more agile organization. New DDOT director Gabe Klein, who comes from an entrepreneurial background, recognizes responsiveness is often best achieved with rapid delivery of functionality that is both important and sufficiently executed. Delivering small low cost improvements quickly, evaluating the effects of the change, then incrementally making further upgrades can yield better outcomes than waiting years to make permanent improvements while studies are conducted and funds are raised. This is a paradigm that could produce many great things for the district.

Why is this stop sign still here?

Cars ignoring the striped paint on SE corner of 5th and Mass

While this intersection did represent a prime opportunity to take swift action on a small budget I feel the project has been executed poorly. Striped paint alone is not enough to change the traffic flow of cars. Complicating matters DDOT did not remove the Stop signs that serviced the now striped off lanes thus sending mixed messages to drivers. The result is unpredictable behavior from cars that creates chaos and places pedestrians at more risk than before DDOT introduced these changes.

Example of quick curbs at 15th & W Streets NW

DDOT needs to finish what it started by removing the contradictory Stop signs and installing quick curbs or bollards to prevent the flow of cars into the paint striped areas. Anything less endangers pedestrians at this intersection and harms the credibility of the new agile path DDOT would like to travel down.

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  1. 1

    Anonymous says

    Thanks for this post. At 555, we've been trying for years to get a safe, sensible intersection at this location. We have gone as far as submitting an 11 page document about the intersection problems to DDoT, ANC6C and all other stakeholders. Our ANC has been highly supportive as has our Councilmember Tommy Wells. But we still went for years with NO crosswalk, then faint, peeling paint and now this scheme that doesn't make any sense to either the cars or the pedestrians. Tell them to just give us a call over here and we can walk DDoT through the intersection issues and solutions. It isn't rocket science. I'm not sure why they have such difficulty implementing something that is so important to neighborhood safety.

  2. 2

    washingtonydc says

    Couldn't agree more. I've put in a service request, but I'm sure it'll be as successful as your fallen stop sign.

  3. 3

    fourthandeye says

    I've exchanged emails with the MVT CID this morning and they plan to schedule an appointment with Ward 6 Transportation Planner Jamie Henson to review this intersection.

  4. 4

    SteamingMyLaundry says

    Don't get your hopes up. DDOT "reviewed" the horribly dangerous 5th/L/NY intersection, and told us that increasing the time to cross would impede traffic. And (according to DDOT), because impeding traffic puts lives at risk, the safest thing to do is to leave things as they are.

  5. 5

    pqresident says

    amen, amen, amen on this post brother.

    those third and fourth pictures down say it all. get the quick curbs in there or put up a 'do not enter – one way traffic' sign on the south side of the pedestrian island and take down the stop sign.

  6. 6

    si says

    DDOT is just abominable. when they do come to meeting, they send a powerless "planner." All they do, besides slapping some random paint down, is "plan." They drive me nuts!

    this intersection, oh lordie…that I street cut going westbound on mass ave in front of 555 Mass becomes theoretically unusable when cars inevitably park on the curb, taking that 1 travel lane. you are not safe in the lined zones..now forming some strange herringbone pattern??!

    I wish they'd build medians. nice plant filled medians. its a perfect stimulus project, theyve been planned for eons…

    that example of the temp curbs is not bad, what about planters ala NY & N sts NW?

  7. 7

    IMGoph says

    i've been biking through there daily on my way to jury duty the last few weeks, and it's blown my mind that DDOT hasn't finished the job (or at least that MPD hasn't had a cop there to ticket every single person driving through the area that is no longer a travel lane—it would be one hell of a revenue-generating operation).

    DDOT has no reason, seeing what they did at 15th, W, and florida, to not have this intersection done just as quickly.

    good luck in getting DDOT to finish the job!

  8. 8

    fourthandeye says

    @Si – I feel your frustration. I also think landscaped medians would be ideal. But the more expensive the solution the harder to fund and the less empowered planners are to roll out change in a timely manner. Even with stimulus money there are far more potential streetscape projects out there than DC can possibly fund.

    For now I'd like to see a few well placed quick curbs or similar barriers to keep the cars off the paint. Years from now the funding to landscape these areas may be possible.

  9. 9

    si says

    we could take up a collection for some end of season sale pots at 5th st hardware…make our own quick curbs! plant some nice winter cabbage things in em? traffic ninja measures

  10. 10

    Anonymous says

    I live in the Meridian (450 Mass). Everyone drives over the new striped portion of I St, including me, cops and cabs. One, no driver (who isn't currently in driver's ed) knows that this is a restricted area. It simply looks like a big crosswalk, something people drive over everyday. Two, this is a hazard for Meridian residents who drive (and cabs pulling out). This would effectively prevent left turns out of the Meridian unless you cross I and Mass to make the left (which is probably technically illegal). People will be reluctant to make a right onto Mass (in an effort to go left eventually) because of the long Mass block, the traffic, and the long light at 4th and Mass. Personally, I like the striped pavement AND the cars driving over it. It's a signal to slow down–that pedestrians may be present.

  11. 11

    fourthandeye says

    Aren't the Merdian's garage entrances on 5th Street? I thought the circle in front of Meridian was used solely for zip cars and delivery trucks?

  12. 12

    Anonymous says

    I live at 450 Mass also.

    Our drive way is in the roundabout that faces Mass. The 5th St entrance is a loading dock.

    I also thought that those stripped lines were just a crazy extended crosswalk since the width of the lines and their spacing matches the surrounding crosswalks.

    Declaring that small section a vehicles prohibited section isn't going to do anything to improve safety because drivers will just ignore it and drive around any device you put in their way. Drivers already drive for half a block the wrong way on Mass Ave to make that turn onto I. They also make the illegal left turn off of Mass onto 3rd street towards the tunnel (just as dangerous to pedestrians) without one ticket ever being issued.

    The only solution would be to completely eliminate that small section of I street and make 450 mass ave fight for a left turn onto Mass, like the people over at 400 Mass Ave do.

  13. 13

    Anonymous says

    I live at 555 Mass and would love the little Eye Street section where they painted the extra lines to completely prohibit cars. Making it a bump-out would shorten the distance for pedestrians and eliminate all the crazy options that cars have that endanger folks trying to cross the street. It is simply too short of an area on the NW corner to have as a useful car area. It should only hold one car at a time. That being said, do we not have ONE decent intersection planner? The solutions are so painfully obvious that DC's inability to get this right is a real shame.

  14. 14

    John Thompson says

    I've almost been hit several times by people that clearly don't know enough (or care) about what these painted lines are there for. These people should be be IMMEDIATELY ticketed.

    I'm all for the temp curbs… though I'd much prefer filling it in COMPLETELY with plants & blocking traffic here completely.

  15. 15

    Anonymous says

    Can anyone confirm that those lines do in fact restrict traffic from entering? I'm skeptical. Also, if they do in fact restrict the traffic, a good argument can be made that one-way traffic should be going the other direction (i.e., west-bound instead of east-bound) to permit left turns out of the Meridian.

  16. 18

    Anonymous says

    The barrels make me so happy, so happy. I didn't have to risk my life crossing the street the past two days!!

  17. 19

    Dan Maceda says

    I asked DDOT weeks ago if they were going to green those spaces by bioswales or plantings and was told they expected to do something by the end of the year and here we are near the end of the year So DDOT?