Connecticurt Avenue Development Guidelines Frequently Asked Questions

The Complete Streets Choice for Connecticut Avenue: Concept C (2/23/2021)

In 2019, road traffic crashes were the leading cause of death in the United States for people aged 1-54. For people older than 55, road traffic crashes were the fourth highest cause of death after cancer, heart disease, and poisoning. Road traffic crashes kill our children more than anything else and kill our seniors more than Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease. And the pandemic hasn’t slowed this; despite there being up to 50% fewer cars on the road by April, there was a 53% increase in traffic fatalities in DC by October, likely because more of us were using the road infrastructure without our cars. 

The blame for systemic problems such as traffic accidents does not lie with individual drivers, but how we’ve built our road infrastructure. Nothing exemplifies this more than Connecticut Avenue, where six lanes of traffic speed through our neighborhood bright and early when our children are going to school and right as we all are coming home. Between 2015 and 2019, on average, there was at least one crash on Connecticut Avenue every weekday (estimated from page 53 here). If you knew one of your neighbors was at risk from a leading, but easily preventable, cause of death every time they stepped outside their home, I hope you would feel compelled to do something about it. 

And now, as a community, we can. The DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) is studying whether and how to improve the operations and safety of Connecticut Avenue. We have a chance to not only make our road infrastructure safer for everyone, but do it in a way that benefits business, community, and the environment. On February 23rd, DDOT presented us with several concepts for our neighborhood, but only one viable concept fulfills the promise of Complete Streets.

A Complete Street is “a road that is designed to be safe for drivers; bicyclists; transit vehicles and users; and pedestrians of all ages and abilities,” A complete street concept understands that all modes of transport are essential for a thriving community, but one mode should not be prioritized over another. Right now, the streets in Cleveland Park prioritize cars over any other mode of transport. In fact, they are prioritized so much that bicyclists, scooters, and pedestrians, especially those that are disabled and elderly, often have to share a small sidewalk. This prioritization of cars thus makes the road infrastructure dangerous for everyone. Anyone who has tried to walk from the Broadmoor to the Uptown knows that the Porter and Connecticut intersection is designed primarily for cars, with long wait times and confusing crosswalks left for the other people who are on the street.

To make Connecticut Avenue a Complete Street, we don’t have to ban cars, we don’t even have to get rid of large amounts of parking, we just need to reduce the number of lanes dedicated to the commuters who drive through our community and give us back some of our public space. And this is where Concept C shines (Figure 1).

Concept C first gets rid of the dangerous reversible lanes designed primarily for commuters and not for our community. According to DDOT, while reversible lanes are active only 15% of the time, 44% of the total crashes occur when they are active (page 53 here). The first step towards making our roads safer is by getting rid of reversible lanes. It also benefits traffic flow, as there will be no rush-hour parking violations and confusing use of reversible lanes.

Second, Concept C takes one lane of traffic away and provides us with protected bicycle lanes. This not only shifts the current lopsided balance away from cars and provides a safe space for people who bike or use scooters, but it also makes our sidewalks safer as well. As outlined in another post, protected bicycle lanes make our streets better for everyone, by also allowing pedestrians to cross the street with less exposure to traffic. Further, Concept C provides elevated bus islands that don’t block traffic during rush hour and allow safe loading and unloading of passengers as seen in Figure 1. 

Third, Concept C provides 24-hour parking and dedicated loading and unloading zones on one side of Connecticut Avenue in commercial areas (Figure 2). We currently have no 24-hour parking or loading/unloading zones on either side of Connecticut Avenue, so the 118 parking spots is an improvement for our businesses, who will benefit from parking around the clock. Further, 24-hour parking also helps our elderly and disabled members who need a car to get to the businesses. I would love it if the majority of these spaces are designated handicap spaces and limited time parking spots for retail.

Finally, as a bonus, Concept C also decreases traffic on our residential side streets (e.g., Porter St. and Macomb St.) on Connecticut Avenue. Traffic tends to go wherever you build more roads (think of the Los Angeles highways that can never be wide enough) and tends to stay away from places that are designed for people. We can make this choice for our neighborhood right now by supporting Concept C. 

When I was running for ANC Commissioner, “public spaces for people” and “community before commuters” were two concepts that resonated the most with voters. The community is lucky to have both these promises fulfilled if we take advantage of the opportunity DDOT has given us, and also lucky that they chose the letter C for us to remember which Concept provides a Complete Street Choice for Connecticut Avenue.  

In the coming days, I will be collaborating on a resolution that encourages more complete streets in our neighborhood, but in the meantime, please email and voice your support as well.