just before thanksgiving, there was some discussion on the bloomingdale listserv regarding the past, present, and future of truxton circle. for those who don't know, truxton circle was a traffic circle on north capitol street, located just north of the current intersection with florida avenue.
as you can see in the graphic to the right, q street and lincoln road fed directly into the circle, while florida avenue ran just to the south. a photo of the circle (with the fountain that resided at its center) can be seen in this graphic, provided by bloomingdale resident tim sloan. he has written a very eloquent defense of why we should bring the circle back, as part of a reconstruction of north capitol street, that would bring the road back to a more human level, away from the car-centric near-freeway that it is today. his letter, in its entirety, is below.
(note: the 2005 ddot study referred to below can be found here.)
I have researched the 2005 DC DDOT study to rebuild Truxton Circle. In my opinion, it was flawed. It was conducted in a way where the only conclusion could be to NOT recommend building a new circle.
My case starts with the 11th Street bridge project in SE over the Anacostia River. That project begins construction next spring. When completed in 2015, the new 8 lane highway speed bridge will take thousands of cars off of New York Avenue. These cars will bypass NY Avenue and the 395 tunnel in NW for the faster, direct connection to the SE/SW freeway along 295.
Currently, DC DDOT is doing a feasibility study to close the entrance to 395 at New York Avenue NW. This closure cannot happen until the bridges over the river are open in my opinion. The hope is to return NY Avenue into a “grand boulevard” with green median strip.
All these traffic flow changes will affect North Capitol, as well, making the 2005 Truxton Circle study data obsolete.
Traffic heading south on North Capitol Street at R Street in the morning rush is about 2500 vehicles an hour. By the time you get to H Street, that number has dropped to 1250 vehicles an hour. Where are the 1250 cars going that turned off North Capitol? I suspect they are headed to the 395 tunnel entrance on NY Avenue, NW.
The other flaw in the Truxton Circle study is they focused on building a traffic circle that ONLY allowed 2 lanes of North/South traffic to enter the circle. North Capitol has three travel lanes in each direction crossing Florida Avenue currently. So, of course, the wait queues would be enormous due to merging traffic entering a two lane circle.
Chevy Chase Circle in NW has 3 traffic lanes entering and exiting the circle along Connecticut Avenue. It has no problems and higher traffic numbers than those of North Capitol Street.
DC DDOT still has the mind set that New York Avenue, Florida Avenue and North Capitol streets’ sole mission in our neighborhood is to feed the 395 highway beast. This is why cars on North Capitol wiz by at over 50 mph in our neighborhoods. They have no interest in stopping, shopping or slowing down. They are just cutting through, many on the way to Virginia via the 395 tunnel.
The right-of-way for North Capitol Street at Rhode Island Avenue is 110 feet wide, including the very narrow sidewalks. Some are only 4 feet wide. By comparison, the grand section of Pennsylvania between the White House and the US Capitol averages a 100 foot wide roadway width and 20 to 40 foot wide sidewalks on each side. On Pennsylvania Avenue, the 100 foot wide road way provides 4 travel lanes in each direction with a 16 foot wide median.
What do we get for our 110 foot wide road way? Two high speed lanes in each direction with a median barely wide enough to stand on and all buried 25 feet below grade (street level). At grade, we have 1 local lane in each direction, 1 parking lane and narrow sidewalks. Pedestrian deaths and high speed accidents are common on this section of roadway.
The highway designers of the 50’s and 60’s tunneled North Capitol to serve the unfinished 395 freeway, making a bad transportation plan even worse. We lost a walkable and connected neighborhood.
North Capitol Street will never be a thriving retail district and majestic northern gateway” to the “old city” until there are significant transportation changes in this area:
- Complete the 11th Street bridges in SE connecting 395 to 295. (completion 2015)
- Closing the 395 tunnel entrance at New York Avenue NW (entry to the Tunnel will be from Massachusetts Avenue NW).
- Building a modern three lane Truxton Circle at North Capitol and Florida Avenue.
- Return the intersection of North Capitol and New York Avenue to a grade intersection.
- Eliminate the long below grade section of North Capitol Street (W Street to Randolph Street), thus returning Rhode Island Avenue to a grade intersection with North Capitol Street and in the process creating a grand vista L’Enfant would be proud of.
Now imagine cars traveling 25 mph along a tree lined North Capitol with pedestrian friendly intersections and wide medians with trees. Walk along wide brick sidewalks once the underpasses are removed and the street correctly proportioned. Only then can you begin to imagine cafes, shops, restaurants and new housing along North Capitol Street.
The success of a thriving North Capitol Street business district will depend on new infrastructure and transportation projects, not street light flower baskets and banners. Now, let’s get to work.
here's a comparison of the circle before it's removal, and the same view up newly widened north capitol street immediately after reconstruction.
this graphic, from the 2005 ddot study, shows the proposed circle being centered on the intersection of north capitol and florida avenue. this would require the condemning of property to the southwest and northeast of the intersection. i believe that placing the circle in its proper former location would be more intelligent, and less damaging to the existing neighborhood.