ANC Update: The Return of the Left Turn




-It’s one of those taken-for-granted rudiments of citizenship on the road, a rule instinctively digested, if for no other reason than a driver’s ed instructor shouted at you until you learned it. Yield at the light, even if you have to wait for a yellow. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a green arrow, a boon to send you on your way.

Even that has seemed a scarcity for eastbound drivers on M Street, who frequently discover — or are reminded — that making a left turn into upper Georgetown is awfully difficult. But thanks to a little coaxing by Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, the ANC 2E and others, that’s about to change.

“We need a united community behind us … People have to be aware of it, they have to like the idea,” Evans said of a petition to DDOT to remove from Wisconsin Avenue a left turn restriction in place on nearly every street north of M. Neighbors have complained for years that the regulations drives traffic, freight vehicles included, up the few narrow streets that do permit left turns, namely 33rd Street.

At the ANC’s June 28 meeting, DDOT Director Gabe Klein was invited up to the podium, where he sketched a rough plan for removing the no-left-turn sign at the Wisconsin and M intersection with minimal impact to traffic density and wait times.

The major obstacle? Such a change would impact the time eastbound drivers wait at the light, according to DDOT projections handed out at the meeting. At an intersection that already sustains a daily volume of 40,000 vehicles, adding a left-turn phase to the light cycle would cause the wait time to double throughout the day. In a worst-case scenario, morning drivers heading downtown could sit at the light for almost six minutes. You can bet DDOT would hear about that one.

“We’re trying to find a balance between time and space,” Klein said. His solution is to remove 11 parking spaces near the intersection, which would better distribute car volume across M Street’s three lanes — and keep wait times consistent with current levels.

The plan enjoyed rave reviews by most meeting attendees. The BID’s Jim Bracco said, “Without equivocation, we’re for this.” Hazel Denton, CAG’s transportation committee chair, agreed.

“The residents would love to do something that would take some of the traffic out of the neighborhood,” she said. The ANC submitted a resolution in unanimous support of the plan.

Others aired friendly suggestions to Klein. Though he voted for the measure, Commissioner Ed Solomon added that more work needs to be done to alleviate traffic volume throughout Georgetown’s stretch of M Street. Neighbor Ken Archer proposed removing the bus stop at the Wisconsin and M intersection, saying it would alleviate congestion caused by buses turning onto M Street and immediately stopping.

Klein agreed to consider it. Good feelings all around. Imagine that: the whole neighborhood in agreement.

The left turn restriction is expected to be removed by the end of August 2010.

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