K St. Solution at Rock Creek Parkway: A Sharp Left?

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Besides its park setting, Rock Creek Parkway is also a major commuter route.

This is a story about a gnarly K Street problem — related to traffic, not political lobbying.

The traffic jams have gotten steadily worse for drivers leaving Georgetown and needing to go north on Rock Creek Parkway from K Street. Smart people have been mulling over what to do about it for years. Then, suddenly, one of those simple, right-there solutions emerged: it only requires a sharp turn to the left.

That’s the gist of a traffic-flow modification being suggested by Jamie Scott, the Georgetown Business Improvement District’s planning and economic development director, to make the procedure for getting onto Rock Creek Parkway northbound less complicated during rush hours.

For years, the only way to do it has been to drive east on K Street on the bridge over the parkway, make a right turn onto 27th Street, make another right onto Virginia Avenue and then, a block later, make another right onto the parkway.

It takes some time. The green light at K Street and 27th Street lasts only a few seconds. That’s not much time for two lanes of traffic to maneuver — one turning right to get on Virginia Avenue or Route 66, the other continuing east into downtown

But there is a solution that could greatly speed up the number of cars leaving Georgetown to head north on the parkway — at least during weekday rush hours. It’s the ramp on K Street at 29th Street that exits south onto the southbound parkway lanes that go to Virginia or to the memorials. Between about 3:45 and 6 p.m. on weekdays, the ramp is closed because all the parkway traffic goes north.

“It suddenly occurred to us that we could open the ramp off of K Street during rush hours to cars wanting to go north,” explained Scott. “They would have to stop at the end of the ramp. Then, during a break in traffic, make a steep but not impossible left turn.”

To facilitate the break, the manually operated stop lights for pedestrians crossing the parkway from Virginia Avenue to the river walk would be switched to automatic signals. The red light that stops parkway traffic at Virginia Avenue for a half-minute or so would give the K Street ramp traffic time to turn left.

“The idea may be tested with traffic officers to monitor the procedure if the National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration agree,” Scott said. “If the plan measurably can speed traffic flow out of Georgetown, then perhaps a small street structure will be built later to facilitate the turn.”

“Traffic can still use the K Street-27th Street-Virginia Avenue route to the parkway, of course, and that will be the only way to go north on the parkway during the weekends,”Scott said. “But the light at K and 27th may be lengthened to allow more cars to turn right onto 27th or proceed into town. That could happen soon.”

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