Board to Vote on Douglas Park Traffic Circle Plan

by ARLnow.com October 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm 4,369 48 Comments

The Arlington County Board is set to vote this weekend on a plan to add three landscaped traffic circles to 16th Street S. in the Douglas Park neighborhood.

The $132,000 project — which also calls for the addition of curb extensions, textured pavement crosswalks and painted parking edge lines — is being recommended by the county’s Neighborhood Traffic Calming Committee, as a way to slow down traffic on 16th Street.

The street has “documented speeding problems,” county officials said in a staff report. According to county data, the average speed on 16th Street between S. Monroe Street and S. Quincy Street is 24 miles per hour, with 48 percent of traffic traveling faster than the posted 25 mile per hour speed limit and 15 percent of traffic traveling at 31 miles per hour or higher.

Speed humps were not considered for the traffic calming project, because the “85th percentile” speed required by law for speed hump projects is 32 miles per hour.

This summer, residents of homes along 16th Street were polled on the plan — to add “mini-traffic circles” to the intersections with S. Nelson, Oakland and Pollard Streets. Of those surveyed, 66 percent supported the plan, just above the 60 percent threshold for the project to proceed.

County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman was likely among those who were polled. Zimmerman’s house is one block away from one of the proposed traffic circles.

(Residents will be asked to maintain the landscaping of the traffic circles.)

One 16th Street resident who opposes the project says she’s worried about the ability of emergency vehicles to navigate the traffic circles.

“My concern is that it’s an emergency response route,” the resident told ARLnow.com, adding that the county should “stop punishing 95 percent of the population for 5 percent — the speeders.”

The stretch of 16th Street in question is located south of Columbia Pike and just west of Glebe Road. The board is expected to vote on the traffic calming plan at its Saturday meeting.

Also on the board’s Saturday agenda is a traffic calming plan for 26th Street between N. Sycamore Street and N. Quantico Street in the East Falls Church neighborhood. The $92,000 project — for a stretch of road that has 71 percent of vehicles traveling above the speed limit — will include curb extensions (numbs) and one “speed cushion.”

  • Johnny Utah

    “One of the proposed traffic circles is one block away from the house of a County Board member.”

    Corruption, plain and simple!

    • FedUp

      What a dumb remark.

      • Johnny Utah

        If by dumb, you mean genius. Then yes.

        • Josh S

          No, just plain dumb.

  • 1234

    They’ve calmed traffic enough on 16th st with the despicably bad pavement on the hill. Vanity projects getting in the queue ahead of basic infrastucture maintanance is getting tiresome in this county.

    • Undereducated

      You got that right!

  • Get the facts. This is

    We in Douglas Park are thankful for these and they will make our streets more safe.

    1. 1) Traffic speeds must be properly measured and meet the threshold for taking action — they were and they did.

    2. 2) A set of traffic-calming measures that are suitable and
    effective for this location must be worked out, and then approved by at least 60% of the impacted neighbors — they were and they were.

    3. 3) The Neighborhood Traffic Calming Committee must rank the project, based on its elements, so that it becomes eligible for the limited funding they have — they did.

    4. 4) The Neighborhood Traffic Calming Committee must approve the project, both the engineering plan and the process — done.

    5. 5) The County Board has to review and approve all prior activity leading up to their action and authorize these funds, already allocated to Traffic Calming via a bond issue approved by the voters, be spent on this project.

    • Undereducated

      More safe (sic) than what? All the traffic circles, speed bumps, and nubs or numbs or whatever they are called, are making Arlington streets more dangerous. Get in line to knock your alignment out from hitting a jutting curb, or purchase a new tire or replace your ball joints. Add in the cost of needing to replace your brakes more often and your increased fuel consumption from braking and accelerating at speed bumps, and you will have a lot to be thankful for (sic).

      • Josh S

        Oh yes, the alignment out of whack epidemic. Whatever happened to that?
        What’s that you say? It was fictitious from the start? Scare tactics from those resistant to change? Red herrings from those who prefer to speed carelessly along a long, straight stretch of residential road?

        Sort of like the worries about emergency vehicles?


  • G

    I hate traffic circles… drivers never stop for pedestrians trying to cross at them.

  • jjbug1

    That’s cute! I’ve never seen a “numb”!

  • What about the low riders…

    Oh the humanity, think about the low riders please. http://www.flickr.com/photos/justsmartdesign/3160876090/

  • JimPB

    Glad to see the prospect of enhancing safety by tightening down on drivers that barrel down residential streets.

    About the method:
    Aren’t speed photo cameras available for a proportion of the revenue from the speeding tickets? If so, this could be a way to increase compliance with speed limits without the substantial traffic calming outlays and without any hindrances to the transit of emergency vehicles. The ticketing might well also be more effective than the design changes in reducing the number of speeders. And, hey, some additional revenue from speeders might well remove some of the cost burden that these drivers inflict on the population.

    From the information about vehicle speeds in the article above, it looks like tickets would need to be issued for speeding only a few miles/hr. over the speed limits. So long as the speed camera speed determinations were fairly precise, i.e., within say a 1 mph of the actual vehicle speed, this shouldn’t be a problem.

    While we’re at it, might not speed limits be changed from fixed to variable. For example, during the morning time when children were going to school and in the afternoon when returning from school and hopefully playing outside at least some of the time (when the weather’s nice, of course), and especially during the summer’s long evening hours or on special occasions, e.g., trick or treating, the speed limit should arguably be set low. In contrast, during the night between say 11 pm and say 5 am (the actual hours to be determined by resident self-reports on when they’re rarely outside), the speed limit might appropriately be set higher. And, In this age of IT sophistication. it would seem easy to add downward adjustments in the speed limit when there was rain and snow on the immediate roads. Come to think of it, the programming could give the power of enhancing safety to the those with whom it belongs, the residents, by allowing residents (with the use of a password) to impose a lower speed limit 24/7 for a pre-specified duration, e.g., 20 minutes.

    • Burger

      Seriously, Clark. You have got to be kidding me.

      Take your speed cameras and their clear use to only raise revenue back to Maryland and DC.

      Thankfully, Virginia has deemed speed camera’s illegal as it becomes just a ploy for local jurisdictions to tax out of jurisdiction drivers for money instead of being more fiscally responsible or allowing the private company (which always share in the profits) to be overly strict on their usage.

      As for variable speed – yes, that seems much easier and won’t be confusing to many.

      As for the 26th St plan – the problem with the road (at the point) is that it is massively wide so there is no perspective on how fast a person is going v. other Arlington roads that are narrower.

      as for the speed bump, I’d imagine that they’ll stick a emegency vehicle cut through and people will do like the always do – drive through the cut-through unless another car is nearby.

      • cthouse

        How are speed cameras a ploy to tax out-of-jurisdiction drivers when the cameras take photos of every vehicle exceeding the limit? In any event, in my experience, most every speed camera is preceded by a sign (or signs) warning motorists that such cameras are being used.

        Also, I’m not sure what it means to say that private companies are “overly strict” on the usage of such cameras, or that they share in the fines generated by the cameras.

        First, I’m certain that the County could require that the camera not take photos of a vehicle exceeding the speed limit by, say, less than X mph (just as a state trooper often will not pull over a car, even when his radar gun shows it doing over the speed limit).

        Second, if the cameras are being operated and/or maintained by private companies, then they should share in the fines.

        • Burger

          Go goggle New York Avenue and speed camera. DC speed camera’s are set up at major points of entry for non-residents leaving or entering the state. Since more people drive into DC then exit, who do you think gets hit more?

          Second, go goggle private companies (usually with government looking the other way) red light cameras and then shortening the yellow lights to catch more people. Once, a private company is established to set the rules and then can profit from those rules, what do you think happens.

          Third, speed cameras and red light cameras really have nothing to do with safety but only related revenue. If safety was an issue there would be cop out there to enforcing the law.

          Fourth, a county that regularly sticks speed traps out on Lee Highway (at John Marshall) right as many non-Arlingtonians enter and leave the county isn’t exactly a strong advocate to argue the need for speed cameras. And, if do not think Arlingtonian cops do not have quota’s for speeding tickets I can set my calendar to 4 days before the end of the month and cops are out there for 4 straight days. Then the new month shows up and they disappear – and might show up 1 day the rest of the month. Does that really sound like it is about safety or revenue?

          • It’s math…….

            “Since more people drive into DC then exit, who do you think gets hit more?”

            What?????? Drinking must have started early today.

      • Just the Facts

        “the problem with the road (at the point) is that it is massively wide so there is no perspective on how fast a person is going”

        I love this excuse for speeding. It’s a sibling of, “But I was on a hill!” and a close cousin of, “But I was going with traffic!”

        What moron uses “perspective” to judge his speed? I, and other responsible drivers, use “speedometer” to know how fast we’re going.

        • Josh S

          Actually, it’s a documented fact that people drive faster on wider roads, regardless of the speed limit. Try going the speed limit on North Capitol north of Children’s Hospital, for example. Why do you think Westmoreland had the medians added or Patrick Henry / Ohio, etc. I don’t know what language you want to use to explain that but narrowing the road is definitely one way to slow people down.

          I’m not saying it’s an excuse. Not sure the OP was either. Just a fact.

    • Undereducated

      On what planet is traffic managed as you describe?

  • N26th St

    Glad to see my street is getting voted on as well.

    • Burger

      I really feel no sympathy for you. You elected to live on a road that was clear a long cut through with a strong connection to other parts of the neighborhood and Harrison shopping center – while people should drive safely there is no real correlation to any accidents on that road to warrant the need.

      The road is extermely wide so you do not have the child dashing out on to the road and the fact their is hills on both ends of the street which provides clear sight lines for drivers, slows drivers down as they drive up and down the road. Further, the red light and stop sign at the end of the road further mitigating restrictions on speeders.

      I live right around the corner for 10+ years and there has never been an accident on the road or hit pedestrian

      • Josh S

        The “elected to live on a road” argument holds little water. It’s completely beside the point. Does the road need traffic calming or not. The occurance of an accident is not the only criteria, apparently. Sometimes, it’s nice to prevent accidents before they happen.

        I have been a pedestrian on that stretch many times but only extremely rarely drive it. So I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other. But your arguments sound very much like those made by civic association members who just don’t like change in their neighborhood.

  • G Clifford Prout

    I wonder if they’d let me buy the circle and let me be buried there. I’d erect a very tasteful monument to myself. Might be an easy way to pay for these things.

  • Bordon

    Take it from someone who knows. I live on a corner lot with a traffic circle. It doesn’t stop the speeding but it does add deep ruts in the lawns made by crazy drivers who couldn’t quite make that turn…especially fun times in the winter

  • soarlslacker

    Why not just park some police there and ticket people? It sounds like a lost revenue opportunity.

    • soarlslacker

      Speed humps just hurt anyone with a back problem, even it they are driving a big SUV. There are so many darn speed humps in Mont Cty that some people just don’t go there.

  • ROJO 1

    So Zimmerman want to have these installed and then have the residents maintain the landscaping.?!?! Why not install speed tables along these roads and not hassle the residence to maintain them.

    • Burger

      I saw that and laughed. Too me it reeks of the old economic lessons about common property in England in the middle ages and how well it was maintained.

      • Josh S

        It does seem to be a surprising suggestion, but if the civic association agrees to it and is willing to take on the task of finding and organizing the volunteers, I think it could be a real source of pride. Heck, make it county-wide and hold a competition – who’s got the best-looking traffic circle?

  • Bordon

    Or stop signs. Arlington seems to abhor stop signs but they are a tried and true method of slowing down the crazy speeders

    • John K.

      A sensible thought, used across America and beyond… we won’t have any of that here.

    • Set the Controls

      I suggested stop signs along 16th St. to Douglas Park neighbors until I was blue in the face. They’re not approved as a traffic calming solution. It seems only traffic circles and speed humps are. As the traffic circle saga progressed, the more bureaucrats weighed in, and fewer choices were left. Nope, can’t do that, or that, not approved for that. By the time it came to a neighborhood vote there were only two choices-traffic circles or no traffic circles. It seemed rigged from the beginning. The only people invited to vote lived in the immediate vicinity of the circles, and who wouldn’t grab a chance to tart up the street in front of their house, except the people who own corner lots and will need to sacrifice some acreage for the streetscape improvements. The price tag I’ve heard is $200K for all three circles (it’s just bonds, we don’t have to pay them off for a few years), and after the initial euphoria I seriously doubt landscaping will be kept up.

  • ClaraBarton

    Landscaped traffic circles are horrible for safety and visibility.

    Can anyone see the Walk signal in this picture? Every night I deal with pedestrians crossing against a light they can’t see.

    • Undereducated


    • Josh S

      More to the point, can anyone see the traffic circle in that picture? I sure don’t.

  • BlueLoom

    Lots o’ luck, you folks in Douglas Park. We had all the right numbers on our street (a known cut-through from Lee Hwy to Williamsburg Blvd & onward to Glebe Road), too–75% of cars using the street speeding, the correct number (at the time–they changed the rules on us in the middle of the process) of residents approving the plan, the support of the county staff, etc. It still got shot down by the board. Of course, we don’t have a board member living a block from our street. Maybe we need to recruit one.

    • Rick

      Westmoreland? Are you the guy that installed the “stop sign camera” on the phone pole at the end of Washington Blvd???

  • Rick

    “Textured pavement crosswalks”

    Has anyone seen one of these installed/erected? The crappy contractor lays down horrible asphalt, then lays down a rubbery brick pattern and runs over it with a steam roller, than PAINTS the asphalt a brick color. I’m sure these things do wonders for snow plows and the paint fades after a couple years. Spend the money on good reflective paint for the stripe around the circle and the crosswalk.

    The fact that they want the community to groom the circle is hilarious. Maybe they can go over to Randolph and mow the field when they’re done

  • Roquer

    Is this going to make burglars have to run around the circles to escape when doing burglaries in the area?

  • chipotle_addict

    “According to county data, the average speed on 16th Street between S. Monroe Street and S. Quincy Street is 24 miles per hour, with 48 percent of traffic traveling faster than the posted 25 mile per hour speed limit and 15 percent of traffic traveling at 31 miles per hour or higher.”

    I don’t understand why this is a big deal. I mean, 24 mph average, speed limit 25 mph… seems reasonable enough to me.

    If the intended average speed is below 24 mph, then the posted limit should be lower than 25, just my opinion.

    Common rule of thumb is to stick within 6 mph of the limit when speeding to avoid tickets, 31 mph isn’t really that crazy.

  • Charlie

    You’ve drunk the juice.
    On my street ….
    The traffic circles are slalom runs for every jack ass who thinks he has a nice car
    The traffic circles are target practice and test drives for people w 4x4s who repeatedly go THRU the circle
    The textured crosswalks will wear off
    The humps will prove that everyone thinks straddling the hump is more important than staying right of the yellow line
    The traffic circles are horrible for pedestrians
    People who don’t like the circles WILL drive around them the wrong way to male a left

    Congratulations on something that I hope works better for you. In my neighborhood it hasn’t worked and people are still pissed at on another despite the years. It divided our community in ways never expected…

    And all we really wanted were a few 4-way signs.

  • Meade Street

    Anyone getting a tax free circular driveway?

  • Suburban Not Urban

    I’ve got to refer back to @1234: – if we have limited funds – we should be spending them on road maintenance not vanity/pretty marginally desired and needed projects. I have a family member who lives on 16th St, and the street has been like driving in Bosnia in the 90’s for a couple of years.

  • bringmetheyuppies

    These 3 circles are exactly one block apart. Nelson and Oakland run from 14th to 18th only. Why in the world do we need one every block for 3 blocks. Those who bought on 16th knew what they were buying into. The wide road is a huge benefit to those on it since people can park on both sides of the road and two cars can still pass in the middle. If you really wanted them on this road it should have been Monroe Pollard and Quincy, right in front of Zimmermans house. This would have cut off cut throughs from Walt reed to glebe. The new busy street will be 14th. Twice as narrow and no speed humps like 18th. When a kid on 14th gets hit because of lack of visibility I hope the parents march right down to a lawyer.

  • Garden City

    Living on a residential street that is a cut-through between Geo Mason and North Glebe, where cars we regularly clocked at speeds approaching 50 mph (and its barely two cars wide if cars are parked on both sides), I will attest the difference a traffic circle and 3 or 4 well-placed speed humps can make. Its a non-scientific observation but both the cut through traffic and the speeds are notably reduced.

  • ScottB

    Random thoughts:
    32 mph 85th before speed humps can be used? That’s a bit high. Many jurisdictions fund traffic calming when the 85th hits 5 over posted.

    Traffic circles are not so good for cyclists, and more cyclists on the road has been shown to slow down motorists. Why not stripe some of that space with bike lanes?

  • Glenn Mosher

    How is it we manged to live in this country and neighborhoods and children survived for more than a century with automobiles. This foolish ‘solution’ of circles and speed bumps is absurd and a waste of tax dollars. You simply enforce the speed laws. Police can do it. Or, you can get neighborhood watch to do this simply by driving up and down the two sides of the streets at the speed limit. In time, the speeders will go elsewhere. What municipal nonsense!!


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