Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Proposal for Takoma Junction traffic circles draws criticism

Residents say measures would cause problems for motorists and pedestrians

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Brian Lewis⁄The Gazette
Consultants hired to conduct walkability studies in the Takoma Junction have suggested installing a traffic circle near the busy intersection of Ethan Allen and Carroll avenues.
Some Takoma Park residents say a proposal to construct a one-way traffic circle to ease the flow of traffic at the Takoma Junction would do more harm than good.

‘‘Everyone has been opposed to the circles,” said Jim DiLiugi, one of several residents who have brought the issue up at meetings of the Takoma Park City Council and among Ward 3 residents.

The residents say traffic circles will only make traffic worse and could make it harder for pedestrians to traverse the area, home to one of the city’s business districts that includes the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op and strip of storefronts along Carroll.

In the last five years, the city has hired two consultants to conduct separate walkability studies to address concerns over too much traffic at the Junction, near the intersection of Ethan Allen and Carroll avenues.

In both instances, the consultants, walkability expert Dan Burden and Kittelson & Associates Inc., recommended exploring the installation of one or more one-way traffic circles, or roundabouts, at the closely spaced intersections of Carroll, Ethan Allen, Sycamore, Columbia and Grant avenues.

Ethan Allen and Carroll are each state highways, 410 and 195 respectively, and the area lies within the Old Takoma Historic District.

Sara Daines, the city’s director of Housing and Community Development, said SHA is helping coordinate meetings in the next month to gather public input and see ‘‘if any other alternatives may be appropriate.”

Many residents have already voiced their disapproval of the proposal and are eager for other solutions.

‘‘Anyone who thinks the amount of traffic at Ethan Allen and Carroll can be served by a one-way traffic circle, it just defies comprehension,” said Sabrina Baron, president of Historic Takoma. ‘‘Our position is not that the intersection does not need improvement in terms of traffic and pedestrian safety. Anybody can see that we need improvement in traffic flow and pedestrian safety. I use that intersection all the time, and I know you sit there for long periods of time and no one is moving.”

Some are also worried about a section of the Kittelson & Associates report that suggests considering a second traffic circle at the intersection of Carroll and Philadelphia avenues, directly in front of the Takoma Park fire station.

Elmer Hamm, president of the Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department, said it would be almost impossible to maneuver fire trucks around such a roundabout.

‘‘I don’t think that would work too good right in front of the fire house,” he said Friday. ‘‘As far as I know, no one has talked to us about it.”

City Councilman Dan Robinson (Ward 3), who represents the area near the Junction and has attended several of the community meetings where the issue has come up, said he does not think a traffic circle would work in the area, but said it’s important the city follow the process that has been agreed to.

‘‘My sense from the rest of the council and how I feel is that the appropriate path is for State Highway to consider all options for the Junction and [that] doesn’t restrict their process to just the traffic circle,” Robinson said. ‘‘I personally don’t think a traffic circle’s the right answer, but because it’s part of the process already, we don’t want to scare state highway away.”

Daines said that although the council has decided to go ahead with the meetings, it doesn’t mean the proposal has been ‘‘endorsed by anybody or that it’s a done deal.”

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