Chevy Chase Residents Push for Connecticut Avenue Crosswalk
Crossing Connecticut Avenue near the Chevy Chase Village Hall would be a lot easier with a crosswalk, residents say.
Connecticut Avenue isn’t just a headache for commuters.
It’s also a nightmare for pedestrians trying to cross its six lanes to get to and from Chevy Chase Village Hall, which houses the local post office, the Chevy Chase Village Police and meeting rooms for over 100 events a year.
Busy Connecticut Avenue, which is likely to get busier with developments at Chevy Chase Lake, bisects a residential community—Chevy Chase Village—into two parts.
The avenue also separates Chevy Chase Village Hall from the Village of Martin’s Additions and from Chevy Chase Village Sections Three and Five.
Residents from these other municipalities use the Chevy Chase Village Hall to visit the post office (at which over 30,000 transactions are completed per year, according to U.S. Postal Service data) or to attend events, such as the popular Meet and Mingles hosted by Chevy Chase At Home, a social and helping-hand organization for senior citizens. Section Five also holds its council meetings at the village hall.
For elderly and vision-impaired residents, crossing Connecticut Avenue is tough. Pedestrians can walk to Chevy Chase Circle, a couple of blocks south of village hall, but for older folks, that can be a bit of a detour.
Otherwise, in the 3,200-foot stretch of Connecticut Avenue between Chevy Chase Circle and Bradley Lane (where a traffic light and crosswalk were installed in the 1980s after a child was hit by a car, said Chevy Chase Village Director of Municipal Operations Michael Younes), there are no marked crosswalks, no pedestrian crossing lights and several public bus stops, according to research conducted by Chevy Chase Village Traffic Committee member Jan Acton.
Still, putting in a crosswalk isn’t an easy process.
The State Highway Administration must first conduct studies to determine that there is a sizable number of pedestrians attempting to cross the street near the village hall.
But, with many pedestrians so frightened to cross the street that they would rather drive a few blocks than walk, that’s a hard number to determine.
As Chevy Chase Village Traffic Committee Chair Porter Wheeler said, it’s “hard to ascertain the volume of usage without having any sense of what the demand would be.”
Installing a crosswalk across Connecticut Avenue at this location would increase traffic congestion on the road, explained Cedric Ward, a traffic engineer for the State Highway Administration at a Chevy Chase Village Traffic Committee meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
One solution, Ward explained, would be to discuss with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority the possibility of consolidating some of the bus stops along this stretch of Connecticut Avenue, in the hopes of consolidating pedestrian traffic across the road as well.
Another option would be to add signage to the corridor, warning drivers of pedestrians.
A full traffic signal is a third option, if pedestrian-crossing studies (to be completed in the coming months) suggest it, Ward added.
A pedestrian bridge across Connecticut Avenue would be tricky, because of the need to acquire property on either side of the road.
But, a traffic light-and-crosswalk combo would cost only about $200,000 to $250,000—and would take up to two years—to construct, as long as there are no right-of-way issues, Ward added.
(Crosswalks without traffic lights are relatively cheap, but unsafe for pedestrians, according to the Federal Highway Administration's study of 1,000 pedestrian fatalities over a five-year period, Acton noted in his research.)
“I’m going to try to do everything I can to get to this,” Ward told residents at the traffic committee meeting, but added that a balance must be struck “between moving commuters out of Washington and providing safety for pedestrians wanting to cross Connecticut.”
Editor's note: This post has been updated to better define the cost of a traffic light-and-crosswalk combination.