Eventually, some just chance it and dart through the traffic speeding up 16th Street.
It’s a study in traffic confusion. For years, residents, drivers, planners and elected officials have been talking about fixing the circle.
Traffic accidents are common, officials say. Pedestrians and cyclists say they dread the circle. Some drivers say they can’t make sense of it.
And with Silver Spring adding hundreds of new apartments and new residents in the coming years, the many critics of the circle say they fear it will only become more of a hazard.
“It is not your imagination that there are a lot of accidents there,” D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) said at a recent community meeting. “We know that it is only going to get worse as the area is more developed, and it is not just cars we are worried about.”
D.C. police recorded 12 traffic crashes in 2012 at the circle, which the D.C. Department of Transportation says is used by almost 32,000 vehicles a day. Montgomery County and Maryland transportation officials would not provide accident data. But city and county residents and officials say that incidents occur regularly. A pedestrian was killed at the circle in 2009.
The solution, everyone agrees, would be a traffic signal in Maryland where Colesville Road intersects with 16th Street.
But four years after Maryland endorsed such a plan, the signal hasn’t moved off the drawing board, its fate mired in a cross-
Installing a signal requires the coordination of the District, Montgomery County and the state of Maryland. Each jurisdiction controls or maintains a portion of the roadways or signals on or near the circle, and they have yet to settle on the funding, the design and construction, and the maintenance of the traffic light.
“It has been five years, but I don’t hear a deadline, I don’t even hear a milestone and . . . it is like every week we see an accident,” said Rick Toye, a resident of Shepherd Park, a Northwest Washington neighborhood that borders Silver Spring and the traffic circle. “I am just trying to figure out what is going on.”
Sitting on the border between the District and Montgomery County, the circle takes traffic from two roads under Maryland State Highway Administration control and three District roads.
Montgomery maintains the traffic lights in the Maryland side.
This multi-jurisdictional reality has delayed fixes that officials on both sides of the border say are crucial to improving safety.
D.C. and Montgomery officials say Maryland has sat too long on the plan to add the signal. The State Highway Administration, asked to explain the slow pace, said that coordination with the District has slowed a process that would otherwise take less than two years.