"Eight years ago," writes Bill Brown of Rural America, "you ran an item about the stop lights at Dupont Circle.
"You said they would soon be revamped, perfected, modernized and synchronized.
"A couple of weeks ago, the lights were finally replaced after lots of digging and wiring.
"However, the lights still tell cars entering the south side of the circle from New Hampshire Avenue to go into the circle before cars already within the circle at that spot are told to stop.This produces fender-bening, horn blowing and utter confusion. Is this what they consider an improved control system for Dupont Circle?"
Oh, dear! Has it really been eight years? How time flies.
Highway officials say the project took a long time to plan because it is "the biggest signal job that Pepco has ever undertaken for us." There have been delays in obtaining some of the "hardware" for the job, also delays in getting budget and spending approvals. And from time to time, other projects were given higher priorities.
Higher priorities ruled out the inclusion of repaving in the project's plans. In fact, repaving is not on the schedule for 1979 or 1980 either. The 1981 paving schedule has not yet been completed.
When Pepco was told what signal changes would be needed at the circle, it figured the job would take nine months. District officials sweet-talked Pepco into doing the job in 60 days.
Pepco guesses that it will need about three more weeks to complete the job - more if we have lots of rain. So the word to those of you who use the circle each day is: Be patient. During the next three weeks, as in the weeks we've just been through, the circle's light may lose synchronization from time to time, but this, too, will pass away and one day soon the project will be finished.
The New Hampshire Avenue conflict that Bill Brown criticizes will be slightly improved, but not entirely resolved. Instead of getting a green arrow, as they do now, New Hampshire Avenue drivers will get a flashing yellow arrow - "which we hope will convey the message, even to out-of-town drivers, that they do not have an entirely clear track and must proceed with caution."
Highway officials say they will attempt to reposition some of the circle's lights (for example, at the Guardian Federal intersection) to reduce confusion as to which drivers are supposed to obey which signals. Where foliage interferes with a clear view of lights, it will be monitored more frequently and trimmed when necessary.
"Essentially, however, the phasing will remain pretty much as it now is," I was told. "When you have that many streets channeling into one circle, there is no magic formula for eliminating all conflicts."
Agreed. I just feel sorry for the pedestrians who try to cross the circle on "Walk" lights that afford them very little protection. Motorists who get into the inner or outer loops by mistake and then make forbidden turns anyhow are a constant menace.