The D.C. Department of Transportation has announced plans to close off a portion of 13th Street NW, once one of the main arteries into the city from suburban Maryland, at the point where the street intersects logan Circle.
According to Acting Transportation director James E. Clark III, the plan calls for the city to close the three inner roadways of 13th Street that allow traffic to pass through the circle, and to route all traffic, north and southbound, into three outer lanes on each side of the circle.
Clark said that the change should take effect "about Nov. 1" on a trial basis for a week, with a view toward eventually turning Logan Circle into a park. The dual objctive of the closing, Clark said, is to "restore some neighborhood livability" for the residents who live at Logan Circle, and also to encourage Maryland commuters to use the Metro subway line now open in Silver Spring.
The subject of 13th Street traffic has often pitted Maryland commuters against 13th Street residents, some of whose homes are as close as a few feet from the road. The residential street became what some homeowners angrilly called "a six-lane highway" shortly after World WAR , when it was converted to a one-way street moving traffic into the city during morning rush hour, and one-way going out in the evening.
The city paved the three inner lanes through the circle in 1956, when a building boom resulted in thousands of additional suburbanites flooding into the city in their automobiles, often tying up traffic around the circle.
With the advent of Metro, Transportation Department officials decided to encourage Maryland commuters to use the Silver Spring Red Line, and in January of this year 13th Street became two-way again at all times, with parking allowed on the side of the street.
Some motorists have complained that the switch to a two-way street did not cut down the number of cars on 13th Street, but only increased traffic jams -- a charge transportation officials have consistently denied. Some members of the D.C. Citizens Traffic Advisory Council have complained that this latest plan to decrease the number of available traffic lanes on 13th Street at Logan Circle will only add to the congestion and may consequently increase the number of accidents.
"They want to push back the situation as it was before 1956," said Advisory Council member Harry E. Wender, "not recognizing the fact that the traffic situation is worse now than it was in 1956."