Now comes the D.C. Transportation Department to make a unilateral decision to close one lane of Reno Road to morning commuter traffic. Should they be able to decide on their own that the number of area cars going into the District in the morning be cut by 50 percent? Should Montgomery County be able to experiment with closing half the lanes on Connecticut Avenue to D.C. commuters going to Maryland? The answer, of course, is a resounding "No" to both questions. Important regional transportation decisions should be made in the spirit of regional cooperation with regional hearings. They can't be made in a vacuum with only those who want to make major public thoroughfares their own private streets getting their way.
The diverting of morning commuter traffic from Reno Road will work a great hardship on the large number of people from Montgomery County and Northwest D.C. who must find a way to go downtown each working day. Reno Road has served as a major access route to Massachusetts Avenue and the parkway for decades. Until the Metro Red Line to Montgomery County is completely finished, Connecticut and Wisconsin avenues will not be able to absorb the traffic that will necessarily be rerouted by this change. Altering the timing of traffic lights along Connecticut or Wisconsin, which have already become a nightmare for motorists at all hours of the day, could never offset the significant increase in the use of those avenues that closing part of Reno will bring. Just wait until all the vacationers go back to work after Labor Day to feel the squeeze.
It is not surprising that parents are anxious about the safety of the children who must cross Reno to reach school in the morning. Nevertheless, it is not clear that the solution being tried will put their fears to rest. Many motorists will simply choose to enter Reno at points further south. Thus they will have to pass through those same neignborhoods along streets that, unlike Reno were never intended to accomodate such traffic and do not have any crossing guards. Any increase in traffic passing east or west through these communities poses a far greater threat to the welfare of the residents and their families than existed previously. Why should the burden be shifted from those who knew they were buying on the Reno artery to those who thought they were purchasing on quiet residential streets?
The situation as planned will be ridiculous. Bus traffic will be on the part of one-lane Reno going south. Motorists who have to pass a stopped bus will break the law by going over the double line. Signs will stay up saying "only one lane" for traffic going north. Et, two north-bound lanes will be open because all homes on Reno have their own driveways and don't need street parking.
Attorney Carl Wilbur, who lived near Reno Road when he taught at Sidwell Friends and who now uses Reno to go downtown to see clients from his Montgomery County law office, suggests closer supervision of cars as the more appropriate response. "Let Reno lights be synchronized and radar units be set up to control speeding," Wilbur says. Two residents of north Cleveland Park told me they saw a radar unit on Reno "once long ago." In point of fact, however, much of the speeding that occurs along this road takes place not during the rush hours, when the sheer numbers of cars alone tends to preclude it, but during other times of the day and night when the road lies clear ahead. From 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., when children are making their way to school, crossing guards at traffic lights could be used in greater numbers.
While it is hoped that continued expansion of the subway system will alleviate many of the traffic problems that now beset the city, it is unrealistic under present circumstances to try to deny morning commuters what has long been a convenient means of access to certain areas downtown where many people work. To talk of making Reno the neighborhood street it once was is misleading and flies in the face of reality of life in the city today. Trememdous growth in the Washington area for more than a generation means that if Reno was ever anything other than an important commuter route, that was long ago.