The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

D.C. will add bike lanes, remove reversible travel lanes on busy Connecticut Ave. NW

Early estimates put the cost at $4.6 million

Cars on a busy stretch of Connecticut Avenue near Yuma Street NW in Washington. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

The District plans to add bike lanes and make other changes to a 2.7-mile segment of Connecticut Avenue NW, where some city leaders envision a corridor with less vehicle traffic and better access for people on foot, bicycles and transit.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) on Wednesday announced a makeover of the busy commuter route to include a northbound and southbound bike lane, while removing reversible rush-hour lanes that had been a source of confusion for drivers. The proposed configuration for a corridor that carries an average of 32,000 vehicles daily will result in fewer car lanes.

“After considering several options, it was clear that this design best meets the needs of our city and moves us closer to a greener DC, a safer DC, and a DC that is less reliant on cars,” Bowser said in a statement announcing the decision.

City transportation officials said the plan is moving to the design phase, with construction likely to begin in fall 2023. Early estimates put the cost at $4.6 million.

The new configuration would cut parking availability outside of rush-hour and car-lane capacity in half for the peak direction travel during the rush. The road will be reduced to four travel lanes and a protected bike lane would be added in each direction, with parking and loading zones removed on one side. More than 300 parking spaces would be eliminated, according to a DDOT analysis.

Planners are also recommending decreasing the speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph.

Car lanes vs. bike lanes: Proposals for busy Connecticut Avenue draw mixed reviews

The removal of reversible rush-hour lanes from the Woodley Park to Chevy Chase neighborhoods has widespread support. Their operations have been suspended during the pandemic because of lower traffic volumes. Nearly half of crashes in the corridor occurred during hours when the reversible lanes were in operation, about 15 percent of the time, according to a DDOT analysis.

More than one-third of crashes were attributed to the lanes, the city says, often the result of driver confusion about timing of the lanes or making left turns or U-turns from an incorrect lane.

The two reversible lanes allowed four of the lanes to carry southbound traffic during the morning rush, then reverse in the evening to carry northbound traffic out of the city.

The reduction of travel lanes to be replaced by bike lanes could frustrate drivers along Connecticut Avenue, one of the busiest north-south routes linking upper Northwest Washington to downtown — as well as a major thoroughfare from Maryland.

City planners and bicycle advocates say the bike lane option could spur more bike traffic in the corridor and reduce sidewalk conflicts between pedestrians and bicyclists. Members of the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions along the route have called for protected bike lanes and reduced speeds.

David Cristeal, a commissioner representing Van Ness and North Cleveland Park, said the redesign “will make traveling on it so much safer” for all road users.

Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), a bicyclist who has advocated for the change, said in a tweet Wednesday that she “cannot wait for the inaugural #bikedc ride down the *protected* Connecticut Ave bike lane.”

"This decision marks a critical step in making the corridor a safer place for everyone, but, more importantly, it demonstrates the type of bold infrastructure planning that is needed *across* DC,” she tweeted.