Worst trail junction in town




worst junction in town Originally uploaded by Payton Chung

Okay, so this intersection isn’t exactly the royal mess that is the Lady Bird Johnson Traffic Bowl at the other end of Memorial Bridge.* I consider the most infuriating point along the Potomac & Rock Creek paths, for several reasons:

1. NO SIGNAGE. This crosswalk leads under the Lincoln Memorial Circle ramps to the trail along the Potomac, and thus to Potomac Park, the Tidal Basin, etc. Continuing along the river, though, leads pedestrians up an ramp to a dead-end overlook — surrounded by six lanes of free-flowing traffic.
2. Cars speeding off of Rock Creek Parkway onto Memorial Bridge here rarely yield to pedestrians, for fear of being rear-ended at highway speeds. (The posted speed limit, as with many local NPS parkways, is lower but universally flouted.)
3. Sharp curves on the path and steep ramps. There is no way to take the curb cut shown at any speed, since it requires steering into a turn and making sure not to trip over the ramp’s sharp sides. Not to mention that the trail makes a sharp arc around this belvedere because… why?
4. Insufficient trail widths, particularly at the sharp turns.

My solution:
1. One little sign, added to the sign on that lamp post and facing north: [up] Memorial Bridge, [L] Potomac Park. Those approaching from the east (i.e., this view) have enough visual cues to know that Georgetown is to the right and the Lincoln Memorial to the left.
2. Close the little road loop. Traffic moves too quickly for anyone to pull out here and enjoy the view, anyhow. Add a bike path that cuts across its mouth.
3. Point the crosswalks such that they are not perpendicular to the road, for the convenience for drivers, but instead follow the line of the path. Widen the curb cut, and grade it gently.
4. Slow traffic approaching the crosswalk, and add something (flashing lights?) to alert drivers to stop.

* Every time I glance at a map of the Arlington riverfront, I keep thinking that there must be a way to handle those traffic flows with half as many ramps, many fewer conflicts, and in 1/4 as much space, but wow, that’s a complicated web they’ve weaved over there. The Pentagon has a long-range plan to sort out some of its parking lots and ramps (and return a whopping 50 acres of pavement to green space!), but that’s only one-third of the basket-weave.

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