Thursday, March 3, 2011

4th & M Intersection Changes Confusing Drivers

The traffic pattern at the intersection of 4th & M Street changed on March 1. DDOT officials were directing traffic on Tuesday morning as crews made adjustments to the traffic lights. Several readers have expressed frustration with the changes over the past couple of days. Reader PostIt described the new traffic cycle in a comment on another post like this:
1. M Street traffic east/west (no left turn arrow in either direction anymore) -- pedestrians cross 4th street East/West
2. Left turn arrow only for 4th street turning left from both directions, while also a right turn arrow for M street west/east bound -- no pedestrian traffic
3. 4th street North/south bound (no left turns) -- pedestrians cross M street North/South
4. Cycle back to step 1.
A representative from DDOT came to the January ANC 6D meeting to discuss some of the changes coming to the intersection, which has been the scene of a few pedestrian collisions since 4th Street reopened last spring. Some of the proposed changes include adjusting walk times depending on the time of day (at around 9:15AM on Wednesday, the pedestrian count was just 20 seconds to cross M Street); enhanced signage; and no right turn on red. There will also be police enforcement of traffic violations. In the brief time I was waiting at the intersection to turn right onto M Street on Wednesday morning, I saw a truck make an illegal U-turn on westbound M Street - no police though at that time. Eventually, the M Street corridor will be studied as a "complete street", as mentioned by former DDOT director Gabe Klein back in November. Anyone notice whether the walk times are different depending on the time of day?

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

These changes are creating a huge mess. This morning, while I was waiting on the left lane facing northbound on 4th at this intersection, at least three cars ignored the left turn arrow, swerved around me and made a left on red, almost hitting multiple pedestrians in the process. Tommy Wells' complete streets idea never seemed better...

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, I live north of 4th and M, so I haven't seen that intersection. Presumably the city put up signage that changes were coming? If not, this can be a major snafu. The cross times for pedestrians is of concern, too, says this walker and proponent of complete streets.

shan_d

PostIt said...

This intersection is still chaotic, mostly due to local residents who are used to the old traffic pattern. Unfortunately for them, the major differences are for 4th street (mostly local traffic) and not M street (mostly thru traffic).

There are people turning left from both right hand lanes on 4th street, despite there being a sign (admittedly off to the side) showing you can't do that. There are others who don't turn left off of 4th during their green arrow, but then decide to turn left when the main light is green and they have a red arrow. DOH!

While the resulting behavior some 3 weeks from now will be great, this whole fiasco could have been avoided if DDOT had just put some signs alerting people to the change. Instead, they just let it happen and people "will just figure it out after a while." Yeah, they will, but trial by fire is NOT a good approach for traffic control - especially when you're mostly impacting local traffic that has ingrained driving habits at the intersection. All they needed to do was put a couple orange flags above the traffic signals, and maybe a couple temporary signs that say "Alert: New Traffic Pattern." It's cheap, quick, low maintenance and would have spared them of a lot of egg on their face.

P.S.
I noticed this morning that the bus stop on the SE corner of the intersection is now "temporarily closed." Although I think it's probably more like "permanently closed."

Moose said...

There was one lighted traffic sign, on eastbound Maine Ave/M street at the intersection with 6th Street, announcing a new traffic pattern last week. That was all that I ever saw. Something on 4th Street northbound would have been more effective.

I wonder if they're going to move that bus stop across to the opposite corner of the intersection now? Several times this week the driver of the 70/71bus that hits 4th & M around 9:12 am has been stopping there to pick people up from the Metro anyway.

Have they put any markings on the street yet? I did notice that they had covered the regular (non-arrowed) traffic signs this morning, presumably to reduce confusion for the left turners, but there was still a lot of honking and red light turning going on this morning after 9.

I have to add that I'm personally a bit miffed that in a residential neighborhood we have to hit a signal to get a pedestrian light to cross M street. It should be the default that pedestrians are favored over commuters along M; we're the ones who pay the taxes for these things after all.

HRH King Friday XIII, Ret. said...

Good lord. Just get it over with and bulldoze M Street and make it into one big f-ing sidewalk already.

Anonymous said...

I find it hugely aggravating that these all seem changes that favor and facilitate the huge number of commuters that cut through the neighborhood from 395 to 295, while making driving even more frustrating for residents. Eliminating the left turn arrow from M to 4th being a prime example of this. It takes endless cycles of the light to get home to 4th street during the day now.

Anonymous said...

Big Fail for DDOT.
- No left turn signals on M Street. Now they're on 4th Street which doesn't get one-tenth of the traffic that M Street has. Huh?
- No right on red. Please, don't make me laugh. Everyone is turning right on red at that intersection.
- No U-turns. (See No right on red, above).
- Separate left turn arrows on 4th Street. They took the left turn arrows from M Street and put them on 4th Street. Brilliant.
- Police enforcement. I have not seen 1 driver receive a moving violation ticket in the past 10 years I've lived here.
What were they thinking???

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for the stadium traffic......

Anonymous said...

I'm infuriated that they've eliminated the left turn arrows for drivers that are westbound on M and want to turn south on 4th. I had to wait through SIX light cycles last night to turn left and then had to bolt through as the light was turning red. I thought their "improvements" were intended to enhance safety, not degrade it.

Use the DC website 311 feature to complain, plus email Tommy Wells.

wd said...

"There will also be police enforcement of traffic violations."

HAHA!!! That's funny!! ...still a few weeks until April 1st though.

Anonymous said...

This intersection is absurd. I live right there, and therefore, drive AND walk through the intersection all the time. Like most locals, I ignore the "walk" signals and cross the street when it is clear. Given the new difficulties to turn left onto M Street Westbound from 4th Street Northbound, I will also ignore the red turn arrow and go when I can, as many drivers do. Of course, I do yield to pedestrians, unlike some drivers. They need to go back to studying the traffic patterns and start over. I hope they get this straighted out soon, because it is a big fuster cluck.

Anonymous said...

"Good lord. Just get it over with and bulldoze M Street and make it into one big f-ing sidewalk already."

I LOVE your attitude and completely agree with you! I can't wait until they put a traffic island running all the way down Maine Ave and through M St past 14th SE. That will be a great day and I will then be able to die a happy man.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see nothing - and I mean nothing - has changed at that intersection. Except for the confused drivers, the aggressive drivers and the right-on-red drivers.