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Park Service Denies D.C. Request For Signals In Chevy Chase Circle

By Aaron Kraut

Monday - 9/9/2013, 9:30am  ET

Chevy Chase CircleD.C. will not be able to put traffic signals in Chevy Chase Circle after the National Park Service denied its request.

The proposal, which put D.C.’s Department of Transportation and closest Advisory Neighborhood Commission at odds with bordering Chevy Chase Village, would have meant traffic signals in the busy circle that straddles the D.C.-Maryland line on Connecticut Avenue.

D.C. residents and officials wanted the signals to improve pedestrian safety. Chevy Chase Village leaders and Maryland transportation officials worried adding signals to the Circle would increase traffic.

In July, the National Park Service denied D.C. permission to install traffic signals within the Circle itself, which is part of Rock Creek Park.

“The District’s Urban Forestry Administration has determined that the proposed location and configuration of the signalization poles ‘would not be good for the trees’”, according to the NPS denial. “These findings are supported by the park’s arborist and horticulturist, who have concluded that the signals and their supporting infrastructure could damage the roots of the trees and endanger their long-term survival.”

Chevy Chase Village said the NPS decision was a good thing for the town of almost 2,000:

It is the Village’s position that signals in Chevy Chase Circle would have adversely impacted this historic community resource and created traffic backups along Connecticut Avenue and the surrounding residential streets. Chevy Chase Village thanks the National Park Service, and the various local stakeholders who have monitored this matter since it arose and we are thankful for the result.

It’s unclear if DDOT (D.C.’s Department of Transportation) will continue to pursue signals in the Circle. The proposal came to Chevy Chase Village’s attention in the summer of 2012. It was the second time the District pursued the signals. The first time, in 2002, failed because of opposition from Chevy Chase Village and the Maryland State Highway Administration.

D.C.’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3G, which covers Chevy Chase, D.C., supported the project with a letter to DDOT in April 2011 and a letter to NPS in June 2011.

Between 2007 and 2009 there were 56 collisions and two pedestrian accidents in the Circle, according to the DDOT proposal.

The park inside the Circle includes flowers, trees, benches and a fountain maintained by NPS with support from a group of Chevy Chase residents who formed the Friends of Chevy Chase Circle. Each year, the group funds the planting of about 2,000 tulips.

There are seven roads that connect to the Circle. The DDOT proposal included a traffic study that said signals would reduce travel times at most of the approaches. Traffic would have increased on the others.