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Dysfunction Junction, Vol.1: The Florida/Rhode Island/New Jersey Triangle

by Prince Of Petworth April 1, 2013 at 11:00 am 37 Comments


Dysfunction Junction chronicles the most forlorn, baffling, and wonderful crossroads of our fair city.  Ben Ball is a transportation nerd in his spare time.  He lives in LeDroit Park. Ben previously wrote about Union Station-Georgetown transit options.

L’Enfant didn’t think this far ahead.  If you look at his original plans, there’s a conspicuous white space at the point where Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Florida Avenues are supposed to meet.  Unfortunately, that triangle is still terra nullius of a sort.  The difference is that it’s now a concrete wasteland instead of a natural one.  What would be the made up acronym for this noticeable hole in the fabric of gentrification?  Rhoflosey?  New Rho-ida?  Jerida Island?

There are three gas stations in a row on that stretch of Rhode Island Avenue.  You’d think that the invisible hand of the free market would cause at least one of them to go bust, but that’s where you’d be wrong.  You’d also think that the zoning office or local ANC would have said something, but apparently not.  Hess seems to do the best business of the three, possibly because it has a hidden Dunkin’ Donuts which I only noticed after months of walking by.  BP is the station of choice for the neighborhood drunks and ne’er-do-wells, who like to hang out across the street and take naps on the grassy knoll.  Valero wins the award for sketchiest looking market.

Around the time when Justin Bieber becomes eligible for Canadian Medicare, the streets in this area will be redone in order to create a major streetcar transfer point. For now, though, the pavement on Florida Avenue is starting to look like a sine wave.  It’s going to need some help sooner rather than later.

After careful thought and observation, I’ve come to the conclusion that the source of this area’s problem is the LeDroit Park post office.  It should be a neighborhood amenity, but the limited weekday hours throw that right out the bullet-proof window.  You’d think a facility like that couldn’t possibly justify its operating costs, yet it somehow avoided the last round of cuts.  It was that valuable to someone.  (Eleanor Holmes Norton, perhaps?)  The USPS holds the lease on that property through 2016, in case you were wondering.

Continues after the jump.


If you add together the unnecessary parking area for the post office, the curve that connects S and 4th Streets, and the patch of gravel that hosts the bus stop on Rhode Island, there are enough impermeable surfaces to send DC Water™ into a tizzy.  Here’s a thought:  why not combine the post office, S-to-4th Street curve, and gravel pit into a single lot and build something useful on it?  Having a building on that triangle would do a lot to make the area feel more like a neighborhood and less like the Indy 500.  S and 4th Streets would be quieter, and the area could finally start living up to the gleaming renovation of Frasier’s Funeral Home.

Fun fact:  this is the intersection where Wards 1, 5, and 6 meet.  Maybe that’s the reason it’s so messed up – nobody feels responsible for the whole thing.  Someone should start.

  • ile

    If you ever try to walk along RI Ave and reach this point, you get sucked in by 4th dimension that would make The Matrix green with envy.

  • Yes! Very much a take-your-life-in-your-hands pedestrian/biker/driver area. Thrilled when we luck out with a cabbie who knows the drill saving the exhaustive navigation instructions.

  • wp

    These are thoughtful and interesting posts. Looking forward to more.

  • Walker, DC Ranger

    This area should become a roundabout – not a crazy DC circle with lights, but a proper roundabout.

    It seems like it was one previously, based on the configuration of the roads around there, but was then changed over to the current configuration, which is ideal for MD commuters to get through to Logan Circle, but very very frustrating for any local traffic.

    I drive almost daily from Florida to Rhode Island & 1st for business, and having to sit at 3 or 4 lights in a row so that Rhode Island can be a drag strip is not good transportation policy.

    • Anonymous

      it was never a roundabout.
      it used to be train yards.

  • AJ

    I call this intersection the DC Bermuda #nonsesne

  • Anonymous

    I love this feature…can we request intersections?

    How about the clusterfu**** at Florida and New York..

    • Anonymous

      That is the only word that can even come close to describing that mess!

      • amm

        That is where I have come to understand “Blocking the Box.” What a mess.

    • Anonymous

      was bad before, but not as bad as it is now… urban engineering fail.

      • +1.

        It’s mindblowing to think how much time and money were spent on making something new that’s not only really confusing, but doesn’t even work properly. There ALWAYS seems to be traffic for eastbound New York Avenue that’s backed up at the light and preventing people from getting across to eastbound Florida Avenue.

    • Bloomingdale-er

      Ha! This is the worst in the city, I think. I have a brilliant friend who calls it “Dave Thomas Circle”

      • Identified

        Pretty much everyone has called it the Dave Thomas Circle since the designs for it came out, as that is how DDoT refered to it.

        It was much better before. Stupid ATF building screwed it all up. And not eminent domain-ing the wendy’s.

      • Ah no.. Dave Thomas Cook circle is where NY Ave, FL Ave, and 1st NE meet. Where the Wendy’s for is. That is not that s intersection.

        • These posts were responding to a post that suggested “the clusterfu**** at Florida and New York” for a future edition of “Dysfunction Junction.”

    • SF

      Oh god, don’t get me started. It SHOULD be a straight shot down Florida Ave from U Street to H Street, but instead I have to avoid this entire area and going that distance takes twice as long as it should.

      Utter, complete, unquestionable failure.

      • Anonymous

        even the 90 buses changed their route to avoid this mess.

  • Anonymous

    The FRINJ

  • S St. should end at New Jersey Avenue and be one way in the westbound direction with parking on both sides and a turn around at the end. It should by physically separted from New Jersey with a raised curb. The small S St segment between New Jersey and Florida should be removed and replaced with a small park or similar non-vehicular use.

  • anon

    Oh my God, I’ve been waiting for someone to point out the silliness of this terrible intersection. Ben’s suggestion seems so commonsensical:
    Step 1: Get rid of the USPS
    Step 2: Get rid of the S St curve.
    Step 3: Do something useful with a space that otherwise only serves to sever and isolate.

  • leroy2387

    Could we have one of these on the Starburst at the end of H St? As that area gets more developed, that’s going to be even more of a hot mess…

  • manimal

    this is one of my favorite guest posts ever!

  • Anonymous

    i think it’s only the been the intersection of 3 wards since the last redistricting.

  • John M

    I usually walk/bike/drive through this intersection at least once a day and typically fear for my life each time I do so. This intersection truly needs to be a circle. With the USPS mini-office closed in the triangle, it’s time to retrofit this intersection with a proper circle (ideally, of course).

    The biggest design problem I see with this area is the figure-8 shape the nearby roads make. Not only does this intersection involve FL/RI/NJ, but also all of the side streets nearby… all the way east to 3rd St NW. Perhaps make “No Turn” signs for FL and RI ave to make cars take the turn a bit early, instead of the illegal lefts that happen on a daily basis.

  • Anonymous

    i walk this intersection all the time. as a walker, the south side of RIA is fine, so is the north side of Florida.

  • Love the idea for this series of posts – I’d also suggest highlighting some of the more treacherous/confusing intersections for pedestrians and cyclists. 19th and M NW have the left turns while pedestrians get the walk signal, 18th and Connecticut NW put buses and cyclists on a collision course, 5th and Mass NW just confuses everyone with the combo stop light, blinking lights, and stop sign, 18th and Florida NW has blind corners and misleading walk signs (and a sad history for pedestrians), etc etc

  • Anonymous

    I love this topic. I live right next to this cluster mess of intersections. I like the S to 4th street curve but wonder if Rhode Island or Florida could be tunneled under the other and have the area over top be turned into park land. Would happily sacrifice the post office for those kinds of improvements.

    • Anonymous

      i would like to sacrifice you for neighborhood improvements. seriously though, the post office should be destroyed.

  • Anonymous

    I think the safest thing to do right now would be to just not allow any turns (or at least no left turns), but you’d need to put up a barricade of some sort because the no left turns at certain time periods are just ignored here. This would be more annoying for the people who live right here and trying to get home, but I’d be willing to deal with that.

  • Anon

    Any response from DDOT, an ANC or Councilmember?

  • washingtonian

    If you never noticed that Dunkin Donuts on foot until months after it opened, I question how observant you are, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say it’s probably because the signage was designed to catch the eye of drivers.

    The parking area for the Post Office is necessary because street parking on the adjacent streets is non-existent, parking in the surrounding neighborhood is usually scarce and even if you found said parking, between turning cars and cars with the light, crossing to get to that Post Office looks like it would be like playing live action Frogger, if you ask me (I’ll admit, I haven’t tried it, nor do I want to LOL). You’re right that extended hours are needed, but a lot of Post Offices have limited hours after the recent cuts.

    • Anonymous

      it didn’t have proper signage when it opened about 6 years ago or so.

    • bb

      The parking here is not for post office patrons. It is only for post office trucks. Hence the strangeness of having such a large parking area for a truck that comes once or twice a day max.

  • washingtonian

    side note: willing to bet there is a significant population of seniors who utilize that Post Office during the day, so I think closing it is a non-starter (what’s the next nearest PO? By Union Station?). Best case scenario might be some kind of mixed use property with a Post Office on the ground floor (with expanded hours!), but I’m a John Lennon-esque dreamer.

    • Anonymous

      what number of seniors using this post office makes it viable? 1? 100?
      this a pretty desolate place.
      i’d love to see this whole area reconfigured and include a new post office in a multi-use building.

  • manimal

    i would feel completely different about this intersection if the post office and parking lot became a crab shack and beer garden.


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