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Dysfunction Junction Vol. 4: Dave Thomas Circle

by Prince Of Petworth April 30, 2013 at 11:00 am 58 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 L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station.

I love Wendy’s as much as the next guy, but this is ridiculous.  Everybody seems to know this area as “Dave Thomas Circle” – a moniker that was actually coined by DDOT itself in a study. The original link is dead now…maybe that name got a frosty reception.  (Zing!)

DDOT “fixed” this intersection in June 2010 at a cost of three million dollars, and ever since it’s become infamous for nonsensical routing, baffling inaccessibility, and traffic pileups.  They did succeed in one thing:  if you happen to be heading west on Florida Avenue or east on New York Avenue in a car, it’s not bad at all – you can drive-thru.  (Zing again!)

Every other direction is a challenge.  Going east on Florida requires a near-circumnavigation of Wendy’s.  You’d think that one of the main thoroughfares between the U St corridor and the H St area would require a quicker and easier connection, even if it meant using the powers of eminent domain against “the world’s third largest quick-service hamburger company”.  (In case you’re wondering, the assessed value of that property is just over five million dollars.)

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On the east end of the intersection, reconstruction of the New York Avenue bridge has backed up traffic for nigh on two years now.  (Thanks, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009!)  How bad does it get?  Someone actually delivered a baby at that intersection because they couldn’t extricate themselves from a traffic snarl.  Here’s hoping that kid was named either Wendy or Dave.

At this weekend’s Mid-City East planning meeting, just about everyone mentioned that getting through this area on a bus or a bike is far more difficult than it should be.  If you’re on a bike, get ready for narrow or non-existent sidewalks, confused drivers, and lots of potholes.  Buses have to take a time-consuming, inefficient detour down First St to avoid the Wendy’s.


Traffic aside, the architectural aesthetics of the area also leave much to be desired.  I’m definitely tired of seeing the same building type all over DC, but when I look at that awful ATF complex I wonder what special security purpose that semi-circular concrete exoskeleton could possibly serve.  (Setback?  Perhaps, but the other side of the building is practically right next to the street.)


The current triangular hole in the ground will eventually become the Washington Gateway, a complex of several buildings that promises a “European plaza” and “hanging gardens”.  The surround sound effect from traffic and the Metro will come gratis with all the offices and residences, thankfully.  It’s going to be really interesting to see how they’re going to deal with pedestrian access.  Hopefully it will involve a pathway around the Wendy’s in some way.  Clearly, that’s what’s important here.


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