Sunday, March 14, 2010

Attention DDOT: Route 29 Doesn’t Travel Through Dupont Circle

THE DISTRICT DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION has been receiving plaudits in the local Twitterverse recently for being responsive to pothole repair requests coming in via Twitter following our epic snowfall and slow snowmelt, all which tore up D.C. streets. I’ve seen a few DDOT pothole patrols patching rough spots around town. So Twitter has certainly shown its effectiveness in promoting responsive government — as long as those in government want to be responsive.

I have a non-pothole related issue I'd like DDOT to address: incorrect wayfinding signage.

The "bastard child” of U.S. highway routes through the District, Route 29, has an identity crisis. Although it technically runs from the Key Bridge to the D.C.-Maryland border at Georgia Avenue via Rhode Island Avenue, 11th Street NW, K Street NW and the Whitehurst Freeway, pedestrians and drivers heading through Dupont Circle might be a bit confused.

For years, the city has posted signs at the circle indicating that Route 29 travels along New Hampshire Avenue, which is not accurate.

The Route 29 signage confusion isn’t necessarily a new concern. I wrote about it when I was editing DCist back in 2005. Years ago, Route 29 ran through the District via New Hampshire Avenue, 16th Street NW and Alaska Avenue and at some point — when, I’m not too sure — was rerouted to its current path.

While I sort of like the old Route 29 signs at Dupont as a relic of historic wayfinding, there’s no need to have them posted.

To test DDOT’s social media responsiveness, I just tweeted a request for DDOT to remove the old Route 29 signs. ("Happy Sunday @DDOTDC! Can you please remove all Route 29 signage from Dupont Circle? Route 29 was rerouted years ago. Thanks.") Let’s see how much time it takes for the signs to come down. A couple days? A week? Four years? Only time will tell.

In the course of researching the history of Route 29 in D.C., I dug through my map archives and pulled out a 1973 Amoco Oil Company map of the District, pictured below. It has the old New Hampshire Avenue routing, plus an ALT 29 routing between the Key Bridge and New Hampshire Avenue via M Street NW. Route 50, which cuts through the District on Constitution Avenue, was once routed via Independence Avenue.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, when a northern extension of Route 29 into D.C. and Maryland was considered in the 1930s, there was an "understanding that when the by-pass and direct line around Washington has been constructed that [Route 29] will hook up and follow it, or some route passing around out of the thickly congested area in Washington."

Well, that never happened.

Most curious, perhaps, are the former D.C. truck routes meant to “expedite traffic through the city.” For some reason, one truck route for Route 29 takes the trucks from K Street NW to Virginia Avenue via 25th and 26th streets. Imagine the uproar within the membership of the Foggy Bottom Association if DDOT were to re-sign the truck route on such quiet residential streets!

Photos by Michael E. Grass

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