It’s a bottleneck for commuters that threatens safety, especially for pedestrians and bicyclists, but the District is promising improvements to the tangled crossroads where New York and Florida Avenues meet at First Street, NE and Eckington Place.
NoMa and Eckington residents were among those who turned out Monday night to review the District’s plans for overhauling the awkward intersection known as “Dave Thomas Circle,” named for the Wendy’s restaurant perched in the middle of the intersection, adding to the chaos and gridlock.
“It’s so congested, you’re coming off New York Avenue, you’re trying to get on Florida Avenue and you end up on New York Avenue. It’s confusing,” said Gloria Jolivet, who lives nearby. “I just want them to straighten it [to] make Florida Avenue like it used to be.”
“It’s a nightmare, I travel it every day,” added Irene Jordan, also a D.C. resident, who must cross the problematic intersection on her way to and from work.
“It gets gridlocked every day,” she said.
The public viewed poster boards and questioned D.C. Department of Transportation staffers about the proposed changes that would allow the city to remove the Wendy’s through eminent domain.
First Street would be realigned and two-way traffic would be restored on Florida Avenue. The project would include the creation of bicycle lanes and improved pedestrian crossings.
“We know that there’s a lot of confusion that’s caused by the way the intersection is currently configured. So we’re going to be making the intersection more simple, easier to navigate for everybody,” said DDOT chief Jeff Marootian.
“There will be a lot more clarity, a lot less confusion around turning movements and there will be more opportunities for pedestrians to cross and more accessibility for cyclists,” Marootian said.
But not everybody is in favor of giving Wendy’s the boot.
Some residents argue that the area lacks access to restaurants, and Wendy’s remains a favorite of seniors and students.
“Before all this new development came in, Wendy’s has always been there, why do we need to kick Wendy’s out,” asked area resident Debbie Steiner.
“We have homelessness which is a major issue, health is a major issue, instead of giving it to Wendy’s for $35 million (the estimated cost of taking Wendy’s by eminent domain), we need to take that money and invest into the communities,” Steiner said.
It would take time for the city to acquire the right of way on the triangle of land occupied by Wendy’s, and DDOT said the project could take until 2025 to complete — not soon enough for some who traverse the unusual intersection.
“I’m happy to see that they want to redesign, I hope they accelerate the time frame,” said Keith Krosinsky, a bicyclist who lives in an apartment building at the busy intersection.
“It’s a dangerous intersection today, and it’s great they want to fix it, but anything they could do to expedite that would be great.”