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From the Publisher's Desk...

Banning Traffic from Adams Morgan’s 18th Street Strip a Questionable Idea

Amir Irani is the Adams Morgan ANC commissioner who represents the section encompassing the neighborhood’s southwestern area, with its eastern border being 18th Street. He is working on a proposal that he believes will alleviate much of the weekend after hours nightlife chaos along the most heavily impacted stretch of 18th Street between Columbia and Kalorama Roads. That is where the largest concentration of bars and restaurants is found – and which serves as a magnet for, especially, the young and the restless from across the city and beyond.

Although Irani’s has yet to bring a final proposal to the ANC for consideration, it appears that he is focusing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights during those hours when things are in full swing. What seems to have been the catalyst for his idea of separating the hordes of revelers from street traffic so that everyone can spread out from the packed sidewalks was the recent incident of a driver, cranked up on chems, who drove his vehicle into a couple of police officers who were in the street helping with traffic flow.

While that was an awful thing to have happened, it really was a one-off, hardly a regular occurrence and certainly not related to crowds of bar-hoppers out and about.

It is true that traffic along 18th Street can be congested on those nights, but, as long-time nearby resident and neighborhood activist Denis James pointed out to us, what makes the idea of banning vehicular traffic along any part of 18th Street problematic is how doing so will seriously and most negatively affect residents in the immediate vicinity. Even after rush hour and well into the night there is always a steady stream of traffic which, thanks to the major streetscape and traffic realignment project completed in July of 2012, traffic flow, along with wider sidewalks. Intersection corner bump-outs, and parking changes, have vastly improved the whole of this important commercial strip in the heart of Adams Morgan.

Nevertheless, removing traffic at any hour of the evening and night would still cause huge disruption throughout all the surrounding narrow residential streets. Where would Metro busses be routed?; surely, Connecticut Avenue to the west or 16th Street to the east would be too far from where they need to be — and they certainly cannot be routed up and down the intervening streets. Neither can trucks like those that service the Columbia Road Safeway late at night when the night crew is re-stocking for the next day. And what about emergency vehicles like fire, police, ambulances? All this on top of the unintended consequence noted here, consider all the cars bringing people into the area to patronize the restaurants and bars that will resort to cruising though the surrounding streets in an attempt to get as close to 18th Street as possible to drop off their friends and then circulate around trying to snag a parking space since those on 18th  will be off-limits.

As reported recently in the Washington Post, some bar owners seem to favor the idea, though one long-time retail business owner, Idle Times Books’ Val Morgan, had a different take: “Oh for God’s sakes. “You’re living in fantasy land. Where are all the people going to park? It would make it a dead space except for all the drunks. And drunk people don’t buy books.”

Interestingly, while the Post heard from a few businesspeople, a run-through of all comments posted on the neighborhood’s very active listserv since the date of that story reveal zero posted comments about this idea. This may tell us that it’s being mostly discounted as a possibility and so not even worth taking time to vent one way or the other. It will be interesting to see if our comments here stir up any real interest. Clearly, we are not excited by the idea.