The Wash
While maneuvering through the intersection, drivers have difficulty with both staying in their designated lanes and watching for people crossing the street. (Mariyah Espinoza/ The Wash)

City to overhaul infamous Dave Thomas Circle, but walkers, bikers still face danger today

The dangerous intersection at New York and Florida Avenues NE continues to threaten the safety of pedestrians and cyclists despite planned construction to provide a safer roadway.

Dave Thomas Circle ranks as one of the city’s worst intersections, according to the District Department of Transportation’s weighted composite crash index. It puts drivers, pedestrians and cyclists in harm’s way with a lack of dedicated bike routes and multiple lanes allowing cars to move at the same time as pedestrians. 

The pseudo-circle is a triangular block in Northeast D.C. where traffic is obstructed by a Wendy’s sitting awkwardly in the middle of the crossing. It’s bounded by First Street, Florida and New York Avenues and includes Eckington Place  and O Street NE as feeder roads.

Five lanes on each street meet with various traffic signals, forcing drivers to travel through a makeshift roundabout.

The intersection is accident-prone, leaving pedestrians and cyclists to be extra cautious when using the crosswalks. Not every lane requires drivers to stop when pedestrians are crossing, leaving it up to them to stop and proceed using their own judgement. (Mariyah Espinoza/ The Wash)

DDOT has developed a project plan to reconstruct the intersection. A redesign of the crossroads includes converting Florida Avenue to a two-way street, reducing the number of intersections from five to three and adding two-way cycle tracks along the south side of New York Avenue. 

The cost to reconstruct the entire intersection adds up to $35 million.

DDOT is still waiting on an appraisal from Wendy’s to acquire the land as the property owners have yet to accept or deny the proposed $6 million offer from Mayor Muriel Bowser. Obtaining the fast-food restaurant would allow the city to create an open space for smoother transitioning roadways. 

DDOT is preparing for this project in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The intersection currently serves as critical connection to access Eckington from the south and NoMa from the north.

The redesign comes after more than a decade of complaints from community members calling for the safety of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. 

The turning lanes cause confusion for drivers, making it harder to know when they have the right-of-way from when they don’t.

Tony Smith, a frequent pedestrian of the Dave Thomas Circle, said he doesn’t always feel safe because the drivers can be reckless and don’t always pay attention. He thinks there’s more that can be done to ensure the safety of others.

“I’ve crossed this intersection for five years so most of the time I know how to dodge the cars but, you know, not everyone can,” Smith said. “It would be better if there were more walk signs added or probably another street light put up somewhere.”  


Drivers are easily confused by current signage about which lane they’re supposed to be in when exiting the pseudo-circle. (Mariyah Espinoza/ The Wash)

While there are some crosswalk signals, not all of them are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Residents and students with specialized needs don’t have the proper access necessary to cross the streets. 

Navigating the intersection is difficult for pedestrians — some crossings stretch six lanes with only 20 seconds to cross. Drivers also use lanes improperly at almost every traffic signal as a result of uneven geometry, high traffic volumes, confusing signage and missing paint. 

The Dave Thomas Circle’s traffic lanes are met with various lights before splitting off into different directions. Pedestrians have a hard time crossing the street safely as drivers speed to beat the lights. (Mariyah Espinoza/ The Wash)

And, without proper bike lanes, some residents like Sarah Baron fear they will be targeted by drivers. 

“It’s really concerning to me that I can’t go through here without thinking there’s a possibility of me getting hit by a car,” Baron said. “I mean, if I were to get hit part of me would blame the driver, but another part of me would definitely blame the way these roads are set up.”

Fifth District Police Officer E. Parker said drivers should be careful of what they’re doing and drive slower than the speed limit because officers see too many accidents on the intersection.

Construction on the project plan, also known as “Virtual Circle Concept 6” isn’t supposed to start until the summer of 2022. 

In the meantime, residents hope the city will try to implement a temporary plan to keep everyone safe on the intersection. 

After multiple attempts of reaching out, DDOT officials did not comment on whether they would create a provisional strategy for the time being.


Mariyah Espinoza

I'm a journalist at American University. I enjoy covering stories that deal with education and crime.

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