Back in October, we posted about The Intersection of Fast Food and Eminent Domain in Washington, DC and now we’re back to talk about it some more. As a refresh, Dave Thomas Circle is located in our nation’s capital where Florida Avenue, New York Avenue, Eckington Place, O Street, and First Street NE all converge. This specific Wendy’s location isn’t only known for the burgers – it’s known for being a particularly dangerous spot. In fact, the roundabout is ranked among D.C.’s top 10 most hazardous intersections and approximately 80 percent of the crashes there involve sideswipes or rear-end collisions.
Since the mid-1980’s, Wendy’s has been at the intersection of a small parcel of property that borders a major gateway leading downtown. According to District Department of Transportation estimates, an average of 80,000 vehicles pass through daily. According to DDOT, a total of 727 crashes occurred in five intersections in the project area between 2014 and 2018. The number of crashes in the project area increased at an average annual rate of about 12 percent those years, more than twice the citywide average of 5 percent.
This week, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and D.C. transportation officials announced that they used eminent domain to acquire the property. There is a $35 million overhaul plan in the works to change the dangerous traffic intersection and turn it into a public space. The purchase price of the property was announced at $13.1 million.
The Bowser administration plans to remake the intersection to create two-way traffic along First Street and Florida Avenue NE and add protected bike lanes and three public parks. In particular, officials said that they hope the bike lanes will encourage motorists to abide by speed regulations.
Local residents and commuters had mixed feelings about the redevelopment, but the general consensus is that the change is a good thing and very necessary. In a 2019 community survey conducted by a civic association, more than 80 percent of Eckington residents, where the Wendy’s is located, said fixing the intersection was the highest or a high priority for them, second only to preventing and reducing crime in the neighborhood.
This is a good story about how the local community came together to make a big change. It was actually the Advisory Neighborhood Commission for the area that adopted a resolution supporting the fixes. The group created a Change.org petition in favor of the plan and obtained nearly 400 signatures. D.C. Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), who represents the area, contacted Bowser two years ago calling on the city to use eminent domain to fix “a failing intersection” that “has posed a traffic nightmare for residents.”
Construction is expected to begin next year and last 18 months. Bowser has committed $35 million for the project, which should include the land acquisition, design and construction. In the meantime, we’ll grab a drink and burger and wait for more eminent domain news!