Sometimes a mundane local dispute about a traffic light can tell you where a whole country is going.
Chevy Chase Village is an enclave of 700 expensive houses and no businesses that sits just outside the District of Columbia. Half its residents have annual incomes over a quarter million dollars. It?s the sort of place where you’d imagine George Will lives?and he does.
The main artery through the village is Connecticut Avenue, which crosses into D.C. and ends in front of the White House. Where the avenue enters the district, cars go around a traffic circle. With the stores and denser housing on the D.C. side of the line, there are many pedestrians on the street, but there is no traffic signal at the circle.
The D.C. government wants to install a light. It says pedestrian crossings would be easier and safer, and drivers turning onto Connecticut Avenue from side streets would move faster. But the village objects. Its own residents would have a slower drive downtown. ?I don?t see anything here that would help,? says the council chair.
There’s a good chance the village will get its way?as it did when the same issue came up ten years ago. The National Park Service, which controls the center of the circle, listens to its well-connected residents.
Meanwhile, a mile farther north, the state of Maryland wants to use an old railroad right-of-way for a light rail line that would carry commuters of all income levels. Chevy Chase Village belongs to a coalition of opponents, who have tried for years to block the transit project by putting a bike path where the railroad tracks were.
Rail opponents are particularly insistent on keeping the bike path at one location where the old right-of-way runs through a tunnel beneath the road. The same village official who doesn’t think D.C. pedestrians have any need of a traffic signal tells the Washington Post that it?s unsafe for Chevy Chase residents to cross on foot at nearby traffic lights.
Chevy Chase Village has a transportation solution for America. ?We’re the 1 percent?get out of our way.?
Photo at Connecticut Ave near the Chevy Chase Circle, by Andrew Bossi, 2006, Wikimedia Commons