Post #232: 380 Maple West and Wade Hampton

Posted on April 10, 2019

Tonight (4/10/2019), at 8 PM in Town Hall, the Town of Vienna Planning Commission continues its public hearing on 380 Maple West (40 condos plus retail, corner of Maple and Wade Hampton).  The public is invited to speak for up to three minutes.  You can find the meeting materials, including the current plans for the building, at this link.

I’m going to spend my three minutes talking about what this proposal is going to do to Wade Hampton.  Briefly:


Loss of 10 public parking places

The proposed changes will eliminate very nearly all of the streetside parking on the Maple Avenue block of Wade Hampton.   That’s a consequence of the entrances to the new building, the narrowing of Wade Hampton by four feet, and the re-striping of Wade Hampton to accommodate the traffic to and from the new building.

Thus far, the Town has been unwilling to count the number of parking places that will be lost.  So, it’s up to the citizens to do the homework and publicize the results.

I’m going to count the number of spaces that exist on Wade Hampton now, using the following rules:

  • No parking within 25′ of a intersection.
  • No parking within 5′ of a driveway.
  • A standard parallel parking space is 22′ long (that’s the Town’s standard).
  • I’ll ignore the possibility for 16′ compact car spaces (same reference as above).

Here’s how it looks, with Maple Avenue running vertically on the right, and Glen/Millwood running vertically on the left.  Ignore the red arrows for now.

Under those rules there are 11 legal full-size parking places on Wade Hampton.  There is also one illegal (by my estimate) but frequently-used space right at the corner of Wade Hampton and Millwood, marked with an X above.  If I allowed compact-car parking, I could squeeze in a couple more, but in my experience, the vehicles typically parked there are not compact.  And space #6 is a legal space, but used rarely if ever.

All told, it’s fair to say there are 11 parking spaces that get used on that block.  Which may not sound like much, but that’s more than there are in the front parking lot of the building at the top of the picture.

Between the new building (which will replace the building at the bottom of the picture) and the new lane striping (which will turn most of Wade Hampton into three lanes), everything except spaces X and 1 will be lost.  Spaces 2-6 will become the inbound lane.  Spaces 7 – 11 will become the various entrances to the building.  And maybe one legal space will be left on the street.

The irony here is that in discussing this, some Town Council and Planning Commission members extolled the great benefits of having a fifth floor in this building, because the extra space is devoted to parking.  “Vienna needs more parking” was the mantra.  But none of those folks bothered to consider that all of that is private parking.  It’s for people who live in or shop at that building.   We’re taking an existing office building, with adequate private parking, and replacing it with condos and shops, with adequate parking parking.  And we’re destroying 10 public parking places, in order to accommodate this new, lot-filling building.

So the irony is that this new building is going to make an already-difficult public parking situation on that block much worse. While being praised for providing (private) parking.  In a very real sense, the building it converts what used to be public parking spaces into private parking spaces.  Because almost all the public parking on that block has to go, to accommodate the building as proposed.

The odd truck turn diagram in the 380 proposal

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this except to say that it was a real puzzle to figure out what the truck turn (“autoturn”) diagram is, in the current 380 proposal. It says it’s for a 30-foot straight truck (“SU-30”), a fairly standard light delivery vehicle.  But if you look closely, you realize that it’s showing you a 21′ vehicle — a standard mini-van, say — making a U-turn on Wade Hampton, presumably to drop off a passenger. The U-turn requires using the concrete apron in front of the building, for a total width of about 45′ to make the U-turn in.

You can tell it has nothing to do with an SU-30 (30 foot delivery truck) because the turning circle for an SU-30 is 84 feet — which will not fit in that combined road-and-concrete apron width.  References for the SU-30 turning circle (84′) and radius (42′) can be found at any of these places:

You can also check that via the formulas given here:   Entering the data for the SU-30 specified on the “autoturn” sheet for 380 gives a minimum curb-to-curb distance of ( 2*wheelbase/sin(steering angle) =) 77 ft.  So even ignoring the truck body overhangs and the mirrors, the math says you couldn’t do U-turn in anything significantly short of 77 feet of space, curb-to-curb.

The first thing to clarify is that trucks will still have to stop and back up to make deliveries to the loading docks in the proposed building.   And they’ll have to back across the Wade Hampton sidewalk to do that.  The U-turn shown on the current diagram has nothing to do with delivery trucks, and could not be performed by a 30-foot delivery truck.

Wade Hampton/Maple is a very sharp corner

Everybody who lives in the neighborhood behind Wade Hampton knows this.  If you want to take a right off Maple, your options are to slow way down to make the turn, or to veer into the oncoming lane on Wade Hampton.

The red arrows in the picture above contrast the very sharp corner of Maple and Wade Hampton with the modern, standard-radius corner across the street at Maple and Lewis.  By eye, its obvious that the Wade Hampton corner is much sharper.  But I can overlay the two to show you just how much sharper the turn is at Wade Hampton.

The graphic below shows those two corners, captured at the same scale.  The Maple/Lewis corner has been flipped horizontally and set atop the Maple/Wade Hampton corner.  Like so:

In other words, it’s as if you took a modern standard street corner, walked 10′ out into the street, stuck a pole in the road and said “OK, now make your turn around that”.  That’s what the right turn from Maple onto Wade Hampton is like.

For those of you who drive on Cherry, past the Vienna community center and the ball fields, the Wade Hampton corner is almost identical in profile to the right turn from Cherry onto Center.  At the corner where the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department is located.

And anyone who has made that right from Cherry to Center, at the fire station, can probably figure out what I’m going to say next. Imagine a FedEx truck trying to make that turn.  Hold that thought.

Center-lane collision on Wade Hampton

The “autoturn” diagram in the most recent proposal shows the proposed new road striping for Wade Hampton at Maple, turning it into three lanes:  right turn, left turn, and inbound.

(I note, before going further, that the architect claims copyright on the entire set of plans, and that I  am claiming a fair-use, not-for-profit exception to copyright law here.)

First, let me talk about the “stop bar” for the left turn lane.  That’s the broad white stripe, that goes across the road, to tell you where to stop your car, at a corner.  As depicted, the stop bar for the left turn lane is 20′ from Maple.   In this next picture, Maple is at the bottom, Wade Hampton is vertical, and the stop bar is pictured 20′ off Maple, directly in line with the face (pillars) of the building.

There are several things wrong about that.  First, the Town is more-or-less insisting that developers surround their outdoor seating with brick walls.  So there is a low brick wall that sits some feet in front of the building, partially obscuring your vision.  And there will be a vehicle to your right, and ahead of you, likewise obscuring your vision.   But per this diagram, you expect people to stop 20′ from Maple, despite obscured sight lines, and start their left turn onto Maple from that spot.

We all know that’s never going to happen.  The cars trying to turn from Wade Hampton to Maple will do what cars in Vienna do at every uncontrolled intersection — they are going to pull as far forward as possible.  They will stop just short of the actual path of vehicular travel on Maple, and then make their turn from that location.  Like so:

Now comes the million-dollar question:  What’s the biggest vehicle that can make the right turn from Maple to Wade Hampton, when a car is waiting to make that left?  Either at the fictional stop bar, or at the location that we all know will be the real “stop bar” for left turns from Wade Hampton to Maple.

This is an important question, and it deserves a formal answer, from the applicant, using actual Autoturn-brand software.  It’s important because every time a right-turning-truck and a left-turning-car come to an impasse at that intersection, that’s going to back up traffic on Maple.  If a truck can’t make that right turn, and is stuck in the right lane on Maple — then the guy trying to make the left out of Wade Hampton can’t see around the truck in order to make the left safely.

But a simpler D-I-Y approach would answer the question with nothing more than a tape measure, some spray paint,  and a variety of vehicles.  My suggestion is, before Public Works signs off on this, they need to put a temporary line on Wade Hampton where that left turn lane will be, then drive a few trucks around that corner and see whether or not they have to drive over the paint.

I’m going to take my best guess, using the limited tools available to me.  But think I can already tell you one fairly important answer, from experience.  A FedEx truck won’t be able to make that corner, with somebody trying to make a left out of Wade Hampton.  I can tell you that because I’ve had to stop well short of that intersection to let the FedEx guy make the right from Maple to Wade Hampton.  Several FedEx, UPS and other carrier deliveries occur in my neighborhood in a day.  There almost as many dwelling units in that proposed building as in my neighborhood — Glen Avenue and all the roads feeding into Glen.  (The graphic is old, and the correct number for 380 Maple West is now 39, not 40).

I’m also fairly sure that the 30-foot straight truck (SU-30) can’t do it.  My best guess is that the 42′ turning radius of that truck puts the edge of the front bumper squarely in the middle of the street — or about halfway through the left-turn lane, as it tries to make that right.

So, what about the minivan pictured in the existing autoturn page of the current 380 West proposal?  Based on a few measurements, as pictured, that vehicle needs just 12′ of forward motion to complete a quarter-turn.  So, if it starts the turn just before hitting Wade Hampton, then turns as sharply as it can, yes, that vehicle can make the right, while someone is trying to make a left out of Wade Hampton.

So here’s the upshot.  Under the proposed layout, if someone is trying to make a left out of Wade Hampton, the lane will be striped so that they have no choice but to sit squarely in the middle of the road.  A normal passenger vehicle (21′ minivan or SUV) would still be able to make the right turn from Maple to Wade Hampton.  They would have to come nearly to a stop, and turn the steering wheel to the stops, but they could do it.  They would slow traffic on Maple, but not stop it.

But it appears to me that a 30′ straight truck could not make that right turn.  That matches my experience, in that something the size of a FedEx truck can’t make that right from Maple without passing through more-or-less the middle of Wade Hampton.  So a delivery truck, in that situation, would stop traffic in the right lane of Maple until that got sorted out (e.g., until the left-turn vehicle backed out of the way).

Alternatively, these delivery trucks will learn to make that turn like a semi — a “wide right turn” approach.  They’ll effectively make the right turn onto Wade Hampton, starting out in the left lane of Maple Avenue.  I’m not sure that’s coming ahead from the standpoint of traffic and safety.

Or, yet again, maybe the Town is going to have to end up rebuilding that entire corner, to make this proposal work?  Beats me.

Is this really the shining future of Vienna?

Public parking places disappearing with not a word of protest from the Town.  Uber and Lyft making U-turns to drop off passengers.  Trucks making Y-turns and backing over the sidewalk to make deliveries.  Delivery trucks turning off Maple fight with the Wade Hampton cut-through left-turns over who gets the use the middle lane of Wade Hampton.

Call me cynical, but I don’t think the Town sold MAC zoning based on this sort of outcome.  I recall “parks and plazas” in the MAC statute.  I don’t recall a promise to strip public parking off the streets, then use the street so intensively that trucks and cars will have to negotiate over who gets to turn first.