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The District Department of Transportation has released its final safety report for a dangerous avenue in a Northwest neighborhood, prompting a mixed response from both pedestrian safety advocates and residents.
Following a spate of recent crashes on Arkansas Avenue NW between 16th Street and Georgia Avenue, including one that nearly severed a pedestrian’s leg, residents of the 16th Street Heights neighborhood petitioned DDOT to make safety improvements and change the avenue’s design.
In its final report, DDOT and the Metropolitan Police Department promise to follow through on several recommendations, such as installing automated speed cameras, traffic lights, bike lanes, and better crosswalks, signage, and pavement markings. But on the key recommendation of removing a rush hour travel lane on the northbound side of Arkansas Ave., effectively reducing the road to one lane in each direction at all times, DDOT’s report is ambiguous.
The lane change could trigger a lengthy review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) delaying action for months, according to DDOT. Folks in the neighborhood have their doubts about that claim.
“It's a federal regulation that is most often invoked for larger projects like highways or adding travel capacity,” said Mary Lauran Hall, who works in pedestrian and bicycle advocacy and lives in 16th Street Heights.
“We haven't had much success in hearing back from DDOT about their timeline for action. My biggest wish would be to have very clear communication with DDOT about when they are going to make the concrete fixes they recommend and that residents are demanding,” she said.
DDOT did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Residents say the combination of poor road design and speeding makes crossing Arkansas Avenue NW a risky venture. Chaz Mason, who regularly walks his dog Golem, said he was nearly run over by a truck a few months ago.
“We were midway through the intersection and we see this truck barreling down at us. I let go of Golem's leash because you realize this guy is not going to stop. So I dove for the sidewalk and he ran off. We both got clipped,” said Mason, who said the truck sped around a blind corner and did not have time to slow down by the time the driver saw him crossing at night.
Mason also does not accept DDOT’s explanation on the travel lane issue.
“I don't buy it will take a long environmental study just to remove a traffic restriction,” he said.
In late October, resident Kelly Dillon was severely injured by a drunk driver who crashed into the back of a parked car along Arkansas Ave., sandwiching her in between two bumpers. Several recent crashes involved drivers crashing into parallel parked cars, a signal the road design is faulty, residents contend.
A jury recently convicted the driver, Manuel Ramirez-Grijalva of Hyattsville, on multiple charges, but Dillon, whose incident sparked the petition drive, is still recovering from her injuries.
Over a three-year period 130 crashes have occurred in the Arkansas Avenue NW corridor between Decatur St. and Georgia Ave. Eight involved pedestrians and four involved bicyclists. Arkansas Avenue at 16th Street has seen the most (20) of those incidents.
“The collision diagrams indicate that the most of collisions are caused by the traffic turning onto and out-of Arkansas Avenue, mostly at 16th Street, Piney Branch Parkway, 14th Street and Georgia Avenue,” the DDOT report said.