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Residents in a Northeast Washington neighborhood are asking the District Department of Transportation to speed up the implementation of safety measures designed to slow down cars zooming by their homes and schools.
At a meeting organized by D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), DDOT officials briefed residents of the Capitol Hill neighborhood about plans to change the road diet on Maryland Avenue Northeast, a road the agency has determined is plagued by high speeds especially during morning and afternoon rush hours.
DDOT identified a preferred design of curb extensions, a landscaped median, left turn pockets, and bike lanes in 2012. At the community meeting last week, the agency announced construction would begin in 2017. For the parents who walk their kids to the library, parks, and schools in the neighborhood, it should not take the District five years to fix a recognized safety hazard.
“I'm not a transportation expert, but we are asking DDOT to move the implementation of the Maryland Avenue project as fast as they can because this is a public safety issue,” said Todd Hettenbach, one of a vocal group of Capitol Hill homeowners who have lobbied DDOT to reduce the number of lanes on Maryland Avenue Northeast from two in each direction to one, the most time-consuming of the proposed safety measures because of the required environmental approvals.
“My kids play in parks along Maryland Avenue. We cross that street on a daily basis to go to school, the library and playgrounds. This is not merely a theoretical concern for me or my neighbors,” Hettenbach said.
In its study of Maryland Avenue, DDOT concluded that although traffic volume is relatively low, high speeds are a problem. Crashes are happening more frequently in the corridor, too, with 79 at just two of the intersections — at 7th and 8th Streets Northeast — over the past six years. More than a third of those crashes caused injuries.
Last summer librarian Elizabeth Lang was run over and badly injured in a crosswalk by a taxi cab, prompting DDOT to install temporary fixes that has been sitting on the agency’s shelf for years.
A speed camera put up by the police at the intersection of Maryland Ave., 7th and D Streets in October apparently has had minimal impact because of technical problems. There were long gaps in between tickets and no tickets were issued at night, according to data released by the police department, leading residents to believe the speed camera was not working for weeks at a time.
Hettenbach said design concepts to change the road diet on Maryland Avenue have been around since 2009.
“Every day that DDOT can move the schedule earlier is a big help for us.”