DDOT to Study Capitol Hill Intersection

Posted June 14, 2005 at 4:29pm

While it did not make the list of the top 20 intersections with the most pedestrian crashes in Washington, D.C., where Massachusetts Avenue and D Street Northeast meet is an area of top concern to residents of Police Service Area 102 in the 1st district, and it has now caught the eye of the District Department of Transportation.

Within the next few weeks the intersection will be scrutinized by DDOT officials who will look at various traffic statistics, the positioning of signals and pedestrian safety.

The survey “will be an in-house examination by our experts,” said DDOT spokesman Bill Rice. “We’re not using an outside consultant, it’s not that big of a deal.”

However, the safety of the intersection is a big deal to those in PSA102 who subscribe to the near Northeast e-mail network, NELink. For months the intersection has been the topic of numerous posts by residents, wondering what needed to be done to get DDOT’s attention on what many in the neighborhood consider to be a dangerous intersection for pedestrians. Their concerns will be addressed shortly after the survey is completed when DDOT officials share the results with the community, Rice said.

Within the Capitol Hill area, the Massachusetts and D intersection is not the only one of concern. DDOT recently released a draft report, compiled from data received from the Metropolitan Police Department, that listed 20 D.C. intersections with the highest number of pedestrian crashes from 1998 to 2000. Of the 20 intersections on the list, six fall within the boundaries of the Hill, while a handful of others are right on the outskirts.

“It reflects the amount of traffic, there are a lot of main roads,” Rice said, acknowledging that a fair amount of the intersections on the list are in the Hill vicinity. The study is not yet available on DDOT’s Web site.

In terms of making intersections safer, Rice said DDOT is “very conscious” of the three E’s of transportation safety, which are education, engineering and enforcement. Right now those in PSA102 seem most concerned with enforcement, particularly when it comes to pedestrian safety at the intersection near the Heritage Foundation.

That’s where George Branyan, DDOT’s pedestrian safety coordinator, comes into play. Branyan, who just took his post with DDOT at the beginning of May, said there are a number of variables to consider when surveying an intersection.

“It’s a host of things from the mundane … ranging all the way to much more substantial elements,” Branyan said. “Basically, I want people to slow down. That’s the most important factor of pedestrian safety.”

Branyan said if drivers are kept at a reasonable speed, they are more likely to stop and yield to pedestrians. Also, a pedestrian struck by a car is more likely to survive the slower the car is moving.

Despite the District being a national leader in the use of countdown pedestrian signals, which let those crossing know how many seconds they have to get across the street, pedestrians don’t always utilize the proper crosswalks. Branyan said depending on where pedestrians are coming from and going to and where buildings entrances and exits are located, a “desire line” can be created, meaning pedestrians ideally want to cross wherever they are, crosswalk or not.

“A desire line not being at an intersection [makes it more] convenient for pedestrians to cross midblock,” Branyan said. “We’re going to look at that and study vehicle and pedestrian circulation.”

Other issues DDOT officials will be surveying include crosswalk markings, appropriate signage and the geometries of the curb radii, as a wider radii increases vehicle speeds. “We want to allow vehicles to turn, but don’t want them to turn quickly,” he said.

The survey at Massachusetts Avenue and D Street Northeast should start this month and will take a few weeks to complete, Rice said.