University Police Department officers directing traffic outside the Marvin Center have recently cost the University $2,600 for two weeks of work. Instituted to ensure student safety among increased pedestrian traffic and auto congestion, this is only a temporary solution for what has become one of the busiest spots on campus.
The University is spending money with no permanent solution in sight for traffic and pedestrian issues on H Street. Students have engulfed H Street between 21st and 22nd streets, crossing anywhere they please, paying little attention to traffic and creating a heightened safety concern. It is time for the University to seriously consider closing off this block of H Street, creating a permanent solution that would address both student safety concerns and the common complaint the GW lacks a “campus feeling.”
The editors of the Hatchet are not city planners, and we do not know what the specific city-wide implications of closing off a city street would be. But closing H Street between 21st and 22nd streets would benefit both students and the University.
University officials say closing off H Street to through traffic is “highly unlikely.” University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said the issue is on the back burner right now and not of utmost importance. The administration should make H Street closure a higher priority because of the potential benefits for student safety and aesthetic appeal.
Officials point out that drivers need to get into the Marvin Center parking garage, emergency vehicles need quick access to the street and delivery vehicles need access to J Street and the loading dock behind Lisner Auditorium.
There must be a system that can make the closure of H Street a viable solution. The city does not need to close off the street with a wall, but a filter that would stop non-essential traffic from passing through the heart of campus. Cars should not be prohibited from the street, but restricted with a gate-entry system like the ones at the entrance to parking garages. Drivers with parking passes could get to the Marvin Center parking garage, or pick up a ticket for the garage at the corner. Delivery trucks could still enter and of course emergency vehicles could get onto the street without problem.
Additions like Kogan Plaza have already helped define GW’s campus, but closing H Street could expand the central campus meeting place. H Street between 21st and 22nd streets would become a breezeway and increase students’ feeling of security.
The University should stop investing in temporary solutions like using UPD officers as crossing guards and look into a permanent solution. Closing this one block of H Street would eliminate a serious student safety concern and could be a great addition to GW’s campus identity.