Traffic accident prompts H Street safety concerns

A silver Lexus hit a female graduate student in front of the Marvin Center Tuesday evening. The heavy traffic flow of the 2100 block of H Street has prompted officials and the city to discuss closing it off in the past.

The student, Jessica Burt, was taken to GW Hospital where her bruised left foot was bandaged.

After leaving the Marvin Center at about 6:25 p.m., Burt said she looked to her right before stepping off the sidewalk onto the H Street crosswalk. She said as her foot was “just leaving the curb,” she looked to her left, where she saw a car. Burt said the driver made eye contact with her.

“The next thing I know I’m flying through the air,” said Burt, a student in the Elliott School of International Affairs. “The car was going…faster than I know cars normally go.”

Burt received a $10 ticket for “walking to create a hazard.”

Sharon Moran, of Alexandria, VA, was driving the Lexus Sport Utility Vehicle that struck Burt, according to a Metropolitan Police accident report. Moran is assistant vice president for communications for Players Inc., the D.C. licensing and marketing arm of the National Football League’s players’ union.

Moran, and the male who picked her up after the accident, declined to comment.

Several University Police officers, an MPD car, two ambulances and a fire engine were at the scene of the accident. Several students and GW employees stopped to look at the flashing lights and commotion outside the Marvin Center.

UPD Chief Dolores Stafford was unavailable for comment as of press time.

Alan Etters, D.C. Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services spokesperson, said the ambulances and fire engine were dispatched at 6:31 p.m. He said a fire engine is usually called first in situations such as these because firefighters are Emergency Medical Technicians.

Burt said after the vehicle hit her, she landed about six inches from the sidewalk. She said passersby helped her to the curb, where she waited for an ambulance.

“My first thought was that I feel so, so sorry for the driver,” Burt said. “But I was in the crosswalk.”

She said she was X-rayed at the hospital, and told her foot had an abrasion and contusion, but it wasn’t broken. She said her foot was “swollen” Wednesday morning.

Tuesday’s incident sparked some concern among students about closing off H Street between the 21st and 22nd street.

Senior Counsel Charles Barber said GW discussed closing the block with the city during Campus Plan proceedings a few years ago. He said the University never made a “formal attempt” to close the block because the city “indicated (it) would not be supportive.”

“We’ve looked at it, thought it would be a good idea, but (we’ve) never gotten a sense it would be received well,” he said.

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for student and academic support services, said the city told GW the street is a vital thoroughfare for cars turning off Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Ideally, it’d be great…but it’d be difficult to get that street closed off,” said Chernak, noting that the closure of Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House increases traffic on H Street.

Barber said the University also had preliminary discussions with the city’s Department of Public Works to place mid-block markings on the H Street block and between the University Yard and Media and Public Affairs building. Mid-block markings are painted onto the street, and show drivers pedestrians cross the grounds.

Chernak said University Police officers cannot act as permanent crossing guards on city streets, such as H Street. UPD officers have secured city permission to direct H Street traffic when dignitaries visited campus and a new eating area was added to the Marvin Center last year.

“Technically, we don’t have any police jurisdiction beyond University property,” he said.

Some students said the University doesn’t need to post a crossing guard on H Street and felt safe walking there.

“I just watch for cars…if you don’t feel safe, you walk to a corner; there’s a stop light there,” junior Andrew Dubinsky said.

-Michael Barnett contributed to this report.

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