The University formed a committee this week to explore ways to make the 2100 block of H Street safer after a car struck a student there late last month.
While the student sustained no serious injuries, the accident highlighted the potential dangers posed by a street that experiences a high volume of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Gelman Library, Kogan Plaza, two residence halls, the Marvin Center and the Academic Center are all located between 20th and 21st streets, leading students to often cross H Street mid-block.
“We have had a couple incidents each year. Not necessarily hits, but near misses,” said University Police Chief Dolores Stafford, who will be heading up the committee.
She said drivers and pedestrians are responsible for creating the safety hazards.
“Almost every incident has been students stepping out into the street without looking both ways or when they do not have the stop signal,” she said. “You can see the cars driving faster than they should, certainly above the speed limit.”.
The seven-member committee, which will include Student Association President Kris Hart and representatives from several vice presidents’ offices, will discuss measures that would make cars slow down and encourage students to use the crosswalk. A proposal will be presented to the city after two or three meetings, Stafford said.
She said she has no time frame as to when the results will be presented. In the last five years, the D.C. Office of Planning has rejected GW’s proposals to construct speed bumps on H Street, said Stafford, adding that the committee would not be exploring that possibility when it meets in the next few weeks. The city did allow GW to repaint the crosswalk in front of the Marvin Center.
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said GW and the city would need to work closely to make H Street safer.
Trachtenberg asked Stafford to form a committee a week after the accident, requesting that she bring together faculty and students to address the concerns students have in crossing H Street.
“The cars drive so fast, and they are fully aware that they are in the center of the GW campus,” freshman Lindsay Miller said.
On Sept. 30, a Lexus hit graduate student Jessica Burt as she was stepping into the crosswalk in front of the Marvin Center. Burt, whose left foot was bruised, was given a $10 ticket for “walking to create a hazard.”
“It isn’t just H Street,” Trachtenberg said. “It could happen on F Street or Pennsylvania Avenue. We need to see if there is anything we can do to make others more aware.”
A traffic light has been installed at the intersection of 21st and F streets to address safety concerns there, city officials said. The light will become operational in the next few weeks.
D.C. Traffic Signal Division Chief William McGuirk said safety concerns played little role in installing the light.
An intersection must be the site of more than five accidents per year in order to mandate the installation of a traffic light based solely on safety concerns, McGuirk said. According to city statistics, 12 accidents have occurred at the intersection in the last three years, seven of which involved injuries.