Students will have a new avenue to cross H Street when they return from fall break.
The District Department of Transportation approved a permit last month allowing the University to build a 50-foot-wide crosswalk between District House and Kogan Plaza. Alicia Knight, the senior associate vice president of operations, said the installation is scheduled to begin Thursday or Friday and will be finished by the middle of the following week, weather permitting.
“The University is pleased that its permit to install a crosswalk on H Street has been approved,” she said. “We hope that the crosswalk leads to improved visibility for both pedestrians and drivers alike and creates a better walking and driving experience for all.”
Knight said the crosswalk will boast the typical striped design and four wheelchair accessible ramps on the sidewalks. A planter bed adjacent to the Academic Center will be narrowed to accommodate the wide walkway, she said.
The University introduced plans for an H Street crosswalk in mid-May, about 12 years after it had initially proposed the project in 2006. The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission approved the project in June.
Students have voiced concerns about the dangers of crossing H Street in recent months, saying students don’t use the current crosswalk in front of the Marvin Center and jaywalk haphazardly. A student was hit by a car on H Street in June.
The current crosswalk – which will be removed in favor of the new project – also does not feature curb cuts, making it inaccessible for those with disabilities.
Knight said the University chose to work on the crosswalk over fall break to mitigate disruptions to the community and avoid heavy foot traffic that occurs while school is in session.
The University will be working with an outside contractor who specializes in streetscape painting for crosswalks, she said. Knight declined to say which contractor GW is working with.
Portions of H Street will be intermittently closed to install the plastic crosswalk stripes, but the University is not anticipating the work will require a complete closure of the street, Knight said. Traffic control monitors will assist with traffic flow and pedestrian crossing, she said.
Knight added that GW budgeted funding for the crosswalk when District House was first supplied $69 million for renovations in 2015, but she declined to say how much money was allotted for the crosswalk project.
“While there will be an initial start-up cost for the installation, ongoing maintenance will be minimal,” she said.
James Harnett, a junior and ANC commissioner, said H Street has always been an area with high levels of student traffic, and many students have complained to him about almost being hit while trying to cross.
“It’s really exciting to see all of that stuff finally come together,” he said. “This is such an important safety element to being able to safely cross streets in the neighborhood.”
Harnett said “no parking” zones will also be marked on both sides of the crosswalk to help increase visibility between pedestrians and oncoming cars.
“Everyone feels threatened and unsafe when they cross that street,” Harnett said. “Every time I bring up a conversation of infrastructure with students, this is the first thing they’re talking about.”
He said students will now have a better view of their surroundings and will not have to stick their head out and get clipped by a bike or a car while trying to cross the street. Harnett said that if food trucks continue to pose problems for pedestrian visibility, he would consider advocating to move the trucks to other nearby locations on campus, like near Duques Hall or University Yard.
“There will still be plenty of space for food trucks to be on campus and make up the Kogan Plaza atmosphere that many expect and have grown used to,” Harnett said.
DDOT spokesman Terry Owens said staff from the public space and active transportation divisions worked with the University after officials proposed the crosswalk plan to DDOT last year. Owens said the University and the ANC expressed concerns to them about pedestrian safety on the block.
He said DDOT signed onto the plan because pedestrians have recently begun crossing in the middle of the street in larger numbers than usual after the District House entrance was renovated and food trucks flooded the streets. He added that the 2100 block of H Street is a long street, deterring students from walking over to an intersection to cross.
“The new crosswalk will facilitate improved pedestrian safety and access by concentrating crossings in a wide, well-marked and signed crosswalk in the middle of the block and clear the parking in this area to create better visibility of crossing pedestrians than exists currently,” Owens said.