The District Department of Transportation is currently installing a traffic island in Washington Circle after neighborhood leaders voiced concerns about cars failing to stop for pedestrians.
After the city planning firm Kimley-Horn produced a study about traffic patterns in Washington Circle last December, DDOT decided to erect a concrete triangle where the circle intersects with 23rd Street – an area where cars have frequently had close calls with pedestrians, local officials said. Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners said the traffic island will channel cars through the circle and create a defined right-turn lane to ensure pedestrians can navigate the circle safely.
Junior and ANC Commissioner James Harnett said he has seen cars and buses failing to stop for pedestrians in Washington Circle and decided to help find a solution to make the circle safer. Harnett said the Kimley-Horn evaluation recommended the installation of a traffic light and more signage to the intersection to increase pedestrian safety in addition to the island.
“Our primary concern was that people who are walking through the neighborhood, walking through the circle were unsafe – that, eventually, if we didn’t do something, something tragic could happen,” he said.
He said the traffic island will reduce the need for Metropolitan Police Department officers to monitor the intersection as closely as they had over the past year because cars will have an easier time navigating the circle. He said the ANC requested to have MPD officers stationed at the traffic circle during September and October last year – during which time officers issued 500 tickets for traffic violations.
“We are very excited that we’ve been able to push the city, push DDOT to do something about this intersection, and I am at least personally happy that MPD resources, limited as they are, don’t need to be dedicated to addressing or ticketing people for confusing intersections,” he said.
Patrick Kennedy, the vice chair of the ANC, said drivers in Washington Circle often fail to use the right lane to turn right onto 23rd Street because the road is not clearly marked.
He said DDOT has worked efficiently with the ANC, which funded the Washington Circle evaluation, over the past five months to begin the island’s construction. DDOT is usually responsible for funding safety evaluations, but the ANC decided to take the lead on the island project because DDOT did not have time to examine Washington Circle, he said.
“I think that was very helpful because we handed it to DDOT on a platter, and I think they agreed with the suggestions,” Kennedy said. “I think, conceptually, they had wanted to do some of that stuff anyways.”
The ANC spent nearly $2,000 to fund the study, according to financial records on the ANC website.
Commissioner Jeri Epstein said the project took a few months to initiate because DDOT had to approve the island after the ANC recommended its construction.
“It is just a lot of different people having to sign off and do it the right way,” she said. “Actually, for the District of Columbia, this is record time.”
A DDOT spokesperson did not return multiple requests for comment.