A local governing body called on District officials to modify sections of Virginia Avenue to improve pedestrian safety at its monthly meeting Wednesday night.
Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood commissioners passed a resolution asking the District Department of Transportation to investigate the “feasibility” of closing the 1700 block of Virginia Avenue, a street section known for near pedestrian car accidents.
ANC Commissioner James Harnett also discussed the possibility of installing a traffic signal at the intersection of 19th and H streets, and ANC Director of Community Relations Kevin Days updated attendees about residence hall renovation plans.
Enhancing pedestrian safety on Virginia Avenue
Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution asking DDOT to close the 1700 block of Virginia Avenue, recommending the street section be blocked to traffic for a six-month pilot period, to improve safety for pedestrians.
ANC Commissioner Patrick Kennedy suggested that DDOT repaint the crosswalks at Virginia Avenue and 18th Street to cross Virginia Avenue straight, instead of diagonally, and retime the pedestrian walking signal.
Kennedy’s proposal comes four years after Mayor Muriel Bowser introduced Vision Zero, a city goal to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2024. Traffic fatalities have increased each year since the plan was introduced in 2015, and 10 traffic-related fatalities have occurred since the start of 2019, according to Metropolitan Police Department data.
“This is something that DDOT has strongly intimated that they want some sort of cover to take a look at,” Kennedy said. “They’re trying to be more proactive, especially after some of these deaths recently on the roadways and trying to proactively address these concerns.”
Traffic signals on 19th and H streets
Harnett said DDOT has proposed initial designs for a traffic signal to be installed at the intersection of 19th and H streets, and officials will present the plans to the ANC in the late summer or early fall.
The ANC unanimously passed a resolution in March urging DDOT to add a traffic signal to the intersection to assuage pedestrians’ concerns about safely crossing the street.
“They have discussed internally with an engineering team and determined that they will be able to move forward with signalization without the reopening of the street,” Harnett said. “Their next step is to actually install the signals. They’ve already completed design work and are ready to move forward in the next three to six months.”
Harnett said he asked MPD officials to add the intersection to their special attentions list, which highlights District locations for officers who are not on call to monitor.
Updates on University projects
Days, the ANC’s director of community relations, updated the meeting’s attendees on renovation plans for Thurston Hall, which are set to begin in the fall of 2020. Days said the University’s designs to the hall include adding a penthouse and enclosed-window community spaces.
Days added that GW is moving forward with its application to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration to transfer its liquor license to the Smith Center. He said that if ABRA green-lights the University’s application, officials will present the final plans to the ANC for approval.