Here’s a happy update to kick off your week: Arkansas Avenue is one step closer to becoming safer for everybody! At a community meeting last week, the DC government formally committed to making Arkansas Avenue safer for everybody — through both infrastructure improvements and stronger enforcement.
Specifically, the District Department of Transportation has formally committed to studying possibilities for traffic calming on Arkansas Avenue. The Metropolitan Police Department has also agreed to increase enforcement of speeding and crosswalk violations on the street.
This is a big step in the right direction. Residents along Arkansas Avenue knew for a long time that through traffic speeds by way too fast. As one neighbor put it:
“We desperately need a means to slow traffic down. We have schools, playgrounds, swimming pools and churches on this stretch of Arkansas Avenue. If things are not done to compel drivers to slow down, it is only a matter of time before there is a fatal injury.”
And after the crash that landed Kelly in the hospital for over a month, there was no denying that something must be done.
In response to Kelly’s crash, over a hundred friends and neighbors signed on to the petition on this site asking DDOT for a traffic assessment. In short order, four DC elected officials — including Mayor Vincent Gray and Councilmember Muriel Bowser — pledged their support for neighbors and their commitment to fixing the street.
The Mayor helped set up a meeting between Arkansas Avenue neighbors, DDOT, and Police Department officials. At the meeting last Thursday, neighbors presented three major priorities:
- The DC government must prioritize safety for neighborhood residents along Arkansas Ave over convenience for distance commuters. Eliminating the northbound rush hour lane and painting parking boxes will discourage dangerous commuter behavior.
- The DC government must slow car speeds on Arkansas Avenue. More all-way stop signs, shorter light times, and narrower traffic lanes will encourage drivers to stop speeding.
- The DC government must make it safe and accessible to walk, bike, and cross the street on Arkansas Ave. Raised and visible crosswalks, sidewalk bulb outs, and bike lanes will make the street safer and more livable for neighbors.
The two District Department of Transportation officials who were present — Mr. James Cheeks and Ms. Wanda Pinn-Mills — took note of neighbors’ suggestions. Next, these DC officials will undertake a formal traffic assessment for Arkansas Avenue. This process involves collecting data about speeds, cut-throughs, crashes, parking, and biking and walking patterns. Then, the agency will make recommendations for street fixes.
We should see the formal recommendations by spring of 2014, and we can expect construction on Arkansas Avenue to take place in summer of 2014. It’s possible that we will see small improvements — like high-visibility crosswalk markers and new paint on existing crosswalks — within the next six weeks. And we could start seeing more police enforcement as soon as this week.
For now, we are cautiously optimistic that we’ll be seeing some good improvements to Arkansas Avenue in 2014! We will keep this site updated as we hear more. In the meantime, join the campaign for safer Arkansas and share your story here.
Thank you to all of the neighbors whose support made this process possible. And thank you to Mayor Gray, Councilmember Bowser, Neighborhood Commissioner Jeff Standish, and Neighborhood Commissioner Joe Vaughan for their support and leadership.