WASHINGTON — The recent traffic fatalities in the District have only fueled growing concerns from residents and community advocates who have longed for better infrastructure and safety measures in place.
Despite the pandemic emptying streets last year, 2020 proved to be the most lethal on the roads with 37 deaths, per police statistics. It was the highest on record since 2008 and an increase from the year before.
However, the current trend is heading towards an already grim trajectory, with the number of traffic-related deaths nearly doubling compared to this time last year. As of Friday morning, there have been 16 deaths in D.C. while the number was nine in 2020, according to data from the Metropolitan Police Department.
Two homeless advocates for Miriam’s Kitchen, Waldon Adams and Rhonda Whitaker, died after a pickup truck driver hit them at Hains Point last weekend.
On April 9, 29-year-old Jim Pagels, a bicyclist and outspoken critic of D.C. streets, died in a crash near Massachusetts Avenue and 2nd Avenue. He tweeted about the dangers of riding a bike in the city just hours earlier before his death.
On April 5, 30-year-old Brian Johnson died when the driver of a Nissan Altima crashed into his car after running a red light, according to police. Just one day earlier, 54-year-old Evelyn Troyah, a pedestrian, was killed in a hit-and-run crash.
Earlier in the same week, 4-year-old Z’yaire Joshua died after being hit by a car while walking with his mother.
Local community leaders blame the fatalities on top of other crashes on the “direct result of poor road design and government inaction.” Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners said they have heard from residents on a consistent basis on not only their concerns but requests to fix problems on their streets.
In a letter drafted by a few commissioners, requests such as replacing missing or damaged street signs, missing crosswalks and fixing damaged signs have yielded little to no action from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).
“We are tired of waiting for the next crash, and we demand systemic, preventive improvements," the letter says.
ANC Erin Palmer is calling for changes on how DDOT responds and fixes service requests, including responses to Traffic Safety Assessments. Their letter claims when it can take up to three days to address roadway needs such as potholes but can reach up to four or even nine months to take care of roadway signs, roadway stripping and marking sidewalk repair and traffic safety investigations.
“The Department’s service level agreement timelines clearly prioritize fast car travel over safety for all road users, particularly vulnerable users,” the letter read.
Commissioners have proposed several recommendations:
- The Department should publish a table of service level agreement timelines on its public website and include information that is consistent across the Department’s webpages.
- Damage to existing signage should be addressed swiftly. The Department should ensure adherence to the 24-hour timeline to replace existing stop signs and reduce the timeline for traffic control sign replacement, particularly for pedestrian crossing signs.
- The Department should prioritize timely crosswalk striping at all existing crosswalks. No investigation is necessary.
- The Department should ensure adherence to resolving sidewalk repair requests within 25 business days of the time they are reported or sooner.
- The Department should expedite Traffic Safety Assessment investigations, share underlying data with the individual making the request and the relevant Commissioner, and clearly indicate in its response what solutions were considered, how they were assessed, and the reason the solution was adopted or rejected.
- The Department should provide a public facing, location-based database for all Traffic Safety Assessments, and not just those submitted in the last 30 days, including links to the submitted forms (with redacted contact information for non-Commissioners).
To read the entire letter and full proposals, click on this link.
In response to questions about DDOT’s Service Level Agreement timelines, DDOT Interim Director Everett Lott released this statement to WUSA9:
"DDOT is committed to equitably delivering services proactively and in response to requests from District residents to maintain and improve the transportation network. Under Mayor Bowser's leadership, we are evaluating how to streamline processes while still providing thorough, thoughtful evaluation for how to make our roadways safer."
In early April, DDOT announced that it’s offering $200,000 in grants to support programs that improve traffic safety in the District.