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'Recipe for disaster' | Drivers fear DC traffic calming bump-outs will make roads more dangerous

The curb cuts and bump-outs are designed to slow traffic and are parts of the Vision Zero plan to reduce traffic deaths.

WASHINGTON — One of the District’s newest traffic calming measures is making some drivers anything but calm. Several dozen people expressed their frustration with the new additions to Minnesota Avenue, Southeast on the NextDoor app.  

“It just came out of nowhere!” wrote Xanthia James. 

Bump-outs are meant to slow down traffic in the blocks leading up to Kimball Elementary School. James supports steps to make our streets safer for drivers and walkers but said there must be a better solution

“It doesn’t make sense because it cuts off left lane really abruptly," James said, "Especially the folks who don’t live in this area are really confused. It makes it worse.  It’s like a bottleneck. It’s very frustrating and honestly, I think it’s an accident waiting to happen.”

In fact, a neighbor a few miles away made an Instagram reel after a flatbed truck got stuck in their bump-out. It happened in the 3100 block of W Street, Southeast which has been the scene of several accidents documented by the neighbor. The W Street bump-out is shallow inside, creating a ditch of sorts. It’s a joint project between the Department of Transportation and the Department of Energy and the Environment designed to not only slow down turning cars but manage stormwater runoff into the nearby stream.

But back on Minnesota Avenue, some drivers question the usefulness of the bump-outs which stop a block before the school with no other traffic calming measures in front of the school building itself.  

Lilly Johnson has lived off Minnesota Avenue for 11 years and said the road is dangerous and needed traffic calming measures to slow drivers down.

“When there’s a crossing guard at the school it’s good, but otherwise, you cross at your own risk,” said Johnson “I hope they work I hope something works because there’s a lot of terrible accidents right here and I almost got hit several times.”

“There’s nothing on the road telling folks that this lane is going to end, get over, and then there’s road rage,” countered James. “This is a recipe for disaster.”

Hours after deadline and the publishing of this article, DDOT responded to WUSA9 with the following:

  • Curb extensions do not take the place of parking spots; the areas where curb extensions are installed were not legal parking spaces because those areas near a crosswalk need to be clear so that drivers and pedestrians can see each other in time.
  • DDOT did extensive community engagement, over the course of a year or more, and continues to do so during the construction phase
  • Curb extensions are designed with turning vehicles in mind – drivers of all vehicles should be able to navigate them.
  • Crashes:
    • Most of the crashes in the Minnesota Avenue SE corridor are "rear-end" and "failure to stay in lane" crashes where speed is a contributing factor.
    • This section of Minnesota Avenue has over 120 crashes per mile per year, which is greater than comparable streets, like Alabama Ave SE, Michigan Ave NW, and South Dakota, which have a much higher traffic volume.
  • Speed:
    • 65% of drivers exceed the 25 mph speed limit by more than 10 mph in the school zone at Kimball Elementary school. At this excessive speed, most pedestrians are unable to survive injuries sustained from impact with a vehicle
    • When a pedestrian is struck at 20 mph, they face a 10% chance of fatal injury.

Director Everett Lott issued the following statement:

Minnesota Avenue is one of the highest crash corridors in DC and is a Vision Zero priority. The project that is currently under construction includes many safety upgrades that are known to improve safety and will reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities. Curb extensions are a proven safety measure – they narrow the width of the roadway near intersections to improve visibility, slow drivers as they turn, and create safer and shorter crossing distances for people on foot. We understand that parking is tight in some neighborhoods, but safety and transit reliability remain priorities.

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