Councilmember Allen Talks Traffic, Crosswalks, and Parking in ANC6A
by Larry Janezich
Councilmember Charles Allen appeared before ANC six a last Thursday night, as part of his tour of Ward 6 ANCs to update them on City Council business affecting the ward. In Q&A afterward, residents wanted to talk about traffic safety. A resident asked Allen how to get more MPD officers to make traffic safety a priority.
Allen replied that traffic enforcement was only part of the solution to traffic and safety issues, and that a lot had to do with redesign, referring to four way stops and restoring of obliterated crosswalks. He said we are paying now for the failure of decades-old plans to build highways to move people in and out of the city – citing Maryland Avenue and C Street, SE, as examples. (Ed. Note: The city would have paid a price had those highways been built. Witness how the SW Freeway divided the city.)
With respect to enforcement, Allen said the goal is to be a safe and just city. He talked about the reduction in traffic stops for minor offenses, “where a lot of bias is played out,” and efforts to refocus policing on enforcing speed limits and the blocking of bike lanes. “Tension always exists in enforcement,” he said, “we want to reduce it and I believe we can do this.”
Allen said we are still striking out in pushing DDOT to restore intersection striping destroyed by street work – “In intersections all over our neighborhood crosswalks are gone.” Allen has threatened to organize the community to restore the intersections on their own, though Director of the DDOT has asked him not to do this. Allen said “Here’s his chance. Get the crosswalks done, or we’re going to do it.” He said we need a “Crosswalk Palooza” – and that all it would take is some $20 gallons of paint, rollers, a leaf blower, orange vests, and volunteers…I don’t believe we’ll go to jail.”
Another resident wondered what could be done about the traffic app WAZE which finds alternate routes out of the city through neighborhood streets, resulting in high-speed traffic in the community. Allen said that WAZE is a private entity, and “we can’t force them to stop – yet”. But it was a question he would take back to DDOT.
Parking issues came up in connection with the expansion of Maury School’s playground at the expense of school parking – funds Allen had gotten for the school. The ANC sent a letter to DDOT requesting neighborhood street parking permits for some eight school personnel who lost parking on school grounds. The permits would allow them to park on streets within the school zone boundaries from 7:00am until 6:00pm. Concerns were raised by a commissioner regarding the need to ensure “we are not creating a monster” or establishing a precedent, and that it needed to be understood that any similar request would be considered on a case-by-case basis and would not be a matter of right.
CM Allen said that the move should be considered as an exchange of value – that the community as a whole would benefit from residential use of the playground. Allen says that under the law, it will be the ANC (and thus the community) who has the power to give up parking spaces on the street. He said his goal was to find a balance of the needs of the community, and street parking for teachers in this instance was a good use of public space. When the vote came, the Commission agreed, unanimously.
Residents also pressed Allen on the process for getting speed bumps on residential streets – (here’s a link to city guidelines https://bit.ly/2TPlkgE). One commissioner suggested that the number of signatures needed on a petition to request a speed bump had been lowered below the 75% of residents on the affected block as stated in the guidelines. More difficult to answer were questions regarding controlling the independent construction trucks driving through Hill East on 11th Street, whose pay depends on how many trips they can make to and from the construction site. (MPD is working with residents of Hill East with mixed success to enforce violations of the developer’s stated access and egress routes for the Donatelli/Blue Skye Development on Reservation 13.)