On Tuesday, a special meeting of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6A and 6C Transportation Public Space (TPS) Committees met to discuss speeding and other traffic issues along the H Street NE corridor.
H Street History
ANC 6A transportation and public space committee chairman Marc Brumer first spoke about H Street and its importance to the DC community historically, culturally and economically for tourists and locals alike. Brumer emphasized the importance of listening to community members when exploring possible solutions.
“One injury and one fatality is too many,” Brumer said. “Our agencies felt their responsibility as members of this community was to convene this conversation to examine the problems that we’re experiencing along the corridor, but also hear from the community about ways to fix these problems.”
Community and Commissioner Responses
First to speak was community member and safe streets advocate Mark Sussman. In January, Sussman and several H street businesses sent a letter to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) in January demanding that increased safety measures be taken on their street. Sussman has also been working with the ANC towards a dedicated bus streetcar lane and wider sidewalks and pickup and drop-off zones (as opposed to parking), among other items on the street. A total of 25 businesses signed on to his letter.
Roy Gross, Director of Operations at Atlas Performing Arts Center (1333 H St NE), spoke to attendees about the driver who crashed through the arts center on Dec 22, 2020, saying it was a near miss of a “mass casualty event”. The driver was traveling an estimated speed of over 70 miles per hour when the vehicle smashed through the plate glass, causing significant damage but no injuries as, due to a combination of COVID-19 and the hour, few were present at the arts center at the time.
“We could have easily had 100 to 200 people standing out under the marquee at that time having left a show,” Gross said. “In addition, the car and debris flew into one of our dance studios, where there could have been 30 Kids dancing that night.”
Gross says he is hopeful for forward “movement” on this issue. He has been vocal about H Street safety for over four years advocating with the ANC, DDOT and the office of the Mayor.
ANC 6C commissioner Joel Kelty criticized DDOT for their lack of response to community proposals and said their feedback would be beneficial to the commission and the community in next steps for making H Street safer for all.
A DDOT representative told the January ANC 6C TPS Committee meeting that they “were not aware of” a letter sent by commissioners in February 2020 citing H Street safety concerns and making detailed and specific recommendations for safety improvements to H Street NE, notably at the intersections with Third and Sixth Street. That correspondence was among other resolutions and letters from ANC 6C that DDOT could not locate when asked to provide updates on the items concerned.
“Our ANC has over the years made numerous recommendations, posed questions, and I don’t feel that DDOT has really adequately responded to any of that,” Kelty said. “So my whole goal is to just get them to answer: are these good ideas or not? Just tell us that, implement them or not, but at least respond.”
ANC 6A and ANC 6C voted to send a joint letter to DDOT requesting a comprehensive review of safety and traffic concerns on H Street NE from North Capital street to 15th street.
The commissions plan to denote that they have received valuable and informative input from local H street businesses and Mr. Chaffin, who works to spotlight policies and people that govern and change public spaces though the non profit Street Justice, which will both be attached for their consideration. This motion carried unanimously among all ANC 6A and 6C TPS committee members.
The commission also voted unanimously to approve creating a special joint committee on H Street transportation safety issues and will work together to draft a letter to DDOT.
Sarah Payne is a History and Neuroscience student at The University of Michigan interning with HillRag. She writes for and serves as an assistant news editor for Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can reach her at [email protected].