Councilmember Allen On Traffic Safety: April ANC 6C Report

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Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C met on April 12 via WebEx. Commissioners Christy Kwan (6C01), Leslie Merkle (6C02, secretary), Jay Adelstein (6C03), Mark Eckenwiler (6C04, chair), Patricia Eguino (6C06) and Tony Goodman (6C07, vice chair) were present. Commissioner Joel Kelty (6C05, treasurer) was absent.

Councilmember Allen Talks Traffic Safety
The commissioners discussed traffic safety and enforcement with Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D). Eguino began by raising the matter of vehicles speeding along H Street NE. She suggested increasing street lighting and the repainting of bike lanes to improve traffic and pedestrian safety.

Kwan objected to plans in Mayor Muriel Bowser’s (D) FY 2024 budget to redirect the revenues of traffic enforcement cameras from safety improvements to the general fund. She organized a letter opposing the action that has been signed by 82 other commissioners.

Enforcement cameras, Goodman stated, are insufficient to address an issue that poses risks to public safety, owing to the increasing number of cars that are difficult to ticket because they lack proper license plates. Goodman added, “Either they have fake tags, expired tags or tags that are doctored in a way that can’t easily be captured by a camera.” The ANC has recommended towing vehicles with fake or expired tags or illegal license plate covers. Eckenwiler noted that drivers with improper credentials are “trying to evade accountability,” something that “goes hand in hand with reckless driving.”

Councilmember Allen said of current District law, “You have to go 25 miles an hour over the speed limit before we call it reckless.” He continued: “In our residential neighborhoods that means you may be going 50 miles an hour, and only when you hit 51 do we think it’s reckless. That’s insane.”

Eckenwiler said it was easy to find a car that owes thousands of dollars in unpaid tickets, “not just meter overstay or residential parking permit [fines], really serious speeding violations.” Adelstein pointed out the need for reciprocity with enforcement in Maryland and Virginia. Michael Upright, chair of the Transportation and Public Space Committee, agreed. He suggested expanding enforcement to I-295 and I-695, which have minimal enforcement.

“Frankly,” Councilmember Allen said, “If you have that many reckless driving tickets and you pay, that’s not any better, it just means you have the ability to pay.” As chair of the Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment, he plans to hold hearings this spring on traffic enforcement. Many of the current policies are simply ineffective, he said. The hearing will collect ideas to inform legislation moving forward, he promised.

Other Matters
The commissioners voted the following actions:

  • Supported the Capitol Hill Classic race, scheduled for May 21.
  • Requested the District Department of General Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation to repair the playground at the Hayes Senior Wellness Center tot-lot playground at 500 K St. NE.
  • Approved the streetscape plans and requested installation of an additional curb ramp on the north side of the mid-block crosswalk at 301 Florida Ave. NE.
  • Requested the removal of the Jersey barriers along the L and M street underpasses and improvements to the spaces.
  • Requested the installation of basic safety and access improvements, including ADA accessible passageways and signage, for Brentwood-Hamilton Field at 1300 Sixth St. NE.
  • Requested the establishment of a public-facing construction management office, better signage, temporary barriers for pedestrian and cyclist safety, the repurposing of the outer lanes in the underpass and installation of additional traffic-calming measures during the ongoing construction along Florida Avenue NE.

ANC 6C will meet via WebEx on May 10, at 7 p.m. Learn more about the commission and register to attend the meeting by visiting www.anc6c.org.

Sarah Payne is a reporter for Capital Community News. She can be reached at sarahp@hillrag.com.