You are on page 1of 2

How a Plan for Traffic Safety Morphed into Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner-Sponsored Referendum

on Parking

When the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5E sat Tuesday night plowing through its usual agenda of
business and community items it addresses every month, there had been an accident at R Street and
Florida Avenue earlier that morning. Wouldn’t be surprising if any of them knew about it, even the
Commissioner who actually lives on R Street, NW. Most folks are not eyewitnesses to traffic accidents,
unless they’re in one and most probably hear about this sort of thing through the grape-vine, on the news
or maybe a community blog, as I did. (See Scott Roberts’ email of 4/24)

As fate would have it, the very next day, another accident occurred during the evening hours, this time, at
North Capitol and R Streets, resulting in a mangled car, multiple police and first responders on the scene
–the usual stuff that happens when these unfortunate events occur.

But occur they do and, unfortunately, as the community grows denser and travelers look for alternative
routes and modes of transportation, it’s probable the occurrence will increase, not decrease, unless
active measures are implemented to prevent it. (See Scott Roberts’ email of 4/25)

But setting aside the most recent traffic accidents, if you live in Bloomingdale and travel interiorly during
morning rush-hour you know that navigating traffic is combat – for cars, cyclists and pedestrians. You
know, for instance, that pedestrian crossing at R and Florida, First and R and First and Rhode Island, both
north and south sides, is precarious; you know that east/west travel on R Street to First Street is a
raceway for Fed Ex trucks, with cars, cyclists and pedestrians navigating in the mix. Even non-peak hours
pose danger, as southbound cars on First Street barrel down from as far back as Randolph to make the
light at Florida. Heaven help the unlucky pedestrian caught in the crosswalk. The examples are
numerous but none more problematic as the First Street corridor, the default commuter route in
Bloomingdale.

Bloomingdale Civic Association (BCA) for at least three years, has routinely hauled in DDOT officials into its
monthly meetings so that residents from all over Bloomingdale, not just those who live on First Street,
could express their frustrations with traffic safety issues. Some folks absolutely believed speed bumps or
rumble strips along First Street would solve the problem, others had different ideas. Whatever anyone
thought was the better approach the discussions were always focused on improving safety.

Finally, after years of meetings, DDOT presented a plan for traffic calming measures to address safety on
First Street. BCA members were happy to get something more than a shoulder-shrug from DDOT. The
major part of the Plan addressed striping the cross-walks, adding spikes and bringing all east/west streets
connecting at First Street in compliance with current DDOT regulations which require parking spaces to
be at least 25 feet away from a stop sign. The enforcement of this regulation meant that some corners
would lose parking spaces – up to two. There were other soft finishes, like plantings and decorative
planters but since I don’t speak traffic, you’d have to see the renderings. Needless to say, the Plan was
approved. Most members were satisfied that at least some measures would be put in place to ensure a
safer First Street experience. But things go off the rail.

At Tuesday night’s ANC meeting, proceeding completely unexplained, the Commissioner for 5E-06
reintroduced the matter for the purpose of support of a Resolution to exempt either all of First Street,
NW, South of Rhode Island, or two streets, Randolph Place and R Street, (Hmm) south of Rhode Island.
It’s unclear to me which is accurate. The Resolution says both.

There was no meeting held, no notice given, no comments sought for the exemption. The Commissioner
introducing the Resolution simply stated she had “talked with her people”. After a bit of procedural
wrangling, the Chair allowed some residents who were present to speak on the issue. Each one, without
exception, spoke on safety concerns. Most repeated their frustrations about the years of inaction by
DDOT. Those more familiar with the Plan expressed their belief it was better than nothing, and that it
could possibly lead to more improvements, if shown to be inadequate.

And then the morphing began. It was cognitively strange, that not a single Commissioner addressed
safety concerns, directing their comments instead to parking – just parking – not car safety, not
pedestrian or cyclist safety, not even an inquiry of the presenting Commissioner concerning what notice
had been given to residents about the Resolution. The message was clear: Parking trumps everything –
even safety. Only one Commissioner voted no, two abstained, the rest supported the Resolution. I’m
not sure how this happens when protocol and accountability should be expected, but it did happen.
Inexplicably.

There must be transparency and accountability for how the decisions are made at the ANC level,
otherwise how can residents trust the process? Any Commissioner expressing authority to do something
should be required to show the receipts. Although I’m disappointed with the way this was handled, I do
not expect this so-called “Resolution” to be the last word because I don’t see how the ANC can require a
District Agency to not enforce its own laws. If that’s possible, this whole “great-weight” thing ought to be
seriously reconsidered.

These comments are based on my observations and participation in Tuesday night’s ANC meeting. Pat Mitchell