I am writing to you regarding an issue in my community on which the residents are becoming increasingly frustrated by the perceived lack of responsiveness from your agency and it’s assigned representative. The issue I refer to concerns a request for the installation of speed calming measures along P Street, N.W., between North Capitol Street and New Jersey Avenue, and most particularly, in the 100 and 200 blocks of P Street, N.W. Please indulge me while I outline the troubling history undergirding this issue.
Some two years ago, two residents of the affected blocks, following the protocol outlined in your agency’s policy statement of May 2008, circulated a petition requesting DDOT to install speed bumps in the 100 and 200 blocks of P Street. That petition was signed by residents representing more than 75% of the households in the 100 and 200 blocks of P Street, N.W., I among them. The Bates Area Civic Association (BACA), of which many of the residents of P Street are members, wholeheartedly endorsed the position of the petitioners and a member of BACA, Anita Bonds, who was then the Commissioner representing ANC5C01 as well as the Chairperson of ANC5C, introduced a resolution before the full ANC which was adopted unanimously and forwarded to DDOT. The result of all of those efforts was a mind numbing silence. DDOT simply provided no official response either to the residents’ petition or to the ANC’s resolution.
Fast forward to January 2011 when I took office as the Commissioner representing Single Member District 5C01. As I began to investigate the status of the dormant request, I learned that DDOT had informally first notified former Commissioner Bonds that speed bumps would be installed and then later, again informally, indicated to her that they would not because, as I understand it “P Street is a federal street”, or “P Street is a bus route” or “P Street is an emergency route.” Not satisfied with those shifting explanations, and knowing from my own experience as a 20 year resident of the 100 block of P Street that those blocks, at least since 1991, have not been part of a bus route and have not, at least according to posted signage, been designated as an emergency route, I requested that the ANC invite your representative, Aaron Rhones, to appear at the February meeting of ANC5C. Mr. Rhones did appear before the Commission on February 15, 2011, and in essence, apologized for the failure of DDOT to properly respond to the ANC’s resolution and the citizens’ petition of 2009. He promised that the matter would be reopened, a proper study would be conducted and a formal response would be provided by the next ANC meeting.
At the next ANC5C meeting, on March 15, 2011, Mr. Rhones returned to report that a study had been conducted and that it was determined that P Street was not eligible for speed bumps, speed humps or speed tables because the blocks in question were on a “Collector Street”. Not familiar with that term, I asked for further clarification and was told that “Collector Streets” are streets which function as conduits for traffic to feed into major arteries. Only “Local Streets” he added, are eligible for speed bumps, humps or tables. I asked the DDOT representative to provide me with a written report of the study results as well as the current written process for designating the functional status of D.C. streets, which he promised to do. (To date I have received neither.) Mr. Rhones did offer, as an alternative, rumble strips and/or parallel lines to give the visual impression that the street is narrower than it is if those options would satisfy the residents. He asked me to take those options to my constituents which I did. Suffice it to say my neighbors were less than moved by the gesture.
Two days after the March meeting, I happened to be driving along a busy street in N.E. Washington when I had to slow down to ride over speed bumps and a speed table. It struck me that that street, the 1200 block of E Street, is not only busier than P Street, but is also an active Metrobus route. That prompted me to do my own research and I found a DDOT map on line which showed the classification of every street in the District of Columbia. Those classifications, in progressive order are 1) local street, 2) collector street, 3) minor artery, 4) major artery, 5) freeway and 6) interstate. Armed with that information, I began my own informal survey of District streets. So far (and I haven’t been to every neighborhood in the city yet), I have identified 19 blocks where speed bumps, humps or tables have been installed on streets classified as other than local, one of which is classified as a minor artery. Six of those blocks are even on Metrobus routes. A copy of my list (still preliminary I hasten to add) is attached for your edification. While there well may be a logical explanation for this apparent inconsistency, it certainly seems on the surface to smack of disparate and preferential treatment, with some neighborhoods being afforded a higher level of respect than others on issues germane to public safety.
Public safety is the driving concern behind the residents’ petition for speed controlling mechanisms. I understand, for example, that the 1200 block of East Capitol Street is adjacent to a park and that there is an elementary school in the 1300 block of Upshur Street, N.W., but there is also a K through 8 school in the 100 block of P Street N.W. and just earlier this month, I saw a young child almost struck by a speeding vehicle outside of that school. Traffic speeds by that school all hours of the day and night. I join my neighbors in asking if it will take a child being maimed or killed before our city government acts to calm the traffic on that block.
I find it difficult to understand why this pattern non-responsiveness has persisted and why the promised documentation has not been provided but I can only assume that there are other matters of higher priority which are placing demands on Mr. Rhones’ time. Therefore, with all due respect, and with the understanding that Mr. Rhones has probably done all he can do at his level to address the concerns of my constituents and neighbors, I am asking for your direct intervention in this matter before it reaches the level of a crisis. The residents, homeowners and voters of the Dunbar-Shaw/Truxton Circle community who are represented by me and by my counterpart, Commissioner Sylvia Pinkney of ANC5C02, deserve better and more than they have received over the last two years.
I apologize for the length of this e-mail message. Please accept it accept it in the co-operative spirit in which it is intended. As the pastor of my church, Dr. Michael C. Murphy, likes to say, “it takes team work to make the dream work”. I would just like to see DDOT and my neighbors in the Dunbar-Shaw/Truxton Circle area line up on the same team when it comes to addressing issues of public safety and quality of life in our community.
Bradley A. Thomas