Moving Toward Vision Zero: DDOT Continues to Grow Its School Crossing Guard Force

DDOT school crossing guard Kiarra Hunt helps ferry a student across the intersection of 5th Street and M Street SE.

It was closing in on the end of the school year and Kiarra Hunt was waiting for what had become a daily ritual: a high five from a passing Dad who was ushering his two small children to Van Ness Elementary School. The father was one in a long line of parents, guardians and children that Ms. Hunt, a DDOT school crossing guard (SCG), looked forward to greeting as she safely ferried them across 5th Street SE on their way to school.

Ms. Hunt is one of the many new faces that DDOT has welcomed to the growing ranks of its SCG program. Since it began overseeing the District’s crossing guard program in 2007, the agency has steadily grown its SCG ranks to 265 staff members as of FY 2018, which is more than a 31 percent increase from the number of SCGs that were employed in FY 2017.

DDOT’s SCGs are deployed on weekdays during the morning and afternoon to help students safely cross nearby intersections when they report and are dismissed from school. DDOT prioritizes locations at which SCGs are posted by using the following criteria:

  • Crossing Difficulty
  • Number of Schools Affected: This factor measures the number of PK-6 schools that would benefit from a SCG being posted at a particular location. More
    points are given to locations that would benefit more than one school.
  • Distance to Other SCGs: More points are given for locations that are far from existing SCGs.
  • Traffic Engineering Factors: This factor measures a number of other elements that affect the safety of a given crossing location. These elements include – but are not limited to – sight distance, the complexity of the intersection and the presence of turning vehicle conflicts.
  • Pedestrian Volume: A minimum of 20 student pedestrians and/or bicyclists are required during a one-hour period for DDOT to consider posting a SCG.
  • Reported Pedestrian Crash History: This factor takes into account the number of police reported pedestrian crashes that have occurred at the requested location during the last three years.

SCGs are currently stationed at hundreds of public and charter elementary and middle schools around the District, and sometimes at multiple locations around a single school: from three SCGs stationed around LaSalle-Backus Education Campus off of Riggs Road NE to six SCGs around Deal Middle School. To view all of the schools where DDOT has stationed SCGs, please view our interactive map.

Requesting a New School Crossing Guard

Until DDOT achieves Mayor Bowser’s Vision Zero goal of reaching zero fatalities and serious injuries to travelers, our SCG program has room to grow. With this in mind, we are currently fielding requests for new SCGs. To request a new SCG, please view our “School Crossing Guard Request Instructions” and fill out a “School Crossing Guard Request Form.” Please note that completed request forms must be submitted by the principal of the school that a new SCG is being requested for. 

Safe Routes to School

Aside from deploying SCGs to safeguard students as they travel to and from school, DDOT works to improve safety for students who walk or bike to school through its DC Safe Routes to School Program. The program works to:

  • Improve safety for students who walk and bicycle to school;
  • Encourage students and their parents to walk and bicycle to school; and
  • Boost student physical activity, reduce parents’ fuel consumption and reduce pollution and traffic congestion near schools.

To help achieve those goals, DDOT offers Safe Routes to School planning assistance for DC Schools that are interested in improving safety for student walkers and cyclists. For more information about requesting a safety plan for a District school, please visit our Safe Routes to School Program webpage.

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DDOT’s Good Samaritans Get Eyes on the Ground

ROP transportation assistant Byron Beckham cleans up the scene of a crash at Suitland Parkway and Firth Sterling Avenue SE.

It was 20 degrees and Roadway Operations Patrol (ROP) transportation assistant Byron Beckham was helping to nudge a towbar under the collapsed hull of a maroon sedan. In the next few minutes he’d sweep up the assortment of glass, metal and plastic shards still left at the scene and spread a chemical absorbent so passing vehicles wouldn’t slip on the freshly-spilled oil. It was 6 am, and Mr. Beckham’s day was just getting started.

Mr. Beckham’s shift usually starts at 5 am, which coincides with the uptick in vehicular crashes during the morning rush hours. The frequency of crashes that the ROP team responds to on weekdays is at its highest point from 6 am to 10 am. This is attributable, says Mr. Beckham, to a dangerous cocktail of tired third shift drivers and under-rested commuters rushing to get to work on time. On the weekends, the majority or ROP’s responses fall between 10 pm and midnight.

DDOT’s ROP team receives the highest amount of calls for assistance on weekdays during the morning rush hours.

Helping Hands to Hazmats

The bulk of the incidents that the ROP team responds to are related to disabled vehicles and traffic crashes, which collectively accounted for 81 percent of ROP’s service calls in 2017 (1,697 disabled vehicle responses and 1,350 calls to the scene of traffic crashes). However, the situations that DDOT’s ever-mobile good Samaritans are called to respond to run the gamut: from traffic control (170 incidents in 2017), to vehicular fires (16) and Hazmat spills (5).

DDOT recently installed CCTV cameras on four of its ROP vehicles.

Because the ROP team covers so much ground in the District and is a vital presence at precarious scenes, DDOT outfitted four ROP vehicles with rotating CCTV cameras earlier this year to be the agency’s eyes in the fields during critical situations. The live feeds from these cameras, which are securely bolted on beams attached to ROP’s trucks, can be viewed by DDOT traffic management personnel and other agency officials.

These CCTV cameras are useful tools when DDOT staff need a live perspective to respond to a traffic crash, coordinate special event traffic management or address a problematic intersection. They’re also windows into situations like these, one time out of thousands a year when a ROP team member lends a helping hand to a stranded motorist in need:

Be safe out there, and if you should need our help please don’t hesitate to ask for ROP’s assistance by calling DDOT at 202-671-3368.

Note: DDOT recorded the CCTV camera footage above manually for the purposes of this blog post and does not record or archive footage from the its CCTV cameras.

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A Full Circle Approach: DDOT Aims to Take Lessons from Traffic Safety Gains in Grant Circle NW to Rest of District

A vehicle on southbound New Hampshire Avenue NW waits to merge into a newly-redesigned Grant Circle NW.

After almost a year of traffic studies and input from local community members the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) installed a series of safety improvements around Grant Circle NW. These improvements were swiftly installed – unburdening nearby residents from undergoing a lengthy construction process – and have proven to dramatically increase safety in the area.

Before DDOT installed safety improvements at Grant Circle, nearby residents expressed concern about motorists (especially on large thoroughfares like New Hampshire Avenue NW) making perilous, high-speed turns into the circle, and sometimes veering off course and crashing into the circle itself. To address these and other traffic safety issues without increasing congestion in the area, DDOT moved forward with a design at Grant Circle that retained two traffic lanes and included several improvements, such as a bicycle lane with a buffer, narrowing the New Hampshire Avenue approach to the circle to one lane, revised striping, shorter crosswalks and new flexposts. This “full circle” approach was intended to:

  • Reduce aggressive driving by tightening turning radiuses and narrowing entrances into the circle, which forces traffic to enter the circle at slower speeds;
  • Reduce conflicts between traffic entering, exiting and continuing around the circle; and
  • Improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists.

The blueprints for the redesign of Grant Circle NW called for the installation of roadway markings and flexposts that would improve safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.

DDOT started installing its recommended improvements to Grant Circle in late October 2017 and completed the project in under two weeks. The improvements reaped immediate gains in traffic safety. DDOT staff noticed a dramatic increase in compliance for motorists yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks: motorists were now twice as likely to obey posted traffic signage and yield correctly compared to before the installation of the traffic safety improvements. Additionally, the buffered bike lane around Grant Circle made it easier for bicyclists to navigate through the area, including for this DDOT cyclist who made a video of their (safer) bike trip around the circle.

DDOT installed new, buffered bike lanes around Grant Circle NW.

DDOT hopes to replicate these gains in traffic safety by installing the same kind of holistic traffic safety improvements in Sherman Circle NW, which the agency looked into along with Grant Circle and other locations as part of its Rock Creek East II Livability Study.

Moving forward, DDOT also aims to take its tried and true approaches to improving traffic safety to other areas in the District under Mayor Muriel Bowser’s DC Vision Zero initiative. In 2017, DDOT identified several locations for safety improvements under the Vision Zero program:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue and Good Hope Road SE
  • Southern Avenue and Wheeler Road SE
  • 3rd Street and D Street NW 
  • 9th Street, Florida Avenue and U Street NW and 9th Street, Florida Avenue and V Street NW
  • Connecticut Avenue R Street and 20th Street NW and Connecticut Avenue, S Street, Florida Avenue and 21st Street NW

Stay tuned for a more in-depth post about the short- and long-term improvements that DDOT has recommended for these locations.

 

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Restoring Critical Links: Upgrading the District’s Robust Bridge Network

DDOT’s South Capitol Street Corridor Project will replace the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge (middle top) and the I-295 (Anacostia Freeway) Bridge over Suitland Parkway (middle left).

Mayor Muriel Bowser broke ground on construction of the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge on February 13. The new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge is the largest facet of the District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) South Capitol Street Corridor Project, the largest public infrastructure project in the history of the agency. It’s also the biggest step that DDOT is taking to improve the District’s bridge network, which has a far smaller percentage of structurally deficient bridges than the nation as a whole.

In a recent analysis of the US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) 2017 National Bridge Inventory database, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) found that 11.3 percent of bridges (54,259 out of 612,677) in the nation are rated structurally deficient. By comparison, 2.39 percent (5 out of 209) of bridges that are maintained by DDOT in the District received the same designation. (Three other bridges in the District that were rated structurally deficient fall under federal jurisdiction.)

The South Capitol Street Corridor Project also includes the reconstruction of the I-295 (Anacostia Freeway) Bridge over Suitland Parkway, one of five bridges maintained by DDOT that is categorized as structurally deficient. The bridge, which was built in 1964, carries over 80,000 vehicles each day. Construction is scheduled to start this Spring and last until in December 2021.

DDOT knows that doing better than average isn’t enough when it comes to the structural integrity of our infrastructure so it also has plans to repair the other four structurally deficient bridges in the next four years:

  • Pennsylvania Avenue SE Ramp to Southbound DC 295 – The ramp from Pennsylvania Avenue SE to southbound DC 295 (Anacostia Freeway), which crosses over Nicholson Street SE, was built in 1963. It carries an average of 62,500 vehicles per day. Construction of the new ramp is scheduled to be completed by 2019.
  • Northbound DC 295 Ramp to Pennsylvania Avenue SE – The ramp from northbound DC 295 (Anacostia Freeway) to eastbound Pennsylvania Avenue SE, which crosses over Nicholson Street SE, was built in 1963. Construction of the new ramp is scheduled to be completed by 2019.
  • 31st Street NW Bridge over the C&O Canal – The 31st Street NW Bridge over the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal was built in 1929. Construction of the new bridge is scheduled to start in November and be completed by 2021.
  • Ramp from Eastbound Benning Road NE to Northbound DC 295 – The ramp from eastbound Benning Road NE to northbound DC 295 (Anacostia Freeway) was built in 1955. DDOT plans to start construction on a replacement ramp in 2019; the project is scheduled to be completed by 2022.

For a more detailed, map-centric look into DDOT’s plans to repair structurally deficient bridges in the District, please visit a Story Map on the topic.

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Portrait of an Alley: A Look Into DDOT’s AlleyPalooza Campaigns

This gallery contains 16 photos.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) broke ground on the first AlleyPalooza in July 2015. Since then, DDOT has renovated more than 400 alleys over six AlleyPalooza campaigns, which are part of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s ongoing initiative to focus on … Continue reading

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Branching Out: DDOT Expands Tree Canopy by More Than 8,000 Trees in FY 2017

Acting Director Jeff Marootian helps plant the 2,000th tree of the 2017-2018 tree planting season.

A little more than a month into the 2017-18 tree planting season and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT)’s Urban Forestry Division (UFD) has already planted more than 2,400 trees.

The tree planting season runs from mid-fall through mid-spring, and DDOT aims to plant more than 8,000 trees during this planting season.

On Thursday, November 9, Acting Director Jeff Marootian and members of DDOT’s Urban Forestry Division planted a black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) tree on the 1700 block of S Street, NW. The newly planted tree is a native, disease- and pest-free species that was ablaze with vivid orange and red leaves. It is one of 272 trees of its species that DDOT will plant this planting season, as DDOT works to aggressively expand the District’s diverse tree canopy.

Tree Canopy Expansion

The District has been routinely commended for its robust tree planting and maintenance efforts, including being recognized as a “Tree City USA community” by the Arbor Day Foundation. However, there’s still room for growth. At the agency’s 2017-2018 tree planting season kickoff Thursday, October 5, Acting Director Marootian announced DDOT aims to help grow the District’s tree canopy (currently at 38.7 percent) to 40 percent by 2020.

DDOT is moving toward this ambitious goal at an impressive clip. The agency planted more than 8,000 trees for the first time ever in FY 2017, and aims to surpass this figure again in FY 2018.

Diverse Tree Canopy

The District’s tree canopy is composed of about 130 tree species and cultivars. Click on the graph below to explore a detailed view of the species of the more than 8,000 trees DDOT has scheduled to plant during the 2017-2018 tree planting season.

Click on the graph to explore a detailed view of the different species of the more than 8,000 trees DDOT has scheduled to plant during the 2017-2018 tree planting season.

More Information

DC Tree Watering Application: Helps users locate trees in all eight wards that need watering, tag trees they water, upload photos, and report trees in need of care (for example, noting if a tree has a beehive).

Tree Planting Map: Displays the work order numbers and species of all the trees scheduled for planting in the 2017-2018 tree planting season.

Diverse Tree Canopy (Story Map): Provides details about the approximately 130 tree species and cultivars that DDOT plants in the District.

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DDOT’s Serious Spending on Streets: Agency Increases Allotment for Roadway Paving Over 40 Percent in FY 2017

The work starts in the spring and continues through the fall. That’s when the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) performs annual street maintenance to keep the District’s roadways as close as possible to newly constructed condition. It can be a tall order depending on the type of winter the District gets hit with. Thanks to a dramatic increase in spending for roadway paving over the past two fiscal years, DDOT has been able to mount an intensified effort to improve city streets.

Historic Spending

In FY 2017, DDOT spent over 40 percent more on street paving than it did in FY 2016. The agency’s commitment for street paving in FY 2017 was more than four times the average spending on street paving from FY 2010 to FY 2014.

Paving it Forward

This influx of spending on the District’s roadways has led to tangible results. DDOT has more than tripled the number of miles that it paved in FY 2016 and FY 2017 compared to what the agency averaged in local road paving from FY 2010 to FY 2014.

With the District redoubling its efforts to prioritize spending for street improvements, DDOT will continue to ramp up roadway repairs in the coming fiscal years. Moving forward, DDOT is set to further increase its focus on local street paving: The agency plans to spend $32 million to pave at least 23 miles of local roads in FY 2018. To see DDOT’s detailed paving plan, visit DTAP.

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