Construction is a dangerous business. According to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 991 people were killed in the private construction industry in 2016, which accounted for more than 21 percent of total private industry worker deaths that year. Of these construction fatalities, a sizable number were attributed to being hit by debris, electrocution or being “struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material.”
To safeguard transit users in the District – especially vulnerable users (bicyclists and pedestrians) – from these all-too-common construction zone hazards, the District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) Public Space Regulations Division (PSRD) reviews, approves and monitors safe accommodations near work sites. Although these accommodations sometimes inconvenience pedestrians and bicyclists, they are put in place for the sole purpose of protecting transit users.
One example of such a necessary inconvenience is a full sidewalk closure, which PSRD approves sparingly, most often when buildings are being razed. Closing walkways that abut a construction site is necessary during demolition; it’s less safe to be immediately adjacent to a building being razed, which is why DDOT allows for temporarily shutting down a sidewalk and directing pedestrians to sidewalks across the street, away from danger. Although this might pose a burden to pedestrians, it’s a necessary safeguard to protect pedestrians from an extremely perilous construction process involving heavy, hazardous materials, which often leads to deaths, as shown in the aforementioned OSHA report.
DDOT-approved traffic control plans (TCPs) for a particular project change depending on the phase of construction – sidewalk and bike lane closures and/or detours reflect the phase of construction at the work site. For more information on PSRD’s criteria for pedestrian safe accommodations during active construction zones, please see the table below or view PSRD’s “Pedestrian Safety and Work Zone Standards – Covered and Open Walkways“:
For a look into how PSRD prioritizes safe accommodations for bicyclists during active work zones, please see the table below:
For more information on the District regulations that guide PSRD’s safe accommodations practices, please see District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) Section 24-3315, which can be downloaded by clicking on “View Text” on the bottom of the DCMR page.