What happened at the meeting to discuss traffic concerns on the 1300 block of Upshur

There was a meeting on Thursday, December 17th at Powell Elementary to discuss possible traffic solutions along the 1300 block of Upshur Street. Attending were about 20 community members and representatives from DDOT, DPW, MPD, the Mayor’s office and Councilmember Brandon Todd, who spoke briefly at the beginning to reiterate his support for enhancements and changes to increase safety.

Read previous coverage of this issue: Traffic, bad driving and two children struck by cars - what will DC do to break its impasse near Powell? (December 4, 2015)

The short of it is that DDOT (Department of Transportation) is planning on painting new lane stripes along that stretch of Upshur, along with a smorgasbord of new signs. Additionally, they plan to paint a new crosswalk across Upshur on the eastern-most speed table (the bump in the road). They also plan to install pylons at the crosswalk, and eventually will create concrete “bulb-outs” that allows pedestrians to safely step away from the curb and be seen by drivers. 

> View PDFs of DDOT's proposed changes.

Before any of this work can happen, DDOT needs to submit a formal Notice of Intent to ANC 4C, at which time a 30-day clock starts for comments. If no opposition is submitted, then DDOT can begin work. Figure nothing will start until February at the earliest and won’t be completed until April timeframe. Hopefully ANC 4C will take this up during their January meeting. (The school is in ANC 4C Vice Chair Zach Teutsch's SMD, and he's been very engaged in working with the community and school with this issue.)

Draft of proposed new signage along the 1300 block of Upshur St (courtesy DDOT)

DDOT also said they would review the crossing-guards at 13th and 14th Streets. The poor work habits of these guards was mentioned by several parents, with a general consensus that the guard at 14th does an adequate job, but the person on 13th might as well not even be there. (I understand DDOT had someone on-scene on Friday to watch the guards.) 

DPW (the Department of Public Works), which enforces parking, said they would step up enforcement of illegal parking along Upshur, but they stopped short of committing to helping out with double-parked parents. MPD said that most of this is a DPW, DDOT and DCPS issue, but they would try to enforce traffic regulations regarding double-parking, but they don’t have the resources to maintain an officer there at drop-off and pick-up. Commander Manlapaz said if they need to start getting firm, they would. (That means giving tickets immediately with no first warning, training double-parked parents to be unsure if the office they see driving down Upshur is going to drive by, or stop and give them a ticket, no questions asked.)

One suggestion by parents is to use the upcoming, new back entrance to Powell that will be available in the alley between Taylor and Upshur, for additional drop-off / pick-up. Taylor Street residents will definitely have concerns about that idea.

I brought up the issue of looking at traffic issues holistically for Upshur, Taylor, 14th and Piney Branch. Commander Manlapaz agreed with me, but I got the feeling that DDOT did not.

Frankly, if DDOT continues to slow down Upshur Street during school / rush hour, it will push more traffic to Taylor. Taylor Street residents already are organizing to find traffic-calming measures and deal with speeding, vehicle damage and near-misses for pedestrians. The alley is already a problem for residents — adding more vehicle density back there without additional traffic control measures will only create more frustration and the potential for more issues. DDOT needs to look at potential repercussions and solutions.

DDOT said they will attend the first Principal meeting in January (Jan 7th, 9am morning meeting and 5:30pm evening meeting) to continue the discussions with parents. I think Taylor Street residents would be well-served to attend. 

Double-parking and increased traffic density are the main contributors to vehicle collisions and pedestrian safety issues. Only the new striped lines proposed by DDOT attempt to assist with that issue. There are no plans to increase the width of Upshur to accommodate a drop-off area or enforce double-parking regulations consistently. 

Hopefully residents frustrations will keep things moving along the right direction.

Photo gallery from meeting: