Meeting Recap: Improving Safety at 18th & Potomac Ave SE Intersection

18th Street SE & Potomac Ave SE intersection looking north from Congressional Cemetery.

18th Street SE & Potomac Ave SE intersection looking north from Congressional Cemetery.

Around 15 Hill East residents attended the July 22 meeting with the District Department of Transportation to discuss improving safety at the intersection of 18th Street SE and Potomac Ave SE. Attendees did a great job of pointing out the two major problems with the intersection:

  1. The failure of vehicles to yield to pedestrians at both the 18th & Potomac and E & Potomac crosswalks, both of which lead to the main gate at Congressional Cemetery. The problem is particularly pronounced during rush hour – a peak time for dog walkers at the cemetery and commuter traffic along Potomac Ave.
  2. High rate of vehicle collisions due to Potomac Avenue’s transition from a two-way to one-way street at 18th Street SE. Drivers typically move over to the left lane prior to 18th Street, leading to collisions with drivers turning west on to Potomac Ave.

Here is the tentative plan for improving safety at the intersection:

Immediate-Term (ASAP)

  • Request and install pedestrian pylon signs at both crosswalks.
  • Improve signage at the intersection.

Short-to-Mid Term (3-4 months)

  • Conduct a traffic study of the intersection. I’ve encouraged DDOT to review data gathered from the previous 17th & 19th Street Safety Improvement Study.
  • Install “No Turn on Red” signs at the intersection of 17th Street and Potomac Ave SE. This would help tremendously with pedestrian safety at both the 17th & Potomac and the 18th & Potomac intersections. Drivers consistently fail to stop when turning on red.
  • Implement traffic calming measures based on results of traffic study. Options may include adding raised crosswalks, installing a signal/flashing light and/or installing a roundabout.

Long-Term

  • Conversion of the 1800 block of Potomac Ave SE from one-way to two-way. Ultimately, getting rid of the two-way to one-way transition at 18th Street would do the most to improve safety at the 18th & Potomac intersection. Such a change would need significant support from residents living on the 1800 block of Potomac. One potential issue would be the lack of vehicle access to westbound Potomac Ave SE, which leads to the next long-term discussion item
  • Conversion of 19th Street SE from one-way to two-way. Unfortunately, there was not a lot of discussion about this idea during the 17th & 19th Street Safety Improvement Project. The safety improvements that DDOT has already implemented along 19th Street are modest – repainted crosswalks, new signage and an electronic “your speed is” sign. Converting 19th Street to two-way would reduce traffic speed and volume along the corridor and improve access to the new Hill East/Reservation 13 development from the north.

Both of the long-term solutions would need significant support from the neighborhood. I plan to work with my ANC 6B colleagues to start the conversation now.

Thanks to DDOT’s Connie Wheeler and Adolfo Nino for attending the meeting and providing great suggestions. And a big thanks to all residents who were able to attend and/or contacted me with comments. I’ll keep you updated!

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