This article has been updated to include some new math on DDOT crash statistics.
December 15th was the second anniversary of the day Mayor Muriel Bowser and DDOT announced “the selection of a preferred redesign concept for Connecticut Avenue NW that removes the reversible rush hour lanes and adds one-way, protected bicycle lanes on the east and west sides of the roadway.”
In June 2022, the last of the reversible lane markings were scrubbed away. But it’s been several months since there was any public word on progress toward designing and implementing the bike lanes and other safety aspects of what we know as Concept C. (DDOT’s last public presentation was in January 2023.)
Ward 3 Council member Matt Frumin marked the concept selection anniversary by sending a letter to Mayor Bowser, “calling on her to promptly complete and release revised design plans that have been long promised and will make this roadway safer.” You can read it here or in full below.
Finally, while comparing the original Bowser/DDOT announcement and Frumin’s letter, we noticed some interesting statistics. In the past two years, Frumin writes, at least 285 crashes were reported on Connecticut north of Calvert Street.
And in the December 15, 2021 announcement: “When the reversible lanes were in operation before the pandemic, 1,500 crashes were reported over a three-year review period. It was estimated that eliminating the reversible lanes would decrease crashes there by about 17 percent.”
If these numbers are accurate, the reduction in crashes has been closer to 70 percent. Upper Connecticut has gone from 500 reported crashes per year, on average, to fewer than 150 crashes per year. Fewer vehicles on Connecticut Avenue, due to post-pandemic changes in driving and commuting patterns, could be another factor in the decline.
Update: A reader has alerted us that the three-year review period cited in DDOT’s 2021 press release was likely an error, and helpfully provided a link to DDOT’s 2020 Existing Conditions Report. That report, on page 53, says: “A total of 1,507 police-reported crashes occurred during the five-year study period (2015-2019) along the Connecticut Avenue NW study corridor.”
A five-year period changes the average number of crashes to 300. The reduction in crashes over the past two years would then amount to 50 percent.
December 15, 2023
Muriel E. Bowser
Mayor of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Mayor Bowser:
I write with a sense of urgency to request that you promptly complete and release the revised design plans for implementation of the Connecticut Avenue Multimodal Safety Improvement Project, which were targeted for release earlier this year.
Today marks two years since you announced the selection of Concept C as the model for the Connecticut Avenue Multimodal Safety Improvement project, an ambitious, necessary overhaul of the corridor’s transportation infrastructure. Since your announcement, at least 285 crashes have been reported, some with tragic consequences. Connecticut Avenue is an obviously flawed road with an unacceptable level of safety risk. We must work together to move forward expeditiously on changes that will make it safe for all road users. As The Washington Post editorial board stated last year: “Pedal faster.”
Connecticut Avenue should not be a six-lane highway running through our Ward 3 community. The current orientation prioritizes high-speed vehicular traffic at the expense of the safety of pedestrians, cyclists, and the thousands of residents who live and work along the corridor. Your administration has acknowledged pervasive speeding on this street by lowering the speed limit and installing two automated traffic enforcement cameras. I commend these important steps, but they alone have not changed behavior meaningfully. The average number of weekly crashes before the speed limit reduction and automated traffic enforcement camera installation was 2.7. After these changes, the average number of weekly crashes rose to 4.2. The District must pursue a solution proven to be effective at improving safety outcomes: installing protected bike lanes and pedestrian infrastructure.
The Connecticut Avenue Multimodal Safety Improvement Project is about more than just safety; it is about reclaiming our streets. Your administration has strongly supported efforts to create a cleaner, greener District of Columbia. As you opined in Dubai, UAE, the global climate crisis is real. The Connecticut Avenue overhaul presents an opportunity to support a transition to sustainable, multimodal transportation and address overreliance on cars. Even as we make that transition, it will be important to accommodate those who will still rely on automobiles. This is why I have called on DDOT to release a revised plan that accommodates the needs of all road users, especially seniors, people with disabilities, and the businesses that serve them as we move forward with plans to make Connecticut Avenue safer.
I recognize that the proposal for Connecticut Avenue is a significant change, but we must move forward. While there will inevitably dissenters, I am confident DDOT can propose a plan that meets the needs of all community members. As one marker of the level of community support, all of the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions along the route have strongly supported the project. It is indisputable that the status quo is unbearable both from a safety and an environmental perspective.
I urge you to complete and release the updated design plans for Connecticut Avenue immediately, solicit feedback by convening the Community Advisory Committee and conducting direct community outreach, and move this important project forward without delay.
DC Councilmember for Ward 3
cc: Interim Director Sharon Kershbaum, District Department of Transportation
Kevin Donahue, City Administrator
Chair Charles Allen, Committee on Transportation and Environment