Changes made to DC intersection after crash that killed 4-year-old boy

An intersection in Northwest D.C. near the site of a crash that killed a 4-year-old boy has received new signage and a raised strip in the center of the roadway. It’s part of a plan to increase safety in the area, according to Everett Lott, interim director of D.C.’s Department of Transportation.

Lott listed off the features added to the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Kennedy Street Northwest: There’s a new “No right turn on red” sign at every corner; “We’re banning the left turns for the drivers on Georgia trying to turn onto Kennedy Street;” and he said there’s an upgraded centerline median on Georgia Avenue.

Lott describes that last feature as being similar to an elevated rumble strip. There are also flexi-posts along that median strip. “It hardens the turn,” he said, forcing cars to slow down as they turn the corner.

The changes come after 4-year-old Zyaire Joshua was killed crossing Kennedy Street on April 1. D.C. police said the driver of an SUV was headed eastbound on Kennedy Street, crossing over Georgia Avenue.

As he entered into the 900 block of Kennedy Street, the driver struck Joshua, who was crossing the street. He was pronounced dead at the scene. An initial investigation found that Joshua was not in a crosswalk in the time of the crash.

Despite the new features, there have been pushback on Twitter, saying that the changes don’t do enough to make the roadway safer for all users, but Lott said there will be more improvements made to Kennedy Street itself.

Future improvements, Lott said, are part of the Reconstruction of Kennedy Street Phase II project. It extends along Kennedy Street NW from 16th Street to Georgia Avenue.

Jacob Mason works at a nonprofit that focuses on sustainable transportation around the world. Asked about the fixes made to the roadway, he said, “What they’ve done so far is mostly signage, and some efforts that can have a mild effect on turning speeds.” What matters is what happens next.

“Signs only go so far as far as changing behavior,” Mason said.

There have been criticisms of D.C.’s commitment to Vision Zero, the plan to reduce injuries and fatalities on area roads, but Mason said there are some projects that show the District is working toward its stated goal.

“You could even look at Kennedy Street; look at the eastern section east of Missouri, and the District added more space, they reduced crossing distances, they made it a pleasant place to walk,” Mason said, adding that the District’s design avoided turning the road into an appealing route for cut-through traffic.

Mason said there is support for plans to make streets and sidewalks safer, “The question is not if we should support these, the question is how and where,” Mason said.

In a statement to WTOP, Ward 4 Council member Janeese Lewis George said the changes at the intersection are a “good first step” but more needs to be done to make city streets safer. Since Joshua’s accident, there have been two more traffic-related deaths in the District and at least two pedestrians struck on Georgia Avenue, George said.

“My constituents are rightfully alarmed and are demanding more action and long-term proactive planning,” George said. “It cannot be the case that quick action is only taken after a life is lost.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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