Safety upgrades could come to areas around DC schools under recently-passed bill

Additional safety enhancements could be coming to areas around D.C. public and public charter schools as part of a recently-passed bill aimed at keeping students safe.

The D.C. Council unanimously passed the Safe Routes to School Act on Tuesday.

This legislation will require the D.C. Department of Transportation to be proactive in installing raised crosswalks and curb extensions at intersections adjacent to schools, and speed bumps or tables on roads adjacent to school entrances.

The city will also have to install crosswalk warning pylons or flashing pedestrian signs, as well as all-way stops or traffic signals at every intersection within a school zone.

Now, the legislation heads to Mayor Muriel Bowser for consideration.

If it gets final approval, the bill aims to begin improvements in fiscal 2024, but the upgrades are dependent on revenue from the city’s existing traffic cameras — about $20 million annually has been allotted for all improvements included in the legislation.

The efforts mark D.C.’s latest push to keep areas around schools safe for students and staff. In a news release, Ward 4 Council member Janeese Lewis George said the legislation “comes at a time when the District is struggling with a high number of traffic fatalities. Zy’aire Joshua and Timothy Abbott in Ward 4 were two of many young lives lost on our streets in recent years.”

“DC residents are desperately calling out for safe, walkable communities. We will fail them if we only focus on improving safety at one intersection or one school at a time,” Lewis George said in a statement. “This legislation creates a proactive, comprehensive and equitable approach to keeping our students safe.”

The bill also calls for the size of school zones to expand and would make the 15 mph speed limit in school zones on non-arterial streets in effect every day of the week from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

It directs DDOT to give priority to schools that serve the most at-risk students and those most prone to traffic violence.

Under the legislation, the process schools use to apply for crossing guards will also be simplified, enabling them to use an online form instead of each school emailing a request.

More information on the bill is available online.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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