The Wash

Frustration mounts in Dupont Circle after another child gets hit around Ross Elementary

Two children have been hit crossing streets near Ross Elementary since the District Department of Transportation created the Safe Routes to School Plan in 2020.

Dupont Circle parents and leaders are demanding that the District Department of Transportation take action to improve safety on the roads and sidewalks around Ross Elementary, which is located on R Street NW, right off of 17th Street NW and New Hampshire Ave NW. 

Two children have been hit crossing streets near the school since 2021. Neither were seriously injured. A driver hit a child in a crosswalk at the intersection of 17th Street and R Street NW in September 2023, and the other was hit in a crosswalk at the corner of New Hampshire Avenue and S Street NW in 2021. 

Adrian Snead walks his son to school at Ross Elementary every day. Their commute might be short, but Snead said it’s a dangerous daily occurrence. 

“We only have to walk about a block and a half, but I’m always scared with them crossing,” Snead said. 

Playground outside Ross Elementary on R Street NW. (Alex Angle/The Wash)

Snead isn’t the only parent concerned about safely getting their children to school in Dupont Circle. Voters elected Ross Elementary parent Kyle Mulhall to ANC Commissioner in 2020. He said during his time on the commission, parents and the community noticed the speeding happening around the school, especially on 17th Street and wanted to start doing something about it. However, three years later, not much has been improved. 

He said it’s important that more changes are made on the roads to protect the neighborhood’s children. 

“The people commuting through the neighborhood are pretty aggressive drivers,” Mulhall said. “So I think that’s why you’ve got real concern because of the vulnerability of the children there.”

ANC Commissioner Vincent Slatt has also been pushing for these safety improvements from DDOT. He said he’s frustrated with the lack of action from the department. 

“Demanding speed bumps in front of a school where, for 20 years, I’ve walked by and I see them speeding, and kids have gotten hit, like, is that a crazy irrational demand?” Slatt said. 

The District Department of Transportation created the Safe Routes to School Plan in 2020. It involved “reviews of the built environment around schools, focusing on transportation infrastructure that provides traffic calming and safety improvements,” according to the District’s website

The Ross Elementary plan calls for a multitude of improvements on streets around the school, such as raised intersections, new school zone signage, crosswalk markings and sidewalk repairs. The plan is marked complete on DDOT’s website. 

DDOT did not respond to The Wash’s request for comment on the status of the Ross Elementary Safe Routes to School Plan. However, Gina Arlotto, a Safe Routes to School planner at DDOT, said at Dupont Circle ANC’s November Mobility Committee meeting that the short-term improvements laid out in the plan were implemented. These plans included new school zone signs, restriping lanes, among others. 

Intersection of R Street NW and 17th St NW. (Alex Angle/The Wash)

Arlotto also said at the meeting that DDOT plans to install flexposts at the intersection of 17th Street and R Street NW and a speed zone flasher in the 1600 block of R Street. She said she did not have a timeline for when those improvements will be made in the neighborhood. 

The Dupont Circle ANC and some parents disagree DDOT has done enough. The ANC voted unanimously last week on a resolution calling for specific safety implementations of the Ross Elementary Safe Routes to School Plan. 

The Dupont Circle ANC’s resolution calls for flexposts at the intersections of 17th Street and R Street NW and New Hampshire Ave and R Street NW, removing parking spaces at a couple of intersections, and improving school zone signs, among other requests. 

Snead said the traffic on 17th Street is particularly concerning for those going to and from school. 

“There’s a lot of on 17th in particular, there’s a lot of obstructions, visual obstructions, either delivery trucks or lots of cars in the way,” Snead said. “I love the bike lanes, but that means cars are parked further out. It’s harder for everybody to see.”

Flexposts at the intersection of New Hampshire Ave NW and S Street NW. (Alex Angle/The Wash)

Slatt’s district includes the intersection of 17th Street and R Street. He’s witnessed a dangerous driving pattern. 

“They are picking up a lot of speed because they want to hit that green light at 17th and R and when they hit that green light at 17th and R they’re already going 35-40 in front of that school,” Slatt said. 

Slatt said getting flexposts at the intersection of R Street and 17th Street NW is critical for the safety of children and those walking there daily. He said he will continue checking in with DDOT and the ANC for an update on when the posts will be installed at the intersection. 

Slatt, Snead and Mulhall said they all want to see DDOT take action and make improvements to ensure kids in Dupont Circle can get to school safely. 

“They still make you argue and fight item for item for every improvement at any intersection you ask for, why it’s particularly sensitive here is that’s obviously a very dense traffic of small children,” Mulhall said.

Alex Angle

Alex Angle is a multimedia journalist covering Dupont Circle for the Wash. She is currently pursuing her master's in Journalism and Public Affairs at American University. She previously was a TV reporter in Northwest Arkansas.

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