Roads by Anacostia Metro among worst in DC for pedestrians
Narrow sidewalks, a 5-way intersection, and missing median strips and crosswalks are just some of the problems around the Anacostia Metro. A project funded by several federal agencies aims to find solutions to what EPA officials called the city's most dangerous intersections for pedestrians.
The Anacostia Metro opened in December 1991 as the southernmost Green Line Station, bunched between I-295 and Suitland Parkway. Designers expected it to be a park-and-ride commuter station. But subsequent stations in Prince George's County quickly undercut the demand for parking at Anacostia.
Meanwhile, nearly 70% of Ward 8 households don't own a car, making the design incompatible with surrounding communities.
The original design made pedestrian access an afterthought. In the two decades since, few improvements have been made to increase pedestrian safety around the station. Coming and going is perilous for the large swaths of schoolchildren and seniors in the area.
Anacostia was selected as one of 5 capital city communities across the country to participate in Greening America's Capitals, a project between the Environmental Protection Agency, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and US Department of Transportation.
The program will "produce schematic designs and exciting illustrations intended to catalyze or complement a larger planning process for the pilot neighborhood."
The station is "badly in need of attention," according to Harriet Tregoning, Director of the DC Office of Planning, who reiterated that improvements would "complement other [ongoing] projects" in the neighborhood. The station lacks a distinctive character and, although, within short walking distance of the Anacostia River, there are no direct access paths to the waterfront.
Top: Current dangerous condition of Firth Sterling Avenue SE and
Howard Road Suitland Parkway SE. Bottom: Rendering of a possible safer configuration with a refuge median. Photos by the author showing slides presented at the meeting.
To improve pedestrian safety, residents suggested footbridges, wayfinding signage, refuge medians, speed humps, and better street lighting. A slide presentation contrasted the present condition of Howard Road, Firth Sterling Avenue, and the 5-point intersection of Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, Howard Road, and Sheridan Road with renderings that envisioned what the future could look like.
James Magruder, a native of Ward 8 who works with Washington Parks and People, agreed that the intersection of Howard Road and Firth Sterling was in dire need of attention. "Over the years that corner has been the site of many accidents that have been fatal" to pedestrians, said Magruder.
Another way to improve safety in the area is to develop some of the many vacant properties around the station. WMATA owns one large vacant field on the other side of Howard Road, and both the Williams and Fenty administrations pushed to relocate WMATA's headquarters here, though without success.
Brenda Richardson, who works for Councilmember Marion Barry, claimed that WMATA has been unresponsive to their inquiries about the station area. In response, an official from WMATA who had been sitting in the back of the room said Metro is conducting an "initial evaluation to determine what the issues are" around safety.
Some east of the river denizens were skeptical that the studies would lead to change. "We're studied out," said one resident who attends similar meetings weekly. "Everyone's studying us to get money. Then the plans get sat on for 20 years."
"The worse case scenario is this doesn't happen," an EPA official admitted. "This only happens if all parties agree."
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