- The DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment had a 12.5-hour hearing on DDOT performance and oversight
- Many fellow Commissioners and residents testified; we covered a lot of topics (with many common themes)
- The DDOT Director and Chairperson Allen were still going back and forth late into the night
- I testified early in the day, focusing on Andy Cariño’s fatal crash and 20th St generally
There are a couple version of the whole hearing available:
- On Facebook, which has it with speaker-view enabled and in two parts:
- On the Council website, which has it with panel view.
You can watch my testimony on Youtube here:
You can see my formal submission in PDF form here.
Chairperson Allen and members of the Committee:
Thank you for this opportunity to testify. My name is VJ Kapur and I am the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner representing Single-Member District 5C07, which covers northern Langdon. Before I proceed, I’ll warn that this testimony will, out of what I consider necessity, contain descriptions of traffic violence.
On Friday, February 3rd, 2023, at 11:40 pm, the driver of a 2004 Infiniti G35 Coupe was stopped on the 2700 block of 20th St NE, adjacent to Langdon Elementary School. I know a lot about what happened next thanks to detailed video footage captured by a neighbor’s security camera12.
- They waited at the red light as cross-traffic cleared the intersection, before proceeding slowly through the red light.
- Once through the intersection, they began accelerating. Past a 15 mph speed limit sign. Past both sides of Langdon Park, the Chuck Brown Memorial, the playground, and the Rec Center
- They didn’t slow down for the four-way stop at 20th and Hamlin Sts; rough calculations put their speed through the intersection at between 87 and 109 miles per hour
- No more than 950 feet and 15 seconds from a stop, they crashed into a row of three parked cars on the opposite side of the street, with one launching 20 feet along the sidewalk and against a retaining wall.
- The driver’s car landed in the middle of 20th St NE, where DC Fire and EMS had to extract the driver, 22-year-old Andy Jose Cariño of Severna Park, Maryland, from the mangled wreckage. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Cariño, nor have I talked to his family, but I have learned quite a bit about him. He leaves behind his parents and two brothers. He was an avid musician and gamer. His family had just adopted a puppy named Simba. He was the second traffic fatality in the District of Columbia of 2023; the latest for less than five days before a driver killed pedestrian James Tarrants about a mile away.
The details surrounding Cariño’s crash came as little surprise to me and my neighbors. We have been calling attention to the dangers of 20th St here for years. This area of 20th St NE is 32 feet wide with two minimally used parking lanes, one driving lane in each direction, and no lane markings between intersections. The stretch of 20th from Franklin to Hamlin, where Mr. Cariño gained speed before crashing, is 750 feet steeply sloping downhill from each side, with no traffic controls or safety mitigations of any kind, save for a single unsignalized crosswalk connecting the two halves of Langdon Park. The road was repaved in October 2021, an operation DDOT boasted about on both Twitter3 and Facebook4, punctuating each post with a “praise” emoji (🙌).
This repaving occurred just as resident-initiated Traffic Safety Investigation requests (now called TSI 1.0) were put into effect. My community had just experienced the tragedy of a driver killing five-year-old Allie Hart five blocks away from the site of Cariño’s crash. We began raising alarms (see Appendix A for more related TSI SRs):
- SR 21-00474480 opened on October 22nd, 2021, days before the repaving work began, notes that the mid-block crossing “Needs raised crosswalk/speed bump, no handicap accessible cutout”
- SR 21-00487897 on October 28th, 2021 reads “Excessive speed and disregard for existing traffic safety (speed limits + stop signs) have made 20th St NE a very, very dangerous stretch of road.”
On the one-year anniversary of Allie’s death, friends of Allie’s family organized the #All4Allie campaign to honor Allie, raise awareness for the TSI request process, and, above all, to make our streets safe for our families and our community. Knowing I’d be Commissioner here by the time any submitted investigations completed, I personally submitted TSI request SR 22-00441341 on September 13th, 2022. This was one of 111 TSI requests opened DC-wide that very day, the busiest day for such requests in all the data I’ve analyzed.
The request was closed and converted to a pooled “input” for TSI 2.0 on January 6th, 2023, like so many others.
DDOT has stated that the new process is necessary to conserve resources, but it’s unclear to me what is actually being conserved. It isn’t the safety of my community, or the asphalt and labor expended to repave 20th St a year ago, or the complicated work to design a priority scoring algorithm. And it certainly won’t be Andy Cariño’s life. I know there are good folks at DDOT that recognize the urgency of this problem. I really hope they can come up with a better calculus for what needs to be conserved.
Days after the crash, I had a call with DDOT’s Vision Zero coordinator, where she indicated she would advocate for as much traffic calming on this stretch of roadway as possible. She also relayed to me the many reasons why expectations need to be low, including:
- vehicle volume
- ambulance routing
- stormwater management
- road slope
Prospects seemed better by the time of our Vision Zero site visit on February 15th, but the amount of community effort and tragedy it’s taken to get us here, and the amount that may still need to be expended to push through traffic calming on 20th St, warrants serious attention and systemic improvement.
I thank you again for your time.
More media and information about this crash and the ongoing Vision Zero investigation can be found here: https://anc5c07.com/issues/20thst/
MPD press release on this crash can be found here: https://mpdc.dc.gov/release/traffic-fatality-3000-block-20th-street-northeast
https://twitter.com/DDOTDC/status/1454837346357100547 screenshotted in Appendix B
https://www.facebook.com/DDOTDC/posts/pfbid0vP722BGi QmiQU6SVqW9L8Xq2VrYPji6kidJmPipnBXN9bUjkKe7fcvMHQAQ8wcsDl screenshotted in Appendix B