16th and U is one of DC’s highest pedestrian crash intersections. As part of the U Street redesign, DDOT has significantly modified this intersection, and what an improvement!

Click to enlarge. Here’s a Google satellite photo of the current intersection.

New Hampshire Avenue is a relatively low-traffic street, one way on both sides traveling away from U. But cars coming down the hill on 16th heading to New Hampshire southbound often make that slight right at very high speed, already going fast from the hill and trying to beat the light. Meanwhile, pedestrians trying to cross 16th are often in the crosswalk, never sure if they should go over to the next island or wait for the light.

To fix this problem, DDOT has designed enormous bulb-outs. The typical bulb-out is like the one on the northwest corner, extending the sidewalk out in front of the parked cars to shorten the crossing distance. These bulbous bulb-outs, on the other hand, force cars to go all the way past the main intersection before making a sharp right turn onto New Hampshire. There’s no way to do that at high speed, and cars have to drive past the pedestrians before turning instead of turning through them.

The U Street design has more excellent features (and a few that could be improved). I’ll post more details soon. The project is currently scheduled for construction in 2011.

This will be a tremendous improvement for one of DC’s worst intersections. It shows that when the pedestrian safety folks really get their hands on a design, we can end up with something pretty amazing.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.