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About an hour ago, DDOT staff ripped paper off new signage announcing a new paradigm: Cars will no longer be able to turn through Chinatown’s busiest intersection. Rather, the red light brings all traffic to a stop at once, and pedestrians cross whichever way they need to go—which will hopefully ease the sense of hopping from corner to corner if you need to cross diagonally.
Despite abundant notices, confusion and hesitation reigned at the very beginning.
“No turns! No turns! No turns at all!” a DDOT official yelled at one of the yellow-vest-clad crossing guards, amid loud whistleblowing. The attendants are scheduled to be in place for two weeks while drivers—who seemed to be more confused than pedestrians—get used to the change.
For downtowners, it’s been a long time coming.
“The Downtown BID has been asking DDOT to do something with this intersection,” said Ellen Jones, the BID’s director of transportation programs, pointing out the “complicated stew” of bus routes and valet services situated on one corner. It’s the third most dangerous intersection in the city, where four pedestrians were struck in 2008 (2009 data is still forthcoming).
According to George Branyan, DDOT’s pedestrian program coordinator, they usually try such experiments for about six months before assessing whether they’re working. There is one Barnes Dance-like arrangement near a school in each ward, he noted, but none have the foot traffic that 7th and H does.
The more relevant test may come Friday night, or the next big event at the Verizon Center—this morning has so far been tame.