About 35 angry citizens, many of them representing Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, last week protested a District plan to turn out 3,000 street lights.
THey confronted Department of Transportation Director, Douglas Schneider at a meeting called by the Dupont Circla ANC to argue that the plan will endanger residents of several neighborhoods.
Schneider defended the program, designed to save $300,000 in the next fiscal year, but agreed to consult removing lights fron residential side streets. He said, however, that he would not give the commissions veto power over light removals.
Scheduled for elimination are:
About 700 lights from freeways.
Another 1,000 on main arteries such as Connecticut Avenue, East Capitol Street and Benning Road. Every other light is to be removed.
Another 1,300 from corners where there are now more than two sodium vapor lights.
The lights on the freeways and on the main arteries will be taken away by June 30.Schneider said he will develop plans to eliminate some corner lights in each neighborhood.
Mayor Walter Washington last week admitted that his offices has been bombarded by objections to the plan and asked city council for a supplemenary budget appropriation to save the street lights. Schneider did not comment on the new budget request.
ANC (2B) Commissioner Susan Meehan organized last week's meeting after she learned of plans to remove lights on the corners of 17th and Q Streets.
"A lot of older people walk along there to go to the Safeway. There are also a lot af liquor stores there, and places where street gangs hang ot. Senior citizens have to run that gauntlet, and it's bad enough even with the lights," Meehan said.
"If you make it dark here, you've got trouble," said Leroy Harris, a commissioner from Ward 5. "We went through hell and high water to get those lights put up.Now, I can walk through my neighborhood at all hours."
The commissioners wre angry that the ANCs had not been consulted in advance about street light removals.
"You are obligated under the law to consult us," shouted Ralph Bristol of ANC (2B). "You are a civil servant and you work for us," said Gwendoline Graham Reiss of 3301 Woodley Rd., NW. Members of the audience shouted "Absolutely!" and "Hear, hear!"
Schneider said that he had not consulted the ANCs because the elimination of lights was a city-wide program. He said his department had been ordered by the city council to reduce street lighting cost, which have been running about $8 million annually for the past two years. He said that in 1970, when the District installed high intensity anti-crime street lights, energy costs were not nearly so high. The high intensity lights - six or eight times brighter than the lights they replaced - were installed closer together than necessary, he said.
City Councilman John Wilson, who lights until a couple of days ago," said Wilson. "I have asked the mayor to rescind the program."
Capt. W.S. Britt of the Metropolitan Police Department said that the police Operation Planning Branch ran computer printouts on crime on various streets in the last five years. On the basis on these statistics, the department recommended against removing every other light in certain main arteries - mainly in the 14th Street corridor. Police suggested that the Department of Transportation substitute other streets where the crime rate was low. Britt said the police had not been consulted on the removal of lights from corners in residential areas.
Several persons at last week's meeting took issue with Schneider's contention that removing lights from the main arteries would not affect residential areas.
Ida Fox of 1414 17th Street NW said that removing lights from Connecticut Avennue would make an important difference in the lives of neighborhood people. "I'm active in civic affairs," she said, "and often I miss a meeting because I don't want to walk down a certain street at night. THe business and restaurants here depends on the neighborhood people and people in the hotels. These so-called arteries are not just for people driving through."