The D.C. Department of Transportation is planning to nearly double the number of intersections at which motorists may make right turns on red signals, the department's director told a congressional hearing yesterday.
Outgoing Transportation Director Douglas N. Schneider Jr. said new regulations that could be in effect by this summer would permit turns at about 40 percent of the 6,000 intersections with signals. Under current regulations, right-on-red turns are permitted as only 22 percent of the intersections.
Schneider said "that the 40 percent figure" could be reduced if Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, which must review and advise his department on such proposals, oppose more such turns. The ANCs have been against liberalizing right-turn-on-red regulations.
Federal energy conservation laws include a policy promoting such turns. But for years the District has refused to adopt it, to the disappointment of Congress, some local citizens and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Schneider testified yesterday before the House District Appropriations subcommittee, whose ranking minority member, Rep. Carl Pursell (R-Mich.), earlier had threatened to propose that Congress add a rider to the city's budget requiring a more liberal turn rule. Pursell was absent yesterday and did not hear Schneider's testimony.
Schneider announced last week that he would remove the current ban on right turns between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. at many intersections -- including most of those downtown -- where there is little pedestrian traffic at night.
Schneider said the more liberal turn rule during regular hours would be proposed at some now-restricted intersections near schools where crossing guards are stationed. The new regulation would also effect other areas, such as some in Southwest Washington, where most pedestrians are office workers in an age group agile enough to keep out of the way of cars. Restrictions would be kept in areas where elderly pedestrians are numerous.
Schneider, in disclosing the new proposal, observed that "some in the Congress believe I deliberately tried to undermine the right-turn-on-red law." He denied that, insisting that to permit such turns on a large scale would not be appropriate because of Washington's complex street layout and large number of streetside trees that obscure visibility.