- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The city is evolving into one of those stereotypical towns of the South, with the requisite speed trap and the pot-bellied pseudo-sheriff parked in a cruiser ready to pull over an unsuspecting motorist.

The city, in tandem with the Metropolitan Police Department, has been playing this cat-and-mouse game with stunning efficiency on MacArthur Boulevard NW. The only person missing from the absurdity is Sheriff Buford T. Justice, as played by the late Jackie Gleason in the “Smokey and Bandit” flicks.

Of course, the city insists that it is saving lives along this four-lane strip of treacherous asphalt, as favored in the past by NASCAR types who sometimes zoomed at speeds exceeding 30 mph. Now the posted limit is 25 mph, and the officer impersonating Sheriff Buford T. Justice is looking to relinquish his lonely post to a speed camera that requires no downtime, sick leave or overtime pay.

The mayor and the D.C. Council see this one-time death alley as yet another example of responsible leadership. Motorists were dying in droves, perhaps as many as hundreds a year, until the city’s lawmakers decided to reclaim the dangerous thoroughfare.

Theirs is such a success story that they should hold a photo opportunity there one day and salute the hard-working officer parked near the Conduit Road School and the neighborhood’s improved quality of life.

Residents of the Palisades community no longer are afraid to walk along the sidewalks or stand on the grassy island that splits the four lanes. Children are now able to play hopscotch on the road, but not dodge ball, because dodge ball harms the self-esteem of the class fat kid. Vendors no longer peddle T-shirts, emblazoned with “I survived MacArthur Boulevard.” L. Peter Farkas, a lawyer who lives in the neighborhood, embraces the changes after several near-death experiences.

As he says, “It is my sense that billions and billions of lives are being saved, especially among the neighborhood residents who know where the officers are and slow down just in time to avoid the trap and then speed up after they have passed the zone of death.”

Filling the city’s piggy bank is hardly the motivation behind the life-saving measures that have been implemented along what was previously known as the home of the MacArthur 500. The mayor and the D.C. Council members are dead serious about their good deeds, and dead is the operative word.

They have never met a speed camera or a parking ticket that they did not like. And let’s be clear on this: Parking tickets save lives, too. Do you know how many motorists die looking for a parking space in the city each year? The mayor and D.C. Council hope to cut down on parking-related deaths by encouraging other motorists not to overstay their time on the parking meter.

Coincidentally, because of the increasing deployment of speed cameras and the tireless parking-ticket brigade, the city is no longer a financially strapped locale. These are heady revenue times — and not to overlook the industrious contributions of property tax assessors. You see a tarpaper shack. They see a charming fixer-upper assessed at $1 million.

The city’s leaders obviously are working on the premise that if one speed camera is good, two speed cameras are better and one on every intersection in the city is the long-term ideal. It is hard to argue with success, both in revenue and lives saved.

Count Mr. Farkas among the euphoric.

Mr. Farkas says he has been run over 10 times while riding his bike to the Starbucks on MacArthur Boulevard. He says the perpetrator was always this 5-foot-2-inch woman trying to make a left turn onto Chain Bridge Road to avoid the trap.

“In fairness to everyone, it was tough for her to negotiate the 10-ton Lincoln Navigator with a cell phone in one hand, coffee in the other and the ADHD kids playing on the trampoline in the back on their way to the Lab School,” Mr. Farkas says, referring to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Thanks to the city, those terrible days are in the past.

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