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Good Samaritan Directs Traffic in NW DC

Associated Press

February 02, 2011

The traffic signal at the corner of Nebraska and New Mexico avenues in northwest Washington was broken. It was stuck on red for the motorists on Nebraska, bringing them to a stand-still from Ward Circle to Foxhall Road.

Commuters were getting frustrated. Pedestrians — many trying to get to American University — dodged cars to cross the street. And traffic poured out of New Mexico Avenue, which had a signal stuck on green.

That’s when Russell Williams stepped in to help.

The two-time Academy Award winner and professor in the Communications School at American University realized that his bus was stuck in traffic, so he decided to take action.

He started directing traffic.

Williams stood on the sidewalk beside Nebraska, carefully signaling to the cars coming up over the hill on New Mexico to stop. He also directed vehicles along Nebraska. Heck, he even interspersed pedestrians to get them across Nebraska safely.

This went on for some time because a D.C. Police cruiser heading to the scene was also stuck in the traffic.

Finally, Williams said, the police officer got to the scene to “relieve” him.

He said he has no formal experience directing traffic, and thought about the liability if there was an “accident on his watch.” But he said he thought the situation needed a Good Samaritan, so he jumped in.

By 10:30 a.m. DDOT had taken over the intersection. A work crew fixed the traffic light in all directions. Traffic thinned and Williams walked across Nebraska Avenue to teach a class at 11:30 a.m.

While DDOT probably wouldn’t approve of what Williams did, there are plenty of commuters in Northwest who are thankful for his efforts.

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