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Plans for ‘Pedestrian Only’ Section of King Street Now Include Car Traffic

The Alexandria City Council on Tuesday sent staff the proposed King Street Place pedestrian pilot program back to the drawing board.

The original plan would have turned a section of King Street near the waterfront into a pedestrian-only zone between Lee Street and Union Street on weekends, but more recent plans have included a single lane of traffic through the area that was going to be car-free.

Under the $190,000 plan proposed by staff, parking would be completely removed in the 100 block of King Street and a single lane of westbound traffic would be allowed for deliveries, valet parking, and picking up and dropping off visitors. That would shift dining to the south side of the street, while the north side would be open to vehicles.

“This is much different than what we had originally talked about, and I appreciate how we have gotten here,” Mayor Justin Wilson told city planning staff after a presentation at City Hall. “We’d like you to do it better and spend less.”

Wilson added, “If this works and is beneficial, then let’s do the whole King Street.”

The pilot, which staff was hoping to get approved by council next month, will now likely launch in early June after an amended plan is sent to the Waterfront Commission and the Traffic and Parking Board, according to Hillary Orr, deputy director of the city’s Department of Planning and Zoning.

“This is a lot of money,” City Councilman John Taylor Chapman told staff. “If we were to cut off the streets at the end [of King Street] and make this a plaza, it would probably be much less expensive… What I’d love to see is a much more streamlined, probably cheaper version of what you’re trying to accomplish here, because it is a pilot.”

“I did not think we were going to spend six figures on a pilot for that,” Chapman added.

Under the proposal, the King Street Trolley route along King Street would be redirected. Westbound traffic would continue, but eastbound traffic would loop around The Strand and Cameron, Union and Prince Streets.

“The street is only 37 feet wide emergency vehicle access needs 20 feet of that space,” Orr said. “That was really the key element we were thinking about in trying to balance the additional outdoor dining and then where pedestrians have additional space on the street. It did limit the design options, but it does allow for space that enhances the vitality along the corridor.”

Orr said city staff will look for some flexibility in its final presentation to the council to make changes during the pilot.

“If there are any unintended consequences of some of the proposals here or if we see that there is additional space needed for delivery, or things that we might not have thought of or ideas that people come up with, this is a pilot and opportunity to really test out how we use this space so that hopefully we can come up with a permanent solution in the future,” she said.

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