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Trail Does Not Stop: Proposed changes could prioritize Mount Vernon Trail users in Old Town North

Changes planned for the Mount Vernon Trail in Old Town North (image via City of Alexandria)

The City of Alexandria could be prioritizing the Mount Vernon Trail at crossings where, currently, trail users are expected to stop for car traffic.

At a Traffic and Parking Board meeting last week, civil engineer Dan Scolese presented plans to change the stop signs from making pedestrians and cyclists stop for street traffic to having cars stop for trail users.

“The unusual nature is because it’s a trail and a street crossing, but the trail is considered a road,” Scolese said. “We gathered volumes during the fall. In all conditions, the trail was always more [used] than the crossing street. The split is usually more than 70%. On weekends there’s a vast difference in terms of volume on the trail.”

Scolese said trail usage at the intersections is usually pretty evenly balanced between pedestrians and cyclists.

The recommendation, supported unanimously by the Traffic and Parking Board, is to change the stop signs to face street traffic where the trail intersects at Canal Center Plaza, Montgomery Street and Madison Street, allowing trail users to continue through that part of Alexandria without stopping. The Traffic and Parking Board members did say, however, that city staff should reach out to nearby civic associations, who were not consulted ahead of the meeting.

Some on the Board said this could be the start of a broader look at how stopping is prioritized at other places where trails intersect with Alexandria streets, depending on how this goes.

“I’m curious to see how this works,” said Traffic and Parking Board chair James Lewis. “Not asking you guys for a report, but once stuff is in, if you don’t mind sharing how it’s working because this is the first time we’ve done something like this.”

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