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The scene of a crash outside Jefferson Houston Elementary School, March 29, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Things are about to slow down in school zones.

The Alexandria School Board on Thursday (October 6) unanimously approved a resolution requesting a reduction from 25 miles per hour to 15 mph in school zones.

“We are really making our students and our community safe,” said Board Member Abdel Elnoubi, who wrote the resolution. “We’re helping save lives here.”

The resolution now goes to City Council for approval.

The following school zones have 25 mph speed limits:

  • N. Beauregard Street — Outside the John Adams Elementary School, William Ramsay Elementary School and Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School zones
  • Braddock Road from N. Beauregard Street to Quaker Lane — Outside Alexandria City High School’s Minnie Howard Campus school zone
  • Seminary Road (Kenmore Avenue to N. Pickett Street) — In the Francis C. Hammond Middle School zone
  • King Street — Alexandria City High School’s school zone

City Council will also review a plan to install Alexandria’s first speed cameras in school zones later this month.

The conversation over a speed limit reduction and cameras installation began after a nine-year-old girl was hit by a car and seriously injured just outside Jefferson-Houston Elementary School in March.

The scene of a crash outside Jefferson Houston Elementary School, March 29, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)
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The City of Alexandria announced today that drivers will need to go a little slower in the West End.

City Manager James Parajon said, following the unanimous recommendation from the Traffic and Parking Board, speed limits on a handful of corridors on the West End — including some major ones like North Beauregard Street, Seminary Road and King Street — will be reduced by around 10 miles per hour.

According to the city release, the full list of speed limit changes are:

  • North Beauregard Street (Entire Length). Reduce the posted speed limit from 35 to 25 miles per hour and reduce the school zone speed limits from 25 to 15 miles per hour.
  • West Braddock Road (North Beauregard Street to Quaker Lane). Reduce the posted speed limit from 35 to 25 miles per hour and reduce the school zone speed limits from 25 to 15 miles per hour.
  • North Howard Street (Lynn House Driveway to Braddock Road). Reduce the school zone speed limit on North Howard Street from 25 to 15 miles per hour.
  • Seminary Road (Kenmore Avenue to North Pickett Street). Reduce the school zone speed limit from 25 to 15 miles per hour.
  • King Street (Radford Street to Quincy Street). Install a new 15 mile per hour school zone speed limit.

The release said the changes are part of the city’s Vision Zero plan.

“Speed is a critical factor in how often crashes occur and how severe those crashes are,” the release said. “Collectively, there have been over 500 crashes on these corridors since 2015, including over 20 fatal or severe crashes. Over 250 people have been injured in crashes during this time.”

The release said the most recent notable incident was a fatal crash on North Beauregard Street this August.

“According to the Federal Highway Administration, speed limit changes alone can lead to measurable declines in speed and crashes,” the release said. “National guidance encourages local governments to set appropriate speed limits to ensure the safety of all roadway users. This is especially important in urban areas where people walk, bike, and drive. The likelihood of a person being killed or seriously injured when struck at 35 miles per hour is significantly higher than if that person is struck at 25 miles per hour or 15 miles per hour.”

The speed limit reduction is the latest of a series of traffic changes in the works in Alexandria. The city also approved the use of speed cameras for the first time in some school zones and is reviewing options for a new Duke Street Transitway.

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The scene of a crash outside Jefferson Houston Elementary School, March 29, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Alexandria Police Department (APD) will be ready to deploy five speed cameras in schools zones around the city by early next year.

Police Chief Don Hayes and Yon Lambert, the director of the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services (T&ES), issued a memo to update the joint City Council/School Board subcommittee, which met on Monday (June 26).

“Staff have immediately mobilized to develop and implement this new program,” Hayes and Lambert wrote. “staff working group, which includes representatives from ACPS, APD, T&ES, and others, has formed to address the various aspects of such a program, including location selection, public communications, procurement, and other critical tasks. This group is working towards the goal of launching the program by early 2023.”

In May, City Council approved the $400,000 speed camera program, after a child was struck and seriously injured at an intersection just outside of Jefferson Houston Elementary School (200 block of North West Street).

Virginia code was amended in 2020 to add speed cameras in school and work zones. This is the first time Alexandria will use speed cameras, and City Manager Jim Parajon is considering lowering speed limits in residential, business and school zones from 25 miles per hour to 15 mph.

A working group made up of city staff and APD  are also putting together a program webpage, and the future location of the cameras have not yet been chosen.

“The locations will be data-driven,” said Alexandria Police Lt. Delton Goodrum told the subcommittee. “Right now we’re pulling all this data between T&ES, APD and also ACPS (Alexandria City Public Schools).”

Staff will present the subcommittee with more details on the camera locations this fall.

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The scene of a crash outside Jefferson Houston Elementary School, March 29, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria leaders are working on permanently reducing speed limits and adding speed cameras in school zones.

The news comes in the wake of the last month’s crash that injured a student walking home outside Jefferson Houston Elementary School.

Mayor Justin Wilson is proposing the addition of five photo speed cameras at school crossing zones, which would cost $490,000. The locations of the cameras would be determined by the Department of Transportation & Environmental Services, and the cameras would be paid by ticket revenues.

Additionally, last month City Council granted City Manager Jim Parajon the authority to reduce speed limits to 15 miles per hour in business and residential districts. Parajon is considering reducing speed limits to 15 miles per hour in school zones, according to Yon Lambert, director of the city’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services.

“There is no plan to make the speed limit be 15 miles an hour city-wide,” Lambert told the City Council/School Board Subcommittee on Tuesday night. “We have been looking, however, at whether we could be introducing slow zones, primarily around schools and in certain residential areas. That is how that tool would potentially be used.”

Lambert said that the city has accomplished about 100 of the 250 recommendations on school-related transportation improvements within ACPS that were outlined in 2017 Safe Routes To School audits. He also said that the city recently received a grant that will allow it to continue conducting the audits, which include filling a sidewalk gap near James A. Polk Elementary School and Avenue near Pelham Street.

Parajon also included $100,000 toward Safe Routes to School projects in his budget, and $4 million in funding increases will be  necessary to tackle remaining projects over the next five years.

Wilson said that a shortage of 10 school crossing guards in schools around the city. There are 27 budgeted part-time positions, but Wilson said that ACPS should consider stop-gap and long term solutions in a future budget to fill the positions and keep them occupied.

“We have a bad problem,” Wilson said. “It’s causing us to have to grab people from patrol and other places to fill these positions. And then a lot of them are just not filled… You have schools that just do not have crossing guards out in front.”

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said that he’d work on crossing guard recruitment with his public affairs team and with Police Chief Don Hayes to set up training sessions for new staffers.

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(Updated at 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 3) Alexandria City Manager Jim Parajon wants to be able to reduce speed limits from 25 miles per hour to 15 mph in business and residential districts.

The proposal is part of the city’s efforts to pilot slow zones in residence districts, and goes before City Council on Tuesday, March 8. The City Manager already has the authority to reduce the speed limit, just not to 15 mph.

While there would not be any “immediate or direct impact on existing speed limits in the City,” the proposal gives Parajon the ability to decrease the speed limit and “establish differential speeds for daytime and nighttime driving on such streets, provided that any such increase or decrease in speed limit, or differential speed limit, shall be based upon an engineering and traffic investigation by the director of transportation and environmental services.”

The move comes three months after the City reduced the speed limit on Seminary Road from 35 mph to 25 mph. Last fall, there were a number of crashes involving pedestrians, including a man killed in the West End and a 13-year old struck while walking home in Del Ray.

According to the city:

This legislation enables the City to begin piloting “slow zones” in Alexandria, which typically include a combination of lower speed limits and traffic calming treatments such as speed cushions, curb extensions, and signage. Alexandria has committed to making streets safer through its Vision Zero program, which identifies speeding as one of the most pressing community concerns related to safety. Staff will not immediately consider individual requests outside of slow zone areas for speed limit reductions on neighborhood streets to less than 25mph. Should there be an eventual desire to reduce speed limits outside of slow zones, staff will develop a process for identifying which streets would qualify.

Alexandria’s Vision Zero Plan has the goal of eliminating all traffic-related deaths and injuries by 2028.

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Good Friday morning, Alexandria!

Today’s weather: Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 55 and low of 47.
Tomorrow: Rain throughout the day. High of 59 and low of 46. Sunrise at 7:28 am and sunset at 4:56 pm.

🚨 You need to know

It’ll be 2023 when ALXnow returns for more coverage starting on Tuesday, Jan. 3. This week, we already got a head start with a new “Morning Notes” format that aims to work as more of a morning newsletter than just a couple of links to other sites. Let us know what you think in the comments and if there are ways it could be better.

For locals, one of the more noticeable changes in the new year could be cheaper groceries. The sales tax rate on groceries in Virginia is slated to drop from 2.5% down to 1% starting on Sunday, Jan. 1.

The tax cut was one of the policies touted by Gov. Glenn Youngkin in a notable visit to Alexandria earlier this year, Alexandria Living Magazine reported.

Along with groceries, personal hygiene items like bed sheets, diapers and feminine hygiene products will all have a matching sales tax reduction.

📈 Thursday’s most read

The following are the most-read ALXnow articles for Dec 29, 2022.

  1. Woman assaulted and robbed near Braddock Road Metro station (3225 views)
  2. Jack Taylor sells Alexandria Toyota for $35 million | ALXnow (2796 views)
  3. Notes: New toll lanes inbound for Alexandria-adjacent highways (553 views)
  4. Poll: Should electric scooters be allowed on sidewalks? (250 views)

🗞 Other local coverage

🐦 Tweets of note

📅 Upcoming events

Here is what’s going on today and this weekend in Alexandria, from our event calendar.

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Morning Notes

Which Confederate Statues Are Gone in the DMV — and Which Remain? — “Virginia has been known for having more Confederate memorials than any other state.” [Washington Post]

It’s Tuesday — Clear throughout the day. High of 43 and low of 28. Sunrise at 7:20 am and sunset at 4:48 pm. [Weather.gov]

Virginia Tech 150th Anniversary Recognized At Innovation Campus — “Virginia Tech’s 150th anniversary was recognized at Alexandria’s Innovation Campus, where construction continues.” [Patch]

School Zone Speed Camera Pilot Programs to Launch — “Fairfax County joins Alexandria in encouraging drivers to obey school zone speed limits.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

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A local nonprofit will leave a locked white “ghost scooter” at the corner of Sanger Avenue and North Beauregard Street this Sunday in memory of a 16-year-old killed at the intersection in August.

Miguel Ángel Rivera was riding an electric scooter when he was struck on August 27. He died four days later.

On Sunday (Nov. 20), the Alexandria chapter of Northern Virginia Families For Safe Streets will plant the white scooter and release its transportation improvement recommendations for the city and neighboring jurisdictions.

“The recommendations encourage drivers to slow down and go the posted speed limit,” said Mike Doyle, a founding member of the Northern Virginia Families For Safe Streets. “Doing simple things can save lives. There’s engineering changes, like traffic light changes, to slow drivers down.”

Doyle said that an electric scooter company deactivated the ghost scooter, and allowed for it to be used for this purpose providing that the company brand be removed. The scooter will be locked near the intersection and will stay up for an undetermined period of time.

Mayor Justin Wilson and representatives from the Alexandria Police Department and Alexandria City Public Schools will speak at the event, which will be held in the William Ramsay Elementary School (5700 Sanger Avenue) at 11:30 a.m. The event is part of series recognizing the annual World Day Of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. NoVAFSS will also conduct similar events in Arlington and Fairfax Counties.

Doyle came up with the idea for the nonprofit after recovering from being hit by a car in Old Town in 2016. He was walking home from work and a turning driver didn’t see him crossing.

“He turned left sharply and crashed into me, and he hit me with such force that my forehead put a dent in the hood of his car, which caused a fracture in my forehead and all sorts of issues,” Doyle said. “We have members of our group who are permanently crippled, but what gets me emotional is when I think about how it impacted my wife and the rest of my family and friends.”

In September, Old Town was deemed the most dangerous area for pedestrians in Virginia. There were 68 crashes and 75 injuries, throughout Old Town between 2015 and mid-2022, according to a a study.

There were also two pedestrian crashes last month in the West End.

“Speed kills and speed maims,” Doyle said. “So, if drivers slow down at a turn, there’s a greater chance that they can avoid crashing into somebody.”

Alexandria has a Vision Zero Action Plan to eliminate pedestrian fatalities by 2028. Part of the action plan went into effect last month with numerous speed limit reductions in the West End.

Those reductions include:

  • North Beauregard Street (Entire Length) — Reducing the posted speed limit from 35 to 25 miles per hour (MPH), and the school zone speed limits from 25 to 15 MPH
  • West Braddock Road (North Beauregard Street to Quaker Lane) — Reducing the posted speed limit from 35 to 25 MPH, and the school zone speed limits from 25 to 15 MPH
  • North Howard Street (Lynn House Driveway to Braddock Road) — Reducing the school zone speed limit on North Howard Street from 25 to 15 MPH
  • Seminary Road (Kenmore Avenue to North Pickett Street) — Reducing the school zone speed limit from 25 to 15 MPH
  • King Street (Radford Street to Quincy Street) — Installing a new 15 MPH school zone speed limit

The City also recently approved the installation of speed cameras at five school zones. The cameras were approved after a child was struck and seriously injured at an intersection just outside of Jefferson Houston Elementary School (200 block of North West Street).

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It’s been a busy week of meetings in Alexandria.

First, parents met with Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) leadership in a forum addressing safety in schools, a major talking point in schools after the murder of a student this summer and issues involving violent “crews” in ACPS.

In an Agenda Alexandria meeting, City Manager James Parajon said adding density to the city is vital to meeting affordable housing needs, though some in the audience expressed concerns that added density could harm the “historic nature” of Alexandria.

Lastly, the Chamber ALX held its Best in Business awards last night. Land use attorney Cathy Puskar was named the 2022 Business Leader of the Year and restaurant Chadwicks (203 Strand Street) was named Overall Business of the Year.

Top stories

  1. New Duke Street development replacing car dealership with affordable housing
  2. Tenant arrested for allegedly pointing handgun at landlord in West End apartment
  3. City Manager: Trading height for affordable housing means ‘unlikely’ impact on historic districts
  4. Alexandria mayor to present multi-year plan to rename streets named after Confederate soldiers
  5. Potomac Yard Metro station hits major milestone after earlier plans derailed by delays
  6. Alexandria lowers speed limits on major West End streets
  7. Falafel Inc. opening on Halloween on King Street in Old Town
  8. Nine more COVID deaths in Alexandria within the last month
  9. Public comment period closing on three Duke Street Transitway options
  10. Alexandria City Council hires auditor to review allegations of police misconduct
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Alexandria City Public Schools officials say that their strategies to make school safer are working, although it will take time to tell if they’re right.

Flanked by city, school and police officials, interim Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt said at a student safety forum on Wednesday night that crime incidents are down this school year.

Kay-Wyatt didn’t present data to back up the claim that schools are safer, but said that it’s because of a new identification requirement for students and staff at Alexandria City High School, staggering dismissal times, designating entrances for students and staff at schools, and providing all ACPS students with a mandatory 30 minutes of daily Social and Emotional Learning (SEAL) time.

“While we see that incidents are down, I remain very hopeful,” Kay-Wyatt said. “I believe that it’s (due to) of some of those SEAL lessons that are in place and other supports that we put in place throughout the school year to make sure that we are supporting families and students.”

There were 46 students arrested and 68 injured in the 2021-2022 school year, with 194 incidents that provoked a police response, according to an ACPS safety report. The school system is, in fact, using the 2021-2022 school year as a baseline for future improvement.

Transportation-wise, the city recently approved the installation of speed cameras in five school zones, as well as reducing speed limits in school zones to 15 miles per hour. The city is also working on walk audits for potential pedestrian improvements on roadways near Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School, George Washington and Francis C. Hammond Middle Schools, and both ACHS campuses.

By December, Kay-Wyatt will also receive recommendations on a reimagined partnership between ACPS and the police department, the latter of which provides school resource officers to the high school and the city’s middle schools. In the meantime, a proposal will be presented to the School Board to continue the SRO program as it stands until the end of the school year.

“Last year was very challenging, extremely challenging,” John Contreras, ACPS Director of Safety and Security Services, said at the forum. “It was a very challenging year and this year is a bit calmer.”

Contreras also did not present any safety data on this school year.

While the school system might feels safer, it will take time to collect the data to really see what’s working, said School Board Member Abdel Elnoubi, who attended the meeting as an audience member.

“You’ve got to give it time,” Elnoubi said.

One high school student at the event said that SEAL lessons aren’t working, and that the information being presented to the community is being “sugar-coated.”

“They have us do community circles to share our emotions, but it’s high schoolers,” another student said. “Nobody want to talk about how they feel. It’s just an awkward experience.”

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