Members of the Alexandria City Council are looking to curb cut-through traffic through city neighborhoods.
Last week, Mayor Justin Wilson, Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker and Councilman John T. Chapman sent the city manager’s office a memo, requesting staff look into implementing a residential permit program restricting cars from driving through streets during peak periods, and imposing higher fines for drivers speeding through residential areas, as Arlington recently did.
“Given the risk of death or serious injury from speeding in our neighborhoods we believe these higher fines may act as an appropriate deterrent to this dangerous activity,” notes the memo, which does not outline specific neighborhoods.
Congestion is likely to get worse. The city’s population (at 151,300 residents in 2018) is increasing an average of 1% every year, and is expected to grow by 13,600 people between 2020 and 2030, according to a 2019 report. Additionally, employment in the city is expected to rise 20 percent by 2030, from 102,000 to nearly 120,000 jobs, which will mean more cars on city roadways.
The memo comes as the city is updating its Transportation Master Plan, which was last approved in 2008, and has been renamed the Alexandria Mobility Plan. According to the memo, a community survey for the plan found that:
- 71% of the survey respondents cited congestion as one of the biggest challenges to mobility
- 35% of the survey respondents, a plurality, cited “reducing impacts of regional traffic on City streets” as a desired focus
- 53% cited reducing congestion as an area to invest resources
The intersection of N. Jordan and Duke Street, near the Foxchase shopping center, is closed due to a serious pedestrian crash.
“A pedestrian was struck,” said Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine. “It’s serious enough that they’ve called in the reconstruction team.”
Ballantine said the person struck was an adult male. On social media, police urged drivers to avoid the area.
NOTIFICATION: North Jordan at Duke Street at is closed due to a serious traffic crash. Please avoid the area and expect police on scene.
— Alexandria Police (@AlexandriaVAPD) February 27, 2020
Via social media, a witness reported that the man was bleeding from the head after being struck.
The incident comes just three days after another pedestrian was struck at Duke Street and Diagonal Road and a month after Alexandria artist Alfredo DaSilva was killed while crossing Duke Street at an intersection not far from today’s scene. Earlier this week a driver was charged with a deadly pedestrian crash on Duke Street in November.
A petition to reduce the speed limit on a portion of Duke Street east of Jordan Street from 35 to 25 mph has garnered just over 100 signatures.
Map via Google Maps
A number of traffic calming changes will eventually be coming to Monticello Blvd in the Alexandria’s North Ridge neighborhood.
The city is in the final stages of design on the project, which will bring changes to the roadway near George Mason Elementary School. The project will potentially include speed cushions and a speed monitoring sign.
It currently has no current implementation schedule, according to city spokesman Craig Fifer.
Monticello Blvd is bordered by Russell Road and Cameron Mills Road, and is used as a cut-through street for many drivers. The city received multiple community requests for traffic calming on the road before 2018, which was when staff got to work, Fifer said.
Fifer told ALXnow that the city is debating the merits of speed cushions on Monticello.
“Although speed cushions were later added to the discussion at the request of neighbors, and the fire department determined that speed cushions may be feasible under certain circumstances, transportation and fire officials are currently evaluating the use of speed cushions on different types of streets and whether speed cushions will be part of the final Monticello design,” he said.
- Three speed cushions
- A speed monitoring sign near George Mason Place
- 10 feet of street parking removed for the addition of a crosswalk at the intersection with Old Dominion Blvd
- 20 feet of street parking removed for visibility at the intersection with Argyle Drive
Top map via Google Maps
Alexandria firefighters are on scene of a car fire on I-395.
The engine of an SUV caught fire in the northbound lanes of the highway, between Seminary Road and King Street. Firefighters are currently working to extinguish the fire.
Two mainline lanes of northbound I-395 are currently blocked. According to scanner traffic, police are currently looking for the driver, who reportedly ran off.
— Sue June Kim (@skimmylatte) February 25, 2020
A man was struck and injured this afternoon on Duke Street by a driver in a Volkswagen Beetle.
The collision happened shortly before 1 p.m. today at the intersection of Duke Street and Diagonal Road, near the train station and the Motley Fool building.
An adult male victim suffered minor injuries and was transported to Inova Alexandria Hospital, according to police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine. The driver was cited for the crash, Ballantine said.
Photos from the scene show the car stopped in the crosswalk in the intersection. There was no visible damage to the vehicle.
Diagonal Road and a portion of Duke Street was closed for a period of time immediately following the crash.
As part of an effort to curtail truck traffic through residential streets, the City Council could add E. Taylor Run Parkway to the list of streets where truck traffic is banned.
On Saturday (Feb. 22) the City Council is scheduled (item #13) to review a potential ban on commercial truck traffic on the street, which connects Janneys Lane and Duke Street.
Commuter traffic has repeatedly been a thorn in the side of E. Taylor Run Parkway residents, particularly with apps like Waze and Google Maps diverting traffic onto side streets to avoid gridlock on the main roads. The Traffic and Parking Board originally approved a recommendation to close the street to truck traffic in 2018.
A similar ban already exists on W. Taylor Run Parkway, though that street has its own share of problems — namely an ongoing spate of parked cars being struck by passing vehicles.
According to city records, there are 23 other streets where truck traffic is banned, most of them in Old Town or connected to Seminary Road.
Photo via Google Maps
Seminary Road has experienced some delays since the city implemented the contentious “road diet” last fall, Alexandria officials acknowledged at a Tuesday night city council meeting.
After months of pressure from an extremely vocal group of city residents on Facebook, council members peppered staff with questions about the road diet — a reduction of a 0.9 mile stretch of Seminary Road between N. Quaker Lane and Howard Street from four to two lanes, plus the addition of bike lanes on both sides, a center turn lane, crosswalks and medians.
The city’s most recent traffic data shows a travel time increase of one minute for vehicles going westbound on Seminary from Quaker Lane to Jordan Street at peak travel times (8:15 a.m. and 5:15 p.m.) and a 30 second increase in the opposite direction. The data was collected with the city’s Bluetooth travel time monitoring system. On the plus side, staff said, the road is now otherwise safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
Alexandria City Councilwoman Amy Jackson called for a reversal of the road diet in December and spent more than an hour questioning city staff on Tuesday night. During her questioning, she had an aide present a slideshow of photos of traffic along Seminary Road.
“Hundreds of people took hundreds of pictures, because that’s what they’re doing because they’re sitting there,” she said. “I’m not convinced that our city government has alleviated the fears (of the public).”
City transportation planners said that the roadway might be minimally slower for drivers during peak hours, but that it is safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
“For the vast majority of the day the road is performing the same, if not better than before,” said Hillary Orr, deputy director of the city’s department of Transportation and Environmental Services. “And for those other 23 hours, it’s designed in a way that is comfortable for people who are walking, biking, using transit and driving their cars. And that’s one of the tradeoffs that we have talked about throughout this process.”
Fire Chief Corey Smedley told council that his staff was in communication with city staff as the road diet was being planned, and that fire and emergency vehicles have been un-hindered in their ability to navigate through traffic and answer service calls — assertions that run counter to the beliefs of road diet opponents, who have cited a FOIAed trove of emails as proof that fire department brass were pressured into supporting the changes.
When Jackson asked him if his department was in consultation and agreement with the plan, he responded by saying, “Absolutely.”
Police Chief Michael Brown reported that there have been three reported car crashes along the roadway since the road diet was implemented last fall, including one that occurred at the conclusion of a high speed chase by the Virginia State Police. Otherwise, he said, the road diet has presented no issues for police.
Council voted 4-3 for the road diet last October, supported by Mayor Justin Wilson, Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, and council members Canek Aguirre and Del Pepper. In opposition were Jackson, and council members John T. Chapman and Mo Seifeldein.
Bill Rossello wasn’t convinced by the staff presentation. The Seminary Hill resident sat in on the meeting for more than two hours before calling it a night and walking out.
“It’s absolute horse hockey,” Rossello told ALXnow. “The city is not very good at presenting data, gathering data and what it’s really not good at is listening to the overwhelming majority of community members who actually use the road, who see it first-hand, live it every day. Not a bit.”
Wilson said he expects community activism regarding the road diet to continue.
“There are going to be differences of opinion, there are going to be things that we don’t always 100% see eye-to-eye on,” Wilson said. “I appreciate the collaboration on this and so many other matters. I want to thank the community for all of their comments on this. I’m sure they will continue, and that’s a great thing and we can continue this discussion as we move forward and evaluate this project as we committed to do from the beginning.”
But Rossello, who is an administrator of the Alexandria Residents Against the Seminary Road Diet Facebook group, said Tuesday night’s meeting didn’t sit well with him.
“What we’re seeing at the leadership levels is that there seems to be a willingness to go along with this narrative that we were all involved talking about this throughout the process, which is absolutely not true,” he said. “They know that there are more cars on the road, and narrowing roads isn’t gonna make it better. That doesn’t make our quality of life better. I don’t think anything that happened tonight increases the trust that the community has in our city government.”
The deteriorating West Glebe Road Bridge, on the Arlington border near I-395, will be the topic of an open house next week.
The design of the new span, which will use the existing bridge’s piers, is still in progress. The new bridge is expected to “improve access for people walking, biking and driving,” according to Arlington County. (The bridge is technically located in Arlington, though it’s heavily used by Alexandria commuters.)
Arlington, in coordination with Alexandria, is hosting an open house about the project and the bridge design on Wednesday, Feb. 12 from 6-8 p.m., at Gunston Middle School (2700 S. Lang Street).
“Members of the public are encouraged to attend the drop-in style open house to learn more about the project, ask questions of staff, and provide feedback on bridge cross-sections and visual preferences,” the City of Alexandria said.
Photos via Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services
Several Alexandria Fire Department units responded as mutual aid to a crash on the GW Parkway in Fairfax County this afternoon.
The crash happened just before 1:30 p.m. at the GW Parkway intersection with Belle View Blvd. At least one of the victims was initially reported to trapped in their vehicle, potentially requiring extrication.
An ALXnow photographer arrived as one of the vehicles involved, a red sedan with heavy passenger side damage, was loaded onto a flatbed tow truck.
The intersection is likely familiar to many who commute to and from Alexandria and points south. It, along with the nearby intersection of the GW Parkway and Belle Haven Road, are among the most dangerous and crash-prone in the area — prompting the National Park Service to hold recent public meetings and consider new safety improvements.
Particularly for those turning left at both intersections, to head north on the Parkway, the maneuver requires dodging fast-moving southbound traffic and then waiting in a barely-wide-enough median for fast-moving northbound traffic to clear. Turning left from the northbound lanes of the Parkway onto either road is similarly death-defying.
More from a December article on Covering the Corridor on potential safety improvements:
Recent Park Police efforts to improve speed enforcement along the entire Parkway between I-495 and Mount Vernon have led to a 35 percent reduction in motor vehicle accidents between 2018 and 2019, Cuvelier said. The superintendent added that public opinion about installing speed cameras was about evenly divided, but that the cameras raised a larger issue involving data requirements.
More than half the comments submitted so far have been related to the Belle View Boulevard and Belle Haven Road intersections, where nearly 125 crashes occurred over a five-year period.
To help improve intersections that are currently difficult to navigate — especially when making left turns — the Park Service proposed solutions like road diets and roundabouts, including ones at Morningside Lane. Some of these proposals will require more investigation, Cuvelier acknowledged, due to potential downsides like queuing.
Thus far, no serious injuries have been reported following this afternoon’s crash.
Street view photos via Google Maps
Big things have small beginnings, and on Wednesday night a number of Alexandria residents critical of the Seminary Road Diet — including a former mayor — took their concerns to Ramparts Tavern and Grill.
Architect Tom Hoffman has lived near the affected area for 20 years, during which time he has taken Seminary Road to get on I-395 northbound to the District. That routine has changed, he said, since the implementation of the road diet — reducing the four through lanes of the roadway to two and adding bike lanes and a turn lane in the center.
“I have taken to using Quaker Lane to get myself off Seminary in the morning,” Hoffman told ALXnow. “I mean, other people have said it’s not that bad, but when something goes wrong on a very narrow road, like Seminary Road is now, you don’t have any way to maneuver around a stalled vehicle or other problems.”
For some the social gathering, which lasted from about 5:30-7 p.m., was a chance to commiserate with neighbors who are frustrated over what they see as worsening traffic on the one-mile stretch of road near the city’s only hospital. Whether the road changes, including the addition of pedestrian refuges in the middle of the street, are hindering emergency vehicles was a hot topic of conversation.
“I think everybody can admit mistakes. I certainly can,” Hoffman added. “And pedestrian traffic islands — seven of them — are a mistake, in my opinion.”
Hoffman invited 1,500 people to Ramparts and about a dozen showed up, including former Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg, who said she wanted to hear from residents on the issue in person. The invitees were all members of the Alexandria Residents Against the Seminary Road Diet group on Facebook.
“It’s a major arterial roadway, it’s the main road that leads to our only hospital where seconds matter, not just minutes, but seconds,” Silberberg said. “Before the road diet it was a very safe road, and now we’ve had a number of accidents. The traffic jams are enormous. The inconvenience is huge. I think all of us are for public safety, but the fact is, according to the data, the road was extremely safe prior to this.”
Old Town resident Hal Hardaway also went to Ramparts, and said the problem is a city government that makes up its mind without sufficient community input.
“Everything’s been decided, you know. It was decided years ago, and we go to these public meetings and hearings and we get fed BS and Seminary Road is one of the best examples I’ve seen,” Hardaway said. “Politically, I’m looking at the next election and I’ve got my fingers in about four or five groups.”
Significant traffic delays were reported in the beginning days of roadway reconstruction, but have since lessened, according to city traffic data. The delays are often for relatively short stretches of the rush hour, with significantly lighter traffic at other times. While Inova Alexandria Hospital is located on the reconfigured stretch of Seminary, the fire department has reported no issues getting around the area.
Bill Rossello is a member of the Seminary Hill Association and an administrator of the Facebook group. He didn’t attend Wednesday night’s meeting, but said in a recent phone call that the goals of his group are simple.
“First, we want to reverse the road diet and maintain the improvements for pedestrians in some way,” Rossello said. “We need for the city to really find a better way to do civic engagement and take the pulse of the community. They totally missed the boat on that. Lastly, include civic association members on every ad hoc committee that is developing an important policy for the city.”
The conversations on the Facebook group have grown more wide-ranging since its founding, with members now railing against other city initiatives they disagree with, like the recent dust-up about housing on school sites. One of the goals of the Ramparts meeting was to strategize future political activism.
The City Council will receive a staff update on the Seminary Road issue at its legislative meeting on Feb. 11 at City Hall.
(Updated at 9:10 p.m.) A serious crash blocked N. Van Dorn Street just west of Seminary Road Wednesday morning.
The two-vehicle crash happened at the intersection of Van Dorn and Kenmore Avenue around 7:20 a.m. One person was trapped in a vehicle after the wreck but was later freed and brought to a local hospital, according to the Alexandria fire union.
In all, three people suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Traffic was detoured around the crash scene, leading to major delays on eastbound N. Van Dorn Street, starting around Landmark Mall.
DASH says its AT5 bus was affected by the detour. A second crash was also reported on Van Dorn, to the west of the crash with entrapment.
As of 9:30 a.m. first responders were working to reopen portions of the roadway.
More via social media:
Accident with entrapment, N. Van Dorn Street near Kenmore Avenue.
— IAFF Local 2141 (@IAFFLocal2141) January 22, 2020
— IAFF Local 2141 (@IAFFLocal2141) January 22, 2020
Map via Google Maps
A car has crashed and overturned on W. Braddock Road at the intersection with N. Quaker Lane, near the Bradlee Shopping Center and Episcopal High School.
The crash happened around 12:30 p.m. on the west side of the busy intersection. Eastbound Braddock was briefly shut down to traffic, but two lanes have since reopened.
It was not immediately clear how the crash happened. It left heaps of shattered glass and orange juice splattered across the street, and also reportedly damaged a guide wire for a nearby utility pole.
No serious injuries were reported, according to police on the scene.