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Mark Center Avenue and Seminary Road, image via Google Maps

A three-car crash has temporarily shut down part of Seminary Road near the intersection with N. Beauregard Street.

Alexandria Police said in a release that the crash has shut down westbound traffic on Seminary Road after Mark Center Avenue, between N. Beauregard Street and I-395.

Injuries from the crash are non-life-threatening, according to police

Image via Google Maps

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Crash reported at Seminary Road and Beauregard Street, image via Google Maps

Multiple cars, including at least one police vehicle, were involved in a crash this morning that resulted in multiple injuries.

The crash occurred sometime before 6 a.m. this morning at the intersection of Beauregard Street and Seminary Road.

Alexandria Police spokesman Marcel Bassett confirmed to ALXnow that a police vehicle was involved in the crash. Bassett said three cars were involved in the crash. There were at least two serious but non-life threatening injuries, and at least two people were taken to the hospital.

The street remained closed as of 9 a.m. as police continued their investigation.

Image via Google Maps

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Pump the brakes if you’re cruising down Seminary Road, the City of Alexandria has dropped the speed limit on the arterial road from 35 mph to 25.

The move comes after years of efforts by the city to redesign the road, which included reducing travel lanes to add more pedestrian and bicycle space, which have at times sparked intense backlash. In a press release, the city said the goal is to reduce speed on the street to limit the severity and frequency of crashes. The change will impact Seminary Road between I-395 and the City limits.

“This section of Seminary Road has the highest number of injury crashes per mile per year, compared to similar streets in Alexandria,” the city said. “Between January 2016 and June 2021, there were 239 reportable crashes on this section of Seminary Road. Of those crashes, two were fatal, eight involved severe injury and 59 involved non-life-threatening injuries. A third person was killed on Seminary Road at Fairbanks Avenue in September 2021.”

The recommendation for the reduced speed limit came from the Traffic and Parking Board. The new speed limit signs were installed this week, the city said.

“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,” the city said. “After the speed limit was reduced on Quaker Lane and on Seminary Road east of I-395, both speeds and average annual number of crashes declined.”

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South-facing ramp in the I-395/Seminary Road interchange, image via VDOT

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is hosting a meeting next week to discuss plans to add the option of non-HOV vehicles to access the Seminary Road ramp to I-395, but with a toll.

The ramp would still provide free access to the express lanes for vehicles with three or more occupants but would open up access to vehicles with fewer than three occupants who pay a toll.

The meeting will be virtual and is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 6, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

“This south-facing reversible ramp at I-395 and Seminary Road falls within the limits of and provides access to the 395 Express Lanes,” VDOT said on its website. “Currently, this ramp operates as an HOV-only ramp, providing access to the 395 Express Lanes at all times for carpools and buses. VDOT’s private operator of the 395 Express Lanes, Transurban, is proposing to convert this ramp from an HOV-only ramp to an express lanes ramp.”

The plan has been in the works for a while, with meetings in 2019 before the project was delayed by the pandemic. The city website said in November, VDOT informed the city that they were planning to move forward with the project once again.

“The south-facing ramp, opened in early 2016, was planned to remain restricted high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) and transit traffic traveling north in the morning and south in the evening, even after completion of the I-395 Express Lanes,” the city said.

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Virginia State Police pursuing a vehicle on I-395 (photo via Dave Statter/Twitter)

Two Maryland juveniles have been arrested and face several charges after leading Virginia State Police on a high-speed chase that ended in a crash at the I-395 and Seminary Road interchange on Wednesday afternoon (October 27).

According to a release put out by the Virginia State Police, the chase started at around 2:30 p.m. after an Infiniti was clocked doing 89 mph in a 55 mph zone and displaying a fake temporary registration tag.

“The trooper activated his emergency lights and sirens to initiate a traffic stop for speeding, but the driver of the Infiniti refused to stop,” the Virginia State Police said. “Instead, it cut across all four lanes of travel in an attempt to elude the trooper. A pursuit was initiated.”

The release said the Infiniti exited Interstate 395 at Duke Street and continued west toward Beauregard Street, then returned to northbound I-395 where it changed lanes while allegedly going at 115 mph. During one lane change at Seminary Road, the drivers lost control of the car and it struck a Honda Civic and a Jersey wall.

The driver of the Honda, a 29-year-old man from Fredericksburg, was transported to a local hospital with minor injuries from the crash. the drivers of the Infiniti were arrested and also taken to a hospital.

“The 17-year-old male driver from Capitol Heights, Maryland and the 17-year-old male passenger from Prince George, Maryland were taken into custody,” the release said. “Two loaded handguns and prescription narcotics were recovered at the scene. Both juveniles were transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of injuries sustained in the crash.”

The driver of the Infiniti has been charged with reckless driving, improper registration, one felony count of eluding police, failure to maintain control, and a series of felony possession charges. The passenger is also facing felony firearm possession charges along with narcotics charges.

Part of the incident was captured on a traffic camera video and shared by public safety watchdog Dave Statter.

The incident followed another pursuit a few days earlier where both driver and passenger died in a crash. The pursuit started with speeding and a claim from a dispatcher that the vehicle was stolen, which later turned out to be false. Whether or not Virginia State Police should have broad authorization to engage in pursuits has been an issue of some debate.

Photo via Dave Statter/Twitter

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The Alexandria Housing Development Corporation is planning to head to city review by the end of the year for a new project that will add 31 affordable housing units to the Seminary Hill neighborhood at 4547, 4555, and 4575 Seminary Road.

“The Applicant, the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation (AHDC) is seeking to consolidate three lots into one and build a condominium project that includes 31 affordable for-sale townhouse-condo units that target average median incomes (AMI) at or below 80% and 8 rental and for-sale multi-family units,” AHDC said in an application.

Three of the multi-family units will be 4-bedroom housing units operated by Sheltered Homes of Alexandria, which will help expand the number of intellectually disabled adults currently served at the group home at 4547 Seminary Road. The remaining five multi-family units will be for sale at 80% AMI or below.

Each of the townhouse units will have 2 parking spaces in an attached garage, the application said. The multi-family units will have access to 19 surface parking spaces, with 12 spaces for residents and seven for visitors.

“The applicant firmly believes that this project serves many goals of the city, but most importantly, by increasing affordable homeownership opportunities for residents with low and moderate incomes, it serves the goals of the city’s Housing Master Plan,” the AHDC application said. “Particularly, the project furthers the city’s goal of creating economic diversity among city residents resulting in strong, resilient neighborhoods…”

The project is scheduled to be reviewed at the Planning Commission on Dec. 7.

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Morning Notes

Alexandria boxer Troy Isley to compete in Olympics — “Troy Isley, 22, is a middleweight boxer from Alexandria, a T.C. Williams High School alumnus and part of the Alexandria Boxing Club. He secured his spot on the Olympic team on June 7, USA Boxing confirmed.” [Patch]

Alexandria Police helped chase down suspect Friday — “Alert:: APD assisted PG County Police and Fairfax County Police with chasing down a suspect. The chase originated in PG County and came through our city via Fairfax County. No injuries to report. The suspect was taken into custody.” [Twitter]

Emmy Squared Opens in Old Town — “After a soft opening this weekend, Emmy Squared will open its doors Wednesday, June 30 at 124 King St., in the heart of Old Town Alexandria, near the waterfront.” [Alexandria Living]

New uses coming to original Mount Vernon High School — “The building was originally built in 1939 on land that used to be part of George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. It was used as a high school until 1973 and then a middle school until 1985. The building was then leased to the Islamic Saudi Academy in 1989 until that school relocated to a new building in 2016.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Sunny (during the day). Hot. High 94F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph… Clear skies (in the evening). Low 74F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Tour guide — “Seeking a responsible, punctual, and social tour guide/driver to help with winery and brewery tours on weekends. Must be comfortable driving large groups (driving minivan or 15 passenger van). Clean driving record is a Must!” [Indeed]

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The controversy over the Seminary Road Diet has been front and center this election season, with a majority of City Council candidates saying they will vote to reverse it if elected.

Council candidates have been peppered with questions on the road diet, in addition to their general philosophies on roadway development and community engagement.

Even Mayor Justin Wilson seems open to tweaking the plan, while his opponent, former Mayor Allison Silberberg is for fully returning the four travel lanes on the one mile of roadway next to Inova Alexandria Hospital.

Currently, the City has no plans to widen Seminary Road nor any estimates on how to do so, according to an email from the Alexandria Department of Transportation and Environmental Services. The stretch between N. Quaker Lane and Howard Street was reduced from four to two lanes, and a center turn lane, bike lanes, crosswalks and medians were added. Sidewalks were also installed on both sides of the street.

The City received thousands of emails and messages against the plan. Shortly after its approval in 2019, City Councilwoman Amy Jackson even tried to get it reversed, although her motion failed for lack of a gaining a second.

City staff estimated after the road diet’s implementation that fully reverting it back to its former self would cost up to $700,000, according to a Feb. 2020 presentation to Council. Replacing the two standard islands with mountable islands would cost $40,000, and it would also cost $300,000 to erase the roadway markings and re-patch the areas with asphalt. Additionally, it is estimated that micro-surfacing the roadway would also cost $500,000.

Shortly before the road diet’s 4-3 Council passage, however, city staff also presented a $150,000 alternative.

“Staff provided this estimate before a conceptual alternative was adopted and before the City’s interdisciplinary team developed detailed design plans,” City staff told ALXnow. “The $300,000 to $700,000 range of estimates were developed post-construction with current (at that time) costs and design plans that were implemented to reflect what would need to be demolished and removed to revert to a four-lane cross section. Further estimating and actual quotes will need to be developed based off the specific Council direction.”

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It’s been nearly ten years since Republicans had a spot on the City Council, but Republican City Council candidate Darryl Nirenberg is hoping several divisive issues that have cropped up over the last couple years can help break the blue stranglehold on the city this November.

“Prospects for a Republican are better now than they have been for years,” Nirenberg said. “The issues facing our city, such as divisive plans to house adults on school grounds; road diets; promoting more density in the midst of a pandemic; neglect of our storm drains and infrastructure; and destroying green space — are not partisan.”

Nirenberg also has a personal tie to the legacy of racism within the Republican party. From 1992-1995, he was chief of staff to Senator Jesse Helms, who is largely known for his fierce opposition to desegregation and his derision of Martin Luther King Jr.

According to a biography at his employer’s website, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Nirenberg listed his work with Helms as dealing with banking, financial, and judicial issues. Before that, from 1987 to 1992 he was a counsel and deputy chief of staff for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and from 1983 to 1987 he was a staffer on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

Nirenberg, a graduate of The George Washington University Law School, said he has experienced prejudice himself firsthand and, despite working for a segregationist, that he has always supported civil rights:

Having known and experienced prejudice myself growing up Jewish in rural New York, I have always supported civil rights, and I believe everyone has the right to marry whomever they wish regardless of gender. I have worked for Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R-NY) and Sen. S.I. Hayakawa (R-CA), served on the staff of two Senate Committees, and practiced policy advocacy for Tom Boggs. Instead of talking about these jobs and a long deceased Senator for whom I worked over a quarter century ago, I’d much prefer to focus on what’s at stake in this election and how we can work together to improve the quality of life for all who live in our city.

Even within the Democratic primary, housing co-location at schools, the Seminary Road diet, and stormwater infrastructure have been contentious issues between candidates. Nirenberg said he hopes the frustration with incumbents can lead to local citizens throwing more support behind Republican candidates in November.

“There is a growing recognition that the process is broken; that 100% one party rule over time does not produce the best results, and that there is a need for checks and balances,” Nirenberg said. “We all know the best decisions are reached when there are people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse perspectives sitting around the table.”

Along with Nirenberg’s City Council bid, Annetta Catchings is running as the Republican candidate for mayor. The last Republican City Council members were Alicia Hughes and Frank Fannon, who were ousted in 2012. The last Republican Mayor was elected in 1872 — years before the party’s staunch opposition to the Civil Rights movement starting in the early 20th century led to party realignment.

“We need to plan for our future, not muddle into it,” Nirenberg said. “These policies aren’t divisive or partisan. They are just common-sense.”

So far, Nirenberg has raised $42,807.

His top issues are:

  • “The learning gap and reopening schools — not housing adults there.
  • “Restore Seminary Road and end road diets.”
  • “Save Chinquapin Park and preserve our green space.”
  • “Fix our storm drains now.”
  • “Stop spending tax dollars to promote more density until our schools and infrastructure catch up and there is a plan to accommodate more density.”

Photo via DarrylNirenberg.com

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With no more mayoral debates, now it all boils down to the Democratic primary on June 8.

Like the main event at a boxing match, Mayor Justin Wilson and former Mayor Allison Silberberg on Thursday night maneuvered through a series of questions in the final of four Seminary Ridge Civic Association candidate forums.

This is the final debate or forum for the two candidates until the June 8 Democratic primary.

Wilson is leading in fundraising and endorsements, while underdog Silberberg has gotten support from groups like the Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria Facebook page for agreeing on a number of its pet issues, including government transparency, reversing the Seminary Road Diet, and curbing developments.

Fifteen City Council candidates participated in the Seminary Ridge conversations, opining on density, affordable housing, government transparency, flooding, and, their opinions on making changes to the controversial Seminary Road Diet.

After a 4-3 Council vote in 2019, the road, which is next to Inova Alexandria Hospital, was reduced from four to two lanes in exchange for a center turn lane, bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the street, crosswalks and medians. A majority of Council candidates are now in favor of taking a look at bringing travel lanes back from two to four lanes on the 0.9 mile stretch of roadway between N. Quaker Lane and Howard Street.

Wilson said that he is in favor of tweaking the plan, although has been accused of ignoring the opposition of 13 civic associations.

“It’s unfortunately we couldn’t get everyone in the community on the same page on this issue,” Wilson said. “I believe the improvements that we made were good ones. I’m hopeful that in the future we can continue to tweak as necessary.”

Silberberg said she would restore the four lanes.

“This is a major arterial road that leads to our only hospital,” she said. “I’ve seen it and many residents have seen it and told me about it that they’ve seen ambulances stuck. I think we have a chance to right this wrong, and, of course, keep the pedestrian improvements, but I wouldn’t have voted for it and I will restore the travel lanes if I can get everyone together on that.”

Transparency

Silberberg said she’s been saddened to hear reports of residents not trusting their government, and defended recently pledging herself to an accountability pledge labeled the Alexandria Constituents’ Bill of Rights. Silberberg lost to Wilson in the Democratic primary in 2018, and says that she worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week during her single term.

“I think they [City staff] should sign the pledge as well,” she said.

Silberberg also criticized the performance and six-figure salary of City Manager Mark Jinks.

“It is a lot of money, frankly. I brought this up (when mayor) but nobody agreed with me, but for the City Manager to have a car allowance. It sounds minor, but I don’t think we should have that for him. I think we should revise that.”

Wilson said that Jinks’ salary was in the middle of the pack when compared to the salaries of neighboring jurisdictions, and that he is appropriately paid given the organization that he runs.

Colocation of affordable housing

Wilson said he does not want to colocate affordable housing on the grounds of Alexandria City Public Schools, a position echoed by Silberberg on another controversial issue.

I don’t support putting affordable housing on our existing school properties,” he said. “We need more instructional space.”

Silberberg said that the school system is bursting at the seams as it is.

“I would certainly support an ordinance to say no to putting housing on our limited school properties,” she said.

Stream restoration

Wilson said that the city’s Environmental Policy Commission is full of “good science minds” that can look into the city’s stream restoration projects, including at Taylor Run, Strawberry Run and Lucky Run. Last month, Council opted to send aspects of the projects back to the drawing board in light of widespread public criticism.

Silberberg says that Alexandria has few forests left, and that she has long been opposed to the plans, as well as Wilson’s “unending pursuit of overbuilding”.

Transit lanes on Duke Street

Speaking of road diets, Wilson and Silberberg agreed that the Duke Street Transitway project should not result in fewer traffic lanes between Landmark Mall and the King Street-Old Town Metro station.

I personally don’t think the volumes on Duke street would allow us to remove any traffic lanes on Duke Street,” Wilson said. “We’re gonna have a lot of community engagement to figure out the best alignment, as well as looking at the intersections to try to reduce some of the cut-through traffic that we see in a lot of our neighborhoods.”

The city is embarking on the public engagement part of the project next month.

On $60 million in federal COVID funding

Silberberg said that the nearly $60 million in COVID relief funds coming to the city should be handled carefully, and after all of last year’s flooding that the funds should be spent on stormwater infrastructure.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime investment from the federal government, and we need to be extremely careful and good stewards of this money,” she said. “Think about what is mission critical. First and foremost, I think we clearly have to focus like a laser beam on this flooding, the sewage and stormwater flooding that’s attacking, and stalking, really, our residents every time it rains.”

Wilson said he’s proud to have led the city through the most significant public health crisis in a century, and that the city needs to invest more in the social, emotional and academic losses experienced by Alexandria children.

“We have an opportunity to make generational investments in our community around our infrastructure, around our facilities, around some of the systems around workforce development and things that are going to ultimately benefit our community for generations,” he said. “We got 1,300 suggestions from the community, and we’re going to be working in June and July to apply those suggestions in figuring out how to use that first tranche of money.”

Image via Seminary Ridge Civic Association/Zoom

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