Alexandria, VA

Seminary Road has seen delays beyond standard reconstruction work as the city implements the new Complete Streets configuration, according to a staff memo to City Council.

The plan takes the four lanes on Seminary Road from N. Howard Street to N. Quaker Lane down to one travel lane in each direction and a turn lane also accessible to emergency vehicles. The change allows for a new bicycle lane to be placed on the street, part of a push to make Alexandria more accessible to non-vehicle forms of transportation — and a broader effort called Vision Zero to reduce or eliminate traffic fatalities.

The plan has been controversial, with advocates arguing that the change right-sizes transportation uses to make the streets safer and more accessible to cyclists, while critics said the plan will create further congestion for drivers.

In a memo to the City Council, Hillary Orr, deputy director of Transportation and Environmental Services (T&ES), said that the paving of Seminary Road has been completed and crews are now working on implementing the road reconfiguration, but the street has seen additional traffic delays in the month since the project started.

“While we understand that delays are frustrating, the corridor is still under construction and all of the components that work together to make this project work are not yet complete,” Orr said. “While there have been some increased queues during the peak half-hour in the morning, we are still generally seeing vehicles able to get through a signal in one cycle. The evening peak is a bit longer, and we have seen some delays between 5:30-6:30 p.m., with 6-6:15 p.m. as the peak.”

Orr said other delays have been caused by the disconnection of signal hardware that tells traffic lights when there are vehicles on the roads. Once paving was completed, Orr said these were reinstalled and reconnected and those delays have eased.

“With any road reconstruction and design reconfiguration, delays are to be expected while the project is implemented and motorists get used to new traffic patterns,” Orr said. “This is one example of how construction impacts travel times, and there are numerous other instances that occurred this week and caused residents to reach out regarding delays.”

If you were one of the people caught on Seminary Road last Thursday (Nov. 7), Orr said the delays were part of a spike in traffic throughout the region.

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Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of fire department and police activity at Beth El Hebrew Congregation in Alexandria on Monday — it’s just a drill.

The synagogue at 3830 Seminary Road will be hosting a “a critical incident training exercise” from 8-11 a.m. and 6-9 p.m. on Veterans Day (Nov. 11). Alexandria police and firefighters will be conducting the exercise.

“Residents should expect police activity, interment road closures and a variety of police and fire vehicles,” police said via social media.

Photo via Google Maps

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The Washington Capitals are hosting a free street hockey class for children in Alexandria.

The class is planned for the Seminary Road Roller Rink at Francis C. Hammond Middle School (4646 Seminary Road) in Alexandria tomorrow (Wednesday). The class will run from 4:45-5:45 p.m. after a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The class is part of a series that the Capitals have hosted across the region celebrating refurbished outdoor rinks. The Capitals renovated the rink at Hammond Middle School, replacing the boards around the rink and adding a new scoreboard.

The class is aimed at children between ages 8-14. Equipment for the clinic will be provided and all participants will receive a free hockey stick.

If you’re over 14 but still intrigued by the new roller hockey rink, there is an adult league with leagues varying from novices to advanced levels.

Photo via Facebook/ACPS

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The controversial vote to slim down Seminary Road may have passed, but the arguments over Complete Streets and the program’s future in Alexandria are just getting started.

At Agenda Alexandria, a group that meets monthly to discuss the top issues affecting Alexandria with a panel of experts, advocates on every side of the issue clashed over whether the “dieting” of Seminary Road was necessary and what the future holds for major Alexandria streets. At the group’s Sept. 23 meeting, a city official argued with local residents not just over the new bike lanes, but over changes to Alexandria’s transportation policies.

“Our paradigm in the past has been exclusively through the windshield,” said Nate Macek, chair of the Planning Commission. “Complete streets is about looking at [roads] for all users.”

Macek argued the Complete Streets program, which replaces some motorized travel lanes with extended sidewalks and bike lanes, right-sizes road infrastructure to cater to all modes of transportation.

“Complete streets are about roads for everyone, whether that’s biking, walking, or driving,” said Josephine Liu, vice-chair of the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. “That’s also all ages: children, adults, senior citizens and people who may not be able-bodied.”

But for others, the Complete Streets program is a punitive measure against cars that disproportionately favors bicycles.

“It’s about reorienting the streetscape to accommodate every user,” John Townsend, Manager of Public and Government Relations for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “That’s what it is on paper, but oftentimes it doesn’t work out that way. It gives pride of place to certain modes of transportation and that becomes the inherent problem. There’s nothing wrong with accommodating the streetscape to make them safer or accommodate the maximum number of people, but it comes down to making choices and those choices involve who is in and who is out.”

Townsend argued that in terms of voices on the Complete Streets decision-making, cars are “the low person on the totem pole.” Drivers don’t have the same collective voice in city policy that cyclists do and thus their problems — like gridlock — get left by the wayside, Townsend said.

“There is a fanatic minority who want to get people out of cars, lower the speed limits and reduce the size of roads,” agreed Jack Sullivan, former president of the Seminary Hill Association. “They are being heard in the towers of power.”

While the conversation started with Complete Streets on Seminary Road, critics of the plan drove the discussion to other transportation issues across the city. Townsend argued the slimming down of Seminary Road is just a symptom of a broader problem: that transportation planners don’t account for real-world circumstances.

“The one size fits all approach to planning that comes out of the West Coast, goes to the District of Columbia, and then we try to make it fit in Alexandria,” Townsend said. “These planners stay in college and they lay on the grass and they smoke grass and they don’t know how real people live.”

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