Fire Officials Deny Seminary Road Political Pressure — “The AFD representatives… pushed back on allegations that the city had strong-armed the fire department into supporting a certain stance. ‘No one is going to force me… to put people in harm’s way – the first responders or the people that we’re charged to protect,’ Smedley said. ‘That’s my number one goal, and that goal can be accomplished with however many lanes are on the roadway, as long as certain measures are in place. If that is being jeopardized, I will dig in hard.'” [Alexandria Times]
Resident: New Seminary Road is an Improvement — “As someone who lives on a small cul-de-sac off of Seminary Road, I am a daily user of Seminary Road. I use the road several times every day as either a driver, walker, cyclist, or simply as a resident. The new Seminary Road is beneficial to me and to my neighborhood. We are able to live with greater safety no matter how we use the road. We are people who live here — not just drive through to some other location.” [Gazette Packet]
Rent in Alexandria Lower Than Neighbors — “The District and Arlington County are virtually tied for average apartment rent, at $2,233 and $2,236 respectively. Rents in D.C. and Arlington County are both up 4.3% in the last year. The average rent in Alexandria is currently $1,746, up 2.8% from a year ago.” [WTOP]
Details About New Restaurant at Bradlee — “Rotisserie chicken, ceviche, lomo saltado and much more are on the menu at El Saltado, a new Peruvian restaurant that recently opened at Bradlee Shopping Center in Alexandria. The star of the menu is likely the charcoal-broiled chicken served with a house salad plus a choice of French fries, fried yuca, rice or Peruvian-style potato salad.” [Alexandria Living]
Old Town Theater Sign May Be Removed — “The Board of Architectural Review is set to consider allowing the removal and relocation of the Old Town Theater sign and other exterior changes as the space is set to become a Patagonia retail store. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Council Chamber at Alexandria City Hall.” [Patch]
APD Investigates Gunshots in Landmark — “The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a ‘shots fired’ call for service in the 200 block of South Whiting Street. Expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]
‘Normal Weekday’ on Seminary Road — Has the Seminary Road Diet produced a rush hour traffic nightmare, as some insist? Or is it just producing modest peak period delays, as data seems to show? Video posted by a local cycling advocate, shot shortly after 8 a.m. on a recent weekday, shows free-flowing traffic and no delays, though photos posted by road diet critics show backups at intersections. [Twitter, YouTube]
Students Write, Perform Play at Kennedy Center — “Two talented eighth grade students from George Washington Middle School had the experience of a lifetime when they wrote and performed in a play at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts earlier this month. Yahney-Marie Sangare and Sydney Payne were part of a team of young playwrights and actors who produced The Day Nothing Happened, a play about the desegregation of Stratford Middle School in Arlington.” [ACPS]
After months of activism over the much-maligned Seminary Road Diet, the Facebook group dedicated to opposing the lane reduction has rebranded itself and broadened its focus.
On Sunday, the Alexandria Residents Against the Seminary Road Diet Facebook group was renamed “Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria! End Seminary Rd Diet & Other Bad Ideas.”
“I think that trust in the city government has reached a low ebb. It’s the lowest that it’s been in the 30 years that I’ve lived in Alexandria,” said Bill Rossello, one of the administrators of the Facebook group. “When the city makes a decision, they just go through the motions to make it look like they are making efforts toward civic engagement.”
The group of around 1,500 vocal residents was founded in November — not long after the quick implementation of the road diet, a reduction of the 0.9 mile stretch of Seminary from N. Quaker Lane to Howard Street from four lanes to two, plus a center turn lane and bike lanes.
After Freedom of Information Act disclosures and continuous engagements with numerous city officials, City Councilwoman Amy Jackson surprised her colleagues in December by calling for a reversal of the road diet. Jackson ended up withdrawing her motion, although the group considers the attempted action a victory.
“It’s all about Facebook and the power of social media, because all these people came to us. With 1,500 people, word can spread very quickly,” Rossello said, adding that the road diet will be an election issue in the upcoming local Democratic primary in June 2021. “There will be more FOIAs, and judging from what Amy Jackson promised to do, there will be some movement on this… I imagine that most of our members will support candidates who want to reverse it.”
Now the group will focus its attention to issues across the city. Its description on Facebook now reads:
(T)he City’s lack of truthfulness and transparency has become a pattern across a number of policy decisions and proposals, including those related to road diets, Metro entrances, affordable housing, VDOT grants and business permitting without proper data, justification and approval from actual citizens of the City.
Rossello, who served on the city’s Budget and Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee for seven years in the 1990s, said that the private Facebook group is nonpartisan, but it is not intended to be a debate platform for city residents. About 19 members of the group have been kicked out for arguing, he noted, because the group is intended to be an “affinity group.”
A recent post emphasizes that discontentment among residents bridges the party divide.
“I like adding Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria to our name,” a group member wrote last night. “It helps combat the folks saying we’re grouchy right wingers. I, for one, am a liberal Democrat.”
“I think that we on this site want to prevent our pleasant, tree-lined City from turning into sterile, treeless Crystal City,” the post continued. “We favor a transportation department that promotes traffic flow, not traffic jams. We want our government to return to its friendly, honest, responsive ways. We want to end this era of… rigged community ‘input.'”
(Though the group is vocal in its opposition to the Seminary Road Diet, a less vocal group of residents, including many of those who live along the affected stretch of Seminary Road, support the changes. Also, it should be noted, Crystal City is not without trees.)
Despite the prohibition on arguing, Mayor Justin Wilson repeatedly engages on the page by making comments, many of which refute accusations of a conspiracy against city residents.
The mayor’s comments have fueled the determination of the group, Rossello said.
“I think that he [Wilson] has certainly added to the interest in the group and spurred a lot of discussions. People take advantage of that and spar with him,” Rossello said. “We are going to continue to put pressure on city officials.”
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.”
Don’t worry. Even though Hal Hardaway just closed on a house in Williamsburg, he’ll still be around half the time.
If you don’t know the 70-year-old Hardaway by sight, you might know his famous garage, or the emails the Old Town resident sends to more than 1,000 people on a daily basis railing about the Alexandria waterfront or videos he shares of electric scooter violators.
“I see four-year-old kids on scooters,” Hardaway told ALXnow. “Multiple kids on scooters, fathers with their little toddlers, you know, hanging on, going full speed down the street without helmets. I mean, that is just wrong. And then you get to the point, and we could talk about this for three hours, of how are we going to enforce the law?”
When not fixing up classic sports cars (he has five), Hardaway, a retired U.S. Navy captain, can routinely be spotted walking around lower King Street in his baseball cap, jeans and Navy jacket. He’s a historian at heart and wants to keep the city’s historic appearance in tact, and jokingly refers to last year’s Mirror-Mirror art display on the waterfront as “Technicolor Stonehenge.”
He also once unsuccessfully sued the city for what he viewed as height violations in the Robinson Terminal South development. Recently, he made a Freedom of Information Act request for information related to scooter companies operating in Alexandria. He found that there have been no fines levied against the companies since their introduction in Alexandria last year.
Lately, Hardaway’s been impressed with the Alexandrians Against The Seminary Road Diet Facebook group, and has commented on a few posts.
“This Seminary Road page is the most organized group I’ve seen on going after the city on these kinds of issues, and a kind of fun thing,” Hardaway said. “It’s really interesting, because people have got their their broad swords out now about City Hall… I wish I could have done something like this, and so I’ve made a couple comments this morning. I hope it expands into something greater, something beyond just Seminary Road.”
An only child, Hardaway grew up with an affinity for fixing things in his father’s machine and welding shop in the small town of Crewe, which is about 45 miles southwest of Richmond. After graduating with a physics degree from The College of William & Mary, he spent 30 years in the Navy and lived all over the world as a cryptologist (code breaking), even working a three-year stint as inspector general of the Naval Security Group Command under the Chief of Naval Operations.
Hardaway moved to the area in the late 1990s for his final naval tour at the Pentagon, and never left. He retired from the Navy in 2002 and then worked for eight years in the private sector before officially retiring in 2010. That was around the time that he got interested in local politics.
“I started attending waterfront meetings,” Hardaway said. “The entire reason the city is here is because of the waterfront, and there isn’t any signage or historical markers telling tourists why it’s so important.”
Hardaway is a member of the Environmental Council of Alexandria and sits on the organizing committee for the Old Town Festival of Speed and Style classic car show, the latter of which he co-founded. He recently bought a house in Williamsburg that will be able to accommodate four of his cars, and will soon be spending about half of his time there.
Like classic cars in need of repairs, he looks at Alexandria as a beautiful but broken machine, and he wants to help fix it.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to be here for years,” he said. “I think some progress is being made mainly because lots more people are engaged. Look at the development of the wetlands at Potomac Yard. That’s another one. The city is driven by money, and I like it here, but it’s hurt the quality of life, which is going downhill.”
Nicole Radshaw is all in favor of the much-maligned Seminary Road diet.
Three years ago on Halloween, the Seminary Valley resident was hit by a driver as she biked to work at a preschool on Seminary Road. Radshaw didn’t break any bones, but her bike was totaled, she spent a year in physical therapy, and saw a counselor to help deal with the trauma and anxiety of being hit by a car.
“It really sucked. I could have been a fatality. Cars were driving past as I was lying on the road,” Radshaw told ALXnow. “It took me three years to want to get back on a bike again.”
Radshaw belongs to a less vocal portion of city residents who favor the road diet, which has created consternation throughout Alexandria. Mayor Justin Wilson and city officials have acknowledged traffic delays at peak travel times since the 0.9 mile stretch of roadway between N. Quaker Lane and Howard Street was reduced from four to two lanes. Bike lanes on both sides were also added, in addition to a center turn lane, crosswalks and medians.
The city council and Department of Transportation and Environmental Services have received thousands of emails and messages against the plan. Arguments from the Alexandria Residents Against the Seminary Road Diet Facebook group even prompted Alexandria City Councilwoman Amy Jackson to call for a complete restart of the process.
Glenn Klaus lives in Rosemont, and his support of the road diet is more philosophical. He’s a cyclist and hasn’t yet biked on the new Seminary Road bike lanes, but wants to see fewer cars on city roadways.
“The city is trying to change driving behaviors and traffic patterns. People just have to deal, because ultimately I think that strategy is to their benefit,” Klaus said. “When people lose, it doesn’t mean they weren’t listened to. It just means their argument didn’t sway the decision-makers.”
Lisa Soronen lives on Fort Williams Parkway — about five blocks away from Seminary Road — and alternates between taking the bus in the morning and driving to work in the District. She walks her dog in the morning and crosses Seminary Road on foot up to six times a day, which used to be a “suicide mission,” she said. Now she says that drivers are paying more attention to the 25 mile per hour speed limit and she is no longer afraid of crossing the street.
“It’s absolutely wonderful, because if I want to cross the road I have a crosswalk,” Soronen said. “Same thing with the bus. Coming home after 5 p.m., I’d have to run across four lanes of traffic and someone might hit me. I’m really surprised that people feel so personal about it, and they have attacked me personally. I have been attacked online.”
Soronen said she has experienced delays along the roadway in the morning, and has seen emergency vehicles speed through the middle turn lane without issues . She got involved in the planning process for the roadway soon after moving into the neighborhood last April, and has corresponded with members of the city council and city staff.
“I might be delayed sometimes driving on Seminary, but it’s worth it for me for it to be safer for everyone,” she said. “The process I participated in seems open and fair. If things had gone the other way, I don’t think I would have considered that the process failed me.”
Soronen is an attorney and volunteers with the Mother of Light Center, which supports homeless Alexandrians. She said that the argument over the road diet is a waste of her time and distracts city council from its other work.
“I don’t understand the vitriol against this,” she said, calling the dispute “small and petty” and not as big of a deal as, say, poverty and homelessness in the city.
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.
Several streets are scheduled for repaving, which the city uses as an opportunity to look at which ones could benefit the most from being redesigned with safety in mind, to align with the city’s Vision Zero plan — though some have questioned whether the redesigns make the streets safer.
According to a press release:
In 2011, City Council adopted the Complete Streets Policy. This policy required that street improvements be made for all roadway users as part of regular maintenance whenever possible. When streets are repaved, this provides an opportunity to upgrade parts of the street to better serve people of all ages and abilities by improving safety, access, and mobility.
Currently, the City of Alexandria is looking for community input on whether the following streets should be converted to “Complete Streets.”
- Alfred Street (First Street to Church Street)
- Cameron Mills Road (Virginia Avenue to Allison Street)
- Morgan Street (North Chambliss Street to cul-de-sac)
- Rayburn Avenue (North Beauregard Street to Reading Avenue)
- Reading Avenue (Rayburn Avenue to North Beauregard Street)
- West Street (Duke Street to Wythe Street)
The public feedback form for Complete Streets is available online until Friday, Feb. 7.
While individual changes would depend on the street being repaved, the City of Alexandria said changes could include:
- Add or upgrade curb ramps
- Add or upgrade pedestrian crosswalks
- Roadway signage
- Bicycle facilities, such as bike lanes or shared-lane markings
- Speed cushions or other traffic calming devices
- Changes to parking
- Additional pedestrian crossing treatments
- Minor signal timing changes
- Lane striping modifications (i.e. striping a parking lane or narrowing travel lanes)
The city has a list of finished Complete Streets projects, but the list hasn’t been updated since 2017 and does not include, for instance, the completed King Street project that narrowed the street and installed new bicycle lanes.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
Seminary Road Saga Continues — Despite suggestions “that the Alexandria Fire Department had significant input into the Complete Streets Design Guidelines and whether to narrow Seminary Road, documents obtained by city residents under the Freedom of Information Act reveal this was not the case.” [Alexandria Times]
Sushi Restaurant Coming to ‘West Alex’ — “Sushi Jin Next Door, which opened its first restaurant in Silver Spring in 2006 and now has a second location in Woodbridge, is opening a third location in Alexandria, Virginia. The new location will be part of the West Alex mixed-use development at King Street and North Beauregard Street.” [WTOP]
New Glass Recycling Bin Now Open — “Alexandria residents wanting to recycle glass now have a fifth bin as an option. MOM’s Organic Market at 3831 Mt. Vernon Avenue is the location of the new purple recycling bin. The city ended curbside glass recycling on Jan. 15, citing increasing recycling costs and the lack of glass-sorting facilities in the region.” [Patch]
ACPS To Buy Five Electric School Buses — “Under the terms of the grant, Dominion Energy will pay the additional costs towards each of the five buses that ACPS was already scheduled to buy this summer, allowing ACPS to upgrade them to electric vehicles. The goal is to have the new electric buses on the roads in time for the start of the 2020-21 school year in September.” [ACPS]
Three months after a portion of Seminary Road was re-paved and re-striped to reduce it from two vehicular lanes in each direction to one lane, a turn lane and bike lanes, the debate over the “road diet” still rages on.
On the now-private Alexandria Residents Against the Seminary Road Diet Facebook group, numerous posts per day bemoan the state of rush hour traffic along Seminary Road, report on cut-through traffic on nearby roads, and rip Mayor Justin Wilson for his support of the project. (Wilson, a member of the group, often politely replies to the invective.)
No one is denying that the road diet is causing some level of increased traffic during certain times. Earlier this month Wilson wrote in his Council Connection newsletter that there were still increased delays for drivers on Seminary Road, but they were largely confined to narrow peak rush hour periods and were improving over time:
During the evening rush, the peak travel period has been 5:15 PM to 5:30 PM. Prior to the change, the average travel time from the intersection of Quaker Lane and Seminary Road to Jordan Street and Seminary Road was 3.5 minutes. In November, after the changes were implemented, we saw a 40% increase in this travel time, with an average of 4.9 minutes. In December (excluding holidays and days when school is not in session), the average travel time was down to 3.9 minutes, an increase of 24 seconds from before the changes.
During the morning rush, the peak travel period has been 8:15 AM to 8:30 AM. Prior to the change, the average travel time from the intersection of Quaker Lane and Seminary Road to Jordan Street and Seminary Road was 3.6 minutes. In November, after the changes were implemented, we saw a 98% increase in this travel time, with an average of 7.1 minutes. In December (excluding holidays and days when school is not in session), the average travel time was down to 4.7 minutes, an increase of a bit over a minute from before the changes.
This morning, a review of traffic conditions via Google Maps showed mostly clear sailing as of 8:45 a.m. The city’s traffic monitoring service similarly showed a 25 mph average speed on Seminary and Janneys Lane, between N. Beauregard Street and King Street, from 8-9 a.m. this morning.
Google Maps reports higher levels of “typical traffic” and delays around 8 a.m. on most weekdays.
Ultimately, the Seminary Road question is one of priorities. Should the city’s priority be to reduce rush hour delays for drivers? (And, potentially, emergency vehicles — though no issues have been reported so far.)
Or should the city stick to its guns and sacrifice some commute times in the name of pedestrian safety and encouraging other forms of transportation, like bikes and scooters?
Let us know what you think in the poll and the comments.
Map via Google Maps
There have been no complaints or transportation issues with fire and emergency personnel along the stretch of Seminary Road that has undergone the controversial road diet, according to Alexandria Fire Chief Corey Smedley.
“The measures needed for us to safely travel on Seminary Road before, during, and after an emergency call have been put into place,” Smedley told ALXnow. “At this point, we haven’t received any complaints from our drivers or battalion chiefs regarding travel issues. Our priority will always be the safety of the community and the members of the Alexandria Fire Department. When we receive an emergency call, we will do everything within our power to respond and navigate the City no matter the circumstance or conditions.”
The city initially admitted that there were significant traffic delays as the lane reduction was being implemented between N. Quaker Lane and Howard Street, though those delays have since lessened, according to Mayor Justin Wilson. Inova Alexandria Hospital is located on the reconfigured stretch of Seminary and there has been concern that the road diet impacts access for emergency personnel.
Despite the fire department not reporting any issues and Virginia Theological Seminary — a major property owner along Seminary Road — supporting the changes for its pedestrian safety improvements, former Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg has joined the chorus of community members who are asking that the roadway be put back the way it was.
She said that the road is an “unnecessary risk to public safety.”
“According to the City’s own data, this portion of Seminary was among the safest streets in Alexandria,” Silberberg said. “There was a legitimate need for additional pedestrian crosswalks, but this could have been done without the road diet.”
“In addition to the incredible traffic jams our residents now experience on Seminary Road and adjoining roads, the overriding concern to all of us should be the safety of those who need to reach our City’s only hospital during emergencies,” she continued. “The construction of raised medians combined with the reduction of travel lanes has created a potentially dangerous situation for our first responders and residents. We all know that during emergencies, minutes and even seconds matter. Thirteen Civic Associations from across the city and the Federation of Civic Associations were correct when they urged the City not to reduce the capacity of a major arterial road by 50%, creating significant traffic delays and unnecessary risk to public safety.”
It was quite a year in Alexandria. It’s safe to say that 202o will be just as busy, but in the meantime let’s take a look at the top stories from the last year.
1. The Seminary Road Diet
Few local transportation stories have gotten as much attention as City Council’s 4-3 decision on the Seminary Road diet. The move seems simple enough — consolidating from four to two lanes in both directions between N. Quaker Lane and Howard Street with a turn lane in the middle and bike lanes on both sides. Public discord over the change prompted the creation of a Facebook page, which has dramatically turned up the temperature on the issue, even leading to City Councilwoman Amy Jackson to publicly call for a complete reversal on the decision and restart of the process.
See: More Work on Seminary Road This Spring If the State Will Pony Up the Cash
More: Virginia Theological Seminary Weighs In Favor of Seminary Road Diet
2. Legendary Titans Pass Away
Alexandria lost a number of inspiring figures in 2019, including members of the state championship-winning 1971 T.C. Williams High School football team. The team, who were immortalized in the 2000 film “Remember The Titans” starring Denzel Washington, lost coach Herman Boone, assistant coach Bill Yoast and players Petey Jones and Julius Campbell.
3. ACPS fully Accredited for First Time in 20 Years
It took two decades, and in September Alexandria City Public Schools system announced that all of the city’s public schools reached their state mandated benchmarks to be fully accredited for the 2019-2020 academic year. Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings said that the success didn’t come by chance and that it took six superintendents and a lot of “planning, preparation and dedication for all students to experience success regardless of their life circumstances” to get ACPS where it is today.
All ACPS Schools Fully Accredited for First Time in 20 Years – ACPS Express https://t.co/mjsBbdCHM9
— Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. (@DrHutchings) September 30, 2019
4. Ground Broken at Potomac Yard Metro Station
After decades of finalizing plans and making deals, ground was finally broken in December for the construction of the Potomac Yard Metro station. The plan is to open the $320 million station by spring 2022, and while development will result in the demolition of the Regal Potomac Yard movie theater, the area will positively be booming with the eventual addition of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, a new mixed-use redevelopment, Amazon HQ2 in Crystal City and much more.
“This has been a quarter-century in the making,” Mayor Justin Wilson said at the groundbreaking. “This is a big… deal.”
5. Alexandria’s Summer Metro Shutdown
Did you have to get creative in your commute over the summer? You weren’t alone. Thousands of commuters in the area were forced to make alternate plans so that Metro could make crucial improvements to all of the station platforms south of the Reagan National Airport station. The shutdown meant expanded Metro and DASH bus routes, morning trolley rides from the King Street station, Potomac Riverboat Company Water Taxi ferries from the Alexandria Waterfront into the District and more. The renovation is part of a $300-$400 million project to rebuild 20 outdoor platforms throughout the Metro system. Once reopened, commuters were introduced to new speakers for clearer public announcements and emergency notifications, stainless-steel platform shelters, passenger information display screens and energy-efficient LED lighting.
— The Zebra (@ZebraAlexandria) September 9, 2019