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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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A plan to install Alexandria’s first speed cameras is headed to final review at the City Council later this month.

The ordinance will authorize the installation of five cameras across Alexandria school zones with the goal of reducing speeds in those zones.

The ordinance doesn’t specify where those cameras will be placed but adds “photo speed monitoring devices” into the city code.

The ordinance will allow cameras for use both in school zones and in highway work zones.

The new ordinance comes after Virginia code was amended in 2020 to allow limited use of speed cameras in the aforementioned school zones and highway work zones. The five cameras installed will be the first speed cameras in Alexandria.

A presentation to the City Council presented a few parameters for the program:

  • A sworn police officer must confirm the violations
  • Signs must clearly be placed alerting drivers in advance of the speed camera enforcement zone
  • Fines cannot exceed $100

Staff recommended approval of the new ordinance. The proposal is scheduled for first reading next Tuesday, Oct. 11, and final review on Saturday, Oct. 15

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A new study shows that the most dangerous area for pedestrians is Old Town.

The law firm of Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp commissioned the study, which identified 20 areas, and was conducted by California-based 1Point21 Interactive.

The study, which includes an interactive map, tabulated more than 11,000 crashes between 2015 and 2022, with the most in Alexandria’s Old Town Historic District.

There were 68 crashes and 75 injuries, throughout Old Town. In second place is the MCV and Capitol districts of Richmond with 55 crashes and 56 pedestrians injured, followed by  Clarendon in Arlington County with 52 crashes and 58 pedestrian injuries.

“In Virginia, pedestrian safety is a growing concern. From 2015 through June 2022, over 11,000 pedestrians were struck in the state of Virginia, leaving over 10,000 injured and 848 dead,” according to the study.

The top 20 most dangerous areas are below.

RANK ZONE NAME LOCATION CRASHES PEDESTRIANS INJURED
1 Alexandria Historic District Alexandria 68 75
2 Capitol – Biotech and MCV Districts Richmond 55 56
3 Clarendon Arlington County 52 58
4 Belvidere St Corridor Richmond 44 43
5 Monroe Ward Richmond 37 39
6 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond 34 35
7 Ballston Arlington County 32 31
8 North Rosslyn Arlington County 31 32
9 Caroline Street Corridor Fredericksburg 29 33
10 Shockoe Bottom Richmond 26 26
11 Columbia Pike Corridor Arlington County 24 25
12 Pacific Ave Corridor Virginia Beach 20 20
13 Main St Corridor Blacksburg 19 19
14 Shockoe Slip Richmond 18 18
15 Crystal City – Richmond Hwy & 23rd St Arlington County 18 20
16 Wilson Blvd Corridor Arlington County 18 18
17 Court House Arlington County 16 17
18 Ridge St Corridor Charlottesville 15 14
19 Columbia Pike & S Four Mile Run Dr. Arlington County 15 15
20 Downtown Roanoke Roanoke 14 14
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Traffic backed up off Duke Street, courtesy Jill Hoffman

(Updated 8/3) The City of Alexandria is moving forward with the next stage of a pilot program to keep traffic on Duke Street and off residential streets, but Mayor Justin Wilson said in a recent newsletter that this is the start of a broader effort targeting cut-through traffic.

Wilson said the issue of congestion’s impact on the quality of life for Alexandrians came up during an update to the Alexandria Mobility Plan in 2021.

“The data collection that was performed for the Central Alexandria Traffic Study revealed that a relatively small number of residential streets were carrying inordinate amounts of ‘cut-through’ traffic,” Wilson wrote, “mostly using those streets to access the Telegraph interchange with the Beltway.”

The study found that:

  • Of the vehicles coming from Seminary Road and Quaker Lane, roughly half use Quaker Lane to access the Telegraph Road ramp and half use local streets, namely Cambridge Road, Yale Drive and West Taylor Run Parkway.
  • Of the vehicles coming from Seminary Road, 16% use Jordan Street (5%) or Fort Williams Parkway (11%). Roughly 35% use Quaker Lane and about half use local streets that are east of Quaker Lane.
  • Of the vehicles coming from King Street, about 85% use West Taylor Run Parkway with most of the rest using Cambridge Road (13%).

Earlier this year, a pilot program implemented changes to light timing on Duke Street, Quaker Lane, and the connected side streets in an effort to disincentivize using the side streets to get around traffic on the arterial roads.

According to Wilson, the data from that pilot was generally positive:

  • Overall volume on the Telegraph Road ramp was down by 14%
  • Travel times for all routes were faster than before, but were about 35% faster using Quaker Lane and 20% faster on West Taylor Run
  • Cut through traffic on Quaker Lane increased by 23%
  • Cut through traffic on West Taylor Run and Cambridge Road decreased by 47% and 73%, respectively.
  • Cut through traffic on Yale Drive, with the new “no left turn” restriction in place, decreased by 96%, from 706 vehicles in the peak to 31​
  • Cut through traffic on Fort Williams Parkway decreased substantially, by 81%, from 171 vehicles to 32

One of the decidedly unscientific ALXnow polls indicated that 49% of respondants wanted the signal changes to be made permanent, while another 33% wanted to see wait to see how phase two would impact traffic.

That second phase of the pilot is in the works, which would bring back the light timing but also limit access from West Taylor Run Parkway to Telegraph Road.

“The plan is to assess the impact, collect data and engage with the community to ensure these changes achieve the results they are designed to create,” Wilson wrote. “Our City staff will be discussing the Phase 2 pilot at a Clover College Park Civic Association meeting on August 10th. This meeting is open to the public.”

The City is going to be hosting their own virtual meeting on this project on August 11.

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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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After more than 10 years in development, the high-capacity Duke Street Transitway is getting the show on the road.

The Alexandria City Council, at its meeting March 8, will vote on authorizing the city manager to appoint an Ad Hoc Duke Street Transitway Advisory Group. The nine-person body will spend the next year providing recommendations for corridor design alternatives, and will endorse a preferred alternative by spring 2023.

The new advisory group will be tasked with adopting or amending the 2012 Transit Corridors Feasibility Plan, which outlines the project below:

  • It would create dedicated transit lanes in existing six-lane sections of Duke Street between Landmark Mall and Jordan Street and between Roth Street and Diagonal Road
  • In the remaining section of Duke Street between Jordan Street and Roth Street, transit would operate in mixed flow
  • A parallel off-corridor bicycle facility should be examined to accommodate bicyclists along Duke Street and improved pedestrian facilities would be provided at intersections and near transit stations
  • Preliminary implementation should prioritize enhanced pedestrian safety and improvements at Taylor Run Parkway

The advisory group will be made up of nine members:

  • Transportation commissioner
  • Planning Commissioner
  • Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities member or designee
  • DASH Bus Riders Group member or designee
  • Three at-large community representatives
  • Representative of the development community
  • Federation of Civic Associations member or designee

The city manager will designate a chair of the advisory group, and choose the three at-large members.

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Alexandria secured a $45,000 grant to kickstart a program to identify “near misses” on local streets.

The NoVA FSS Near Miss Data Collection Survey is a form that allows pedestrians and other “vulnerable road users” to report incidents where a collision with a vehicle is narrowly missed, according to a press release from Alexandria Families For Safe Streets (AFSS). Users can also report dangerous traffic conditions and areas of roadway where they feel unsafe.

FASS said the grant funding will help provide a consultant service to improve survey analytics.

“[The services prove] an advanced analytics tool that provides data correlation and predictive analytical algorithms between [Virginia Department of Transportation] crash data and NoVA FSS’s Near Miss data [and] a smartphone application of the [near miss] data collection survey,” the release said.

The survey will also be translated into non-English languages to help expand user access.

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With two celebration-filled weeks left in the year, there has been a 34% jump in the number of Driving Under the Influence arrests in 2021 over last year.

As of Dec. 7, there have been 193 DUI arrests in Alexandria, up from 144 last year — a period when police minimized traffic enforcement, and restaurants and bars were still largely closed indoors due to the pandemic.

Still, there were 240 total DUI arrests in Alexandria in 2019 — 20% higher than this year’s current total.

“Enforcement may be up and I would contribute it to our Traffic Safety Section being diligent and staying on top of their training in recognizing drivers who drive under the influence as well as the contributions from our patrol,” Alexandria Police public information officer Marcel Bassett told ALXnow.

Not counted in the figures is a DUI arrest that occurred on Dec. 11, after a pedestrian was struck in Arlandria. The 41-year-old driver was charged with DUI Maiming and DUI Second Offense.

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The City of Alexandria is trying to get the word out about major changes coming to a stretch of Duke Street and the connecting streets.

The proposed overhaul will change traffic patterns along Duke Street near Telegraph Road, a major connection to I-395 and a source of significant backup onto nearby residential streets. The pilot phase for the program is planned to start Monday, Jan. 3. The pilot project is scheduled to end on March 30, followed by a period of traffic analysis.

“The City is considering two pilot projects aimed at reducing regional cut-through traffic on neighborhood streets and shifting traffic onto the major arterials,” the City of Alexandria said on the project website. “To do this, we also must improve the flow of traffic on the arterials and make those routes faster than cutting through the neighborhoods. In the upcoming months, staff will be having conversations with the community on these potential projects.”

The planned change will adjust signal timing on side streets like West Taylor Run Parkway and Cambridge Road, lengthening the long lights in an effort to make those streets less appealing to drivers and, eventually, navigation apps. On the flip side, lights will stay green longer on Duke Street and Quaker Lane.

The short-term impact, the city previously admitted, could be longer backups on the very residential streets the pilot aims to protect, but the goal is an eventual decrease once drivers adjust to the new signal timing.

The city has said residents and drivers will be able to provide weekly feedback on the conditions they’re experiencing along Duke Street and/or the side streets.

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Morning Notes

Robert E. Lee home in Alexandria omits famous resident in new listing — “The Potts-Fitzhugh House in Old Town Alexandria is for sale for $5,995,000. The listing for the six-bedroom, five-bathroom, 8,000-square-foot mansion includes a thorough description of the place, but omits a key fact: It was the childhood home of Robert E. Lee.” [Washingtonian]

Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin stops in Alexandria — “At an early Saturday morning campaign stop in Alexandria, Virginia, supporters for Youngkin told Fox News that family and education are top ticket items in their decision to back the GOP candidate.” [Fox News]

City to resume enforcement of vehicle registration decals and more Dec. 1 — “If you drive in Alexandria, this is news you need to know. Beginning Wednesday, Dec. 1, the city will resume the enforcement of state vehicle registration decals, expired driver’s licenses, and HOV lane restrictions.” [Zebra]

New development moves forward at Carlyle with ‘Air Rights’ changes — “The last undeveloped lot in the Carlyle neighborhood is taking another step closer to being developed with a rare subdivision of lots.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

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