Alexandria, VA

The update on the Transportation Master Plan Pedestrian and Bicycle Chapter wasn’t planned to coincide with a sudden uptick in bicycle ridership and walking around the city, but it could help explain why many Alexandrians exploring their local pedestrian/bike infrastructure might find it different than they remember.

An update prepared for the canceled June 17 Transportation Commission meeting shined some light on the progress the city has made since it a chapter specifically about that infrastructure was added to the city’s Transportation Master Plan in 2016. The primary goals the city laid out at the time were to improve safety, engineering, encouragement and education of bicycle and pedestrian facilities in Alexandria. The move corresponded with a push towards Vision Zero — a project that aims to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2028.

Data shows that crashes and fatalities for pedestrians have generally gone down over the last four years — though the numbers are low enough that it’s impossible to accurately extrapolate trends. Crashes have gone down from 69 in 2016 to 60 in 2019. Fatalities have gone from 4 to 2 in that same timeframe, though not with consistent year-after-year declines. The number of serious injuries has gone up from 6 to 8.

The city has added substantial new infrastructure, though.

“There has been a 43% increase in intersections with pedestrian countdown signals at crosswalks from 68% in 2016 to 97% as of the end of May 2020,” city staff said in the report. “Over 9,000 total linear feet of new sidewalk has been installed and over 1,600 linear feet of sidewalk have been upgraded with widened sidewalks or adjustments to provide improved access for wheelchair users since FY16. Approximately 1,300 linear feet of temporary, protected shared use path space was installed to fill the sidewalk gap on the #9 highest priority sidewalk on Seminary.”

The update also included information about progress made for off-street trails, though noting that flood damage has set back some of the city’s progress on that front.

“One additional off-street trail (a segment of Four Mile Run Trail leading to a future bridge) has been installed since plan adoption, bringing the citywide total to approximately 21 miles,” staff said in the report. “A new 150-foot pedestrian bridge was completed on the Four Mile Run trail that connects the Four Mile Run Wetlands Trail to the larger Four Mile Run trail network. The City suffered a setback with the July 2019 storms that severely damaged the trail and recent completion of a bridge connecting Holmes Run Parkway to N. Ripley Street as well as other bridges along Holmes Run. A 2021 budget request is made for the repair work.”

The report also notes the progress made for new bicycle infrastructure.

“Since 2016, 11.9 miles of shared lane mile markings and 11.4 miles of bike lane miles were installed making for a total of approximately 39 lane miles of on-street bicycle facilities,” staff said. “This is a nearly 46% increase in facilities since 2018.”

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Holmes Run Trail through Eisenhower’s West End was fragmented by last year’s flooding, and city staff said it could remain that way for years to come.

Under normal circumstances, the Holmes Run Trail runs continuously northwest from Eisenhower Avenue to Columbia Pike with few, if any, interruptions. Flash floods from last year’s July 8 storms changed that.

Jack Browand, division chief of Parks and Cultural Activities, said when the Barcroft Dam overflowed the stormwater caused significant damage to four areas along Holmes Run. Two bridges were damaged, one streambank got washed out and took the trail with it, and one crossing at Ripley Street was closed.

“We had to shut them down,” Browand said. “They’re not $50 fixes, they’re substantial engineering. We had them inspected and we have to keep them closed. So we’ll have to seek funding for design, engineering, and construction [of replacements].”

Browand said the city is still working through the documentation to receive reimbursement as a result of the state declaring an emergency.

“The timetable for seeking funding through budget process means it is likely going to be closed for one to three years in areas,” Browand said. “We established a website and we’re going to put out signs so people know why they’re closed. Some we might be able to open partially on extreme west end — where the bridge was washed out — west of I-395 but east of Beauregard. We can probably open a portion of the trail but the bridge cannot be used.”

As a result, Browand said the trail will not function as a continuous path from Eisenhower Avenue to Fairfax County. Visitors to the trail will have to take several detours, which Browand said will be obvious and clearly defined paths.

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Morning Notes

Most City Facilities Open on Monday — “City of Alexandria government offices, libraries and recreation centers will be open on Monday, November 11.” [City of Alexandria]

Veterans Day Ceremony Planned — “The City of Alexandria and Friends of Rocky Versace will host the 18th Annual Veterans Day Ceremony on Monday, November 11, 1-2 p.m. at Mount Vernon Recreation Center (2701 Commonwealth Ave.).” [City of Alexandria]

More Details About ‘The Mill’ — “A restaurant partner has been announced for The Mill, a southern market and kitchen slated for a historic warehouse on the Alexandria waterfront. Builder Murray Bonitt of Bonitt builders announced James Beard Award-winning Chef John Currence will lead the restaurant concept.” [Patch, Zebra]

Del Ray Mom Has Tasty Business — “Heather Stouffer, who lives and works in Alexandria, launched Mom Made Foods from a card table at the Del Ray Farmers Market in 2006. The company is now helping parents nationwide and is on the cusp of launching a new option for lunch boxes.” [Alexandria Living]

Hazmat Scare Was Just Flour — “Scanner: Alexandria firefighters and hazmat team dispatched to a local trail for a report of a suspicious white powder. Arriving units determined the substance to be flour, used by local runners to mark the trail.” [Twitter]

Backups on King Street Due to Chicken Sandwich — “Around lunchtime today, the sandwich was causing a traffic jam in front of the Popeyes at 4675 King Street… One lane was effectively blocked along westbound King Street approaching the Walter Reed/Beauregard Street intersection as drive-thru customers waited over 40 minutes to get their hands on the savory combination of bread, fried chicken and sauce.” [ARLnow]

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A bridge spanning the last gap on the Alexandria side of the Four Mile Run Trail has been put into place, but the trail remains impassable for pedestrians.

“The bridge installation does complete the restoration project in this portion of the park,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities. “The installation is complete and its opening is pending final inspections. We anticipate it being open in two weeks.”

The trail starting at Mount Vernon Avenue currently dead-ends at an unnamed tributary with no connection to the other half of the trail, which runs to Route 1 and connects with Arlington and the Mount Vernon Trail.

The bridge was installed on Sept. 11, but orange construction barriers prevent access to the bridge on both sides of the trail.

The bridge is the final piece of a restoration project for Four Mile Run that started in 2006. The wetlands park officially opened in 2016 but work has continued since then on naturalizing the stream bank.

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