In a town where "Main Street is turning into a dragstrip," something's got to be done about the speeders, says Clifton Mayor Jim Chesley.
Toward that end, he's come up with a slew of suggestions — including a toll booth — and hopes as many as possible will be approved by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Fairfax County's Office of Transportation.
"Cars run through my fences all the time, and a neighbor's dog was killed," said Chesley, a Main Street resident. So he's asked for traffic-calming measures at Chestnut and Main — a raised crosswalk from the Clifton Primitive Baptist Church, across the road, to the sidewalk on the other side of Main Street.
"It would act as a speed hump," he said. "I'm trying to have a more pedestrian-friendly town." Continuing uphill, he'd also put a three-way stop at Main and Dell Avenue — where school buses stop. Going uphill 100 yards more, he'd place another raised crosswalk from the Second Baptist Church, across Main, to join a future sidewalk coming from that crosswalk to Dell Avenue.
"I'm also asking for several speed humps along Dell Avenue," said Chesley. "Kids play in the street there, and cars are speeding up that street."
When Main reaches the top of the hill, there's a new subdivision, Clifton Heights, to the right. There's also a blind hill, and the line of sight on both sides of Main from Clifton Heights Lane (leading in and out of that neighborhood) is poor. So Chesley wants a three-way stop there, too.
That developer built a trail from Clifton Heights Lane to the Second Baptist Church and, once it ties into a new sidewalk at Dell Avenue, those new residents could then walk all the way into town from their homes without walking in the road.
Chesley said VDOT's agreed that, as a 25-mph, residentially classified road, Main Street is eligible for these traffic-calming measures, so "it's now up to the Office of Transportation to say OK." He expects to hear back, this month or next. And VDOT would foot the bill because it controls Clifton's roads.
But there's more. According to the state code, localities adopt enhanced traffic penalties in residential areas — so speeders there would pay a $200 fine in addition to their ticket amounts. And both Chesley and Supervisor Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield) are pushing for it.
"I think if people get hit with a fine that's substantial, it'll slow them down," she said. Appalled to learn that some motorists were clocked as high as 70 mph in the town, she's also asked county Police Chief J. Thomas Manger and County Executive Anthony H. Griffin if a police officer could be stationed there permanently.
For greater effectiveness — because the speeding is also outside Clifton — Chesley also asked that Newman Road be studied, all the way to Colchester Road, and Clifton Road from Clifton Elementary (on Burns Way) into the town. He also wants the following looked at: Chapel Road from the town to Glencove Drive — a terrible, blind hill, Clifton Road to Henderson Road, plus Main Street from where it becomes Kincheloe Road to Wiltonshire Drive.
"I'd like to add these roads to the fine-enhancement list," said Chesley. "Elaine supports it and has forwarded it to [the county]." He also noted that the town charter gives Clifton the power to lay out and administer its roads. If Clifton did, then it could levy a road tax within the town limits to repair and improve the streets and roads. "But VDOT maintains the roads," he said. "I don't have the budget."
So with the Town Council's blessing, Chesley sent a copy of Clifton's charter and some questions to VDOT. He asked: "Can the town take over its roads again? What would be Clifton's responsibilities? If we couldn't handle it, would VDOT take the roads back? If the town has control, could it erect its own stoplights and signs and set speed limits?"
And if all the above is true, he asked, "Could the town put in a toll booth?" As things stand now, said Chesley, Clifton has to "plead to VDOT" for permission to take any of these actions.
He said the charter also allows Clifton to have its own police force — a sergeant and a deputy sergeant. "I'd like to do that, but I don't have the [funds] to pay them," he said. "[However], a toll booth would give us revenue to hire police officers and do our own road maintenance. Ten thousand cars a day at $1 a car would give us $10,000 a day."
He said the toll booth would probably go near the bridge leading into town. Only nonresidents would pay, and the toll booth would function only on weekdays. "You wouldn't have to pay to come into the town — just to leave," said Chesley. "And it may be free if [visitors] stop and shop." McConnell believes a toll booth is a great idea, but doesn't know if VDOT would allow it. And she fully supports Clifton levying a road tax.
Meanwhile, VDOT has sent Chesley's questions to the state Urban Division Engineer in Richmond; from there, they were forwarded to the attorney general's office. Said Chesley: "Despite the volume of traffic, I see this someday as a beautiful walking-town."