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'Better Safe Than Sorry' Wins Stop Sign

For some it was a simple question of children's safety. For others, competing issues of convenience and parental responsibility were more important.

There are 16 children between the ages of two and seven living in the Oak Grove neighborhood. Except for the kindergartners, there is no bus service to take children from Oak Grove to nearby Cunningham Park Elementary.

This means the students must walk to school, crossing the intersection of Ayito Road and Glyndon Street. The intersection is in a valley and neighborhood residents say drivers often speed as they come down one of the hills and through the intersection. Residents also say it is difficult for drivers to see the intersection as they come over the hill.

"It’s a geometry problem," said Steve Ordun, who often walks his children to the elementary school. "With the cars coming up over the hill you can be surprised. You’re walking across and cars appear pretty quickly."

At Monday night’s meeting the Vienna Town Council decided unanimously to install a four-way stop at the intersection, but not everyone at the meeting agreed with the decision.

George Creed, a member of the Vienna Town Planning Commission and a former member of the Transportation Safety Committee, spoke out against the four-way stop. Creed said he was not opposed to protecting children or the general idea of traffic calming, but he said he was opposed to putting stop signs at that intersection.

"I travel through this community any time from 6 a.m. to midnight," Creed said. "It’s rare that I’ve ever seen any children. Rather than inconvenience everyone who drives through there, it might be appropriate to get a school crossing there. Or possibly the parents should exercise some responsibility and have someone down there every day."

<mh>Too Fast

<bt>Residents both for and against the stop signs agreed that drivers use Glyndon as a cut-through to access Cedar Lane. The Vienna Transportation Safety Committee decided that, according to traffic information from the Vienna Police, the speed of the cars going through the intersection warranted the signs but the volume of cars did not warrant them.

The commission voted in favor of the stop signs, with six members for, one against and one abstaining.

The town has a set of guidelines, or warrants, which help determine whether or not to install traffic control devices. A new set of 2001 guidelines, that came out after the Transportation Safety Committee’s vote, provided even more support to the committee’s decision. The regulations say stop signs are justified at a low volume intersection when there are sight problems such as those at Ayito and Glyndon. But some town council members said there were more important considerations than the warrant guidelines.

"When you are wagering a child’s life over whether or not something meets a set of criteria," said council member Maud Robinson, "Frankly I’ll take the child’s life every time."

Council member Steven Briglia noted that, in the past, the town has approved many stop signs that weren’t necessarily warranted. So, he figured, it would not be out of line to approve this intersection. Mayor Jane Seeman said that when she first saw the proposal she thought the intersection did not meet the qualifications for a four-way stop.

"But I drove out there," Seeman said, "I saw that hill and I said, ‘Wait a minute. Cars coming over that hill are not going to be able to see the intersection.’"

In addition to the stop signs, the town will install a crosswalk at the intersection. The words, "Stop Sign Ahead" will also be printed on the road preceding the intersection. The printed warning passed through the council by a 4-3 margin.