Three intersections along the Route 1 corridor have been earmarked for improvements as a result of a recent meeting between representatives of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation and the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Mount Vernon District Supervisor and Vice Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Gerald W. Hyland, said, "The intersections at Ladson Lane, Lockheed Boulevard, and Beacon Hill Road are all scheduled for safety improvements."
The funds for these improvements is a result of savings from office administrative funds realized by Hyland and Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman over the past year. They totalled approximately $43,000.
During a Board of Supervisors budget meeting this past summer, Hyland and Kauffman suggested that the savings be designated for Route 1 safety improvements rather than reverting to the General Fund. "This made some of the Board uncomfortable because they were concerned it would set a precedent," Hyland stated.
"It was resolved by the Board agreeing to put the $43,000 in the General Fund and designate a like amount from the budget of the Transportation Department for Route 1 projects," he explained.
THE THREE PROJECTS were agreed upon at a September 26, meeting between the two government agencies. Chris Wells, Fairfax County Department of Transportation pedestrian program manager, said, "VDOT has agreed to install countdown pedestrian signal heads at each of the three agreed upon intersections. But, because these are still in the experimental stage we have to file an application with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)."
Because it usually takes several months for FHWA approval, Wells does not expect the new equipment to be operative until the end of 2002 or beginning of 2003. "As part of the ongoing national effort to study these devices, we will conduct an engineering and response study after they are operative. The results will become part of the national data base," Wells explained.
He verified that a number of projects were considered during the meeting with VDOT. Some were rejected because of cost and others because they are part of the long range plan associated with the tax referendum.
Safe Crossings, a citizen based group dedicated to making the Route 1 corridor more pedestrian friendly, had submitted a priority list for consideration. "Some of their projects are considered operational, such as the installation "U" turn signs, and can be done for little cost. VDOT is going to consider those items," Wells verified.
"Others, such as two major sidewalk requests, proved to be more expensive than the money available, plus, they are already included in the transportation referendum proposal. If it passes they are on the list of improvements," he explained.
"Our concern was how to put the $43,000 to the best use now. That's how we settled on the countdown crossing devices. They are also able to be installed using most of the equipment already in place. And, we hope we will have some money left over," Wells said.
WELLS WAS NOT SURE about the overall costs of the new signals. However, when the same devices were installed in Alexandria the cost was approximately $3,200 per intersection. "Each signal head costs about $400 and you need eight at each intersection," according to Robert Garbacz, chief, Transportation Division, Alexandria Department of Transportation and Environmental Services.
Another safety mechanism discussed for pedestrian crossing locations has been the digitally lighted crosswalks. Wells noted that these are not appropriate for Richmond Highway. "They are only installed in moderate volume, moderate speed, traffic areas where the intersections are unsignalized," Wells said.
The Ladson Lane crossing was of particular concern to Kauffman. "This is an area where people crossing the highway tend to taunt motorists by crossing in the middle of the block," he had pointed out previously.
Prior to the meeting, Wells had stated, "We are going to look at the top 20 most dangerous pedestrian crossings. We will make recommendations based on what we can do with $43,000. But, that doesn't mean it is all we will do."
Seven of the top 20 are on Route 1 in the Mount Vernon area, according to Hyland.
"There's still more work to be done," Wells noted. "We've told the Board that we will review all these intersections by the end of the year. We will make recommendations based on what we can do. But, it's an ongoing process."