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Calming Measures Yield Mixed Results

Mai-an Nguyen can’t take a left out of her driveway on Southampton Drive during rush hour.

Although the Kings Park resident lives in a residential neighborhood where the speed limit is 25, her street is a well-known cut-through between Rolling Road and Braddock Road. Starting in the late 1980s, several traffic-calming measures were put in place on the road to combat commuter traffic. But the effects vary.

"That sign's been knocked down. I think they're pretty much used to it [measures] by now,” said Nguyen. “There's a stop sign at the bottom of the hill, but people don't stop.”

Boyfriend Bach Vuong lives a few doors away. He says the stop signs don’t cut down on cut-through traffic – they just slow it down.

"Wait here until it's 5 and you'll see the line. I think the only thing it's doing is slowing people down, every one of our cars has been hit," he said.

IN THE LAST FEW YEARS, the Virginia Department of Transportation has put in place a range of traffic-calming measures. The street has gotten speed humps, stop signs, slow signs, lane narrowing islands and medians as part of a pilot program to combat cut-through traffic.

Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) was instrumental in getting the traffic-calming measures. Braddock District was the first district to work with the case to cut down on cut-through traffic. It offers the perfect test case, she said.

"We had people whose pets had been hit, cars hit, cars ending up in front yards. It was the perfect pilot for the state to start looking for ways to address people cutting through a residential neighborhood. People were turning a two-lane neighborhood street into a four-lane highway," Bulova said.

WHILE THE ADDITIONS do slow down traffic, the additional signs, speed humps, guardrails and little horseshoe-shaped islands in the middle of the street don't do much for the aesthetics, according to some. The speed humps are gouged from multiple scrapes by cars bottoming out.

Tanya Tyburski, who has 15 years as a real estate agent, lives off Cardinal Forest Parkway, which is another cut-through. Although the measures affect the appeal of the neighborhood, the market is so hot that traffic-calming measures don’t hurt sales.

"I had one [customer] call it 'bump city.' It certainly hurts the look of it. I don't think it hurts the price," she said.

Nancy Downs, a Century 21 Realtor, has seen some impact on her sales. "It has a small effect on it, but not a lot," she said. Downs said that the attractions of Kings Park mean people don't really notice the humps until they move in.

"It's location, location, location. People complain after the fact," she said.

Tyburski has seen some speed bumps turned into crosswalks instead of painted yellow. She feels that's better than just yellow, reflective paint.

"I think those are smart ways to handle the ugliness. Originally, they painted them yellow. That hurt the appeal," she said.

APPEARANCE OR NOT, the measures have worked. Speed bumps and stop signs earned high marks, but Don West misses the islands in the middle of intersections, now removed.

West, a Kings Park resident, thought the speed bumps were most effective. The effectiveness outweighed the inconveniences, though.

"It [traffic] was real bad. People hate the speed bumps,” he said. “I couldn't even get out of here in the morning before the speed bumps.”

Michael Malak, Kings Park civic association president, has only heard one complaint about the look of the traffic measures.

"I've heard from one resident on Eastborne about the aesthetics. People that live on Southampton are appreciative of the safety," he said.

Alex West, a sophomore at Lake Braddock Secondary School, sees people taking the artery roads like they are supposed to. "Now it's faster to just go up Rolling to Braddock," she said.

Road improvements on Rolling were finished about the same time that the calming measures went in, according to Bulova.

"That helped make the pilot successful," she said.

ACROSS ROLLING ROAD, Lake Braddock Drive is a popular cut-through for students of Lake Braddock Secondary. Stop signs were put in, and they do help a little bit, said Esther Boykin, who lives a few doors down from the intersection.

"From the last stop sign to the light, people race through here. Stop signs do help," she said.

She is currently renting and is considering buying her house, but traffic is one factor she is looking at. She's seen the traffic-calming measures on the other side of Rolling Road and would consider that for her neighborhood, too.

"I would be for it," she said.

Her neighbor, Darryel Love, sees police officers combating the speeders.

"Even trying to get out of here, there's been several policemen sitting down there," he said, pointing to the stop sign.

Although Love doesn't like the speed bumps in the other neighborhood, he acknowledges that they serve their purpose.

"Now that the speed bumps are there, I'll take a left here [out of his driveway on Lake Braddock Drive], go down to Burke Lake Road and take a right on Braddock," he said.

THE BRADDOCK DISTRICT seems to be a prime area for cut-throughs. Between the Braddock Road exit and I-66, the Beltway gets backed up in the morning, and motorists try to avoid the stretch by cutting through neighborhoods. Braddock Road, Little River Turnpike and Route 50 are arteries coming off I-495 that are separated by residential neighborhoods. Roads going from one artery to another are inviting, according to Bulova.

"It's avoiding the Beltway, [or Route] 236 ... any main route that's congested. The real answer to cut-through traffic is improving our main arteries," she said.

Improvements on Little River Turnpike are in the works but I-495 is the key, according to Bulova. She wasn't satisfied with the options VDOT had at the latest round of meetings but is still confident.

"We need to make improvements to other main arterials in the county as well," she said, looking toward the sales-tax referendum as one possible solution.