Crossing Richmond Highway just became a lot more pedestrian-friendly, at least at the intersection with Lockheed Boulevard.
Local and state officials gathered last week on Route 1 to inaugurate the newly installed countdown signals. Then they tested their operability, venturing out onto the roadway as the seconds ticked off the device mounted on the opposite signal pole.
"This is an example of a small thing making a big difference," said Lee District supervisor Dana Kauffman in opening the commemorative ceremony. "What we've worked to do is make the signals very understandable to everyone."
Kauffman explained to officials, Fairfax County police officers and county personnel, "My job is to make both people and transportation more user-friendly. Last year we saw 19 pedestrian fatalities throughout the county. Seven of those were along the Route 1 corridor."
Joining Kauffman at the dedication were Mount Vernon District supervisor Gerald W. Hyland; chairman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Katherine K. Hanley; state Sen. Linda T. "Toddy" Puller (D-36th), and Providence District supervisor Gerald E. Connolly.
"Unfortunately a bike rider or pedestrian is killed in the United States every 15 minutes," Hanley told the group. "We want to put a stop to that here."
HANLEY NOTED that the new signal "also makes it safer for drivers. That's why this is one of the most important places to start this type of signalization in the county." Hanley explained, "The police department has also been working on an intensive education program for both drivers and pedestrians."
Mount Vernon Station Capt. J. L. Moser said, "Any effort to save lives and keep traffic moving at the same time is a good thing. We will be doing more education programs in both September and October."
Hyland noted, "It seems as if Dana and I are joined at the hip pertaining to all issues affecting Richmond Highway. This signalization is only part of a comprehensive approach to make this highway safer.
"In addition to these signals, there are many other things to be done for the citizens to make this corridor safer. These efforts have also been a top priority for Dave Lyons of Safe Crossing and Bob Brubaker of Metroped," Hyland acknowledged.
Both Brubaker and Lyons were unable to attend. Brubaker had been given the wrong starting time for the ceremony.
Lyons' activism on behalf of pedestrians was emphasized by Puller. "For months we would read about deaths along this corridor. And the one person who kept putting out this information was Dave Lyons. I'm delighted we are moving ahead with another element for improving pedestrian safety."
THE NEW countdown signals are activated by buttons located on the signal standards. When activated, they indicate to pedestrians the time allotted to safely cross either Richmond Highway or Lockheed Boulevard. Crossing Route 1 is timed at 30 seconds and Lockheed Boulevard at 22 seconds.
"It's the same as it has always been, only now it’s spelled out for the pedestrian. They also get an extra five seconds before any traffic is released," said Mark D. Hagan, signal systems manager, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
Following the formal presentations, VDOT personnel, working from a bucket truck, flipped the switch, and the countdown began. As an extra precaution there were four motorcycle police officers, two on each side of Route 1, ready with their own countdown, if needed.