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Franconia Traffic Fatality at Light Familiar

Standing amid the Christmas trees on a Saturday morning, Edison High School freshman Lester Meredith will never forget the car tires screeching and the horror as a young woman was killed across the street.

The accident occurred the morning of Saturday, Dec. 13 when Jennifer Wood, 36, of 5710 Thomas Edison Court in Alexandria, was standing near a bus stop on Franconia Road in front of a McDonald's restaurant. Swerving to avoid stopped traffic, a Lowe's delivery truck jumped the curb and hit Wood.

According to police, 44-year-old Jose Santiago-Narvaez of Bay Vista Drive in Woodbridge was driving the truck that struck Wood. Lester's eyewitness account was similar.

"The Lowes truck came down here, popped the curb. The pole and the truck hit her," Lester said, standing by the remains of a sheared off sign post.

"Her shoes were like 100 feet from the truck. A bunch of people came over," he said.

Samuel English of Springfield grew up in Rose Hill and knows the area, dominated by the McDonald's restaurant that's full of Edison students after school. A traffic light was put in after a accident involving a pedestrian, Lilly Yao, years ago. Since then, the traffic has increased in the area. English sees students crossing the street to get to McDonald's.

"Kids walk over all the time and nothing happens," English said. "Everyone comes over here after school. I got into an accident trying to pull into Edison."

During school, the rule is "officially no," added Edison senior Sterling Clifton, "technically it's an off-campus thing."

On the westbound side of Franconia Road, just before Brookland Road, there is a bus stop next to the sidewalk, about four feet from the road. Tire prints could still be seen in the ground. The speed limit on Franconia Road is 35 miles per hour.

"To have that much momentum, he would have to be going over 50 [MPH], a lot of cars go through here doing 50," said Clifton.

"They could put a booth here, shelters help," English said of the bus stop. It was not determined if Wood was waiting for a bus.

According to Fairfax County police spokesperson Michelle Alexander, 557 traffic tickets were issued on Franconia Road thus far in 2003.

THAT AREA of Franconia Road has been on the mind of Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) ever since Lilly Yao was struck by a car there years ago. Yao, a Bush Hill resident, received a head injury from the accident but did not die. The light was erected as a result of that accident, but it is still has temporary traffic light status. Kauffman met two weeks ago to address that busy part of Franconia Road and would eventually like to get the area redesigned so the traffic light addressed the Brookland Road, Edison High School, an apartment complex and McDonald's traffic all at one time.

"We were looking at that situation with VDOT," Kauffman said.

Even the possibility of two signals close together — one for the Edison traffic and the other at Brookland Road — would help, Kauffman noted.

"The ultimate decision would be at VDOT," Kauffman said.

If speed were a factor in the fatality, reconfiguring the intersection would not remedy that, Kauffman said.

No charges have been filed in the case, which is still under investigation by police.