It's taken 15 years — and lots of meetings, phone calls, petitions, traffic studies and even a neighborhood task force — but the beleaguered residents of Hollinger Avenue have finally gotten two speed humps.
"It was a dangerous situation," said Chantilly Farm Homeowners Association President Mike Fleming, who spearheaded the fight. "Speed humps do make an important difference, and they should be encouraged."
Hollinger was originally a deadend street, but in 1988 it was extended to connect Stringfellow Road with Lees Corner Road. This happened after Chantilly Farm's developer declared bankruptcy and the last portion of the subdivision was developed into Foxfield.
As far as Fleming and others living in both communities were concerned, the decision to open up Hollinger to outside traffic was a disaster. Said Fleming: "The consequences of connecting two arterial routes with Hollinger Avenue were immediately felt by the 27 residents who live there when cut-through traffic began pouring down this street."
Roosevelt Jones of the Foxfield Community Association said life was no picnic, either, for the 30 families on his street, Kernstown Court, which intersects Hollinger in front of Lees Corner Elementary. "Since that's our only egress out of our residences, we were affected by the traffic on Hollinger," he said.
Then Chantilly Farm HOA Pres. Brenda Funtilla complained to VDOT about both the speeding and the excess traffic, but she was told that nothing could be done to impede the motorists. A few years later, when Fleming moved in, he joined Chantilly Farm's Traffic Committee and its quest to quell speeding drivers.
The HOA, the Fairfax County Office of Transportation and VDOT all conducted traffic studies. Although Hollinger is posted at 25 mph, every five minutes, residents there were seeing vehicles exceeding 34 mph. Speeds topping 50 mph were recorded at the intersection of Hollinger Avenue and Koke Way and, by the end of January 1997, VDOT erected a stop sign there.
But the traffic and speeders still kept coming. Many of them were traveling from the Fairfax County Parkway on their way to Route 50. And drivers cutting over from Stringfellow across Hollinger hoped to reach Lees Corner Road and then Route 50 quicker, avoiding the light at Stringfellow and Route 50, which tended to back up more.
The stop sign helped somewhat, but not enough, said residents. So they lobbied VDOT and local politicians for speed humps that would compel the drivers to slow down. But unfortunately, the wheels of state bureaucracy turned far slower than those of the Hollinger Avenue speeders.
Indeed, a flawed, 1994 VDOT traffic study in which the speed recording-devices were mistakenly set to record speeds less than 45 mph tied up the residents' progress for years. Finally, an August 1997 VDOT study showed cars traveling up to 70 mph. In the end, it took two petition drives and seven formal traffic studies — plus help from Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) and Bill Schmidt, then legislative aide to former Del. Roger McClure (R-67th) — to effect a real change.
In July 2000, Frey sent Fleming a letter saying VDOT agreed to consider taking Hollinger into its traffic-calming pilot program — if 75 percent of households there petitioned for formal acceptance. By November, the petitions were submitted to Frey.
Then in September 2001, members of the Hollinger Avenue Traffic Task Force were notified that a speed hump and a raised crosswalk would be installed on Hollinger, and the county Board of Supervisors later approved of the installation, as well.
Finally, on Nov. 24, 2002, a speed hump was installed on Hollinger, halfway between Stringfellow and Koke. A month later, on Dec. 18, a raised crosswalk (which functions as a speed hump) was placed at Lees Corner Elementary, just east of the Hollinger and Kernstown intersection.
From his traffic studies showing Tuesday as the busiest day of the week — with 1,729 vehicles whizzing along Hollinger — Fleming, who's a statistician by profession, estimates that nearly 9.5 million vehicles have traveled that road since the residents first began fighting for traffic relief, 15 years ago. So he's pleased that something was finally done.
Furthermore, he said traffic studies conducted since the speed humps' installation have shown a drop in the maximum speed on Hollinger from 70 to 29 mph. Said Fleming: "The analysis shows that 80 percent of the traffic [now] travels 25 mph or less, as opposed to 80 percent of the traffic [as previously] exceeding the speed limit."
He also noted that reduced speeds have significantly decreased the traffic noise. Overall, said Fleming, "I feel vindicated. We were right all along — speed humps worked."
Foxfield's Roosevelt Jones — one of the task force members — praised both Fleming and task-force leader Mica Stramel for their "excellent job of shepherding this through. And Frey and his people [notably, Mike Coyle] were cooperative, diligent and paid close attention to the needs of the community."
With so many young children living there, Jones worried about them, especially during rush hour and on weekends. And as more development came into the area, even more traffic streamed through the neighborhoods.
"The speeds were quite high, at times; and, with the school there, it was a scary proposition," said Jones. He said people just paused at the stop sign, then "went on their merry way, speeding all the way to Stringfellow." So he, too, is delighted to have the speed humps.
Last Tuesday, Feb. 11, Fleming presented letters of appreciation to Frey and to task-force members Jones, Stramel, Keven McPherson and Brian Iglinski — representing both Foxfield and Chantilly Farm — for all their hard work in "bringing about an effective remedy to the problem of speeding on Hollinger Avenue."
Pleased that he was able to help, Frey told Fleming, "It's something I enjoy and get a lot of satisfaction from, but I can't do it alone. You and your committee really broke the ground." He also said it's only been about five years since counties were allowed to control their own traffic.
"There's been an attitudinal change in VDOT," said Frey. "Traffic-calming measures are something VDOT's endorsed and allowed the county to take the lead in. We're probably working with at least half a dozen communities in the Sully District on traffic-calming. You did it the right way, communicating with your residents. You did a great job, [and] I congratulate you for all your hard work."
However, Hollinger Avenue resident Matt Abdou, still worries about his 4-year-old son's safety there. He said people still race over the humps, often causing parts of their cars to fall off. "People are flying over them — you hear them at all hours," he said. "And you hear trucks drive over with equipment rattling."
Abdou believes painting them yellow instead of white would help people see them better from a distance. Still, he's amazed people continue driving so fast here, knowing it's a residential street with lots of children. "You just hope they're careful," he said. "All I want is for everybody's safety — ours and theirs."