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Human vs. Machine: A Planning Conundrum

Braddock Road Metro Plan takes on transportation challenges

Traffic impact and pedestrian accessibility were the main talking points during the latest public information meeting on the Braddock Road Metro Area Plan.

Both are essential to future development within the northwestern quadrant of the City.

More than 80 people attended the session at Jefferson Houston Elementary School. There, consultants DeWayne Carver of Hall Planning & Engineering, and Colin Greene of HOK Consultants, explained what their preliminary studies revealed about the present traffic patterns in the area and what is being considered for the future.

"You have a terrific grid system here. Even though there is a large volume of traffic on Patrick, Henry and Washington streets it is able to move at a controlled speed," Carver said.

When it came to pedestrian patterns however, Carver saw a potential issue.

"Our plans are trying to mitigate the traffic's speed in the area to make destination walking more acceptable," Carver said. "It is destination walking we are concerned with, not necessarily recreational walking."

The other primary element of the transportation segment of the area plan focuses on the Braddock Road Metro Station — its accessibility to pedestrians as well as vehicles, which includes both passenger vehicles and mass transit.

"This is one of the very few Metro stations on the entire system with access from only one side. It was designed primarily for bus access not for pedestrians," Greene said.

According to the consultants this basic design continues to work against use of Metro at this location.

"PEDESTRIAN SAFETY from traffic is extremely important to this study. This is exactly what we have included within the King Street Retail Study," said John Komoroske, planning commission vice chair.

Poul Hertel pointed out that the crossing lights embedded in the crosswalk don't really work at the Braddock Road Metro station.

"Washington Street has reached its saturation point [for traffic volume] and Route 1 is about to reach its saturation point," Hertel said. He suggested consultants look at Powhatan Street as an example of what can be done to reduce and slow traffic without speed bumps or speed tables.

"Powhatan Street residents initiated a traffic plan in 1994. It has been so successful, traffic has been reduced by 50 percent and the traffic that still uses the street travels much slower," Hertel said.

Being safe from traffic was not the only concern of those in attendance.

"What about street lights?" Maggie Redick asked. "I would have walked here tonight but I don't feel safe with such poor lighting in this entire area."

Eileen Fogarty, director of the Alexandria Department of Planning and Zoning acknowledged that lighting was a problem and is included in improvement plans.

Not only increasing volume of traffic on Patrick and Henry streets concerned some in attendance but also the proposal to establish specific bus lanes.

"That's not acceptable," said resident Charlotte Landis.

"When I arrived in Alexandria, I was informed that Patrick and Henry streets had been widened to protect the homes of residents along those two streets. I'm now hearing you are planning to put buses back in the middle lane. That can only cause more traffic problems for residents along those streets."

Noting that increasing traffic volume also presents adverse environmental impacts, resident Sarah Becker asked about the extent to which the study looked at environmental impact issues.

"We need to consider planting more trees along our heavily traveled streets to benefit the environment and reduce air pollution," Becker said.

ANOTHER CONCERN expressed by several members of the audience was controlling "cut-through" traffic trying to escape grid-lock at rush hour. The consultants admitted they had not specifically looked at cut-through traffic.

Although some in attendance pushed for adding this to the study, many thought that it would be difficult to control cut-through traffic effectively.

Some people predicted that the straightening of the Monroe Street Bridge on Route 1 would bring faster traffice into the Braddock Road Metro planning area. The increasing traffic could bring the potential for pedestrians being hit by cars.

"Monroe Avenue will never be a venue for getting to Route 1 again after the bridge is straightened," said Katy Cannady. "People are going to use Braddock Road even more after the bridge is changed."