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How’d the Students Cross Nutley?

Council changes crosswalk configuration at Nutley and Knoll streets N.W.

Crossing the street at Louise Archer elementary school may get a bit safer, if the plan adopted by the Vienna Town Council works. During its March 21 meeting, the council passed a resolution that will make some changes to Nutley Street, N.W., in front of the school to aid pedestrian safety, particularly for children who walk to the school.

In September 2004, the council approved removing the crosswalk from the corner of Nutley and Knoll streets, N.W., and installing a raised crosswalk a bit further north from the intersection. The raised crosswalk, however, has not worked as well as had been hoped. "We kind of made a bad situation worse," said Howard Springsteen, a member of the Transportation Safety Committee.

"The current raised crosswalk, where it is, quite frankly, is dangerous," said Dwayne Young, principal of Louise Archer.

The committee instead recommended putting the crosswalk back where it was, and repainting the raised crosswalk to make it a speed bump. Committee members also called for restricting parking on the west side of Nutley and building a sidewalk along the east side.

One of the issues at the school is the large number of students who are driven to school. The configuration of the school’s lot forces cars to wait on Nutley Street. "Louise Archer was built at a different time. Traffic has changed and they’re just trying to make the best of a bad situation," Springsteen said.

Currently, said Young, 78 Louise Archer students cross at the intersection.

"We support the recommendations," said Young. He noted that if it was safer for the children to walk to school, more parents might choose to let them walk, rather than drive them. "We want to encourage our kids who are nearby to walk," Young said.

Elizabeth DiFrancisco, a parent with two children in Louise Archer and another who will start next year, said that the intersection needs some attention to make it safer. "Cars don’t stop for a 7 year old. They don’t stop for a 9 year old. They won’t stop for a 5 year old. By God, they won’t stop for an adult," she said.

The ultimate solution to the problem, the council and parents seemed to agree, would be to have a crossing guard at the intersection. "It still comes down to a person," said Councilmember Sydney Verinder.

Crossing guards are hired by the Fairfax County Police Department. Currently, a crossing guard is assigned to the intersection of Nutley and Orchard streets, N.W., one block north.

The council voted unanimously (Councilmember George Lovelace was absent) to put the crosswalk back at the intersection, change the markings on the raised crosswalk to make it a speed bump, and restrict parking on the west side of Nutley Street from 3-4:30 p.m. Parking during the morning had already been restricted.

The changes will likely take place soon, but the striping necessary for creating the crosswalk won't occur for a few more weeks until the weather is warm enough for pavement striping to be put down.