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Rosslyn Residents Seek Safer Streets for Pedestrians

In response to concerns, county officials will study neighborhood’s transportation system.

As Dan Maloney embarks from the Metro station in Rosslyn, he prepares for the most harrowing part of his Friday evening commute home: crossing Key Boulevard.

Maloney waits patiently on the corner watching cars zip by, the drivers oblivious to the white crosswalk painted on the road below.

"Basically you just have to go and hope someone stops," Maloney said.

It is a sentiment shared by many who live or work in Rosslyn, and have become accustomed to dodging cars as the vehicles barrel down Ft. Myers Drive, Lee Highway and Nash Street at high speeds.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD is home to some of the county’s largest and most heavily traveled streets. And traversing those roads increasingly resembles the 1980s arcade game Frogger, where players had to maneuver a rambunctious amphibian across a busy highway without turning it into roadkill.

William Clay, a doctoral student at the Art Institute of Washington, says that its "scary" attempting to cross Ft. Myers Drive to get from the Metro to his school.

Cars regularly top 50 miles an hour as they head past the Metro exit toward Route 50, but there is no crosswalk or traffic-calming device to alert drivers to pedestrians leaving the station.

"They need to have some speed bumps," Clay said. "It’s ridiculous."

IN 2005, there were five reported pedestrian accidents in the Rosslyn area, a number that is commensurate with other high-traffic neighborhoods in Arlington, a recent county report stated. In 2003 an individual was hit and killed by a Georgetown University bus while they crossed Lee Highway.

Community leaders have been beseeching county officials to take a closer look at pedestrian safety issues in Rosslyn.

"There are enough complaints that I would like to see the county sit down with the neighborhoods and talk about what needs to be done to make this area safer," said Mark Antell, president of the North Rosslyn Civic Association.

The Rosslyn skywalk, which provides residents with access to the Metro without having to use the streets below, was recently closed for more than a month for repairs. Neighbors asked the county for a temporary crosswalk in the middle of Ft. Myers Drive in front of the Metro entrance, but officials turned down the request saying that residents should use the signaled intersections.

"When they closed the skywalk I had people calling me and saying they almost got killed," Antell said.

Starting in August the county will close some parts of the skywalk for further repairs, but officials insist that residents will still be able to reach the Metro via the skywalk.

AS A NEW spate of development is completed — including a massive residential tower on the Best Western site — and hundreds of new residents begin moving to Rosslyn, it is even more imperative for new traffic-calming measures to be implemented, community leaders said.

"With the high-density development [coming in], there could be very real problems. We hope it doesn’t have ramifications of injury or death," said Paul Derby, who lives nearby.

Arlington officials are beginning to take the community concerns seriously, realizing that pedestrian improvements are necessary to create a more walkable and vibrant Rosslyn.

The county will soon embark on a comprehensive study of Rosslyn’s transportation system, with an emphasis on making the neighborhood’s road network more pedestrian-friendly.

"The county has a goal of getting more pedestrians on the streets and trying to make them more comfortable walking along them," said Charlie Denney, Arlington’s bicycle and pedestrian program manager.

One of the aims of the county’s review of Rosslyn’s streets will be to redesign intersections so pedestrians have more time to get across and have a shorter distance to cover, said Mark Kellog.

The county has $1 million from the Virginia Department of Transportation and federal sources to enhance the Rosslyn Circle. Funding is also available to improve Lee Highway and better protect bicyclists along Curtis Trail.

Kellogg admits that the county "can do better" safeguarding those on foot, but believes that the real danger is posed by reckless drivers; And those habits will be hard to change.

Unlike in most states, motorists are not required by law to stop at crosswalks, Kellogg said. "Some do, but you can’t make them," he said. "But we’ve been on working on trying to make motorists more courteous to pedestrians."