Council Notebook

Council Notebook

Barriers Make Good Pedestrians

For years, city leaders have been concerned about pedestrian safety on Duke Street. People will dart in and out of traffic with no regard to crosswalks, and drivers barrel through intersections at dangerous speeds. The city estimates that Duke Street carries 40,000 vehicles and 4,000 pedestrians a day.

The corridor is an accident waiting to happen — especially the well-traveled area between the King Street Metro station and the Patent and Trade Office. That’s why the City Hall took action this week. On Tuesday night, the City Council voted to allocate $50,000 for “marginal pedestrian barriers” to prevent mid-block crossings along Duke Street. The barriers will be erected between Diagonal Road and Dulaney Street as well as between Reinekers Lane and Holland Lane.

“This will save lives,” said Councilman Ludwig Gaines.

First, signs will be installed to inform pedestrians of the proper way to use crosswalks. Then, a system of physical barriers will be installed along each side of Duke Street.

“The preferred approach will be to use street-side landscaping, either a continuous planting strip or in raised planters to limit pedestrian access to mid-block crossing areas,” wrote City Manager Jim Hartmann. “The general cost estimate for this action is $45,000 to $50,000.”

If this doesn’t work, the City Council is prepared to take additional action — installing a continuous fence in the median of Duke Street. It would be similar to the ones near Ben Brenman Park and Beatley Library. The cost estimate for the fence is estimated to be between $100,000 and $150,000.


From Point A to Point B

People with disabilities in Alexandria have many obstacles to overcome. And according to a recent report from the Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities, their needs are not being met. The report says that city needs to do more to provide accessible transportation in Alexandria.

“While undoubtedly there are a number of transportation providers and means in the city of Alexandria, accessible, affordable, and perhaps most importantly, reliable transportation remains as an essential unmet need,” the report stated.

To help solve the transportation problems of the disabled, the commission recommended that local buses implement a reduced-fare system and accept a regional “flash pass” for senior citizens and disabled passengers. City Manager Jim Hartmann said that DASH is considering the recommendation, but a cost-benefit analysis has not yet been completed.

“The fiscal impact of any changes in fare structure, therefore, is speculative at this time,” he wrote in the recommendation to receive the report.

The report was also critical of MV Transportation, which began a contract to provide MetroAccess service on Jan. 15. The transition between the old service provider and the new contractor was difficult, and MV Transportation has been swamped with complaints for months.

“The lack of available accessible transportation is exaggerated by problems with the newly hired contractor providing these services,” the report said.

In a March 10 press release, MV Transportation defended itself and promised to improve the MetroAccess service that many Alexandria residents depend on to get to the District of Columbia and Maryland.

“The scrutiny on the service has been intense, and in some instances rightfully so,” said Jon Monson, MV Transportation’s chief executive officer. “But the reality is MV has changed the way MetroAccess has operated in the past, and has successfully delivered more than 150,000 trips in less than 60 days with more than 92 percent of those having been delivered without fail. There is always room for improvement, but we are obviously moving in the right direction.”


The City Manager’s Risotto

Fundraising is an art and a science. It takes persistence and originality. But this year, it will take something more: hunger.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the Scholarship Fund announced an imaginative new item for its upcoming silent auction — dinner for eight at the mayor’s house cooked by the city manager. Since 1986, the Scholarship Fund has given $3.6 million to more than 2,300 students in Alexandria. Raising money for the scholarships is a constant concern, which is why the mayor and city manager have decided to auction their services to the highest bidder.

“A lot of people don’t know this,” said Councilman Rob Krupicka. “But one of the reasons we hired the city manager is that he’s a gourmet chef.”

After the announcement was made, City Manager Jim Hartmann said that he is willing to cook most anything. But, of course, he has a favorite meal.

“If I had my choice, I would make porcini mushroom risotto with prosciutto-stuffed pork tenderloin,” Hartmann said. “It’s a wonderful meal!”