To the Editor:
I recently was a houseguest on the 200 block of S. Lee Street in Alexandria. On Nov 2, my hostess’s car, parked near the NW corner of S. Lee and Duke streets, against the curb and well behind the stop sign white line, was hit and badly damaged on its left front fender by a very long tour bus that was attempting to turn left from Lee onto Duke St. The accident was witnessed by a passerby walking her dog and the police were called. Within 15 minutes the police located the bus at the waterfront, where the driver professed, probably truthfully, to be unaware that the right rear bumper of his bus had hit a car. He readily gave the police his insurance information, and the car has since been repaired at their expense.
I soon learned that this was not the first such accident involving a huge motor coach at that intersection — that in June the exact same thing happened to another resident’s car, and that often the buses making that turn become wedged between cars parked on both Duke and S. Lee. Which raises the question, why are the huge buses allowed on S. Lee St. in the first place? The answer, I was told, is that they are trying to get to the unit block of Prince Street but when they reach the prohibitive cobblestoned 100 block they must turn onto Lee, which is far too narrow for them. Then, after just one block, they again try to reach the waterfront via a left turn onto Duke Street. Most of the buses are from out of town and their drivers, if not lost, are confused because they’ve been given no set route to follow nor have they seen a posted bus route. Most of them hate having to drive in Old Town.
I also learned that many nearby residents, almost none of whom have off street parking, are afraid that the city, instead of establishing a set, safe route for the motor coaches, will simply remove all the corner parking places at S. Lee and Duke. That would only exacerbate an already terrible residential parking problem in the area.
I may not be an Alexandria resident, but I visit regularly, usually driving my own car which I try to park near the intersection of S. Lee and Duke. I hope it won’t be the next victim of a bus, but rather that Alexandria will follow the lead of other U.S. cities with historic districts by banning large buses from its oldest and narrowest streets.