Normally the news that a major street, one notorious for bumps and potholes, is being slated for repaving by the city would be greeted with enthusiasm by the affected neighborhoods. Instead West End residents have become alarmed that, under the rubric of “complete streets,” city officials seemingly want to squeeze four-lane Seminary Road down to two lanes. At a city-run “community meeting” recently officials showed multiple options — all but one cut the street to one lane in each direction.
Responding to concerned neighbors, the Seminary Hill Association board last week held a special meeting on the issue, attended by some 70 people. The director of Transportation & Environmental Services (T&ES), Yon Lambert, declined to send anyone to meet with us that night or any adjacent night. He did send a statement that was read to the group.
Although a range of opinions were expressed by those attending, the consensus was for retaining a four-lane roadway. Recent city-generated statistics on Seminary Road traffic from Library Lane to Quaker Lane indicate that on a normal workday 30,000 cars use that corridor. Reducing the lanes, it is feared, will cause huge backups that will make access to and from side streets difficult and dangerous. The reduction also will impact fire and EMS vehicles emerging from the Seminary Road fire station, as well as the ability of EMS and ambulances quickly to access Inova Alexandria Hospital — both potentially affecting life-and-death situations.
In his statement to the association, Mr. Lambert indicated that the final decision on the lanes would be his alone — a prospect that caused multiple speakers to insist that a decision of this magnitude should be made by City Council. Councilman John Chapman, who attended the meeting and spoke, agreed. Given the uproar over the surreptitious canceling of one entrance to the proposed Potomac Yard Metro stop and other recent incidents, a number of speakers expressed distrust of city staff and its attitudes toward the public.
The city manager could go a long way toward dispelling such mistrust by ensuring that T&ES staff is willing to meet with civic associations like Seminary Hill upon a reasonable request, and by putting the decision on the Seminary Road lanes into the hands of the elected representatives of the people, the City Council.