Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Better Traffic Safety Solutions

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Better Traffic Safety Solutions

Over the last 10 years cut through traffic and congestion along local, residential roads in central Alexandria has negatively impacted the quality of life for many residents, including my family. In 2016, the Central Alexandria Traffic Task Force was developed to study our anecdotal reports of cut-through traffic and resulting safety concerns.

The December 2017 study results proved what many individual residents have been stating, the volume of cars diverting from arterial roads to our local, residential streets averages thousands per day. The study also found that 42 percent of this trip volume originates and ends outside of the City of Alexandria. The resulting congestion and safety issues are top of mind for impacted Alexandria residents. This is particularly concerning given a recent VDOT study which showed that traffic within Central Alexandria will reach unsustainable proportions by 2020, even during non-peak hours.

City officials are right to work to address this trend and the resulting safety impacts. I am concerned, however, that the focus has been to lower speeds and reduce driving lanes on the roads intended to sustain higher volumes of cars. Unfortunately, these changes, such as those on King Street and Quaker Lane, have resulted in significant safety issues on connecting local and neighborhood streets. These streets are taking on increasing numbers of frustrated drivers who are speeding, not stopping at stop signs, and damaging or totalling legally parked cars in front of residential homes. Despite these impacts, the speed limits on neighborhood roads remain unchanged and are the same as arterial roads, enforcement is inadequately funded to cover the need, and now the city is moving forward with a proposed “road diet” for another major corridor, Seminary Road. Two of the three proposals up for consideration reduce from four to two the number of travel lanes on this major route.

Seminary Road should remain four lanes, and none of the three proposals put forward is sufficient to address concerns raised by the impacted neighborhoods. Seminary Road is the home of our local hospital and a fire station. Beginning in 2020, it will also become the connecting corridor for Douglas MacArthur elementary students traveling in cars and buses to and from their swing space in the former Patrick Henry School building. These are just some of the many critical reasons why reducing the number of driving lanes on Seminary is inappropriate and will only exacerbate existing traffic and safety concerns in Central Alexandria.

That said, Seminary Road is one of many areas in Central Alexandria that needs safety improvements, and I support making appropriate changes to that end. I ask that the city instead consider the following traffic and safety changes that will meet the needs of all Central Alexandria residents seeking relief:

  • Allocate the necessary resources to increase enforcement of traffic violations in all of Central Alexandria. This must also include neighborhood streets.

  • Reduce lane widths to 10 feet to encourage drivers to slow down, create sufficient space for bike lanes in areas of need, and create additional buffer space between the road and sidewalks.

  • Adjust speed limits to ensure residential/local street speeds are slower than the speeds for arterial roads.

  • Increase pedestrian safety by installing more crosswalks and using crosswalk flashing lights.

  • Install traffic lights at intersections that are unsafe for turning vehicles.

  • Widen sidewalks to allow cyclists off-road options.

I am proud to live in the City of Alexandria, but my quality of life is hurting. The sea of red “Traffic Voter” signs throughout Central Alexandria last year demonstrate that I am not alone. We are frustrated city officials continue to take steps only to make the situation worse.

I urge city officials to rethink road diets of arterial roads and take these better steps to improve our traffic, our safety, and our peace of mind. That’s a vision worth pursuing.

Jill Hoffman