Once again, as I write this, Alexandria is suffering a heat humidity index over 100, though not a high as bad as high temperatures of just a month ago. A few weeks ago we had record rainfall leading to costly flooding. This past June was the hottest on record, globally, as was July. In May and June, dozens of people were killed in India by a heat wave. Global warming is here, but will got worse if we do not cut back our greenhouse gas emissions
While the Federal Government is failing to take needed action, many states and cities are stepping up with plans to fight global warming. Here in Alexandria, our newly updated Environmental Action Plan has set forth aggressive goals to reduce our carbon footprint. Almost 36 percent of greenhouse gases in the U.S. come from transportation, a proportion likely to grow as the electricity sector shifts towards renewables — therefore it is appropriate that those goals include reducing GHG's from transportation. To do so, the plan aims for a reduction in vehicle miles traveled per capita (how much we drive, on average) by 1 percent per year and increasing the share of trips taken by public transit, walking, and biking, by 15 percent. To get there the plan includes such steps as completing the bicycle and pedestrian projects prioritized in the pedestrian and bicycle chapters of the Alexandria Mobility Plan, adding 3 miles of bicycle connections a year, and encouraging pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders to use Alexandria’s streets.
This September the City Council will be reviewing proposed complete streets treatments for Seminary Road, which is soon to be repaved. One of the options for that road, Option 3, which creates a center turn lane and pedestrian refuge islands, reduces speeding, and adds buffer lanes that would separate the sidewalks from motor vehicles while providing new connectivity for people on bikes, is the only option that is consistent with the Environmental Action Plan. It does this with only minor delays to non-speeding motorists, as shown by the city’s own traffic study. It would be a shame if, the first time the council has to make a decision to implement the Environmental Action Plan, or to leave it as only a piece of paper, the council were to decide that the steps to reduce our carbon footprint are simply too hard.