Lowering Speed Limit to 20 MPH In F.C. Neighborhoods Mulled

MEMBERS OF THE Falls Church Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation appeared before the City Council Monday. L to R: Paul Baldino, Andrea Caumont and Dave Gustafson. (Photo: News-Press)

Falls Church’s Citizens Advisory Committee on Transportation (CACT) came before the City Council at its work session Monday night and suggested that it is considering recommending a reduction in the speed limit on residential streets in the City from 25 to 20 miles per hour.

A study is still needed on the subject, said CACT chair Andrea Caumont, but if such a policy was adopted it would not apply to arterial streets, but only ones deep in residential neighborhoods in a limited number of places. One of the immediate issues would involve enforcement.

Meanwhile, the committee’s work with the City staff on traffic calming measures is moving ahead slowly, taking on only two new cases a year as a matter of policy, though City Planner Jeff Sikes, the City’s advisor to the CACT, said that orchestrated citizen appeals directly to the Council tend to throw an orderly approach to the schedule out of order.

Council member Letty Hardi asked the CACT team about its top five priorities for “walkability,” and said the issue is around permit parking on the streets around the impending 4.3-acre Founders Row development at the northeast corner of the N. West and W. Broad intersection, where a groundbreaking is expected soon.

“It is important that a permitted parking policy is in place prior to when Founders Row comes out of the ground,” said Mayor David Tarter, and a lot variables, such as the difference between daytime and nighttime parking demand, need to be taken into account.

The City’s latest experiment in permit parking, introduced to the Winter Hill neighborhood to address concerns for overflow parking at the new 301 West Broad apartments and the Harris Teeter grocery, has been inconclusive concerning its effectiveness, or even, as Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly suggested, its need.

It is unclear whether lack of complaints is evidence it is working or not, City Manager Wyatt Shields said.

“You’re going to be one of the most important committees in the next five to seven years,” Councilman Ross Litkenhous told the CACT members, because of all the new development that is expected (including Founders Row, the West End 10-acre development and the Broad at Washington plan).

“You’re on the front lines of many important battles because of these big projects,” Councilman Phil Duncan added, “But I’d like to see more time devoted to traffic calming in neighborhoods.” He said, “The confidence of citizens to accept the big things is based on our ability to do the little things well.”

Meanwhile the CACT is working with the Chamber of Commerce on a meeting of citizens, business owners and property owners to address the ongoing problems of parking and predatory towing in the downtown area. The signage, for one thing, is “insufficient and confusing,” Hardi noted.

Starting in May, there has been a significant upsurge in the number of tows of cars out of that area. In March it was only 13, but in May it surged to 87, followed by 61 in June, 79 in July, 76 in August, 32 in September and 52 last month.

Hardi, spearheading a special parking issues committee that is holding a public meeting Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Falls Church Presbyterian Church on E. Broad St., said that four key elements need to be put into a plan, including 1. the maximum use of existing assets (by adding electronic signs on the Kaiser and George Mason Square garages, for example), 2. finding new opportunities, 3. taking a comprehensive approach and 4. incentivizing more efficient parking creation, sharing and behavior.

Incentivizing could include liability, storm water and tax relief. Caumont suggested metered parking should not be ruled out, either.
Dave Gustafson and Paul Baldino joined Caumont as CACT members present at Monday’s Council work session.