Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Speeding on neighborhood streets appears to be endemic in Mason District and Fairfax County, leading to frustration among residents and multiple complaints to the police. The speed limit on most residential streets is 25 mph, but speed surveys for participation in the Residential Traffic Administration Program (RTAP) reveal that average speeds often exceed the posted limit. Add drivers running stop signs to the mix, and you have a recipe for potential disaster.

Neighborhoods that qualify for RTAP enter a process to determine potential locations for speed control devices, usually speed humps or speed tables, and a vote by ballot. To qualify, the street must be classified as a local, residential collector, or residential minor arterial road with a 25 mph speed limit, and meet the volume and speed requirements of the program. Many neighborhoods in Mason District have navigated the RTAP process successfully; a few have not been able to muster community support via the ballot, and others have qualified only for partial relief. The first speed devices in Mason District were installed on Kerns Road in the late 1990s; the most recently approved devices were installed on Randolph Drive near Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. In each instance, the process was instituted by a request to the district Supervisor from a civic or homeowners association, or by at least 10 residents from different households if the neighborhood does not have an association.

Speed devices may force drivers to slow down but, unfortunately, they may not change driver behavior. It is not unusual for traffic and speeding to move to adjacent streets without devices, requiring those neighbors to trigger the process for relief. RTAP is designed to address current traffic issues, not prospective ones. RTAP does not address stop sign violations; that requires police enforcement. To assist police, residents are asked to provide a time frame when stop sign runners are observed (day/time, sign location) for the most effective enforcement.

As people return to post-pandemic activities, complaints about speeding on major roadways also are increasing. Leesburg Pike, Little River Turnpike, I-395, and I-495 especially are popular for speeders and noisy vehicles. Last week’s news item about two teenagers in a multi-jurisdiction police chase that ended on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge resulted in property damage, not loss of life, but remains a cautionary tale for others who were on the roadway at the same time. Don’t be a statistic; slowing down saves lives, fuel, and tickets for reckless driving!

Thanksgiving this week promises to bring families back together again, something they could not do last year during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and lack of appropriate vaccines. One thing remains the same – many people do not have enough to eat, at Thanksgiving or any other time. Food drives by faith communities and non-profit organizations do a remarkable job distributing food through local food pantries, but they need your help to meet the need, year in and year out. Locally, the Annandale chapter of NARFE partnered with the Mason District police station and ACCA (the Annandale Christian Community for Action) to collect food and cash donations in the station parking lot. During this holiday season, there are many ways to support those in need. Please be generous, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.