Commentary, Local Commentary

Penny for Your Thoughts

Pedestrian safety was the focus as more than 100 Culmore residents gathered for a community meeting last Thursday evening. A furious last-minute rainstorm deterred neither the residents nor the presenters from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT).

The meeting, held in English and Spanish, provided an opportunity for the state and county agencies to outline safety upgrades already in place, as well as planned improvements which will take longer to fund, design and implement.

A speed monitoring effort for two weeks in May, using a police speed trailer, showed that average speeds dropped from 36.5 mph — 22.5 mph in the immediate corridor.

A joint VDOT/FCDOT speed study this summer has completed data collection; initial evaluation of the data is anticipated this Fall. The current speed limit on Route 7 in the Culmore area is 40 mph, although it was pointed out by residents that at least one incorrect sign indicates 45 mph. VDOT officials said they would recheck existing signage and correct any errors.

Speed and safe pedestrian access were of major concern, especially after a resident was struck and killed last December as she stepped into a travel lane to traverse the frontage of the Liberty gas station where there is a lengthy gap in the sidewalk on the north side of the street.

During the past 20 years, VDOT and FCDOT have invested approximately $15 million in more than 18 pedestrian infrastructure projects along Route 7 from Seven Corners to Bailey’s Crossroads.
Much of that work was funded by transportation bond referenda approved by the voters and included sidewalks, curb ramps, signalized crosswalks and crosswalk upgrades.

In a few situations, private right-of-way needed for completion of a project was not available, or could not be made available. VDOT now has painted a solid “edge line” along the outer lane of westbound Route 7 near the Liberty station, which reduced lane width and created a hashed shoulder area; “Pedestrian Warning” signs also were added along the roadway.

Additionally, pedestrian crossing time was extended at the signalized intersection at Route 7 and Glen Carlyn Road.

Behind the Culmore Shopping Center, on Glen Carlyn Road, a new stop sign at Argyle Drive, and painted gore areas at the T-intersection, were installed.

The painted gore areas will improve sight distance (vehicles cannot park there) and provide more protection for pedestrians in the existing crosswalk. “Flex posts” will be installed along the painted gore areas for further safety protection. Medium-term projects under consideration include adding new sidewalk segments on both sides of Route 7.

Although sidewalks already exist, some are not convenient for easy use because of their offset nature or disconnection to bus stops and crosswalks.

The Culmore community has advocated for a pedestrian crossing mid-block between two signalized intersections; a scope of work for a study and design work for a consultant has been developed by FCDOT, but funding for implementation has not been identified.

A similar crossing was installed about 20 years ago on Route 50 near Graham Park Plaza (former Loehmann’s Plaza).

More than a dozen residents, including youth, spoke during the Q & A session following the presentations. They wanted more streetlights, safe walking routes to school and expressed appreciation for the depth of information and complexity that was presented.

VDOT will receive comments about the information presented at the meeting through August 26, 2022. Email comments should be sent to MeetingComments@vdot.Virginia.gov and reference “Culmore Pedestrian Safety” in the subject line.

Safety is everyone’s responsibility, not just county and state agencies, but all users of the transportation system, whether a walker, a cyclist, or a driver.

Using transportation infrastructure correctly and wisely saves lives and that’s another shared responsibility!

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