Commentary, Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Has post-pandemic traffic been “driving” you crazy?  Constituent complaints and personal observations seem to lament the return of traffic to pre-pandemic levels.  Reports of speeding are increasing, and drivers seem to be more aggressive — running red lights, refusing to allow other drivers to merge on ramps or change lanes, failing to stop for pedestrians in marked crosswalks.  During the pandemic, many people turned to walking as an outlet and exercise, and pedestrian activity has increased in many of our neighborhoods; that’s a good thing – speeding and ignoring pedestrian safety is not.

Many Mason District neighborhoods have traffic calming devices (speed humps) on their local streets, and more residents are petitioning for similar consideration.  Unlike the independent cities of Falls Church, Fairfax, Alexandria, and Arlington County, roadways in Fairfax County are controlled and maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), a state agency.  Some of the familiar devices in other jurisdictions, such as flashing pedestrian crossing signals, generally are not permitted by VDOT for use in Fairfax County.  One program that has had some success is the Residential Traffic Administration Program (RTAP), which includes traffic calming, cut-through mitigation, $200 Fine for Speeding Signs, Watch for Children Signs, and Through-Truck Restrictions.  

Many Mason District neighborhoods have used the RTAP process successfully.  If you drive over a speed hump on a Mason District roadway, you can be sure that it was installed there after a vigorous review of traffic and speed counts, a neighborhood task force to determine types of devices, engineering reviews for safety and, finally, a community vote.  Most neighborhood efforts are successful, although some neighborhoods do not reach consensus.  Of course, if all drivers took responsibility and drove the speed limit – 25 mph on most residential streets – traffic calming devices would not be necessary.  Speed humps are self-enforcing; no police officer needed, and a reminder that residents care about safe streets.  Slowing down in neighborhoods also protects pedestrians, either on sidewalks or road shoulders.  Drivers and pedestrians both need to be aware of their surroundings.  Drivers, turn on headlights as dusk approaches earlier now.  Pedestrians, wear something white or light-colored when walking at night.  For more information about the RTAP process for your Mason District neighborhood, please send an email to my office at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.    

The Art in the Mason District Governmental Center program features Lee Jaworek, a young artist with autism, who tries to express his perception of the world through his art.  Lee has trademarked his art as Artism – seeing the world through the prismatic lens of autism.  Lee is a graduate of the Art Institute of Washington, has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, and has exhibited at the State Capitol in Richmond, the Four Seasons Hotel, and now, in Mason District.  Lee’s brightly colored canvases on display range from a triptych of the State of Liberty against a brilliant sunset, a very cocky rooster, and a bluebird gazing at a bright yellow background.  My favorites are two canvases of a jaunty honeybee – one that shows the bee in a larger garden setting, and a smaller painting that brings the same honeybee into sharper focus on a multi-faceted yellow flower.  The honeybee has such a personality, you are tempted to reach out and feel the fuzzy brown and yellow bands for yourself.  The Lee Jaworek art show can be viewed at 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale through the end of October.