CENTRAL ALEXANDRIA TRAFFIC STUDY TASK FORCE
Report for TRCA
Time-consuming 2 – year process for Traffic Task Force representatives from 4 citizen associations for meetings, emails, & research into best practices in other localities similar to Alexandria.
$250,000 spent by City taxpayers for data collection on traffic in the study area, but at least validating residents’ concerns & observations.
Numerous observations & recommendations from residents and TF members were ignored by City staff, or rejected outright during this process.
City staff offers only turn restrictions and speed bumps for neighborhood most seriously affected but agreed to additional signage “no through traffic 4:30-6:30pm.
Turn restrictions + no through traffic signs should provide hoped-for relief from cut-through traffic, but turn restrictions will also inconvenience residents & impact other streets.
TF believes traffic issues are not effectively managed by TES, that apparently has no accountability to city leadership or its citizens.
Additionally, ETR residents are asking for:
“no through trucks” signs be added;
“no through traffic 4:30-6:30pm” signs be changed to “No access to Duke St.”
TES should reconsider shortening the WTR stoplight cycle
Newly formed TF members can address these requests going forward.
In early 2016, planning for a Traffic Study was initiated & funded by City staff from Traffic & Environmental Services (TES) following a request from residents in central Alexandria. Initial City planning included asking for resident input about traffic problems in their neighborhoods by asking three Civic Associations (CAs): Seminary, Clover/College Park & Taylor Run, to select two representatives each to join a newly-formed task force. A fourth CA was added because Seminary Ridge and Seminary Hills are considered two separate CAs.
IDENTIFYING TRAFFIC ISSUES IN STUDY AREA:
In the summer and fall of 2016, task force (TF) representatives met with City staff to share their observations of multiple traffic problems in their respective neighborhoods. TF members were in agreement that the worst cut-through commuter traffic during evening rush was on three or four narrow streets on either side of Taylor Run, leading to Duke St., causing major safety issues on ETR leading to the access road to the light at Duke, and on West Taylor Run, Yale and Cambridge, and was negatively affecting the quality of life for TRCA and CCPCA residents in that area.
In 2017 the City contracted with a company to collect data from a number of points throughout the study area. TF members met with City staff to discuss the data collection process, during which TF members advised on additional and/or more refined data collection. Results of the data collection effort were shared with TF members in fall of 2017. [see TES website for study report details] The data validated what residents already knew—the worst cut-through traffic congestion was outbound on ETR and surrounding streets
TASK FORCE ANALYSIS & RECOMMENDATIONS:
Focus was on strategies to reduce congestion in CCP & TR target area. TF could only address local immediate fixes. (no regional solutions allowed) TF commenced process of research, discussion and recommendations for solutions, most of which were rejected by City staff.
CITY STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS:
In early 2018 City asked TF to prioritize its concerns: Safety, congestion, or cut-through traffic, stating that “there would be trade-offs” -- some residents would be inconvenienced. Forced to choose one, TF agreed “cut-through traffic” was the priority. In March, City staff presented its recommendations for alleviating traffic in the target area; they consisted of the following (that relate directly to TRCA):
Speed Cushions on ETR
Reconfigure ETR & Southview for safer turns
Turn restrictions pm peak times (4:30-6:30pm)ETR – Southbound Right Turn to access rd, Moncure Dr/Hilton – Southbound Right Turn onto access rd
New mid-block crossing on WTR
Light at WTR & Duke to be shortened to allow more through traffic on Eastbound Duke, although this would clearly worsen the traffic on WTR in the evenings.
TASK FORCE RESPONSES TO LIMITED OPTIONS:
TF members were instructed to share info with their CAs & report back to the TF.
City staff asked the TF to vote, but limited our vote to items presented with no additions, or changes. TF contacted one another to discuss impacts of these proposed changes and to offer other, better options than those presented by the City. Although signs and permits for resident exemptions to turn restrictions are the most effective strategy, the City would engage in a protracted fight with the TF on this issue. The next most effective means is use of “no through traffic” signs, with no need for turn restrictions at all. City staff agreed, only if accompanied by turn restrictions.
The TRCA board agreed to the no right turn restrictions from ETR, Moncure and Hilton at the intersection with the access road to the light at WTR and Duke , provided that “no through traffic” signs would be placed strategically prior to that intersection. This would be for a trial period of no more than 6 months. It is not clear how this will be monitored, nor if this trial period would be shortened or lengthened.
TURN RESTRICTIONS APPROVED BY TPB:
In mid-May these turn restriction recommendations were presented to the Traffic & Parking Board (TPB) by City staff. Speakers described the congestion, lack of access for residents, and numerous accidents, and spoke in favor of trying these proposed turn restrictions for a trial period. The TPB voted in favor of a trial of the turn restrictions with no through traffic 4:30-6:30pm signs for a 6-month period.
IMPACT FOR TRAFFIC CONGESTION FOR ETR NEIGHBORHOOD:
We hope that this will result in fewer commuters on ETR, especially if drivers see and obey the no through traffic signs before continuing down ETR, Moncure, or Hilton, at which point they would have to turn around. But this is likely to cause increased traffic congestion on WTR, Yale, Cambridge streets.
Observations of changes, improvements or issues as a result of these turn restrictions by residents living on the affected streets would be very helpful in determining a future course of action by TRCA and CCPCA.
NEW TASK FORCE STUDY GROUP FORMING:
Subsequently, the City (TES) announced that the TF was disbanded and would no longer work with the City on traffic issues in the study area. TF members have decided to keep working, with added members from the CAs. Current efforts include contacting all city council & mayoral candidates for their views on traffic in Alexandria, creation of yard signs (“traffic voter”), monitoring of turn restrictions, etc., and ongoing strategic planning efforts to draw attention to the problem of cut-through commuter traffic in Alexandria, and to put pressure on elected officials to direct city staff to address this more effectively than they have to date.
Michele Reday Cook - TRCA Representative to Central Alexandria Traffic Study Task Force