It’s time for Seminary Road to go on a diet

Guest post by Jim Durham of the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee

Tell the city of Alexandria to stand up for safe streets!

Tell Alexandria Mayor Wilson and City Council to make sure that City staff bring the Seminary Road “road diet” to a public hearing. The safest option provides accommodations for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers.  The project could cut crashes in half and make this section of roadway walkable and bikeable — all for no more than a 5-second additional delay during the worst 15-minutes of rush hour traffic.

By adopting a Complete Streets Policy in 2011, the City of Alexandria directed transportation planners to design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for all users, regardless of age, ability, or mode of transportation. The section of Seminary Road east of Howard Street is ideally suited for the FHWA’s proven approach, a four-to-three road diet, since this section of roadway has excess capacity: motor vehicle traffic is already constrained to one lane in each direction at entrances to the project area, enabling installation of safety features such as center left-turn lanes, pedestrian refuge islands and buffer space/bike lanes without adding to congestion.

Road safety is not a popularity contest.

Transportation planners know that a properly engineered four-to-three road diet is the right solution for roads like this section of Seminary Road, but opposition to change is fierce and with high congestion in the region, some drivers are not willing to risk the possibility of even a 5-second delay in the 15-minute peak of rush-hour traffic to achieve the City’s stated safety and multi-modal objectives. Failure to bring the best option forward for a public hearing would undermine Alexandria’s commitment to Complete Streets and Vision Zero.

The Mayor has consistently referred to this project as one that requires a balanced approach. T&ES applied that “balance” by limiting consideration of the road re-configuration to the section with excess capacity. To go forward to the next phase with anything less than a properly-engineered four-to-three road diet in this section is not balanced – it is giveaway to cars at the expense of people.