Your Views: Open letter to city leaders on Seminary Road

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Council will consider repaving and restructuring on the stretch of Seminary Road between North Howard Street and North Quaker Lane at the Sept. 14 public hearing. (Photo credit: Missy Schrott)
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To the editor:

We, the 13 undersigned Civic Associations that represent more than 9,000 households in Alexandria, urge city council to affirm the decision of the Alexandria Traffic and Parking Board to keep four traffic lanes on Seminary Road, with two new crosswalks for pedestrian safety, when council votes at the Sept. 14 public hearing.

Our unprecedented, grassroots alliance of civic associations is the result of the city’s proposal to place a small stretch of a major arterial roadway on a “road diet” by taking away half of the existing car lanes. We remain frustrated by the city’s process and lack of transparency in making road diet decisions. This has fostered distrust and raised questions about accountability measures in our city’s transportation planning.

This issue is not justifiably about public safety, as the city’s own data shows that this portion of Seminary Road is safe. Data from Vision Zero and Traffic Records Electronic Data System shows zero deaths or serious injuries on this part of the road. How do you make something safer than zero?

We prioritize safety, too, but manipulating data to give the illusion that this portion of Seminary Road is unsafe does not improve safety or promote trust. The unsafe portion of Seminary Road that demands attention is the western side around the I-395 interchange. Plus, the King Street road diet has yielded limited benefits beyond reduced speeding, which could have been achieved without reducing car lanes.

Given our need to connect with INOVA Alexandria Hospital, Alexandria City Public Schools/St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School, Fire Station #206 and I-395, the TPB correctly determined that car lanes should not be reduced. Notably, city staff said traffic volumes on Seminary west of Howard Street are already too high for a road diet. City growth projections bolster this finding.

The vast majority of residents in north central Alexandria are drivers negatively affected by traffic congestion. Our part of the city has received no new options in public transit in the past decade, and none are forecast for the foreseeable future. According to the Central Alexandria Traffic Study, 42 percent of the traffic on our roads is cut-through traffic from outside of the city. Road diets will not change this fact and reducing lanes will exacerbate the problem.

The city must do more to incorporate more residents’ viewpoints on its transportation planning boards and committees. We are too beholden to one-size-fits-all approaches coming from special interest groups. Our commitment to regional connectivity must be balanced by a commitment to protecting our own neighborhoods. Alexandrians want impartial data and solutions that accurately account for changes in travel times for school and emergency personnel, neighborhood cut-through traffic and other impacts resulting from lane reductions. Council must acknowledge the unique character of our city neighborhoods in multimodal transportation planning, preserve arterial roadways for accessibility and not get ahead of itself in adopting futuristic measures that don’t work for today.

We urge city council to uphold the decision of the Traffic and Parking Board to maintain Seminary Road with four car travel lanes and new pedestrian crosswalks on Sept. 14. Failure to stand with the TPB and our civic associations will stifle the will of the majority. Residents should use the Call, Click, Connect system to show support for this position.

-Brookville-Seminary Valley Civic Association, Cameron Station Civic Association, Clover College Park Civic Association, North Ridge Citizens’ Association, Old Town Civic Association, Parkside at Alexandria, Seminary Civic Association, Seminary Hill Association, Seminary Ridge Civic Association, Seminary West Civic Association, Strawberry Hill Civic Association, Taylor Run Citizens’ Association, Wakefield Tarleton Civic Association

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