To the editor:
City staff and the Planning Commission recommend approving the Potomac Crescent Waldorf School’s plan to have its 155 students in Kindergarten through 5th grade and daycare attendees dropped off and picked up in the southbound lane of the George Washington Parkway just yards from the Oronoco intersection.
This specific portion of the undivided six-lane road is identified as a “high crash network” location throughout the City’s Vision Zero materials. The Vision Zero action policies are to reduce those classified as “killed or seriously injured.” Did the city apply these policies for this school’s application?
This applicant’s plan requires parents to pull over and drop off their child in the right, HOV/bus lane of the GW Parkway in a newly created loading zone during one of the school’s designated 10-minute slots between 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. The school estimates 106 cars will participate during this one-hour period. Pick-up will occur in the exact spot and manner with 10-minute slots, but in two stages: noon to 12:30 p.m. and 2:15 to 3:15 p.m. If a parent misses their slot, they’re supposed to park in one of three reserve spaces, two and a half blocks away, in a parking garage at the Trader Joe’s building and walk their child to or from school.
Alarmingly, the “Vision Zero Viewer” on the city’s website shows that since November 2017, there have been 18 accidents at the G.W. Parkway / Oronoco intersection with one KSI. This is a significant number and likely low due to COVID-19. City staff and planning commissioners either (1) knew of the data and ignored it, (2) knew of the data and factored it into their recommendation, or (3) did not see the data or know about it. All three scenarios are concerning.
A professional delivery person using a loading zone on a six-lane road to deliver boxes during the peak time for accidents is one thing; having parents and other drivers such as grandparents or nannies unfamiliar with the school’s protocols unload and load their young cooperating children in and out of car seats during the specific 10-minute slot is different.
Hopefully, councilors can see the flaws with this applicant’s plan. At a minimum, City Council should follow its predecessors in approving a school use on the GW Parkway and require drop-off and pick-up in parking lots, private alleys or side streets consisting of only two lanes of traffic.
-Maria Bethard, Alexandria