City Council’s unanimous vote on Tuesday night to proceed with a scaled-down version of stream restoration at Taylor Run is a huge win for the City of Alexandria and all who live or visit here.
In a textbook collaborative effort between city staff, led by Stormwater Division Chief Jesse Maines, and local scientists and environmentalists, an excellent compromise plan was developed and adopted.
Instead of using flawed science to push through a grant-driven initiative that would have caused great destruction in one of Alexandria’s largest remaining forested tracts, common sense prevailed.
The initiative was paused in 2021, and true teamwork be- tween the city and residents – not the usual check-the-box variety – took place. As a result, a main sewer line that runs through the stream and surrounding wetlands will be repaired in the least environmentally destructive manner possible.
This very model should now be used on the Duke Street in Motion proposal, which is slated for consideration at City Council’s next legislative session, on June 27.
Just as Alexandria is blessed to have so many scientists and environmentally aware residents, we are fortunate to have a leading transportation expert, Sandy Modell – who developed the city’s DASH bus system then ran it for decades – in Alexandria.
Modell is saying loudly, clearly and repeatedly that Duke Street in Motion should be paused while less destructive alternatives are considered.
Just like with Taylor Run, grant money is driving Duke Street in Motion: $87 million to be exact.
Just like with Taylor Run, grant money doesn’t justify doing the wrong thing.
Modell, in a letter, “Duke Street in Motion needs reevaluation,” that ran in the June 1 Alexandria Times, laid out four steps that should be tried first, before embarking on such a massive, expensive endeavor:
1) Construct a new Telegraph Road access point.
2) Implement Adaptive Traffic Signal Control and modernize the city’s traffic controllers to improve signal timing and traffic flow, which can move cars and buses more effectively and efficiently along the corridor.
3) Implement Transit Signal Priority on all DASH buses, already slated for completion by 2025. Transit signal priority allows for extended green or shortened red time to improve the on-time performance of buses and increase service reliability.
4) Implement a “Don’t Block the Box” initiative at Duke and Quaker and Duke and Roth to reduce the gridlock at these intersections. The city could accomplish this quickly and at the cost of some paint, signs and an information campaign.
If these initiatives are enacted while the new Inova campus is built at the old Landmark Mall site, we would have clear data to determine whether these changes netted the three minutes per bus ride that Duke Street in Motion is supposed to generate.
What if a $100 million project – which would undoubtedly have cost overruns well beyond that initial number – wasn’t necessary? That $87 million in grant money would have come out of paychecks of taxpayers somewhere. A tax dollar saved can either be returned to workers or spent on something more vital.
Just like with Taylor Run, a pause is needed for Duke Street in Motion.