Pedestrian-related initiatives are central to much of Alexandria’s redevelopment and transportation planning both in recent projects and those slated for the future.
Those who follow city planning initiatives closely are already aware of this. Those who look less intently might have missed the pedestrian aspects amid on-going acrimony between well-funded, often outsider bicycle advocates and those whose primary mode of transportation is – and will be for the foreseeable future – an individually owned automobile.
Toss in pushback over proposed dedicated bus lanes on Alexandria’s Duke Street that would eliminate automobile lanes on the city’s main east-west, already gridlocked thoroughfare, and it’s easy to see why the walker can get lost in the tussle.
Happily, several pedestrian-related initiatives are among the Alexandria government’s success stories in recent years.
Tops on the list is the walkway along the waterfront in Old Town. Yes it took artwisting and threats, but the deal reached by the city government and the Old Dominion Boat Club to move the club a little more than a block to the south – and to have the riverfront walkway pass between the new club and the river – paved the way for a fabulous walking path.
Another acrimonious debate that ended well, and enhanced Alexandria’s waterfront walkway, was the renovation of Lee Street Park. Remember around 15 years ago when there were plans afoot to destroy the field in the heart of the park and move volleyball courts there?
Resident pushback helped lead to the wonderful end result: a dedicated dog park on the waterfront, adjacent to the beautifully landscaped cove with ample benches and an easy-on- the-feet gravel path. And Lee Street Park’s large field – where generations of children have learned to kick soccer balls, catch frisbees and hit baseballs – was preserved.
A third example of excellent pedestrian-related planning is the walking/jogging trail through Potomac Yard Park. That entire park, built on a narrow strip of land along Potomac Avenue leading to the new Metro station, has something for residents of all ages.
So we were glad to learn that resident pushback led the Planning Commission to amend the site plan for redevelopment of the former GenOn power plant at its meeting Tuesday night to include a more pedestrian-friendly approach to the redevelopment’s roadways.
The decision came after debate between Planning Com- mission members, the project’s development attorney and residents about the need for the project to take pedestrian needs into account as more detailed site plans are developed. Opinions were divergent, but the discourse that led to the 5-2 vote remained civil. See today’s page 1 story, “GenOn’s site plan amended,” for more information on the meeting.
Less civil is the debate surrounding the proposed Duke Street in Motion project. While it’s unlikely that many people would choose to stroll along Duke Street for pleasure regardless of how the street renovation turns out, the conundrum of what to do with that main roadway brings home one significant point: It’s vastly easier to incorporate pedestrian-friendly initiatives into new construction than it is to add it later.
Kudos to the Planning Commission for recognizing this fact.