A traffic calming plan that includes traffic circles and stirred up some controversy in the Douglas Park neighborhood of south Arlington passed through the Arlington County Board unanimously on Saturday Oct.15. Similar calming measures passed unanimously on N. 26th Street.
Some Douglas Park residents complained that not all neighbors had a chance to be heard or to vote on the project, and that emergency crews will be slowed by the calming measures.
“I feel like the … voting process excluded a lot of people who will be impacted by this project,” said Linda Schramm of Douglas Park.
Only 35 houses were inside the “area of impact” for this project, and those houses had a vote on the measure. Many more people are affected than impacted in a project like this, said county board Chair Chris Zimmerman.
That is, anyone who drives the street is "affected," but only those who live on the street, or who live on a cross-street very near the intersection are “impacted,” the county has decided. Seventy-six properties on N. 26th Street were inside the area of impact on that project. .
Basically, county board members argued, has to be cut off somewhere or the process would not work at all.
The S. 16th Street project (from S. Monroe to S. Quincy streets), at $132,000, will get three traffic circles, textured pavement crosswalks and parking edge-lines. The circles will be constructed at the S. 16th Street intersections with Nelson, Oakland and Pollard streets.
People who spoke at the meeting specifically about N. 26th Street in Arlington East Falls Church were largely in favor of the project. The N. 26th Street site (from N. Sycamore to N. Quantico streets) will receive curb extensions to narrow the street, parking edge lines and one "speed cushion" between Roosevelt and Rockingham streets. The cost is $92,000 according to county staff.
Both projects went through the Neighborhood Traffic Calming Committee, a countywide group with a chair appointed by the county board.
Also of concern to some neighbors was the speed at which emergency vehicles would be able to go around traffic circles or over speed cushions, the wide speed humps with slots in the middle for emergency vehicles to drive through.
County staff said they spoke with police and fire departments about the projects and received no complaints.
Kenneth Suskin of Douglas Park gave an impassioned speech about the need to look at police accident reports before taking such extensive measures. He felt the county was fixing a problem that just was not there. But in the end, he said the program was at fault, that the board was “killing” him by using the Neighborhood Traffic Calming Committee.