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County will seek funding, project manager for ‘Safe Streets’ program

Fairfax County is developing a program to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety (staff photo by Scott Fields)

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation intends to pursue funding next year to expand a budding program to improve street safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other forms of active, or non-motorized, transportation.

The money would be used to hire a program manager and implement priorities, such as speed reduction measures and improved road design standards, FCDOT Active Transportation Engineer Lauren Delmare told the county Board of Supervisors at its transportation committee meeting on Tuesday (March 1).

If funding is approved in the fiscal year 2024 budget, which would take effect on July 1, 2023, it would formally establish the Safe Streets for All Program that the board directed staff to develop in January 2020.

“Some of these priorities will require additional funding for studies, maintenance, or capital improvements beyond the Safe Streets for All program funding,” Delmare said. “…Others may require additional funding or staffing if the board wants to increase the speed of implementation.”

Among those priorities are the creation of a complete street policy and design guide as well as efforts to reduce vehicle speeds that could include speed limit changes, street design updates and public education.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, who chairs the committee, asked if the county could address vehicle speeds using a state law adopted in March 2021 that authorized local governments to reduce speed limits in residential and business districts to between 15 and 25 miles per hour.

However, the Virginia Department of Transportation determined that under the current law, localities can only reduce speed limits on highways if they fall in residential and business districts.

A bill seeking to let localities lower speed limits by up to 10 miles per hour on all highways in their jurisdictions failed in the House in February, FCDOT Director Tom Biesiadny told the board.

“So, we might be decreasing the speed of implementation of that particular item, unfortunately,” Alcorn said.

More immediately, the transportation department could develop a policy for the program, prioritize active transportation capital projects in high-traffic corridors, and create a dashboard to collect and monitor community members’ safety concerns.

Current ongoing strategies for the program include safety campaigns, reducing conflicts and prioritizing active safety through design such as repaving roads.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to make its decision on these recommendations in May.

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