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Fairfax County initiates turn calming study, following Portland and New York City’s example

Afternoon rush-hour traffic clogs up Dolley Madison Boulevard at the Ingleside Avenue intersection in McLean (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Fairfax County could be taking some notes from New York City and Portland as it tries to turn back the surge of recent pedestrian fatalities.

The Board of Supervisors directed the Fairfax County Department of Transportation on Tuesday (March 21) to review turn-calming measures from other jurisdictions, discuss options with the Virginia Department of Transportation, and come back to the board’s transportation committee with an analysis of how that can be implemented.

“Over the past several years, this Board has taken significant steps to prioritize pedestrian safety,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “Despite these efforts, there were still sadly 32 pedestrian fatalities in Fairfax County on our roads in 2022, the highest number since consistent statistics started being collected in 2010.”

As FFXnow reported last week, FCDOT’s Trails, Sidewalks and Bikeways committee (TSB) delved into the issue and asked the Board of Supervisors to prioritize additional safety measures along major arterial roadways throughout Fairfax County.

“The first is a turn calming, like in New York, San Francisco and Portland,” McKay said. “These programs can reduce turning speeds and thus pedestrian fatalities.”

Left-turn calming aims to reduce turning speeds, eliminate sharp turns, and create “hardened centerlines” that use rubber speed bumps to slow drivers.

McKay said county staff’s report on turn-calming should also include an estimate of the cost.

The second item is a request that no crosswalk at the site of a pedestrian fatality be eliminated unless there is a compelling reason to do so.

The question of eliminating crosswalks took some board members by surprise until Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw explained that the TSB letter references the planned elimination of a crosswalk at Braddock Road and Kings Park Drive in West Springfield.

Walkinshaw explained VDOT intends to move the sidewalk to a safer location.

“The plan is to eliminate that entire signalized intersection and move the crosswalk to a different and safer location, where it’s separated from the turns from Kings Park Drive onto Braddock Road,” he said.

Hunter Mill Supervisor Walter Alcorn noted that, in addition to turn-calming and prioritizing crosswalks, the county also has an ongoing speed camera pilot program.

“I would also note that we are doing our speed camera pilot, which is also getting underway,” Alcorn said. “It underscores that this is really a tough problem…We need to look and see what else can we do to make our streets safer.”

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