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Columbia Pike intersection where crash killed teen secures funds for crossing beacon

A memorial at Columbia Pike and Tyler Street for Lesly Diaz-Bonilla, who was killed by a driver on Nov. 16, 2022 (photo by Ellie Ashford, courtesy Bailey’s Crossroads and Culmore PBI Coalition)

To the relief of Bailey’s Crossroads residents, some traffic safety improvements are in the works for the often harrowing area where Columbia Pike and Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) meet.

Perhaps the most urgent change will be the addition of a pedestrian hybrid beacon at the crosswalk across Columbia Pike at Tyler Street — the intersection where a driver hit and killed Justice High School student Lesly Diaz-Bonilla in November.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved an allocation of $920,000 to fund improvements at the intersection on April 11 as part of a $25 million slate of pedestrian safety projects planned throughout the county.

In the wake of Diaz-Bonilla’s death, over 1,000 residents signed an in-person and online petition calling for a reduction of the speed limit on Columbia Pike from 35 to 25 mph and other changes to the intersection, according to the Bailey’s Crossroads & Culmore Place-Based Initiative (PBI) Coalition, a community initiative led by George Mason University.

“This is a daily route to school for many children, including my own, and a route to work for many of us in Culmore,” resident Laura Doughty said in a press release from the coalition. “The lack of safety features for pedestrians coupled with the high-speed traffic makes it extremely dangerous for those of us who walk in the community everyday.”

Just 17 years old, Diaz-Bonilla had dropped off a younger sibling at a bus stop in front of the Barcroft View Apartments when a sedan crashed into her shortly before 9 a.m. on Nov. 16. After the crash, community members said they’d raised concerns about the intersection’s safety for years.

A report released last summer found that high vehicle speeds, incomplete sidewalks and limited crossings make Bailey’s Crossroads dangerous for pedestrians, particularly along the major corridors of Columbia Pike and Route 7.

A pedestrian hybrid beacon requires vehicles to stop if a pedestrian is present and pushes an activation button. A rapid flashing beacon with a pedestrian refuge island could be considered at the Tyler Street crosswalk instead if a hybrid beacon “is not feasible or warranted,” county staff said in a list of the safety projects that the board approved.

The April 11 vote also designated $1.9 million for a sidewalk on westbound Route 7 in front of the Liberty Gas station at 5930 Leesburg Pike in Culmore. A pedestrian was killed there in December 2021.

By press time, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation hadn’t returned a request for comment on when the projects will be implemented.

So far, the county has allocated about $30 million out of the $100 million that the Board of Supervisors pledged to spend on active transportation safety projects over six years, starting in 2022.

The inclusion of the Bailey’s Crossroads improvements in the latest package is the result of advocacy by residents, businesses, nonprofits and other organizations that have united around the need for safer streets, PBI Coalition program manager and Fairfax Families for Safe Streets Board of Directors member Katie Wilson said.

“The PBI Coalition will continue building these pipelines between local residents, organizations, and county leadership to amplify resident voices and ultimately work in partnership to build a community where all thrive,” Wilson said.

In a separate project, the county is planning to build a sidewalk and make other improvements in the Annandale section of Columbia Pike.