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VDOT to develop safety improvements for Burke Centre Parkway after fatal crash

Some community members say a median on Burke Centre Parkway should be extended at a roadway out of the Burke Centre Shopping Center (via Google Maps)

In October, the Virginia Department of Transportation will put together recommended improvements for the portion of Burke Centre Parkway where a fatal crash occurred last month.

The recommendations will come after VDOT staff can review the official police investigative report on the crash in September. The department is also planning to conduct studies on potential speed limit changes and the feasibility of a traffic signal in September and October.

The exact dates when the recommended improvements will be presented and implemented are to be determined, VDOT Assistant District Administrator Steven Welch said at a virtual community meeting about the parkway Tuesday night (August 15).

The timeline for implementation can depend on the nature of the changes. A median closure would take less time put in place than a new traffic signal, for example, Welch said.

“The range is really wide,” he said.

Welch also recapped safety improvements made on Burke Centre Parkway in the last three years, which include removing the flashing yellow arrow from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the intersection of Burke Centre Parkway and Roberts Parkway and adding pedestrian warning signs at four crosswalks.

More than 70 people attended the virtual community meeting, which Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw hosted in the wake of the July 18 crash that killed 17-year-old Rebekah Zarco and hospitalized three other teens.

The bulk of the roughly hour-long meeting featured questions and comments from community members, including on the possibility that the July crash involved cars racing.

“In the days after the crash, we did hear there may have been vehicles racing,” said Second Lt. Ian Yost, a crash reconstruction unit supervisor in the Fairfax County Police Department’s traffic division.

Police say 42-year-old Burke resident Jose Angel Zelaya, who was arrested on Aug. 1 and has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, was driving at almost double the 40-mph speed limit when he crashed into the car of teens.

District 37 State Sen. David Marsden said he was intrigued by the potential connection to racing. He said he has submitted a bill to the General Assembly to deal with loud vehicle muffler noise.

“Certainly loud mufflers don’t cause people to race, but it certainly is indicative of some desire to be aggressive with your car, at least its noise and perhaps its speed,” Marsden said.

Some community members asked about the possibility of adding speed cameras. Under a 2020 state law, Fairfax County can place speed cameras in school and construction zones. A pilot program with cameras outside eight schools has been underway since February.

“Where we are right now is we recently started the school zone pilot program,” Walkinshaw said. “I anticipate we’ll want to expand that to other schools around the county and use that to learn and maybe advocate for additional authorities from the General Assembly in Richmond to do more.”

Multiple community members also brought up the possibility of adding a median barrier at the intersection outside the Burke Centre Shopping Center where the crash occurred.

At the meeting, FCPD officers also provided a brief overview of the department’s recent traffic safety efforts, including the summer “Road Shark” campaign and recent traffic enforcement on Burke Centre Parkway.

FCPD’s motor unit issued 440 citations while conducting “high visibility enforcement” on the roadway between July 24 and July 29, according to a presentation at the meeting.

Community members who have questions or comments about Burke Centre Parkway can contact Walkinshaw’s office at braddock@fairfaxcounty.gov or 703-425-9300. The FCPD says anyone who may have witnessed something related to the July 18 crash can contact its crash tip line at 703-280-0543.

Image via Google Maps