The speed limit on Richmond Highway (Route 1) has been permanently lowered through much of Fairfax County.
Starting next Tuesday (May 23), the legal limit will be reduced from 45 to 35 mph along a roughly 7-mile stretch between the Alexandria City limits at the Capital Beltway (I-495) and Jeff Todd Way/Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, the Virginia and Fairfax County transportation departments announced yesterday (Monday).
The departments said the change is designed “to optimize safety and operations for pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers and transit users” along a corridor that routinely sees devastating crashes.
Just this year, there have been at least 102 vehicle crashes on the Fairfax County section of Richmond Highway, injuring 75 people, according to state data. Prior to 2018, the total number of crashes consistently topped 400, peaking at 508 crashes in 2012.
So far in 2023, three people have been killed on the roadway: two pedestrians and a motorcyclist. Since 2011, there have been about 37 fatalities.
The Virginia Department of Transportation recommended in July 2022 that the speed limit be lowered after a year-long speed study found crashes occur more frequently on Richmond Highway than other primary highways in Northern Virginia, on average.
“The team also found that Richmond Highway between Buckman Road/Mount Vernon Highway and the Alexandria southern city limits had a higher incidence of pedestrian [and] bicycle crashes and speed-related crashes compared to other sections of Richmond Highway,” VDOT said.
However, the study recommended maintaining the existing 45-mph speed limit in the Fort Belvoir area from Belvoir Road to Jeff Todd Way. That 0.75-mile stretch had a lower crash rate, though about 50% of vehicles still exceed the speed limit, according to VDOT.
At a public meeting last summer, some community members raised concerns about the lower speed limit increasing congestion and questioned how effectively it’ll be enforced, but VDOT officials said the study indicated the change will have a “minimal” impact on traffic and allow tougher penalties on drivers who violate the limit.
Even a small decrease in vehicle speeds can lead to fewer serious crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A 5-mph reduction from 40 mph, for example, will produce an estimated 34% reduction in crashes with injuries.
Signs showing the new speed limit will be placed along Richmond Highway on May 23, VDOT said. A final report on the speed study is expected to be finished around the middle of this year.
The drive down Echols Street SE is about to get bumpier — and, the Town of Vienna hopes, a little slower.
After some initial skepticism, the Vienna Town Council gave its support on April 24 to traffic-calming measures designed to force drivers to slow down on the two-lane residential street, which crosses over Wolftrap Creek.
Town staff and the Transportation Safety Commission recommended installing three speed tables between Branch Road SE and Follin Lane, adding solid white parking lane lines on both sides of the roadway, and painting the word “Stop” before the three-way stop sign at the Berry Street SE intersection.
The recommendations are based on a traffic study conducted last year that showed 85% of vehicles driving up to 31 mph on the 25-mph street, Vienna’s acting public works director Christine Horner told the town council.
Some council members questioned whether those speeds are enough to need traffic calming.
“I’ve gone to the street a couple of times,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said. “I personally would prefer to go with two [speed tables]. I think three is potentially excessive for that street.”
Echols Street just meets Vienna’s threshold for traffic calming, staff said. The town’s street safety guide states that physical measures can be considered if the 85th percentile average speed is 31 mph or higher, along with other criteria based on the type of road and traffic volumes.
Vienna Transportation Engineer Andrew Jinks noted that there was an additional police presence on the street when the traffic study was conducted on Nov. 3-10 last year, so typical speeds are likely higher than what was recorded.
Requested by a resident petition, the study counted a total of 3,765 vehicles in front of 509 Echols Street and 18,250 vehicles at the Wolftrap Creek crossing that week, observing speeds from 3 to 55 mph. The average speed at the creek was 27.2 mph.
“Basically, half the cars are going above the speed limit,” Councilmember Ray Brill observed.
According to a staff proposal, the speed tables will be located just before the Delano Drive SE intersection and on either side of the E Street intersection.
Speed tables are raised like speed bumps, but they’re wider and have a flat top, making them less disruptive to the passing vehicles. They can reduce speeds by around 6-9 mph on average, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s traffic calming guide.
Multiple tables are often needed for them to be effective, Jinks said. VDOT recommends placing the tables about 200 to 500 feet apart.
“If staff says it takes three to get the proper spacing to make an effect, I have to defer to staff on this,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said, as Springsteen ultimately agreed.
The project has an estimated total cost of $20,000, including $6,000 for each of the speed tables, according to Jinks. The traffic calming devices will likely be installed within the next two to three months, a town spokesperson says.
Image via Google Maps
Fairfax County is adding speed cameras to monitor drivers around schools for the first time.
The photo speed-monitoring devices will be installed near eight schools across the county tomorrow (Friday) as part of a pilot program approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in December, the county announced today.
Here is where the cameras will be located:
- Kirby Road near Chesterbrook Elementary School in McLean
- Old Keene Mill Road near Irving Middle School in West Springfield
- Franconia Road near Key Middle School in Springfield
- Stone Road near London Towne Elementary School in Centreville
- Sleepy Hollow Road near Sleepy Hollow Elementary School in Lake Barcroft
- Silver Brook Road near South County Middle School in Lorton
- Soapstone Drive near Terraset Elementary School in Reston
- Rolling Road near West Springfield High School in West Springfield
Oakton High School isn’t in the initial lineup, but a camera will be added on Blake Lane near Sutton Road in the future, the county says.
A crash that killed two of the school’s students and left a third seriously injured last June was a major factor in convincing county leaders to adopt speed cameras. Police said the driver — an 18-year-old who had just graduated from the school — was going 81 mph when he hit the students on Blake Lane at the Five Oaks Road intersection.
The pilot will also bring a speed camera to the construction work zone on Route 28 near Old Mill Road at the edge of Centreville. Crews are currently working to widen the road.
“The goal of the Speed Camera Pilot program is to improve the safety of our roads, protect pedestrians and motorists and prevent accidents,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “This program, in coordination with the Police Department and Fairfax County Public Schools, is a critical tool to deter dangerous behavior and ultimately save lives. As you drive in our neighborhoods and school zones — the message is clear, please take a moment to slow down.”
The county says thousands of drivers were seen exceeding the speed limit by over 10 mph during a survey of five school zones last year, suggesting that speeding “is prevalent” in those areas.
During the first 30 days of the pilot program, drivers caught speeding will receive a warning. After that, fines of up to $100 will start to kick in for any drivers who exceed the speed limit by 10 mph.
Traffic safety, particularly for pedestrians, has emerged as a top priority for both the county’s elected officials and the police department this year after fatalities surged in 2022. The Board of Supervisors is also pushing for Fairfax County Public Schools to install cameras on its school buses, asking earlier this week why a program hasn’t already been implemented.
“We continue to see motorists traveling at speeds well above the posted speed limit and too many crashes are occurring in our county as a result,” Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said. “This program provides a great tool to help reduce speed, deter pedestrian crashes, and keep our communities safe.”
Local drivers got an introduction to speed cameras in Fairfax City, which launched them in school zones last year. Programs are also in the works in Alexandria, Arlington and Falls Church.
One person is dead and another critically injured after a car apparently going well over the speed limit drove off an I-95 ramp in Springfield, crashed into trees, landed on a separate highway ramp and collided with another vehicle on Monday (Nov. 14).
According to the Virginia State Police, which responded to the crash at 11:16 a.m., the incident began as 19-year-old Bryan Osorto-Tejeda of Fredericksburg drove a 2013 Honda Accord north on I-95, taking the ramp to go west on Franconia Road (Route 644) “at a high rate of speed.”
“The Honda then ran off the left side of the road, through the guardrail and became airborne,” the VSP said in a news release yesterday. “As it traveled, it struck several trees, overturned and landed on the ramp from Route 644 to I-395 north where it was struck by a 2018 Toyota Highlander which subsequently struck the jersey wall.”
Update: Both ramps expected to be closed for a few more hours. Continue to seek alternate routes. https://t.co/fEzpiKQjiK
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) November 14, 2022
The Honda’s passenger — identified as Odaly Y. Hernandez, 19, of Woodbridge — died at the scene after being “ejected from the vehicle,” according to police, who say she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash.
Osorto-Tejeda was transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital with serious injuries. State police said he was also not wearing a seatbelt and got ejected from the car.
The driver and three passengers in the Toyota, including a 3-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy, were taken to a hospital to receive treatment for minor injuries, according to VSP. They were all wearing seatbelts or “age appropriate safety restraints,” in the case of the kids, police said.
“The preliminary investigation suggests the vehicle was traveling in excess of 100 mph,” VSP spokesperson Shelby Crouch told FFXnow.
The speed limit on I-95 and I-395 at the Route 644 interchange is 55 mph, according to VDOT’s speed limits map.
VSP says it is investigating “extreme speed” as a contributing factor and has charged Osorto-Tejeda with failure to maintain proper control.
Virginia classifies reckless driving as a Class 1 misdemeanor with a minimum fine of $250, but it can be elevated to a Class 6 felony if the person convicted had their driver’s license suspended or revoked at the time and the reckless driving directly caused a fatality.
There have been at least two other fatal crashes at the I-95/Route 644 interchange this year: one in May where a driver died after their vehicle caught fire and a hit-and-run in October, where an allegedly intoxicated driver killed a pedestrian whose car was disabled.
Image via Google Maps
Local police are urging parents to remind their teenagers about the dangers of speeding after a reckless driving incident on Tuesday.
According to the Fairfax County Police Department, on Tuesday an inexperienced driver was caught going 90 mph in a school zone where the speed limit was 25 mph, resulting in a reckless driving charge.
“Parents, take this opportunity to talk to your teens about the dangers of speeding, especially in a school zone. We need to work together to keep our students safe,” FCPD wrote in a statement.
Some residents took to social media to urge the police department to prosecute the individual to the fullest extent of the law.
The teenager was pulled over after a motor squad officer happened to be “in the right place at the right time,” FCPD said.
The police department did not immediately respond to a request for more information.
According to state law, anyone convicted of reckless driving is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Photo via FCPD
Driving on Richmond Highway in Fairfax County could get a little slower, potentially by the beginning of next year.
Virginia Department of Transportation staff said last week that the speed limit should be reduced from 45 to 35 mph along a 7.31-mile stretch of the roadway from the Capital Beltway at the Alexandria border to Jeff Todd Way in Mount Vernon.
The recommendation came from a year-long speed study prompted by concerns about the safety of the corridor, which saw two fatal pedestrian crashes in the span of a week earlier this July. The study found one 1.5-mile stretch that had a 75% higher crash rate than Virginia’s average.
According to the National Safety Council, speeding contributed to 29% of all traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2020. Research suggests 10 mph can make a significant difference in the risk of severe injury or death that pedestrians face when hit by a vehicle.
Several states, including Virginia, have moved in recent years to lower speed limits on local streets, but about 60% of pedestrian deaths occur on major, non-interstate roads. In Fairfax County, speed limits in corridors like Richmond Highway and the also-treacherous Route 7 range from 35 to 45 mph even in increasingly urban, populous areas.
Though VDOT staff said reducing Route 1’s speed limit is expected to have a “minimal” impact on traffic, some community members at last week’s virtual meeting worried it might exacerbate congestion and cut-through traffic. Notably, the study recommended maintaining the 45 mph on the road through the Fort Belvoir area.
Others questioned the effectiveness of lowering the speed limit without robust police enforcement and other safety measures, such as added crosswalks and protected sidewalks. A recent report from the nonprofit Smart Growth America argued that driver behavior is more influenced by how roads are designed than posted speed limits.
How do you feel about lowering the speed limit on Richmond Highway and other major roads in Fairfax County? Is it a necessary safety improvement, or do you think other approaches should be considered instead?
The speed limit on a 7-mile stretch of Richmond Highway should be lowered to 35 mph, the Virginia Department of Transportation says.
The road from Jeff Todd Way to the I-95/I-495 (Capital Beltway) interchange currently has a speed limit of 45 mph.
Announced at a virtual public information meeting on Wednesday night (July 20), the recommendation comes from a speed study that VDOT began nearly a year ago.
The study determined that lowering the speed on that 7.31-mile stretch of Richmond Highway was best practice considering the high crash rate, the amount of pedestrian activity, the number of bus stops, and signalized intersections that are currently along this corridor.
“Change in speed allows for longer perception and reaction time for drivers,” VDOT project manager Warren Hughes said. “We want to…change driver behavior. By changing driver behavior, it will enhance safety in the corridor.”
As the study showed, crash rates were much higher on this section of Richmond Highway than the Northern Virginia and state averages for primary highways. On a particular 1.5-mile segment from Jeff Todd Way to Buckman Road, crash rates were 74% higher than the statewide average.
Just this month, two pedestrians were killed in separate crashes on the highway, which is also known as Route 1.
Officials noted that ample evidence suggests lowering speeds even a little saves lives, particularly when it comes to pedestrian-involved crashes.
“The impact of speed correlates to the chance of survival,” VDOT Northern Virginia District Traffic Engineer Gil Chlewicki said. “The lower the speed is when the vehicle hits the pedestrian, the better chance the pedestrian has to survive or less severe injuries. It decreases significantly, even with just five to 10 miles per hour.” Read More
Fairfax County is looking into purchasing additional “Know Your Speed” signs after a fatal crash that killed two Oakton High School students, and seriously injured a third.
After the Oakton crash in early June, the devices were placed on Blake Lane, where the teenagers were walking on the sidewalk before they were struck by a speeding car. Police say the driver, an 18-year-old who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, was going around 81 mph where the speed limit was 35 mph.
“These signs, that are currently limited in supply and moved to different locations across the county, were deployed to Blake Lane immediately following the crash, and were very much appreciated by the community,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said on Tuesday (July 19). “They have now been, understandably, rotated to another site. With a larger inventory of these devices, we could serve more communities for longer periods of time, but I am interested in the staff assessment of this idea.”
The Board of Supervisors directed staff to provide information and recommendations on purchasing more of the devices, which can take the form of signs on mobile trailers or fixed to posts as well as radar guns.
Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said police have told him no one is available to place the speed devices in his district. The Fairfax County Police Department used to have three people who were properly trained to place them, but two left and one was assigned to a different squad, he said.
“I think we can add all the devices we want, but if we can’t get them in place…Part of this I would hope is that the police will come back and tell us how they’re going to take the devices we have and get them out into the field,” Foust said. “And I ask that it not be relying on district by district. I mean, it’s a countywide problem.”
There are different kinds of devices, and some don’t require a special certification to utilize the devices, Palchik said.
With the FCPD experiencing staffing challenges, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity wondered if civilians could be trained to set up the devices.
“One of the things we might be able to look at as a solution is do we really need police officers to set these up, or can we get other folks trained to set it up? I don’t know whether that’s an option,” he said. Read More