Letter to the Editor: Opposed to Seminary Road Plan

ALEXANDRIA, VA –

I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed options so far presented to the citizens of

Since 1996, my wife and I have resided along W Taylor Run Parkway.

Until the last couple years, our street and the wider neighborhoods of Clover College Park and Taylor Run which our street borders has been a wonderful place to live. We’ve often had friends and family cite how lucky we are to enjoy city offerings as well as the feeling of living miles outside the beltway nestled among trees and the stream. Sadly, those days are gone thanks to cut through traffic and the impact of ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft during evening rush.

I have served the CCPCA as a board member and was on the Central Alexandria Traffic Study TF. As part of my role in civic engagement I also co-developed and co-manage the TrafficZen Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CentralAlexVA/. The sole purpose of this site is to document and share first person stories of the systemic breakdown of community safety thanks to the traffic congestion which is projected to get seriously worse in the coming years. Further, we research and collect third party research and municipal best practices that offer other ways forward to improve traffic congestion and mobility options. We do so because we have found the city is never interested in collecting and sharing such insights.

As members of the T&PB may know, Central Alexandria suffers significantly and daily from cut through traffic reflected in the study that 42% of the volume are motorists who “neither live or work” in Alexandria. Our traffic site is full of video, photos, and narratives of resident stories proving that traffic volumes of this size directly impact safety to pedestrians, cyclists and even property in our communities.

Reducing lanes on Seminary Road as proposed will only make our traffic congestion worse and reduce safety. Currently, first responders must find ways through such traffic to perform their duties. I work from home three days a week and the traffic is at standstill in front of my house (.3 miles from Duke) and traffic heading north can also be impacted. I can’t imagine trying to get to Alexandria hospital under any of the options proposed. Even the mayor in a Washington Post article earlier this year admitted that under the current roadway design we have today that he and his wife had difficulty getting to the hospital in time for a childbirth!

The bike lobby has tried to paint us as pro-car and anti-bike in their efforts to push through these designs. Let me remind you who lives here. Many of us desire better mobility alternatives like cycle “protected” infrastructure, but taking car lanes away to add painted “shared” lanes or what industry experts call “suggested lanes” because they offer “zero” protection for riders is merely an exercise of “checking boxes” to say we are adding bike lanes.

If the city was serious about adding bike infrastructure they would be designing it ironically for the citizens of Central Alexandria and not a small group of “road warriors” whose threshold for protection are much lower than the average resident.

Just who are we building these bike lanes for anyway?

Does Alexandria want a true bike culture where people of all ages can enjoy riding a bike and ditching their cars? If the answer is yes, then you aren’t asking us what we want. Research and best practices show (see our website above) that cities like Vancouver and Portland are building bike infrastructure that they say rate “AAA” to ensure a level of protection that will provide what most residents need to get out and bike. This research further shows that not providing such protections will never grow demand for biking.

We also support pedestrian safety, which I refer you to the various correspondence issued previously from the civic association presidents in Central Alexandria. We are still waiting for improvements requested several years ago to protect kids on streets where cut through is the worst as they go to and from school. As for the improvements for pedestrians presented for Seminary Road, so long as it doesn’t reduce four lanes such improvements are welcome. 

Lastly, the city is updating its Master Transportation and Mobility Plan. If you read the current plan there is ZERO discussion of strategy to address the epidemic of cut through in Alexandria. What is worrisome is that we’ve been told there will not be any in the new plan either. This is madness. The very idea that the vision described in the old plan will come to life in an era when cut through congestion is this bad and projected to get worse only proves that it is a pipe dream. Congestion volume will kill all of their rosy transit, bike, and pedestrian plans.

There is no “real collaboration” with citizens to develop such an important plan. When I mean collaboration, I mean more than a couple of “nights out to brief citizens.” I mean actually having citizen representatives on these planning groups charged with creating the new plan.

There is no interest by the city to study best practices in any area of mobility. In fact, when asked the city says “that’s why we hire consultants”…. well, I work for a consultancy and relying 100% on consultant advice without a review of cases that measurably address traffic and mobility challenges is at best lazy.

There is no understanding of what is needed to develop and nurture a real bike culture in Alexandria that promotes cycling for all ages. So let’s stop cozying up with WABA and spend more time with the people who pay property taxes in Alexandria.

Finally, if you aren’t familiar with the Greater Washington Partnership (major corporate employers in the region) you should study their vision and plan for regional transportation and mobility. It should be required reading.

Our community wants safer streets. We want other mobility options that promote them without taking away and making less safe driving by car. We need protection from cut through traffic.

We welcome the chance to be co-creators for Alexandria mobility options that build community life. This project is NOT that.

 Peter Turner