The People Have Spoken on Seminary Road: Four Lanes Might Stay

(Photo by Mike Salmon)

By Mike Salmon

ALEXANDRIA,VA- The traffic patterns on Seminary Road have been the subject of much examination over the last two years, and after gathering data, devising a “road diet” plan and presenting it to the public, the question remains: What is to become of Seminary Road?

A petition was signed by 148 residents in the Seminary Road area stating, “We wish to present our opposition to the lane reductions in the city alternatives. We want to retain four vehicle lanes on Seminary Road”

The City Traffic and Parking Board and staff developed a 285-page analysis, which will be presented to city council in September, and will look at three alternatives, with a recommendation for the stretch of Seminary Road between N. Howard Street and N. Quaker Lane. Council will vote on the measure on Sept. 10.

“We’ve heard a lot of feedback,” Sarah Godfrey, the Public Information Officer for the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services said.

The city looked at the public input since spring 2018, and found that drivers were concerned with the speeds on Seminary Rd., and reported that turning on and off the roadway was a challenge. Pedestrians were also concerned with a sidewalk right next to the road with no buffer, and the distance between safe crossings.

“The Traffic and Parking Board’s recommendation to the T&ES Director was to maintain four vehicle travel lanes (two in each direction) and establish two HAWK (Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon) Crossings,” notes the Seminary Road Complete Streets Project page on the city’s website. “One at Gaillard/Chapel Hill Bus Stop pair and another to be determined between St. Stephen’s Road and Ft. Williams Parkway.”

Hillary Orr, the deputy director for transportation, estimated that 70 people have made comments. She also said that a road diet, or lane reduction, was used on King Street a couple of years ago with much success.

An evaluation of that King St. road diet concluded that “crashes have gone down in that corridor,” Orr said. “There’s excess capacity on Seminary Road.”

Going On A Diet… A Road Diet

Initially, the City of Alexandria as planners looked to put the busy east-west thoroughfare on a “road diet,” going from four lanes to two with a turn-lane in the center. In June, this idea was presented to implement changes on Seminary Road from the I-395 interchange to Quaker Lane. Up near the I-395 interchange, the lanes will remain the same but the area will be considered for short-term and mid-term improvements. Between North Howard Street and Saint Stephens Road, the move will close a “major sidewalk gap,” and provide safer crossings.

Pedestrian fixes are also still part of the plan for the area by Hammond Middle School and I-395. A proposal will be turned in for installing high-visibility crosswalks at Seminary Road and Kenmore Avenue; widen sidewalks where possible; install Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPIs), and No Turn on Red restrictions to increase pedestrian safety at Seminary Road and North Pickett Street and Seminary Road and North Jordan Street.

“It’s ultimately council’s decision, the community will have a chance to weigh in,” Orr said, adding that if the decision for four lanes is finalized, there will be “likely the same challenges there are today,” on Seminary Road.