Dan Mehaffey and Jim Durham are City of Alexandria residents and local advocates for safer streets for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Richard Baier, Alexandria Transportation and Environmental Services Director, presented on Monday a plan to meet the direction of City Council and calm traffic on King Street. The plan is the outcome of professional work by City Staff, numerous community meetings, and a compromise to keep as much parking as possible on King Street. The meeting went into the early hours of Tuesday when the Traffic and Parking Board voted 5-2 to recommend delay in implementing the plan, a change from a similar November 25th vote of 6-0 recommending delay. Board members Greg Cota and Kevin Posey voted against further delay after listening to Mr. Baier’s presentation and public comments, in which a majority of speakers, all Alexandria residents, spoke in favor of the City’s plan.
The flashpoint in the plan is the 27 parking spaces on King Street between West Cedar and Highland, where the majority of houses face North Terrace View, not King Street. Chairman Thomas “Jay” Johnson, Jr. heard testimony about the parking usage by City Staff. In 20 random samplings of the 27 spaces, the average count was 1.2 cars. At most, five cars were parked in the 27 spaces. The 27 spaces do not include the 10 spaces west of Highland which were kept as parking spaces as part of a compromise that also added three additional spaces to the street parking on the other side of King Street.
Mr. Baier’s expert testimony focused on how the traffic calming measure before the board would re-allocate the use of public right-of way to create a safer King Street in a section that is heavily used by pedestrians to access the King Street transit hub. The Alexandria Transportation Commission, the Environmental Policy Commission, the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and the Park and Recreation Commission submitted letters of support for the plan.
The board also heard from Alexandria residents including residents of the affected neighborhood who favor the city’s plan and want the safety measures afforded by the city plan. The safety measures include pedestrian crossings, separation of use for walkers, bikers, and motorists, and a compliant lane narrowing shown by the Highway Capacity Manual to reduce speeds by between 1.9 and 6.6 miles per hour. The King Street speed limit is 25 miles per hour in the section, but motorist speeds are well in excess of the limit. Opponents of the plan also cited safety as a reason for their opposition to the plan described as safe by not only the professional planners on city staff but also in an independent review by a professional engineering firm.
The traffic calming plan now goes to City Council for a March 15th hearing with the Traffic and Parking Board’s recommendation.
A clarification, from the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee: “Although the original parking information was technically correct, parking needs are based on peak usage not average usage. In an effort to be as clear as possible, we have updated the numbers to stress the peak usage for all parking in the stretch (six cars for 37 spaces) instead of the average usage for the 27 spaces that will be removed (just over 1 car).