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Neighbors Battle County Over ‘Five Points Intersection’ Changes

Five-way intersection in Cherrydale (via Google Maps)Cherrydale residents are at odds with Arlington County over changes to the neighborhood’s busiest and most confusing intersection.

As the county continues to move forward with its Cherrydale Lee Highway Revitalization Program, the Cherrydale Citizens Association (CCA) is voicing strong disapproval with changes to traffic patterns at the “Five Points Intersection.”

The Cherrydale Lee Highway Revitalization Program is part of the county’s overall plan to foster a safer, more aesthetically-pleasing, and pedestrian-friendly Arlington. In its efforts to enhance the Five Points Intersection — where westbound Lee Highway splits into Old Dominion Drive and Old Lee Highway as it crosses N. Quincy Street and Military Road — the county has made a number of changes which Cherrydale residents say have made the intersection worse.

The CCA formed a Five Points Intersection Committee (FPIC) in the fall of 2011 and, according to CCA President Maureen Ross, the committee has been unanimous in their opposition to the proposed changes.

Five-way intersection in Cherrydale“Citizens who had never met each other all voiced the same conclusions when we met with Betty [Diggs, Arlington County Representative] and those conclusions were that every change we’ve made in the past two years have made the travel problems worse,” said in a PowerPoint presentation posted online in September 2012.

County engineers added a nub at the corner where Lee Highway intersects North Quincy Street. Though it was intended to help pedestrians, the FPIC alleges that it has resulted in restricting right-turn traffic from N. Quincy Street onto Lee Highway.

Additionally, the creation of a left-turn-only lane on northbound Quincy Street  has forced cars into a single restricted right lane causing motorists to cut across 20th Street N. and into residential neighborhoods to avoid the bottleneck.

“They have narrowed how far you have to cross which makes it a better pedestrian experience but it’s still a miserable vehicular experience and it forces cars down pedestrian streets which isn’t good for anyone,” said Ross.

Five-way intersection in CherrydaleThe FPIC has also taken issue with the signage and markings on the road (known as “puppy paws”) instructing cars to make left turns in front of oncoming traffic which is contrary to how traffic has historically operated.

“That’s a really wide intersection but the way that driver’s ed and the state of Virginia wants you to turn is in front of oncoming traffic. If you do that you end up getting stranded where the Toyota dealership and only two cars getting through,” explained FPIC chairwoman Anne Beckman. “The way it’s always worked is that you enter the intersection as far as you can go and then you wait.”

To emphasize their point, the committee has taken video footage of school buses, fire engines and motorists ignoring the street sign and making left turns in the old fashion.

“I got started [with the committee] because all of a sudden there were signs and puppy paws  because there was literally chaos every morning and I was scared,” said Anne Beckman who begins her commute every morning to Falls Church with a left turn on Lee Highway.

After voicing their dissatisfaction in a November meeting with transportation department representative Betty Diggs, the county removed the road puppy paws under the initiative of Diggs and County Board Member Mary Hynes. The eastbound traffic signal on Old Lee Highway was also tweaked to improve traffic circulation.

Ross and Beckman both concede some improvements have been made with the removal of the puppy paw markings, but both still believe that the intersection is chaotic.

“They’re not ignoring what we’re saying, but they’re not planning on making any changes to the left-turn problem,” said Beckman.

In April, the CCA distributed a survey to all 1,300 homes in the Cherrydale area with the Five Points Intersection topping their survey as the least-safe intersection after the committee. The survey response rate was 20 percent.

For their part, the county staff has regularly held meetings with the CCA.

“Based on the meetings and comments received from the Cherrydale listserv, staff worked to incorporate these comments into a draft design,” said Arlington spokeswoman Myllisa Kennedy in an e-mail.

The county’s web page for the Cherrydale Lee Highway Revitzliation Program lists the streetscape improvements as being approximately 75 percent complete with the project expected to be finished in the spring of 2014.

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