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Removing a Lane on Wilson Blvd Has Slowed Down Rush Hour Trips By About 15 Seconds

Yes, if you drive through Bluemont via Wilson Blvd during rush hour, your commute has lengthened since Arlington County reconfigured the road. But not by much.

According to a county traffic study, rush hour travel times have increased by only 3 to 15 seconds in each direction. Much of that can be attributed to buses stopping to pick up and drop off passengers, blocking what’s now the only through lane, county staff told residents at a community meeting Thursday night.

Last year, Wilson Blvd was repaved and restriped between the Safeway and Bon Air Park, so that instead of four lanes of traffic, it is now has two lanes of traffic (one in each direction), a turn lane and two bike lanes. Immediately after the changes, some residents said they loved the change, while others complained about a supposed traffic nightmare that they said added 20-40 minutes to their commute.

The lane restriping was largely billed as a safety improvement. Some of the numbers cited by country staff suggest a statistical mixed bag.

The number of vehicle crashes along the reconfigured section of roadway increased slightly, from 3 in the 9 months before the project to 4 in the 9 months after. The number of trips by bicyclists using the stretch of roadway over a 12 hour period increased from 14 to 72, but the number of pedestrians walking along Wilson decreased from 56 to 41 during the same period, according to the presentation given by county staff.

The presentation listed the following “pros” and “cons” of the project.

Pros:

  • Improved bicycle safety
  • New buffer for existing sidewalks
  • Less potential for speeding
  • Less backup due to left turning vehicles

Cons:

  • More delay on side streets accessing Wilson Blvd
  • More vehicular delay due to local bus activity

In its assessment, county staff says the project was a success. The county is now considering options for similar work along Wilson Blvd west of Manchester Street, between the Dominion Hills and Boulevard Manor neighborhoods. That and improvements to the narrow sidewalks along Wilson Blvd have been proposed and may be considered during the county’s upcoming Capital Improvement Plan process.

“There is currently no funding for a long-term project, however, we’ll continue to look for opportunities to extend the demonstration study,” said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “We consider the study to be successful overall and have seen substantial improvements to pedestrian and bicycle safety.”

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