The following letter was written by Aurora Hills resident Ashli Douglas about the county’s Complete Streets Program and traffic congestion in her neighborhood that she said was exacerbated by changes to S. Eads Steet.
To the Editor:
Arlington has embarked on a transportation vision of providing a safe environment for all travel modes, also known as the Complete Streets Program. Today I’m sharing a story of how this transportation vision for complete streets has played out in one Arlington County neighborhood, Aurora Hills.
As I reread the Arlington transportation presentation for our project on S. Eads St. from 2014, it occurred to me how benign and utopian the project seemed. That should have been the first clue. Arlington was going to move more people without more traffic and they were going to protect our single-family neighborhood. All good, what’s not to like?
And then came the medians, protected bike lanes, bike rental rack and central to all of this, the complete removal of two lanes of a four-lane street – S. Eads Street. What could possibly go wrong?
So now we have the same (but probably more) number of cars on the same road with less lanes. This is where the fairytale turns to a nightmare…enter aggressive driving and cut-through traffic.
I live on what Arlington refers to as a Minor Neighborhood Street, in which the distinctive feature of these streets is the nearly exclusive orientation to providing access to residences. It also happens to be a one lane yield street!
One block away is S. Eads Street, an Arterial Street, by definition, the street primarily provides through travel rather that solely for access to adjacent properties. According to Arlington’s street elements policies that are part of the county wide master transportation plan, streets should “…improve the efficiency of vehicular operation on arterial streets to minimize diversion of traffic onto neighborhood streets.”
So you see where this is going. Since our arterial street has reduced capacity, the cars all cut-through our neighborhood street. And just to be clear, we are not talking about a few cars. We are talking over 1,300 commuters a day.
How do we know? Since the county refused to share data or provide any form of relief to our neighborhood, we hired a certified traffic data collection firm to conduct traffic counts on November 1 and 2, a Wednesday and Thursday. The counts were 1,347 and 1,369 respectively.
Our one lane section of S. Fern St. simply cannot handle this traffic. According to Arlington County historical traffic counts, last performed in 2011 on our street, they measured 500 cars on a daily average. What a difference a “Complete Street” makes. We now have approximately 600 cars who rip down the same street in a three-hour period our school bus is dropping off children.
It is no longer safe for our children to play even near the street due to the cut-through traffic. We have experienced over 160 percent increase in vehicles, the majority with DC and MD tags that simply cut through our neighborhood to avoid the congestion morass on S. Eads Street.
As frustrated parents, neighbors and Arlington county citizens, we, individually as neighbors in an eight-block area, and collectively through our civic association have been engaged with the county for over a year to no avail. We have requested that the county protect our neighborhood, and specifically, mitigate the cut-through traffic that originates on S. Eads Street and cuts through our neighborhood on S. Fern Street between 26th Street S. and 23rd Street S.
Our eight-block area has become a virtual highway of dangerous cut through traffic with constant stop sign running, speeding and hit and run accidents, and fearful and angry parents at Arlington county elementary school bus stops.
The S. Eads Complete Street project has been a complete disaster for the residents in our neighborhood and despite our continual pleas for help for nearly a year to protect our single family neighborhood; we have had no relief.
We will not give up our neighborhood and we demand the county remedy the problem they created. And for anyone else that may be facing a complete street project – consider yourself forewarned.
Ashli Douglas has lived in Aurora Hills for 16 years and is the mom to two elementary school-aged children.
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