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Lorcom Lane upgrades aimed at improving safety for kids walking to school

A stretch of Lorcom Lane on the northern edge of the Cherrydale neighborhood is slated to get pedestrian safety upgrades, particularly aimed at improving a school walking route for kids.

Between N. Quebec Street and Nelly Custis Drive, the county will install sidewalks where there are none, widen existing sidewalks and reduce pedestrian crossing distances. Kids walk this stretch of Lorcom Lane to get to Dorothy Hamm Middle School and Taylor Elementary School.

These changes, and others, “originated through community-reported transportation safety concerns, crash data, and the results of the Vision Zero Pilot Safety Project on the north side of this corridor,” per a project webpage.

This summer, a driver struck a woman pushing a stroller at the intersection of Military Road and Lorcom Lane, just west of the corridor slated for improvements. This area had previously been re-striped with the goal of reducing conflicts between drivers and cyclists.

The pilot project responded to safety concerns for the 40% of students who walk or bike to Dorothy Hamm and the 10% who bike to Taylor. Last spring, Arlington Public Schools encouraged kids to walk or bike to school, if they could, to reduce the number of students on the bus, and thus their risk for a Covid exposure.

For kids walking on the northern side of Lorcom Lane between N. Oakland and N. Quebec streets, that meant navigating vehicle and bicycle traffic without a sidewalk. So the county installed temporary parking restrictions to create a dedicated walking path for pedestrians.

Feedback was positive, according to a summary of survey results.

“About 70% of people walking or biking felt safer while traveling here than before the pilot project was implemented,” per the report. “Most respondents for each mode of transportation felt as safe or safer while traveling here than before.”

During a 20-hour period, staff observed about 60 people — nearly one-third of all pedestrians on Lorcom Lane — using the buffered walking path. Nine times out of 10, at least one vehicle drove by when a pedestrian was walking in the buffer area.

Based on that data and positive feedback, staff decided to make the pilot permanent.

Other planned changes include resolving “alignment issues” with the intersection of N. Quebec Street and Lorcom Lane and addressing safety issues at the intersection of Lorcom Lane and Nelly Custis Drive. This intersection is adjacent to a preschool run by Cherrydale United Methodist Church.

There are three other projects within a half-mile radius, including the controversial roundabout pilot project at Military Road and Nelly Custis Drive that could become permanent.

Arlington County also plans to fill in a missing sidewalk at 4100 Nelly Custis Drive and execute a “quick-build” project at N. Quincy Street and Nelly Custis Drive.

This southeast corner of the intersection will get a marked curb extension, while the pedestrian crossing over Nelly Custis Drive will be shortened and the entire intersection will get new, accessible curb ramps. These changes were identified via a safety audit conducted on the Fairfax Drive corridor in 2019.

The project, initially set to be completed this calendar year, won’t be ready until next spring or summer, as county staff are working on an easement there, says Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors.

Proposed transportation upgrades along and near Lorcom Lane (via Arlington County)

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