A South Arlington intersection that has seen two pedestrian-involved crashes this year, including one last week, is set to be updated to improve safety.
In the evening on Tuesday, March 14, an adult man was struck by a driver at the intersection of S. George Mason Drive and S. Four Mile Run Drive, causing bleeding from his head, per initial reports. His support dog ran off but was later returned, according to social media.
Planned renovation to this intersection are part of the South George Mason Drive Multimodal Transportation Study, which will bring changes along the major road from Arlington Blvd to the county border. The county and a resident involved in the process say complexities at this intersection have slowed down progress on this initiative, which was first expected to wrap up last fall.
“This project is part of the larger S. George Mason Drive project, but the county discovered fairly quickly that this intersection specifically was going to cause them to have to slow down the project to allow for additional study and design,” Douglas Park resident Jason Kaufman said.
A virtual meeting a few months behind schedule was scheduled to be held last night from 7-8:30 p.m., around the same time as the contentious Missing Middle vote, to discuss new designs for the proposed changes along S. George Mason Drive.
Concept plans from last summer proposed treatments including narrower roads, widened sidewalks and vegetation buffers between pedestrians and road users. One option included protected bike lanes while another mixed cyclists and drivers.
A county webpage for the project says staff have conducted an in-depth analysis of S. George Mason Drive where it intersects with S. Four Mile Run Drive, as well as with Columbia Pike, in preparing its plans.
The high-traffic intersection is a major artery for three neighborhoods that links road users to the City of Alexandria, I-395 and Shirlington. A service road, also called S. Four Mile Run Drive, runs parallel to the main road, basically creating a “double intersection.” The W&OD Trail runs parallel to and in between these two roads, crossing six lanes of traffic on S. George Mason Drive.
“Anyone that bikes, rides, drives, scoots or traverses through that intersection on a daily basis is aware of its challenges,” Kaufman said. “There are a number of conflict points that are dangerous. That intersection has one of the highest incidents of accidents in the county, including accidents that are considered ‘severe’ for the purposes of Vision Zero calculations, and it needs to be fixed.”
The county considers this intersection a “hot spot,” based on a review of crash data from 2019 and 2022. Between 2017 and 2019, there had been more than 15 vehicle crashes and at least two cyclist-involved crashes, per a 2020 report. The county’s crash dashboard lists two crashes with severe injuries, one in 2015 and another in 2017, and ARLnow reported on a hit-and-run with severe injuries in November 2021.
That’s in addition to last week’s crash.
@ArlingtonDES is working on designs at this very intersection because it's a known safety hazard
This is why we need them to work faster https://t.co/O7WXZJf0Ps
— eBike Gillian (@BikeGillian) March 14, 2023
For all road users, navigating the intersection requires hyper-vigilance, but people are rarely able to pay attention to “an overwhelming number of inputs,” says Douglas Park resident Kristin Francis.
“Riding a bike there is a complete nightmare,” she said. “Turning on George Mason from Four Mile Run is terrifying.”
When she is riding her bicycle there, she says she feels she has two bad choices: risk getting hit by a car riding in the bike lane or risk crashing into a pedestrian riding on the sidewalk.
This year, the county moved to increase safety by eliminating some right-turn-on-reds as part of a county-wide effort to ban these right turns in high-congestion areas. After the crash last week, one cycling advocate said she would like to see the county move faster.
Kaufman said eliminating these right turns increased pedestrian safety but he has noticed more back-ups onto the S. Four Mile Run Drive service road. He predicts future changes may also involve painful adjustments.
“I feel like the county has done a good job serving the residents of the S. George Mason Drive corridor and also trying to reach out to impacted communities including park users, schools, etc. The outreach has been very good, but the solutions are going to be difficult,” he said. “As with any process, not everyone is going to be happy with the proposed outcomes.”
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