(Updated at 12:20 p.m.) A troubled intersection near Lubber Run Community Center clocked another vehicle crash last week.
The collision at N. George Mason Drive and N. Park Drive last Tuesday happened as neighbors await the installation of street markings and, eventually, signage, alerting drivers to a lower speed limit of 20 mph in the area.
“A Porsche SUV gunned it through a busy intersection and collided with another SUV,” said Phillip Berenbroick, who saw the crash. “[It] happened right as kids and parents are rushing over to Barrett Elementary [School] for 9 a.m. school start.”
And that wasn’t all. While first responders were still on scene, an Audi SUV headed from the Arlington Forest neighborhood toward Ballston on Park Drive sped through the intersection and was pulled over by police, Berenbroick said. He noted that Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons stopping traffic and allowing pedestrians to cross N. Park Drive were flashing.
“It’s super dangerous for pedestrians when cars traveling eastbound on Park Drive out of Arlington Forest try to cross through the intersection and turn northbound on George Mason,” he said. “ACPD pulled the car over and let the driver off with a warning. It was a little surprising since the accident that police and EMTs were responding to was a result of the same type of dangerous driving.”
The collision reignited one neighbor’s push for a traffic signal there, particularly given the presence of Barrett Elementary one block away. Drivers tend to go fast on the four-lane expanse of N. George Mason Drive, leaving few windows for people on N. Park Drive trying to cross or turn left, including those going to and coming from the popular Lubber Run Community Center.
Arlington has a county-wide policy setting a permanent 20 mph speed limit on neighborhood streets within 600 feet of a school. Arlington County expects markings alerting drivers will cost $150,000 and will be added over the next 2-3 years.
Another crash and N. Park and N. George Mason, this morning, this time witnessed by kids walking to school and a child was in the car that was struck. Still debating a light @ArlingtonVA or waiting for kids to get injured? @ARLnowDOTcom pic.twitter.com/LKc4fn6BzX
— David (@Dhartogs) March 29, 2023
Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons, which give pedestrians are more “protected” window to cross the road, were installed at the N. Park Drive intersection in late 2020 as part of a transportation study related to the community center project.
Currently, the speed limit on N. George Mason Drive in the area is 30 mph, reduced to 25 mph when a light near the community center is flashing. Later this spring, speeds on the road will drop another 5 mph — to 20 mph — when lights are flashing, in response to a new county-wide policy.
As part of the updated school zone policy, the speed limit on parts of Park Drive near Barrett will be reduced to 20 mph at all times.
Also this spring, the intersection is expected to get new “SLOW SCHOOL XING” markings after it is repaved, according to Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors.
“The Water Sewer Streets crew is putting together the schedule for what streets are getting repaved this season, so the timing of when the N. George Mason Drive and Park Drive [intersection gets] paved will depend on them,” said Pors.
In all, there have been 23 crashes at George Mason sand Park since 2017, of which nine occurred in the two years the Lubber Run Community Center has been open, according to data from Arlington County Police Department. Last week’s crash does not register because it does not reporting criteria outlined in state code.
ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage says the data includes all crashes involving injuries, death or property damage “apparently” exceeding $1,500. Officers are required to submit a report within 24 hours of completing an investigation into these crashes.
Many of the crashes at this intersection have been “angle crashes,” per annual crash reports for 2020 and 2019. Angle crashes the most common type of car crash in Arlington, comprising 32% of total crashes in 2021, per a 2021 report.
While the rapid flashing beacons have not decreased the overall number of crashes, they still could be helping improve pedestrian safety. Between late 2020 and 2022, when ARLnow last requested crash data for this intersection, none involved pedestrians or bicyclists. The last reported pedestrian-involved crash was in 2018.
County officials say current options for the intersection are limited because the crashes have not resulted in serious injuries or fatalities, making it ineligible for prioritized attention under county policy.
As for new signage and a possible traffic signal, those are longer-term upgrades that would be wrapped into the next Capital Improvement Plan.
“It’s too soon to know the timeline for installation but it could be less than 10 years,” Pors said.
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