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Illegally parked cars at Penrose Square causing traffic jams and safety concerns, neighbors say

Illegally parked cars along S. Barton Street and 9th Road S. (screenshot via Twitter/@ArlingtonAF)

Some neighbors and nearby businesses are fed up with drivers illegally parking near the Penrose Square Starbucks.

They say improperly parked cars are leading to traffic jams and a loss of business, while blocking a public space and causing safety hazards.

Recent posts on social media have highlighted traffic jams near the intersection of S. Barton Street and 9th Road S., along Columbia Pike. The posts show several parked cars with hazard lights on, partially blocking traffic on the pedestrian-oriented roadway that connects the Pike and a parking garage for the retail center.

It’s also happening near Penrose Square, a park that features outdoor seating and dining as well as a splash pad for children, as Twitter user @ArlingtonAF points out.

There are currently only a couple legal parking spots along S. Barton Street due to a number being replaced by a Capital Bikeshare docking station a few years back. But a public parking garage is just around the corner.

Cars running stop signs and pulling unsafe driving maneuvers are also common along that short stretch of road, according to the pseudonymous Twitter account.

Neighbor and president of the advocacy group Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County Chris Slatt agrees that this has become a problem at Penrose Square.

Slatt told ARLnow that illegally parked cars have become an “extremely common” thing ever since Starbucks opened at that location in 2015. Drivers who park illegally can restrict traffic flow, block pedestrian access, and get in the way of bike lanes.

“We didn’t see these issues much with the previous tenant,” he wrote in an email.

Starbucks’ next-door neighbor also some complaints. Zak Mancini, the owner of Mancini de Paris Salon, told ARLnow that he sometimes sees three or four cars lined up in the middle of the street with no one in them. All the drivers, he said, are in Starbucks, picking up orders.

Mancini said cars are sometimes blocked from turning onto S. Barton Street from the Pike by those illegally parked in the middle of the street. When that happens, the honking starts.

“It’s a big mess, especially on weekends,” he said. “[Customers] come to me pissed off, saying they are going to find a new salon because of the noise and honking.”

Columbia Pike and S. Barton Street (via Google Maps)

Mancini said he’s seen disputes nearly turn into fistfights and has had to call the police a few times. Slatt believes that the county needs to do something about this.

“Arlington should also strongly consider increasing the fine for illegal parking,” said Slatt, who also chairs the Arlington County Transportation Commission.

What also really concerns him is the persistent running of a stop sign and unsafe driving seen at the intersection of S. Barton Street and 9th Road S., particularly due to the proximity to a splash pad.

“This is dangerous, especially in large vehicles like pickup trucks and SUVs which tend to pitch struck pedestrians under the vehicle rather than onto the hood, which tends to happen with sedans,” Slatt said.

“This is especially egregious given the direct adjacency to a park filled with happy but unpredictable children,” he continued. “We desperately need Arlington County PD to prioritize enforcing laws that are supposed to prevent unsafe behavior like this.”

The Arlington County Police Department confirmed to ARLnow that the section of S. Barton Street in question is indeed a public roadway and, therefore, enforcement is the responsibility of ACPD. Spokesperson Ashley Savage said that police patrol the area and ask the community to report any transportation safety issues.

“ACPD has previously conducted parking enforcement in the area and educated the businesses and patrons along S. Barton about the parking restrictions,” Savage wrote. “As time and resources permit, ACPD will continue to conduct random rotating enforcement and education in the area with the goal of compliance even when police are not present. Community members can report ongoing transportation safety concerns to police using our online form.”

ARLnow has reached out to Starbucks media relations staff for comment but has yet to hear back as of publication.

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