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Carlin Springs Road clocks another crash near Kenmore Middle School

The crash on S. Carlin Springs Road on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023 (courtesy anonymous)

Yesterday morning, while Arlington Public Schools students were on their way to school, two cars were involved in a crash on S. Carlin Springs Road.

Around 7 a.m., police were dispatched to the intersection of Carlin Springs and 5th Road S. for reports of a crash resulting in property damage, says ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

“Upon arrival, it was determined the drivers of the two involved vehicles were traveling north on S. Carlin Springs Road when the vehicles collided, causing one vehicle to strike a utility pole and street sign,” she said. “No injuries were reported.”

The sign struck instructs turning vehicles to yield to pedestrians.

This stretch of S. Carlin Springs Road is notable for its narrow sidewalks and little or no pedestrian buffer. The road, which includes walk zones for Carlin Springs and Campbell elementary schools and Kenmore Middle School, has a history of crashes as well as a smattering of improvements.

In the last five years, the site of yesterday’s crash has seen a handful of crashes that sustained at least $1,500 in property damage or resulted in injury or death, according to data Savage shared with ARLnow. There were two last year, four in 2019 and two in 2018, but no recorded crashes in the intervening pandemic years.

A crash at S. Carlin Springs Road and 5th Road S. on Sept. 10, 2022 (courtesy anonymous)

Zooming out, on S. Carlin Springs Road between Route 50 to 8th Road S., there have been several crashes over the years, including near Kenmore Middle School.

Since 2013, there have been four severe crashes on this stretch of S. Carlin Springs Road: two at 1st Street S. in 2013 and 2021, one at 3rd Street S. in 2022, and one at 5th Street S. in 2016.

Last year, several intersections within this stretch saw 1-2 crashes each, according to a county report.

One of those last October involved a young cyclist and driver proceeding through a green light. After this crash, some in the community re-upped their calls for a safer S. Carlin Springs Road. They said local families have described unsafe conditions for years, leading to a 2018 study of the road that generated some short-term changes in 2020 and 2021.

Intersections with several crashes, pull-out of S. Carlin Springs Road added by ARLnow (via Arlington County)

Parts of S. Carlin Springs Road are in what the county calls an “equity emphasis area,” for its high population of people of color and households with lower incomes.

The county uses this designation to evaluate transportation upgrades and ensure these areas — where crashes occur twice as frequently — receive proper attention through Vision Zero.

As part of Vision Zero — the county’s effort to eliminate pedestrian deaths and serious injuries by 2030 — this spring, the county lowered speeds from 25 mph to 20 mph on parts of S. Carlin Springs Road within 600 feet of access points for Kenmore, Carlin Springs and Campbell.

To catch the attention of drivers, the county also added more visible crosswalks, signage and street markings.

Last winter, Arlington added rapid flashing beacons at a mid-block along 7th Road S., between Carlin Springs and S. Jefferson Street, which the county says is “on a critical path” for students walking to these schools.

Not all Vision Zero-related projects worked, however.

The county temporarily closed the northbound right travel lane of Carlin Springs from 8th Place S. to 5th Road S. so students had more room to walk or bike.

But it halted that pilot project over “erratic driving around the barriers” observed by the APS, the police department and the community.

At the same time, “many respondents showed support for the buffers or for widening the sidewalks,” the county notes in a report.

The county has said it would explore “enhancing sidewalks and access along the corridor, including connectivity options” when it redeveloped the Virginia Hospital Center site. That might look different, now that VHC Health is taking over that work.

Widening sidewalks, while ideal, would be costly and time-consuming, according to Josh Folb, an Arlington Public Schools teacher who sat on a transportation committee that studied the road closely.

“There’s not a lot of county land,” he said, noting the same narrow sidewalks that make walking uncomfortable are the extent of public property.

“What would make it perfect would cost millions and require eminent domain,” he continued. “There are no easy answers.”

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