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Friday, August 30, 2013

Residents debate need for speed humps on Old Columbia Pike

Old Columbia Pike at the Downing Street intersection.
People on both sides of the speed hump proposal for Old Columbia Pike (OCP) presented their arguments at a contentious community meeting Aug. 29 at the Mason Government Center.

OCP residents in favor of the humps insisted they are necessary for safety reasons: Too many cars are speeding, which is a risk to pedestrians.

People who opposed the humps said other options would be more effective, such as stop signs or sidewalks. One resident suggested putting in stop signs first, which are much less expensive, and consider speed humps if that doesn’t work. 

Other opponents said speed humps don’t work that well because people speed up in between, they will cause air pollution and drainage problems, the humps will slow down emergency vehicles, the bumpy ride will make it difficult for paramedics to work on patients, and once the humps are put in, they will never be removed.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation determined that putting in seven humps along OCP would be the best way to address residents’ concerns with speeding. FCDOT rejected multi-way stop signs as an alternative, because that would cause more traffic congestion, said transportation planner Guy Mullinax.

He said sidewalks along OCP would be a major expense and might not be feasible considering the property rights issues. OCP resident Jack Lynch, whose family owns property along the road, offered to extend the walkway being put in on Elmdale Road all the way to Little River Turnpike along the eastern side of OCP.

The proposal calls for seven humps on OCP between Little River and Lincolnia Road close to these locations: 4432 OCP, 5660 Reserves Hill Court, 4330 OCP, 4311 Sleepy Hollow Road, 4204 OCP, 4037 Oxford St., and 4021 Oxford St. The humps would be 12 feet wide and about three to three and a-half inches high. There would be warning signs as drivers approach the humps advising them to slow down to 15 miles per hour.

Glen Ruh, a resident of The Pinecrest, said Pinecrest residents should be allowed to vote on the speed humps because they traverse the entire length of OCP frequently, while OCP residents usually just drive on part of the road to get to or from their homes. 

FCDOT has determined that only 143 households will get to vote on the proposal. Those people either live directly on OCP or on side streets ending in cul de sacs where the only access is from OCP. Pinecrest is excluded because even though it borders OCP, the Pinecrest golf serves as buffer and residents have no direct access to the road. 


Ruhe suggested the speed humps proposal, along with a lowering of the speed limit on OCP a couple of years ago from 35 to 25 mph was done for the convenience of the people in the new houses on Reserves Hill Court, adding, “Why is a small group allowed to turn a public thoroughfare into what is essentially a private driveway?”

Several people at the meeting questioned why a task force with just a handful of residents gets to the make the decisions. “We followed the county rules. We don’t have any authority. Every household gets a vote,” said task force member Hiep Nguyen.

Mullinax explained the procedure for residents who want traffic calming: Since the houses along OCP aren’t part of a community association or homeowners association, the county requires at least 10 residents who want a traffic calming measure to make a formal request to their representative on the Board of Supervisors, who then appoints a task force.

A traffic study is carried out to determine if the traffic volume and average speed meets the criteria for a traffic calming device. If it does, FCDOT works with the task force to consider various options and develop a conceptual plan, which the task force presents at a community meeting. In this case, there were two meetings because the plan was changed slightly after the first one.

The task force is now supposed to decide whether to proceed directly to the balloting phase, modify the plan based on citizen comments at the meeting, or scrap the plan altogether.

If the task force wants to begin the voting process, they could mail the ballots to the eligible 143 households as soon as they are ready. Residents would be given three weeks to mail their ballots to Supervisor Penny Gross.

At least 50 percent of the 143 ballots must be mailed to Gross’s office. If that doesn’t happen, the plan is dead and residents will have to wait two years before submitting another traffic calming proposal. If enough ballots are returned, at least 60 percent of them must be “yes” votes for the plan to proceed.

8 comments:

  1. I live off of Columbia Pike - folks speed through at over 50 MPH all the time and there are no sidewalks or crossing lights to go to the school and park across the road from me. Maybe we should have speed bumps on Columbia Pike too! Why shouldn't people who have a regular need to drive that route also get input?

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  2. People in the Camelot neighborhood in Annandale last week voted against speed humps on King Arthur Road.

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  3. Speed bumps are a ludicrous hazard to deliberately build into a paved road. Just ask FC to neglect it for 20 years and the potholes will slow people down! In the meantime, ask the police to write more tickets, everybody wins.

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  4. "I live off of Columbia Pike - folks speed through at over 50 MPH all the time and there are no sidewalks or crossing lights to go to the school and park across the road from me. Maybe we should have speed bumps on Columbia Pike too!"

    Columbia Pike is gradually getting more sidewalks, and should get complete sidewalks, and bike lanes too. It definitely needs traffic calming. But its a different beast in many ways than Old Col Pike.

    as for who gets to vote, that's set by County rules.

    "In the meantime, ask the police to write more tickets, everybody wins."

    The police can't be everywhere (which is why there is so much speeding in the County). Speed cameras would work, but are not legal in Virginia.

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  5. Some of the baloney about speeding drivers endangering children is absolutely wrong. Nobody should be claiming that drivers from outside the neighborhood are intentionally hazarding childrens’ lives.

    If drivers are going at an average speed of 36 mph now, despite the 25 mph speed limit, not all of the pedestrians would even die if a driver hit them at that speed. According to information at

    http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/pub/HS809012.html

    about 5 percent of pedestrians would die when struck by a vehicle traveling 20 mph, about 40 percent for vehicles traveling 30 mph, about 80 percent for vehicles traveling 40 mph, and nearly 100 percent for speeds over 50 mph.

    Those are just rough numbers, since the people that really are at greater risk are the older individuals hit. Kids are more likely to survive such collisions. Maybe the older pedestrians and older bicyclists should just stop pretending that it is all about childrens’ safety and using such broad numbers to bully their neighbors into thinking that drivers from outside the neighborhood are intentionally hazarding children. After all, there hasn’t been a single pedestrian or bicyclist death within a mile of Old Columbia Pike in at least 9 months now, has there?

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  6. "about 5 percent of pedestrians would die when struck by a vehicle traveling 20 mph, about 40 percent for vehicles traveling 30 mph, about 80 percent for vehicles traveling 40 mph, "

    Excellent point anon. At 30MPH the average pedestrian has a 60% chance of SURVIVING a collision. And it might be HIGHER for kids. Lets say a 75% chance. That certainly clarifies things.

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  7. The fatality rate for pedestrians hit by cars is irrelevant to the issue. Old Columbia Pike HAS BEEN neglected by VDOT for years and is pothole ridden to start with. The real issue is that the speed limit was lowered to 25, we are told, to appease developers and new residents. A rate of 30 or 35 mph is perfectly reasonable and safe on that road, and speed bumps are wholly inappropriate.

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  8. The speed of a car doesn't matter to a pedestrian or bicyclist who is hit by a car driver? Really? I'd prefer to have a collision at less than one mph closing speed, if I had to have one at all.

    Speed humps will certainly slow down cars very effectively as they do in multiple other Annandale areas, but they will also slow down the occasional emergency vehicle as well.

    Drivers in Washington DC and Maryland are going slower because of all the traffic cameras. Drivers there certainly do not like them, but the cameras sure are slowing down speeding, and a reduced speed increases safety for vulnerable users and reduces injuries to car occupants as well.

    Seems a shame that Virginia's legislators do not allow local governments to place speeding cameras as a method to slow down commuting traffic. Old Columbia Pike seems like it would have been an excellent candidate for speed cameras in a temporary or permanent installation. Traffic cameras would slow down the self-centered non-emergency speeders, and one hopes, make them pay until they learn.

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