Arlington approves changes to downtown thoroughfares

{ }This time of year, it can be a toxic mix: heavy traffic whizzing through downtown Arlington as pedestrians hit the sidewalks to soak up summer sun.

Tiara Ballard works in Arlington and says simply walking to lunch can be dangerous.

“Me and my coworkers have almost been hit a few times,” she says. “Sometimes you’ll have someone who’s nice enough to stop. But sometimes the other person is just like ‘zoom.’”

A growing volume of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists prompted Arlington County to take a closer look at the speed limits on some downtown thoroughfares. A three-month study reveals drivers’ average speed to be between 21 mph and 28 mph on major roads such as Clarendon Blvd. Roughly 15 percent of drivers reach speeds above the posted limit of 30 miles per hour in some areas.

The Arlington County Board approved new speed limits on Tuesday for four Arlington streets after a public hearing, as well as the Columbia Pike Streetcar Project Agreement between Arlington and Fairfax County.The Board also set a public hearing for Sept. 21 to consider new speed limits on two other streets.

The Board voted to decrease the speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph along portions of N. Meade Street, Clarendon Boulevard and Wilson Boulevard, and from 35 mph to 30 mph along a portion of N. Sycamore Street. The Board’s action also rectifies County Code discrepancies in speed limits along I-395 and I-66.

The Board voted unanimously to approve the new speed limits, and to set the public hearing for the Sept. 21 Regular County Board Meeting.

Dave Kirschner helped pen the proposal, and says the changes would reflect a walkable downtown and current driver speeds:

“We've seen such rapid change to make our areas more built up, more populated, with so much more pedestrian and bicyclist activity,” Kirschner says. “We really want to make sure that the streets are reflective of the environments that they've become.”

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