FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (7News) — Motorists driving through Alexandria will have to slow down starting Tuesday. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is permanently lowering the speed limit on Route 1 from 45 mph to 35 mph.
Police will be keeping a close eye on drivers on Richmond Highway between Jeff Todd Way/Mount Vernon Memorial Highway in Fort Belvoir and the southern Alexandria city limits at the capital beltway, it’s about a 7-mile stretch.
The area has seen high pedestrian, bicycle crashes and speed-related incidents. The department says the change is designed to optimize safety and operations for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers. For the past two years, officials have been studying the area and the high crash rate.
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“In particular we saw an increase in crashes between Buckman Road and the City of Alexandria that included pedestrians and high-speed crashes. So we said great, we heard you, we listened to the community and we have changed the speed limit. Everyone will see the new speed limit signs out on Tuesday,” said Ellen Kamilakis, a spokeswoman with VDOT.
Just this year, there have been at least 102 vehicle crashes on the Fairfax County section of Richmond Highway, injuring 75 people, according to state data. For the past 10 years, the total number of annual crashes consistently topped 400, peaking at 508 crashes in 2012. So far this year, three people have been killed on the roadway, two pedestrians and a motorcyclist. Since 2011, there have been about 37 fatalities.
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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a 5-mile-an-hour reduction will lower crashes with injuries by about 34%.
The speed limit change is coming at a time when the county is planning big infrastructure changes for the area.
“We have two projects that are coming on board in the next handful of years. We are undergoing a widening of Route 1 and then right after that, we are widening to make room for Fairfax County to put in a Bus Rapid Transit or what we call VRT system that is a massive project that is going to revitalize the corridor,” said Kamilakis.