It is 788 days until the next Alexandria City Council election, but the first shot over the bow will be fired on Sept. 14 during what is expected to be a lengthy and contentious City Council hearing over the fate of Seminary Road.
Depending how the 7 members of the Council vote, it could determine whether they will still be in office in 2022. This decision should not be taken lightly.
Seminary Road is one of the City’s major arterial roads, carrying over 20,000 vehicles East and West every day. It is also a major connector road to King Street, Van Dorn Avenue, Braddock Road, Quaker Lane and Duke Street.
No one disputes that Seminary Road is due for the routine maintenance via asphalting the road.
What is widely disputed is whether the “Wish List” of Mayor Justin Wilson and TES head Yon Lambert, to ram through a “Road Diet” forced dictum, will prevail in spite of massive public resistance to this poor plan.
The Pied Piper duo of Wilson and Lambert are spearheading this online crusade, funded by outside money, to cut the current 4 lanes down to only 2 lanes for bikes, and leftover space for cars. The goal is to accommodate a handful of non-resident, non-tax-paying, non-local voting people who are lobbying for bike lanes. This would be done at the expense of the thousands of operators of vehicles who use Seminary street on a daily basis.
The practical issue for biking to work is NOT the route you take, but whether there is a shower available when you get there. Who wants to sit next to a smelly cyclist all day long at work?!
The facts are not on the side of Wilson and Lambert, nor is residential support by those who pay the salaries for City officials and staff. Among the significant items to consider are:
The Mayor and some of his Council colleagues continue to ignore the benchmark study organized by Michigan State University on behalf of the Michigan Department of Transportation. This pre-eminent study has national implications as well as for cities like Alexandria. It emphasizes that forcing a Road Diet on any road with more than 10,000 vehicles daily is “problematic” and should be avoided. Seminary already has twice as many cars as the safe maximum for ANY Road diet.
Similarly, the study found that conversions from 4 lanes to 3 lanes will create “significant delays when average daily traffic exceeds 10,000 [vehicles].”
Nor would the Road Diet reduce the rate of car crashes, as claimed by its proponents, but could increase them “because of increased volumes in the right lane due to the 2-1-land reduction in a given direction.”
The ‘Deaf Ear Syndrome’ is back in town, with Wilson and Lambert steadfastly ignoring the fact that 13 of the City’s major Civic Associations on the West End fully support retaining the 4-lane configuration of Seminary Road. This represents 9,279 households and an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 voters.
At a large public hearing on Seminary Road on May 30, with standing-room-only, Lambert emphatically stated that he and the Mayor will give “equal consideration” to residents and non-residents in assessing the fate of Seminary Road. Seminary has to do with the most efficient mode of transportation for the majority of its residents.
Schools are also caught up in this Seminary Road debate, without adequate concern given to the number of school buses needed to transport students to the 2 pre-schools, an elementary school and a junior high school. This will be further complicated when 800 students from MacArthur will be shifted to Patrick Henry, on top of all the students already there, and everyone is vying for road space.
Where is the pragmatic recognition that 2 major 24/7 operations on Seminary cannot be confined to limited road space? That includes the Fire Department and Alexandria INOVA Hospital. And some staff for those two public service and valuable institutions have been told to “keep their mouths shut” and not interfere in this process. That is verbal censorship.
In a city of 160,530 people, only 7 people get to vote on the outcome for Seminary Road.
We’d ask them all to “do the right thing.” If not, they will drag Alexandria into yet another series of Court battles, with taxpayer monies used to fight against the city’s own residents. The examples abound, including issues like the Karig Estates, Potomac Yard Metro and its wetlands, development of the waterfront and the behind-the-scenes discussions tied to BRAC.
Nothing in recent decades has unified the residents like the Battle for Seminary Road. The ball is in the Council’s court. Don’t take us for granted.
Kathleen M. Burns