This is part two of a recap from a meeting at Wakefield Forest Elementary School Monday night about parking and speeding along Wakefield Chapel Road in Annandale. Read part one here.
Results of VDOT Traffic Study
According to Randy Dittberner, regional traffic engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), data shows there have been no significant changes on Wakefield Chapel Road since the HOT/495 Express lanes opened last year.
“In general, what we have seen is no huge increase in volume traffic or speed during the course of construction of the HOT lanes,” said Dittberner, who noted that VDOT has not done additional study since the Express Lanes opened.
Since fall 2009, VDOT has observed the speed and traffic patterns. According to the data, Wakefield Chapel Road receives between 13,000 and 14,000 vehicles per day. The lowest recorded number of cars was 12,600 in fall 2011 while the highest recorded was 13,900 in spring 2011.
Additionally, Dittberner said speeds on Wakefield Chapel Road are on a slight downward trend with the average highest speed around 42 mph and the lowest around 35 mph.
“Certainly there are people going faster than that and people going slower, but we are seeing some downward trends,” said Dittberner.
Since the studies began, VDOT implemented some solutions such as upgraded crosswalks, additional parking lanes, updated signage about fines for speeding, and updated pavement markings in an attempt to solve the concerns of residents. Bike lanes were installed in August 2010 along both sides of Wakefield Chapel Road to “narrow the travel lanes to slow traffic down,” according to Dittberner. However, some residents at the meeting said the bike lanes provided additional parking spaces for students. Cook disagreed, saying the bikes lanes were not used for those purposes, but neither VDOT nor Cook could provide statistics on the usage of the lanes.
Data from 2006-2010 also noted the intersections at Wakefield Chapel Road and Braddock Road and Wakefield Chapel Road and Little River Turnpike see an average of 13 and 11 car crashes per year, respectively. However, Dittberner said those numbers are not unusual for “high traffic” intersections such as those. Other high volume intersections on Wakefield Chapel Road saw around 4-6 crashes per year while others saw between 0-1 crashes.
Only one pedestrian crash was reported during the course of the study and only one bicycle crash at the Wakefield Chapel Road and Little River Turnpike intersection. Because of the results, Dittberner said there was no particular crash pattern that would lead to a particular countermeasure.
One resident argued that the crash number was too low and downplayed the problem, saying the calls for service were likely higher than reported crashes, which Dittberner said was very likely true.
Pedestrian Safety on Wakefield Chapel
While the residents desire a solution to the parking issues raised, many also expressed concern for the safety of the students who walk from neighborhoods along Wakefield Chapel Road to the Annandale campus of Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA).
“You are going to have a death. There will be a casualty, mark my words,” one resident warned to Dr. Barbara Saperstone, provost of the Annandale campus.
Those students, according to residents, walk in the street wearing dark clothing and don’t pay attention to their surroundings. The dark clothing makes it hard for them to be seen, the residents say, and more likely to be missed by motorists.
One resident suggested adding sidewalks to give students a place to walk safely to the campus instead of the street or the grassy areas and yards of homeowners. Another suggested adding more lights along popular walking paths and Wakefield Chapel Road to help increase visibility.
Another suggestion was to add crosswalks at some of the busiest intersections along Wakefield Chapel Road, but Dittberner said VDOT has found crosswalks to cause more pedestrian crashes than they prevent.
“Pedestrians get a false sense of security and walk more aggressively in crosswalks than they otherwise would,” said Dittberner.
Implementing any of the above recommended solutions would “save one of their lives,” said one resident.
“It’s not going to solve our problem, but it’s going to keep one of those kids alive.”
Of the suggestions offered at the meeting lower the number of accidents, residents said they’d like to see an extended acceleration lane at Little River Turnpike that reached back to the NOVA-Annandale campus parking lot entrance on Wakefield Chapel Road.
Traffic lights, which were previously addressed at earlier community meetings, were also suggested, particularly at Toll House Road and Holborn Avenue. Although they would not help with the parking issues, they could cut down on speeding. Dittberner said to his knowledge, there were no traffic studies done about adding traffic lights, but he said he would look into it.