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Residents Debate Speed Humps Versus Sidewalks on Old Columbia Pike

A proposal to install seven speed humps on Old Columbia Pike in Annandale in order to improve pedestrian safety and control speeding has divided the community.

About 25 residents attended a community meeting Thursday night about speed humps on Old Columbia Pike. Photo Credit: Sherell Williams
About 25 residents attended a community meeting Thursday night about speed humps on Old Columbia Pike. Photo Credit: Sherell Williams

Speed humps, sidewalks and stop signs were the main topics of discussion at a community meeting Thursday about a proposal to install seven speed humps along Old Columbia Pike in Annandale.

The meeting was the second and potentially final community meeting for the speed hump proposal, which was drafted by the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) last year after a task force of Annandale residents asked for a traffic study to assess whether traffic calming measures could slow motorists down and improve pedestrian safety on Old Columbia Pike.

Approximately 3,336 vehicles use Old Columbia Pike a day at an average speed of 34-39 mph, according to a presentation shown at the meeting that showed statistics gathered in 2012 as part of FCDOT’s initial study.

The initial traffic study was completed shortly after a task force was formed about 15 months ago. A traffic calming study can only be requested if an homeowners association (HOA) or civic association (CA) requests one, or if 10 households can collect enough signatures to show community support for a study in cases where there is not an HOA or CA.

A street that is 25 miles per hour such as Old Columbia Pike can qualify for traffic calming measures so long as the road is identified as a "local or collector road" and if there are at least 12 dwellings per 1,000 feet of driveway.

Seven speed humps would be installed at the following locations, if the plan is approved: 

·      Adjacent to 4021 Oxford St. and 4123 Old Columbia Pike

·      Adjacent to 4037 Oxford St. and 6479 Gainer St.

·      Adjacent to 4204 Old Columbia Pike, 4205 Old Columbia Pike and 4200 Downing St.

·      Adjacent to 4231 Sleepy Hollow Rd. and 6533 Elmdale Rd.

·      Adjacent to 4330 Old Columbia Pike Sleepy Hollow Run-Forest Hills Civic Association

·      Adjacent to 6601 Reserves Hill Court

·      Adjacent to 4432 Old Columbia Pike

The location of the speed humps were approved by residents at or near the addresses listed above, according to the presentation. The speed humps would be 12 feet wide with a 3-inch incline (see photo above for an example). Signs with the recommended 15 miles per hour for driving over the speed humps and signs at Little River Turnpike and Lincolnia Road entrances informing motorists that speed humps are ahead would be posted, if speed humps were installed.

Residents Divided on Speed Humps

Many of the 25 residents at the 80-minute long meeting seemed to agree that ensuring public safety was important, but not at the expense of completely changing the nature of Old Columbia Pike and its importance as a busy, secondary road that connects thousands of Annandale residents from Little River Turnpike to Lincolnia Road.

“We need to think about whether this is just residents wanting to turn the street into a private driveway on what is essentially an thoroughfare. Think about whether you have the right to turn this public thoroughfare into a private driveway,” said one resident, who lives in the Pinecrest community.

One resident said he supports the speed humps if it means increased safety for bicycle commuters like him and pedestrians while another resident said he didn’t see the point of the speed humps since Old Columbia Pike isn’t a subdivision.

Why Not Sidewalks? 

Several people suggested FCDOT ditch the speed humps idea and install sidewalks along the road. A resident who lives near Elmdale road proposed FCDOT construct a walkway on Old Columbia Pike similar to the one being built off of Braddock Road near the Pinecrest Golf Course.

Old Columbia Pike is owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), according to Guy Mullinax, transportation planner for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation and lead presenter of Thursday’s meeting.

Mullinax said the task force considered installing sidewalks, but it was determined that sidewalks would be a “major expense” and a “construction project” that would also require the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), to ask permission to build over or onto private property in some areas of the road.

Each speed hump costs about $7,000 (which includes asphalt, milling, signage, labor, signage etc) to install while a stop sign would cost around $600. Some residents, upon hearing those amounts, said they prefer installing stop signs over speed humps.

“It’s a difference of money. If the stop signs don’t work, you can take them out, but you can’t take a speed hump out,” said one resident. 

Mullinax said there are pros and cons to every solution, including the speed humps, and that any option wouldn’t solve every problem, but he was confident the speed humps were the best solution. 

“Traffic calming will improve safety… If you calm the speed, that will the improve safetyof all folks entering and exiting the property, the kids, the adults, anyone walking on the street. Lowering the speed will improve the safety for the pedestrians and the users,” said Mollinax, who added that the humps would not affect snow removal or cause drainage issues.

However, one resident argued that studies done in other states and in Europe have proved that speed humps cause more issues than they fix.

“Once these go in, they’re never going back out,” said the resident. “These are bad things that cost the county money and we’re not even considering adding stop signs.” 

What Happens Next 

With the proposal finished and community meetings out of the way, Mollinax said the next step is for residents who live within a designated “ballot area” to vote on the plan.

The “ballot area” includes 143 homes on and off of Old Columbia Pike. Once ballots are mailed out, residents have three weeks to send their ballot to Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross’ office to be tallied. At least 50 percent of the ballots have to be received for the vote to be considered valid and 60 percent of the votes must be in favor of the proposal for it to pass. If it passes with community approval, it goes before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. If it does not pass, the proposal cannot be reintroduced for two years.

The task force will meet and discuss the feedback provided at Thursday’s meeting before the ballots are mailed out to everyone who is eligible to vote.

CD August 30, 2013 at 07:42 AM
If the concern is pedestrian safety then you need sidewalks. Pedestrian on Old Columbia Pike have no place to walk. I am not sure how speed humps are going to give pedestrians a safe place to walk. I also find the map of who is able to vote amazing. Who decided who could vote and who could not vote? It appears to me there should have been more people included.
EL August 30, 2013 at 05:40 PM
Speed humps are a terrible idea, sidewalks and stop signs are preferable in my book. Humps cause additional stress to the vehicles that frequently endure them and do nothing to protect pedestrian traffic. Not to mention speed humps will ruin the aesthetics of what can be a lovely drive in the fall. Fairfax County in general needs to pick up the pace of making the area more pedestrian friendly.

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