Annandale residents who regularly travel on Gallows Road or who live near Aston Street may have noticed a new pedestrian crosswalk.
The crosswalk, which features two beacons with flashing lights on both sides of Gallows Road at Aston Street, is intended to make crossing the street near Woodburn School safer for pedestrians while also alerting drivers from either direction that pedestrians may be present in the street. It was installed in late October, according to a news release from the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Resident Sarah Karush said the crosswalk is the result of a year-long grassroots campaign by the Holmes Run Acres neighborhood.
"Residents of Holmes Run Acres have been requesting a regular traffic light at the corner Gallows and Hemlock literally for decades. A traffic light would help not only pedestrians, but drivers trying to turn left out of the neighborhood too," said Karush in an email to Patch.
Although the neighborhood's request for a traffic light was denied, Karush said outreach to local representatives such as Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth, Del. Jim Scott (D-53rd), Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37th) and meetings with VDOT officials, Fairfax County Public Schools and Fairfax County Police Department produced an alternative solution: the flashing light beacons.
To use the new lights, pedestrians push a button and bright lights flash repeatedly in a quick pattern for 25 seconds to alert drivers. The lights only flash when manually activated and should not distract drivers when they aren’t in use.
Due to the heavy volume of daily traffic on Gallows Road (about 31,000 vehicles a day), pedestrians have a hard time crossing the four-lane road safely. Pedestrians will still have to watch vehicles carefully before crossing.
“From what I have seen so far, they seem to be helping," Karush said about the beacons. "Before, almost nobody would yield, and pedestrians would have to stand there for 10 minutes waiting for a big enough gap to sprint across. Now, vehicles do stop, although not everyone does so immediately. I think that as time passes, and more drivers get used to seeing the lights and understand what it means, it will work even better.”
Research has shown the beacons to be effective at increasing driver yielding at crosswalks, Randy Dittberner, VDOT’s regional traffic engineer is quoted as stating in the release.
The release further states that the rapid-flashing lights cost about $20,000 and are the first in Northern Virginia. VDOT plans to install the beacons at other locations such as on Belmont Ridge Road at the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail crossing in Loudoun County.
Keep up with Annandale area news with the Patch email newsletter. Sign up here!