Welcome to Fall in Seminary Hill. We are enjoying some nice crisp days now. And the sight of all the orange pumpkins at Immanuel Church on-the-Hill brightens even the dreariest day. Please stop by and patronize the church sale, as the proceeds go to benefit many local non-profits. The church is very generous to allow SHA to hold our meetings in their Parish Hall each month, and so we want to encourage everyone to purchase some pumpkins and baked goods from them this month.
Several issues continue to demand our attention. I will highlight some of them and hope you will become engaged in the conversations surrounding these matters.
First is the Duke Street in Motion project that I have discussed previously. The city is moving forward quickly with plans and meetings regarding the plan to create a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor down Duke Street from the former Landmark Mall to the King Street Metro. By now, you have probably seen the signs all over our area promoting the Duke Street in Motion project. This transit corridor was first conceived in 2008, and has been reaffirmed in subsequent city plans. If you want to see a BRT in action, you can see it running in the middle of Route 1 by Potomac Yard. Despite rosy forecasts of the usage of that BRT, its ridership has fallen far short of predictions. The city has now been allocated $87 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to create a transit corridor along Duke Street, with the overwhelming majority of emphasis on bus transit. Earlier this year when this project was re-invigorated, city staff stated that it was time to take a fresh look at the project and that nothing was set in stone. While the BRT was anticipated to be part of this project, we were told that this might not be the case along the entire length of the corridor, due to the varying road conditions in different sections of Duke Street. In actual practice, this turned out not to be true, and all staff discussions of the project have included a BRT along the entire route. What is under discussion now is where those dedicated bus lanes will be located and how many car travel lanes will be eliminated, and how many service roads will also be eliminated in order to create the bus lanes.
As you may remember, the city conducted a survey in June 2021 asking residents to prioritize their concerns and aspirations for Duke Street. When the results came in, congestion was a top concern among respondents. City staff did not agree with this conclusion as far as the Transitway goes, and so they have proceeded forward with plans that will almost inevitably lead to greater congestion along the route by reducing car travel lanes. The city has taken steps with the Phase I and Phase II Pilots to reduce cut through traffic in our neighborhoods, but these pilots are not part of the Duke Street Transitway project. Duke Street carries up to 55,000 cars per week day depending upon the location where you take counts. DASH, now free, reports only 2,500 boardings per weekday on their Line 30 that traverses Duke Street. And yet, this project is based upon the fact that if we build a dedicated bus lane, ridership will soar, and drivers, even those from other jurisdictions, will give up their cars. This, despite the fact that there are no major employment centers along the Duke Street corridor, though Inova Hospital medical complex will be located at the Landmark site in the years to come. You need only look at the full parking lots at the current Inova location and their medical building on Kenmore Avenue to know that the vast majority of their employees and visitors do not arrive at the hospital by bus, so reducing bus travel time by a few minutes is not likely to change that equation.
The city has yet to provide data that residents and employees on the Landmark site would want to traverse the length of Duke Street to get to the King Street Metro, when they could take an express bus from the new Landmark transit center and go directly to the Pentagon Metro station on the express lanes on 395. It seems illogical to think commuters would go several miles east in order to go to their ultimate destination north to a major Metro transfer station, or vice versa. City staff has stated that it is impossible at this point to predict future travel on Duke Street, though we will be spending $87 million of taxpayer money to find out the answer, without any data to back up their assumptions.
I would urge you to go to the city website, www.alexandriava.gov/DukeInMotion and see the alternatives the city and their consultants are putting forward. If they select their preferred option, the bus lanes would go down the middle of Duke Street and will impede residents’ ability to make left turns except at intersections with traffic lights. In addition, if the access and frontage roads are eliminated, parking for homeowners and safe boarding of school buses from the frontage roads would be eliminated. In addition, bike lanes are now considered an important part of this project, despite the fact that Eisenhower Avenue has been viewed as an ideal east-west bike route to connect to the Holmes Run Trail. The addition of bike lanes will obviously take more road space. There is much to learn about the Duke Street Transitway, and I urge you to speak up, as this plan will alter this major east-west arterial road forever.
The city is hosting a series of informational meetings to review the alternative designs proposed by the consultants. They have broken the corridor into 3 segments, so each meeting will focus on a different segment of the corridor. SHA is most affected by Segments 2 and 3. The meetings are as follows:
Segment 3 from Roth Street to King Street Metro: Wednesday, October 12th from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Bishop Ireton Auditorium.
Segment 2 from Jordan Street to Roth Street: Monday, October 17th from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Bishop Ireton Auditorium.
Segment 1 from West End Alexandria (formerly Landmark Mall) to Jordan Street: Thursday, October 20th from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Patrick Henry Rec Center.
Corridor-wide Open House – no staff presentations at this meeting – just come and look at the plans: Wednesday, October 26th 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Patrick Henry Rec Center.
In addition, the city is holding what they call “pop up” meetings at various locations like laundromats and apartments. You can find information on these events on the website, as they are too numerous to list here. You are also encouraged to take the survey/feedback form that you will find on the project’s website to express your thoughts on the Transitway. The deadline to submit comments is October 28th.
The next meeting of the Duke Street Transitway Advisory Committee will be held on Thursday, November 17th at 6:30 p.m. Further information about the location of this meeting will be available later, though the meetings are usually held at the Alexandria Police Department headquarters building on Wheeler Avenue.
The next issue facing SHA residents is the Special Use Permit (SUP) application to install stadium lights on the field at Hammond Middle School. SHA has been very involved in this proposal and has sent two letters to city officials asking questions about the application and expressing concern over the supervision of this field. As many of you know, this has been an issue with trash, noise, illegal use of the field, etc. for a number of years. Adding lights for night time use will make these problems worse for the neighbors. Hammond is one of 5 fields that is part of an application being submitted to the Planning Commission and City Council this month. SHA submitted a letter to Planning Director, Karl Moritz, in advance of the Planning Commission meeting that raises serious concerns about the legality of this SUP application. In response to our letter, Director Moritz asked the Planning Commission to defer consideration of this matter until these questions can be addressed. The Planning Commission hearing is now scheduled for November 1st.
The applications for these lights contain no conditions about usage, nor information about setbacks, zoning requirements, nor responsibility for supervision of the fields. The fields are proposed to be lit until 10:00 p.m. every night. While this may be appropriate in some locations in the city that are not in close proximity to residential areas, such as Whitter and Hensley Parks, SHA agrees with adjacent neighbors that these hours are not reasonable for school fields that are adjacent to homes. We will continue to pursue issues regarding the lights at Hammond and hope that we can come to some reasonable solution to protect our neighbors from such potential disruption to their quality of life.
We have received a request from the PTA President at Patrick Henry School requesting that we let our members know of a need for tutors at Patrick Henry School through the Alexandria Tutoring Consortium. Here is the message about the program:
Seminary Hill resident, Glenn Eugster, has been a staunch advocate for Ft. Ward Park. He monitors conditions at the park on an almost daily basis. He has noticed a group of cyclists gathering on grassy areas in the park with their bikes and has reported it to the Recreation and Parks Department. That department is now monitoring this usage much more closely and informing visitors of areas that should be off limits to bikes. We appreciate Glenn’s work to protect the history and natural resources of this important park.
Following up on issues at Ft. Ward Park, our next SHA meeting will feature Judy Lo, Acting Principal Planner for the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, who will give us an overview on current and future natural resources management park projects including the playground project, the picnic shelter improvements, the memorialization of the Adams and Jackson family sites, tree maintenance, and general park maintenance. Many of our residents use this park and have questions about the level of maintenance occurring there, as well as the protection of the African American sites that existed within the Fort community there., so I encourage you to join our meeting, either in person at Immanuel Church on the Hill Parish Hall, or via Zoom. The Zoom link information is included at the end of this message.
There are several other city meetings to bring to your attention. Unfortunately, the next meeting regarding Inova Hospital’s project at Landmark Mall conflicts with the meeting on the Duke Street Transitway segment between Jordan and Roth Streets, so we will have to decide which meeting to attend on the 17th. Here is the information about the Inova meeting:
October 17, 2022: Inova Hospital virtual community meeting #2 on Landmark Mall at 6:00 PM. Link to Register: https://thelandlawyers.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_tMB7CAAjSDWeCvfQd_ZWdAWebinar ID: 894 6389 3829. Dial-in: 301.715.8592. Passcode: 776943. For more information, go to: https://www.alexandriava.gov/Landmark.
On November 5th, the city calendar lists that City Council will hold a Retreat from 9:00 a.m.- 11:00 a.m. There is no location listed, so we will have to learn further details about it in the coming weeks, if it is actually happening.
Finally, a reminder that the General Election for the U.S. House of Representatives will be on Tuesday, November 8th. The deadline for early voting is Saturday, November 5th.
Here is the Zoom link for our SHA meeting Thursday night, the 10th at 7:00 p.m. Hope to see many of you there or on Zoom! Have a nice holiday weekend.
Topic: Seminary Hill Zoom Meeting
Time: Oct 13, 2022 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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Meeting ID: 869 6517 5092
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