UPDATE ON SEMINARY ROAD - September 14, 2019
On Saturday, September 14th, the protracted debate about the future configuration of Seminary Road will come to an end at the City Council Public Hearing. City Council will decide whether to put a portion of Seminary Road on what is called a "road diet”. In this case, that means removing 50% of the car travel lanes by reducing the number of lanes from 4 lanes to 2, with a center lane for left turns only. Bike lanes would be added under this proposal.
Seminary Hill Association (SHA) has advocated for retaining 4 lanes on Seminary since the City first proposed a road diet for Seminary. SHA responded to resident concerns about safety by advocating for 2 additional pedestrian-activated crosswalks and increased speed enforcement. SHA wants speed reduction, but not lane reduction. In June, the Alexandria Traffic and Parking Board (TPB) rejected the city alternative and voted 3-2 to recommend to City Council that Seminary Road remain a 4-lane road, with the addition of 2 new HAWK pedestrian-activated crosswalks, as SHA had supported.
SHA began this effort because many of our residents were opposed to the city's plans for Seminary Road and asked us to take a stand. Over the course of the summer, SHA has been joined by an unprecedented 12 additional civic associations whose members also questioned the process that has brought this matter before City Council. It has been so encouraging to see such a grassroots alliance of concerned citizens come together to express our views to our elected officials. Just last week, the Alexandria Federation of Civic Associations also endorsed the recommendation of TPB to maintain 4 lanes on Seminary. We appreciate all the input and hard work by residents who have been concerned with the effort to place road diet on a major arterial east-west route.
Yet, proponents of the lane reductions accuse those wanting to retain the 4 lanes of car travel of not caring about safety. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the safety of all our residents has been, and will continue to be, our priority. Staff and bike lobby groups have dismissed studies that refute claims that road diet is a successful tool in dealing with safety issues on high volume roads, and refuse to study or acknowledge safety impacts on our neighborhood streets due to increased cut-through traffic from peak hour congestion on Seminary Road.
According to the city’s own data, this stretch of Seminary Road is ranked as one of the safest streets in our city. Since the adoption of the Vision Zero Plan, this roadway has consistently achieved Vision Zero, a goal that SHA fully supports. What higher standard of safety can a road achieve than that? And yet characterizations of this roadway, both in city presentations and by those desiring bike lanes, have manipulated data encompassing the entire length of Seminary Road to portray this stretch as a high KSI (killed or serious injury) corridor. The unsafe portion of Seminary Road that demands attention is the western area of Seminary, yet this plan does not address the very real safety issues there. Instead, the focus is only on this small stretch of safe roadway.
Proponents of the road diet are supported by well-funded regional bike lobby and smart growth advocates who have relentlessly emailed and tweeted their followers across the entire DMV region, most of whom don’t even know where Seminary Road is, to sign petitions asking our City Council to support the road diet which creates their desired bike lanes. Their petitions make it clear that signers do not have to give their addresses, so that allows people from all over our region to attempt to influence this decision. City staff has stated that non-resident views are as important to them as the views of those living in the area most affected by this plan. If you would like to express your support as an Alexandria resident for the recommendation of the TPB to maintain Seminary Road with 4 travel lanes and 2 pedestrian-activated crosswalks, please click on this link and add your name to the petition that supports Seminary Road as a 4-lane arterial: https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/central-alexandria-citizens-petition. In addition, you may use the city's Call, Click, Connect system to send a message to all of City Council expressing your views.
SHA leadership and members, along with representatives from the 12 other civic associations, will be present at City Hall on Saturday the 14th to testify before Council as they make their decision on Seminary Road. Anyone is welcome to speak before Council by signing up ahead of time online or filling out a speaker's form at City Hall when you arrive at the meeting. We are hopeful that a majority of our City Council will side with the majority of Alexandria residents who want Seminary Road to remain a vital traffic artery for those who, due to the lack of frequent and reliable transit options, must use cars on this roadway to reach their homes, work, schools, and hospital.
The next meeting of the Seminary Hill Association will be Thursday, September 12th at 7:30 p.m. at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill at 3606 Seminary Road. All are welcome to attend. I encourage you to consider joining SHA and signing up to receive our emails. The agenda for the meeting will be posted on this website. I hope you had an enjoyable summer and I look forward to seeing you at one of our meetings in the coming months.
Carter Flemming, President
Seminary Hill Association, Inc.