Thursday, September 16, 2010

Response from Supervisor McKay re: Franconia Rd

We recently received a message from Supervisor McKay in response to our earlier message to him regarding the need to make Franconia road safer for bicyclists. We wrote to him after the death of Rebecca Johns who was riding across Franconia Rd at Clermont Dr when she was killed. The following is a message Supervisor McKay sent out to several people who contacted his office about the incident:
When Captain Bennett (the commander of the Franconia police station) called me from the scene of this terrible tragedy I experienced every parent’s nightmare. This accident is a tragedy not only for the immediate family, but also for the community.

As you may know, there’s a long history between the Virginia Department of Transportation and my office concerning the need for traffic control along Franconia Road between Rose Hill Drive and Telegraph Road. Most recently, the Wilton Woods community has requested a traffic signal at Franconia Road and Clermont Drive. VDOT has studied this location in terms of accident history, speed, traffic volume, and the road itself. VDOT has concluded that the most effective safety solution at this intersection would be a dedicated east-bound turn lane onto Clermont Drive—rather than a signal. (The roadway would have to be significantly widened to do this—and the state, which is responsible for roads in Fairfax County—does not have funding to do so.)

I’m not a traffic engineer. It may be that a signal would significantly slow traffic or it may be that we need a different approach. Because roads in most Virginia counties are under the control of the Virginia Department of Transportation, I am working with Delegate Mark Sickles and Senator George Barker to direct VDOT to take another more in-depth look at this issue and to identify improvements that may specifically address pedestrian and bicycle safety.

I drove to the accident site to try to visualize what happened and also visited the site with the police to get their recommendations and discussed the speeding issue with them as well. I noted that the section of Franconia at Cannon is relatively narrow and I can see why bicyclists or pedestrians would think it safe to cross there. I’m not sure that a signal would have helped. Although it appears speed was not a factor in this particular incident you are absolutely right, we have a serious systemic problem regarding speeding in Fairfax County. I have a three year old daughter and I fear for her safety as I look out in front of my own house and see cars going well over the speed limit.

We have been working on some pedestrian safety enrichments in this area including two Fairfax County Franconia Road Walkway projects that will install sidewalks along the north and south sides of Franconia Road from Governor’s Hill Drive to Telegraph Road. These projects are proceeding with land acquisition.

On Wednesday of the week of the accident I spent part of the afternoon walking through the accident site and vicinity with the police and am working with the state officials to review and identify safety enhancements. As I have additional information or news, I will keep you and your community informed. As we struggle to move forward from this tragic incident, it was heartwarming to see the outpouring of support from the community as we gathered together at the candle light vigil that was held in the Wilton Woods Garden.

Supervisor Jeffrey C. McKay

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I mentioned earlier that this is the only location along Franconia Rd that might even remotely warrant a signal. If VDOT (or FHWA) say no, then the Plan B I'd suggest is to implement lit pedestrian crossing signs similar to those on Braddock Rd at the Braddock Rd Metro station.

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