VDOT’s updated safety proposals for Fort Hunt intersection cause dissension
Officials from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) held an Oct. 30 meeting with community members on proposed safety improvements at the intersection of Fort Hunt Road and Rollins Drive; however, many area residents voiced concerns or disagreement with aspects of the recommendations. The meeting at Belle View Elementary School was held in follow-up to a Jan. 26 community meeting at which residents strongly opposed VDOT’s proposal to temporarily close off Rollins Drive.
VDOT already has made several safety improvements at the intersection, including adding new pavement markings and signage, and trimming trees to improve sight lines. Those changes, said VDOT district traffic engineer Gil Chlewicki, have seemingly reduced the number of crashes at the intersection. Nonetheless, several safety challenges still exist based on the high volume of traffic at certain times of the day, excessive speeds on Fort Hunt Road, road curvature and the pedestrian crossing across Fort Hunt Road.
“There’s just a lot of different conflicts,” said Chlewicki.
Some community members’ preferred solutions, such as the installation of a traffic signal or roundabout, are costly and could only be considered in the long run, said Chlewicki. Additional short-term solutions, however, would require trade-offs.
One of VDOT’s new proposals was to upgrade existing curb ramps and add a pedestrian refuge island in the middle of the existing crosswalk across Fort Hunt Road. The tradeoff would be that drivers heading northbound on Fort Hunt would no longer be able to make a left onto Rollins, said Chlewicki. Instead, they would have to turn left at Quander Road.
Another VDOT proposal was to add a channelizing concrete island at the top of Rollins Drive; however, that would mean that drivers on Rollins could only make a right onto Fort Hunt Road — they could no longer make a left or go straight across the intersection onto Westgrove Boulevard. Drivers heading west on Westgrove toward Fort Hunt Road also would not be permitted to go straight across the intersection onto Rollins.
Community members were vocal about their dislike of the trade-offs but had varying perspectives on what the solution should be. Some attendees felt that drivers on Westgrove should be banned from making a left turn onto Fort Hunt Road; however, residents of neighborhoods off Westgrove said that drivers would subsequently turn left onto residential streets like Marlan or Marine Drive and cause problems there. Similarly, people who lived around the Quander Road area voiced opposition to any proposals that would route more traffic onto that roadway.
Other community members said that regardless of proposed pedestrian crossing improvements, pedestrians and cyclists would continue to face risks due to speeding and a general lack of motorist attentiveness to people in crosswalks.
“Nobody believes they need to stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk,” said one attendee who added that he usually walks his bike across the street because “some people are slightly more respectful of people walking across than riding across.”
Rectangular rapid flashing beacons might eventually be an option at the crosswalk, said Chlewicki, but “that will take longer.”
While noting that none of the proposed solutions were a done deal, Chlewicki said VDOT has been searching for short-term solutions for a few years now, so “this is pretty much the last chance.” Based on community feedback, VDOT will conduct a survey that leads to final design, look at available funding and hope to implement a solution by the end of next year, he said.