Rather than just grumble among themselves, they took action: They formed a traffic and pedestrian safety committee, conducted surveys to identify particular problematic safety areas, drafted reports that they submitted to Arlington County officials, and provided recommendations on how to address the issue.
The county is now constructing a traffic-slowing median on Sycamore between Williamsburg Circle and 26th Street North, and the street will be reconfigured from a total of four lanes to two lanes with a bike lane on both sides, said Sonia McCormick, a former president of the neighborhood civic association.
“We are very engaged with the county on working through these issues. Not only do they respond to us, but they welcome us into conversation,” said Ruth Shearer, the civic association’s current president.
“We’re now working with the county on related traffic and pedestrian safety issues on surrounding streets,” she added.
Williamsburg, a neighborhood of roughly 1,100 homes on the northwest edge of Arlington, identifies as much with east Falls Church as with Arlington. Its Colonials, Cape Cods, ramblers, split-foyers, split-levels, townhouses and, in recent years, Craftsman-style homes lie along curving suburban streets between Arlington County’s western boundary, North Kensington Street on the north and east, and 27th Street North and North Trinidad Street on the south.
Home construction in the neighborhood started in the 1940s, and there are houses that date to every decade since, the more recent years being primarily tear-downs.
The neighborhood’s civic association started in 1951 and, aside from a dormant period in the late 1980s and early 1990s, has been run by a group of highly active and motivated residents. In the late 1990s, the threat of the construction of a cellphone tower in the middle of the neighborhood spurred residents back into action and revived the association.
The association not only works on neighborhood issues but also partners with the adjacent Arlington-East Falls Church civic association and stays closely involved with Arlington County government, Shearer said. County board members are always invited to association meetings, and Williamsburg residents are active in Arlington’s working groups regarding sign and lighting ordinances, for example.
While recent county-wide discussion of allowing backyard chickens “has sparked a lot of interest and a lot of concern,” among Williamsburg residents, said Shearer, in terms of neighborhood priorities, “number one is traffic and pedestrian safety.”
The community, like many in Arlington, has undergone rapid transformation over the past 10 years. The neighborhood has seen many tear-downs — smaller original homes replaced with large new ones — and an increasing number of children in the public schools, Nottingham Elementary, Williamsburg Middle and Yorktown High.