After nearly eight years of planning, traffic changes were established last week to reduce the number of commuters who zoom through the quiet neighborhoods in Arlington's Lyon Village in order to avoid rush hour delays on Wilson Boulevard and Lee Highway.
The problem, according to Ray Anderson, president of the Lyon Village Citizens Association, is that commuters grow frustrated at the long, rush-hour waits along the major thoroughfares that border the Lyon Village area.Instead, the drivers go two blocks out of their way into the center of the neighborhood and use Key Boulevard - where they can miss as many as nine traffic lights - before going back to the main thoroughfares, he said.
"Since our street wasn't designed for this (traffic), we wanted to do something about it," Anderson said. "(The problem is) not an enormous amount of accidents. The problem is one of high speed, which makes it hard for people to cross the street."
About eight years ago, neighborhood residents organized to have the county approve a neighborhood conservation plan that would eliminate much of the traffic. In the past, most of the neighborhood conservation plans have been used to revitalize rundown areas or upgrade sections by installing curbs, gutters or sidewalks.
"Our neighborhood was one of the first to look beyond the curb and gutters," Anderson said. The Lyon Village neighborhood plan was accepted by the Arlington County Board last spring, he said.
The plan calls for changes such as limiting turns into the neighborhood during rush hours or creating one-way streets to reduce the traffic volume. Most of these changes became effective Sept. 1. The county also plans some construction work later this year to make roads, such as Key Boulevard, less subject to high-speed traffic.
According to Anderson, residents of the neighborhood are especially concerned with cutting the speed of the traffic.He said that county traffic studies show that approximately 10 percent of the traffic that goes through the neighborhood is traveling below the speed limit; much of the traffic exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 miles an hour. The traffic volume has not been so heavy the area could not handle it, but it has "been a bother," he said.
Although the neighborhood has avoided any tragedies so far, it is plagued by minor accidents. Parents of small children often do not let their children cross the street to go to the park at Highland and Edgewood streets because they fear the traffic hazard, Anderson said.
One of those parents is Libby Howze, who says she does not let her 7-year-old son cross Highland Street to visit his friends because she is worried about the traffic. Once the traffic plan is implemented and working, she said, her son will gain some freedom.
"I think a lot of people will feel more comfortable after (the traffic is reduced)," she said.
But the plan was drawn up for more than just the children, she said. The neighborhood is a "heterogeneous mix" of people of all ages, she said, and the residents wanted the amount of traffic reduced to help preserve its quiet, homey atmosphere.
"(The neighborhood has) maintained its trees; it's quiet and it's really-quite pleasant, and the traffic spoils it. When you have traffic backed up by 20 cars at stoplights, it's just not pleasant," she said.
Among the changes that went into effect last week were:
Signs have been posted forbidding traffic to enter 16th Street at Adams Street between 7 and 9:30 a.m.
Traffic may no longer make a left turn onto Highland and Hancock streets north from 13th Street and onto Edgewood and Fillmore streets south from Highland Street between 7 and 9 a.m.
Custis Road has been closed at Adams and 16th streets and the sidewalk and curb across the intersection have been extended. Custis Road is now one-way toward Wilson Boulevard from Key Boulevard to 16th Street.
Traffic from Veltch Street may not enter Key Boulevard between 4 and 7 p.m.
A four-way stop sign has been placed at the corner of Highland and Edgewood streets.
The Jackson Street-Key Boulevard intersection has been converted into a "T" and a single stop signs has been installed for westbound Key Boulevard traffic.
All curbs at Key Boulevard and Highland Street have been extended to merge with the existing islands and four-way stop signs have been installed.
Later the county also plans to put up "No Let Turn 7-9 a.m." signs at Ivy, Irving, Herndon and Hartford streets north from 13th Street, install curb-extending nubs at the Key and Edgewood, Key and Cleveland and Key and Adams intersections, eliminate the extra-wide portions of Key Boulevard between Cleveland and Bryan, extend the triangle at Franklin and Edgewood Streets and create a cul-de-sac in Danville Street near Franklin and Bryan.