Stately brick houses with porticos and matching brick fences are among those lining the northern portion of Arlington Ridge Road, and the view from the overlook along the ridge offers a panorama of the Potomac River and Washington beyond.
But residents of this affluent neighborhood say that too often their tranquility is disturbed and their safety threatened by speeding cars, some of which end up in their front yards.
They have organized to pressure Arlington County to stop drivers from using their street as a shortcut around traffic-clogged Shirley Highway.
"The bottom line is safety," said Carol Rademaker, head of the South Arlington Ridge Road redevelopment committee. "That's the real angle behind this."
Last week, Ridge Road residents appealed to the Arlington County Board to expedite a plan to widen the sidewalks and narrow the four-lane portion of Arlington Ridge Road between S. 23rd Street and S. Glebe Road to two lanes.
Members of the board listened politely to their petition, but made no promises.
County officials have their own bottom lines. "There are people in the county who have no curb, gutter or sidewalks at all," said Henry S. Hulme Jr., the county's public works director. "There are people who have no street lights at all." But he added that the Arlington Ridge Road proposal has some merit.
Just south and east of Shirley Highway, the Arlington Ridge community is one of the county's wealthiest. Average family income is $53,076, the second highest in the county; home assessments average $160,000 and range up to nearly twice that.
Branching off residential Arlington Ridge Road, however, are streets that lead to Crystal City and Pentagon City, where massive commercial and high-rise residential development has occurred in the past decade.
"Ridge Road" residents contend their street has become a thoroughfare to those nearby areas. Arlington officials say between 11,000 and 15,600 cars a day use portions of the road, about the same number as for the past 15 years.
Arlington Ridge Civic Association President Mike Hall says residents dispute that claim. "Ridge Road is increasingly being used as a commuter cut-through and a great deal of it is from the Shirley Highway ramp, which people are using to get through to Alexandria," he said.
S. 23rd Street divides the upper portion of Ridge Road, a wide two-lane street with broad brick sidewalks separated from the road by grassy strips, and the winding lower portion--a narrow, four-lane artery with small concrete sidewalks along one side and none for a half-mile portion on the other.
"Our proposal is to make lower Ridge Road the same configuration as upper Ridge Road," said Hall. "We would like wider sidewalks and sidewalks on both sides of the street, separated by greenery to give pedestrians and children going to Oakridge Elementary School more safety."
"The road is a real safety problem as cars come whipping around the curbs. . . .And school children have to dart across the road because there's no sidewalk on one part," said the redevelopment committee's Rademaker. She says cars are occasionally "popping up on the curb, sideswiping my fence and flattening the signs in front of my house."
The proposal would cost $350,000, county officials estimate. "If you're going to spend $350,000, would you do it there, or continue to do the streetscape plan for Rosslyn?" asked Hulme. If Ridge Road is narrowed, he said, traffic could overflow to other side streets, creating even more traffic problems. Nevertheless, his department is gathering new traffic volume data on the road.
"The traffic on this road is unbelievable, especially if something happens on Shirley Highway," said Ray Michael, the stadium announcer for Redskins games for more than 40 years who lives at S. 23rd Street and Ridge Road. " . . . There are too many cars for the road."