Fairfax went to Alexandria yesterday to talk traffic.
Audrey Moore, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, made a rare appearance in front of the Alexandria City Council to ask its members to ease the commute of thousands of Fairfax residents.
Obligingly, the council voted to allow cars carrying two passengers in the HOV (high occupancy vehicles) lanes on Washington Street during the evening rush hour.
Only vehicles with three or more occupants are permitted in the restricted lanes on Washington Street, which leads into the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The more lax evening rush hour restrictions, enacted on a trial basis, will take effect in about 30 days, after an evaluation of traffic patterns.
At the urging of Moore, Fairfax Supervisor Gerald Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) and a dozen Fairfax residents who attended yesterday's meeting, the council also voted to continue allowing vehicles with two passengers, instead of three, to enter restricted lanes on Rte. 1.
Thousands of Fairfax and Prince William commuters drive through Alexandria on Washington Street and Rte. 1 on their way to work. Many have pressed their political leaders to urge a change in Alexandria's traffic rules, which they see as expressly designed to inconvenience them.
June Ayers, who lives in Fairfax and works in Alexandria, said the HOV restrictions on Rte. 1 have lengthened her commute from 15 minutes to one hour. Ayers said she needed her car for work and because of unpredictable hours, cannot find others to ride with her. She asked the council: "Why should I be penalized?"
"I think we are all trying harder to work with each other," Moore said of her Northern Virginia colleagues. "It's in each other's interest."
Moore said she was particularly pleased with the looser restrictions, because they come just two months before the Alexandria City Council election. Many Alexandria residents favor tough HOV rules, which are designed to reduce congestion and largely affect residents that they view as outsiders.
"It was the most reasonable and fair thing to do," said Mayor James P. Moran Jr., citing the major traffic tie-ups just south of Alexandria on Rte. 1 and the often-barely used HOV lanes on Washington Street. "Parochialism is just something we have all got to get over."
Lew W. Pratsch, president of the Virginia Vanpool Association, warned the council that reducing all restrictions would be a mistake. While HOV lanes might not improve the traffic flow immediately, he said, they eventually will. "It's like a baby, it takes time to develop."