When the Transportation Commission meets in December, it will be my last as its Chairman. I am pleased to say that our Commission made progress in moving Alexandria down the path to sustainable transportation policies. The most important of these was the City’s Complete Streets policy, which we originated. It also happens to be our biggest piece of unfinished business.
The Complete Streets policy calls for ALL users to be accommodated whenever a project is considered. If a new street is built or an old one repaved, the City’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services must look into making it usable for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit, rather than just cars. The idea is to make streets safe for something other than a Hummer.
Why is this so important? Ask citizens of this City to name the important issues and most of will start off with these two: 1. Education; and 2. Traffic Calming. Both are linked to Alexandria’s kids, who are every family’s top priority. Better schools address the former; the Complete Streets policy can help with the latter.
But what of the raised voices over development projects that consumed entire forests of newspaper and days of public hearings? Clearly, voters sent an unambiguous signal that such debates weren’t their top priority, for they failed to support candidates who based entire campaigns on them. Indeed, elections are the ultimate form of public outreach, as they show whose opinion has broad support and whose opinion is merely loud.
What must happen now is for another unambiguous signal to be sent, but this one should go from the Mayor and Council to City staff. Complete Streets must be put on a higher priority, and never be treated as an afterthought. When a street is repaved, don’t automatically re-stripe it just as it was. Check to see where bike lanes can be added to calm traffic and protect cyclists. Look for crosswalks where ramps for the disabled need to be installed. Fill the gaps in sidewalks so our kids don’t have to walk in the street to reach the schoolbus stop. To do otherwise is to invite tragedy, and nobody will be impressed by fixes made after it’s too late.
Kevin H. Posey, Chairman
Alexandria Transportation Commission