Four-way stop added in Arlington Heights

Arlington County sign-installer Kevin Boatwright and signage supervisor Marcus Butts stand by a new stop sign at the intersection of 2nd Street South and South Irving Street on Oct. 30, 2017. (Photo by Jay Jacob Wind)

[Updated to include comments from Arlington school officials.]

The Arlington Heights neighborhood became a safer place for students and other pedestrians on Oct. 30.

For many years, residents of the neighborhood have sought traffic-calming measures at 2nd Street South and South Irving Street. More recently, 500 residents petitioned the Arlington County government to add an all-way stop sign at the intersection, where 80 to more than 100 students cross daily on their way to and from Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

The increased traffic on 2nd Street South caused by construction of the new elementary school has exacerbated pedestrian danger at the intersection, which sits between South Glebe Road and Washington Boulevard and is close to both a commercial district and an entrance to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.

On the morning of Sept. 20, Thomas Jefferson Middle School parent and Arlington Heights resident Alisa Key witnessed a student nearly get hit in the crosswalk at 2nd Street South and South Irving Streets, when a truck failed to yield to the student in the crosswalk.

Key “rallied the troops” – her neighbors Liz Fried, Colleen Godbout and Susannah Keefe – and they joined her the next morning at the intersection, where they saw another TJ student also nearly hit when a vehicle failed to yield to the student in the crosswalk.

The group of concerned parents contacted the County Board, School Board and various advisory bodies and government departments, while also spreading the word in their community.

They also collected more than 500 signatures on an online petition and presented those signatures to County Board and School Board.

In what was lightning speed for such an endeavor, the county’s Department of Environmental Services agreed to install a four-way stop, which was put in place the day before Halloween.

The decision came four years after the same department determined that an all-way stop was not needed there. Construction of the new elementary school was a factor in the intersection meeting established criteria to merit such a stop, county staff said.

School Board member Nancy Van Doren said the extra congestion resulting from the construction project “really brought to light the need for a four-way stop,” and thanked the county government and County Board for expediting the matter.

“They’re being a great partner,” Van Doren said at the Nov. 2 School Board meeting.

It was a theme echoed by Superintendent Patrick Murphy.

“Thank you to the county, especially the county maanger, for facilitating this and moving it forward,” he said.

Residents who applauded the decision said they would continue to seek more.

“This is only one piece in the puzzle,” Key said. “The parents continue to seek a crossing guard at this intersection, but we have been facing resistance from those who oversee this function. We continue to be present at this intersection every morning since that first morning in September to ensure that those crossing can do so safely.”