Eight additional stretches of Arlington asphalt are slated to shortly receive signage warning drivers of higher fines if they engage in satisfying their need for speed.
How effective the signage is remains an open question, but it does represent a low-cost tool in the county-government’s efforts to reduce carnage between vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians on the community’s highways and byways.
Arlington County Board members in January 2020 approved an ordinance allowing for additional $200 fines, on top of existing charges, for those nabbed speeding in high-risk corridors of the county. Just before the COVID pandemic hit, the county government picked the first three street segments and placed signage.
They include specific stretches of Carlin Springs Road, Lorcom Lane and Military Road.
Eight additional road segments are slated to become part of the program in the first half of 2021:
• 28th Street South from South Meade Street to Army Navy Drive.
• North Ohio Street from 14th Street North to Wilson Boulevard.
• John Marshall Drive from Little Falls Road to Lee Highway.
• North Harrison Street from Lee Highway to 37th Street North.
• Patrick Henry Drive from North George Mason Drive to Wilson Boulevard.
• South George Mason Drive from South Dinwiddie Street to South Four Mile Run Drive.
• 7th Street South from Columbia Pike to South Carlin Springs Road.
The speed limit on those eight segments is 25 mph, and traffic data suggest they are among stretches of Arlington roads where a large percentage of drivers exceed it.
This particular effort to combat speeding in those corridors is decidedly low-tech. “It’s just signage,” acknowledged Hui Wang, transportation engineering and operations bureau chief for the Arlington County government. A police officer would need to catch a speeder in the act to issue a citation.
(According to county-government officials, a total of six $200 citations have been issued since the first set of signage was erected in March 2020, although that number likely would have been higher but for the decline in traffic in the early months of the pandemic.)
A discussion of the expanded effort, held at the Jan. 26 County Board meeting, had a number of elected officials putting on their thinking caps and proffering additional ways of handling speeders.
County Board member Takis Karantonis recalled his years growing up in Europe, where there were sensors that turned traffic lights red in front of those who were found to be traveling in excess of the posted speed.
“Drivers would learn very fast to comply with the speed limit,” he said.
That approach may not be in Arlington’s immediate future, but Wang said there were many options available – some in use already, others available but not used, still more needing authorization from Richmond – to combat speeding.
“There are a long list of tools in the toolbox,” she said, adding that county staff are working with local civic associations, residents and advocacy groups to determine where to focus speeding-mitigation efforts to get the most bang for the county-government’s buck.
Virginia localities have only limited authority from the General Assembly to install ticket-producing speed cameras on roadways, but the Arlington government (which has yet to implement that particular option) is seeking permission to expand such a program countywide. Such an effort, if it were allowed by state legislators, likely would run into budget headwinds and thus have to be somewhat limited in scope.
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