Alexandria’s Seminary Road restructuring increases commute times

To improve safety, Alexandria, Virginia, reduced about a 1-mile stretch of Seminary Road from four lanes to three and added new roadway markings, medians and pedestrian crosswalks.

Following the work last fall, a preliminary study revealed the restructuring has increased travel times in peak periods during both morning and evening rush hours.

“Across the day, travel times have remained relatively consistent,” said Hillary Orr, the deputy director of transportation, in a meeting with the Alexandria City Council on Tuesday night.

Travel times have increased by nearly one minute in the morning and about 30 seconds in the evening during the worst 15 to 30 minutes in the morning and evening commutes, Orr said.

The increase might not seem like much, unless you’re a commuter, running late, on the way to work or eager to get home at night.

“For this 1-mile stretch of roadway, a one-minute increase is about a 30% increase in travel times, and we understand that peoples’ time is very valuable and this increase is more than was anticipated with our traffic model,” Orr said.

The work completed by the start of the new year included resurfacing, new pedestrian signals at Quaker Lane and rapid flashing beacons at mid-block locations.

While acknowledging the longer commute times, transportation officials said the redesign is a trade-off, because it improves roadway safety for drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users.

“We have to balance the needs of multiple users,” Orr said.

The report given to the city council is just a preliminary study. A far deeper 18-month evaluation is underway and scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2021.

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