Why some families are calling for pedestrian safety upgrades near several Reston schools

Several families and Fairfax County, Virginia, school board member Melanie Meren are urging county and state governments to take steps to increase pedestrian safety near several Reston schools.

In a memo addressed to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and obtained by WTOP, Meren, who represents the Hunter Mill District on the school board, highlighted needed upgrades aimed at improving pedestrian, cyclist and motorist safety “mainly around the schools located in the South Lakes pyramid where children and adults are trying to safely commute to and from schools.”

Meren said that in some cases, there’s a need for more crossing guards near South Lakes High School, Forest Edge Elementary and Lake Anne Elementary.

Her memo said additional street signs are also needed in some locations, such as a speed radar sign on Ridge Heights Road and a ‘no parking’ sign in the Langston Hughes Kiss-and-Ride zone.

Meren also called for the review of a crossing where a Reston Association path along Sunrise Valley Drive meets Barton Hill Road, an area that she said has proved to be problematic for drivers being able to see pedestrians.

“(It’s) Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Fairfax County government, Virginia Department of Transportation that needs to make sure that roadways have safe barriers, so cars can’t plow into pedestrians, that crosswalks are kept up to date with paint and signage, and that they’re also compliant for the American American with Disabilities Act,” Meren said.

In a statement responding to the issues outlined in Meren’s memo, McKay said, “Once we received it, we asked our staff to analyze these problem areas for potential solutions and that work is ongoing.”

He added the county has committed $100 million to infrastructure improvements, $25 million of which has been allocated, and is taking other steps to address traffic and pedestrian safety, such as the recent placement of speed cameras near some Fairfax County schools.

Michael Habash, a Reston parent, said the area has several paths close to roadways, including one he uses to walk to Sunrise Valley Elementary.

“We’ve talked to them about potentially moving some of these paths away from the roadway, installing crosswalks, and ultimately doing a road diet on one of the major roads around here to help slow traffic down, because the road will sustain high speed. And if we build it in such a way that it slows traffic down, that could be really good for everyone,” Habash said.

Habash, who lives about a quarter-mile from the school, said several other parents have recently detailed concerns with the path. Fairfax County police have attempted things such as speeding enforcement in the area, he said, but he considers those a “Band-Aid on the real problem.”

The school zone sign, he said, is located so close to the school that many drivers slam on their brakes mere inches away from it.

“This isn’t just an issue for young children,” Habash said. “This is a community of people of all ages, and we’re all using these paths. So if we make it safer for the children, it’s going to be safer for everyone.”

Meren has also called for a review of certain crossings and bus stops, but she said concerns need to be addressed in a timely manner, explaining that sometimes it has taken years to get a sidewalk or crosswalk in place.

“We’ve got our instructional leaders in the building, our principals, standing out on crosswalks and sidewalks with me, with parents, with county staff, trying to describe the dangers,” Meren said. “That’s our instructional leader. So every time our principal has to come out and deal with a Safe Routes to School issue that impacts her community, she’s not spending time helping with instruction.”

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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