The Alexandria, Virginia, city council has passed a measure to reduce Seminary Road from four lanes to just two, with the remaining space accommodating more turn lanes and room for bicyclists.
The year-long study which led to the decision was capped off Saturday with another six hours of testimony and debate as the city pondered whether it was time for the road to be slimmed down. The study was so extensive, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson called it “draining.”
Support for keeping Seminary Road at its full four lanes came from many residents and civic associations along Alexandria’s west end, concerned that slower-moving traffic will result in more cars bypassing through residential streets unable to support the increased load.
“It’s an arterial road,” exclaimed James Ray, one of over 100 people signed up to testify both for and against the proposed changes. “We are not a small French village. No one rides their bikes to work and stops off to get a baguette on the way home. We need to get to grocery stores, we need to move around.”
City council members John Chapman and Mohamed Seifeldein were among the council members who opposed it.
“We’re going to be left with arterials that don’t really move people,” argued Chapman.
The city’s traffic and parking board also narrowly supported keeping Seminary Road at four lanes, influenced in part by the desires of west end residents.
But others argued that speed on the road has spiraled out of control, endangering pedestrians and civilians.
“Cars whiz by me at almost double the legal speed limit,” argued Judith Fogel. “Many drivers are also distracted and peeking at their phones. The sidewalk I walk on is much too narrow, and there’s no buffer between me and the cars zooming by at a high rate of speed. Two lousy seconds and I’m toast.”
A local preschool teacher, Nicole Radshaw, also argued in favor of narrowing Seminary Road, saying she was hit from behind by a car while riding her bike there in 2016.
“I was struck from behind by a person driving a car,” said Radshaw. “The physical shock of being struck by a two-thousand pound car turned into panic and hysteria. All I remember was … my screaming and shaking and pain and fear that I was going to be run over again…”
After a six-hour debate, the changes passed with a vote of four in favor to three opposing.