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Pedestrian Crossing Deemed Unsafe at Local Intersection

The Town Council discussed the Rt. 15 bypass and Edwards Ferry Road Monday night and why adding a crosswalk may not be a good option.

The Town Council revisited the topic of Edwards Ferry Road and the Rt. 15 bypass during a work session Monday night.

Back in March, councilmembers approved a resolution in regards to right turn lane improvements at the intersection, which would include improvements consisting of dual right turn lanes for vehicles turning from eastbound Edwards Ferry Road onto southbound Route 15. 

Some council members suggested that a crosswalk be included due to a large amount of people who cross the road every day. However, following a recent analysis, town staff recommended that it would be unsafe and cause delays.

“It's driver expectation. When you're on a high volume, higher speed limit road you're not expecting a pedestrian to be in the roadway," said Capital Projects Manager Renee Lafollette. "We're dealing with a speed limit of 45 mph and we're designing a free flow right turn lane off of Edwards Ferry onto the bypass. So you're crossing a free flow right turn lane as well. That' why, as staff, we don't feel it's safe."

Lafollette added that the addition of pedestrian clearance times would cause substantial delays on an already congested roadway. However, Councilman Dave Butler felt that many of those arguments could be resolved.

“If we’re going to be serious about making the town more pedestrian and bike friendly then there’s going to be an impact,” Butler said. “I’d really like to see staff give us an estimate on what it would cost to put a crosswalk in.”

Councilman Tom Dunn and Vice Mayor Kevin Wright disagreed.

“We have to keep people safe,” Wright said. “Putting a crosswalk on this road is not safe.”

Lafollette suggested that a second Virginia Regional Transit (VRT) Safe-T Ride shuttle be used instead. The current shuttle has been a safe way for pedestrians to cross the bypass and is used by 168 to 208 people daily, she said.

According to town documents, the average waiting time for a bus was found to be 30 minutes. With the addition of a second bus, at an estimated cost of $90,000, the headway could be reduced to 15 minutes while reducing pedestrian traffic.

Chris Sanner September 25, 2012 at 02:32 PM
so, knowing that I have to wait for a bus for any length of time will mean I drive. what I would LOVE to see is an overhead walkway, like on 28 near waxpool. no chance we'll ever see it, but a guy can dream
Ann September 25, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Chris, you'll see it if enough people demand it -- and I hope they do! And then, while the overhead walkway is under construction, I think the Council should approve the extra Safe-T-Ride, but also have it run so it actually coincides with the working hours schedule of Retail and Restaurant employees. Many of our Leesburg families could do much better economically with expanded public transportation, as car expenses and maintenance often overwhelm the modest budget of low-wage workers. Let's be fair! The possibility of economic health to everyone in Leesburg is important to all of us. S. Ann Robinson, Candidate for Leesburg Town Council
Dave Butler September 25, 2012 at 03:41 PM
@Chris, you're right, there's no chance we'll ever see a pedestrian bridge in that area. There are three main reasons: (1) it would be very expensive, likely about $12M, (2) very few people would use it, and (3) even with the money, there may not be any realistic way to build it. To expand on (1): We don't have an extra $12M, and if we did, we would almost certainly want to put it towards an above-grade intersection at Edward's Ferry, removing the lights at both Edward's Ferry and Ft. Evans. This is the right long-term solution for both traffic and pedestrians. To expand on (2): The ramps for the bridge would need to be ADA compliant, so would be very long, and studies show that people just don't want to walk that much farther to go up and over a bridge. There's a similar one in Arlington that gets very little use. The bike/ped trail over Route 28 gets a lot of use because it connects the W&OD trial on each side. To expand on (3): it's difficult to find potential landing spots for the bridge (and ramps) on either side of the Bypass. This is especially true if you remove areas that may be needed for access roads in the future. In short, we've discussed this on Council a couple of times and the conclusions remain the same. All of this is why I'm pushing for crosswalks at Edward's Ferry and Battlefield. They can be built safely and cheaply. To just say "not safe" is disingenuous as there are a number of similar ones in Loudoun that have been put in.
Ann September 25, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Of course, the traffic on Rt. 15 North in the evening is already stop and go -- it takes an hour just to get from Rt. 7 to Battlefield Parkway on some evenings in my experience. Whatever safe way can be engineered to let people walk across the street needs to have a creative priority -- these are families and workers that need their government to pay attention to a critical deficiency in mobility, for their economic survival, as well as their physical safety. Once again, I know -- as does everyone else -- that if the political will is there for something to be built, it will. I refuse to believe that in the 21st century we are incapable of finding a way to cross the street. No excuses!
Dave Butler September 25, 2012 at 05:05 PM
@Ann, yes the automobile traffic is the real issue. Staff knows that crosswalks can be built. They are worried that it will impact traffic flow. That's an attitude I'm trying to change. Traffic engineers should focus on bike/ped traffic as much as they do motorized traffic. They almost never do. The automobile traffic is only impacted, and that minimally, when someone actually pushes the button. If this was such a big issue, why are there larger intersections in Loudoun with more traffic that have crosswalks? With the same speed limit and also with free-flowing right turn lanes? Bottom line: Staff doesn't want the crosswalks and the Council (as it's currently constituted) likely lacks the political will to help the low-wage workers and families. I'll continue to push, though.
Sarah P. September 25, 2012 at 07:51 PM
I completely understand that the council has deemed installing a crosswalk as a poor option because the intersection is considered unsafe for pedestrians, however, this does not stop pedestrians from using it anyway. I have been stopped at the light many times and seen people trying to figure out the traffic pattern and when to make their dash into traffic. You only have to look at the well-worn trail in the grass along the road to see that it's used as a crossing. Sooner or later someone will get hit here if nothing is done to address it. Personally, I don't see the shuttles as a good answer either, most people are not going to wait 30 minutes for a 2 block ride that will only take them 5 minutes to walk, despite the inherent danger. Not that I think it would be cheap, but what would the feasibility be of a subterranean pedestrian mall be? These are common in Asia at intersections that are too large for normal crosswalks, just a thought.
Leah M. Kosin (Editor) September 25, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Thank you everyone for providing your opinions/feedback.
Ann September 25, 2012 at 11:31 PM
@Dave, I'm really curious as to why Staff doesn't want crosswalks -- interesting comment. But I thought the Council is in charge of Staff(?) No? Two things I hope we can manage: 1) That people who live here and serve our community but cannot afford cars because of the low wages paid in service jobs, deserve our attention. (What kind of people are we!?) AND 2) Some of these people can walk/bike various places and some cannot. Think: February and freezing rain. How many people are actually going to be biking to work? Or, once the primary breadwinner is at work, how is the mother with a toddler going to get home with two bags of groceries? So, we need a combination of crosswalks and pedestrian friendly policies, starting with eliminating the free-flowing right hand turn lane and culminating with expanded evening and weekend bus service. I am glad to hear you are focused on the working families, Dave, since winter is coming and the additional bus shelters promised by Council and Town Manager John Wells last February have yet to be built. Why is that? How hard is it to build a bus shelter? It is certainly not a cost issue. Are our mothers with small children, our elderly going to the pharmacy still doomed to another winter of wind, rain and cold because we are not focused and committed?
Leah M. Kosin (Editor) September 25, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Ann...staff recommended that a crosswalk not be put in (you can find a few reasons in the article) but I don't think that means that the council can't vote for one. Of course it also comes down to the price tag as well. Also, in regards to the bus shelters, I wrote an article about them in February of this year (http://patch.com/A-rm05) and at that time there were at least seven shelters that were already under construction. I'd be happy to look in to whether or not they have been completed but I don't think it's the council who determines how soon they are finished. Just a little friendly info :)

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