FAQ: Wolftrap Elementary Crosswalk Improvements

Acronyms

FCDOT – Fairfax County Dept. of Transportation
VDOT – Virginia Dept. of Transportation
TPP – Transportation Priorities Plan
SRTS – Safe Routes to School
RRFB – Rapid Rectangular Flashing Beacon
HAWK – High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk
HMD-TAC- Hunter Mill District Transportation Advisory Council

 

 

QUESTIONS (click to see the answer)


1. What makes the school crosswalk dangerous?


2. Why the urgent attention now?


3. What has been the process for working with Fairfax County?

 

4. What improvements would be possibilities?


5. What is a road diet?


6. What options include flashing yellow lights or a red light?


7. What is the speed limit on Beulah Road at Wolftrap Elementary School?


8. Who pays for improvements to the crosswalk and Beulah Road?


9. Could we raise money to help make faster progress on our crosswalk’s safety?


10.Could we get flashing yellow lights (RRFBs) like the Town of Vienna installed on Beulah Road near MacArthur Avenue and Ayr Hill Road?


11. Why are there 2 surveys concerning the improvement of the Wolftrap ES crosswalk?


12. What other nearby dangerous pedestrian areas could be addressed as we fill out the FCDOT survey for prioritizing funding?


13. How long will it take for improvements to be done?


14. How can I help?


More questions? Contact the Beulah Road Safety Committee at Alison.gramann@gmail.com.

 


ANSWERS

 

1. What makes the school crosswalk dangerous?

 

Traffic volume has increased considerably in the last couple of years. Dangerous observations include:

 

1) It is safest to cross if our crossing guard is present, but unsafe before and after her approximately 15-20 minute shift in the mornings and afternoons. Some drivers even ignore her, driving through the crosswalk when she directs cars to stop.
2) Many cars do not stop for pedestrians at the crosswalk.
3) Due to the width of the road at the cross walk, some cars drive around cars (to the right or left side) that do stop for pedestrians at the crosswalk. This can be an especially dangerous condition, as pedestrians believe that traffic has stopped for them.
4) Cars are driving very fast, and the speed limit is ambiguous, either 25 or 35mph. The speed limit is only definitively 25mph when the lights are flashing around the time of morning arrival and afternoon dismissal from school.
5) Traffic volume and speed is so great that adults and children cannot cross safely
before the crossing guard arrives in the morning, after after-school activities or for evening activities.
6) The cross walk has heavy usage by the community outside of just Wolftrap Elementary School users (when no crossing guard is present). Middle school and high school students use the crosswalk to reach their bus stops. In addition, pedestrians utilize the crosswalk to access Fairfax Connector bus stops, Foxstone Park/Woltrap Stream Valley Park, and the Cardinal Hill Swim Club.
7) The road is wide, a factor linked to drivers feeling more comfortable driving at higher speeds and inappropriately passing other cars.

 

 

2. Why the urgent attention now?

 

Efforts over the past year have gotten enough Fairfax County Dept. of Transportation (FCDOT) attention during a time that funding decisions are about to be made. It was announced at the HMC-TAC meeting on September 27 that our crosswalk had made it to the unfunded project list, which is a first step. On October 2, the survey for public comment became available, starting the public comment period before unfunded projects to become prioritized by FCDOT for funding.

 

Community concern can make a difference! Public support for the crosswalk improvements can be given by completing the survey links provided at the bottom of the FAQ. Also, public meetings will take place in October across Fairfax County on October 11th, 12th, 23rd and 30th, 2017 to learn more about the county’s transportation plans for 2017-2023.


Details on meeting dates and locations.

 

In addition, FCDOT announced in September 2017 that they would seek federal funding for the Wolftrap ES Crosswalk through an opportunity available for Safe Routes to School (SRTS) projects. Only four projects are being proposed by Fairfax County to seek federal funding through this source. The federal grant opportunity will not come up again until 2019, and 2019 is the last time this funding source will be funded by Congress before it expires (the FAST Act, 2015-2020). FCDOT is applying for the grant by November 1, 2017 with the help of the Beulah Road Safety Committee.

 

Find more information about the SRTS program here.

 

 


3. What has been the process for working with Fairfax County?

 

The County transportation plans are multi-year efforts, like the current updating of the Transportation Priorities Plan (TPP) for 2017-2023.

 

The Beulah Road Safety Committee met with Hunter Mill District Supervisor Catherine Hudgins in early 2017, and then gave a presentation about Beulah Road at the Hunter Mill District Transportation Advisory Council (HMD-TAC)’s quarterly meeting in May 2017.

 

The HMD-TAC is an appointed committee of community members who meet with county and state staff about transportation issues that impact Fairfax County’s Hunter Mill District. Both VDOT and FCDOT have staff who attend the meetings.

 

Based on the information provided to the HMD-TAC concerning unsafe crossing to Wolftrap ES and to middle and high school bus stops, FCDOT identified Wolftrap ES’s crosswalk as a potential unfunded project. This means they listened to the committee’s concerns, and the crosswalk became part of a list of projects up for consideration for the next 6-year plan.

 


4. What improvements would be possibilities?

 

Curb bump-outs, aka curb extensions, to prevent cars from passing through the crosswalk. This reduces the width of the road and reduces the time someone will be in the road when they cross. The curb bump-outs also force a car to slow down because the curbs prevent the passing of a stopped car.

 

https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/saferjourney1/Library/countermeasures/23.htm

 

 

Additionally, a pedestrian refuge island would serve both as a traffic calming measure and a refuge for pedestrians.

 

Another inexpensive traffic calming measure is a road diet, explained in Question #5.

 

See Question #6 for options that would include lights.

 

 

5. What is a road diet?

 

A road diet is narrowing a driving lane with marked turn lanes, bike lanes, or designated shoulder parking. Narrowing the driving lane is for the purpose of reducing driving speeds.


https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/road_diets/

and
https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/road_diets/guidance/info_guide/ch1.cfm#s11

 

 

Image from:
https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/road_diets/newsletter/2017/spring/images/adam_lind_tweet.png

 


6. What options include flashing yellow lights or a red light?

 

Flashing yellow lights are called RRFBs (Rapid Rectangular Flashing Beacons) and require cars to yield when a button is pushed by a pedestrian wishing to cross. At this time, VDOT is not approving RRFBs due to a patent lawsuit underway.

 

 

Image from:
https://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/resources/interim_approval/ia11/stpetersburgrpt/images/image3.jpg


A red stop signal above the road is called a HAWK (High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk Beacon). It requires cars to stop at a red light when button is pushed by a pedestrian who wishes to cross. The HAWK is more expensive than an RRFB, possibly over $200K, making it unlikely if FCDOT pays for the improvements without the federal grant. This would be similar to the one on Maple Avenue by Dunkin Donuts. FCDOT recently installed one on Backlick Rd near Lynbrook ES. The pedestrian refuge island is also visible in this video.

 

 

 

Image from:
https://michigancompletestreets.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/hawk-fhwa.jpg?w=300&h=214

 

Even if a HAWK were installed, the crossing guard would still be required at our crosswalk during arrival and dismissal. A crossing guard is considered a higher level of safety than the red HAWK light.

 


7. What is the speed limit on Beulah Road at Wolftrap Elementary School?

 

It is not marked clearly. The Town of Vienna speed limit is 25 mph, but the town line is just before Wolftrap Elementary if driving north. The speed limit signage after the elementary school is 35 mph. The 25mph signs in front of the school apply only when flashing. Those signs flash around the time of morning arrival and afternoon dismissal.

 


8. Who pays for improvements to the crosswalk and Beulah Road?

 

FCDOT may have two options for the Wolftrap ES/Talisman Dr. crosswalk in October 2017.

 

Option 1: FCDOT is applying for a federal grant for crosswalk improvements. Federal money would cover 80% of the cost, and FCDOT would cover 20%. The Beulah Road Safety Committee is helping FCDOT to complete the application for funds by November 1, 2017. We would find out if funds were won in June 2018.

 

Option 2: FCDOT is updating its Transportation Priorities Plan (TPP) for 2017-2023. If federal funds are not granted, the Wolftrap Elementary Crosswalk is project #627 in the unfunded projects. The FCDOT survey responses help them prioritize which projects receive funding. The numbering system does not indicate that our crosswalk is #627 in line behind over 600 other unfunded projects.

 


9. Could we raise money to help make faster progress on our crosswalk’s safety?

 

No, community funds will not make the project get approved or completed faster. There are several processes that must be completed (grant submissions, community surveys, project prioritization, traffic studies, etc.) before any additional action can take place. Upon completion of these processes, full or partial funding of the project may be designated from various entities. We will not know if any community funds will be useful until then.

 


10. Could we get flashing yellow lights (RRFBs) like the Town of Vienna installed on Beulah Road near MacArthur Avenue and Ayr Hill Road?

 

The Town of Vienna maintains its own roads, unlike Fairfax County which must have VDOT approval. VDOT is not approving the flashing yellow lights (RRFB) at this time due to a lawsuit concerning patent issues. Therefore, RRFBs are not an option at this time.

 


11. Why are there 2 surveys concerning the improvement of the Wolftrap ES crosswalk?

 

The two funding sources listed in the above questions are each gathering public feedback independently. For the federal grant application, the proximity to the elementary school is a huge driving factor on why FCDOT selected this project. As an unfunded FCDOT project, the community concern is taken into account for prioritizing projects. Links to both surveys and information about the surveys are below.

 

 

12. What other nearby dangerous pedestrian areas could be addressed as we fill out the FCDOT survey for prioritizing funding?

 

For the FCDOT survey in Question #7, please consider listing the following safety improvements on or near Beulah Road, which would increase safety walking/biking to school for students and for walking in the community.

 

  1. A Road Diet for Beulah Road from Wolftrap Elementary School up to the Fairfax Connector bus stop near Abbotsford Drive, including crosswalks at Talisman Drive (#627) and Abbotsford Drive.
  2. Improve sidewalk near State Street and add sidewalk next to Antioch Church.
  3. Extension of sidewalk on Clarks Crossing Road near Hawthorne Ridge Court. This video shows the current dangerous missing link.
  4. Unfunded project #548, Old Courthouse Road from Beulah Road to Creek Crossing Road, for a continuous safe walkway with road improvements.



13. How long will it take for improvements to be done?

 

If the federal grant is won, we would find out by June 2018. We believe improvements would be completed in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, but it is not clear.


If FCDOT funds improvements, then it would be in the 6-year TPP through 2023, and could happen anytime between 2021 and 2023.

 


14. How can I help?

 

Please take both of the online surveys to show public support for making the crosswalk safer! 

 

Links to the surveys are also here:


Survey 1: Safe Routes to School Survey for parents of Wolftrap students, due by October 27, 2017.
http://www.saferoutesdata.org/surveyformparent.cfm?key=5902910

 

Survey 2: Fairfax County Dept. of Transportation survey for unfunded projects.
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/tppfunding


Share the FCDOT survey with your neighbors!

 

Attend one of the public meetings with FCDOT as they seek public input at one of their October 2017 meetings at 7pm on Oct. 11th, 12th, 23rd or 30th. Once you are there, speak in support of the Wolftrap Elementary Crosswalk (Project #627). Click for details on meeting locations.

Still have questions? Contact the Beulah Road Safety Committee at Alison.gramann@gmail.com.

The more we are informed, the more we can advocate together!

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