Posted on August 24, 2022
Arlington Public Schools (APS) students begin the new school year on Monday, August 29. Road and pedestrian safety is a top concern during the back-to-school season, which is why Arlington County has several projects and initiatives that prioritize road and walkway safety for students, parents, teachers, and school staff.
Arlington’s Vision Zero transportation safety program has led to several projects in coordination with APS to increase pedestrian safety around schools since its adoption in May 2021.
READ MORE: Arlington County Police Department Transportation Safety Tips
School slow zones
The Department of Environmental Services (DES) coordinated with APS to review six intersections, identify four pilot projects, and complete 13 school zone updates, as well as 18 walking audits/reviews access over the past year, according to the Vision Zero Year 1 Annual Report.
A key Vision Zero project is the installation of School Slow Zones which permanently enforces speed limits of 20 miles per hour on neighborhood streets within 600 feet of a major school access point. Arlington County installed school slow zone demonstrations on 58 street segments at 11 public schools and two private schools earlier this year to measure whether they are effective in reducing speeds before applying the results in the next round of school slow zones.
“Going forward, the county plans to add approximately ten slow zones around schools each year, which means more than 40 public and private schools in the county could be updated over the next three to five years,” notes the report.
Temporary Road Closure Pilot Project for Pickup and Return to School
Beginning Monday, August 29, DES will pilot a temporary road closure along South 24th Street between South Ode and South Nash streets to improve drop-offs and pickups at Oakridge Elementary School.
The temporary closure will be in effect 30 minutes before the start of school (8:30 a.m.-9:00 a.m.) and 30 minutes before departure (3:20 p.m.-3:50 p.m.) in an effort to aid pedestrian safety and facilitate bus operations. Traffic cones and signs will be used for the temporary closure and to allow easy access for local traffic, emergency vehicles and school buses.
School crossings pilot project
This pilot project implemented in April 2022 added new school crossing signs, speed signs and pavement markings intended to reduce the speed of vehicles on Patrick Henry Parkway and to increase visibility for pedestrians crossing at 18th Street North due to increased foot traffic near Cardinal Elementary School.
This pilot project is expected to run until October. Data has been collected on vehicle speeds and driver behavior towards people in the crosswalk in March, which will be compared with data collected after the pilot is completed to determine its effectiveness. Project results will be reflected on similar uncontrolled, high-volume pedestrian crossings near schools throughout the county.
Find more information about this Vision Zero pilot project and others that have been implemented in the county.
Fast-Build Security Improvement Projects
Small-scale safety improvements, identified through programmatic analysis or community reports, are part of the larger Vision Zero program effort. Some of these projects specific to Arlington schools include:
- Curb extensions at the south corners of the intersection of Yorktown Boulevard and North Edison Street to narrow the roadway, reduce crossing distance for pedestrians and cyclists, and reduce vehicle cornering speeds. The intersection is on a major footpath leading to Yorktown High School.
- New buffered bike lane pavement markings on the North Ohio Street Bridge over I-66 (between 14th Street North and 12th Road North) to create a continuous bike lane. The project was selected because of the bike path’s proximity to traditional Cardinal and Arlington elementary schools.
- A new crosswalk with Americans with Disabilities Act compliant reception curb ramps to create a mid-block crossing on Sycamore Street between the long block of Langston Boulevard and North 26th Street. The new crosswalk provides better pedestrian access to Tuckahoe Park and Tuckahoe Elementary School.
- A new crosswalk to create a mid-block crossing on North Ohio Street between the existing crossings on Washington Boulevard and 14th Street North to provide better pedestrian access to Cardinal Elementary School and Swanson Middle School.
School bus maintenance
Well-maintained school buses also ensure that students arrive at school and return home safely. Arlington County’s 5,900 square foot full-service vehicle maintenance and repair facility at the Trades Center in the Shirlington neighborhood operates 17 hours a day to ensure that the 196 buses in APS’ fleet benefit from constant maintenance to avoid breakdowns.
Did you know that the DES Equipment Office maintains 10 to 15 school buses every day? This is because buses must be inspected and maintained at least once every 45 school days by the Virginia Department of Education.