By Aaron Frank
Fifteen Minute Fredericksburg has proudly supported the City’s effort to transform the one-way street triplet of streets including Washington Avenue, Fall Hill Avenue and Maury Street to two-way traffic and is excited for its implementation this fall. Repaving and restriping will soon begin and will be accompanied by new crosswalks, improved sidewalks and a pedestrian bump-out at the Virginia Avenue and Fall Hill Avenue intersection.
Where is the area we are discussing? Well, check out the graphic below:
Why is this a good thing? One-way streets were originally intended to move vehicles quickly, eliminating cross turning movements from opposing traffic and simplifying intersections (cars can only turn one direction). Unfortunately, in practice, these streets create conditions that are less neighborhood friendly and contribute to higher speeds and crashes.
Two-way streets offer many benefits compared to one-way streets including:
- reducing vehicle speed by preventing passing and having a slower feeling appearance
- increasing pedestrian, motorist, and bicycle safety
- making streets more efficient by reducing travel distance for motorists.
- support economic development in downtown areas by causing drivers to pay more attention to businesses
Many cities have experienced positive results after road conversion with fewer pedestrian accidents, reduced speeding, and reduced crashes.
How did the one-way streets come to exist? Many cities converted streets into one-way streets to move cars faster into the city. In Fredericksburg, this facilitated easier movement of ambulances to the old Mary Washington Hospital and moved traffic across town prior to the construction of the Route 1 and Route 3 bypasses. Today, with the bypasses in place, these high-volume “boulevards” are no longer necessary, encourage speeding and passing, and are inconsistent with the neighborhood character of downtown.
What is a curb extension? A curb extension – or pedestrian bump out – physically narrows the roadway, creating safter and shorter crossings for pedestrians. Curb extensions increase visibility of pedestrians, tighten curb radii and encourage slower turning speeds. All this combines to make a neighborhood intersection safer and more pedestrian friendly. The City has already installed curb extensions and I now feel much safer crossing the road.
How did this come about? The idea was included in the Area 6 Small Area Plan adopted by the City Council in February 2019 after extensive outreach with local residents and businesses. Thanks to advocacy from Fred15 members and the support of former Ward 2 City Councilor and current Councilor Jon Gerlach, the construction was funded in the fiscal year 2023 budget. The two-way conversion is occurring only three years from Plan adoption (a blink of an eye in transportation planning time!). This reform demonstrates the power of the City’s Comprehensive Plan–the City’s key policy document for land use and transportation improvements– to build community consensus and guide future improvements, and we applaud the City for making it happen.
What’s next for 2-way conversions in the City? In 2023, an engineering consultant hired by the City will perform a study to evaluate the conversion of other 1-way boulevards to 2-way streets in the downtown area, and reveal opportunities for bikeways and pedestrian improvements. Continue to follow the Fred15 e-newsletter for notifications about public involvement in these traffic studies.
Aaron Frank is a Fredericksburg resident who lives with his family in Ward 2.