Arlington Highlights Safety for Back-to-School Season

Published on August 24, 2022

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Students at Arlington Public Schools (APS) begin the new school year on Monday, Aug. 29. Roadway and pedestrian safety are a top concern during the back-to-school season, which is why Arlington County has several projects and initiatives that prioritize safer roads and crossings for students, parents, teachers, and school staff.

Arlington’s Vision Zero transportation safety program has led to multiple projects in coordination with APS to increase pedestrian safety around schools since being adopted in May 2021.

READ MORE: Transportation Safety Tips from Arlington County Police Department

School Slow Zones

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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 walk audits/access reviews in the past year, according to the Vision Zero Year 1 Annual Report.

A key project from Vision Zero is the installation School Slow Zones that permanently enforce speed limits of 20 miles per hour on neighborhood streets that are within 600 feet of a major access point to a school. Arlington County installed School Slow Zone demonstrations on 58 street segments at 11 public schools and two private schools earlier this year to measure if they effectively reduce speeds before applying the findings in the next round of School Slow Zones.

“Moving forward, the County anticipates adding approximately ten Slow Zones around schools each year, meaning that the 40-plus public and private schools in the County could be updated within the next three to five years,” notes the report.

Temporary Road Closure for School Pick-ups/Drop-offs Pilot Project

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Starting Mon., Aug. 29, DES will pilot a temporary road closure along 24th Street South between South Ode and South Nash streets to improve drop-offs and pick-ups at Oakridge Elementary School.

The temporary closure will be in effect 30 minutes prior to the start of school (8:30-9:00 a.m.) and 30 minutes prior to dismissal (3:20-3:50 p.m.) with the goal of helping with pedestrian safety and facilitating bus operations. Cones and signage will be used for the temporary closure and to allow easy access for local traffic, emergency vehicles, and school buses. 

School Crossing Pilot Project

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This pilot project implemented in April 2022 added new school crossing signage, speed signage, and pavement markings intended to reduce vehicle speeds on Patrick Henry Drive and increase visibility of pedestrians crossing at 18th Street North due to increased foot traffic near Cardinal Elementary School.

This pilot project is anticipated to run through October. Data was collected on vehicle speeds and driver yield behavior to people in the crosswalk in March, which will be compared to data collected after completion of the pilot project to determine its effectiveness. Findings from the project will be considered at similar uncontrolled, high-volume pedestrian crosswalks near schools throughout the County.

Find more information about this Vision Zero pilot project and others that have been implemented around the County.

Quick-Build Safety Improvement Projects

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Small-scale safety improvements—identified through programmatic analysis or community reports—are part of the greater Vision Zero program effort. Some of these projects specific to schools in Arlington include:

  • Curb extensions on the southern corners of the intersection of Yorktown Boulevard and North Edison Street to narrow the roadway, reduce crossing distance for pedestrians and cyclists, and reduce turning vehicle speeds. The intersection is on a major walking path to Yorktown High School.
  • New buffered bike lane pavement markings across the North Ohio Street bridge over I-66 (between 14th Street North and 12th Road North) to create a continuous bicycle lane. The project was selected due to the bike lane’s proximity to Cardinal and Arlington Traditional Elementary Schools.
  • A new crosswalk with receiving curb ramps that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act to create a mid-block crossing over Sycamore Street between the long block from Langston Boulevard and 26th Street North. The new crosswalk provides improved pedestrian access to Tuckahoe Park and Tuckahoe Elementary School.
  • A new crosswalk to create a mid-block crossing over North Ohio Street between the existing crossings at Washington Boulevard and 14th Street North to provide better pedestrian access to Cardinal Elementary School and Swanson Middle School.

School Bus Maintenance

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Properly maintained school buses also ensure that students arrive at school and get home safely. Arlington County’s 5,900-square-foot full-service vehicle maintenance and repair facility at the Trades Center located in the Shirlington neighborhood operates 17 hours a day to ensure the 196 buses in APS’ fleet have constant upkeep to avoid breakdowns.

Did you know that DES’ Equipment Bureau works on maintaining 10 to 15 school buses every day? That’s because buses are required to be inspected and maintained at least once every 45 school days by the Virginia Department of Education.

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