Commonwealth Avenue Complete Streets Project

Page updated on Feb 12, 2021 at 9:05 AM


*NEW!* 60% design plans are now available. Scroll down to view the plans and provide your feedback.

Project Background

Commonwealth Avenue is scheduled to be repaved in 2021 between King Street and Braddock Road. When streets are resurfaced, it provides an opportunity to upgrade elements of the street to better accommodate all roadway users. The goals and objectives for this project are listed below:

Project Goal: Improve mobility, safety, and access for roadway users of all ages, abilities, and modes of travel

Project Objectives:
The project objectives below were developed through existing plans, best practice, and community input:

  • Improve existing crossings and add new crossing opportunities
  • Implement Safe Routes to School recommendations
  • Increase visibility and pedestrian safety at intersections and crossings
  • Reinstall and update traffic calming devices
  • Update and enhance striping and signage along the corridor

Project Timeline

Commonwealth Project Timeline


Community Engagement

Status: Ongoing

Community Feedback Form (Spring 2019)

In spring 2019, the City of Alexandria Transportation & Environmental Services Department issued an online feedback form to gather community input on existing issues and potential improvements to the roadway. The top three issues that were reported by residents were:

  • People driving failing to stop and/or yield
  • Limited visibility at intersections
  • Difficulty crossing the street

The feedback received contributed to the project objectives stated above. Click here to view a summary of the community feedback.

Comment Period for 30% Design Plans (Fall 2020)

After reviewing past public comments, existing City plans, and conditions in the field, staff has worked with an engineering consultant to develop draft roadway design plans for Commonwealth Avenue between King Street and Braddock Road. The community is asked to provide feedback on these plans no later than Thursday, October 15, 2020.

Here's how to participate:

1. View the project presentation.

2. Review the draft design plans.

3. Submit your comments via the online feedback form no later than October 15, 2020.

Staff will review and consider all comments as the design is further refined. Final plans are expected by Spring 2021.

Comment Period for 60% Design Plans (WINTER 2021)

The 60% design plans for Commonwealth Avenue are now available for viewing  in the "Design" section below. The community is asked to provide feedback on these plans no later than Friday, February 26, 2021. To provide comments, email Alexandria.Carroll@alexandriava.gov

The proposed parking changes associated with safety and access improvements will be presented to the Traffic and Parking Board at its February 22 meeting. Visit the Traffic and Parking Board webpage for more information on the docket and how to participate. More information on the parking changes is available below:

Other Public Input Opportunities

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, the City will not be holding in-person public meetings for the time being. Instead, community engagement will be conducted primarily through online and virtual methods.

For questions or comments on this project, please contact Alex Carroll, Complete Streets Coordinator, at Alexandria.Carroll@alexandriava.gov


Design

Status: In Progress

Conceptual Plans

Below is a draft conceptual map of potential improvements on Commonwealth Avenue.

Commonwealth Concept Map

30% Design Plans

The 30% design plans may be viewed here. These designs may be refined based on technical needs, site constraints, professional judgment, and public input. Final plans are expected by Spring 2021.

60% Design Plans

The 60% design plans are available here. Below is a summary of the changes that were made from the 30% design phase based on community input and staff judgment:

  • Crosswalks at Oak Street have been straightened to further shorten crossing distance
  • Capital Bikeshare station at Oak Street proposed to be relocated 5' to the south for improved sightlines
  • Shorter barriers proposed in place of traditional flexible delineator posts ("flexposts") for improved aesthetics and maintenance operations
  • Additional painted median extension at Maple Street to further define the intersection for people driving
  • Additional painted median refuge to improve crossing safety at Linden Street

More information on the parking changes is available below:

Construction

Status: Not started

Concrete improvements, street resurfacing, road marking, and signage improvements are planned for Spring 2021.


Additional Information

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the purpose of this project?
The purpose of this project is to improve mobility, safety, and access for all roadway users in conjunction with regular street maintenance.

How is this project being funded?
Regular street maintenance, including milling and resurfacing the roadway and repairing concrete, is funded from the City’s Street Reconstruction and Sidewalk Maintenance portions of the City’s Capital Improvement Program. Additional features, including upgrades to crosswalks, curb extensions, and bike lane improvements are funded from the Complete Streets section of the City’s Capital Improvement Program.

What is the project timeline?
Project initiation and planning began in Fall 2019. The design phase began in Summer 2020 and is expected to continue through Winter 2021. Project implementation will take place in Spring 2021. Community engagement is ongoing.

Why aren’t all-way stops included in the plans?
Staff heard requests to include all-way stops at certain intersections along Commonwealth Avenue to slow down traffic and make it easier for people to cross Commonwealth Avenue and turn on to Commonwealth from side streets. It is important to understand that stop signs are not meant to be a traffic calming measure; rather, their purpose is to manage traffic operations. Before installing a new stop sign, staff must complete an engineering study to determine whether the location meets warrants outlined in the national Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Certain criteria must be met for stop signs to be installed in order to ensure the signs will be effective and not easily ignored or disregarded by roadway users.

Unfortunately, many of the intersections on Commonwealth Avenue do not meet the aforementioned criteria to install all-way stops. Staff has initiated an engineering study of the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Oak Street to determine if an all-way stop is warranted at this location. However, this study has been temporarily put on hold due to the inability to collect reliable traffic data during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study will resume when traffic patterns return to relatively typical levels.

The project does include several components to slow down traffic and make it easier for people to cross Commonwealth. Rebuilt speed cushions are proposed at strategic locations, and travel lanes are proposed to be narrowed to a width more appropriate for City streets. Additionally, new crosswalks, enhanced crosswalk markings, signage, and curb extensions (also known as “bulb outs”) are also proposed at key locations to improve people’s ability to cross Commonwealth Avenue.

Will flashing pedestrian signs be included in the plans?
At this time, staff is not proposing flashing pedestrian signs (technically known as RRFBs, or Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons) as part of the project plans. The intent is to install other pedestrian-related improvements, such as bulb-outs and enhanced crosswalks, to improve visibility and safety. Flashing pedestrian signs, or RRFBs, may still be considered in the future, if necessary.

Why aren’t the bike lanes being extended as part of this project?
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the way we all go about our daily lives. That means that traffic patterns during the pandemic have been abnormal nationwide. People might be driving less, working from home, walking and biking more, and not participating in activities they ordinarily would. This also impacts the way on-street parking is used.

In order to extend the bike lanes north of Oak Street, parking would need to be removed on one side for several blocks to make room for the bike lane. Before removing such a significant amount of parking, staff would need to conduct an analysis to better understand how and when this parking is utilized, and what impacts there may be to adjacent properties and side streets. As previously mentioned, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major changes in how we use our transportation network, so data conducted during this time would not be indicative of typical conditions and would not be completely reliable.

Additionally, removing a large amount of parking would likely be controversial and increase the amount of public outreach needed. This would increase the amount of staff time devoted to this project and delay needed street maintenance. Unfortunately, there is not sufficient staff capacity to take on the issue at this time.

That said, the City supports increasing connectivity for people biking and could explore extending the bike lanes as a standalone project at some point in the future.

Why isn’t street lighting included in this project?
The primary tools for improvement for this project are roadway markings, signage, and concrete improvements, as these can be coordinated with street resurfacing relatively easily. Street lighting is outside the scope of this project, though there are mechanisms to improve visibility of pedestrians via curb extensions (i.e. “bulb-outs”) and crosswalk upgrades.

What is the plan for the curb extensions (i.e. “bulb outs”) and median extensions?
Curb extensions and median extensions are planned at locations that were identified through the Maury Elementary Safe Routes to School Walk Audit in 2017. The purpose of these curb extensions is to slow drivers when turning, increase visibility of pedestrians at intersections, and shorten the crossing distance across Commonwealth Avenue.

Because of budget cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the curb extensions and median extensions will be built using low-cost materials like paint and traffic barriers. These “temporary” versions provide the same benefits as those built in concrete, but for a fraction of the cost. They also enable the City to assess how they are working and make changes, if necessary, before more permanent concrete versions are designed and constructed.

Staff heard some concern from some members of the community regarding the aesthetics of painted curb and median extensions. Staff understands the desire to preserve an appealing streetscape and is exploring material options that minimize the visual impact of the extensions while maintaining their effectiveness.

What are the next steps after the 30% design phase?
The designs will be updated to incorporate technical changes identified by staff as well as any changes identified based on community feedback. This will bring the project to a 60% design phase. Please note that while staff strives to address public input, not all comments or requests can be incorporated into the project design.

What other opportunities will there be for community input?
The community will have the opportunity to provide comments on the next design iteration (60% design plans), which is expected to be available by early February. While staff anticipates any further changes to the design will be relatively minor, the current design plans are based on feedback received through past planning and community engagement efforts.

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