Charlottesville City Council spent about an hour last night discussing ways to address speeding concerns on 5th Street Extended, a four-lane highway that heads south from downtown Charlottesville that has seen more residential neighborhoods built over the years.
One person concerned with recent crashes on 5th Street lives around the intersection at Bailey Road.
“I walk on 5th Street almost everyday,” said Kristen Lucas. “I bike to work sometimes on 5th Street. And I walked out my door when there was a crash and someone had passed away on 5th Street and I strongly support changes to 5th Street to make it safer not only for drivers but also for pedestrians and bikers and those that are living on this road.”
Lucas and about 1,400 other people signed a petition to ask Council to push for changes to the roadway. She said she wanted more than for the city to limit the speed, and she supported roundabouts and other traffic calming measures.
Traffic engineer Brennen Duncan wrote a report that outlined how vehicular speed has played a role in the five fatal accidents that have taken place in the past four years.
“It’s my assertion that there’s really not a speeding problem with the posted speed limit of 45 but I have said in my report to Council that we do have a corridor that allows for higher speeds for those that want to break the speed limit,” Duncan said.
Duncan’s suggestions for short-term solutions include reducing the speed limit to 40 miles per hour and additional lighting. Mid-term solutions could be informed by studies such as a 2018 study of the entire 5th and Ridge Street corridor.
Joan Albiston of the Willoughby neighborhood singled out a specific intervention that she favored.
“I have read the traffic engineers report for 5th Street and I would like to thank them for their recommendations to make 5th Street safer,” Albiston said. “In particular I would like to thank for recommending a flashing yellow area in place of a green light.”
These would be for permissive left-hand turns. Duncan explains the logic behind adding these flashing yellow lights.
“Nothing changes about the functionality,” Duncan said. “You’re supposed to yield on a green ball anyway but it really has been found that it alerts drivers more they are supposed to yield in that condition.”
For a mid-term solution, Duncan is recommending a roundabout just north of Bailey Road.
“What the roundabout would do is really put a damper on [high speeds] right in the middle of the corridor where drivers are forced to slow down,” Duncan said.
Duncan said that 18,000 vehicles use the roadway every day, and more efforts need to be made to get people out of their cars and onto buses. He said there could be as many as 500 more residential units in this area in the several years if undeveloped property is built upon.
The mother of a man who died in a motorcycle crash had the chance to address Council about the issue.
“My name is Binta Rose and my son was one of the fatalities on 5th Street Extended,” Rose said. “I had some concerns about that roadway as well. Even though speed may have contributed to his fatality I just had a question about the, I know that you guys are talking about some lighting in the area, and I know that the cars that pull out of the driveways there. My son driving down that road, an SUV pulled out into the traffic so he tried to avoid the vehicle and he hit a tree.”
Rose said the crash happened at night when there was no lighting. She also said she wants the roadway’s character to be less of a speedway.
Council agreed to the lower speeds and the flashing yellow light. For other solutions, Council will further discuss the topic at a budget work session on the capital improvement program budget on Friday that begins at 1 p.m.