18th & Patrick Henry Intersection
Here are recent updates on our inquiry into making this intersection safer.
Visit to the intersection from Arlington County DES
January 30, 2024
MEMORANDUM BY JOHN P. RICHARDSON
Dan Nabors, Design Team Supervisor and Bureau Chief, Arlington DES Transportation Engineering and Operations, came to my house for a brief exchange January 29 before we walked down to the intersection at Patrick Henry Dr. and N. 18th St. that has been a focus of TLHCA (Tara-Leeway Heights Civic Association) efforts over the last year or two. Nabors’s visit was postponed from the “monsoon” day of torrential rains and rescheduled. John Ford cancelled participating at the last minute. Dan is a nationally respected traffic engineer who is a member of a 100-person committee responsible for setting national standards for fixed traffic signals (Chapter 9 in the newly-updated federal traffic manual, which for the first time included endorsement of “community views” in certain traffic situations when statistical evidence does not justify a proposed solution.) The intersection and TLHCA’s activism fit precisely within the new standards.
During our exchange at the house, Dan basically corroborated County Board Member Takis Karantonis’s status summary at the TLHCA Zoom board meeting January 10. Dan was unwilling to be as precise as Takis, however, in predicting when and possibly if the mobile speed/red light cameras and a 4-way stop sign would be installed. Dan explained that a number of procedural hurdles must be crossed for either or both steps to be taken.
Not surprisingly, our visit to the intersection had the biggest impact, since I demonstrated the dangers – particularly from the eastbound stop sign/crosswalk on 18th St., where it is extremely difficult to see oncoming cars northbound and southbound on Patrick Henry. It “helped” that the owner’s SUV was in the driveway of the house on the southeast corner of Patrick Henry and made it impossible to see northbound cars until they are almost within the intersection. I also was able to show how looking north on Patrick Henry from the same corner, one sees little more than the tops of southbound cars until they are virtually in the intersection. Dan took photos of these specifics.
Two unrehearsed incidents bolstered our case. The first was a lady driver who stopped at the westbound sign on 18th St. and – suspecting that we were discussing the intersection – asked, “When will we get the 4-way stop sign?” The second incident occurred as we were crossing Patrick Henry westbound in the lower crosswalk when a lady driver refused to acknowledge the pedestrian right-of-way and would have hit us had we not stopped.
OVERALL: Dan is a professional who is knowledgeable and dedicated to traffic safety public service. He has been with the county for seven years and has lived in the Cherrydale neighborhood for ca. 24 years. He is a military veteran and worked for many years as a consultant on a national basis. He has young sons whom he coaches in soccer and has been to Cardinal School many times in both a professional and avocational capacity. I think that the immediacy of our on-site visit to the intersection brought home to Dan its dangerous peculiarity and why community input highlights realities that the statistics can’t convey.
Response from County Board on December 9, 2021
John, Sarah, and Stacy,
Thank you for your note. I’ve touched base with the County Manager and Greg Emanuel and Mike Moon who lead our Department of Environmental Services, which includes our transportation leadership, as well as they have shared what is occurring.
We are working on this: the steps you mention APS needs to take have resulted in our transportation staff working on the analysis you request with speed commensurate with the concern you raise. I should add that the measures you identify—four way stop and flashing beacon—do still require analysis prior to our knowing if and what may be appropriate at this intersection.
Greg and Mike’s staff are and will do that work as quickly as practicable and we will get back to you. That work will take time, but please know that we are working on this as expeditiously as possible given our responsibility to serve the County as a whole on urgent safety matters.
We will work on this and be back in touch.
Matt de Ferranti
Email to County Board on December 8, 2021
Dear Chair de Ferranti and members of the Arlington County Board:
On behalf of the Cardinal Elementary School PTA, Swanson Middle School PTA and the Tara-Leeway Heights Civic Association, we request an expeditious review of pedestrian safety at the intersection of N Patrick Henry Drive and N 18th St.
We believe the county review should result in imposition of traffic calming measures around this intersection, either via a new 4-way stop or flashing beacon or other warning to traffic on N Patrick Henry Drive.
The opening of the new 725-seat Cardinal Elementary School just two blocks away has exposed many additional neighborhood youngsters to a harrowing street crossing and could lead to tragic accidents we all wish to avoid.
We understand that APS has already urged county transportation staff to study measures to enhance pedestrian safety at this intersection of a major county arterial road and a well-traveled street linking several neighborhoods with the bustling Westover Village shopping center, county branch library and now, our new Cardinal School.
It is also our understanding that the APS Demonstration Slow Zone initiative limiting vehicle speeds near schools, including Cardinal School, extends only along N 18th St. to a point just west of this intersection, and thus will not ameliorate the current situation.
Cardinal School was envisioned and is now celebrated as a school with high "walkability," and our neighborhood sidewalks are now filled with many young students walking alone, in groups or with parents to school. The Cardinal students are joining many Swanson middle schoolers and many older neighborhood residents in trying to safely navigate this problematic street crossing.
We have recently celebrated National Walk to School Day. Please take the steps necessary to ensure that our neighborhood children can safely continue to do so.
John Ford Sarah Van Velsor Stacy Rosenthal President President President
Tara-Leeway Heights Cardinal Elementary Swanson Middle
Civic Association School PTA School PTA