As Purcellville leaders again discussed cut-through traffic concerns with Country Club Hills and Catoctin Meadows residents Thursday night, less contentious discussion resulted in an agreement on another temporary fix.
It was the fifth meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee to discuss the status efforts aimed at curbing cut-through traffic in the neighborhoods. Led by Interim Public Works Director Dawn Ashbacher, the committee discussed the impact of the signage, addressed resident recommendations and laid out a plan moving forward—all with none of the flaring tempers or heated conversations of previous meetings.
A longtime concern among residents, the cut-through traffic issue came to the forefront late last year when Virginia Regional Transit’s began work to establish a commuter parking lot along Hirst Road.
In response to an outpouring of resident concern, the town in February installed 10 removable barriers along Glenmeade Circle, between East Country Club Drive and Ashleigh Road, which rerouted traffic to West Country Club Drive and Glenmeade.
The town in April decided to remove the barriers and instead install signs to restrict through traffic in the morning and evenings. Since May, Main Street traffic has been prohibited from turning onto 33rd Street from 6-9 a.m., 21st Street traffic has been prohibited from turning onto Ashleigh Road from 4-6 p.m. and Country Club Drive traffic has been prohibited from turning onto 33rd Street from 4-6 p.m.
Ashbacher presented residents with town traffic counts comparing vehicle trips before and after the signage was installed. On West Country Club Drive, traffic has decreased by 73 trips between 6 and 9 a.m. and by 50 between 4 and 6 p.m. The weekday average, however, shows that about 30 more cars used that portion of the street as a cut-through each day. On Glenmeade Circle, traffic has decreased by 53 in the mornings and by 45 in the afternoons.
Since the barriers were removed and the signage was installed, traffic along East Country Club Drive has increased by 22 trips from 6-9 a.m., but has decreased by 7 from 4-6 p.m.
The numbers also showed a weekday average of 1,143 vehicles cutting through East Country Club Drive a year ago, with only 407 doing so as of June. “The volume has decreased significantly,” said Whitney Duffy, the senior transportation engineer for ClarkNexsen.
When talking about the commuter lot’s impact on the community, Ashbacher presented no numbers showing an impact either way. “There is possibly some effect from that,” she said.
Ashbacher also addressed resident-suggested solutions. She said the town would not expand the restricted hours because the traffic counts aren’t “giving a compelling reason” to do so. The town also will not reduce the 25 mph speed limit. Tom Folse, the assistant district traffic engineer for VDOT in Northern Virginia, compared the neighborhood to Waterford, where the streets have 20 mph speed limits but continue to be snarled by motorists.
“I don’t think that lowering the speed limit is going to discourage cut-through traffic at all,” he said. “The 20 mph speed limit [in Waterford] hasn’t discouraged any cut-through traffic.”
Ashbacher also noted that the town would not prohibit traffic from exiting onto 21st Street from Ashleigh Road during the morning rush hours becuase that might congest 33rd Street.
When asked why it was not possible for residents to be exempt from the turn restrictions, Acting Purcellville Police Lt. Mike Owens said there is no state law to allow for such exemptions. “We just can’t do that,” he said.
The same resident said he’s seen many drivers disregard the signage when police aren’t around. “Without adequate enforcement, these signs will be ignored,” he said.
Owens said that, although the police department’s staff is down by 50 percent, there would be officers in the community during the first two weeks of school. “If it does start picking up again, maybe we can help breaking the habit of that,” he said.
From May to June, officers spent nearly 15 hours in the community and issued 79 warnings.
To further discourage cut-through traffic, especially once school starts on Aug. 23, Capital Projects & Engineering Manager Dale Lehnig said that Woodgrove High School’s assistant principal would have teachers tell students to not use the neighborhood as a cut-through on their way to and from school.
Ashbacher said the signage would also be emphasized with traffic cones during peak hours for the first few days of school and that electronic traffic signs would be set up on Aug. 16. She said the town would also look at placing unoccupied police cars in the community to deter cut-throughs.
Lehnig said that the Google Maps and WAZE apps have also changed their routing during the restricted hours, now taking drivers down Main and 21st Streets, instead of through the neighborhoods.
The existing signage will remain in place until the end of September for the town to re-evaluate its impact after a month of school.