MANASSAS — Looking back on the 35 years he served on the City Council, Jim Payne is most proud of his lobbying to get a bypass to Va. 234 built, a project that has helped reduce traffic on major city streets.
And yet while driving home in his tan Volvo last week, Payne saw a driver speeding down Sudley Road, cutting in and out of traffic more than three times.
During late February and early March, Manassas police targeted speeding on the section of Sudley Road that Payne lives on, between Grant Avenue and Portner Avenue.
The department has little to show for its efforts.
“There’s no question about the speeding out here. It’s getting worse and worse every day,” Payne said.
After receiving complaints not only from Sudley Road residents but from the City Council as well, the Manassas Police Department decided in February to step in and do something about speeding on the street, which has a 25 mph speed limit.
“We are going to warn for a very brief time. Then, we are going to enforce,” Chief John Skinner told the council on Feb. 12.
A 1999 study of the road clocked the average speed of traffic at 36.2 mph. On April 7, the Public Works Department went back to the road and measured an average speed of 34 mph.
“I think we achieved minimal results,” Skinner said.
The department spent a week warning the public that the road was going to be targeted. Releases were sent out to the media. A “speed trailer” was set up on the road to remind drivers how fast they were traveling.
Between Feb. 18 and March 4, 231 citations were handed out, with 214 of those tickets being for speeding. The average speed of those caught was 42.7 mph.
And yet the stepped-up enforcement failed to make a dent on traffic.
“That portion of Sudley Road presents a serious challenge to the Police Department’s control of speeding. Controlling speeding would mean a 24-hour special police enforcement. That’s not practical,” Skinner said.
With two lanes traveling in each direction, the road was designed for heavy traffic moving between Va. 28 and Va. 234. But people also live along the road, which means that a low speed limit is needed.
Speed bumps are out of the question because the road is a major route for emergency vehicles. Stop signs or new parking spaces would hinder the road’s already dense traffic.
The speeding problem on the road, Skinner said, is too large for the police department to handle on its own. Cooperation with residents on the street is needed.
“We’re open for business. And we’re open for suggestions,” he said.
Councilwoman Judith Hays said she doesn’t believe that 24–hour policing of the street is necessary. What it does need, she says, is a reputation.
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘speed trap.’ But people need to know it’s a place where they’re likely to get pulled over if they’re speeding,” she said.
For his part, Payne hopes that a gathering of residents will generate new ideas.
“Get together some residents to discuss the problem,” he said.
Staff writer Chris Newmarker can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 119.