Manassas Journal Messenger | Residents oppose speed limit hike

Angela Ford frets about the safety of her four sons, especially at her Martin Drive home. Two and a half years ago, the City of Manassas Park raised the speed limit to 25 mph on her street, and transformed it into a two-way road.

“I take my 6-year-old son to ride his bike and I don’t feel safe,” said Ford, a 26-year resident of Martin Drive. “I’ve seen cars fly down the street doing 45, 50 miles per hour like a race track.”

An accident occurred outside Ford’s home a few months ago. She said drivers are not able to see each other coming around the bend in front of her house.

“I happened to look out the window and I saw the cars. It was scary,” Ford said. “Thank God there were no kids on the street. How are they going to see a child if they don’t see each other?”

Ford wants to see only one-way traffic and a speed limit of 15 miles per hour on Martin Drive. But when the original change was made, the city solicited resident opinions and heard strong voices that opposed Ford’s.

“Basically, several residents were as passionate not liking the traffic flow the way it was,” said Mayor William J. Treuting Jr. “And it was the citizen comment that got the governing body to change it.”

According to a January 16, 2001, public hearing transcript, City Manager David Reynal said that “generally, the speed limit would be changed to 15 miles per hour if the width of residential roadway is 30 feet or less. The street would be designated as one way if it was also lengthy without intersections.”

Martin Drive is 34 feet wide. But Ford’s neighbor, Kendall Gardner, questioned the legality and safety of the city’s actions. And both Ford and Gardner said they were improperly notified of the public meeting in January, although notices were sent out, according to city officials.

“I have three kids, ages 8, 6 and 4. I don’t want to see them get hurt,” Gardner said. “There is a speed problem around the city, something needs to be done.”

Reynal said the police department indicated there were “relatively few,” or three accidents on the street between July 2002 and July 2003. The average speed was 19 miles per hour.

But Gardner brought a petition with 38 signatures, urging the city to lower the speed limit and restrict the road to one-way traffic. If he gets no reprieve, Gardner said he will send the petition to Gov. Mark R. Warner’s office.

“The city promises something and then they back off, and it’s like you have to keep an eye over someone’s shoulder,” Gardner said.

Treuting said he was surprised at Gardner’s displeasure. “The majority of people speaking at the public hearing said something different,” Treuting said.

Treuting said he believed the current situation best suited the residents, but in light of this recent outcry, he would reconsider the safest option at another public hearing in November. He said policies are constantly tweaked to perfect city rules and accommodate residents.

“I think we’re going to try to get enough comments, and public works and public safety will go out and look at it again, and we will try to start over again,” Treuting said.

Ford and Gardner said they just want to protect their children, who inevitably play in the street sometimes.

“I wish they would think about the children on the street and how much danger these children are in,” Ford said.

But Treuting said the city needs to act on behalf of all it’s residents.

“We could block off the street and say ‘It’s only a pedestrian way, but you’ll have to walk a mile home,’ ” Treuting said. “That doesn’t make any sense. You’ve got to balance it out to come up with the best solution you can, and recognize there are going to be some people who aren’t going to like it.”

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