Vienna hits gas pedal on plan to slow down traffic on Echols Street

The word “stop” will be painted before the stop sign at the Echols Street SE and Berry Street intersection (via Google Maps)

The drive down Echols Street SE is about to get bumpier — and, the Town of Vienna hopes, a little slower.

After some initial skepticism, the Vienna Town Council gave its support on April 24 to traffic-calming measures designed to force drivers to slow down on the two-lane residential street, which crosses over Wolftrap Creek.

Town staff and the Transportation Safety Commission recommended installing three speed tables between Branch Road SE and Follin Lane, adding solid white parking lane lines on both sides of the roadway, and painting the word “Stop” before the three-way stop sign at the Berry Street SE intersection.

The recommendations are based on a traffic study conducted last year that showed 85% of vehicles driving up to 31 mph on the 25-mph street, Vienna’s acting public works director Christine Horner told the town council.

Some council members questioned whether those speeds are enough to need traffic calming.

“I’ve gone to the street a couple of times,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen said. “I personally would prefer to go with two [speed tables]. I think three is potentially excessive for that street.”

Echols Street just meets Vienna’s threshold for traffic calming, staff said. The town’s street safety guide states that physical measures can be considered if the 85th percentile average speed is 31 mph or higher, along with other criteria based on the type of road and traffic volumes.

Vienna Transportation Engineer Andrew Jinks noted that there was an additional police presence on the street when the traffic study was conducted on Nov. 3-10 last year, so typical speeds are likely higher than what was recorded.

Requested by a resident petition, the study counted a total of 3,765 vehicles in front of 509 Echols Street and 18,250 vehicles at the Wolftrap Creek crossing that week, observing speeds from 3 to 55 mph. The average speed at the creek was 27.2 mph.

“Basically, half the cars are going above the speed limit,” Councilmember Ray Brill observed.

According to a staff proposal, the speed tables will be located just before the Delano Drive SE intersection and on either side of the E Street intersection.

Speed tables are raised like speed bumps, but they’re wider and have a flat top, making them less disruptive to the passing vehicles. They can reduce speeds by around 6-9 mph on average, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s traffic calming guide.

Multiple tables are often needed for them to be effective, Jinks said. VDOT recommends placing the tables about 200 to 500 feet apart.

“If staff says it takes three to get the proper spacing to make an effect, I have to defer to staff on this,” Councilmember Chuck Anderson said, as Springsteen ultimately agreed.

The project has an estimated total cost of $20,000, including $6,000 for each of the speed tables, according to Jinks. The traffic calming devices will likely be installed within the next two to three months, a town spokesperson says.

Image via Google Maps

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