Cross words

Cross words

The width of Route 29—along with the high volume of traffic and lack of sidewalks—make it an unlikely candidate for crosswalks.

Dear Ace: As I drive up 29N, I always see people trying to hoof it across those eight lanes of high-speed traffic. I can’t believe that there’s not a single crosswalk anywhere on this stretch of highway! Are there any plans to remedy this alarming situation?

Dear Screech: Ace—who, it should be noted, is not prone to make a mad dash for, well, anything—is sympathetic to your cause. After a brief meditation on the history of jokes involving the highway-traversing motivations of barnyard fowl, Ace was on the case.
    Crosswalks are indeed nowhere to be found on Route 29 from Hydraulic Road all the way to Airport Road (and beyond, for that matter). To learn more about the reason why, Ace put in a call to Lou Hatter, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.
    According to Hatter, VDOT’s engineers are “not aware of any significant volume of pedestrian crossings in that area.”
    “It’s an area that might not be the best location to encourage pedestrians to cross there,” he added. “For most of that area up to the South Fork of the Rivanna River, it’s four lanes in each direction, plus turn lanes. You got a wide road there with a 45 mph speed limit.” He also pointed out that the lack of a sidewalk on the east side of 29 near Airport Road, and questions about people’s visibility at night, added to the safety concerns about any potential crosswalk on that stretch of road.
    This makes sense, given a Federal Highway Administration study Ace read about the safety of marked and unmarked crosswalks. According to the study, “on multilane roads with traffic volumes greater than 12,000 vehicles per day, having a marked crosswalk was associated with a higher pedestrian crash rate (after controlling for other site factors) compared to an unmarked crossing.” In other words, big roads with fast cars are not conducive to pedestrian safety.
    So are we likely to see a crosswalk on that stretch of 29 anytime soon? Probably not. Hatter tells Ace that VDOT “has not received any requests to look at putting in any crosswalks in that area.”
    So, dear reader, to borrow a phrase from 95 South (the band, not the crosswalk-free highway), there it is.