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Richmond speed symposium highlights work addressing speeding drivers

Car make their way past the Robert E. Lee Bridge
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Traffic makes its way past the Robert E. Lee Bridge on Thursday, February 1, 2024 in Richmond, Virginia.

More than 60 people have been killed in crashes on city streets in the past three years.

Andy Boenau, Richmond’s transportation engineering program manager, walked a Main Street Station crowd through an explanation of the city’s “High Injury Network” — an area in Richmond where the highest number of traffic fatalities and injuries occur, according to the Vision Zero Network.

“Over 75% of Richmond's serious injuries and fatalities are on just 9% of our streets,” Boenau said Tuesday. “It's only 9% of our streets that have the vast majority of the awful stuff happening. When you look at it in those terms, it's conquerable.”

He was speaking at the city's third Speed Symposium, which also hosted Bike Walk RVA and the Virginia Department of Transportation, among others, as groups handed out informational fliers and spoke with area residents.

There have been more than 12,000 crashes resulting in 63 deaths on city streets during the past three years, according to Richmond’s Vision Zero dashboard.

Boenau said that most of those crashes are caused by speeding, and to combat that, the Department of Public Works has spent roughly $25 million during the past several fiscal years on improvements to reduce speeding.

Boenau rattled off a list of initiatives and infrastructure changes the city’s taken: “Road safety assessments, street reconfigurations, bike lanes, roundabouts, curb extensions, left turn hardening — which is a way of calming you if you're driving when you turn left — pedestrian signals, crosswalks, and of course, speed tables.”

The city also plans to spend $32.5 million in state and federal grant money over the next five fiscal years in an effort to improve safety on streets, he said.

VIncent speaks at a podium
Shaban Athuman/Shaban Athuman/VPM News
VPM News File
Bobby Vincent, director of the Department of Public Works, give remarks during the Department of Public Works Speed Management Symposium on Tuesday, April 18, 2023 at Main Street Station in Richmond, Virginia.

Public Works Director Bobby Vincent on Tuesday touted the effectiveness of speed tables, saying they make drivers put down their phones, look at the road and slow down.

“If you're looking at the road, and you see the sign [that says] speed bump ahead, you're now going to be looking at the road while you traverse over that speed table, " he said.

Other speakers included Kelli Rowan, of Richmond Connects, a part of the city’s Office of Equitable Transit and Mobility. The group recently released its final action plan to make transportation infrastructure projects more equitable.

Earlier this week, the equitable transit department created a pop-up park that temporarily closed a portion of Cutshaw Avenue in Scott’s Addition. It’s part of the “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” strategy that explores temporary infrastructure projects using as little money as possible while relying on community feedback. The goal is to test ideas before investing money for permanent changes.

“We just heard over and over, people saying, ‘What can we do now? We have our problem now. We can't wait for design, engineering pouring concrete and getting funding. What can we do now?’” Rowan said. “This was really our response to hearing that in our outreach. And in fact, it actually became one of our ‘how we do business strategies’ that was in the adopted plan.”

This was the first LQC project Richmond Connects will be doing, said Rowan. Others on the horizon could include temporary roundabouts, bus stop improvements and crosswalk painting.

Rowan added that community involvement is imperative.

“[O]ne of the big goals in this Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper program is to build that relationship with community organizations, so that we can get their buy-in and start to shift that culture around safety and speeding in our city,” Rowan said.

Richmond’s next Speed Symposium is planned for November.

In the meantime, Richmond residents can fill out an online survey on five potential projects that can improve parts of the High Injury Network. Projects range from reconfiguring bike lanes on Franklin Street to adding multiple curb extensions on West Main and Cary streets. The survey closes May 17.

Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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