FABB recently urged the Board of Supervisors to implement immediately a road diet and safety improvements on Lorton Station Boulevard to prevent additional needless deaths, such as that of Helen Bahta Oukubazghi last October.
Ms. Oukubazghi, 52, of Lorton, was attempting to cross Lorton Station Boulevard near Old Beech Court around 5 pm on 18 October 2022 when the driver of a black 2015 Chevrolet Equinox traveling south on Lorton Station Boulevard struck her in the roadway. The driver left the scene but later returned.
The tragic loss of Ms. Oukubazghi’s life was preventable and was the result of a retreat from sensible decisions on safety options for that road.
In 2019, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) proposed a road diet for Lorton Station Boulevard that would have reduced it from 4 to 2 travel lanes and would have made it much safer to cross. At the time, the average daily traffic volume there was less than 10,000, a volume well within the Federal Highway Administration’s guideline for road diets.
In a presentation on March 28, 2019, FCDOT provided three options: (1) Convert outside travel lanes into buffered bike lanes; (2) convert outside travel lanes into on-street parking and a bike lane; or (3) a combination – add parking lanes and bike lanes where desired, install buffered bike lanes where parking is not desired. Members of FABB attended this meeting and advocated for option 1. There did not appear to be any opposition to this option at the meeting.
To our surprise, on April 25, 2019, FCDOT announced that “based on community feedback, the existing lane markings on Lorton Station Boulevard would not be modified.” Instead, FCDOT and VDOT chose to conduct studies for additional crosswalk markings near the VRE station while declining even to consider adding bicycle facilities.
This left in place the street’s dangerous and unjustifiably wide four-lane capacity, its few unsignalized crosswalks, and a single intersection with a 4-way stop. VDOT added a $200 extra fine sign, which means the department is aware that 85% of motorists speed at 45 MPH or higher on this road.
Ms. Oukubazghi’s death was the outcome of transportation engineering design choices that favor the safety and comfort of motorists over vulnerable road users. FABB believes it is past time to stop designing roads based on people’s fear of traffic congestion and instead use evidence-based tools to protect all road users and give people the congestion-reducing options to walk or bike.
Fairfax County has been making progress applying the needed tools and policies to address pedestrian and bicycle safety, such as the Safe Streets for All program and speed limit restrictions on Route 1. FABB applauded the Board of Supervisors’ unanimous endorsement of this latter program at their May 10, 2022 meeting as well as their provision of dedicated funding for implementation.
Last year’s surge in county pedestrian fatalities showed, however, that these efforts are not going to be enough. In analyzing the details of these incidents, it appears that more, direct, and system-wide changes need to be made immediately to reduce risk and increase safety for pedestrians and bicyclists at intersections.
We urge FCDOT and VDOT to revisit and implement the 2019 road diet proposal for Lorton Station Boulevard. Buffered bike lanes are the simplest solution, as the change can be made with little more than paint. Implementation should occur as soon as possible, rather than awaiting the next repaving of the roadway. Fairfax County should make the investment now so that no one else loses their life trying to cross Lorton Station Boulevard.
FABB encourages our supporters to contact their supervisor and demand action to improve safety on these and other dangerous county streets.