(Updated at 7:30 a.m.) Roads are covered with white, powdery snow as Arlington and the rest of the D.C. region gets its first snow of the year and first measurable snow of the season.
Several accidents have been reported around Arlington as an inch or so of snow has made driving treacherous. The crashes are happening throughout the county — on I-395, Glebe Road at Route 50, Wilson Blvd and elsewhere.
The Wilson Blvd crash, at N. Larrimore Street, reportedly involves several vehicles. Wilson Blvd is shut down between N. Kensington and Larrimore Streets as of 7:00 a.m.
Cars and buses are struggling to make it up hills, particularly on neighborhood streets. Police have asked a salt truck to expedite to 16th Street N. near Virginia Hospital Center, as hospital employees and other drivers are having trouble making it up a hill.
Arlington snow crews “are out treating primary and secondary roads through the morning snow,” according to the Dept. of Environmental Services.
ART buses are running this morning, but delays are likely.
“Roads and sidewalks have become very slippery,” ART said in an alert. “ART routes are running but delays are expected.”
Students, meanwhile, will be disappointed to know that Arlington Public Schools has not seen fit to delay school as a result of the snow. The school system announced this morning that it’s opening on time, on a normal schedule.
School are opening on time in the District of Columbia and Fairfax County, as well.
On Tuesday, January 6, 2015, Arlington Public Schools is operating on a normal schedule and opening on time.
— Arlington Schools (@APSVirginia) January 6, 2015
VDOT has reported 21 crashes in Northern Virginia as of 6:55 a.m.
Photo courtesy J. Sonder
Anyone who’s driven along Clarendon Blvd near the Whole Foods at 2700 Wilson Blvd knows the grocery store has a tendency to cause minor backups.
This afternoon during the lunch hour, the traffic problems escalated, backing up traffic for several blocks in the area and leading to police being called for traffic control. We’re told backups like this are common around major holidays, like Christmas and New Years.
Part of the problem, according to the responding officers, is cars parking — legally — in pay spots on the left-hand side of Clarendon Blvd between the entrance to Whole Foods and N. Edgewood Street. That causes cars waiting to turn into the store’s parking lot to wait in one of the travel lanes.
At about 1:00 p.m., there were three officers on Clarendon Blvd helping to direct traffic. That helped to clear much of the backed up traffic, which also extended to several side streets.
When asked, two of the officers each said it was far from the worst Whole Foods-caused traffic they had seen in Clarendon.
Four out of ten D.C. area residents — nearly 2.5 million people — are expected to travel 50 miles or more during the 13-day holiday travel period around Christmas and New Year’s, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.
That’s up 3.3 percent from 2013.
Most of those travelers will be taking to the roads — 91 percent — while 5 percent will be flying and 4 percent will be traveling via other modes of transportation, AAA said. The busiest day on the roads: today, Dec. 23.
The weather is already making travel more difficult. Departure delays ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours, due to fog, are being reported for flights going to eastern seaboard cities like Boston, New York and Philadelphia.
While the 24th and 25th are expected to be lighter travel days, it’s yet to be seen what impacts the expected wind and rain may have.
Locally, forecasters say to expect the fog to linger through this evening. From the National Weather Service:
… PATCHY DENSE FOG INTO EARLY AFTERNOON…
PATCHY DENSE FOG WILL CONTINUE TO DEVELOP ACROSS PORTIONS OF EASTERN AND SOUTHERN MARYLAND AND NORTHERN VIRGINIA LATE THIS MORNING. LOW CLOUDS ACROSS THE AREA WILL CONTINUE TO LOWER IN HEIGHT TOWARD THE SURFACE… REDUCING VISIBILITIES TO NEAR OR BELOW A QUARTER MILE IN LOCALIZED AREAS.
IF TRAVELING… USE EXTRA CAUTION AND BE PREPARED FOR QUICKLY REDUCED VISIBILITIES IN FOG.
Photo courtesy @SBDSLLC
(Updated at 12:50 p.m. Tuesday) Seven vehicles — five cars, an ART bus and a mixing truck — were involved in a collision at about 5:45 p.m. at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Dinwiddie Street.
According to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Lt. Kip Malcolm, the ART bus was in the parking lot of Columbia Pike Plaza when a car turned in front of it. The ART bus, driven by 26-year-old Agere Sileshi, struck the car, at which point Sileshi lost control of the bus, Malcolm said.
The bus pushed the car into a parked vehicle, Sileshi accelerated and pushed all three vehicles over the brick retaining wall and onto S. Dinwiddie Street, Malcolm said. There, the bus hit three cars stopped at a red light, creating another chain reaction in which the seventh vehicle, a parked car, was pushed into benches and a tree on the sidewalk in front of Arlington Mill Community Center.
Sileshi was charged with reckless driving for failure to control her vehicle, Malcolm said. Three motorists were transported from the scene with non-life-threatening injuries, as was one pedestrian “struck by flying debris.”
Westbound Columbia Pike was closed for more than an hour around the scene as emergency crews from Arlington and Fairfax sort out the aftermath, which included cars strewn all over the intersection and a substantial part of the brick wall along Dinwiddie Street destroyed.
In addition to the cars and walls damaged, several bicycles parked in front of Arlington Mill Community Center were damaged in the accident, and at least two benches affixed to the ground were either destroyed or displaced.
(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) The southbound lanes of the GW Parkway are closed between Route 123 and Spout Run due to a large sinkhole.
The Federal Highway Administration was called to the scene to inspect what’s being described as “washout damage” and a “large depression in the roadway.” According to U.S. Park Police, the sinkhole is 10 feet wide and 5 feet in length.
The parkway remained closed throughout the Tuesday morning rush hour, causing delays for commutes. Repairs are expected to begin later today.
Southbound traffic is being diverted onto Route 123. Northbound lanes of the parkway will remain open.
This morning, Park Police issued the following statement.
On December 1, 2014 at approximately 6:51 pm United States Park Police officers came upon a crash involving 4 vehicles and discovered a large sinkhole on the Parkway the vehicles avoided.
As a result SB George Washington Memorial Parkway is closed between Route 123 and Spout Run Parkway. Determination was made to close both southbound lanes until Federal Highway Administration responds to repair. The National Park Service will be meeting with Federal Highway Administration for engineers to assess the damage and determine next steps.
Southbound traffic has been diverted onto Route 123, and the ramp from 123 onto SB GW Parkway will remain closed until further notice. Parkway is open SB south of Spout Run. NB lanes are open.
The public can use the Clara Barton, 50, Glebe Rd as alternate routes. It is not yet determined how long the roadway will remain closed.
Update at 4:10 p.m. — The southbound lanes are now expected to reopen early Wednesday morning.
VDOT has about 400 trucks staged in Loudoun, Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington counties this morning, in preparation for a storm that’s bringing a combination of rain and snow to much of the the east coast.
The timing of the storm, on one of the busiest travel day of the year, could create major problems on local highways and byways.
VDOT urges drivers to “use extra caution, particularly on bridges, overpasses, curves, hills and ramps, which become slippery first,” as the snow starts falling later today. Crews are not pre-treating roads since the rain would just wash the treatment away.
The snow is expected to start falling in Arlington as the storm begins to taper off, between 3:00 and 7:00 p.m., according to the Capital Weather Gang. It’s expected to begin snowing this morning in northern and western parts of the region.
AAA Mid-Atlantic, meanwhile, is warning of the potential for “massive traffic woes and havoc on the treacherous roadways.”
“Wednesday can turn into a chaotic and frightening scene of events on the roadways along the East Coast,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic’s John Townsend. “With over one million travelers in Washington, D.C., another 1.1 in Virginia, and nearly 900,000 in Maryland taking to the roads this Thanksgiving, AAA is warning motorists to heed all travel warnings and stay home until road conditions improve.”
Some 24 percent of weather-related crashes happen due to snowy or icy pavement, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
For those who do have to travel today, WJLA meteorologist Lauryn Ricketts is advising that the best time to head north is before 10:00 a.m., while the best time to travel south is after 7:00 p.m. All major area highways are expected to see weather impacts, Ricketts said.
Arlington Public Schools students have a pre-scheduled off day today for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Arlington Ridge Road is closed between I-395 and 20th Street S. tonight due to a water main break.
Crews are currently digging up a portion of the road near the Hume School in an effort to repair the water main. The closure is expected to remain in effect through the evening rush hour.
Traffic is backed up on I-395 approaching the Ridge Road exit. Drivers attempting to head south on Arlington Ridge Road from Army Navy Drive are being directed onto I-395.
All but one inbound lane is closed on the bridge due to the wreck, which occurred just before 4:00 p.m.
D.C. police are handling the incident. The department’s Twitter account said there’s no estimated time for when all lanes will reopen.
From this Thursday, Nov. 6, to Nov. 24, officers will be assigned to special safety details at the intersections of Wilson Blvd and Lee Highway with N. Lynn Street.
The Wilson-Lynn intersection has been a source of major headaches during rush hours thanks to the ongoing construction along N. Lynn Street with the Central Place project. The backups have led to some drivers not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks, and the ACPD is responding with the new enforcement campaign.
The Lynn Street and Lee Highway intersection, nicknamed the “Intersection of Doom,” has for years been a dangerous place for pedestrians and bicyclists because of vehicles exiting from I-66 to the Key Bridge intermingling with users of the Custis and Mount Vernon trails.
Police say they plan to ticket pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers who violate traffic and jaywalking laws.
“Officers will ticket motorists who violate traffic laws or do not yield for pedestrians in crosswalks,” according to a police press release. “In addition, pedestrians will be cited for jaywalking. Public Service Aides will hand out safety information to drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists who commute through these busy intersections.”
The enforcement campaign will begin from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. and noon to 1:00 p.m. on Thursday and continue on weekdays until the Nov. 24, the Monday before Thanksgiving. The pedestrian safety campaign, part of the region’s Street Smart campaign, is designed to inform motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians that 25 percent of traffic deaths in the D.C. region are bikers and walkers, nearly 90 deaths per year.
The change has been advocated by the Bluemont Civic Association (BCA) for years, and the neighborhood’s representatives have posited that the lane reduction, coupled with sidewalk expansion, will make the corridor more walkable without increasing traffic congestion.
The project, which Arlington County says is in design phase with reconfiguration set for spring 2015, will reduce westbound and eastbound traffic to one lane each, while adding a center lane for left turns and bike lanes on either side of the street. The plan also calls for consolidating bus stops in this stretch to reduce possible congestion.
Currently, there are no funded plans to expand the sidewalks.
County staff is holding a general community meeting on Nov. 20, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., at Arlington Traditional School (855 N. Edison Street), to discuss the plans. The county also plans for a “robust community notification process throughout the corridor,” before the restriping and repaving work begins.
The plans to reduce the lanes on Wilson Blvd was initially recommended by the BCA’s Sidewalk Safety Task Force and supported by the BCA in October 2012. Arlington decided to incorporate the plans when it made its restriping and repaving calendar for this year.
“We are grateful that Arlington County is listening to us and working to make our ‘Main Street’ a safer and more pleasant place for all residents and visitors,” BCA President John Lau said in a press release. “Working together, the efforts of neighborhood residents and county officials have led us to this long-awaited first step for improving our neighborhood and an important Arlington corridor.”
While the county approved the requested changes to Wilson Blvd’s lane configuration, the BCA’s requests to have the power lines — with poles located on Wilson Blvd’s sidewalks — moved underground was deemed prohibitively expensive by the county. The BCA is also hoping that the improvements be extended for all of Wilson Blvd west of N. Glebe Road, something county staff said it will continue to explore.
“This is a demonstration project that will be monitored further by the County to determine whether a complete streets project — currently unfunded — is viable along the entire section of Wilson Boulevard, west of North Glebe Road,” the project website reads. “If successful, staff will continue to work with the community to develop this future potential project.”
The plan, when it was being discussed last June, received some concern for businesses located along the corridor. The sidewalk task force reported businesses were “extremely concerned” that reducing the number of lanes would “gum up traffic to the point where they would lose business.”
The BCA cited the stretch of Washington Blvd west of N. Glebe Road, which goes from four lanes to two and has higher peak traffic volume, as an example of why the Wilson Blvd proposal won’t significantly worsen traffic.
Images via Arlington County
Those frustrated with their morning commute on Columbia Pike aren’t likely to see relief come until the spring.
The backups that have caused rush hour delays for drivers going eastbound on Columbia Pike in the morning are likely due to the temporary traffic pattern that makes cars turn left to get on northbound I-395, Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jenni McCord said. The temporary traffic pattern shift is expected to be in place for the next six months.
After that time, the traffic will again go back to using a right exit off Columbia Pike to get on the interstate in the direction of D.C.
The complete project’s end date is Sept. 14, 2015.
The left turn isn’t the only headache Pike drivers will have to deal with as the $48.5 million construction of the Washington Blvd bridge over Columbia Pike continues. Scheduled to start in early December, McCord said, S. Queen Street will be closed to traffic at Columbia Pike for six months. “Local traffic will enter/exit Arlington View and Carrington Village via S. Quinn or S. Rolfe Streets,” McCord said.
On Washington Blvd, the temporary signal at the Columbia Pike exit ramp has been removed, and crews will be pouring the concrete deck for the second bridge on Monday after steel beams were installed in September, McCord said. There will continue to be daytime lane closures in the area until the project is complete in a year.
Traffic is a nightmarish in Rosslyn tonight (Friday) — at least for those heading through the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Lynn Street.
Due to lane closures from utility work and the on-going Central Place construction project, Lynn Street — which is often traffic-clogged even without construction — is down to one lane just before 19th Street. That led to major backups on Lynn Street, which led to backups on Wilson Blvd due to cars repeatedly “blocking the bock” in the intersection.
There was at least one minor accident at the intersection, reports of drivers getting in fights and frequent sounds of horns blaring.
At one point, a Arlington County police officer showed up and parked in the intersection, stopping traffic from blocking the box. However, the officer left after less than 15 minutes, allowing the bad driver behavior to continue unabated. Police were dispatched again to the intersection a half hour later, after receiving “multiple calls” from citizens.
Though especially bad tonight, the traffic problems in the intersection are frequent. Central Place construction has had Lynn Street traffic down to two lanes during most rush hours the past couple of weeks, leading to frequent backups and flared tempers.
(Updated at 12:20 p.m.) A car crash closed all lanes of traffic on southbound I-395 this morning.
The accident occurred at just after 11:00 a.m. Virginia State Police closed off all lanes of the highway next to the Shirlington Circle to clear the scene for Arlington firefighters and paramedics.
Police diverted traffic onto the exit ramp, where cars are able to pass through and continue on I-395 past the crash.
Backups on SB I-395 stretched to the exit for Washington Blvd. The roadway has since reopened.
Three people were hurt in a rollover accident in Bluemont Monday night.
The two-vehicle crash happened around 10:00 p.m., at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Drive.
According to a witness, an elderly man in a Chevy Impala on Wilson Blvd ran a red light, broadsiding an SUV that was heading north on George Mason. The SUV flipped on its side and came to rest next to a street sign.
The SUV’s three occupants were able to get out of the vehicle on their own, we’re told.
Two children were taken to the hospital, according to the witness. Their injuries were reported to be minor.
The adult male driver was shaken but did not require medical treatment. He was driving the children home from a basketball practice at Kenmore Middle School, we’re told.
A passenger in the Impala was also taken to the hospital with apparently minor injuries, the witness said. The driver was evaluated by paramedics. Charges were “likely,” a police officer on the scene said.
A third vehicle was nearly involved in the accident. We’re told a convertible — whose driver was also returning from the basketball practice — was driving next to but just behind the SUV. The driver slammed on the brakes at the last second and managed to barely avoid the wreck.
The left two lanes of the bridge were blocked by the accident, though as of 8:05 a.m. only one lane remained closed.
In addition to the traffic crawling on northbound I-395, heavy traffic could be seen approaching the 14th Street Bridge from the north and the south on the George Washington Parkway.
Traffic on eastbound I-66, meanwhile, was relatively clear through Arlington until the Rosslyn tunnel.