Changes are coming to the plaza surrounding the Ballston Metro station.
Arlington County is in the process of designing improvements to the plaza and gathering public input. The improvements are intended to reduce bus congestion, enhance pedestrian safety, prepare for future population growth and make the plaza more functional and aesthetically attractive.
Metrorail ridership is expected to increase by nearly 50 percent at the station between 2010 and 2020, while bus ridership is expected to increase 20 percent. Cyclist use of the plaza, currently a relatively small percentage of transportation uses, is expected to rise by 200 percent during that time period.
Plans so far include increased bike parking, new bus stops and new sidewalk cafes. The plans call for moving tree planters closer to the curb to improve pedestrian circulation and enhance retail viability.
A public meeting about the changes was held at Arlington Public Library earlier this week. Residents were generally supportive, but objected to a proposal to narrow a side street that’s currently clogged with bus and taxi traffic.
Project engineering is expected to wrap up next fall, with construction beginning in early 2016, according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet. Separately, the county also has a long-range plan for a second Ballston Metro station entrance.
After the jump, a list of goals for the project, from the county’s public presentation.
The trail connecting Doctor’s Run Park and S. George Mason Drive to Randolph Elementary School is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
The project, funded with Neighborhood Conservation money, will realign the trail that runs between the park and the school, widening it and decreasing its slopes in several areas, according to its county project page. The trail will be lit until 6:00 p.m. to coincide with Randolph’s after school programs.
The new trail will also connect with the 12th Street S. bike boulevard that goes from street to trail at S. Quincy Street. When complete, county Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager David Goodman told ARLnow.com a HAWK signal will be installed at the intersection of George Mason Drive and 13th Street, where the trail connector meets the road. The improvements will also include a pedestrian
“There are some improvements we’re doing on either end of this connector that are going to tie this all together,” Goodman told ARLnow.com.
The 30th annual Army Ten-Miler race will be held Sunday morning, and numerous local roads and highways will be closed for the event.
The race begins at 8:00 a.m. The course runs from the Pentagon, across the Memorial Bridge into D.C., and back to the Pentagon via the 14th Street Bridge.
More than 30,000 runners are registered for the race.
Arlington County Police and U.S. Park Police have announced the following road closures for Sunday.
- Memorial Avenue, Memorial Circle, and Arlington Memorial Bridge will be closed from 5:00 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., including all entrance and exit ramps.
- Route 110 between Rosslyn and Crystal City will be closed in both directions at 5:00 a.m. (Use the George Washington Memorial Parkway as an alternative)
- I-395 HOV northbound from Crystal City to the 14th Street Bridge will be closed at 6:00 a.m.
- S. Eads Street from Army Navy Drive into the Pentagon/ northbound I-395 HOV lanes will be closed at 5:00 a.m.
- I-395 southbound HOV exit to S. Eads Street / Pentagon south parking lot will be closed at 5:00 a.m.
- Route 27 in both directions from George Washington Memorial Parkway to I-395 will be closed from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.
- Army Navy Drive from S. Eads Street to S. 12th Street from approximately 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
- S. 12th Street from S. Eads Street to Long Bridge Drive from approximately 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
- A single traffic lane on Long Bridge Drive will be open from S. 12th Street to Long Bridge Park for access to the soccer fields and area residents from approximately 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
- The southbound GW Parkway ramp to the Pentagon North Parking Lot will be closed from 5 a.m. until 12 p.m.
- The Memorial Avenue ramp to Route 110 southbound will be closed from 5 a.m. until 12 p.m.
- The Route 110 northbound ramp to Memorial Avenue will be closed from 5 a.m. until 12 p.m.
Those participating in the Ten-Miler are being encouraged to honor fallen servicemembers through a social media campaign called “Run to Honor.” The campaign calls on those taking photos at the race to post them to Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #RuntoHonor.
One of the three high-speed elevators on N. Moore Street — which are less than a year old — broke down about 8:15 a.m., according to scanner traffic.
A commuter who was rushing to work after being freed from the elevator said the group remained calm as they waited for help.
The entrapment was caused by a power surge that is under investigation, WMATA spokeswoman Caroline Laurin said.
The elevators went out of service in December 2013 because of an electricity-related glitch.
All three of the elevators on N. Moore Street were taken out of service after the incident and had resumed operation by 11:15 a.m., the WMATA representative said.
DES spokesman Eric Balliet said authority over the Rosslyn station elevators was transferred from the county to WMATA about a month ago.
A cracked third rail between the Arlington Cemetery and Rosslyn Metro stations caused at least four Blue Line trains to stop on the tracks, causing major delays and overcrowding on Blue, Orange and Silver Line platforms this morning.
The problems started before 8:00 a.m. as Blue Line trains traveling into D.C. from Arlington were becoming disabled when they were going over the cracked rail. On Twitter, one rider reported “Just past [Arlington National Cemetery] there was a loud pop and train went dark and shut off. We broke down after [Foggy Bottom].”
At 8:23 a.m., WMATA announced that all inbound Blue Line service had been suspended. By that time, Orange and Silver Line trains were experiencing significant delays, and platforms along the line — notably Ballston — were heavily crowded. At 9:10 a.m., Metro announced it had found the cracked rail, but didn’t return the Blue Line to service, via single-tracking, until 9:50.
Blue Line trains will continue to operate at about a 10-minute delay until the rail is repaired, according to WMATA, and Orange and Silver line trains may be slightly delayed at Rosslyn while the single-tracking continues.
Metro reduced the number of Blue Line trains stopping in Arlington to better accommodate the Silver Line. It also expected the “Orange Crush,” or Orange Line overcrowding during rush hour, to lessen because some people would switch to the Silver Line.
How has the addition of the Silver Line affected your commute? Choose up to two answers.
Metro’s Silver Line is set to officially open on Saturday, with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and other notable officials on hand to watch the first train depart the Wiehle-Reston East station.
The launch of the Silver Line has economic ramifications for Arlington, though there’s some debate over whether those ramifications will be mostly good or mostly bad.
On the pessimistic side, rail transit in Reston and Tysons could enhance the desirability of those areas and present Arlington with stiff competition, especially in the commercial office market.
On the optimistic side, the fact that the Silver Line will run through Arlington on the way to D.C. could actually make the county’s Orange/Silver corridor even more desirable as an economic hub. The video above makes the case that Ballston in particular is well-positioned to benefit from the Silver Line.
Publicly and privately, officials with Arlington Economic Development say they expect Tysons to take many years to develop as a truly desirable urban area, with walkable and active streets and ample housing. Even then, they believe Arlington’s multi-decade head start on transit-oriented development, and its proximity to D.C., will give the county the competitive edge over Tysons.
(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) Officials from Arlington County and Alexandria gathered near Potomac Yard this morning to break ground on the region’s first Bus Rapid Transit line.
The 4.5-mile Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway, when it’s completed, will connect the Braddock Road Metro station in Alexandria to the Pentagon City Metro station with a dedicated bus lane. The bus route, which WMATA is calling Metroway, will open Aug. 24 and run from Braddock Road to the Crystal City Metro at first.
“Unless you invest in growth for the future, all you have is memories of the past,” Rep. Jim Moran said. “Many other communities across the country are not growing, yet Arlington and Alexandria are growing. The principal reason is they’re willing to invest in infrastructure for the future.”
The dedicated lanes, already under construction in Alexandria, were approved for a $10.2 million construction contract in February and are expected to be completed by 2015. The right-of-way in which the buses will operate is planned to eventually turn into the Crystal City streetcar system, which will connect to the controversial Columbia Pike streetcar. The streetcar’s two opponents on the Arlington County Board, Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt, attended the groundbreaking and Vihstadt passed out press releases elucidating his support for the transitway, but not the streetcar.
“Even the county’s own press release on the new Crystal City Transitway says it will ease congestion and support both redevelopment and high-density growth,” Garvey said in the release. “This is exactly what we have been saying BRT can do and this is why we don’t need an expensive streetcar. We appreciate the validation of BRT and look forward to watching how it performs.”
Alexandria has not yet committed to building a streetcar system to connect to the Crystal City project — something Arlington officials say the city is “open to” — but the transitway is seen as a piece to connect the two communities even further.
“I think it makes amenities on both sides of the [boundary] line available to people on both sides,” County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes said. “Our communities are good friends and our borders are kind of invisible. This just knits this place into a much more cohesive place over time.”
The construction is expected to take about 10 months. When completed, the bus will operate in dedicated lanes near Potomac Yard, with stops on Crystal Drive, S. Bell Street, Clark Street, 15th Street, 20th Street and 26th Street. During morning and evening rush hours, the buses will use a dedicated lane south on S. Bell and Clark Streets and north on Crystal Drive, replacing an existing traffic lane. The lane will be open to normal traffic during other times.
The groundbreaking ceremony was put on brief hold in the middle when one of the attendees suffered an apparent seizure. Arlington County medics responded and the individual was transported to a nearby hospital.
Crystal City Business Improvement District President/CEO Angela Fox said the transitway is key for Crystal City in that it’s simply another layer of accessibility for its residents and workers.
“I think one of the most amazing aspects of Crystal City, which we’ve built our marketing and integrity around, is how accessible Crystal City is,” Fox said. “The transitway is just one more step to ensure Crystal City is competitive as we reach the next step. We support any and all things that make transit easier for Crystal City.”
The county says the new funding will enable to Arlington and Fairfax to proceed with the streetcar project more rapidly — accelerating the construction timetable by at least a year — partially thanks to eliminating the need to obtain federal funding.
“The Commonwealth is committed to supporting the Columbia Pike project as a funding partner,” Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said, in a letter to Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova.
The new funding will also help save $25 million in project costs, according to an Arlington County press release. The Columbia Pike streetcar is now estimated to cost $333 million, about half of which will be funded by the state. The other half of the cost will come from regional transportation funds and local commercial property taxes dedicated to transportation projects.
“No Arlington County homeowner-funded General Obligation bonds will be used to finance design and construction of the streetcar,” the county said.
County Board member Libby Garvey, who along with recently-elected Board member John Vihstadt oppose the streetcar, slammed the state’s decision. Garvey issued the following statement, in which she expresses hope that “the wise voters of Arlington” will vote out Board members who support the streetcar.
I could not be more disappointed in the quick decision by Secretary Layne to devote much needed and scarce transportation dollars to a project as foolish and wasteful as the Columbia Pike streetcar. This project will not improve transit on the Pike. In fact, it will make traffic worse as slow streetcars clog up an already congested thoroughfare. Fortunately, I am pretty sure that within 2 years the wise voters of Arlington will have voted out board members who support the streetcar. That will end the project and allow the Commonwealth, despite this ill advised decision by the Secretary, to spend its money on much more worthwhile and needed projects. I hope that will include a modern and cost effective bus rapid transit system on the Pike in Arlington. That’s what both Arlington and the region need.
Vihstadt also issued a statement, in which has charged that the Commonwealth “rushed to judgment and failed to perform the independent due diligence expected of a state agency to fully analyze this ill-advised local government request.”
“Many valuable transportation projects for which there is a broad public consensus, ranging from improved Metro and bus service to road and pedestrian safety enhancements, will be sacrificed for this controversial project that has deeply divided Arlington County and contributed heavily to my election on April 8 as the first non-Democrat to the County Board since 1999,” Vihstadt said.
The county’s press release, after the jump.
The videos are part of the county’s renewed effort to justify the massive streetcar investment to the public. The controversial project — which includes streetcar tracks in Crystal City and along Columbia Pike — is supported by County Board members Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada, but opposed by members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt.
The four most recent videos include Tejada and housing advocate Holly Bray saying the streetcar will help preserve affordable housing on the Pike; planning commissioner Inta Malis saying the streetcar will reduce traffic congestion and benefit the environment; and real estate developer and former Arlington Chamber of Commerce Chair David DeCamp saying the streetcar will attract 6,600 new jobs and add $3-4 billion in new real estate value over 30 years.
Previous videos released by the county included the following titles: “Because more people will want to ride the streetcar;” “Because Metro was a success and streetcars will be, too;” “Because buses alone can’t carry enough people;” “Because streetcar improves connections;” and “Because it will broaden our tax base.”
The streetcar remains a source of controversy, with ardent advocates and detractors among local residents. The county plans to fund the streetcar system with federal, state and transportation-designated local funds, though Fisette recently asked county staff to come up with a way to pay for the streetcar without federal funding.
(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) The bus line that will eventually run on dedicated lanes in Crystal City and along Route 1 to Alexandria is expected to open to riders later this summer.
WMATA announced today that the partial bus rapid transit line will launch Aug. 24 and will be called “Metroway,” instead of the given 9X route designation that had been previously planned. The dedicated transit lane is the first of its kind in the D.C. area.
The route will go between the Crystal City and Braddock Road Metro stations at first, but WMATA is planning to expand service to the Pentagon City station by 2015. By that time, Arlington expects to finish construction on the dedicated bus lanes it has approved for the northbound route on Crystal Drive and the southbound route along S. Bell and Clark Streets.
A portion of Alexandria’s section of the Metroway route will have dedicated bus lanes when it opens, from Potomac Avenue to E. Glebe Road. There will also be expanded weekend and late night service, WMATA says. Buses will run every six minutes between Crystal City Metro and S. Glebe Road during rush hour, every 12 minutes during weekday off-peak hours and every 20 minutes over the weekend.
“We’re delighted to be partnering with Alexandria on the region’s first dedicated transitway — using separated lanes to encourage travelers up and down the Route 1 corridor to choose transit rather than their cars,” Arlington County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes said in WMATA’s press release. “We’re proud to be working the kinks out now so that the region’s Priority Bus Corridor Network can be smoothly implemented over the next 15 years.”
Buses along the line will be new, and painted with the “Metroway” branding “that differentiates it from other transit service,” WMATA said in its release. By 2015, WMATA also plans to have off-board fare collection, real-time bus displays, all-door boarding and “traffic signal optimization” to ensure the buses run on time along the route.
The route starting in August will include the following stations:
- Braddock Rd Metro
- Fayette Street (Opening 2015)
- Potomac Avenue
- Custis Avenue
- Swann Avenue
- East Glebe Road
- Reed Avenue
- S. Glebe Road
- 33rd & Crystal Drive (Opening 2015)
- 27th & Crystal Drive
- 23rd & Crystal Drive
- 18th & Crystal Drive
- Crystal City Metro
- Crystal City Metro
- 23rd & S. Clark Street
- 26th & S. Clark Street
- 27th & Crystal Drive
- 33rd & Crystal Drive (Opening 2015)
- S. Glebe Road
- Reed Avenue
- East Glebe Road
- Swann Avenue
- Custis Avenue
- Potomac Avenue
- Fayette Street (Opening 2015)
- Braddock Rd Metro
Images courtesy WMATA
During the Feb. 12 evening rush hour commute, while on an Orange Line train near the Ballston Metro station, the man “allegedly rubbed the inner thigh of a patron as she sat next to him,” according to police. The crime is being described as “assault and battery.”
“Anyone who is able to identify the individual pictured below is asked to call Metro Transit Police Detectives at (202) 962-2121 and reference case #2014-07734,” MTPD said in a press release.
Garvey made a presentation during yesterday’s County Board meeting, challenging the return on investment (ROI) study a consultant performed on contract with the county and presented last month.
Garvey said the study makes faulty comparisons, disputed the $3.1 billion ROI claim, said that calling the streetcar a “seamless ride” is nonsensical since a bus would do the same, and claimed it ignored contrary analysis, among other assertions.
After Garvey’s presentation, County Board Chair Jay Fisette challenged streetcar opponents’ claims that bus rapid transit (BRT) would be a preferable solution since dedicated bus lines, widely considered a requirement of a BRT system, are not possible on Columbia Pike. In response, Garvey offered an olive branch of sorts on the language the two sides of the streetcar debate uses.
“On BRT, I’ll make a deal with you,” Garvey said. “We don’t ever talk about BRT here again, we just say ‘streetcar-like bus.’ That’s all we need to say. A streetcar-like bus will do much better on Columbia Pike than a streetcar. Let’s just forget about it. It’s just a canard, it’s silly to talk the way we have on what’s BRT and what’s not. That just gets away [from the point], and I share your frustration.”
Fisette quickly agreed to Garvey’s terms, replying “all right, let’s call a truce on that one.”
The bus system that is feasible on the Pike was referred to by the ROI consultants as “enhanced bus service,” which wouldn’t use a dedicated lane but would have many features of a streetcar, like greater ridership capacity, a sleeker appearance and off-board fare collection.
Garvey’s challenge to the consultant has been echoed by other streetcar critics, who say the study was biased from the start, and its methodology — comparing two streetcar systems and two enhanced bus systems in cities around the country — was lacking. Fisette said the consultants, HR&A Advisors, will be making presentations to several county commissions, and backed them on their claims.
“I’m not saying [the study’s detractors] don’t have some good points or couldn’t use clarifications to better understand how the consultants went about their work,” he said, “but I take issue with discrediting the work of these consultants overall.”
The incident happened just past 8:00 p.m. According to Metro, the man was “apparently trespassing” on the tracks when he was struck by an inbound train approaching Arlington Cemetery.
“Security camera footage shows [the] subject intentionally walk onto the trackbed,” Metro Transit Police said via Twitter.
The man is dead and his body is between the tracks and a fence, according to scanner traffic. The striking train is still on scene with 80-100 people on board, firefighters reported.
The Blue Line is single-tracking and trains are running every 20 minutes as a result of the incident, Metro says. The agency is advising riders to use the Yellow Line as an alternate between D.C. and Virginia.
WMATA says a switch problem was discovered outside of the Foggy Bottom Metro station this morning. Metro employees were unable to fix the problem before the start of the evening rush hour.
“The affected track was taken out of service, and trains have been single tracking during the midday hours,” the agency said. “Unfortunately, permanent repairs will not be completed in time for the evening commute. Metro personnel will make a temporary repair that will allow trains to operate on both tracks, at a significantly reduced speed, during the PM rush hour.”
Metro says Blue Line riders should consider taking the Yellow Line instead. The agency issued the following information for riders.
What should I expect?
- Shortly after 3 p.m., single tracking will end, and Blue/Orange trains will use both tracks during the PM rush. Single tracking will resume after 7 p.m. so that permanent repairs can be made overnight.
- Expect delays. Trains traveling from Foggy Bottom to Farragut West will move through the area at an extremely slow speed for safety reasons. This will cause congestion in the Rosslyn-Foggy Bottom area as trains have to wait their turn.
- Trains will operate less frequently than normal. During the PM rush, trains will depart end-of-line stations every 10 minutes. At stations in Downtown DC, trains will arrive about every 5 minutes, alternating Blue and Orange destinations.
- Trains will be more crowded. Metro will operate more 8-car trains during this evening’s commute to provide additional room, but with fewer trains operating, things will seem crowded. Please take note of the train length and make use of the full platform if an 8-car train is arriving. Often the last two cars of an 8-car train are the least crowded.
What are some alternate travel options?
- If traveling between DC and Blue Line stations in Virginia from Pentagon to Franconia-Springfield: Use the Yellow Line instead. The Yellow Line is not affected by this problem and trains will operate more frequently than the Blue Line. Connect to Yellow Line service at L’Enfant Plaza or Gallery Place.
- Metrobus may be an option. For example, Metrobus 38B runs between Farragut Square and Ballston, with stops at Rosslyn, Court House, Clarendon and Virginia Square. View the 38B timetable here. To check the best Metrobus alternatives for you, use Trip Planner and select the “bus only” option.
When will repairs be completed?
Due to the complexity of the repair work, it is expected that repairs will be completed during the overnight hours. Normal service is expected for Tuesday morning.
File photo by @soxinly