Virginia Department of Transportation officials say they’re waiting for the results of a state police investigation into the death of Alexandria paramedic Joshua Weissman before deciding what to do about the gaps. As of today the investigation is “still ongoing,” according to Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.
Weissman fell through one of the gaps while trying to reach a burning vehicle in the HOV lanes of I-395 on Feb. 8. He fell some 20 to 30 feet into the creek and was knocked unconscious, authorities said at the time. Weissman later succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.
From below, the two gaps are clearly visible between the mainline of northbound I-395, an HOV ramp, and the HOV lanes themselves. Beneath the gaps are the Four Mile Run bike trail, a rocky berm littered with debris from the homeless individuals who sleep under the bike trail, and a shallow section of Four Mile Run with a jagged concrete structure in the middle.
The gaps pose the biggest danger to police and firefighters, who often will reach an incident in the HOV lanes via the mainline of I-395. If the incident happens to be on the bridge, as it was in the case of the Feb. 8 car fire, those public safety personnel will have to either hurdle over the gap or walk around it, in order to reach the scene and come to the aid of the victims.
One police official tells ARLnow.com said the gaps are “really not a problem in daylight” but can be especially dangerous at night. There are other gaps between lanes along I-395, including in the area of S. Joyce Street in Pentagon City, the official said, adding that he’s personally aware of at least two close calls involving officers nearly falling through the gaps.
Arlington County Fire Chief James Schwartz says that placing a grate between the spans may help eliminate the danger.
“It seemed to me that something like a grating… might be a cheap and adequate solution to that problem,” Schwartz said. He added, though, that it “makes sense” for state police to conclude the investigation before ”rushing out to do something that in the end might not be a complete solution.”
Joshua Weissman, 33, was on the scene of a vehicle fire on I-395 near Shirlington when he fell through a small gap between the northbound and HOV lanes, on the bridges over Four Mile Run. The Bristow resident, a seven-year veteran of the Alexandria Fire Department, fell into the creek below and was knocked unconscious.
Weissman was extricated from the water by rescuers from Arlington and Alexandria, and was rushed via ambulance to Washington Hospital Center. In the end, however, Weissman’s severe head injury was proved to be fatal.
The Alexandria Fire Department is providing counseling for its personnel and for the Weissman family, including his wife. The couple did not have children. Weissman was based out of Alexandria’s Seminary Road fire station.
The county’s big event is on Sunday at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford St) from 7:00-9:00 p.m. The tribute includes a variety of performances, including a keynote address from Howard University’s Dr. Wilmer Leon, gospel music from Larry Bland and the Volunteer Choir, and a dance tribute by Urban Artistry. The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) will be accepting non-perishable food donations at the program.
Monday is a nationwide Day of Service to honor Dr. King’s call to serve. AFAC is looking for volunteers to help with food drives at the Giant grocery stores on Columbia Pike (2501 9th Rd S.), at Virginia Square (3450 Washington Blvd), at Lyon Village (3115 Lee Hwy) and at Bailey’s Crossroads in Falls Church (3480 S. Jefferson St). Anyone interested can sign up on the AFAC website.
Volunteer Emergency Support Team (VEST) members will host an event on Monday outside the Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center (4200 S. Four Mile Run) from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. to distribute emergency preparedness information. Volunteers can sign up on the VEST website.
Also as part of the Day of Service, volunteers are invited to spend Monday afternoon at Long Branch Nature Center to remove invasive plant species. Participants must be at least 10 years old and are encouraged to wear rugged clothes and work gloves. For more information, contact Steve Young at 703-578-4419.
Individuals and families are invited to help in the neighborhood and stream clean-up near Barcroft Park on Monday from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Volunteers will clean up portions of Four Mile Run Road and stream. Due to the popularity of this event, volunteers must register.
Arlington government offices, schools and libraries will be closed on Monday. Metro and ART will be running on a holiday schedule. Metro will also be doing major work on the Orange and Blue lines during the long weekend, starting at 10:00 p.m. on Friday.
Arlington County is warning residents to avoid human or pet contact with the water from Four Mile Run. A petroleum product has reportedly been found in the water.
From a county news release:
Arlington County today advised residents to avoid the water in Four Mile Run, downstream from highway 395 to the Potomac River.
The County issued the warning after the Arlington County Fire Department discovered the petroleum release, from an unknown source, at about 8 a.m. Thursday morning. ACFD was responding to a business owner’s report of a “fuel odor” in Four Mile Run stream. County staff are investigating the source of the release and have placed booms in the stream to collect the petroleum.
To eliminate the risk of exposure to the petroleum, until further notice, residents should:
- Stay away from the affected waters
- Keep your pets away
- Avoid recreational use of Four Mile Run downstream of 395
- Do not fish, wade or swim in the stream
The advisory to avoid all contact is an extra precaution to allow the effect of the discharge to be diminished by natural flushing of the stream.
NOTE: Residents are reminded that stream water can contain microorganisms that can make people sick, whether the stream is located in an urban area or in the middle of a forest. Even after the discharge is naturally flushed from the stream, the County’s normal precautions for safe use of streams apply. You can find information and safety tips on Arlington streams, including information on reporting stream pollution incidents, on the Department of Environmental Service website.
A mysterious green dye has been spotted in the water along Four Mile Run Dr. near S. George Mason Dr.
Arlington County Fire Department’s Hazmat team is on the scene. They say the dye is a non-hazardous drainage detection substance. Bags of this type of dye are sometimes released into a building’s drainage system to make sure there are no leaks or breaks. A nearby building performed this type of test today, and it drains into the creek at Four Mile Run.
The dye does appear to be moving downstream, so other areas may soon see a green hue in the water.
Despite dozens of flooded basements and a couple of thousand Dominion customers without power, Arlington was largely spared the flooded roads and swift water rescues that took place elsewhere in Northern Virginia.
In fact, Arlington firefighters were able to help out neighboring jurisdictions like Falls Church, Fairfax County and Alexandria during the worst of flooding last night.
That’s not to say, however, that there was no flooding in Arlington. These photos, many of which were taken along Four Mile Run and the W&OD Trail, show just how bad things got.
Photos courtesy Brendan L. and Anonymous
Crews are making progress on safety improvements to a steep portion of Walter Reed Drive. Currently, most of the construction is closer to S. Pollard Street, near the top of the hill, but changes will soon stretch down to Four Mile Run Drive.
Some curb extensions, which are being added at the intersections of Quincy, Quebec and Pollard Streets, have already been poured. Drivers in the area can eventually expect to see planted medians where only painted medians previously existed. Also, the right-hand turn lane onto the Four Mile Run Drive access road will be eliminated for drivers heading downhill on Walter Reed, in favor of traffic turning onto the road at the 90 degree intersection.
Several of the improvements are designed to slow down traffic, while others are intended to protect pedestrians. The construction covers the area, long considered dangerous, where a bicyclist was killed in May. Many cyclists use this stretch to travel to and from the W&OD Trail and Four Mile Run.
Other pedestrian safety improvements have recently been made on Shirlington Road and Arlington Ridge Road, also in South Arlington, and improvements are planned for a stretch of Glebe Road near Ballston.
Road work on Walter Reed could last up to two months.
Last week the County Board voted to advertise a change in its zoning rules that would require planned commercial buildings over a certain size to seek a ‘Special Exception Use Permit’ from the Board. As we exclusively reported, the move was in response to interest in the industrial sites along Four Mile Run — near Shirlington — by large-format retailers like Walmart.
After our article ran, we asked the leaders of two nearby civic associations what they thought of the Board’s action and the potential for large-format retail development in the area.
Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, Jr., president of the Nauck Civic Association, said he was happy that the Board took the first step to ensuring that large-scale development in the area is given due consideration by the community.
The Nauck Civic Association participated in the decision to seek a Special General Land Use Permit for the Rosenthal [car lot] site and two additional sites in the designated Shirlington Crescent/Four Mile Run Drive area. The community had undertaken years of study of the area, but the study was curtailed a couple of years ago due to budgetary restraints and never adopted. The Association supports the action of the County Board in that it will bring back a continuation of the study previously worked on for a number of years and especially the results of a traffic study that is not binding if the by-right option is exercised under the present zoning. A change in the GLUP will allow the residents of Nauck have a say in the future development of the area.
John Breyault, president of the Long Branch Creek Civic Association, echoed Dr. Taylor’s support of the Board’s action.
Given that property’s proximity to the Long Branch Creek Civic Association, I am very glad to see that the County short-circuited any attempt by Wal-Mart to develop the property “by right” without Board approval (and, presumably, community input).
A big-box retailer like Wal-Mart has a big impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. We are glad that the County Board has ensured that there is an opportunity for robust community input into the planning process for this property. We look forward to participating in that process.
We reached out to two entities that represent business and developer interests in Northern Virginia, but both declined to comment on the record.
Just before adjourning for the summer, the County Board quickly and unanimously passed an item that did not appear on the board agenda. The item, a request to advertise public hearings, is the first step to passing a zoning amendment that would effectively prevent Walmart, Target and other large-format retailers (including certain supermarkets) from building stores without the Board’s prior approval.
The Board took the action as Walmart eyes an industrial site near Shirlington, adjacent to I-395 and the former Washington Golf store, for potential development. A source tells ARLnow.com that the retail giant is in the very early stages of a plan to build one of its new, multi-story urban-style stores, like those proposed for the District and Tysons Corner, at the site, which is currently occupied by a large car storage lot. The store, according to the source, would be two to three stories high with a smaller footprint than the typical, suburban Walmart store.
The proposed zoning amendment advertised Tuesday night specifies that any building in a “C-1″ or “C-2″ commercial zone, with a “gross floor area of 50,000 square feet or more on any level” would be subject to prior approval by the County Board under a Special Exception Use Permit. The exception would also apply to buildings with 200 or more parking spaces. Under the current zoning ordinance, Walmart would be able to build a store on the Shirlington site “by right” — without Board approval — a source with knowledge of zoning issues tells us.
The sidewalk in front of the Weenie Beenie, between Four Mile Run Drive and 27th Street S., is being expanded from 5.5 feet to 12 feet. In addition, the traffic signal at Shirlington Road and Four Mile Run Drive is being upgraded, LED street lights are being added and other aspects of the streetscape are being improved.
The improvements are intended to make bike and foot travel safer in an area of high pedestrian and vehicle traffic. The sidewalk serves pedestrians heading between Nauck and Shirlington, as well as cyclists and joggers heading between the W&OD Trail and the two sections of the Four Mile Run Trail.
“We’re trying to greatly upgrade that pedestrian/bicycle connectivity,” said Arlington County Director of Transportation Dennis Leach. He added that the upgrades were made necessary, among other reasons, due to the narrowness of the preexisting sidewalk.
“We’ve had some real concerns,” Leach said. “The existing condition is poor.”
In addition to safety enhancements, the $196,000 project will also improve the landscaping along Shirlington Road, upgrade the bus stop at the intersection with Four Mile Run Drive, and bolster the handling of storm water to prevent runoff into Four Mile Run.
Leach said the project is the “first phase” of a larger pedestrian improvement initiative that will see the widening of the Shirlington Road bridge over Four Mile Run. Widening the bridge and the corresponding sidewalk will allow more than one cyclist to cross at a time on the busy stretch. The Four Mile Run Trail alone, Leach said, handled 1,300 people per day during the month of May.
The funds will allow Arlington and Alexandria to create new wetland areas near the stream, thus adding needed habitat, enhancing aesthetics and improving water quality.
“This federal grant will help us fund the crucial first phase of the comprehensive restoration of Four Mile Run,” Arlington County Board Chairman Christopher Zimmerman said in a statement. “Restoration of the wetland and stream banks in tidal Four Mile Run, which we expect to begin work on next year, is central to the effort to return the stream to a more natural, better functioning waterway that will serve people from across the region.
Arlington’s estimated share of the larger Four Mile Run Tidal Restoration Project is $3.7 million, including federal funds.
“The Four Mile Run watershed encompasses approximately two-thirds of Arlington County and forms the southern border with the City of Alexandria, creating a shared waterfront resource,” the county said in a press release. “The tidal restoration project is the central element of a comprehensive effort by the two communities, with the help of the federal government, to restore the lower section Four Mile Run, which was channelized by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1970s.”
Police Search for Suspects Near Shirlington — While you were (probably) sleeping, Arlington police were trying to track down two suspects who fled on foot near Shirlington. Just before 1:30 a.m., an officer spotted a car that had been reported stolen out of Prince George’s County, Md. traveling on I-395. Due to department regulations, they did not pursue the car after it refused to stop. A short time later, the car was found crashed into the Four Mile Run creek bed at Shirlington Road. Police K-9 units and the U.S. Park Police helicopter were brought in to search for the suspects. As of 2:30 a.m., they were still on the loose.
Four Mile Run Trail Detour — The Four Mile Run trail will be detoured near 3rd and Harrison Streets in Glencarlyn Park due to storm/sewer system relining in the area. [Bike Arlington]
Woman Celebrates 30 Years at Retirement Community — Helen Crossley first moved into Arlington’s Culpepper Garden retirement community in 1981. Now at age 102, she’s being honored for her 30 year tenure at the facility. [Sun Gazette]
Forum Changes — We listened to your suggestions and made some changes to our discussion forums overnight. Unfortunately, the changes resulted in the deletion of some posts. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Arlington police have released the identity of the bicyclist who was killed in South Arlington over the weekend.
The Arlington County Police Department is investigating a fatal traffic accident that occurred on [Sunday] in the 4000 block of Four Mile Run Drive. At approximately 2:56 p.m. on May 8, 2011, police responded for a bicyclist that collided with a vehicle.
Fitzgerald Pollard, 44, of Arlington, was riding his bicycle south on South Walter Reed Drive, turned right onto the access road of Four Mile Run Drive and crossed into oncoming traffic. Mr. Pollard then struck an occupied vehicle. He was transported to a local hospital and pronounced dead.
The Arlington County Police asking that any witnesses of the accident contact the Department at 703 558-2222, or Detective Don Fortunato at 703 228-4197.
Trail Parking – This car chose an interesting place to park — on a stretch of trail between the county’s new Dept. of Human Services building and Washington Boulevard.
Snakehead Fish Invade Four Mile Run — Predatory snakehead fish have invaded the waters of Four Mile Run, between Arlington and Alexandria. There’s concern that the so-called “frankenfish” could kill off native fish in the stream, as it has decimated native populations of bass and shad in the Potomac. [WJLA]
Marymount Names New President – Arlington’s Marymount University has named a successor for retiring president James Bundschuh. Matthew Shank, dean of the business school at the University of Dayton, will take over as president in July. [Washington Post]
Cell Phones to Get Emergency Alerts — Soon, cell phones in the D.C. area will be capable of receiving emergency alerts via text message. [New York Times]
Gaslight Square Condos Selling Quickly — McWilliams|Ballard and Abdo Development have sold nearly $12 million worth of luxury condos at the still-under-construction Gaslight Square project between Rosslyn and Courthouse. [Marketwire]
(Updated at 9:25 p.m.) A bicyclist was struck and killed by a car near the intersection of Four Mile Run Drive and S. Walter Reed Drive this afternoon.
The driver remained at the scene and cooperated with investigators, according to Arlington County police spokeswoman Det. Crystal Nosal. Police are still investigating the accident — which occurred around 3:00 p.m. — and will release the victim’s name when next of kin are notified.
According to police, the adult male cyclist was turning onto the Four Mile Run Drive access road from southbound Walter Reed Drive when he collided with a car heading in the opposite direction. The man was brought to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Arlington County transportation officials are in the process of planning safety improvements for the intersection, which handles bicycle traffic from the W&OD Trail.
See the police press release, after the jump.
Hat tip to @abend0c4