Morning rush hour traffic on Columbia Pike has gone from bad to worse thanks to a new traffic pattern at the Washington Boulevard interchange, drivers tell us.
Two weeks ago VDOT, as part of its Route 27/244 interchange project, altered the traffic pattern for vehicles heading eastbound on Columbia Pike. Drivers heading toward northbound I-395 now have to turn left at the traffic signal on S. Quinn Street, whereas before northbound and southbound traffic could both take the right-hand ramp that also leads to southbound I-395.
Last week, one reader told us the new traffic pattern was a “disaster,” with eastbound Pike traffic backed up to S. Courthouse Road at 7:45 a.m. Today (Wednesday), another reader said that traffic was backed up to S. Walter Reed Drive at 8:15 a.m.
“That is absolutely ridiculous,” said Thierry Driscoll, a Pike commuter who now uses S. Courthouse Road as a shortcut to Washington Boulevard. “There are cars backed up in the left lane of Columbia Pike waiting to take a left onto the Washington Blvd access ramp, but cannot because the access ramp is full.”
“There is no excuse for such a boneheaded design,” he continued. “This new pattern has inconvenienced a lot of people.”
VDOT spokeswoman Jennifer McCord says the current traffic pattern is temporary and will be in place for another 8-12 months while new ramps are built.
“We realize it’s slower for drivers trying to get to I-395N since they have to yield to the oncoming traffic,” she said. “Our folks… added as much time as possible to the left-turn signal” to alleviate some of the traffic.
“No more significant changes” are planned, said McCord. She advised using S. Glebe Road as a possible alternate route to I-395 for those heading from western portions of Columbia Pike.
Nearly 2.4 million people, or about 41 percent of the metro region’s population, are expected to travel 50 miles or more during the time period from this Saturday, December 21, through Wednesday, January 1. That’s a small increase of 0.1 percent over last year. This will be the fifth consecutive year for such an increase, and the highest recorded travel volume for the winter holiday season.
“Unfortunately, a number of Washingtonians sat out three of the first four holiday travel periods of the year as an upshot of all the political drama in the nation’s capital and the economic stress it engendered. But they will not be denied nor deny themselves or their families during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday travel period,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs.
Air travel is expected to slightly decline to 129,300 travelers, compared with 130,400 last year. The number of people traveling by train or bus is also down this year, by about two percent. Automobile travel, however, is expected to increase by 0.3 percent, to more than 2.1 million people.
D.C. metro area residents plan on traveling an average of 965 miles for the holidays. That’s up from 805 miles last year.
More than 1 million D.C. area residents will travel at least 50 miles during the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday period, AAA Mid-Atlantic projects, but the number of travelers will actually be lower than last year.
AAA says 1,058,000 people will journey out of the Washington area, down from 1,070,5000 last year. A projected 90.7 percent of travelers will get out of town via automobile, while 6.9 percent will take planes. The remainder will take rail and other travel methods.
The D.C. region was home to about 5.9 million residents as of 2012.
From the AAA Mid-Atlantic press release:
All in all, that’s 12,000 fewer persons this time around, but you probably won’t notice any difference on area roads, or at airline ticket counters and bus and train stations in the Washington metro area. Remarkably, the overall volume of local holiday travelers has numbered over one million persons for the three past Thanksgiving holidays, and the same is true this year too, after rebounding from the recession-driven declines in 2008-2009. That’s when Thanksgiving travel fell by a staggering 25 percent.
“Still over one million local residents are in the travel mode and mood this Thanksgiving holiday period, as the number of Thanksgiving travelers tops the one million person mark for the fourth year in a row,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Despite the big drop in gas prices this holiday when compared to last Thanksgiving, local residents have been coping with the lingering impact of the sequestration and they are still reeling from the effects of the federal government shutdown in October, both of which hit the regional labor market really hard, especially government contract workers, at the psychic, pocketbook and deeply personal levels.”
(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) A Ferrari crashed and caught fire on the GW Parkway this morning, prompting an emergency response that then led to an accident involving a fire department vehicle.
The first wreck happened around 9:30 a.m., in the southbound lanes of the GW Parkway under I-66, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani.
The Ferrari lost control on the rain-slicked road and struck the bridge, coming to rest on the side of the parkway. The Ferrari then caught fire, quickly becoming fully engulfed before the flames were extinguished by firefighters. The driver was uninjured, according to Marchegiani.
Just past 10:30 a.m., a pickup truck rear-ended an Arlington County Fire Marshal’s truck that was stopped in the northbound lanes of the GW Parkway, adjacent to the first wreck. A third vehicle was also hit but no injuries were reported, Marchegiani said.
The dual wrecks shut down lanes and caused major backups for GW Parkway commuters. Two trucks are currently on scene to haul away the vehicles involved.
Video (above) courtesy David Johnson. Photos (below) courtesy @Chief288.
Reconfigured W. Glebe Road Intersection Considered — Arlington and Alexandria are considering moving the intersection of W. Glebe Road and S. Glebe Road in order to lessen congestion on Glebe near I-395. The proposal is now part of Alexandria’s long-range planning process. [Patch]
New Picnic Shelter for Lacey Woods Park — The Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote this weekend on an enhancement to Lacey Woods Park (1200 N. George Mason Drive). The Board will consider awarding a $341,000 contract to reconstruct the park’s 100-person picnic shelter. [Sun Gazette]
Moran Decries Proposed Cuts to Food Stamps — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) says a Republican plan to cut nearly $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will hurt low-income families and children and unemployed adults. Yesterday the House of Representatives passed the plan by a vote of 217-210. In his weekly newspaper column, Moran wrote: “it is disheartening to find House Republicans wasting valuable time on efforts to reduce food availability for the hungry instead of addressing urgent issues facing our nation.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Arlington Girl Raises Awareness of Rare Disease — A 5-year-old Arlington girl, who just started kindergarten at Abingdon Elementary, is battling a genetic, degenerative mitochondrial disease for which there is no known cure. Ellie McGinn and her parents have launched a campaign to raise medical awareness of the extremely rare disease. [Washington Post]
The organization estimates that 811,500 people will travel at least 50 miles this weekend, a 2.6 percent increase from 2012. Of those travelers, 707,000 — or 87 percent — are expected to travel by car. About 8 percent will travel by air and 5 percent will travel by train, bus or boat, AAA projects.
AAA says the average traveler will journey about 600 miles, which is close to the national average. Gas prices are “unlikely to be a major factor for people in determining whether they will travel this Labor Day,” even though most consider the current national average of $3.54 a gallon “too high,” according to AAA.
“Call it summer’s last fling,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “After staying put throughout the summer, Washingtonians are yearning for travel, so they are getting the heck out of town for Labor Day. In fact, this is the fourth year of increases in local Labor Day travelers in the Washington metro area.”
“The effect of sequestration is still felt locally,” Townsend continued. “However, local residents can now gauge its full impact on their discretionary budgets with the recent announcement that the number of civilian furlough days has been reduced from 11 to six. That’s enough unanticipated good news to put folks around here in the mood to travel.”
Update at 7:50 p.m. — Officers entered the apartment and found a 37-year-old man dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to police. A Chihuahua that was in the apartment has been turned over to animal control. Units are clearing the scene.
Earlier: Police have surrounded an apartment building on S. Glebe Road, near Shirlington, after officers heard a gunshot from one of the apartments.
Shortly before 4:00 p.m., officers responded to the Twenty400 building (2400 24th Road S.) to check on the welfare of a man who had not shown up for work for several days. Upon making entry into the apartment, officers heard a gunshot, according to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. They immediately backed out of the apartment and called for additional resources.
The apartment complex has been at least partially evacuated. Arlington’s SWAT team and bomb squad are now on the scene, preparing to use a robot to look inside the apartment, Sternbeck said. Police negotiators are also on scene. They’re not sure whether this might be a case of a suicide, or a subject who’s barricaded in the apartment.
“We don’t know what we have inside at this time,” said Sternbeck.
Police and bomb squad units have staged around apartment building, blocking at least one lane on S. Glebe Road and causing some traffic backups. Drivers should expect delays in the area.
Photo courtesy Brian Ossip
Coyote Spottings in Arlington? — Some residents in the Leeway Overlee area of Arlington have recently reported spotting a coyote in their neighborhood. While video has proven the presence of coyotes — or at least one coyote — in Arlington, naturalists question whether the animal spotted might actually be a fox or a mangy dog. [NBC Washington]
GOP AG Debate at GMU Law Tonight — The George Mason University School of Law in Arlington will host a debate between the two Republican candidates for Virginia Attorney General tonight. The event, which is open to the public, will start at 7:30 p.m. and will be moderated by former attorney general and governor Jim Gilmore. [Republican National Lawyers Association]
Arlington ‘Avoiding D.C.’s Traffic Nightmare’ — Arlington County has managed to avoid the “traffic nightmare” that’s facing nearby D.C. thanks to a “multifaceted effort to curb car-dependence” that serves as “a regional model,” according to WAMU. [WAMU]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
Commuters are experiencing major backups on the GW Parkway due to a serious accident in Fairfax County.
The crash occurred on the GW Parkway near Route 123. According to an Arlington Alert email, traffic was shut down in both directions to allow a Medevac helicopter to land.
Backups on the northbound lanes of the Parkway reportedly extend down to the Memorial Bridge
School Boundary Meeting on Wednesday — Arlington Public Schools will hold its next school boundary meeting on Wednesday (February 6), at 7:00 p.m. in the Williamsburg Middle School auditorium. APS will share feedback gathered at the January 23 meeting, and present a smaller set of boundary options. After reviewing the options, meeting attendees will have the opportunity to offer feedback. The final set of options is expected to be offered to the School Board in late March.
Metro Region Worst for Traffic — The annual Texas A&M Transportation Institute survey lists the D.C. metro area as number one for the country’s worst traffic congestion, topping Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Boston. The average driver is said to spend 67 hours per year sitting in traffic. Analysts believe drivers will add seven hours to that number by 2020. [Washington Post]
Cuccinelli Backs Alternative Transportation Plan – Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is not backing Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation plan, but rather a plan that’s considered the conservative alternative. Instead of eliminating the gas tax and increasing the sales tax as McDonnell’s plan proposed, the alternative plan would replace the current gas tax with a sales tax on gasoline. McDonnell’s plan has been controversial, including when the Arlington County Board bashed the proposal late last month. [Washington Examiner]
Free Pancakes at IHOP — Customers at IHOP can get a free short stack of pancakes today. Guests celebrating National Pancake Day are encouraged to leave a donation for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The offer is limited to one stack per customer while supplies last. Arlington’s lone IHOP is at 935 N. Stafford Street in Ballston.
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Initial reports suggest the accident involved an off-duty police officer in his or her personal vehicle. The HOV lanes are partially blocked near Glebe Road as a result of the accident. HOV traffic is getting by on the shoulder.
At least one mainline southbound and northbound lane of I-395 is also blocked. Southbound traffic is currently slowing near the Pentagon.
Starting this week, the police department has assigned extra traffic patrols to the area during the morning rush hour, when gridlock gets especially bad on Lynn Street. (Although traffic is often heavy during the evening rush hour, as well.)
The officers will remind drivers that it’s illegal to block the box — to enter into an intersection during a green light when there is no room to clear the intersection. For now, the officers will not be issuing citations, according to ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck, who called morning congestion on Lynn Street a “disaster.”
“You should expect to see additional police presence in that area,” Sternbeck said. ”We’re hoping in the immediate future that this education campaign will get people to change their behavior. Hopefully we can make an impact there, because it’s been a concern for a long time.”
In support of the campaign, the Transportation Engineering and Operations Bureau of Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services will be installing “Do Not Block Intersection” signs at all of the intersections along N. Lynn Street between Wilson Boulevard and the Key Bridge. Existing Do Not Block Intersection signs at N. Lynn Street and Wilson Boulevard, meanwhile, will be replaced with larger versions of the sign.
“The signs are currently being fabricated and should be installed within the next three (3) weeks,” said DES spokeswoman Myllisa Kennedy. In addition to the signs, this coming spring DES will be installing pavement markings at the Wilson Boulevard and Lynn Street intersection which are intended to “help define the ‘box.’”
Lynn Street serves commuters heading to the GW Parkway, I-66 and D.C. via the Key Bridge.
A cyclist was struck by a vehicle at the dangerous intersection of Lynn Street and Lee Highway around 8:15 this morning. The cyclist was treated for a reported knee injury and transported to the hospital.
Although emergency activity from the accident blocked a right-hand lane of Lynn Street, the bigger traffic problem was the ramp to the northbound GW Parkway. According to scanner traffic, ongoing rock stabilization work on the parkway — which has blocked a left-hand lane — is causing traffic on the parkway to slow and, in turn, is causing major delays for traffic merging on to the parkway from Rosslyn.
As of 8:30 a.m., cars heading to the parkway were backed up all the way to Wilson Blvd on Lynn Street.
Supposedly, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic, the Tuesday after Labor Day was “Terrible Traffic Tuesday.”
But while traffic last Tuesday was actually fairly manageable, traffic today on this Tuesday seems a bit more terrible, at least on one local highway.
Traffic is heavy — moving slowly but steadily — for most of the stretch of northbound I-95/I-395 all the way from Newington to the 14th Street Bridge, according to traffic cameras.
Students Head Back to School — Today is the first day of school for nearly 23,000 Arlington Public School students. School start times vary in Arlington, from 7:50 a.m. for middle schools to 9:24 a.m. for the H-B Woodlawn Secondary program. Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy has created a back-to-school video for students and parents. Arlington County, meanwhile, is urging drivers to be especially cautious on the roads this morning.
AAA Warns of ‘Terrible Traffic Tuesday’ — AAA Mid-Atlantic is warning of “the mother of all gridlock” today, a day the organization has dubbed “Terrible Traffic Tuesday.” With students heading back to school and workers back from summer vacations, AAA expects traffic congestion to spike 26 percent compared to mid-summer. Adding to the congestion in Arlington will be the 146 yellow APS school buses on the roads. [AAA Mid-Atlantic, Bethesda Now]
Special Election Today — Voters in Virginia’s 45th House of Delegates District will head to the polls today in the special election to replace Del. David Englin, who resigned following the admission that he had an extramarital affair. The three candidates in the race are Tim McGhee (R), Rob Krupicka (D) and Justin Malkin (L). Only five electoral precincts in Arlington are included in the 45th District: Aurora Hills, Fairlington, Abingdon, Oakridge, and Shirlington. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Maryva2