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.
Drivers heading toward northbound I-395 will now turn left at the traffic signal on S. Quinn Street and bear right to merge onto the interstate, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. Those going south will drive through the intersection with S. Quinn Street and use the ramp on the right.
That’s a change from before, when northbound and southbound traffic could both take the ramp. VDOT workers will be on the road today making the switch, which is expected to be complete by 5:00 p.m.
VDOT also announced that Columbia Pike will be closed to drivers between S. Queen Street and Orme Street each of the next three weekends as workers demolish the old Washington Blvd overpass. The closure will begin at 9:00 p.m. tomorrow night until 4:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 3, and it will be closed again at the same times Feb. 7-10 and Feb. 14-17.
The demolition is the next phase in the $51.5 million Washington Blvd improvement project, still slated to be finished in the summer of 2015.
Photo via Google Maps
Update at 10:00 a.m. — VDOT says the change has been postponed: “Please note this new pattern has been postponed until January due to additional signal work. A new date for the shift will be announced soon.”
A new traffic pattern will be in effect at the under-construction Columbia Pike and Washington Boulevard interchange
VDOT says drivers heading eastbound on the Pike will now have a different way of getting to northbound I-395 (toward the District). Now, instead of bearing right after the light at S. Quinn Street, drivers will need to wait to turn left at the light, onto a new ramp to Washington Boulevard.
Those heading to southbound I-395 will still bear right onto the ramp after S. Quinn Street.
“Work to complete the switch will take place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday,” VDOT said in a press release. “Message signs will be in place to notify drivers of the new traffic pattern.”
“This new access is part of the $51.5 million project to replace the Washington Boulevard bridge over Columbia Pike,” the press release continued. “The project will be complete in summer 2015.”
As part of the project, the new bridge over Columbia Pike opened last month.
The accident happened right in front of the on-ramp from the George Washington Parkway. Multiple lanes were blocked as fire trucks and police cruisers responded, but the cars have been moved so they are blocking only the right lane.
No significant injuries were reported.
A crash involving multiple vehicles is blocking two lanes of traffic on northbound I-395 near the Glebe Road interchange.
The crash occurred just after 12:10 p.m. today (Tuesday), and traffic cameras show at least two vehicles that appear to be involved in the collision.
As of 12:30 p.m. police and fire department personnel were on the scene and had shut down the two left lanes of NB I-395. No word yet on any injuries.
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 northbound HOV lanes will now close during the week at 10:00 a.m. rather than 11:00, VDOT announced, and the southbound lanes will open at noon instead of 1:00 p.m.
The change in schedule will be in effect until mid-October “to help ease southbound congestion during construction of the 95 Express Lanes, the 95 Shoulder Lane project in Prince William County, and BRAC related work in the I-395/Seminary Road area along with routine summer road maintenance,” VDOT announced in a press release.
The County Board may decide to decrease speed limits on a number of roads throughout Arlington, including the main thoroughfares from Rosslyn to Clarendon. Board members are scheduled to take up the issue at their meeting on Saturday (July 13).
The Department of Environmental Services conducted studies to examine the viability of changing speed limits on several streets. Information was gathered regarding factors such as vehicle speeds, collisions, traffic volumes, pedestrian and bicyclist activity and development patterns. Studies were performed in the following areas: N. Meade Street from Arlington Blvd to Marshall Drive (formerly Jackson Avenue), Clarendon Blvd from Washington Blvd to N. Oak Street, Wilson Blvd from Route 110 to Washington Blvd, and N. Sycamore Street from Washington Blvd to 17th Street N. and N. Roosevelt Street from 17th Street N. to the county line.
The studies indicated that speed limits along N. Meade Street, Clarendon Blvd and Wilson Blvd could be decreased from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour. The N. Sycamore Street/N. Roosevelt Street studies indicated the speed limit could be lowered from 35 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour.
Arlington’s Master Transportation Plan includes a policy to design streets with lower vehicle speeds without impeding or diverting traffic. Part of that involves adopting a 25 mile per hour speed limit in the county’s “downtown” areas where pedestrian traffic is high, such as along Wilson Blvd and Clarendon Blvd.
The Board also has been asked to authorize the correction of speed limit discrepancies along parts of I-395 and I-66. According to VDOT records, the speed in the regular lanes of I-395 from Alexandria to D.C. is 55 miles per hour. The county code, however, was recently discovered to list a portion of the segment as 35 miles per hour, and that the entire segment is 55 miles per hour. There is a similar discrepancy between county code and VDOT records regarding the HOV lanes. Additionally, the county code does not include speed limits for I-66, but VDOT lists the limits at 45 miles per hour and 55 miles per hour, depending on the section in question.
County staff members recommend Board approval for the speed limit discrepancy corrections and for decreasing the speeds along the four stretches of county roads.
The cost of installing new speed limit signs to reflect the changes is estimated to be $5,000. Funds are available in the Fiscal Year 2014 Department of Environmental Services Transportation Engineering and Operations operating budget.
The single-vehicle accident happened on a stretch of the highway that’s extraordinarily accident-prone during rainstorms.
The lone occupant of the flipped vehicle was able to self-extricate and only suffered minor injuries to his hand.
Southbound I-395 traffic is backing up near the Pentagon.
Up to three people were reported hurt in the wreck, but no serious injuries were reported.
As of 5:05 p.m., at least one of the vehicles had been towed away and four lanes of traffic were getting by the scene, with only the far righthand lane blocked.
Despite a lack of progress on another planned pedestrian route under I-395, Arlington County says it has no plans to reopen an abandoned pedestrian tunnel that connects Army Navy Drive and the Dolly Madison Towers apartment complex.
The mysterious tunnel was the subject of an ARLnow.com forum post earlier this month.
The tunnel connects Army Navy Drive near 25th Street S., south of I-395, to the grounds of the Dolly Madison Towers apartment complex, north of I-395. It was built in the mid-1960s but closed in the mid-1990s due to periodic flooding and frequent vandalism of the lighting fixtures, according to Arlington County spokeswoman Laura G. Smith. The tunnel was also deemed difficult to patrol by police.
Smith says the county does not have any plans to reopen the tunnel. According to a comment on GreaterGreaterWashington.org, the tunnel was once used by apartment dwellers who wanted to access the bus stops on Army Navy Drive.
The county has previously expressed interest in providing additional north-south access points across I-395 to pedestrians and cyclists. However, a plan to build an emergency access road and bike path from S. Queen Street to Army Navy Drive, by way of an easement on Army Navy Country Club property, remains on hold.
“There is… no news to report,” Arlington County Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel said of the stalled plan.
Although the 1960s-era tunnel is officially closed, it can still be accessed and used by curious urban adventurers. A sign above the tunnel on the Army Navy Drive side reads: “Danger: Proceed at Your Own Risk.”
Other pedestrian and bike-accessible routes under or over I-395 in Arlington (from west to east) include the Shirlington pedestrian bridge, Four Mile Run Trail, S. Joyce Street, the Pentagon pedestrian tunnel, and the Mt. Vernon Trail.
The pursuit began when the suspect vehicle rammed an Arlington County Police cruiser near N. Barton and Pershing Drive, in Lyon Park, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The vehicle, a late model Honda Accord, slammed into the front passenger side of the cruiser after the officer attempted to pull it over for a traffic stop, Sternbeck said. No injuries were reported as a result of the crash, though Sternbeck described the damage as “significant.”
Arlington County officers then chased the vehicle to I-395. The chase ended after officers set up a “rolling roadblock” in the northbound lanes, just before the suspects crossed into D.C.’s jurisdiction.
Police activity is currently blocking all but one northbound HOV lane just before the 14th Street Bridge. Police have two suspects in custody, both District of Columbia residents, Sternbeck said. The men are expected to be charged with felony hit and run.
It is normally Arlington County Police policy to not pursue fleeing vehicles except in special circumstances.
The couch fell off a truck on southbound I-395 near the Pentagon. It’s unclear if the victim of the accident ran into the couch or swerved and ran into a highway barrier.
No injuries were reported. Police attempted to locate the owner of the couch, but as of this morning no police report has been filed, according to an ACPD spokesman.
The HOV lanes of I-395 have been shut down due to a jackknifed tractor trailer that struck the highway wall divide.
Police have blocked traffic because the truck is leaking fuel and they fear it might ignite. The fuel is coming from a 100+ gallon saddle tank, according to scanner traffic. A hazmat team is being dispatched to the scene.
A long line of northbound traffic is now at a standstill in the HOV lanes.
Update at 9:20 a.m. — NB I-395 has partially reopened.
(Update at 8:40 a.m.) Traffic on northbound I-395 is completely blocked following a serious multi-vehicle accident near Crystal City.
Three vehicles are involved, according to Arlington County Police spokesman: a Toyota Corolla, a white van and a box truck. The white van rolled on its side, trapping its two occupants, Sternbeck said. Both have since been extricated from the vehicle and are being transported to a local hospital.
Three ambulances have been requested to the scene for two to three reported injuries. The van was said to be carrying propane tanks, but no hazmat response was required.
I-395 northbound is completely blocked at Route 110. Traffic is being diverted onto the HOV lanes of 395.