The Rosslyn intersection where cyclists and pedestrians face drivers exiting I-66 has received safety modifications in the past two weeks and more changes are on the way, county officials said on a tour of the site Tuesday morning.
In advance of a $5 million overhaul slated to be complete in summer 2016, Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Transportation changed the timing of the traffic lights and walk signals at Lee Highway and N. Lynn Street last week, said Larry Marcus, the county’s head of transportation engineering.
“Pedestrians and cyclists are the priority at this location, period,” Marcus said as county officials and police watched people navigate the corner some locals call the “Intersection of Doom.”
One change is minor in cost but should be significant in impact: A no-turn-on-red sign is being installed at N. Lynn Street for those exiting I-66. That’s being done “as soon as possible,” Marcus said.
Additionally, cyclists and pedestrians crossing N. Lynn Street using the Custis Trail previously had a walk signal when all traffic lights were red — known as a “leading interval” — for just 2 seconds; the length of that signal was increased last week to 5 seconds, Marcus said. The county plans to increase the leading interval time to 15 to 20 seconds in the next six months, once new signal technology is installed.
“We’re giving more time for pedestrians and bikes to go first,” Marcus said, adding that new caution signs for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists will be added to the intersection.
Drivers headed west on Lee Highway, meanwhile, now have an additional 10 seconds of biker- and pedestrian-free time to clear the intersection.
To pair with engineering changes, the Arlington County Police Department has ramped up traffic enforcement and educational efforts at the corner where numerous car-on-bike accidents have occurred, Capt. James Wasem said.
“People can expect to see uniformed police officers out here flagging cars over, directing traffic, handing out some brochures and citing violations,” he said about the measures enacted about two weeks ago.
Police issued 228 citations at the intersection from Sept. 15, 2013 through the same date this year: 133 for failure to obey traffic signals, 32 for improper turning and 1 for failure to yield to a pedestrian. Fifteen car crashes occurred at the intersection within that period, police said; just two crashes on record involved pedestrians.
The ACPD assigns an officer to direct traffic at the intersection on weekdays from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. but must spread officers between that corner, schools and other frequent crash sites. The department began sending an officer to the location “as often as possible” following recommendations from a traffic analyst the county hired this year, Wasem said.
ACPD is seeking funding to assign two officers to Lee Highway and N. Lynn Street every weekday morning, plus an additional two officers at Lynn Street and Wilson Boulevard, Wasem said. The latter intersection has been facing a chronic problem of drivers “blocking the box” during rush hour since construction began on the Central Place project, blocking lanes of Lynn Street.
The additional staffing would cost $180,000 through next year.
The D.C. Department of Transportation has removed the dozens of “love locks” that started popping up on the Key Bridge this year.
“We have [the locks] in our storage facility,” DDOT spokesman Reggie Sanders said in an email. “The locks are in reasonably good condition. At some point [couples] will be able to make arrangements to retrieve them.”
ARLnow.com first reported the plan to remove the locks last week.
The locks — padlocks with the names or initials of couples written on them — are put there to commemorate relationships, and the trend has been popping up on bridges around the world. On Paris’ Pont des Arts bridge, thousands of couples attached locks to the bridge’s fencing, much like more than 50 couples did on the Key Bridge. The fencing collapsed in June under the weight.
Sanders said he’s unsure of how the locks were removed, and was also unable to say if locks have popped up on any other bridge in the city. DDOT officials will inspect other bridges for locks in the coming weeks, Sanders said.
Asked if DDOT will do anything to prevent couples from placing more locks on the Key Bridge in particular, he simply replied: “DDOT will take measures to protect the integrity of the bridge structure.”
Update on 8/7/14 at 11:30 a.m. — D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Reggie Sanders says the love locks will be removed from Key Bridge today. “Locks are being removed because we don’t want to establish a precedence where our structures could become polluted with these types of campaigns. Also, it could jeopardize the functionality of the railings,” said Sanders.
Earlier: Lovers have started keeping their love under lock and key by latching padlocks bearing their names to the Key Bridge’s railings.
These “love locks” are meant to memorialize romantic relationships, but they can cause damage to fences and railings. At the Pont des Arts footbridge in Paris, thousands of couples latched love locks to a fence along the bridge. It was so weighed down by the locks that the fencing collapsed in June.
“This is the first time we’ve encountered this,” D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Reggie Sanders said.
Last week, there were three combination locks on the railing on the left side of the Key Bridge (as seen from Arlington) and 45 combination and padlocks on the right side’s railing. Many of the locks had couples’ names or initials on them, and some included an anniversary date or an additional sentiment.
One lock says: “alex & andi 26 november 2011,” with an engraving of wedding bands.
With love locks, the owners lock them to a railing, fence or lamppost, discard the key, and hope their love will last as long as their lock.
New York City officials claimed last May that the more than 5,000 locks on the Brooklyn Bridge put it at risk for damages, the New York Daily News wrote, and endangered motorists driving under the pedestrian walkway.
According to the Irish Times, last February in Dublin, city officials put signs on the Ha’Penny Bridge to dissuade couples from putting locks there. Transportation officials removed approximately 661 pounds of locks from the bridge the previous year.
There are far fewer locks on the Key Bridge than those other bridges, seemingly not yet enough to cause damage. Sanders currently is looking into measures his department may take to remove the locks, and is researching which D.C. laws may change this practice.
But drivers aren’t the only one dealing with congestion on the 91-year-old span that crosses the Potomac from Rosslyn to Georgetown. The bridge’s narrow pedestrian walkway is also typically jammed with walkers, runners and bikers, who sometimes come into conflict as they try to pass one another.
Pedestrians also impact traffic, as vehicles must wait for them to clear a crosswalk to take a ramp to the Whitehurst Freeway.
So what should be done to improve matters? Cross-river gondolas have been proposed, as have streetcars. But one self-described “transportation nerd,” writing on the county’s Mobility Lab website, has another suggestion: a dedicated pedestrian bridge.
Such a bridge could better accommodate all of those walkers, runners and bicyclists, while marginally improving vehicle traffic. Built parallel to the Key Bridge, one might expect the project to be similar in scope to the $12 million pedestrian span parallel to the Hot Metal Bridge in Pittsburgh, according to the writer, Sam Krassenstein.
Arlington first responders got a call for a man who fell or jumped from the bridge around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday. Fire department personnel determined that the man was on the D.C. side of the river and responded to the Key Bridge Boathouse.
There, they found that a civilian had seen the man in the water and used a kayak to bring him to shore, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah-Maria Marchegiani.
The 32-year-old man was transported to George Washington University Hospital for “minor injuries.” Marchegiani could not say whether the man’s plunge into the Potomac was deliberate or accidental.
Flickr pool photo by Alex
‘Trolley Pub’ Bill Fails in Richmond — A bill that would have allowed patrons of Arlington’s Trolley Pub to drink alcohol while on board has been passed over indefinitely in the House of Delegates. Del. Patrick Hope (D-47), who introduced the bill, said there were “too many significant issues” around the bill. [Patch]
Middle School PTA Peeved at Bus Inequality – The Thomas Jefferson Middle School PTA is upset that North Arlington schools appear to be getting preferential treatment when it comes to bus service for students inside the standard 1.5 mile perimeter for secondary schools. The PTA president says S. Glebe Road is dangerous for middle school students to cross and the school system should provide bus service for students who have to cross it. [Sun Gazette]
Settlement to Fund Surveillance Cameras — Arlington will use $55,000 from a federal settlement to fund the purchase of portable digital video surveillance cameras. The cameras will be used “to enhance security at large scale events.” The funds from from the $1.5 billion federal settlement with Abbott Laboratories Inc. in 2012 over unlawful promotion of a prescription drug. [Arlington County]
Freedom Rider Shares Memories — “Freedom Rider” and Arlington resident Joan Trumpauer Mulholland spoke earlier this month about her experience in trying to promote civil rights and racial integration in the deep South in the early 1960s. Mulholland was also the keynote speaker at Arlington’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration on Sunday. [Falls Church News-Press]
Man Survives Key Bridge Plunge in 1929 — A quirky bit of local history: In September 1929 a drunk 26-year-old man fell off the side of the Key Bridge, landing on his side in the water 120 feet below. Miraculously, he was rescued by a police officer and a boat club employee and “appeared none the worse for his experience.” But alas, it wasn’t a completely happy ending: five weeks later the stock market crashed, leading to the Great Depression. [Ghosts of DC]
Photo courtesy @carmstrong07
Update at 11:50 a.m. — All lanes are now back open.
Update at 11:35 a.m. — The Key Bridge is being reopened, D.C. police said via Twitter. Traffic is currently flowing from the D.C. to Virginia side of the bridge, but so far the inbound lanes have not reopened. NBC Washington is reporting that the closure was due to a phoned-in bomb threat.
Earlier: Police have closed the Key Bridge to vehicle and pedestrian traffic due to police activity on the D.C. side.
No word yet on when the bridge might reopen.
The incident happened around 5:00 a.m. Police say a 21-year-old man from Leesburg was driving a white 2008 BMW M5 at approximately 90 miles per hour over the Key Bridge when the car hit the curb of a traffic island on the Rosslyn side of the bridge, flipped 5 times and ended up in the bushes of the Key Bridge Marriott. The force of the accident sheared the sports car’s roof off, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
There were two passengers, ages 21 and 22 and both from Leesburg, in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
The driver was pronounced dead at the scene, one passenger was ejected and found unconscious a short distance from the vehicle, and the other was pulled from the wreck by VDOT workers who witnessed the accident, Sternbeck said. Both passengers were transported to a local hospital with what were described as critical injuries. They remain in serious condition. One passenger is in a medically-induced coma with three broken vertebrae, a broken left scapula, pulmonary contusions, and hemotoma around the heart, according to police.
The driver has been identified by police as 21-year-old Sami Ullah of Leesburg. Yesterday, less than 24 hours before the accident, Ullah posted a photo of his car on Instagram with the caption “I call her Snow White. #m5 #beast #snowWhite #conlosterroristas #570 #ponies #vroomVroom.”
Photo (top) via @jamesp326. Photos (bottom) courtesy Rob Laybourn. Hat tip to @CAPT258.
Update at 7:35 p.m. — The man has been safely taken into police custody. The scene is now being cleared.
Update at 6:10 p.m. — Police are still attempting to talk and negotiate with the man. A SWAT team is now reportedly on scene.
Police are blocking either side of the Key Bridge due to a person threatening to jump.
A man is hanging on to the southeast side of the bridge and threatening to jump, according to scanner traffic and witnesses. We’re told that a helicopter and a Coast Guard boat are assisting police, who are trying to talk with the man.
D.C. and Arlington police have shut down vehicle and pedestrian traffic to the bridge. Inbound traffic from Arlington is being diverted onto Lee Highway and the George Washington Parkway.
Significant traffic backups have been reported in Rosslyn, particularly at the intersection of Lynn Street and Wilson Blvd. Earlier, police looked into reports of motorists getting out of their cars and yelling obscenities at each other as a result of the backups.
If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, help is a phone call away. Call Crisis Link at 703-527-4077.
Hat tip to @Agent_Greg
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.
The picture on the left is the area formerly known as Rosslyn Circle, taken around 1925. Records indicate the businesses shown were on Agnew Avenue, which is now Lynn Street. They stood at the base of the newly finished Key Bridge, which replaced the Aqueduct Bridge in 1923.
Rosslyn, and this section in particular, used to be considered a rough area. After the Civil War ended, many soldiers stayed behind. They drove out the farmers who previously owned the land in Rosslyn, and set up saloons, gambling houses and houses of prostitution. Thievery and murder were a regular occurrence, and locals knew not to walk there at night, if at all.
By the early 1900s, fed up residents wanted to rejuvenate the area and formed groups such as the “Anti-Saloon League.” They worked to change Rosslyn’s colloquial slogan from “Gateway to Perdition” to “Gateway to Virginia.” It took decades to drive out the unsavory elements.
By the 1950s, big plans were in the works to fully transform Rosslyn Circle and the surrounding area from a slummy, dangerous part of town teeming with pawnbrokers into a business hub sporting high rises. Much of the area was razed, both to accommodate the new buildings, and to make way for the completion of Interstate 66.
By about 1963, nearly all of old Rosslyn was gone, and businesses and industry poured into the area. Adding to the renewal was the promise of a Metro station, which was completed in 1977.
The photo on the right shows what the area near the old Rosslyn Circle looks like today.
Historic photo courtesy Arlington Public Library’s Virginia Room.
Rosslyn office workers will have an excuse to take a slightly longer lunch break today. “Flight Time Lang,” one of the world famous Harlem Globetrotters, will be dribbling basketballs across the Key Bridge starting at 1:30 this afternoon.
The publicity stunt will start at the intersection of N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway in Rosslyn. “Flight Time” will dribble and spin basketballs for one mile from the intersection, across the Key Bridge, and to a basketball court at a playground in Georgetown. (See a map of the route here.)
“Flight Time’s grand arrival tips off ‘Globetrotter Week’ in the D.C. metropolitan area, which includes multiple school visits and goodwill appearances,” the Globetrotters said in a press release. “The week concludes as the Globetrotters bring their one-of-a-kind skills to town for three big games on March 24 & 25: Verizon Center in Washington D.C. (Sat., March 24 at 1 p.m.) and the Patriot Center in Fairfax, VA (Sat., March 24 at 7:30 p.m. and Sun., March 25 at 2 p.m.).”
The northbound (inbound) lanes of the Key Bridge are closed due to a “police situation.”
Initial reports suggest a person may have jumped off the bridge, possibly on the D.C. side. Traffic cameras show Arlington police redirecting traffic heading toward the bridge on N. Lynn Street onto northbound Lee Highway and the George Washington Parkway.
Traffic appears to be flowing from the District into Arlington across the Key Bridge.
Very heavy traffic has been reported in Rosslyn and across the bridge in Georgetown.
Update at 5:55 p.m. — The few protesters who made it to the Virginia side of the Key Bridge were “pretty low-key,” says Arlington County police spokeswoman Det. Crystal Nosal. No arrests were made and no injuries were reported. A small group of young protesters wearing anarchist symbols and bandanas over their faces had a brief but peaceful confrontation with Arlington police that ended with the group crossing back into D.C.
Update at 4:50 p.m. — After a peaceful occupation of one of the bridge’s sidewalks, protesters have largely dispersed. Traffic on the Key Bridge is currently light and unobstructed.
Earlier: Several dozen Arlington County police officers in riot gear are stationed on the Virginia side of the Key Bridge, waiting to see if protesters from the Occupy D.C. movement decide to cross.
The heavy police presence on the Rosslyn side of the Potomac is accompanied by the presence of D.C. police mid-span and on the Georgetown side, and a U.S. Park Police helicopter overhead.
A couple hundred protesters are said to be marching in the District, compared to just over a dozen ‘Occupy NoVA’ demonstrators — mostly Verizon CWA union members — who marched down Wilson Boulevard around 3:00 this afternoon.
The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) are advising the public about the possibility of traffic delays during the evening rush hour today (17 Nov) due to a planned demonstration and march by Occupy DC in the vicinity of the Key Bridge and McPherson Square.
The demonstration / march is scheduled to begin at 1430 and continue through the evening rush hour. Potential impacts include the possibility of heavy pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic between the Key Bridge, McPherson Square, and surrounding areas.
Arlington and D.C. police are stationed on either side of the Key Bridge to ensure the march remains orderly.