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.
Ft. Myer Drive in Rosslyn has become a hazard for pedestrians due to ongoing construction, but no solutions are on the horizon, according to county staff.
At the County Board’s Tuesday afternoon meeting, Arlington Transportation Bureau Chief Wayne Wentz had no major recommendations for safety upgrades to the heavily-used roadway. The construction that has most adversely affected safety — on the 1812 N. Moore Street skyscraper – is expected to be largely finished by Oct. 31, but the safety concerns will persist.
“We’re never going to be done looking at Ft. Myer Drive,” Wentz said. “We’ve looked a lot at jaywalking. We just can’t find a way to put a crosswalk in there.”
Wentz said county staff is considering installing signs telling residents not to jaywalk in front of the road’s tunnel — a common crossing zone for those entering and exiting from the back entrance of the Rosslyn Metro Station. The county is also in discussion to put up fencing on the sidewalk and in the two small median islands on either side of the tunnel.
“We need to be more proactive in preventing crossing there,” Board Member Mary Hynes said, “given the fact that we have had near-misses and a hit there relatively recently.”
The sidewalk between N. Moore Street and Ft. Myer Drive on 19th Street will remain closed after Oct. 31, Wentz said. The size of Ft. Myer Drive in that area is part of what makes it unfeasible to install a crosswalk. With more than five lanes, the likelihood of a multi-vehicle accident is much greater than on a smaller road.
“We think that there is a chance to reconfigure what Ft. Myer Drive looks like. It could be a two-way street or a narrower street someday,” Wentz said. “There is hope in the future to do something different there, but we don’t recommend it at this time.”
Arlington Trail Counters — Arlington has “the region’s most extensive bike and pedestrian tracking system,” with nearly 30 sensors on trails and sidewalks. According to sensor data, two thirds of trail users are bicyclists. [Washington Post]
Ebbin Prostitution Bill in Limbo — A bill sponsored by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D), that would allow a prostitution conviction to be expunged if it’s proven the dependent was forced to work as a prostitute, got a cool reception from the Virginia State Crime Commission. The commission took no action on the bill, which was held over from the 2013 General Assembly session for possible consideration next year. [Associated Press]
Amazon Now Charging Sales Tax in Va. — Amazon.com is now collecting the 5.3 percent state sales tax from customers in Virginia. The change went in effect on Sunday. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Police officers will be a high-visibility presence, directing traffic in school zones, and variable message boards will be placed along county roadways reminded drivers to take extra precaution as students start returning to area schools.
Arlington County issued the following tips for safe driving on the first day of school:
Drivers are reminded to:
- Obey speed limits which may change during school zone times.
- Avoid distracted driving and keep your attention on the road.
- Watch for students walking and riding bikes to school.
- Don’t pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading passengers.
- Have all occupants wear their seatbelts.
Students, bicyclists and pedestrians are reminded to:
- Cross the street at marked crosswalks and never against a red light.
- Look before you cross and follow the direction of the school crossing guards.
- Always walk on designated sidewalks or paths never along the side of a road.
With a little prevention, all drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians can arrive at their destinations in a timely and safe manner.
Sept. 3 is also being billed by AAA Mid Atlantic as “Terrible Traffic Tuesday,” the day when roads are jammed because school returns and summer vacation season ends.
According to AAA, “the average 20.4 minute daily delay that drivers experienced around [the D.C. area] in July and August will return to an average of 25.8 minutes during September.”
The pedestrian bridge over Crystal Drive at 20th Street S. is set to close Monday, in advance of being removed permanently.
The bridge, which connects to the 220 Twentieth Street apartment building, is being removed to bring the prior redevelopment of the building “in line with the County Board’s policy of removing above street-level pedestrian circulation in order to focus such activity on the existing exterior sidewalks, thereby creating a busier, more active, and exciting streetscape,” according to the Crystal City Business Improvement District.
The major demolition work will be completed Aug. 10 and 11, according to Vornado Vice President for Development Gordon Fraley. Vornado is coordinating and funding the demolition as the owner of the 220 Twentieth Street building.
After the bridge is taken down, it will clear the way for a planned “pocket park” in the area and a new stair/escalator to the Crystal Drive shops and restaurants from the upper plaza, the BID says on its website.
Photo (top) via Google Maps. Photo (bottom) via Crystal City BID.
Arlington County is mulling a proposal to narrow Wilson Boulevard west of George Mason Drive from four lanes to two through lanes and a center turn lane.
The proposal was conceived and endorsed by the Bluemont Civic Association (BCA) last fall, as part a recommendation to widen the sidewalks along Wilson Boulevard in the neighborhood.
The association’s “Task Force on Arterial Road Sidewalks and Pedestrian Safety” came up with the plan after considering various ways to widen the narrow sidewalks to Americans With Disabilities Act standards.
Two possible options — undergrounding utilities (thus removing utility poles that partially block the sidewalk) and acquiring additional right-of-way from private property owners along Wilson Boulevard — were rejected as too expensive and otherwise infeasible.
The solution endorsed by the task force and the BCA membership instead calls for a two-phase project that, in the first phase, would halve the number of through-lanes west of George Mason Drive while adding a center turn lane and two bike lanes.
The second phase of the proposed project would widen the sidewalks to ADA standards, while relocating the utility poles.
“Two through lanes with a center turn lane typically provides a better line of sight and safer transitions for cars entering the traffic lanes,” the presentation said. “Speeding may be reduced while maintaining the same overall travel time. Reduced crash risks for all users are expected.”
The presentation compared the Bluemont stretch of Wilson Boulevard to nearby Washington Boulevard, which has only two lanes and higher peak traffic volumes.
A small section of fence is prompting a big stink at the River Place condominium complex (1011 Arlington Blvd) in Rosslyn.
The fence was put in place at some point this spring to block a paved pathway that served as a shortcut for those walking to and from the complex. The pathway leads to a parking lot used by TV station WJLA, which residents use to access a marked crosswalk that leads to the complex.
According to a Facebook page set up by a resident who opposes it, the fence was erected — or, more precisely, an opening in an existing fence was closed — by property owner Monday Properties due to safety concerns.
“An individual listening with headphones was allegedly ‘almost backed over’ by a WJLA news van,” a Facebook post said. “Monday Properties (MP) owns the lot and leases it to WJLA-TV. Obviously with liability in mind, MP closed the opening in the fence and chained the side entrance to the lot.”
Even though residents could just walk five yards out of their way to get around the fence altogether, Omar Baddar, who is helping to organize opposition to the fence, argues that that’s not a viable option.
“It’s not an acceptable alternative because there is no walkway there,” Baddar said in an email. “We’re forced to walk over mulch and then directly in between parked cars, which is an inconvenience, particularly to people with baby strollers or carts of any kind.”
“It is… obviously inconsiderate to block a pedestrian path and tell the hundreds of people who use it ‘why don’t you just walk over the mulch?’” Baddar continued. “Blocking a pedestrian entrance that has existed for decades without consultation with the residents who use it is simply not defensible.”
Baddar says he has collected more than 200 signatures — more than 10 percent of the River Place population — for an anti-fence petition.
Another option for pedestrian access to the apartment complex is walking down the N. Lynn Street sidewalk to the vehicle entrance for River Place. That adds travel time and another resident we talked to said it’s potentially dangerous at night due to poor lighting.
Tim Helmig, Executive Vice President at Monday Properties, says the fence was necessary to keep pedestrians from accessing the parking lot.
“What we have to focus on is keeping pedestrians safe,” he said. “What we noticed is that that parking lot is used by vehicles to pull in and out. It’s just not a safe place for pedestrians to walk.”
Helmig continued: “What we’ve encouraged pedestrians to do is utilize the sidewalk to access River Place. The sidewalk is there to provide a safe passageway, as opposed to cutting through that parking lot, which has a lot of traffic and has the potential to create a dangerous condition.”
No changes to the fence are planned, Helmig said.
Opponents, meanwhile, are not done fighting. Last week, a message on the River Place North building email listserv encouraged residents to call Monday Properties and sign the petition. It also called for those with legal backgrounds to help out with a pending legal challenge to the fence.
Last week, workers began construction on the intersection of Glebe Road and N. Fairfax Drive. The improvements are part of a pedestrian safety improvement project along Glebe Road that will spread to the Wilson Blvd and Carlin Springs Road intersections later this year.
The upgrades include installing new traffic signals, pedestrian crossing signals, street lights and trees. The intersections will also be reconfigured to improve safety. For example, the pedestrian “pork chop island” will be removed in front of Marymount University’s “Blue Goose” building, according to Tom Hutchings, Capital Project Manager with Arlington’s Department of Enviromental Services Division of Transportation.
“It tightens up the crossing distances at each intersection,” he said.
The red light camera that monitors northbound Glebe Road traffic at Fairfax Drive will remain in use during construction. Although the timing of the traffic lights will not change immediately, it will be evaluated later and tweaked as necessary.
“The timing is continually analyzed with every project we do,” Hutchings said. “It will be studied upon completion of the new lane geometry to optimize the intersection.”
The new traffic lights that were strung over the intersection last week are temporary; the permanent lights will be mounted on upgraded poles with mast arms. The previous poles were based on standards from the 1970s and did not meet the electronic wiring and mast arm standards in the current codes.
The improvements at the three intersections are part of a $2.5 million VDOT project that is locally administered by Arlington County. About 80 percent of the funding comes from federal and state sources, and about 20 percent comes from the county.
Although a number of pedestrian-vehicle accidents have occurred along this stretch of Glebe Road in recent years, such as the deadly cab accident last July, the intersections have been the subject of extensive studies since 2000.
“It is precipitated from acknowledgement of the high level of pedestrian activity in the area,” Hutchings said. “It’s to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety along Glebe Road where a lot of development has occurred over the past 10 years, and pedestrian use of Glebe Road has increased.”
According to Hutchings, the addition of a bike lane for eastbound cyclists on Fairfax Drive occurred during an earlier phase of this project, as did the installation of traffic lights last year at N. 9th Street and N. Vermont Street.
Work on the Fairfax Drive intersection is expected to be finished by mid-June. The Wilson Blvd. intersection should be completed in August, and Carlin Springs in October.
The County Board directed police to shift more resources to school zones for the first week of school, according to a county press release (below). Police officers, sheriff’s deputies, parking aides and crossing guards will direct traffic around schools starting on the first day of school (Tuesday, Sept. 4). Police will be monitoring 18 additional locations around the county during the first week of school, the county said.
In addition to traffic monitoring and enforcement, the county is conducting a public education campaign — with electronic signs being placed in strategic locations around the county to remind drivers and bicyclists about increased foot traffic on the first day of school.
In a press release, the county noted that between 1,000 and 1,500 additional students are expected to walk to school or catch a ride with parents this school year, in comparison to recent years. Over the summer, Arlington Public Schools implemented a controversial new busing policy that will restrict school bus service to students who live outside designated “walk zones.”
The county issued the following press release about its back-to-school pedestrian safety push.
Responding to the Arlington Public School Board’s 2012-2013 transportation decision, Arlington County government today announced new measures to raise driver awareness and help ensure the safety of students and parents walking to County schools.
“With the first day of school upon us, between 1,000 and 1,500 more kids this year will be walking or riding with a parent to school than in recent years. It’s important for each of us to take special care when we see schoolchildren walking in the mornings and afternoons, and to be patient with parents driving their kids to school,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes.
“Arlington County Police, at the direction of the Board, will be out to make sure that things go smoothly — putting more crossing guards at intersections, closely monitoring driving behavior near schools, and taking steps to raise driver awareness,” Hynes said.
Police Officers, Sheriffs Deputies, Crossing Guards and Public Service Aides will be directing traffic in and around school zones across the County starting Tuesday, September 4, the first day of school, to assist with an expected increase in traffic. Community members and commuters are reminded to stay alert and to yield to pedestrians at pedestrian crossings and in school zones.
ACPD’s Special Operations Section’s Motor Unit will coordinate additional crossings and monitor major roads and highways near schools as needed. Additional police coverage will be at 18 locations across the County the first week of school, and evaluated for safety. Highway message boards will be placed at key intersections, reminding motorists that a new school year has begun.
The start of the school year coincides with the Virginia Bicyclist and Pedestrian Awareness Week (September 9th through 15th). Special emphasis will be placed during the week on public awareness and enforcement of traffic laws governing how to share the road.
Drivers are reminded to:
- Obey speed limits, which may change during school zone times
- Watch for students walking and riding bikes to school
- Do not pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading passengers
Walking students and all pedestrians are reminded to:
- Cross the street at marked crosswalks and wait for the signal
- Look before you cross and follow the direction provided by School Crossing Guards
- Always walk on designated sidewalks or paths and never in the road when a sidewalk is present
Bicyclists are reminded to:
- Follow the rules that apply to motor vehicles when riding on the road
- Obey all traffic signs and traffic signals
- Yield to pedestrians
Road work is currently underway on S. Joyce Street, described as “one of the few places for cyclists and pedestrians to cross I-395 in Arlington.” The $1.8 million federal project will not only improve the aesthetics of the road — “more urban, and less highway-industrial” — but will result in significant functional improvements for road users, especially pedestrians and cyclists.
Among the changes, as described by the Federal Highway Administration:
- “Project will build a narrower median, leaving two through travel lanes in each direction, and provide much-improved ten-foot wide shared use sidewalks on both sides, plus three-foot buffers between the walkway and back of curb.”
- “New pedestrian-scale street lighting will be installed the length of the project on both sides.”
- “All guard rails will be removed (terminal median crash barriers will be installed).”
- “Large standpipes will be re-located out of the accessible pedestrian route.”
Construction is underway now and is expected to wrap up in September. The project also accounts for the planned Columbia Pike streetcar, anticipating that the streetcar will use the road’s inner lanes.
Officials describe the project as a “coordinated effort” involving the Federal Highway Administration, VDOT, the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, the Navy Annex demolition project, and Arlington’s streetcar project.
Photo courtesy Arlington County
The latest work involved removing a small island on N. Quincy Street and building a curb extension. Wider sidewalks and ADA compliant ramps have also been installed. Tom Hutchings, Project Manager for the Wilson Boulevard Improvement Project, explained that it’s an effort to improve pedestrian safety along a stretch of road typically considered tough to cross.
“That’s what this whole Wilson Boulevard project is about,” Hutchings said. “We’re tightening the street up and making the crossing distance shorter.”
One more curb extension needs to be installed on the opposite side of N. Quincy Street, but the existing improvements to Wilson Boulevard are already being considered successful in making the area safer.
“It has changed pedestrian behavior and we see a higher level of pedestrian activity,” Hutchings said.
The current phase is nearly complete, but there are a few things that need to still go in. The highest priority was finishing essentials like the new curbs, gutters and traffic lights. Things that don’t directly affect safety, such as Quincy Street bus shelters, street lights and trees, were viewed as a lower priority. Those have all been ordered and need to be installed.
“For the public, it’s perfectly functional, but there are elements that need to be finalized,” said Hutchings. “They should all be complete within three months, unless we have to wait until fall with the tree planting.”
This is part of the same project that brought the much awaited traffic lights to the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Pollard Street near Gold’s Gym. The work from N. Quincy Street to the area around the Arlington Arts Center builds off of the design of the Virginia Square Sector Plan. Work has been done in phases to coordinate with new development and engineering demands.
The final phase of the project moves down Wilson to N. 10th Street near Mario’s Pizza. Construction on that section will be extensive, so the county is working on setting up a website to give updates on the progress. The website, which is expected to be up and running in the next few weeks, also will list any upcoming traffic disruptions. However, that phase is still in the planning stages, and construction is not slated to begin for about two years.
Arlington County’s PAL pedestrian safety campaign — which reminds everyone on the road to be Predictable, Alert and Lawful — now has a video to go along with it.
The video makes the point that many drivers are also, at some point, walkers or bikers. Putting yourself in the shoes of the other guy — and behaving in a courteous, predictable manner — can help reduce conflicts on the road, the video suggests.
The clip was produced by the county’s Arlington Virginia Network.
Contractor B&B Signal Company won the contract to construct pedestrian-friendly improvements at the intersections of Glebe and Carlin Springs Road, Glebe and Wilson Boulevard, and Glebe and Fairfax Drive, and Fairfax Drive and N. Wakefield Street.
Among the planned changes: updated sidewalks and ramps, shortened distances for pedestrian crossing, wider center refuge medians, new signage and striping, upgraded traffic signals and street lighting, changes to intersection geometry and the elimination of slip lanes.
Construction is expected to begin in late spring and will wrap up in early 2013.
“This project will complete improvements that have evolved over time based on lessons we’ve learned about building enjoyable, interesting places to walk,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “These sorts of improvements also help foster safe communities, by managing vehicle speed to create safe crossing corridors for pedestrians. Both businesses and residents will benefit from the enhanced access and sense of place that these new features will bring to the area.”
Federal and state funds will pay for 80 percent of the contract. The remaining $700,000 will be paid by Arlington County.
(Updated at 1:50 p.m.) The long-awaited unveiling of the new traffic signals on Wilson Boulevard at N. Pollard Street should be happening soon. In fact, they should be working before the start of the weekend.
The lights were installed a couple of months ago, but have remained covered up. Concerned about pedestrian safety, some residents have been emailing ARLnow.com to ask when the lights would begin functioning. One reader compared crossing the intersection to maneuvering through a video game.
“Too many people play ‘Frogger’ at night trying to go to and from the Gold’s Gym,” the reader wrote.
Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel said the county’s installation of the lights has been completed, and Dominion Virginia Power just needs to supply electricity. Dominion tells us the lights should be turned on either today or tomorrow, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Today a crew was at the intersection repairing the sidewalk that had been torn up to install the lights.
Rehabbed Bridge to Be More Ped-Friendly — Arlington County is preparing to rehabilitate the Carlin Springs Road bridge over George Mason Drive, and the bridge’s chosen design will make it much more pedestrian-friendly. Currently, the bridge only has a pair of 5 foot sidewalks. The new bridge will have 8 foot sidewalks and 5 foot bike lanes on either side, but with narrower lanes for cars and no center divider. [Greater Greater Washington]
Arlington HQ’d Firm Gets New Name — The security contractor formerly known as Blackwater — now headquartered in Arlington — has a new name. The company’s name was changed to ‘Xe’ about three years ago, amid controversy over Blackwater’s role in civilian deaths in Iraq. On Monday the name was changed again, to ‘Academi.’ [Washington Post]
Wakefield Grad Dies in Crash — Casey Noriega, a 2000 graduate of Wakefield High School, was killed in a single-vehicle crash on Saturday in Fairfax County. Noriega, 29, was the mother of a 7-year-old son. [Kingstowne Patch]
Flickr pool photo by wfyurasko