Arlington County has stepped up it pothole repair effort this year due to the harsh winter.
County crews were out filling potholes in response to resident requests this weekend, after spending the week plowing snow and cleaning equipment, according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Robyn Mincher. One of the stretches of road where crews worked “extensively” was the 2200 block of N. Harrison Street, where numerous potholes were reported.
The county has up to five times as many employees working potholes repairs this winter, Mincher said.
“We have five teams, about 35 employees, in our streets maintenance section concentrating on either potholes or snow,” she told ARLnow.com. “In lighter winters, we would typically have one team assigned to potholes.”
“We anticipate continuing to concentrate on potholes [this] week, and assessing over the next few weeks our needs for later in the spring,” she added.
In addition to responding to problem reports from residents — there have been more than a dozen pothole reports in the past 24 hours — crews are also “fixing other potholes we find along our travels,” Mincher said.
Video via Arlington TV
Those roads fall below 60 percent on the Pavement Condition Index scale, which is an indicator that those roads are susceptible to “more rapidly” developing potholes. On average, Arlington’s roads sit at 69.8 percent, according to county Water, Sewer and Streets Bureau Chief Harry Wang.
Wang cautioned against categorizing Arlington’s roads as above-average or below-average nationally. But he said Arlington’s recent resident survey that cited road conditions as a main concern was evidence that the county should not be satisfied.
“That means that 70 percent [PCI] is not good enough,” Wang told the Arlington County Board yesterday. “There are many lane miles and surface areas that need great attention.”
The county plans to pave 72 miles of roads this year, a jump from 49 miles each of the last two years. County Manager Barbara Donnellan said they plan to increase that number next year — and discuss road conditions in more detail — during Capital Improvement Program discussions.
Wang said county streets maintenance staff is currently driving on main and arterial roads replacing potholes. About 80 percent of the county’s main roads have had their potholes repaired, he said, and the rest should be completed by the end of this week.
“We’re not waiting for complaints to come in,” he said. “We just drive zone by zone and see whatever needs to be fixed.”
Wang also said that between Jan. 8 and Feb. 20, the county has had to perform 89 repairs on water mains, and average of 2.1 breaks per day. The average age of the county’s water mains is 55 years, and he said 90 percent of the mains that have broken or cracked are older than 55 years.
The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
If you drive around Arlington much these days, the pothole slalom is happening multiple times per trip. I even saw one pothole today that someone had put an orange traffic cone in, presumably to alert drivers of just how bad it was.
Unfortunately, there is only so much swerving you can do and still remain in your lane of travel to avoid them. Sooner or later, your tire will drop in. You will hear a loud thud. And, you will hold your breath hoping you didn’t leave a piece of your car behind.
Cars are getting flat tires, bent rims, and damaged suspensions. Potholes are a problem only a car service station owner doesn’t mind so much.
With colder than usual temperatures and higher than normal amounts of snow, we cannot blame the Arlington County Board for the existence of potholes. However, we should be watching to see how quickly the problem is remedied.
The changing temperatures this winter have also brought on a series of water main breaks – two within a block and a half on my street alone. My counterpart at Peter’s Take covered this issue at length last week.
Replacing aging infrastructure and other ongoing maintenance issues often seem to get the short end of stick in the budget. Instead, we tend to focus on debates over the cost of swimming palaces, trolleys and arts centers. This is what you could call the “shiny new toy” syndrome. Elected officials often like to point at grand building projects and say “look what I did.”
What the shiny toy debates teach us is that the problems with addressing basic infrastructure needs is not a money problem — it is a priority problem.
Like it or not, if you are a local office holder you are responsible to the voters for street lights, trash pickup, potholes, and many other unglamourous issues that impact people’s everyday lives. The level of constituent service you provide when it comes to seemingly mundane problems is the true test of the type of public servant you really are.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
A monster pothole has been claiming hubcaps and testing the suspensions of unsuspecting drivers in Pentagon City.
The pothole is located on S. Joyce Street, across from Pentagon Row. As of last night, it measured approximately 4 feet by 4 feet, with a depth of 6 to 9 inches. That makes it even bigger than our previous contender for biggest pothole in Arlington, which was located on N. Fillmore Street in Clarendon.
The pothole was consistently being run over by the right tires of vehicles last night, occasionally producing a loud thud from those with smaller vehicles or tighter suspensions.
The pothole has been there for at least two weeks, and has been growing bigger by the day. Myllisa Kennedy, spokeswoman for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, suggested that the maintenance crews responsible for filling potholes have been slowed down by recent snowstorms.
“Crews have had to shift back and forth between pothole/other maintenance work and snow because of all the storms — doing as much as they can when the weather is cooperating,” she said via email.
Kennedy explained that Arlington County prefers to use a more durable method of pothole repair, which requires better weather conditions than the more temporary alternative.
“Crews fix the potholes using a longer lasting ‘hot’ mix – as opposed to a ‘cold’ mix used for temporary repairs in some places — whenever possible to reduce the likelihood we have to come back around and fix the same pothole,” she wrote.
The harsh winter is producing more potholes this year, Kennedy said. Maintenance crews are expected to be back out on the streets today trying to catch up on the pothole backlog.
“The severe weather fluctuations this winter are leading to more potholes earlier in the season and thus there is a need to for crews to start focusing on pothole repairs sooner than they would in milder winters,” said Kennedy. “Our plan is to get back out and continue filling the potholes County-wide. Our streets crews, which total about 35 employees, will be out on the roadways today, throughout this month, and well into the spring working to fix the potholes caused by this year’s extreme freeze and thaw weather. We will also bring in contractors to help with larger potholes and patches.”
This pothole, on N. Fillmore Street in Clarendon, is one of the biggest we’ve seen in Arlington.
It’s about two feet across and several inches deep. But is it actually the biggest in Arlington, which is being plagued by potholes as a result of the especially cold and damp winter?
If you’ve seen one that might be bigger, let us know in the comments. And post a photo, if you have one.
APS Boosts Bus Service to TJ, Kenmore — In response to criticism from parents, Arlington Public Schools has extended bus service to more than 200 additional Thomas Jefferson Middle School students. It has also added bus service for another 28 Kenmore Middle School students. [Sun Gazette]
TV Station Goes on Pothole Patrol in Arlington — WUSA9 has gone on “pothole patrol” in Arlington and found “a plethora of pits along North Harrison Street.” One of the station’s attempts to report the potholes online apparently didn’t work and the county acknowledged there were “a few bugs in the system.” We’ve previously reported on pothole problems on Columbia Pike and elsewhere in the county. [WUSA9]
Annual 9/11 5K Race Registration Open — Registration is now open for the 13th annual Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K. The race will take place this year on Sept. 6. [9/11 Memorial 5K]
District Taco to Open in Dupont Circle — Arlington’s own homegrown restaurant chain District Taco will be opening a location at 1919 M Street NW in Dupont Circle. The location is District Taco’s fourth brick-and-mortar restaurant. A fifth location, in Vienna, could be coming later this year. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
There’s little relief in sight for drivers and bus riders traveling down some rough portions of Columbia Pike.
Arlington County is planning to finish repaving the section of the Pike from S. Wakefield Street to Four Mile Run Drive by April, but so far the county has no plans to repave the increasingly pockmarked eastern portion of the Pike, including the “Pike Town Center” business district, within the next six months. Potholes are expected to be filled by this spring, but a full repaving could be several years away.
“Over the next several years, Arlington County will continue with utility undergrounding and street improvement projects, which will include roadway paving in three areas on Columbia Pike: Four Mile Run Bridge to County Line, South Oakland Street to South Wakefield Street, and South Garfield Street to South Rolfe Street,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Robyn Mincher tells ARLnow.com. As of last year, the streetscape improvement project was expected to run through 2018.
Apart from the Columbia Pike streetcar, which is a separate project, planned street improvements for the Pike include a repaved roadway, better pedestrian facilities, more street trees and planted medians. But for some Pike residents and business owners, those improvements are too slow in coming.
“I do believe that the delays they are having with the transportation issues will eventually halt all momentum the Pike has had with growth,” said Sybil Robinson, who owns Twisted Vines Wine Bar and Bottleshop (2803 Columbia Pike). ”Businesses that opened here with the promise of increased foot traffic and customer base may have to close since they’ve been just getting by for years now. We’re all trying to share the same small customer base that lives in the area. Once places start to close, you can forget new businesses coming here.”
Takis Karantonis, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, says he appreciates the improvements but is worried about the “glacial pace” of some projects.
“While the driver’s experience on the Pike… is very challenging, it is the pedestrian realm what concerns us the most,” he said. ”Utility undergrounding and streetscape improvements have been taking more time than anybody would have had anticipated. This is a challenge for everybody, but especially for businesses along our corridor… reliable timelines are of essence.”
Robinson said she’s heard complaints specifically about the rough roadway, but doesn’t actually think that particular problemn has has much of a direct impact on her business.
“We’ve definitely had customers complain about the road conditions, but as soon as they fix one problem spot, another pops up,” said Sybil Robinson, who owns Twisted Vines Wine Bar and Bottleshop (2803 Columbia Pike). “In terms of business impact, I don’t think it has hurt us too much. Most of our customers live on or near the Pike and the road conditions impact them on a daily basis going to and from work — so they know what to expect.”
Arlington County took responsibility for the maintenance of Columbia Pike from VDOT in 2010. John Antonelli, a Pike resident and an outspoken streetcar critic, says the county is shirking a neighborly duty by leaving the Pike in a state of disrepair.
“Arlington County has to understand that part of being a gateway community is to be a gateway,” he said. “Columbia Pike is a commuter road to the Pentagon and it behooves us as a good neighbor to ensure that our businesses and their employees and customers can get to and from as quickly as possible.”
“It’s a mess,” Antonelli added, about the Pike. “But it is more driveable now then it will be if they put the trolley in.”
One bit of good news for drivers is that VDOT is planning to repave Columbia Pike from S. Quinn Street to S. Orme Street next, as part of its Columbia Pike/Washington Blvd interchange project, according to VDOT spokeswoman Jennifer McCord.
With rapid changes in temperature and various types of liquid and frozen precipitation falling, potholes are beginning to appear with increased frequency around Arlington.
One such pothole, on Lorcom Lane just west of the intersection with Spout Run Parkway, is 3 inches deep at its lowest point. This afternoon it announced itself to passersby with a “thunk” each time an unsuspecting driver rolled over it.
Police radio traffic indicates there are several other significant potholes causing minor traffic problems in other parts of the county. Arlington officials say they’re trying to stay on top of such reports and fill in the pesky potholes as quickly as they can.
“The county has already tried to start our push on pothole work, beginning with two or three full days including work over a weekend,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Robyn Mincher said. “Temperatures in the teens and inclement weather have slowed down this effort. We will devote additional resources to potholes as we can in the next week or two, and then continue filling work through the winter and into spring when many potholes appear.”
Residents who observe potholes in Arlington can report it online directly to county staff.
(Updated at 4:00 p.m.) Like so many spring flowers, the post-winter warm-up brings a multitude of potholes to local streets. While there’s no shortage of bumps, holes and cracks along local roads, two road hazards in particular are frustrating drivers and residents in Arlington right now.
On Wilson Boulevard in Ballston, in the westbound lanes just past N. Randolph Street, a steel utility vault cover continues to produce a bumpy ride and plenty of noise.
We reported about the vault cover last month, after complaints from local residents. The steel plates produced jarring bumps for vehicles, and the booming sound of cars running over the plates annoyed those who lived nearby. Since our report, which suggested that repairs would be made by the end of March, the steel plates were lowered “to create a more even roadway for drivers,” according to Arlington County spokeswoman Laura G. Smith.
The problem is by no means fixed, however. An anonymous local apartment dweller complained that the noise is still “incredibly loud,” and now there are several large screws protruding from the vault.
To fix the issues once and for all, Avalon Bay, the apartment owner that’s responsible for the upkeep of the utility vault, will replace the plates with new concrete vault covers. The covers are expected to be installed “within the next few weeks, depending material delivery time,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, two sets of concrete vault covers adjacent to the cover that’s being replaced are falling into disrepair. Those “may be replaced at some point,” Smith said.
The vault cover in Ballston is not the only road hazard that’s drawing the ire of motorists. On eastbound Columbia Pike near the Sheraton hotel, a sharp change in pavement height in the righthand lane is giving drivers a rude awakening.
It might not look like much, but the tail end of a patched-up section of road produces a sudden, jarring bump for drivers, especially those driving smaller cars. Luckily, the hazard is set to be fixed soon.
“Our Water Sewer Streets team confirmed that the pavement issue in this location was a result of work done to repair a water main break or leak,” said Arlington County Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Myllisa Kennedy. “A crew is heading out today to make a temporary patch to smooth out the site and is scheduling work on a more permanent patch for the very near future.”
Arlington residents can report potholes using this form.
A pothole on N. Courthouse Road has been forcing some drivers to slow to a crawl and has been producing a big bumpy surprise for others.
The pothole is located in the northbound lanes of N. Courthouse Road, between Route 50 and 13th Street N, just a couple of blocks from County government headquarters.
The left side of the pothole is a big dip. The right side contains a portion of raised pavement. Drivers who hit the dip with their left tire and the bump with their right tire risk bottoming out and scraping the undercarriage of their car.
Most drivers we observed were able to see the pothole and slow down before hitting it. We first Tweeted about the pothole last Tuesday. As of this morning, it’s still there.
By at least one measure, Arlington’s roads — all 376 miles of them – are in better shape than they were last year.
Since Nov. 1, Arlington County crews have filled 1,007 potholes on county-maintained roads, according to Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel. Compare that to the 2,184 potholes filled between the start of November and the end of February last year.
McDaniel attributed the big drop in potholes to the mild winter we’ve experienced so far.
Still, a report that came out last summer suggests that Arlington has plenty of room for improvement when it comes to street maintenance. On a scale of 0 to 100, the average Pavement Condition Index for Arlington’s roads was 68.9, down from a PCI in the low 80s about 10 years ago.
In general, how would you grade Arlington’s roads at the moment?
Drivers who use the rough stretch of Clarendon Boulevard between Courthouse and Rosslyn will get some relief in the next few weeks.
The developer behind a new residential complex that’s being built on the old Hollywood Video site is planning to smooth out some rough patches of road on Clarendon Boulevard in the area of N. Scott Street, according to Arlington County Department of Environmental Services (DES) spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel. The work is expected to be performed in about three weeks.
Arlington County does not have any paving scheduled for Clarendon Boulevard between Rosslyn and Courthouse due to a number of large construction projects in the area. The developers of those projects – including the aforementioned residential building, a new office building and a new apartment complex — are responsible for fixing the road.
“There are several development projects in the area and the developers will restore the road as projects are completed,” said DES spokeswoman Myllisa Kennedy. ”Once the major projects in the area are completed, the area will be eligible to be incorporated into our annual paving program.”
Kennedy said that residents can still report potholes and other problems on the road via the county’s online reporting form, or by calling 703-228-6570.
Thanks to the mild winter, the District of Columbia has reported a 22 percent drop in the number of complaints about potholes. After all, the warmer weather isn’t as conducive to pothole formation. Across the Potomac, however, Arlington’s pothole repairs crews have been busy.
Since the start of November, Arlington County has filled 2,184 potholes. That compares to 1,174 potholes filled by this time last year — an 86 percent increase. Why so many?
Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel says the weather has allowed crews to get a head start on pothole repairs.
“The warmer weather has enabled crews to get out more frequently to repair the roads,” Whalen McDaniel said. “It’s helped us to get a jump start on the official pothole season that starts in early March.”
Residents can report potholes on the pothole page of the county’s website.
Old Jefferson Davis Highway, which will be officially renamed “Long Bridge Drive” next year, is arguably the worst road in Arlington County.
With deep potholes, large pools of standing water, and no lane markings, the road — which connects Boundary Channel Drive and Crystal Drive/12th Street S. — is not easily traversed by anything smaller than an SUV.
That was less of a problem when the road served primarily as a short cut for adventurous I-395 commuters and Pentagon employees. Since November, however, Old Jefferson Davis Highway has been the sole road leading to the newly-opened, $31 million Long Bridge Park. That has led to some grumbles among park users.
“Old Jefferson Davis Hwy is in SERIOUS need of repaving,” one local resident said in an email to ARLnow.com. “Why would they open a brand new park, but not provide a safe road to get to it or tear down the decrepit buildings next to it?”
The good news is that relief is on the way. According to Arlington’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources (PRCR), a reconstruction project for the road will begin in early-to-mid 2012.
“The reconstruction of Old Jefferson Davis Highway should begin in earnest toward the end of February/early March pending the completion of utility relocation,” said PRCR planner Erik Beach. “The installation of a massive stormwater system will be one of the first steps in rebuilding the road. The final paving will be late summer of 2012.”
The road was originally supposed to have been reconstructed by the time Long Bridge Park opened, according to Beach, but the project was pushed by due to delays in Dominion and Verizon relocating their utility lines.
“The County cannot begin its wet utility work until the dry utilities have been relocated by the utility providers,” Beach said. “Dominion appears to have completed their work and Verizon projecting a late January completion. This places the finished road at the end of August 2012 with landscaping going in in the early fall.”
The finished road — which will by then be called Long Bridge Drive — is expected to include an improved drainage system, two bike lanes, on-street parking, median strips, sidewalks, street trees, pedestrian lighting, curbs and new pavement.
A big pothole on southbound Glebe Road, near S. 2nd Street, is causing a traffic hazard for drivers.
The pothole is forcing drivers in the left southbound lane to either swerve around it or slam on the brakes in order to avoid damage to their cars.
The hole appears to have formed in a recently-laid patch of asphalt.