Those frustrated with their morning commute on Columbia Pike aren’t likely to see relief come until the spring.
The backups that have caused rush hour delays for drivers going eastbound on Columbia Pike in the morning are likely due to the temporary traffic pattern that makes cars turn left to get on northbound I-395, Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jenni McCord said. The temporary traffic pattern shift is expected to be in place for the next six months.
After that time, the traffic will again go back to using a right exit off Columbia Pike to get on the interstate in the direction of D.C.
The complete project’s end date is Sept. 14, 2015.
The left turn isn’t the only headache Pike drivers will have to deal with as the $48.5 million construction of the Washington Blvd bridge over Columbia Pike continues. Scheduled to start in early December, McCord said, S. Queen Street will be closed to traffic at Columbia Pike for six months. “Local traffic will enter/exit Arlington View and Carrington Village via S. Quinn or S. Rolfe Streets,” McCord said.
On Washington Blvd, the temporary signal at the Columbia Pike exit ramp has been removed, and crews will be pouring the concrete deck for the second bridge on Monday after steel beams were installed in September, McCord said. There will continue to be daytime lane closures in the area until the project is complete in a year.
The Arlington County Board will vote on Saturday to apply to the Virginia Department of Transportation for $4.2 million in funds to help complete seven transportation projects. In addition, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority is ready to reimburse the county for four transportation projects worth a combined $18.8 million.
The Board is expected to request $4.215 million in matching funds from VDOT for the following projects:
- $1.45 million for rehabilitation of the Shirlington Road bridge over Four Mile Run
- $800,000 for reconfiguration of the Boundary Channel Drive/I-395 interchange
- $530,000 for sidewalks and bike lanes on S. Walter Reed Drive from Arlington Mill Drive to Four Mile Run Drive over Four Mile Run (with a $591,000 local match)
- $245,000 for sidewalks on N. Carlin Springs Road from Edison Street to Vermont Street
- $500,000 for reconstruction of the intersections of Arlington Ridge Road at S. Lang and S. Lynn Streets (with a $595,000 local match)
- $235,000 for sidewalk and crossing improvements to Pershing Drive between N. Barton and N. Piedmont Streets (with a $245,000 local match)
- $455,000 for sidewalk and crossing improvements to Military Road from Nellie Custis Drive to 38th Street N.
The NVTA, which manages the allocation of funds from last year’s HB2313 transportation funding bill, already approved the four projects for which Arlington will receive funding, but NVTA spokeswoman Kala Quintana that the project agreements have recently been reached, and the authority is finally reading to start “mailing some checks.”
The four projects: $12 million toward the Columbia Pike Multimodal Project; $4.3 million for the Boundary Channel Drive interchange; $1.5 million for significant improvements to the Crystal City Multimodal Center on 18th Street S. between Bell and Eads Streets; and $1 million to purchase four buses for the ART 43 route, to mitigate the impacts the Silver Line has had on Blue Line commuters.
“[Arlington] can submit bills for reimbursement once they start turning dirt, purchase the bus, etc.,” Quintana said. “The project list was approved last year but the Authority needed to work with the jurisdictions to create the funding agreements… We are now ready to distribute, or have distributed these dollars. All they have to do is send us the bill and we will send them the money.”
Quintana said the NVTA is beginning work on the next two years of its six-year funding plan, which will distribute an estimated $203 million in FY 2015 funds among all the jurisdictions in Northern Virginia: Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, Loudoun County, Prince William County, Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax, Manassas and Manassas Park.
The NVTA estimates Arlington will receive an additional $11.2 million in direct funding through the transportation package, which is likely to be allocated to its Transportation Capital Fund.
All of the ramps, lanes and bridges for the interchanges of Route 50, N. Courthouse Road and 10th Street N. are open and finished.
Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette, Del. Patrick Hope and local and state transportation officials were on hand to cut the ribbon on the $39 million project that has been more than a decade in the making.
“My first County Board meeting in January 1998, in the first Board packet, the design of this interchange was in that packet,” Fisette said. “Really good things take time and partnerships. Hopefully we will continue to get these types of outcomes.”
The new interchange includes two new bridges at Courthouse Road and 10th Street, each with LED-lit metal grillwork displays, although the LED lights aren’t ready to be turned on yet. It includes a left-exit from eastbound Route 50 onto N. Courthouse Road, and turning lanes from westbound Route 50 that are separated from the three lanes of fast-moving traffic.
“Everyone who drives on Arlington Blvd every single day is going to have a much better experience,” Hope said.
In addition to the new traffic patterns and LED lights, the sides of the new highway have custom-designed concrete panels. The grillwork and panels were both designed by artist Vicki Scuri. The LED lights and landscaping along the highway are the only two components of the project that are not yet finished.
The project also included new bicycle and pedestrian paths along either side of the highway, with striping for two-way travel, between N. Pershing Drive and Courthouse Road on the westbound side, and Pershing and N. Rolfe Street on the eastbound side.
“This project represents the values we hold in Arlington. it’s about safety, it’s about travel choices,” Arlington Director of Transportation Dennis Leach said. “What an incredible difference this is if you are walking or biking.”
S. Hayes Street in Pentagon City has new, protected lanes for cyclists, the first of their kind in Arlington County.
Between 15th Street S. and S. Fern Street, bike lanes are now between parking spots and the curb, giving cyclists a buffer, in the form of parked cars, from vehicular traffic on the four-lane road.
The protected lanes — on both sides of the road — are part of a pilot project that includes pedestrian and bicycle improvements along the half-mile stretch of road that runs from 15th Street to S. Eads Street, according to county Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter.
“The S. Hayes Street project is the first installation of a protected bicycle lane in Arlington County,” Baxter said in an email. “It is a part of a large effort to install connected and safe bicycle and multimodal facilities throughout the county and specifically in the Crystal City-Pentagon City area. The County continually uses opportunities in its paving program to better utilize space within the existing right of way to accommodate safer pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular activities.”
Baxter said Hayes Street was slated for re-paving, and county staff decided that the paving presented an opportunity to try the protected lane. Data has been, and will be, collected to measure usage and safety improvements between the buffered lane and the standard bike lanes in other areas of the county.
Although Hayes Street’s new bike lanes are the first in the county, more are coming, and all in Crystal City and Pentagon City. Protected bike lanes have been approved for Army Navy Drive between S. Joyce and 12th Streets and S. Clark Street between 12th and 15th Streets. The county is also in the process of community outreach for a redesigned S. Eads Street that would included some form of protected bike lanes.
The project was approved by the Arlington County Board in the 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Program. It will include a sidewalk and provide cyclists and pedestrians access from the Columbia Pike area to Pentagon City, according to county Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs Manager David Goodman.
“It was originally envisioned as a trail, but ultimately it has more value as an emergency access drive that also allows pedestrian and bicycle activity,” Goodman told ARLnow.com. “Its purpose is to provide an escape valve for getting emergency vehicles between the two sides of I-395. There really aren’t any other connections there.”
The CIP calls for the project to begin the planning phase in FY 2020, and for construction to occur in FY 2022 and 2023. The total project cost is estimated at $5.2 million, and the CIP calls for it to be paid for with state transportation funds. Goodman, who is leading the project, said the $5.2 million is a “back-of-napkin” estimate because there has been no preliminary engineering work done, but it’s possible it will cost less.
The approval in the CIP is the first concrete step toward building the path since the county received the easement for a 30-foot-wide stretch of property along the golf course in 2010. The easement was granted in exchange for zoning approval for a new clubhouse. At the time, members of the country club filed a lawsuit against the club’s leadership trying to block the path from being built.
The road will require a retaining wall because it will be at “a very steep grade,” Goodman said. It will likely have safety bollards on the entrances to block civilian motorist traffic from entering, but allowing the flow of cyclists and pedestrians.
“It’s a very steep and narrow piece of land we were given,” he said. “It’s just a leftover piece of land they were never going to use… Retaining walls are always expensive. We were asked to work with the easement we were given.”
The interchange of Route 50, N. Courthouse Road and 10th Street Road is on the verge of opening for good.
According to Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer McCord, the westbound Route 50 frontage road that gives drivers access to Courthouse Road and 10th Street is expected to open on Wednesday. The opening means all facets of the intersection — the ramps from Courthouse Road and 10th Street to Route 50 in both directions and the frontage road — will be open for traffic.
The $39 million project began construction in April 2011, and McCord said the last pieces, to be completed over the summer, will be “final punch list work that will require some daytime lane closures.” The project was originally projected to be finished by last fall, but the completion date was pushed back to this summer. Of the $39 million the project is said to have cost, Arlington County contributed $1 million and the rest came from state and federal sources.
In addition to the other changes, there will also be “a signalized ‘T’ intersection providing access from both directions of Fairfax Drive to the Courthouse Road ramp,” according to VDOT’s project page.
(Updated at 11:05 a.m.) Arlington will be rolling out a pilot program for S. Eads Street this fall that will give residents an idea of what the future of the Pentagon City/Crystal City corridor will look like for years to come.
The county has decided that the four-lane road, which runs parallel to Jefferson Davis Highway from Army Navy Drive to Four Mile Run, is unnecessarily wide, and should be changed to a three-lane road — the center lane for left turns — with increased pedestrian and bicycle amenities.
The county’s Department of Environmental Services recently released a survey asking residents which plan for S. Eads Street they prefer: a regular bike lane with a buffer and a larger parking lane, a street-level “cycle” track with a physical buffer, or a “raised cycle track” with a larger barrier less space for both parked and driving cars. The survey will be open until June 18.
“The reallocation of the available street space allows for other uses such as widened sidewalks, bicycle facilities, pedestrian median refuges, and on-street parking, all to meet the existing and future needs of S. Eads Street,” the county writes at the beginning of the survey. “This pilot program will include many elements that may be included in the final design of S. Eads Street. During the pilot, various aspects of roadway operations will be monitored, including travel times and vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic counts.”
The pilot program this fall will reduce the traffic to three lanes and institute a “protected bike facility,” as well as increased pedestrian crossings and reconfigured parking. The program will be installed between 15th Street and 23rd Street S., according to DES spokesman Eric Balliet, and most closely resemble “Option 2,” which includes the street-level cycle track. Balliet said the dimensions of the program will differ from those presented as the long-term Option 2 changes.
The Crystal City Sector Plan calls for increased density along parts of S. Eads Street closer to Army Navy Drive, which is also a part of the alignment for the Crystal City streetcar. There will be a meeting for residents to discuss their thoughts and concerns over the future of S. Eads Street on Wednesday, May 21, at 7:00 p.m. at the Aurora Highlands Community Center (735 18th Street S.).
Arlington County held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday for its multimodal improvement project in Pentagon City.
The two-year, $9 million project resulted in improved sidewalks, road crossings, bike lanes, street trees, drainage and landscaping along S. Hayes Street in front of Pentagon City mall. The project was completed nearly 6 percent under budget, with the state and federal government paying 80 percent of the final cost, according to the county.
“This project is key to Arlington’s efforts to make it easier to travel to, around or through Pentagon City, whether you are traveling by car, bus, bike or Metro,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “South Hayes is now a more complete, welcoming, accessible and safe corridor.”
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and County Board members Walter Tejada and Libby Garvey were on hand for the unveiling on Thursday.
The county’s press release about the project’s completion is below, after the jump.
(Updated at 1:10 p.m.)The concrete, brick-like crosswalks that cross Fairfax Drive in Ballston and other main roads around Arlington are susceptible to disrepair and are more costly to fix than an average sidewalk.
The crosswalks, called “pavers,” were installed by the county on VDOT roads like Fairfax Drive, Lee Highway and Columbia Pike. They were built roughly 20 years ago as part of a county project to try to construct a brick-like crosswalk without material as fragile as the clay that bricks are made from.
“When brick sidewalks in old cities were in vogue, the industry developed concrete pavers as a flexible and durable surface for sidewalks that could adapt to tree roots without cracking and looked attractive in many areas,” county Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman told ARLnow.com. “However, the heavy volumes of large vehicles such as what is typical of Fairfax Drive and most major arterials where Arlington has such crosswalks installed have made them very difficult to maintain as they’ve aged and become more prone to failure.”
Heilman said the crosswalks, like the one on N. Stuart Street crossing Fairfax Drive, captured by an ARLnow.com tipster in a state of disrepair on Tuesday, costs $20 per square foot to repair, which is four times the cost of repairing a standard concrete sidewalk.
Because of this winter’s extreme weather, the many crosswalks have been repaired with asphalt, like the ones at Lee Highway and N. Military Road and Columbia Pike at S. Walter Reed Drive. In high-density areas like Ballston that see a comparatively high volume of car and foot traffic over the crosswalks, developers and property owners contribute to the repair of the crosswalks through a county pedestrian maintenance program.
The crosswalk above, however, was repaired quickly by the county because it’s near a major transit hub. Heilman said there are 70 crosswalks with concrete pavers in the county at 35 intersections, but there are no plans to install any more in the future. Residents can report crosswalk failures to DES online.
The ramps from 10th Street to eastbound Route 50 and from N. Fairfax Drive to westbound Route 50, along with a new ramp from Courthouse Road to westbound Route 50, are scheduled to open Friday, April 25, according to Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Jennifer McCord.
The westbound frontage from Route 50 to 10th Street N. will still have barriers on it but will open a few weeks later, McCord said.
There will still be some intermittent lane closures on Route 50 until the project wraps up by July, McCord said. The $39 million interchange began construction in April 2011 and was originally scheduled to be completed by fall of 2013, but the project was delayed, apparently to make sure traffic could continue to flow on Route 50 during construction.
The Rosslyn Sector Plan update — the product of the Realize Rosslyn community planning efforts over the past 15 months – is expected to be adopted by the end of this year, but before that the County Board must hold hearings and approve a framework for the plan. That’s expected to happen next month, after the Board voted to advertise the hearings at its meeting on Tuesday.
Among the biggest changes that could be coming in Rosslyn if the plan is approved is extending 18th Street N. as a pedestrian and bike corridor through Rosslyn’s main stretches — with intersections at Nash Street, Fort Myer Drive, Moore Street and Lynn Street before connecting with N. Arlington Ridge Road — making Fort Myer Drive and Lynn Street two-way roads and removing the tunnels underneath Wilson Blvd.
In addition, the plan will call for utilizing ground floor space for uses other than retail in areas where it would be difficult for stores or restaurants to survive; revitalizing Freedom Park and implementing “active recreational opportunities” in Gateway Park; and increasing housing density in central Rosslyn.
The Realize Rosslyn panel, made up of residents, property owners and government officials, has a stated goal giving Rosslyn a “vibrant 18/7 street life.”
The proposed 18th Street N. corridor was one of the issues that generated a rift between property owners, specifically the owners of the Ames Center (1820 N. Fort Myer Drive) and Monday Properties, which owns several buildings in Rosslyn including the new, vacant 1812 N. Moore Street skyscraper.
The owners of the Ames Center, in a letter from land use attorney Tad Lunger, said Monday Properties is trying to unduly influence certain aspects of Realize Rosslyn. Lunger said the Ames Center, which houses the Art Institute, is planning on redeveloping into two buildings on either side of the planned 18th Street extension in a straight line from the current 18th Street. Monday Properties’ site plan for the redevelopment of 1401 Wilson Blvd and 1400 Key Blvd moves that alignment to the north, Lunger said.
“We are concerned that Monday Properties’ site plan application will preempt the planned alignment of 18th Street before the Rosslyn sector plan update is ever adopted,” Lunger wrote. “The Realize Rosslyn process should guide the Monday Properties site plan, not the other way around.”
Monday Properties President and COO Tim Helmig fired back at Lunger, calling the claims “accusations,” but saying “I will not comment at this time on the specific suggestions and objections in the Lunger Letter.”
“I believe it is without basis to insinuate that Monday Properties role [sic] on the Process Panel has perpetuated a conflicting proposal,” Helmig wrote in a letter to the County Board. “The efforts of Monday Properties as an applicant are in stark contrast to the unfair characterizations within the Lunger Letter.”
Flickr pool photo (top) by ddimick
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.
From 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., the ramp will be closed to traffic. It will be re-opened in time for the evening rush hour.
“Crews are completing a concrete median barrier here,” said VDOT spokeswoman Jennifer McCord. “Keep in mind it’s weather permitting… although scheduled I doubt there will be any work on Thursday this week.”
These closures are happening about a month before the ramp from eastbound Route 50 to the 10th Street N. bridge is expected to open, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation project page.
The $39 million is still projected to be completed by the middle of this year. The entire interchange will look different, with ramps to 10th Street N. and Courthouse Road from both EB and WB Route 50, and a signalized “T” intersection at Fairfax Drive and the Courthouse Road ramp.
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.
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