Starting Monday, April 27, the Virginia Department of Transportation will close off the two lanes to make way for the next phase of work in replacing the 74-year-old bridge. Construction on the project began in March.
The lane closures are expected to last the duration of the project, which has a projected completion date of May 2018 and a price tag of $31.5 million, per VDOT.
“Drivers are advised to expect delays and use alternate routes if possible, particularly northbound during the a.m. rush hour, where drivers could experience a 10-minute delay,” VDOT said in a press release announcing the traffic shift. “Motorists are also asked to be alert to Pentagon and Virginia State Police who will help facilitate traffic movement.”
When complete, the new bridge will be wider, taller, and longer than the current one, which VDOT has deemed “structurally deficient.” It will also include a 14-foot-wide shared use path on one side and an 8-foot-wide sidewalk on the other.
Image via VDOT
Construction on the project to replace the Washington Blvd bridge over Route 110 next to the Pentagon is now underway.
The $29.5 million endeavor will replace the existing bridge — built in 1941 and now “considered structurally deficient,” according to the Virginia Department of Transportation — with a new structure that expands the shared-use path to 14-feet wide, add an 8-foot sidewalk and is longer, wider and taller than the existing bridge.
While construction has begun, traffic impacts won’t start until May.
“VDOT will maintain a minimum of two lanes in each direction on both Routes 27 and 110, other than temporary night closures to install bridge girders,” VDOT said in a press release. “Pedestrian traffic will be shifted to a temporary bridge in 2016.”
When complete, the bridge will include homages to the military, with four medallions commemorating the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. This is the second Washington Blvd bridge VDOT is replacing with a medallion-adorned new structure — just down the road, the new bridges over Columbia Pike will have medallions commemorating Arlington’s Freedman’s Village.
The new bridge was originally scheduled to start construction in 2014 and wrap up this year. VDOT has adjusted its timeline, and now expects to complete the bridge by May 2018.
Images via VDOT
Update on 2/21/15 — This project has been approved. See the county press release here.
Millions of dollars in construction work to improve the flow of traffic near the Crystal City Metro Station could begin in a matter of months.
The Arlington County Board will vote at its meeting tomorrow to award a $2.7 million contract for construction on S. Bell Street and 18th Street. The work would include building four bus bays on 18th Street S. under Jefferson-Davis Highway and converting S. Bell Street to a two-way road between 15th and 18th Streets.
The project was originally split in two — the bus bays and surrounding street improvements and converting Bell Street to a two-way road — but the county decided to consolidate to reduce construction impacts and improve coordination, according to the staff report.
The bays allow buses and shuttles to park at an angle along the street, as opposed to stacking parallel to the curb and clogging traffic.
“Construction of the transit and street improvements are important for improving safety and traffic flow in the area, as well as supporting the Crystal City Sector Plan and the [Crystal City-Potomac Yard] Transitway,” the staff report states.
If approved, construction is slated to begin in April and take about 12 months. The contract includes a 15 percent contingency — 5 percent higher than standard because of unknown complications that could come from digging up the street.
According to county Department of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet, the new bus bays are needed for hotel and employer shuttles that drop off around the Metro station. The Transitway, when fully realized, will turn northbound Crystal Drive into a dedicated bus lane during rush hour. Those shuttles currently stop and drop off passengers on Crystal Drive, and they will be temporarily moved during construction.
One lane of travel each way along 18th Street S. will remain open during construction. The contractor that won the contract, Ardent Company, submitted a $2.3 million bid, more than $800,000 less expensive than the second-place bidder in a nine-bid race. The county determined Ardent to be a responsible bidder.
In addition to the bus bays and S. Bell Street work, the construction will add to the area:
- A median under Jefferson-Davis Highway, to prevent what the county calls “prevalent” jaywalking near where the bus bays will be placed;
- Bus shelters and benches at each of the four sawtooth bays;
- Sidewalk improvements on both sides of 18th Street S.;
- Replacing the asphalt roadway with concrete to withstand increase stress from bus traffic; and
- Reconfiguring the S. Bell Street and 18th Street intersection to improve safety and circulation
The two large mounds of dirt at the Route 50-Washington Blvd interchange “aren’t going anywhere,” the Virginia Department of Transportation says.
Ellen Vogel, VDOT’s district landscape architect, told the Arlington Civic Federation last night at its monthly meeting that the twin mounds of dirt are too expensive to move.
The mounds are made up of construction debris covered in 4 feet of soil at the minimum. The debris is from the recently completed Route 50-Courthouse Road-10th Street N. interchange project. As for why the mounds never appeared in the plans for the interchange — and residents weren’t told the mounds were to become their new neighbors — Vogel said “nobody knew about it except for the construction folks on site.”
“They cost millions of dollars to move,” she said. VDOT tried to find a suitable location to dump the debris in Maryland but “they didn’t want it.”
With a dearth of landfills accepting that much dirt and debris in Northern Virginia, there are no viable options to transport the mounds, we’re told. It will stay where it is, next to the ramps from Washington Blvd to westbound Route 50 and from eastbound Route 50 to northbound Washington Blvd.
“I guess we have a new mountain in Arlington,” one Civic Federation member said. Many of the dozens in attendance laughed at Vogel’s honest answers about the new mountains’ origins and future. Some expressed concerned over environmental hazards, which Vogel dismissed.
“Most of it is fill dirt and concrete from the bridge,” Vogel said. “There are no toxins, it’s all inert material. It’s unsuitable for road construction, but it’s not unsuitable to plant in.”
The two mounds take up almost 100,000 square feet of surface area between them, and, starting in the spring, VDOT is committing to planting hundreds of trees on the site, including 24 red maples, 47 scarlet oaks and 52 Jefferson elms.
Vogel said there would be no such mounds around the under-construction Washington Blvd bridge over Columbia Pike, another VDOT project. Most of the major excavation work has been done, she said, so there’s no dirt to be piled.
On Saturday, The Arlington County Board unanimously approved $7.3 million worth of contracts to construct sidewalks on both sides of the arterial road from 38th Street N. to west of N. Glebe Road. The improvements will also install as well as curbs and gutters, traffic and pedestrian signals and stormwater upgrades.
Of the contract, $2.34 million will be coming from the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the rest will be coming from local bond funding and money from the HB 2313 transportation funding law.
“Old Dominion Drive is one of the last arterials located within a County neighborhood without sidewalks on either side,” the county said in a press release. The improvements are expected to be finished by fall 2016
The county also approved a nearly $600,000 contract for improvements around Gunston Community Center in the Long Branch Creek neighborhood. The money will go toward renovating the parking lot, outdoor basketball court and lighting. The parking lot and courts will be closed starting in March and are expected to reopen in the summer. People using the community center’s turf fields and indoor facilities will be directed to park at the adjacent Gunston Middle School parking lot.
“These two projects are prudent, timely investments in maintaining and upgrading our existing infrastructure,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes.
Photo via Google Maps
New, protected bike lanes are now in place on S. Eads Street in Crystal City.
Crews were painting the new markings early this afternoon (Thursday) and there is no parking for stretches between 15th and 23rd Streets today or tomorrow. The road is now down to three lanes — two through lanes and a center left-turn lane — and there are bike lanes on each side of the road.
Parking has been removed on the northbound side, and the parking lane has been moved away from the curb on the southbound side of the road, to protect cyclists from traffic. The lanes are being referred to as a pilot program by the county, and county staff will study traffic patterns once the lanes are fully implemented.
“The idea for the Eads Street plan is that ultimately we’d rebuild the road with new curb and gutter and new geometry,” Arlington’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs Manager David Goodman said. “We’re testing it, certainly, to confirm that Eads Street will work okay as a protected bike lane, moving the parking out and the way it interacts with transit. Making sure that it is in fact a good idea to do that there. When funding opportunities come around, we can look at making more permanent changes.”
Goodman said the “flexi-posts” in place on the S. Hayes Street protected bike lanes should be installed this month.
The posts are helpful to motorists confused about where to park their car. Cars were reportedly ticketed earlier this week for parking in the bike lane before parking was prohibited entirely. There are no signs on the stretch of road to indicate to drivers where they are allowed to park, and one Twitter commenter said “1 painted bike per block clearly not sufficient guidance.”
From 23rd Street S. to Eads Street’s terminus at S. Glebe Road, the road has also been reduced from four lanes to three to accommodate a new bike lane, but the lane will be in the traditional place between parking and traffic, Goodman said, similar to the configuration along Wilson Blvd in Clarendon.
Wilson Boulevard west of George Mason Drive will go from a four-lane road to two through lanes with a center turn lane this spring, and it’s a plan many residents who live nearby are happy with.
The plan will result in increased travel times for the stretch of Wilson that will be affected, from N. Manchester to N. Frederick Street. In addition to the lane reduction, the reconfiguration will also add bike lanes on either side of the road, which will serve a dual purpose as a buffer between the sidewalks and motor vehicles.
“Wilson Blvd is unacceptable and we all deserve better,” Chris Healey, the co-chair of the Bluemont Civic Association sidewalk safety task force, told the attendees. “That’s what we’re here to try and accomplish.”
The road restriping will occur in the spring, when that stretch of road is up in Arlington’s repaving schedule. The reconfiguration doesn’t make an impact on the county budget, but it also won’t help the state of the sidewalks, which residents and staff agreed are too narrow and too dangerous.
What will one day become Phase II of the reconfiguration will include sidewalk widening and other improvements, but Arlington Bureau Chief for Transportation and Operations Engineering Larry Marcus told ARLnow.com that those improvements are currently unfunded and have no timeline for construction.
“This isn’t a total solution, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Marcus said. “Phase II is why we’re here, to hear from people and to look over the winter and what needs to improve.”
Arlington Department of Environmental Services engineers predict that travel time will increase on the road, but only between five and 20 seconds between N. Manchester and Edison Streets each way during rush hour. The greatest concern about the change for some residents was turning off onto the cross streets. Staff predicts that those maneuvers will take as much as 35 seconds longer on some cross streets.
One resident who said he lived on N. Manchester Street, which is where the lane reduction will begin, said it will only make his street more dangerous.
“My opinion is you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he said. “You’re adding a choke point to [Manchester] which is already a cut-through. My biggest concern is already having to worry about my kids because I’ve got cars screaming back and forth between 50 and Wilson. We’re putting higher-density living spaces on Wilson Blvd and we’re trying to increase businesses in Wilson Blvd, and we’re operating on the assumption that none of those people are going to drive, which is ridiculous.
Gillian Burgess, the chair of the county’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, attended the meeting and said she was still concerned about the bike lanes, since they will have no protection from cars, and since buses will be expected to pull into them when they pick up and drop off passengers.
“The entire Wilson Blvd corridor is a huge gap in the current bicycle network,” she said. “We appreciate that that’s being recognized. As we go forward, we appreciate that there will be more bicycling accommodations, but we really need to make sure that they’re safe.”
Ed Fendley, the other co-chair on the sidewalk task force, said after all of the residents were able to talk to staff individually, the reaction was generally positive.
“The report-outs from the tables highlighted that the great majority of the comments received were in the form of positive support and constructive suggestions for improvements,” he told ARLnow.com.
The change has been advocated by the Bluemont Civic Association (BCA) for years, and the neighborhood’s representatives have posited that the lane reduction, coupled with sidewalk expansion, will make the corridor more walkable without increasing traffic congestion.
The project, which Arlington County says is in design phase with reconfiguration set for spring 2015, will reduce westbound and eastbound traffic to one lane each, while adding a center lane for left turns and bike lanes on either side of the street. The plan also calls for consolidating bus stops in this stretch to reduce possible congestion.
Currently, there are no funded plans to expand the sidewalks.
County staff is holding a general community meeting on Nov. 20, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., at Arlington Traditional School (855 N. Edison Street), to discuss the plans. The county also plans for a “robust community notification process throughout the corridor,” before the restriping and repaving work begins.
The plans to reduce the lanes on Wilson Blvd was initially recommended by the BCA’s Sidewalk Safety Task Force and supported by the BCA in October 2012. Arlington decided to incorporate the plans when it made its restriping and repaving calendar for this year.
“We are grateful that Arlington County is listening to us and working to make our ‘Main Street’ a safer and more pleasant place for all residents and visitors,” BCA President John Lau said in a press release. “Working together, the efforts of neighborhood residents and county officials have led us to this long-awaited first step for improving our neighborhood and an important Arlington corridor.”
While the county approved the requested changes to Wilson Blvd’s lane configuration, the BCA’s requests to have the power lines — with poles located on Wilson Blvd’s sidewalks — moved underground was deemed prohibitively expensive by the county. The BCA is also hoping that the improvements be extended for all of Wilson Blvd west of N. Glebe Road, something county staff said it will continue to explore.
“This is a demonstration project that will be monitored further by the County to determine whether a complete streets project — currently unfunded — is viable along the entire section of Wilson Boulevard, west of North Glebe Road,” the project website reads. “If successful, staff will continue to work with the community to develop this future potential project.”
The plan, when it was being discussed last June, received some concern for businesses located along the corridor. The sidewalk task force reported businesses were “extremely concerned” that reducing the number of lanes would “gum up traffic to the point where they would lose business.”
The BCA cited the stretch of Washington Blvd west of N. Glebe Road, which goes from four lanes to two and has higher peak traffic volume, as an example of why the Wilson Blvd proposal won’t significantly worsen traffic.
Images via Arlington County
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.).