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
Update at 10:00 a.m. — VDOT says the change has been postponed: “Please note this new pattern has been postponed until January due to additional signal work. A new date for the shift will be announced soon.”
A new traffic pattern will be in effect at the under-construction Columbia Pike and Washington Boulevard interchange
VDOT says drivers heading eastbound on the Pike will now have a different way of getting to northbound I-395 (toward the District). Now, instead of bearing right after the light at S. Quinn Street, drivers will need to wait to turn left at the light, onto a new ramp to Washington Boulevard.
Those heading to southbound I-395 will still bear right onto the ramp after S. Quinn Street.
“Work to complete the switch will take place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday,” VDOT said in a press release. “Message signs will be in place to notify drivers of the new traffic pattern.”
“This new access is part of the $51.5 million project to replace the Washington Boulevard bridge over Columbia Pike,” the press release continued. “The project will be complete in summer 2015.”
As part of the project, the new bridge over Columbia Pike opened last month.
The bridge, which has been under construction since 2012, was built to replace the previous structure. The old bridge was built in the 1940s as part of the original Pentagon Roadway Network and had been in “poor condition,” according to VDOT.
Construction on the project is still expected to wrap up at some point in 2015, according to VDOT’s project website.
Lane closures will continue on Columbia Pike into 2014 while the new bridge is finished and the old bridge is demolished. Demolition is expected to happen as soon as January.
The Arlington County Board is expected to approve easement acquisitions to the northwest and southwest corners of the intersection at its meeting Saturday, which will allow the county to widen sidewalks and install bus shelters at the intersection.
The easement acquisition is the first step of wide-scale improvements coming to the intersection. Construction is expected to begin sometime in 2014, but there is no timeline yet, according to county Department of Environment Services spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman.
Among the changes coming to the intersection will be the installation of left-turn lanes on N. Glebe Road, four new bus shelters, and a new commercial entrance into the Rite Aid shopping center between Glebe Road and N. Albemarle Street. There will also be new streetlights, crosswalk markings and traffic signals installed.
The project is 50 percent designed and funded in partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Photo via Google Maps
The plan is to create a one mile long auxiliary lane by connecting the Washington Blvd on-ramp to the off-ramp at the Dulles Airport Access Road. Workers will also construct a new 12-foot wide shoulder with full-strength pavement capable of carrying traffic during emergencies. Today, VDOT awarded a $23 million contract for the project to The Lane Construction Corporation.
A similar project was completed in 2011, when the acceleration lane at the Fairfax Drive on-ramp was extended to the deceleration lane at the Sycamore Street off-ramp. That created a continuous lane that stretches for nearly two miles.
The improvements slated to begin next year are scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2015. A third, similar project is planned between Lee Highway and Glebe Road, but it is not yet fully funded.
VDOT will try to do most of the work overnight to minimize the impact on drivers. More details about lane closures and traffic impacts will be announced when the construction schedule is finalized.
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Flickr pool photo by J Sonder
The bridge was rebuilt as part of the $39 million Route 50/Courthouse Road/10th Street interchange project, which is expected to be complete by mid-2014. The old bridge was torn down in January, but crews made quick work of the new bridge, erecting steel beams for the span in July.
For now, the bridge is only carrying traffic from Courthouse Road to eastbound Route 50. Eventually, it will also carry traffic from eastbound Route 50 to Courthouse Road, with a traffic signal regulating traffic entering and exiting the highway.
VDOT currently anticipates opening the bridge to two-way traffic around Christmas of this year, according to spokeswoman Jeanene Harris.
Two-way traffic was originally slated to start this afternoon, following planned weekend lane striping and painting work. Instead, the conversion has been pushed back until Wednesday.
“The conversion has been delayed for 48 hours due to a scheduling conflict with our subcontractor,” Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Laura G. Smith confirmed to ARLnow.com this morning. “Work that is yet to be done includes the bicycle lane, sharrows and parking lane markings. The two-way traffic will begin at noon on Wednesday.”
The northbound HOV lanes will now close during the week at 10:00 a.m. rather than 11:00, VDOT announced, and the southbound lanes will open at noon instead of 1:00 p.m.
The change in schedule will be in effect until mid-October “to help ease southbound congestion during construction of the 95 Express Lanes, the 95 Shoulder Lane project in Prince William County, and BRAC related work in the I-395/Seminary Road area along with routine summer road maintenance,” VDOT announced in a press release.
Update on 8/5/13 — The two-way conversion has been delayed until Wednesday.
Starting Monday afternoon, another section of Crystal Drive in Crystal City will be open for two-way traffic.
This weekend, crews with the Department of Environmental Services are expected to finish the final painting and striping on Crystal Drive between 12th and 15th Street S.
The striping is the second-to-last step of the project to make the Crystal Drive corridor open to two-way traffic. The last step is waiting for Dominion Power to energize the traffic signal at S. Clark and 12th Streets. Until that happens, S. Clark and 14th Streets will remain southbound only, DES spokeswoman Laura G. Smith said.
Striping work was underway Friday afternoon and will continue through Saturday and from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday. After 4:00 p.m. Monday, DES expects the stretch of road to open for two-way traffic. Parking is prohibited on Crystal Drive and 12th Street S. while crews are painting.
The road will be closed between S. Quinn Street and S. Orme Street from 9:00 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2 to 4:00 a.m. Monday, Aug. 5, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced today. The closure is part of the ongoing Washington Blvd interchange project.
VDOT is building a new bridge for Washington Blvd over Columbia Pike, a $51.5 million project that’s expected to be completed by summer 2015. This latest closure will allow crews to place steel beams for the new bridge over the Pike. Subsequent closures will be needed during the demolition of the old bridge.
Columbia Pike traffic will be able to get around the closure by following the on-ramps to Washington Blvd to a temporary traffic signal. More detailed detour information, from VDOT:
- Columbia Pike traffic, including pedestrians and bicyclists, will be detoured around the work area to a temporary signal at Washington Boulevard.
- Northbound Washington Boulevard to westbound Columbia Pike will be detoured to Second Street South interchange and back to Columbia Pike via South Courthouse Road.
- Southbound Washington Boulevard to eastbound Columbia Pike will turn left at the temporary signal on Washington Boulevard and follow the detour back to Route 244.
- South Queen Street will be closed at its intersection with Columbia Pike.
Driving through Clarendon has become messier and is taking longer due to construction on several of the major roads in the neighborhood. It’s the latest area to be worked on as part of the annual paving program.
The affected area in Clarendon covers about five blocks — two along Wilson Blvd, two on N. Highland Street and one on N. Fillmore Street. Crews have been milling — removing the top layer of streets — and adjusting utilities as needed. Paving with two to three inches of hot-mix asphalt follows soon after, as well as line painting.
Because of the busy nature of the Clarendon neighborhood, contractors plan to do the paving portion on Sunday and Monday nights, weather permitting. Crews have been able to do the milling and utility adjustments during the day because those tasks are more flexible in terms of working around vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
Clarendon isn’t the only area getting repaved; an online map highlights in red the active paving projects throughout the county. Residents in the affected areas receive letters announcing the road work four to six week before it begins. Temporary “no parking” signs are posted along the roads and cars parked in the work areas during the restricted times will be towed.
The county’s annual paving program typically takes place between March and October because the hot-mix asphalt can only be applied in warm, dry weather. Currently, this year’s paving stands at about 87 percent complete.