Arlington is moving forward with a bike trail along Washington Blvd and has moved the placement of the trail to save trees.
The trail is expected to cost about $1.7 million, according to county Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel, but it has not been put out to bid yet. The trail has been approved and in planning stages for years, but its initial path would have necessitated digging up hundreds of mature trees.
This Saturday, the Arlington County Board is likely to approve a realignment of the trail to put it closer to Towers Park and S. Rolfe Street, north of Columbia Pike. If approved, the county would pay $8,000 to the federal government to acquire the easement for the trail. The trail will then be put out to bid. Construction is expected to begin next year and end by summer 2015.
Phase I of the trail has already been built, between Route 50 and S. Walter Reed Drive, according to the county staff report. The trail segment in question would run from Walter Reed Drive to S. Rolfe Street and Columbia Pike. The trail is being built to “provide a new opportunity for persons in the southeastern part of Arlington to bicycle, walk or run on a route apart from motor vehicle traffic,” according to the staff report.
Waiting for approvals from the Virginia Department of Transportation has delayed the project, McDaniel said. VDOT controls the space adjacent to Washington Blvd where a large part of the trail will be built.
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.”
(Updated at 7:50 p.m.) The effects of last week’s winter storm were felt by one group of commuters for days following the last snowflake.
The inconvenience of traveling in the cold and sometimes icy conditions proved not only difficult for those traveling by car, but also for local cyclists. At Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting, resident Gillian Burgess expressed her concerns about clearing bike trails after snow storms occur in the area.
“We only have one car, and we have lots of bikes,” Burgess said. “Unfortunately, it’s not safe to take most of these bikes onto the trails in the state that they’re in. So I leave the car with my kids because I want them to be the safest, and instead I’m left with the choice of biking on very busy streets that are not safe.”
“My husband and I first moved to Arlington years ago because we wanted to live the car-light lifestyle,” she continued. “Now we have two kids and one car, and we love it. And most of the time we love mostly biking and walking around Arlington. Unfortunately after it snows we don’t have that luxury. We have found that both after the storm in December and currently, trails do not get cleared.”
According to county Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel, the county does not have dedicated resources for clearing ice and snow from its shared-use trails.
“Staff have been collaborating this past year to find a viable solution to clear these trails,” McDaniel said in an email. “The Department of Parks and Recreation has made an effort to handle snow clearing on trails after addressing other priorities such as snow clearing for several County buildings, routes to schools and Metro rail stations, as well as assisting in the clearing of streets and walkways at other locations.”
Board Chairman Jay Fisette agreed that the county has encouraged walking and biking to get around — the “car-free diet” — and he said Burgess’ concerns were understandable.
“We have heard over time, increasingly the question about bike trails – and it’s a natural one because we’re promoting walking and cycling,” he said. “It makes complete sense that we [are getting] more questions from those who have drunk the Kool-Aid and participate in that culture and maybe even got rid of that car so that they can bike and walk and use transit more frequently.”
Tim Kelley, the marketing manager for Bike Arlington, wrote in Bike Arlington’s forums that the county’s 25 bike counters on its shared-use trails register “a big dip in usage during and in the days following a big snow storm.”
Fisette, who mentioned he is a cyclist himself, remains “unresolved” on the issue.
“I have probably the full range of questions about this as anyone would, you know, about resources, about prioritization, about effectiveness and the environmental impact,” Fisette said. “So I would just say that from my perspective, to have some sort of coherent input from [County Manager Barbara Donnellan] thinking about… what the options are for Board consideration might make sense.”
Ethan Rothstein contributed to this report. Photo (top) via Bike Arlington.
Officials at Joint Base Ft. Myer-Henderson Hall announced last week that yesterday, Monday, the trail, which runs from the Old Post Chapel to McNair Road’s intersection with Marshall Drive, would be closed.
The trail is closing to accommodate the expansion of Arlington National Cemetery with its “Millennium Project.” Besides the closure of the trail, more than 700 trees are set to be removed for the cemetery expansion, a plan that rankled local activists when the expansion was discussed in March.
The $82 million expansion is expected to add in-ground and above ground burial locations, columbarium space, committal shelters and infrastructure to support it. It will take over a parcel of undeveloped land next to Ft. Myer. The expansion is needed, according to cemetery officials, because the cemetery could run out of burial space within 12 years.
A new jogging path to replace the closed one is expected to be constructed after the project’s completion in spring 2016.
Photo via Google Maps
A portion of the trail near the junction with the Mt. Vernon Trail will close during the day in order to demolish a bridge overhead. Closures will be in place from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, and 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays. The trail will be open on Sundays.
The Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) notes that a detour will be in place for ADA compliance, but it may not be the best option for some trail users, such as bikers. The detour diverts traffic off of the trail and onto the west sidewalk of Jefferson Davis Highway, then across the highway at the S. Glebe Road signal. Those using the detour can reconnect with the trail farther east via new switchback ramps.
Funeral for Arlington Firefighter Injured on 9/11 — A funeral will be held today for an Arlington firefighter who was a first responder on 9/11. Phillip McKee III suffered a severe leg injury while battling fires at the Pentagon following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack. He also inhaled toxic dust and later suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. His family says McKee, 41, died from complications from those injuries. McKee, who held degrees from Yale and Harvard, was openly gay and is survived by his husband and partner of 15 years. [Washington Blade]
County Officials: No Subsidies for Gov’t Agencies — With the county still reeling from the impending loss of the National Science Foundation, Arlington officials are sticking to their guns and saying that offering tax breaks and other financial incentives to lure federal agencies is bad policy. Arlington Economic Development Director Terry Holzheimer is pushing for the General Services Administration to disclose additional information related to the decision to move the NSF to Alexandria by 2017. “None of it makes any sense,” Holzheimer said of the decision and its impact to other government tenants in Ballston. [Washington Business Journal]
Bluemont Trail Improvements – Arlington County crews will be widening a section of the Bluemont Trail between Buchanan Street and the Ballston Holiday Inn this month. Crews will also be removing obstructions and landscaping around the trail. [Bike Arlington]
SUPERNOVA Photos — Dozens of artists invaded public spaces in Rosslyn over the weekend for the SUPERNOVA Performance Art Festival. Some of the artists and their performances can be seen in a series of photos published the the Ode Street Tribune blog.
Democratic Primary Today — Democrats will go to the polls today in Virginia to vote in the primary for lieutenant governor and attorney general. Among the candidates is Arlington resident Aneesh Chopra, who’s running for lieutenant governor. Polls will remain open in Arlington from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. [Arlington County]
The attack happened around 11:00 a.m. According to new details released by police, a woman was walking down the trail in the area of Glencarlyn Park when a man approached her from behind. He motioned for the woman to get off the trail and walk into the woods, police said, but she refused and screamed for help.
The man then used a knife to stab the victim three times in the neck, said Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. Other trail users heard the woman’s screams but the man fled the scene on foot before help arrived.
The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries. She remained alert and was able to talk to officers before being transported to the trauma center at Inova Fairfax Hospital, Sternbeck said.
“The suspect is described as a white Hispanic male in his 20’s, approximately 4’8” tall and 130 lbs,” according to the police report. “He was wearing a yellow Polo shirt and dark pants.”
Police plan to talk to the victim today in an effort to get a fuller description of the suspect, possibly for the creation of a composite sketch. Sternbeck said the incident “was a very brazen attack on a Saturday morning,” and a reminder that trail users should always remain alert.
“First and foremost, be aware of your surroundings,” he said. “If you are going to go on the trail, invite a friend to go with you. It’s very rare that we see an attack on the trail where the victim is with a companion or a group. The majority of times they’re attacking a woman who’s alone.”
Earlier this year the Arlington County Police Department produced a video that details a number of safety tips for users of local trails.
Woman Attacked on Four Mile Run Trail — A man with a knife attacked a woman who was walking alone on the Four Mile Run Trail on Saturday morning. The woman suffered “minor, non-life threatening” injures. The suspect is still at large. [WJLA, NBC Washington]
Yorktown Falls in Soccer Championship — The Yorktown High School girls’ soccer team lost 2-1 to Chantilly in the Northern Region championship game on Friday. The team, which finished regional play with a 20-2 record, will still continue to the state tournament. The first round game will take place on Tuesday at Battlefield High School. [Sun Gazette]
ACPD Officers Honored for Fighting Car Theft — Three Arlington County Police officers have received state Law Enforcement Officer Awards for their work in helping to fight car theft. “LEO Award winners are selected by judges from the insurance industry, partnering law enforcement agencies and the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles for their exemplary actions related to Intelligence, Prevention, Enforcement and Recoveries in fighting the crime of vehicle theft,” police said in a press release. [Arlington County]
Examiner Skewers Board for Signature Bailout — The Arlington County Board “blindsided” taxpayers by approving a $250,000 bailout for Signature Theatre during a closed session, according to a Washington Examiner editorial. “Other financially struggling artistic venues have to scale back productions, sublease space or launch pledge drives when money gets tight,” the Examiner editorial board wrote. “But Signature Theatre has friends in high places who apparently believe it’s too fabulous to fail, county taxpayers be damned.” [Washington Examiner]
Photo by MJordanRomero
This weekend, the Arlington County Board is expected to approve an agreement with VDOT to design a trail connector from the Four Mile Run Trail to Potomac Avenue in Arlington. Potomac Avenue runs from Crystal City to the shops and new residential developments in the Potomac Yard section of Alexandria.
Currently, the Four Mile Run Trail connects with the west side of Route 1. One would then have to cross the busy thoroughfare to get to Potomac Yard. A steep, informal dirt path that connects directly from the trail to Potomac Avenue also exists, but can be difficult to climb.
County officials say the new trail connection will be accessible to those with disabilities.
“The trail connection will provide an ADA compliant multi-use trail connection between the Potomac Yard development on the north side of Four Mile Run (Arlington County) and the Four Mile Run Trail which is also on the north side of Four Mile Run (Arlington County),” wrote Shannon Whalen McDaniel, spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services. “The new trail connection will replace a informal dirt pathway (goat path) that currently exists along the steep embankment between Potomac Yard and the Four Mile Run Trail.”
The design and engineering for the new trail connection is projected to cost $250,000. Of that, $190,000 will come from federal funds and $60,000 will come from Arlington County. The actual construction of the trail connector hasn’t been funded yet, but is expected to be complete no later than 2016. No construction date has been set.
Image via Google Maps
Undocumented W-L Valedictorian “Still Kind of Scared” — This year’s Washington-Lee High School valedictorian, 17-year-old Nataly Montano, is one of the young people impacted by President Obama’s recent policy decision to pull back on the deportation of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. Montano, a 4.3 GPA student, says she is “still kind of scared sometimes because things could happen to get me deported.” [Sun Gazette]
New Washington Blvd Trail to Impact Trees — A new trail extension planned for Washington Boulevard between Columbia Pike and Route 50 will result in the removal of “about 350 trees.” The plan has, on some level, pitted bicycle advocates against tree huggers, according to a blog post. [Commuter Page Blog]
‘Tapping Party’ Tonight in Shirlington — Capital City Brewing Company in Shirlington Village is hosting a “tapping party” tonight (Tuesday) for one of its newest beers, a Rye IPA. “Medium to full bodied, the Rye IPA (6.5% ABV) is an American style IPA made with the addition of Rye malt that lends a spice to the flavor profile and then dry hopped with American style hops,” according to a press release. The event starts at 7:00 p.m. and will include a question and answer session with the brewmasters, a free appetizer buffet and a trivia contest. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Flickr pool photo by Maryva2
Investigators say the incident happened along the trail while it was still light outside – between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. The woman, 23, was jogging by trail mile marker 44, near Glencarlyn park, when a man, whom she had seen along the trail earlier, stopped her. He took out a 6-inch kitchen knife, dragged her into some tall vegetation, and took off her clothes and underwear, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
At one point the woman tried to run away but the attacker restrained her and threatened her with the knife, Sternbeck said. After the man was done sexually assaulting the victim, she ran home and drove herself to the hospital. Hospital staff called police at 8:49 p.m. In addition to the injuries from the sexual assault, the woman also sustained scratches to her wrists, Sternbeck said.
The man is described as a clean-shaven Hispanic male, between 5’5″ and 5’6″, 140 pounds, about 30 years of age. He had short black hair and brown eyes. The victim said he had a small head, a high-pitched voice, spoke limited English, and was wearing a green shirt that might have said George Mason University on it.
The victim has been an Arlington resident for 6 months, Sternbeck said.
Anyone with information about the suspect or the crime is encouraged to contact Detective Greg Sloan at 703-228-4198 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resident Warns of Bollards on Trails — Local cycling advocate Steve Offutt told the Arlington County Board over the weekend that bollards — posts put at the entrance to a trail to keep cars out — are posing a hazard to bicyclists and other trail users. “In the last few weeks, numerous bollards have been installed on trails in the County,” Offutt said. “I would… like to recommend that the Board instruct staff to remove the bollards that have been recently installed until such policy is in place.” [CommuterPage Blog, Sun Gazette]
James Hunter Park Improvements Approved — On Saturday the County Board approved a $1.46 million contract for a series of improvements to a dog park near Clarendon. New park features will include a plaza terrace, open lawn, demonstration gardens, water feature, improved community canine area, and a solar-powered irrigation system to reduce water usage. [Arlington County]
Columbia Pike Improvements Approved — Also on Saturday, the Arlington County Board approved a $5.7 million contract for utility undergrounding and streetscape improvements on a stretch of Columbia Pike. Work on the project is expected to begin in July. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Alex
Local Deer Population Growing — The local population of white-tailed deer is on the rise and having an impact on plant life in Arlington County, according to a county naturalist. “Shrubs like spicebush and pawpaw are becoming much more abundant at the expense of things like wild azaleas, oaks, cedars and American euonymus,” said naturalist Alonso Abugattas. [Sun Gazette]
New Trail Signs Installed — New “wayfinding” signs were recently installed along bike and pedestrian routes throughout the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. The signs are intended to make it easier to navigate to one’s destination, but sometimes can be unintentionally confusing. [Greater Greater Washington]
Arlington Civil War Shirts Available — The Arlington Plaza Library at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard in Courthouse is selling a t-shirt commemorating the Civil War sesquicentennial in Arlington. The Arlington Civil War 150 t-shirts are offered in three different colors for $10 apiece. [Arlington Public Library]
Flickr pool photo by Damiec
Bicyclists hoping for a new way to get from Columbia Pike to Pentagon City without having to navigate the tricky eastern end of the Pike will have to keep waiting. A plan to build a bike and pedestrian path from the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive is still on hold until additional engineering plans and project funding can be procured.
In June 2010, the Arlington County Board approved a plan for Army Navy County Club to build a new four-story clubhouse. As part of the approval process, the club agreed to grant the county an easement which would allow a 30-foot-wide emergency access road and bike/pedestrian path to be built from S. Queen Street, near Hoffman-Boston Elementary, to the I-395 underpass that leads from Army Navy Drive to the club.
The primary motivation for the new road, county officials emphasized, is a need for more north-south connections across I-395 for emergency vehicles.
“There are very few places along the 395 corridor in Arlington where we actually have an underpass, or a way to get from one site of the highway to another without going through an interchange,” says Arlington County Director of Transportation Dennis Leach. “So it’s incredibly valuable…. for emergency response purposes.”
As a side benefit, though, Leach said the path will be “a real benefit to the community” in terms of providing better access for cyclists and pedestrians.
Despite the positives, the project hasn’t gone very far. First, Leach says, more detailed engineering plans need to be drawn up. Then funding needs to be procured through the county’s Capital Improvement Plan and bond referendum process. An early engineering study, conducted in 2010, suggested that the project would require very high retaining walls to compensate for the steep hill the access facility must run along. The cost of such a construction project was expected to exceed $3 million, we’re told.
Leach declined to speculate as to when the access road might eventually be built. He also declined to comment about a 2010 lawsuit filed by disgruntled members of Army Navy Country Club who objected to a bike path being built along one of the holes at their golf course.
A call to Army Navy Country Club for comment was not returned. The club’s then-general manager, who wrote a letter to the editor in support of the emergency access and bike path in 2010, is no longer employed at the club, according to a woman who answered the phone there.