Free Taxi Rides on St. Paddy’s Day — As part of the SoberRide program, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program will be offering free taxi rides home on Sunday (St. Patrick’s Day) from 4:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. In order to get your fare (up to $30) comped, you must call 1-800-200-TAXI to book the cab. [Washington Regional Alcohol Program]
St. Patrick’s Day in Shirlington — Restaurants and stores in Shirlington are offering a number of specials food, drink and product this weekend in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Arlington Touts Traffic Management — Despite a surge in population and employment in Arlington County since the 1970s, there has not been a corresponding significant increase in traffic levels on major county streets. According to a new blog post from the county’s Mobility Lab, Arlington County Commuter Services deserves some of the credit for that. The bureau — which operates Walk Arlington, Bike Arlington, and the Car Free Diet marketing campaign, among other “Transportation Demand Management” functions — says it kept 45,000 cars off county streets every work day in 2012. [Mobility Lab]
ACPD Officers to Participate in Bike Trek — Three Arlington County police officers will participate in the annual “Road to Hope” Law Enforcement United bicycle trek from Chesapeake, Virginia to Washington, D.C. The three day, 250-mile ride is organized “to honor the service and sacrifice of their law enforcement colleagues who have died in the line of duty” and to provide support for two law enforcement charities. [Arlington County Police Department]
The resolution, proposed by committee member Joseph Warren, was ultimately defeated by a vote of 6-5, but not before a spirited debate among committee members. Citing a county-funded alternatives analysis, streetcar opponents on the committee made their case for why enhanced bus service — including higher-capacity articulated buses and a limited number of fixed stops along the Pike between Pentagon City and the Skyline section of Fairfax County — is a better option.
“Articulated bus [is] a practical and far more cost-effective alternative than the modified streetcar,” Warren said in his resolution, which his read aloud.
“Streetcar costs range from $249-261 million compared with $39-68 million for TSM 2 [articulated bus service]. The annual operating cost for the streetcar is $25.6 million compared to $22.1 million for the for the TSM 2 articulated bus,” Warren said. ”Yet… [projected] streetcar ridership is only 4-6 percent greater than [articulated bus service].”
“Travel times of the modified streetcar and [articulated buses] are nearly identical and both operate in mixed traffic,” Warren continued. “However, since streetcars could not pass obstacles such as illegally parked cars and vehicles moving in and out of parking spaces, it is much more vulnerable to delays.”
Committee member John Antonelli, who lives along the Pike, echoed Warren’s concerns about the reliability of streetcar service.
“If we were talking about a Metro subway under Columbia Pike… my opinion on this issue would be very different than what it is today,” said Antonelli. “Instead we’re talking about a trolley on steel wheels… a system that can be brought down by ice, wind, snow… by one mis-parked car or road crew. The articulated bus won’t have all the strictures of steel wheels on steel rails. It can move around things. It can be had for a whole lot cheaper, with the same benefits.”
But committee member Franz Gimmler said helping people get from one place to another isn’t the only thing that should be considered when planning transit service. He said economic development and enhanced livability are two important benefits that will come with a Columbia Pike streetcar line, but not with enhanced bus service.
“There’s a growing recognition that transportation is not in and of itself the end,” Gimmler said. “The end is what transportation does to your community, what it provides in building a community.”
“Arlington County has been fortunate that an earlier generation of leaders had a vision for the county that led them to fight for Metrorail underneath Wilson Boulevard,” he continued. “As a result, the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor is a internationally-recognized example of the best of transit-oriented development. We are fortunate that our current leaders have learned from that transit project and have envisioned the same benefits for the Columbia Pike corridor.”
The Alliance points to the nearly-complete I-66 “spot improvement” — which added a third westbound lane between Fairfax Drive and Sycamore Street in Arlington — as evidence that the county’s stated opposition to widening I-66 is misguided.
“Drive I-66 westbound past Ballston,” the Alliance said in a recent email. “Look to your right. Behold, a new 12-foot lane! Look again. What do you see? Same sound walls. Same trees. Same houses. Same bike path. The sky didn’t fall; the earth remains on its axis.”
“What is different is that soon a major regional bottleneck will be reduced along with travel times of tens of thousands of daily morning work trips, home commutes and weekend trips of all kinds,” the email continued, calling the improvement “a baby step.”
The Alliance says that VDOT should now work to add a third lane in both directions on I-66 from Spout Run to the Dulles Toll Road. Such a move would surely draw opposition from Arlington, which tends to support transit-oriented transportation policies that discourage car use and traffic congestion. Still, the Alliance says the state should push forward despite possible “obstructionism” from Arlington.
“Our region continues to rank #1 in congestion, not for lack of regional solutions, but because localities too often oppose them and the state too often defers to localities,” the group said.
VDOT recently kicked off a study of “multimodal and corridor management solutions (operational, transit, bike, pedestrian, and highway) that can be implemented to reduce highway and transit congestion and improve overall mobility within the I-66 corridor, between I-495 and the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.”
Over the past couple of weeks, people have been noticing mysterious, concealed video cameras mounted on lamp posts along Columbia Pike.
Some residents thought they were ingenious surveillance cameras in place for the 9-11 anniversary. Others thought they were part of some shady dealings, and called police to investigate.
In reality, however, the cameras are merely being used by Arlington County to monitor traffic patterns at intersections. According to Arlington Traffic Engineering and Operations Chief Wayne Wentz:
These are video cameras that are temporarily in place to collect intersection data. The videos will be viewed in the office and technicians will create vehicle turning movement counts. These data will be used for our periodic (every three years) traffic signal optimization effort.
As of yesterday evening, three cameras were in place at the intersections of Columbia Pike and S. Courthouse Road, S. Scott Street and S. Quinn Street.
Arlington Lauded in The Atlantic — “New data from Arlington County, Virginia, provide an in-depth look at how a jurisdiction known for great planning has leveraged excellent transit service and transit-oriented development into efficient transportation performance.” [The Atlantic, CommuterPage Blog]
Renovated Aurora Hills Library Holds Open House — The newly-renovated Aurora Hills branch library will hold a grand opening next week. Residents are encouraged to attend the open house, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 24. There will be several kid-friendly activities, including face painting, balloon animals and storytime. Among the new improvements is a spruced-up lobby and wireless internet access. [Library Blog]
Drainage Pipe Work on Route 50 — Crews are reportedly working to clear a backed-up drainage pipe along Route 50. [Ode Street Tribune]
Green Candidate for School Board — Independent Green candidate Andrea Ochoa has qualified to face off against incumbent Abby Raphael in November’s school board election. The Independent Greens of Virginia web site has Ochoa’s photo but no biography. [Sun Gazette, Independent Greens of Virginia]
Flickr pool photo by Airpolonia
(Updated at 12:20 p.m.) Next week, construction is expected to begin on a number of controversial changes to Arlington Ridge Road from 23rd Street to Meade Street.
The four-week, $200,000+ construction project will eliminate a bus pull-off lane, will extend permanent curbing at the intersection of Arlington Ridge and Oakcrest Road, and will include various curb, gutter and sidewalk improvements — all in the name of improving pedestrian safety.
But one change in particular has prompted vocal protests from dozens of residents: the elimination of the slip lane from southbound Arlington Ridge Road to S. Meade Street.
The slip lane is used by residents who live in the neighborhood, and by parents dropping their children off at Oakridge Elementary School. Critics of the project — who are publishing a blog called Save Our Streets — say that eliminating the slip lane will actually make the area less safe by forcing turning traffic to stop on a steep downhill portion of Arlington Ridge Road, risking rear end collisions and making the sharp turn difficult during bad weather.
In response to a letter from the Arlington Ridge Civic Association (ARCA), which said the S. Meade Street portion of the project “is viewed as unneeded and potentially dangerous… with little or no gain for pedestrians,” county staff wrote that the elimination of the slip lane is “a major component of the project plan.”
“The existing slip lane allows vehicles to exit Arlington Ridge and enter S. Meade Street at a higher rate of speed,” staff said. “Requiring vehicles to slow to a safe maneuvering speed at the proposed singular entry site improves the safety for vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians… The necessary reduction in speed for turning vehicles under the proposed plan is also supported by the current [25 mph] speed limit on Arlington Ridge, the lowering of which was heavily supported by ARCA.”
Arlington County Director of Transportation Dennis Leach reiterated that view in a recent WUSA9 story on the Arlington Ridge changes.
“Slip lanes actually encourage traffic to speed… it creates hazards for pedestrians,” Leach said.
The plan to turn the slip lane into an expanded sidewalk and green space is consistent with other county road projects that have eliminated slip lanes, including at the intersections of N. George Mason Drive and N. Frederick Street and S. Joyce Street and 15th Street. Another slip lane — at the bottom of a steep hill on S. Walter Reed Drive at the Four Mile Run access road — is also slated for removal this summer, and at least two slip lanes at Glebe Road and Fairfax Drive are slated for elimination in the next year or two.
Do you agree with the county’s approach to eliminating most slip lanes due to safety concerns, or do you agree with the ‘Save Our Streets’ citizens who argue that eliminating (at least certain) slip lanes is unnecessary and may actually have the opposite intended effect, safety-wise?
The issue is presented as a set of two mutually-exclusive options: either continue to support transportation policies that make it easy to own and drive a car, at the expense of bike and pedestrian safety; or support policies that make it easier and safer to walk and bike, at the expense of drivers.
Yesterday on the Arlington’s Commuter Page Blog, county Commuter Services Transportation Bureau Chief Chris Hamilton lauded Europe’s pro-pedestrian and anti-car policies, which have “reduced traffic and the number of cars in cities… re-conquering space for pedestrians.”
The policies, outlined in a New York Times article, include “making it harder and more costly to park… capping the number of parking spaces in new buildings rather than providing minimums… slowing cars down and closing streets to cars altogether and creating pedestrian plazas… synchronizing signal priority for people and transit, not cars… and giving people on foot the right to cross a street anywhere they like.”
“By following these examples we can make the Washington, DC region an even greater place to live,” Hamilton concluded.
Arlington’s stated transportation policy is to focus future street improvements on facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders. One example of this in action is the the proposed improvements to the Meade Street Bridge in Rosslyn. The current plan, as outlined at a public meeting last week, calls for the addition of dedicated bicycle lanes, the conversion of a free-flowing off ramp from westbound Route 50 to a square intersection and the addition of two traffic signals on either side of the bridge
If the choice is limited to pro-car or pro-bike-and-pedestrian policies — as opposed to policies that attempt to benefit both cars and alternative transportation choices — which would you support?
For those who weren’t around in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s, the idea of Rosslyn’s “Loop Road Bridge” may seem a bit wacky. N. Lynn Street does get backed up at rush hour, but hardly enough to justify a whimsical, Disney World-esque elevated highway that ran in between skyscrapers and over existing roads, and which did nothing to alleviate traffic on the real bottleneck: the Key Bridge. At the time, however, transportation planners believed that the Loop Road Bridge was “the final piece to a road system that would reduce traffic in the Arlington high-rise district,” as Washington Post reported Charles W. Hall wrote in April 1993.
Nonetheless, after 20 years of planning, construction on the bridge abruptly stopped in 1990 when significant engineering problems were discovered. The county fired its construction contractor and a legal battle ensued. The bridge — unfinished and unfit for vehicle traffic — remained an eyesore until 1994, when the County Board finally voted to turn it into a park with the help of a developer.
Greenery, a fountain and covered dining areas were envisioned for the park. Concerts, events and food vendors were also part of the plan. Only part of the vision has materialized — Freedom Park does have planters and greenery, and is a somewhat popular destination for workers on their lunch breaks, when the weather is nice. But now, in 2011, the park can hardly be considered the vibrant destination that county leaders had hoped.
The fact that the Newseum moved from Rosslyn to D.C. in 2008 did not help matters. The museum made use of the park for some of its artifacts.
“The opportunity to create a park… is a substantial amenity for the community, and it links nicely to the Newseum, which is expected to bring millions of visitors to Arlington,” County Manager Anton Gardner told the Post in March 1994.
So far Artisphere, which opened in the Newseum space last year, has not utilized the park. More photos, after the jump.
The plan focuses on making sure that Arlington’s streets are safe and accommodating to a number of modes of transportation, including walking, biking, transit and driving.
“Arlington’s goal is to create ‘streets for people,’” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said in a statement. “Today’s action is the culmination of years of work by citizens and staff to craft County policies that will achieve our vision for ‘complete streets,’ streets that will support sustainable development and encourage healthier lifestyles.”
Under the new plan, streets will be classified into ten subgroups of arterial and local streets based on adjacent land use. The plan calls for all types of arterial streets to have a bike lane, a designated shared bike and vehicle lane or an adjacent trail. It also calls for “urban center local” streets to include a shared lane.
To improve safety, the speed limit on “downtown” streets will be reduced to 25 miles per hour. Speed limits would also be reduced in work zones. Meanwhile, pedestrian walkways will be improved through enhanced signage and high-visibility markings.
Street repaving will be done more frequently (on a 15-year cycle) and the quality of street repairs will be improved. Major streets and streets in poor condition will receive repaving priority, while streets lacking maintenance-saving improvements like gutters and curbs will be repaired instead of repaved.
Flickr pool photo by Chris Rief
(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) For some reason, a number of highway and arterial road on-ramps in Arlington County seem to have been designed with little consideration to driver safety.
Whether they’re positioned just after a bend in the highway, obstructing the view of on-coming vehicles, or whether there’s precious little room for drivers entering the highway to get up to speed with on-coming traffic — or both — we’ve picked the following four on-ramps as the most dangerous in Arlington.
We know there are others out there. Feel free to make your most dangerous on-ramp nominations in the comments section.
Ramp from Courthouse Road to westbound Route 50 — Whether it’s the big pillar to your right or the non-stop, fast-moving traffic to your left, getting on to westbound Route 50 from Courthouse Road is not an easy task. This interchange is being redesigned — but the construction workers running across the road and the dump trucks entering the highway are only adding to the problem.
Ramp from northbound Washington Blvd to westbound Route 50 — Drivers on this ramp sometimes don’t seem to know they have to yield to on-coming traffic on Route 50. If they were expecting some room to get up to speed and merge, they were mistaken. Drivers on Route 50 routinely had to get out of the way of merging traffic, causing a hazard. Plus, Route 50 bends just before the on-ramp, causing a visibility problem for drivers who stop to yield to on-coming vehicles.
This weekend the county board is expected to approve a $4 million contract that will install six miles of fiber optic line along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, Columbia Pike and Glebe Road. It’s the first phase of a long-term traffic management project that planners hope will allow more intelligent, real-time management of traffic flow in the county.
In addition to connecting 54 county traffic signals, the fiber line will add capacity for traffic management tools like traffic cameras, motorist information signs, and traffic counters.
The initial phase of the project includes four new traffic monitoring cameras, at the intersections of Washington Boulevard and Wilson Boulevard, Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive, Columbia Pike and Glebe Road, and at Glebe Road and Arlington Boulevard (Route 50). An additional 17 cameras throughout the county could be installed by the end of the year, according to Traffic Engineering and Operations Bureau Chief Wayne Wentz. The new cameras would supplement the Arlington’s existing 29 traffic cams.
The first phase of the project also includes a new motorist information sign — commonly used to relay real-time traffic information or advisories — on Route 50 at Pershing Drive. Additional signs are planned as more fiber is installed.
Through enhanced monitoring and improved communication, the fiber lines will eventually lead to a smarter traffic management system that is able to automatically change traffic signal timings to deal with unexpected changes in traffic patterns.
“Our long-term plan for our intelligent transportation system is to measure traffic in real time and adjust traffic signal timing patterns on a daily or hourly basis,” Wentz said. “It will let us do more things to deal with congestion.”
Currently, traffic signal timings are adjusted systematically every three years. Individual re-timings are conducted more frequently in response to specific complaints, Wentz added, and systems are in place to deal with specific high-traffic events like the Fourth of July or an evacuation of D.C.
In addition to traffic management applications, the fiber lines will also be used as a common network backbone for county facilities, from schools to libraries to bus depots. The traffic monitoring systems will also be of use to public safety agencies, who will be able to “monitor special events and reduce response time to incidents,” according to a staff report.
When the multi-phase project is completed, fiber optics will have replaced 52 miles of “outdated and unreliable” copper lines from the 80s, at a cost of about $20 million. Most of the project is expected to be complete by the end of 2014, Wentz said.
Flickr pool photo by pderby
New Development Planned in Virginia Square – The Dittmar Company has submitted plans for a two-tower, 500-unit apartment complex two blocks east of the Virginia Square Metro station. [TBD]
Meade Street Bridge Study Underway — Residents gathered at Arlington Temple United Methodist Church last night to discuss possible improvements to the Meade Street Bridge and adjacent intersections. County planners are looking at ways to make the bridge safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. They’re also seeking ways to improve the aesthetics of the bridge, which connects Rosslyn and North Lynn Street with the Fort Myer Heights neighborhood across Route 50. [Ode Street Tribune]
Remember the First Five Guys on Columbia Pike? — Fast-growing burger chain Five Guys is now based in Lorton, but the company has roots in Arlington. The first Five Guys opened in 1986 in the Westmark Shopping Center at the corner of Glebe Road and Columbia Pike. [Pike Town Center]
Flickr pool photo by Chris Reed
Arlington’s Land Use Plans Compared — Greater Greater Washington compares Arlington’s early General Land Use Plans from the 1960s and 1970s to maps of Arlington today. Among the interesting items: in 1964 car-happy Arlington planners wanted to create a “main street” section of Columbia Pike, with a high-speed bypass going around the commerce-heavy section and connecting to Walter Reed Drive and Glebe Road via interchange.
Streaming Classical Music from the Library — Did you know that the Arlington Public Library allows patrons to access a streaming classical music library online, no matter where they are? All you need is your library card number. The service includes more than 65,000 classical tracks. More from the Library Blog.
New Latin Restaurant Coming to Columbia Pike — A new Latin fusion restaurant and bar is coming to 3111 Columbia Pike. Fun fact: a FedEx truck crashed into the building’s front window in June. More from TBD.
Flickr pool photo by Mnemosyne2009
To be sure, the intersection at North Quincy Street and 9th Street in Ballston is challenging, for both cars and pedestrians. But is it dangerous?
The intersection is a two-way stop, with stop signs on 9th Street but clear sailing on Quincy. Those on foot crossing Quincy must trust that fast-moving cars are going to obey the law and yield to them in the crosswalk. Those behind the wheel on 9th Street during rush hour must play a real-life game of Frogger, dodging pedestrians and cars in their effort to make a left or cross the street.
“I wrote to Arlington County [a]while ago about this intersection and they mentioned that it did not need a traffic light or four-way stop,” one concerned citizen tells us. “However, it is still extremely dangerous and should have something to make it safer.”
In an email viewed by ARLnow.com, a county traffic engineer insists that “an all-way stop condition is not recommended at this location.” The engineer said a “yield to pedestrians” sign had been installed to “raise awareness of pedestrian activity at the intersection.”
“I guess someone has to get hit for them to do something,” our concerned citizen said.