The National Weather Service has placed Arlington under a Winter Storm Warning, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has declared a state of emergency and the latest weather models from the Capital Weather Gang predicts 5-10 inches of snow for the immediate D.C. region by the end of the day Thursday, with 4-8 inches falling by 7:00 a.m.
WMATA has already announced that late-night bus service — after 1:00 a.m. — tonight has been cancelled and MetroAccess service for the disabled has been suspended tomorrow.
The county’s transit agencies, ART and STAR, will “continue to provide normal scheduled services as conditions permit.” The agencies will update their websites and send out alerts if and when service needs to be reduced or suspended.
County and state crews are already pre-treating the roads as predictions come in for not only heavy snow, but sleet and freezing rain in the morning on Thursday.
“The County’s snow crews and Office of Emergency Management are gearing up, and residents and businesses should, too,” Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a press release. “If you don’t have to drive during this storm, which is expected to be the most significant we’ve had this winter, please stay off the roads and let crews do their work. Check on neighbors who are housebound.”
The county is asking residents to move their cars off the street where possible, or to “coordinate with your neighbors and/or civic association to move all cars to one side of the street,” since plows need 15 feet to plow a road. If there is a power outage or trees down, the county is asking residents to use their website to report weather-related issues.
VDOT says that by midnight, more than 4,000 trucks will be stationed in Northern Virginia, ready to plow state-maintained highways and streets, like I-66, I-395 and Route 50.
No closures have been announced yet for school or the government — county and federal — but residents should continue to check throughout the night once the snow begins to fall.
Arlington is also reminding residents of the county’s snow removal ordinance.
The County’s Snow Removal Ordinance requires all Arlington property owners to clear snow and ice from public sidewalks adjacent to their property within a designated time period. The ordinance also prohibits transferring or depositing snow and ice from private property onto public property. Individual homeowners who are physically incapable of complying with the Ordinance are exempt. Visit the County website for more information on the Snow Removal Ordinance. Remember to clear snow from cars and sidewalks into the adjacent yard, not the street.
Residents can use the “Report a Snow Issue” form 24 hours after snowfall has stopped to report snow removal issues or areas that need attention. County staffers monitor the requests, but are unable to respond to every message.
Update at 4:20 p.m. – Arlington County has announced all facilities and programs, including those in schools, will close tonight at 9:00 p.m. The status for school tomorrow remains undetermined.
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.
“We called in a team today to hook up our trucks with chains, spreaders and plows,” said Shannon Whalen McDaniel, spokeswoman for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services. “We will also brine the roads throughout the night in preparation.”
VDOT, meanwhile, said “crews are pre-treating roads aggressively throughout Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties today.”
“Crews will be out in force overnight and through the duration of the storm, treating icy roads and plowing snow,” VDOT said in a press release. “While VDOT is in full preparation mode, motorists are urged to make sure their vehicles are in proper driving condition for winter weather and have emergency kits. During the storm, motorists should avoid driving on the roads.”
WMATA says it will start the Tuesday on a normal weekday Metrorail and bus schedule, but may reduce rail service and suspend bus service later in the day as conditions deteriorate. MetroAccess service has been suspended for all of Tuesday.
“For your safety, travel only if necessary,” Metro said in an advisory. “If you must travel, plan to arrive at your destination before the worst of the storm, and be prepared to remain there until the storm passes. Check wmata.com before starting your trip or sign up for MetroAlerts to receive updated service information by email or text message.”
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 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.
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.
The Virginia Department of Transportation announced that a detour will be in effect from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 27 and 28. Drivers will exit onto 14th Street, which becomes 15th Street, turn right at Courthouse Road, left at Wilson Boulevard, left at N. Barton Street, left at 10th Street back to westbound Route 50.
The road closure will allow VDOT crews to erect steel beams for the new Courthouse Road bridge. The old bridge was torn down in January as part of the $39 million Route 50/Courthouse Road/10th Street interchange project.
The project is expected to be completed in mid-2014, VDOT said.
Hot Car Mom Released from Jail – Zoraida Magali Conde Hernandez, who’s accused of fatally locking her 8-month-old son in a hot car earlier this month, was released from jail yesterday afternoon after being granted a $25,000 bond. Police say Conde Hernandez accidentally left the baby in her car for 6 hours while she went to work. NBC4 reports that she works at the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. [NBC Washington]
More Money for Paving in Virginia — More money is available for VDOT’s summer paving effort this year thanks to new transportation taxes. The planned repaving includes 90 lane miles of interstate highways and 79 miles of primary roads. Arlington is one of two Virginia counties that doesn’t rely on VDOT for maintenance of secondary roads. [Sun Gazette]
Library Group to Hold ‘Great Gatsby’ Ball — The group Friends of the Arlington Public Library will be holding a 1920s-themed “Great Gatsby” ball at Artisphere on Sept. 28. The event will raise money for the library’s early literacy initiatives. [Arlington Public Library]
Photo by Katie Pyzyk. Hat tip to Peter Golkin.
The County Board may decide to decrease speed limits on a number of roads throughout Arlington, including the main thoroughfares from Rosslyn to Clarendon. Board members are scheduled to take up the issue at their meeting on Saturday (July 13).
The Department of Environmental Services conducted studies to examine the viability of changing speed limits on several streets. Information was gathered regarding factors such as vehicle speeds, collisions, traffic volumes, pedestrian and bicyclist activity and development patterns. Studies were performed in the following areas: N. Meade Street from Arlington Blvd to Marshall Drive (formerly Jackson Avenue), Clarendon Blvd from Washington Blvd to N. Oak Street, Wilson Blvd from Route 110 to Washington Blvd, and N. Sycamore Street from Washington Blvd to 17th Street N. and N. Roosevelt Street from 17th Street N. to the county line.
The studies indicated that speed limits along N. Meade Street, Clarendon Blvd and Wilson Blvd could be decreased from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour. The N. Sycamore Street/N. Roosevelt Street studies indicated the speed limit could be lowered from 35 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour.
Arlington’s Master Transportation Plan includes a policy to design streets with lower vehicle speeds without impeding or diverting traffic. Part of that involves adopting a 25 mile per hour speed limit in the county’s “downtown” areas where pedestrian traffic is high, such as along Wilson Blvd and Clarendon Blvd.
The Board also has been asked to authorize the correction of speed limit discrepancies along parts of I-395 and I-66. According to VDOT records, the speed in the regular lanes of I-395 from Alexandria to D.C. is 55 miles per hour. The county code, however, was recently discovered to list a portion of the segment as 35 miles per hour, and that the entire segment is 55 miles per hour. There is a similar discrepancy between county code and VDOT records regarding the HOV lanes. Additionally, the county code does not include speed limits for I-66, but VDOT lists the limits at 45 miles per hour and 55 miles per hour, depending on the section in question.
County staff members recommend Board approval for the speed limit discrepancy corrections and for decreasing the speeds along the four stretches of county roads.
The cost of installing new speed limit signs to reflect the changes is estimated to be $5,000. Funds are available in the Fiscal Year 2014 Department of Environmental Services Transportation Engineering and Operations operating budget.
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and County Board Chair Walter Tejada announced Wednesday that the state, county and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority are looking into leasing the air rights above I-66 near the East Falls Church and Rosslyn Metro stations in order to generate additional revenues for transportation improvements.
“By leasing airspace above certain transportation facilities owned by the Commonwealth, we can better utilize our existing infrastructure to generate additional revenues to fund future transportation improvements, while at the same time attracting new jobs and economic development,” McDonnell said in a statement. “Additionally, by co-locating these potential developments around existing Metro stations and other major transportation facilities, we can reduce congestion and create more livable communities.”
From the press release:
Air rights development projects have proven a successful revenue generator in other parts of the United States. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation, for example, generated $40 million in FY 2011 through leases, with long-term lease income projected at $868 million. Further, earlier this year MassDOT awarded a contract for an additional air rights project through a 99-year lease that will generate $18.5 million (net present value) in rental payments.
“Virginia has long been a leader in partnering with the private sector to advance innovative solutions to our transportation infrastructure needs,” said Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton. “The potential development of these air rights presents a unique opportunity to attract additional private sector investment to the Commonwealth and better utilize our existing assets to fund future transportation projects.”
Arlington County is currently undertaking a review of the Rosslyn Sector Plan. As part of that process, development over I-66 in the northern and eastern edges of the Rosslyn Metro Station area can be evaluated. While there are no existing mixed-use development rights over the I-66 right-of-way at either Rosslyn or the East Falls Church Metro Station location, the East Falls Church Area Plan currently supports mixed use development on VDOT and WMATA’s property next to I-66.
Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada emphasized, “It is important to involve our residents, businesses and developers in this conversation about air rights. We will ensure that any potential transit-orientated development using these air rights in Arlington County is consistent with our community’s vision and is consistent with the County’s land use and transportation plans.”
The state has issued a Request for Information to gauge private sector interest and feasibility. Following the RFI, the county, various state agencies and WMATA will weigh in on assessing how the air rights would match up with the planned development for the communities. The state will then issue a Request for Proposals in the fall, according to the governor’s office.
The Rosslyn project has a suggested location adjacent to the Lynn Street overpass, but staff of the state Office of Public-Private Partnerships said it would consider other areas of I-66 in Rosslyn if those were deemed feasible.
At East Falls Church, the area of I-66 between Sycamore Street and Route 29, including the Metro parking lot to the north, is the targeted area.
One man’s palatial homeless camp near Rosslyn took VDOT crews five hours to tear down using heavy machinery and numerous dump trucks, WJLA reported.
The camp, located in the woods along the path that leads from the Mt. Vernon Trail to N. Lynn Street, near the Key Bridge, was about half the size of a football field. The camp was reportedly the work of one El Salvadoran immigrant, who spent years building it, eventually adding a makeshift kitchen, bedroom, and living room.
VDOT crews with bulldozers and heavy machinery spent hours tearing the camp down on Monday, after complaints from some passersby, according to WJLA.
The filming of a big Hollywood movie will temporarily close the Roosevelt Bridge on Sunday.
The closures are scheduled from 8:20 to 9:10 a.m., and again from 1:00 to 1:30 p.m. From the D.C. film office:
On Sunday, May 5 there will be intermittent closing of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge to allow for the filming of a major motion picture set in the District. MPTD has negotiated an agreement with the DC Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Virginia Department of Transportation, Arlington Police and the National Park Service to close the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.
The Theodore Roosevelt Bridge plays an integral role in the storyline. Aerial photography will be used to capture various angels (sic) of the bridge. While in the nation’s capital the production company will film other iconic sites.
VDOT is advising drivers to take alternate routes.
Drivers accessing the bridge from Virginia via I-66, Route 50 or the George Washington Parkway will be detoured. Virginia motorists heading into D.C. from I-66 have three options:
- Take I-66 East to Route 110 to the 14th Street Bridge (this is the official detour motorists can follow).
- Take I-66 East to Exit 73/Lee Highway to the Key Bridge.
- Take I-66 East to Exit 72 to Spout Run Parkway to George Washington Parkway to the Memorial Bridge.
Motorists heading from D.C. to I-66 can use the same options in reverse.
During the closures, message signs on I-66 as far west as Centreville will advise motorists to use alternate routes.
Virginia State Police, Arlington County Police, and U.S. Park Service Police will be stationed at various traffic control points on Route 50, I-66 and the GW Parkway.
VDOT traffic engineers anticipate that the 8:20 a.m. shut down will create 15-minute delays and the 1 p.m. closure will create 30-minute delays.
While neither agency specified which movie is being filmed, ComicBookMovie.com speculates that the closures are for the filming of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a new superhero movie that’s set in D.C.
Hat tip to @shticksstickler
The $39 million Route 50/Courthouse Road/10th Street interchange project is apparently running behind schedule.
The project was originally slated for completion this fall but, in a new county-produced video, Greg Emanuel, Director of Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services, says the project is now slated to be complete by the summer of 2014.
“It’s a multi-phased project,” Emanuel said in the video (above.) “It takes some time, because while it’s going on we need to maintain traffic.”
Arlington is contributing $1 million to the $39 million cost of the VDOT-led project. Construction started in April 2011. Recent work includes a realignment of the ramp from Courthouse Road to westbound Route 50, and the January demolition of the bridge from eastbound Route 50 to Courthouse Road.
The Courthouse Road bridge, and the 10th Street bridge that was torn down last year, were both originally built in 1954. No word yet on when they’ll be rebuilt, given the change in the project timeline.
Emanuel says the project will make the interchange safer and will help traffic flow more smoothly.
“Right now traffic is kind of complicated at these intersections,” he said. “This is going to provide new acceleration and deceleration lanes, and make it much safer for the traveling public that’s coming on and off these intersections.”
So far representatives from VDOT and DES have not responded to a request for comment.
The hearing will be held from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at the VDOT Arlington headquarters at 1426 Columbia Pike. The project manager, Edwin Woo, is also soliciting comments via email for the next three weeks.
The bridge, which was built in 1941 and carries 3 lanes of traffic in each direction, is structurally deficient, according to VDOT. The replacement will be widened by 9 feet, to 105 feet, to accommodate an 14-foot shared use path and an 8-foot sidewalk on either side of the bridge — an improvement over the existing, narrow concrete sidewalks.
The bridge will also be lengthened, to 485 feet, and will also allow a slightly higher clearance: 16 feet 6 inches compared to 15 feet 4 inches. It will still carry three vehicle travel lanes in each direction.
Construction on the $20 million project is tentatively expected to start in 2014 and wrap up in 2015. At least two traffic lanes will be maintained on Washington Boulevard and Route 110 during the duration of the project, with the exception of some temporary nighttime closures, according to VDOT.
The bridge carries more than 100,000 vehicles per day, VDOT figures suggest.