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.
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.
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.
An Arlington County Sheriff’s Office vehicle struck a bicyclist this morning on the ramp from Washington Blvd to westbound Route 50.
The cyclist, named Victoria, said she was waiting to cross the ramp at the crosswalk — at which there’s a stop sign for traffic turning right onto Washington Blvd — when she and the deputy’s vehicle went at the same time. The front wheel of her bike was bent in the minor collision, but she was not transported and there was no discernible damage to the squad car.
Victoria, who works as a lifeguard at several pools in the area, said she has cycled along Washington Blvd every day for the last two-and-a-half months. Tuesday morning, she and a friend were cycling together before the accident.
“It’s always dangerous in this spot,” she told ARLnow.com. “It’s scary every time I do it.”
The intersection is routinely one of the most accident-prone in the county; in 2010, it had 113 calls for accidents in the county, almost double the second-most dangerous intersection.
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.
Updated at 4:08 p.m. — All lanes of Washington Blvd are now open to traffic.
The southbound lanes of Washington Blvd are temporarily closed near the Arlington Blvd overpass due to an accident involving a bicyclist.
Initial reports suggest the cyclist was struck by a vehicle and suffered a broken left leg. The southbound lanes are closed due to the emergency response.
Drivers should avoid the area if possible.
(Updated at 5:05 p.m. on 11/12/13) Nearly 10 months ago, workers excavated land at the corner of Washington Blvd and N. George Mason Drive to make way for a new subdivision called Lacey Lane. Shortly after the land was readied, however, the project stalled out and currently appears to be little more than a vacant lot.
In February, brothers Taylor and Milton Chamberlin of The Barrett Companies said they expected work to begin on the first model home at the site in March, with work on the second beginning shortly thereafter. They anticipated the two models would take about seven months each to build and would be ready by autumn. So far, no housing construction is visible at the site.
The land is divided into nine properties. Each plot will have a house with a base price of $1.4 million.
Calls and emails to Milton Chamberlin over the past few weeks were not returned. But Arlington County’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development (CPHD) explained where things stand from the county’s point of view.
According to CPHD, there has not been any trouble with The Barrett Companies, the delay revolves around fulfilling safety regulations in order to get a building permit. County staff found outstanding “life safety regulations” that the developer needs to fulfill before a building permit can be granted. Once the developer makes some clarifications and revisions to the permit documents, the permit can be approved.
“To say it plainly, life safety is really about making sure the buildings are safe for people to occupy,” said CPHD spokeswoman Helen Duong. “For this project, the outstanding items on this permit have more to do with the documentation of the design than concerns about the adequacy of the design itself.”
Basically, it appears the designer believed certain safety features were implied in the building plans, but they need to be explicitly included. Revisions must continue until county staff can see all the necessary safety features drawn in.
According to the CPHD permit records, The Barrett Companies first applied for a Lacey Lane building permit in January, but the plans were sent back for revision in February. This process was repeated a few times in the following months, and CPHD’s Inspection Services last rejected a version of the plan in April. No further revisions have been submitted since then.
Permit applications stay active for six months but expire if no action has been taken after that time. The current permit application for Lacey Lane has an expiration date of March 15, 2014. That date can move back another six months, however, if further actions occur, such as submitting another round of revisions.
Once CPHD Inspection Services staff approves the plan’s revisions, the developer must also get the permit approved by the Department of Environmental Services. We’re told that process typically takes place in just a few minutes.
Neighbors of an under-construction Lyon Park home are worried about who might be moving in when the renovations are complete.
The “Metal House,” at 2797 Washington Blvd, is named as such because of its modern wood-and-steel exterior. While the home’s appearance is unconventional, neighbors seem more concerned about the way the house is being marketed to potential renters.
The home features a “kegger, flip cup, corn hole-friendly yard,” according to its rental listing, below. It’s a “short stumble home from [Mister] Day’s, Spider Kelly’s, Clarendon Ballroom, Clarendon Grill, Ri Ra, etc.,” the ad continues.
Asking price for the home, which features five bedroom suites, each with its own bathroom: $7,500 per month.
“Ouch,” the ad says simply, after listing the price.
In emails, neighbors alternately called the ad “disturbing” and “rather epic,” expressing concern about the kind of tenants such a listing might attract.
“There are a lot of concerns about the legality of the renovation — neighbors don’t understand how and why the county approved a house that was formerly a single-family home be renovated in this way,” one neighbor, who didn’t want her name used, told ARLnow.com.
The home was renovated by local builder Mickey Simpson after being purchased for $460,000 in 2012. The company did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
CLARENDON (North Arlington): The METAL HOUSE. Coolest rental house in Clarendon. Construction is close to being finished. New 5 Bedroom house available from September 15 – October 1 in Clarendon. Four floors of NEW silly shiny metal contemporary/modern style. Top floor is kitchen/bar Great Room with half bath and ROOFTOP party deck. Two full-sized stainless steel refrigerators. Granite counters. 5 Bedroom Suites — * each BR Suite has a private full bath with an awesome shower* each BR Suite has a walk-in closet* each BR Suite has a full sized washer and dryer (yes, 5 washers and 5 dryers in this house). Kegger, flip cup, corn hole-friendly yard. Parking for at least 5 cars off-street. Short stumble home from Day’s, Spider Kelly’s, Clarendon Ballroom, Clarendon Grill, Ri Ra, etc. You get the idea. Oh, and its only a few blocks from the Clarendon Metro. Absolutely no pets. This is a brand new house. Rent is $7500/month. Ouch. Seeing is believing… Please email for appointment.
The developer behind the upcoming Lacey Lane subdivision in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood is giving peek at what the new area will look like once it’s developed.
The Barrett Companies, which is a business run by the Chamberlin family since the 1980s, bought the vacant property on the corner of Washington Blvd and N. George Mason Drive and had it excavated last month. The Chamberlins had been working to acquire the land for about a decade.
According to brothers Taylor and Milton Chamberlin, the goal for the Georgian style homes is for them to be an alternative to “McMansions.”
“We really take our time to design the homes to fit in the neighborhood. We’re not builders that come in and put this huge McMansion in a small neighborhood where it doesn’t fit. That’s not what we do,” said Taylor. “All of this is really thought through and it’s really livable, usable space. It’s not those McMansions where you walk in and wonder, ‘What do you do in this room?’”
The base model runs around $1.4 million and features four bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms, with the possibility of another bedroom and bathroom on an additional level. Costs will vary based on the different lot sizes and individual add-ons the purchasers want in their homes.
“We’re pretty enthusiastic about what we’re giving back to the community and what we’re providing for people who want to live there,” Taylor said. “They’re neat homes, they’re going to be well built.”
Another goal is to foster a 1950s sense of community among the owners of the nine properties, in which everybody knows and interacts with their neighbors. The homes will only be accessible via a private road and there will be a small fence around the subdivision.
“There’s a sense of community where people can interact a little bit more, but not lose their privacy,” said Milton.
The homes feature outdoor living area options — such as screened in “sleeping porches” off the second floor bedrooms or fireplaces exposed to the outdoors — which are supposed to add to the sense of community.
“While one neighbor is out grilling, you can see a couple of other neighbors hanging out on their patios,” Milton said. “You can sit and hang out and watch the kids in the backyard. It’s a very functional space.”
The brothers noted The Barrett Companies’ effort toward green building and energy efficiency. From better insulation and caulking to installing appropriate outlets in the detached garages for plugging in an electric car, the Chamberlins believe small touches make their properties stand out.
“It’s the little things that are very time consuming that a lot of builders wouldn’t want to do,” Taylor said. “All those little things add up. It makes it so much more efficient.”
A few neighbors had voiced concerns about last month’s removal of around 150 trees on the property to make way for the subdivision. But Taylor said the trees that were removed weren’t of high quality; many of them will be replaced with new trees that are native to Virginia.
“The trees that were on this site were very low quality trees per Arlington County’s grading scale. A lot had just grown wild over the years,” said Taylor. “In the process of coming back in here, we’re putting in a lot of newer, higher quality trees to grow up around the homes. I do understand the concern of neighbors around it. They’re going to see that it will be beautiful and lush and green again.”
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.
(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) An excavating crew has begun clearing land in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood where a new subdivision will be built. The space at the northeast corner of Washington Blvd and N. George Mason Drive is private property and was one of the few remaining undeveloped pieces of land in the county.
The Department of Environmental Services recently reviewed and approved dividing the property into nine residential lots. This was done as a matter of right, which means the County Board does not have to give approval if the applicant meets all requirements.
During the preliminary review and approval of the subdivision proposal, the applicant, Lacey Lane Land Company, L.C., had to send notification to all adjacent property owners as well as those across the street. The president of the neighborhood’s civic association also had to be notified, along with the neighborhood conservation representative. The notification was to inform neighbors of a possible new development in their area, and to give them a chance to speak with county staff about the proposal.
The developer had to submit design plans for the site to ensure all the development’s infrastructure would be adequately designed and built. As with any public infrastructure to be built and be turned over to the county for operation and maintenance, this one had to be guaranteed by a public improvement performance bond and agreement. The applicant also had to meet requirements in the Zoning Ordinance regarding landscaping regulations and tree removal.
Arlington County Urban Forester Vincent Verweij says the developer was sent a letter suggesting preservation for many of the 150 trees on the land. However, Verweij noted it was only a suggestion because private land owners can cut down whichever trees they choose on their own property once receiving the initial land disturbance permit for the site. He believes the excavators left about five trees on the property.
Verweij believes the remaining trees are too exposed and may be unstable in storms or on windy days.
“I fear they may fall into houses now, because a forest is much stronger than individual trees,” said Verweij. “Most of the support and strength comes from being rooted outward and that’s going to be cut significantly by these houses.”
Under the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance, the developer must preserve, or in this case re-plant, 20 percent of the trees that stood on the site. The county will not award certificates of occupancy for the homes until those standards are met.
Lacey Lane Land Company, L.C. recently applied for a construction permit for one of the homes, which will be built at 1312 N. Evergreen Street. That permit could be approved in about 30 days. The developer will have to apply for individual permits for every additional home and each will have to be reviewed by the county. Currently, there is no estimate on when the subdivision will be completed; it will depend on the developer’s timing for submitting the additional eight permits and beginning construction those houses.
Update at 4:35 p.m. — One westbound lane is now slowly getting by the scene of the water main break.
A water main break in Virginia Square is snarling traffic on Washington Blvd, and will continue to do so through the evening rush hour.
Westbound lanes of Washington Blvd have been closed between N. Kirkwood Road and N. Lincoln Street. Traffic heading eastbound has been reduced to one lane.
There’s no word when the road will re-open, but a crew will remain on the scene making repairs at least through rush hour.
(Update at 2:40 p.m.) A vehicle flipped on its side on westbound Washington Boulevard this afternoon.
The accident occurred just past noon between I-395 and Columbia Pike, near the scene of a wreck that happened last week. A red vehicle — a Ford minivan or SUV with D.C. tags — somehow flipped on its side on a downhill stretch of Washington Boulevard near the VDOT maintenance yard. Temporary jersey barriers were in place near where the accident took place, apparently for the Washington Blvd/Columbia Pike bridge project.
One occupant suffered a shoulder injury as a result of the single-vehicle accident, according to scanner traffic. A tractor trailer was stopped near the wreck, but had no apparent damage.
The stretch of Washington Boulevard was closed for about an hour but reopened around 1:15 p.m.
A D.C. taxicab somehow went up a steep embankment, ran into and partially went over a guardrail on Washington Boulevard this afternoon.
The accident happened around 1:00 p.m. on the section of Washington Boulevard between I-395 and Columbia Pike. Initial reports suggest the taxi was heading northbound from I-395 to Washington Boulevard when it ran up an embankment and into the guardrail along the southbound lanes of Washington Boulevard.
It’s unclear how the accident happened, although initial reports suggest another vehicle might have been involved in the accident; that vehicle suffered only minor damage.
The driver of the Ford Crown Victoria cab was extricated by firefighters and taken to a local hospital, according to scanner traffic. Traffic on Washington Boulevard was backed up as crews worked to remove the cab from the guardrail.