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Accident at Dangerous Ballston Intersection

by ARLnow.com October 19, 2010 at 9:02 am 3,123 47 Comments

Police are reporting a motor vehicle accident at the intersection of Fairfax Drive and Glebe Road in Ballston. At least one person — an occupant of one of the cars — was reported to be in need of medical assistance. The emergency response may be causing some traffic issues.

The intersection and its approaches have been the scene of two serious pedestrian accidents this month. One happened in a slip lane at the intersection. Another happened before the intersection on Fairfax Drive.

No pedestrians were hurt in this morning’s crash.

Update at 1:30 p.m. — Yet another accident happened on Fairfax Drive near the intersection with Glebe Road just before 1:00 this afternoon. At least two cars were hauled away from the scene on flatbed tow trucks. One injury was reported but not confirmed.

  • TGEoA

    What is a slip lane?

    • BrownFlipFlops

      A slip lane is a separate right turn lane that’s physically separated from the other lanes by an island. In this map, you can see them curving off of Fairfax, and on to Glebe. They’re the right turn lanes, with a yield sign at the end.

      • BrownFlipFlops

        The separate turn lane is separated by the Department of Redundancy Department. Embarrassing.

    • Frenchy B

      It’s a right turn separated from the main roadway by a patch of median, and usually has a Yield sign instead of a traffic signal. They can be pretty dangerous for pedestrians b/c the lane is an extra hazard they have to cross, and many drivers speed through them.

    • shirley

      I think your point is that this is a supposedly “common term” and yet you don’t know it. This is one of the problem with Arlington Transportation Planning — they don’t use lay words their descriptions. The engineers expect everyone to understand THEIR world when in fact it should be the other way around. And therefore it would be the RIGHT TURN LANE.

  • Andrew

    I’m not sure what is so dangerous about this intersection. I run by here almost daily, and although there have been a few times I’ve had to make sure a driver sees me when I’m crossing (with the light) or in the slip lane, it is no different than any other intersection in the area.

    I would argue it is not the intersection, but the roads and the people who drive on them. I cannot recall the last time I drove around Arlington without having to use my horn because some genius was doing something dangerous and 9 times out of 10, they had their phone up to their ear or they were looking down at it.

    People are in such a damn hurry around here. And I do not think you can point to the exit ramp from 66 being a cause of accidents here as there is at least a third of a mile before the intersection and another light (by the Holiday Inn) prior to this one.

    • JamesE

      I agree, I drive through it nearly everyday and as long as you are not a terrible driver the intersection is fine. Unfortunately 95% of the people in this area are indeed terrible drivers.

      • Elizabeth

        Same here. I drove through it at 9:10am today and nothing was even backed up….
        I never think of this intersection as dangerous. Busy, but that’s it.

    • JW

      I used to run there every day, and one issue I always noticed was that cars turning left onto Glebe Rd southbound from Fairfax always blatantly run the red left-turn arrow. Even with the delayed green for cars coming from I-66, there’s often a car zooming through the red (not yellow) arrow as cars with the green have started moving.

      No idea if this was the issue this morning, but this is one of the few intersections where a red-light camera could do a LOT of good.

      • Elizabeth

        They recently installed a red light camera that covers Glebe northbound. I’m not sure if all directions are covered.

        • It only covers folks turning left from northbound Glebe toward 66.

      • G

        JW, you are absolutely right about that. I cross this intersection every day running home from work. Cars are always trying to run the red arrow even while pedestrians have started to cross. I’ve managed to get a few cars stuck in the middle as I was crossing and they were gunning it through the red light. Hopefully that taught them a lesson. Haha.

        • Call me passive aggressive or simply aggressive, but I love doing that 🙂

      • JamesE

        Not an excuse for those drivers running the red but that green arrow literally lasts about 5 seconds I don’t know why it is so short.

        • G


          • Arlingtonian

            Very true!

    • Katie

      “9 times out of 10, they had their phone up to their ear or they were looking down at it.”

      Absolutely. It’s ridiculous. You can tell the people who seem to be driving aimlessly, drifting into your lane, you can’t pass them safely, then finally you drive by them and yup–yakyakyakyakyak. Or texting. Idiots.

      • Arlingtonian

        Ugh, I hate getting stuck behind someone who’s driving 10 or 20 under the speed limit yakking.

        • JamesE

          Then they speed up as you pass them trying to block you in.

          • Lola

            Why do so many of them drive on 66?

  • Jay

    A slip lane is a road traffic lane provided at an intersection to allow vehicles to turn at the intersection without actually entering it and interfering with through traffic.

    Via: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slip_lane

  • Joe

    The perception is out about the police being lazy in Arlington.

    • RestonRunner86

      They’re not lazy. The department is just sorely understaffed, apparently, because I could sit at any given intersection in Arlington County for one 8-hour shift and write dozens of citations (actually helping to turn the department into a for-profit business) for people coming to a “rolling stop” at stop signs, people refusing to yield to pedestrians in slip lane crosswalks, cyclists not warning pedestrians before passing (and riding AGAINST traffic), people stopping in the crosswalks at red lights instead of behind the limit lines, people texting while driving, pedestrians crossing against the signal, pedestrians not crossing at intersections or at marked crosswalks, motorists speeding, motorists entering intersections to make left-hand turns when they can clearly see they won’t be able to complete that turn before their light turns red, people not using turn signals, etc., etc. For as much as we Virginians love to bash Maryland drivers I must say the ones I see in Arlington are pretty horrible overall themselves.

  • Let’s Be Free

    The evidence of danger and destruction piles higher and higher and people ignore it in favor of what they think should or ought to be.

    I have said this again and again. Wake up people. With the anti-car animus driven by the political elite in Arlington, none of the so-called “community benefits” available from the billions of dollars in development in the Ballston corridor and exactly zero percent of the tax dollars available from the commercial property tax transportation surcharge has gone into improving the flows (motor vehicle traffic, pedestrian and bike) and safety of this heavily traveled and underdesigned intersection. Same thing goes for the Randolph/Glebe intersection a few blocks south where a pedestrian was mowed down last week (which bizarrely gives preferences to traffic flow exiting a parking lot over the primary street flow from Randolph on to Glebe).

    Because the enclavists love MetroRail so much they ignore the increased vehicular traffic generated by unbounded development they say MetroRail permits, resulting in alternating gridlock and free-for-alls on the streets of Arlington. You are getting what you don’t pay for.

    • RestonRunner86

      How is this intersection “underdesigned?” I’ve NEVER had a problem here. What have I observed? HUMAN ERROR. Lots of people pull into the intersection to yield to oncoming traffic as they make an attempt to turn left when they no longer have the left-turn arrow, which means that they are then blocking the intersection and then completing their left-hand turn after their own light has turned red and after the intersecting street has the green (delaying them). I am always careful to yield the right-of-way to cyclists or pedestrians when using the slip lanes. You can’t blame the road’s “design” for people being dumb.

      • Aaron

        And that’s exactly how it should be done. After the green turn arrow ends you proceed into the intersection until it is clear to make a left. I hate hate hate everyone who sits behind the stop line when the normal light is green.

        Driver Ed I’m pretty sure will back me up on that as would traffic law. You enter the intersection and proceed when clear. Don’t sit behind the stop line, that’s like stopping at a green light RestonRunner. That’s dumb driving.

        • RestonRunner86

          Great. I’ll continue to blare my horn at those in front of me in the intersection who are still in the process of trying to complete their left-hand turns onto the opposing lanes of my street as I’m trying to proceed left or straight after my own light has already turned green. There has to be a better compromise.

        • 240gawlf

          Thank you! Where do the imbeciles around here learn to drive at? What driving school in the U.S. tells these morons to stay put behind the line and lose the light? Every piece of instruction Ive ever seen advises to proceed forward into the intersection on green, allow oncoming traffic to clear, and execute your left turn.

          • RestonRunner86

            So what happens when oncoming traffic keeps going right on through the yellow? Since when are you (and the several vehicles behind you that bully you into the intersection) then permitted to all turn left on red, obstructing intersecting traffic with the green?

        • Bill

          I believe this is true unless there is a red turn arrow prohibiting left turns. I believe that at all 4 corners of Glebe & Fairfax there are red signal arrows prohibiting left turns after the green traffic arrow allows left turning traffic.

          • Aaron

            Not correct. Only making the left from SB Glebe to Fairfax (66 ramp) is there a red arrow. Other than that, it has a green arrow to begin, then green with the rest of light. So you enter the intersection and proceed when clear, not stay behind the stop line as RestonRunner says. That is stopping on a green light and highly dangerous and stupid.

          • Aaron

            And RestonRunner, I looked up VA traffic handbook to see if I am correct and it does not say either way, but that is what I was taught in driver ed and others in my office agree with. This became a water cooler topic

      • Andrew

        Agreed. I’d love to hear how this intersection could be designed better. I get that Arlington, particularly the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor has a lot of foot traffic, but there are also a lot of cars which require a lot of lanes and large intersections.

        That being said, the vast majority of Arlington and the metro region is poorly planned in regards to roads/intersections/traffic lights, etc. I’ve never seen so many poorly timed lights, merge areas with no merge lane, yield signs that should be stops and crosswalks in the middle of nowhere with no indication that people are going to be crossing.

        • RestonRunner86

          Arlington County is light years ahead of the rest of NoVA in those regards, though. Been to Fairfax County lately? Hope you like Frogger! I actually left the office here in Tysons a little later than normal yesterday and saw business professionals scurrying like hamsters across the westbound lanes of Route 7 around 5:05 PM, hopping both sets of concrete dividers in the median (the construction crews really never considered people may want to cross Route 7 on FOOT), and then zig-zagging again at light speed across the eastbound lanes of Route 7, taking their lives in their own hands just to try to get somewhere, presumably a bus stop or their Vienna townhomes, WITHOUT a car. It was my inability to think of places like Tysons or Reston, which isn’t much better, as being “awesome” that ultimately led to my decision of moving away. NoVA deserves what it gets in 20 years when the population here is much larger while little or no planning was ever given on how to accommodate that growth. I’m still bitter that the reason why people in Tysons today are suffering as we are is because of a lack of concern 30 years ago. Now our children will be mad at us for not planning to leave the place better for THEM, too, in another 30 years.

        • Let’s Be Free

          For starters it is absurd to have only a 1940’/50’s style single pedestal signal for the two northbound left turn lanes, and no markings on the street to keep the northbound left turning traffic in their separate lanes they turn across Glebe into Fairfax Drive. To improve flows and safety the intersection needs two big overhead left turn signals northbound on Glebe that stand out in the drivers’ field of vision and aren’t lost in the visual confusion of a street level background.

          There has been mentions of issues with the right turn lanes. And given the heavy use, unusual features (in effect Glebe/FFx drive is an entrance/exit ramp for an expressway as well as at the crossroads of two heavily travlled streets) and inherent danger of this intersection, a pedestrian/bicycle bridge could have been considered, particularly when the structure could have been financed by the developers who the County can’t resist allowing to increase densities without end.

          There are probably a dozen ways that competent traffic engineers could come up to reduce the impact of Human Error and make the interesection safer. That is what competent street design is all about, because if we could always trust humans to do the right thing at the right time there wouldn’t be any need at all for signals, road markings, signage or rules of the road. Don’t play the blame game, play the fix it game.

          • Andrew

            I thought competent street design was to help improve traffic flow, not keep idiots from doing idiotic things. So if we were all perfect drivers, you wouldn’t need traffic signals? Right….

          • a’town

            Dont think a pedestrian bridge is needed here. Its more the left turns that are a problem. I think light timing here could be improved upon.

          • Bill

            Something to always remember is who controls most of the major thoroughfares in Virginia – it’s the Commonwealth of Virginia! Both Glebe Road and Fairfax Drive are both state highways, thus the state is the decision makers and the funders of these projects. And, from what I understand, no project is cheap. Installing a set of simple traffic lights may be $100K or more.

        • Nick

          One simple fix could help this intersection. Left turns on arrows only. Leave the arrow up for a couple more seconds, and then don’t allow the “hanging left” turn.

    • Arlingtonian2

      I agree with Let’s Be Free that the County has encouraged population density including those that live here and those that commute to Arlington for work and not improving the road infrastructure. A classic example is the 395N exit to Glebe Road S. Extremely dangerous back-ups exist during rush hour yet the County keeps developing apartments in the area. Not Smart Growth!

      • RestonRunner86

        It’s not just Arlington County. VDOT is spending nearly a half-billion dollars to subsidize more exurban sprawl in Gainesville by redesigning the I-66/Route 29 interchange as well as the adjacent intersection of Route 29 and Linton Hall Road. Making traffic less congested out there will encourage more people to move out there, most of whom will be driving and will create more congestion for closer-in suburbs, including potentially Arlington. Then in 30 years when Gainesville becomes oversprawled the lemmings will just pave over Warrenton and demand VDOT spends massive amounts of our tax dollars to create new infrastructure there, too. This entire state is insane with how it subsidizes poor growth!

    • Lou

      LBF, you are absolutely wrong to say no money has gone into improving this intersection. There used to be huge slip lanes on both sides of the southern part of this intersection. As the two new buildings were developed on those corners, the sidewalks were extended out and the slip lanes are now gone.

      We should be asking why the same was not done at the corner where the Kinko’s is, as should the family of the woman who lost her life there a few years back trying to navigate across the slip lane.

  • Bill

    One of the things wrong at this intersection, and most other busy ones in the entire DC region, is that pedestrians don’t look for oncoming traffic. (Remember your mother and dad telling you to look both ways before crossing the street!) I can’t tell you how times pedestrians just go on their merry way, crossing streets, without looking or knowing what’s going around them. Plus, drivers shouldn’t be in such a hurry, either. A few years ago as a pedestrian I was nearly run down by a driver who made a very fast left turn from his right lane with a car to his left who was also trying to make the turn.

  • Matt K

    I don’t like to drive at all, so I take metro 1 stop all the time. I love the metro!

  • Brian

    I’d love to see some follow up on these accidents as to whether they have any relation to the new red light camera at this intersection. Are accidents the result of people stopping short and not running the intersection?

    • Pete

      We have a winner!

  • GK

    The issue is not with the intersection, which has been like this for at least 10 years, but rather by the poor, inconsiderate, and distracted drivers (as others have suggested). Add in everyone’s insistence that they have to be somewhere yesterday and you get more than half the equation. What I will posit is another part of the theorem: our area is full of so many transient residents, from so many different cities/states/countries that there is no unified driving rhythm. It impacts the daily driving and helps explain people’s inability to drive in the snow around here. They usually aren’t native Arlingtonians/DC Metro residents. Is there anything that can be done about this? Nope. I just put it out there as an observation. Me, I long for the day that I can ride down the street on my bike (helmeted, riding in the correct direction, and following traffic rules), or drive down the road and not have to keep my fingers crossed.


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