Trees to Be Added to Narrower Pentagon City Street

by ARLnow.com February 25, 2011 at 11:03 am 6,162 52 Comments

Newly-narrowed South Joyce Street in Pentagon City is losing a few parking spaces to make way for trees.

Over the winter, crews narrowed the portion of Joyce Street from 15th Street to 16th Street. A sidewalk was added to the side of the road facing Virginia Highlands Park, and the width of the street was reduced from 40 feet to about 35 feet.

The changes were intended as traffic calming measures. Narrower streets, the county says, encourage drivers to slow down.

To slow traffic down even more, Arlington has added six car-length planters — three on either side of the street. Trees will be planted in the planters, which each take up what was once a parking space.

“They serve to visually narrow the roadway on a very long stretch that is not interrupted by intersections,” said Traffic Engineering and Operations Bureau Chief Wayne Wentz.

Wentz said that while one side of the street has cars parked on it throughout the day, the other side sometimes lacks parked cars. The empty parking spaces, in turn, make the street appear wider and result in people speeding up. The planters, Wentz said, will do the job of calming traffic even when parked cars aren’t present.

Wentz noted that the roadwork actually added two parking spots to South Joyce Street, so the net loss of parking is only four spots. But one resident worried that park-goers may soon be forced to leave their cars in the adjacent neighborhood.

“Those barriers on the side take up parking spots that fill up quickly during softball season!” said the resident. “I live at South Joyce and 20th and you can bet neighbors will be complaining about increased parking in their neighborhood.”

The construction was paid for by money set aside by the developer of the nearby Pentagon Row shops.

“The changes to Joyce Street were actually development conditions of Pentagon Row,” Wentz said.

Wentz expects the trees to be planted by mid-April. The county’s arborist will decide which type of tree will be planted. In addition to the six planters on the side of the road, road crews also added a planter in the middle of the road at a pedestrian crossing.

  • Chris

    We have an arborist? Rock.

  • darren

    I live in the neighborhood (19th and Joyce), and LOVE the changes. Constraining parking is a good thing, perhaps park users will take advantage of adjacent metro and bikeshare access. While I’m not thrilled about the prospect of more softball BMWs roving my neighborhood, we don’t own the street parking.

    If park parking is so important, I would absolutely support taking a lane from the overbuilt 15th/Joyce

    • local

      You can own the street parking partially, with permit parking.

      • Southeast Ben

        Being a softball player who plays over there…It’s already a problem. Limited parking becomes more limited at the time from 745-815 as games end/begin at that time…thus prompting people to sprawl to the neighborhoods. I would like continue being able to park somewhat close to the parks I enjoy.

        • FrenchyB

          I’ve never parked in the spaces closest to the field, even when they were available – seen way to many cars get hit by foul balls there.

  • Thirsty

    It’s a shame the county won’t follow this same traffic calming policy on Four Mile Run.

    • Bender

      They did.

      • Thirsty

        Only between George Mason and Columbia Pike. They county has refused to narrow or extend parking between Walter Reed and George Mason.

        • Sean

          Nor should they. S Four Mile Run Dr is an artery. it should be 2 lanes from Shirlington Road to Columbia Pike

          • Thirsty

            “should be” but it isn’t:
            Two lanes westbound, Shirlington Rd to Geo. Mason. One lane westbound Geo. Mason to Columbia Pike.
            One lane eastbound Columbia Pike to Barcroft Tennis Courts. Two lanes eastbound tennis courts to Shirlington Rd.

    • G


  • BrownFlipFlops

    Softball season is going to be a challenge for the people in the surrounding neighborhoods, no doubt about it. Maybe that’s just life, but parked cars will be shifted that way, for sure.

    • BrownFlipFlops

      Having said that, and after reading Darren’s comment, there’s also no denying that people drive TOO FAST on that stretch right now. Maybe this will slow ’em down a little bit.

  • Arlwhenever

    That’s Arlington for you, let’s make it difficult for people to recreate. What a wonderful place!

    • local

      Only in America would someone complain that its harder to recreate because he doesn’t have a place to park his car.

      • Arlwhenever

        That is a ridiculous statement, tell me that I’m going to put my kids on a bike down driving down the crowded Arlington Streets or pay 10 to 15 bucks for my family round trip on a bike to get to recreation facilities. Arlington is full of narrow-minded dweebs who assume everyone is young, single, healthy, and affluent with supple bones to survive bike crashes, unlimited time, and no competing interests or responsibilities. Grow up and recognize that there are real people in Arlington with real lives and stop trying to force everyone to live one way according to your prescribed lifestyle.

        • JD32

          Who are you to say that your life is more ‘real’ than local’s?

        • local

          I didn’t tell you to do any of that though. I said what I said. It’s sad that Americans don’t have more recreation options that don’t involve getting in cars first.

          I’m not sure why you think all Arlington streets are unsafe for bikes or you have to pay $15 to ride a bike though.

          The point of traffic calming is to make the streets safer, by the way. While, as you said, Arlington may be making it harder to recreate with a car, it’s making it easier to recreate without one.

        • Lacy Forest

          I bike quite a bit in Arlington and I’ve never had to pay $10 or $15. What’s the charge for?

          • local

            Maybe he thinks bikes need gas.

          • OX4

            Maybe some guy is standing on a street corner taking money for an “Arlington Bike Parking Fee.”

          • Bluemont John

            I think he meant to say it costs a family $10 or $15 “on the Metro,” which is the roundtrip fare for a family. I do agree that Metro is not usable for everyone–especially on the weekends, when you have to wait 14 minutes for a train.

            I don’t know what the best solution here was, but it does seem illogical to remove parking where there is high demand.

  • Softball BMW’s? Wow how things have changed — when I wuz a kid in the Bronx, we played hardball (softball = blech) and we took the Pelham Parkway Bus.

    • Southeast Ben

      The BMW drivers are the ones that hit pops or fail to get the ball out of the infield.

      I drive a truck and hit frozen ropes.

    • Overgrown Bush

      I spent some time in the Bronx as a child and we used to play in the street with a broomstick and a Spaulding Spauldeen.

  • mkjinva

    I am conflicted about the changes. It seems like a poorly placed traffic calming island. It would have been better to place a circle at Joyce and 16th. Once the cars navigate the island, they accelerate down Joyce to the 18th St stopsign and vice-versa. But, that being said, I am glad that they did something.
    If you live in our neighborhood, the closer you are to the ballparks, the bigger the problem is with parking. The softball season is long. Not everyone has a driveway. If you are trying to unload your groceries, kids, etc, you may have to park up to a block away. I wish they could do something about the parking. People looking for spots has a lot to do with traffic calming also (imho) 🙂

    • MyHood

      I don’t know, I think it is kind of working. What would work even better would be to add a stop sign at 16th and Joyce to prevent the post-island speed up to the stop sign at 18th. That said, this goes a long way toward slowing down the idiots who used from 15th to 18th on Joyce as a speedway through to 23rd Street.

      • local

        The county engineers have a bias against using stop signs only to slow traffic. I don’t know why.

        • SoCo Resident

          As a veteran of two traffic calming committees, I can tell you that experts, not just the county engineers, don’t think stop signs or speed bumps “calm” traffic. Rather, when after a car leaves a stop sign or speed bump, it speeds up, so that its overall speed on a block is higher. So, narrowing, nubs and small rotaries have been used for calming purposes. We have a speed bump on our street and nightly watch the cars zoom out after the bump. Read up on this if you don’t believe me.

    • Sean

      This is a bad move. There was nothing wrong with S Joyce St the way it was. I think the assertions by the Traffic Engineering Representative are erroneous. I think this project was a waste of taxpayer money.

      • FrenchyB

        Per the article above, it was paid for by the Pentagon Row developer, not taxpayers:

        “The construction was paid for by money set aside by the developer of the nearby Pentagon Row shops”

  • Brian

    I thought of this when initially reading the headline and the fact that it’s part of the Pentagon Row development makes it clear. It;s a ploy to drive more people into the private Row lot with 24-hour meters and always heavily congested. Whenever I went to that shopping center, I always parked on that very street.

    • cj

      When Pentagon Row was approved, the developers were required to set aside funds to remedy any traffic impacts on that stretch of Joyce St. leading into the neighborhood. So yes, part of the purpose is to “drive” more shoppers into the Row parking where they should be. The only problem with this project is that it’s taken so long.

  • Bender

    **Narrower streets, the county says, encourage drivers to slow down**

    How do narrow streets and visual obstructions encourage drivers to slow down?

    • local

      You can’t figure that one out yourself?

      Drive around some local streets.

      • Bender

        No, I can’t figure out the logic of it myself. Explain it to me.

        Does it go something like this — narrower streets increases the risk of hitting parked cars and, to decrease that danger, people will slow down?

        Is that the thinking here? Is that the logic? By INCREASING the danger, it somehow makes it safer???

        • A Resident

          Drivers instinctively slow down when driving on narrower streets. Slower speeds mean more reaction time when necessary, and when accidents do occur they are less likely to kill people or cause significant vehicular damage.

          Here’s one study, but there are others out there.

          • Bender

            That’s what I said. They instinctively slow down out of fear of hitting someone because of the increased danger due to the narrowness of the road.

            Driving 25 mph — the speed limit on a residential street — is perfectly safe on a properly sized street, but narrowing that road can make driving the legal speed dangerous.

            Again, I do not understand this twisted logic of riskier = safer.

          • Thes

            It’s not about logic. It’s about data. Speed is the killer, much more than any other factor. If you lower speed, you make the road safer. Period. Drivers who think they are safe speed up, and create hazards. Some communities have gone so far as to rip traffic signals out of intersections, with the measured result that deaths and injuries go down.

    • BallstonDude

      Look at Military Rd. They placed these medians in the middle of the road creating a huge hazard. Then they didn’t place a sign for over a month showing there were medians, causing cars to hit it.

      Then when it snowed, they plowed the snow up the the front of each median, blocking half of each traffic lane forcing everyone to drive in the bike lanes.

      • Neathridge

        Interesting … can just see the next big storm and the plows not knowing the islands are there!

  • South Arlington Homeowner

    Waste of money. The island is poorly placed and actually quite shocking to see when you drive up to it, particularly at night.

  • BigSpender

    Wow, I used to live over there in the Ashley Riverhouse and that parking was just about the only “free” spot in the area to park. Leave it to Arlington County to AGAIN justify spending with backwards thinking. If you want to slow cars down use speed bumps. If you want to create less traffic, widen other existing roads, time your stop lights better, repave. In the case of Arlington, to do all these things, increase meter revenue and make it look like they care about your safety, narrow the roads and add trees to it? It is in fact possible to make congested areas safe for pedestrians. Arlington is such a joke.

    • Bender

      But the “experts” know better. They are too smart to have need of commonsense. These are the types that say we need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on “green” initiatives in order to save a few thousand dollars in increased energy efficiency.

      You ought to have a greater appreciation for these pointy-headed maroons.

      • Touche’

        No no no, you have it all wrong. It’s blog commenters who know better than the people who actually spend their lives studying this sort of thing.

        • Thes


        • BigSpender

          No, blog commenters merely take the brunt of all the governments mal informed decisions. Its a political game plain and simple, and Arlington is the WORST at it.

  • Drive-by Comment

    Only a net 4 spaces are lost, so it’s not like an entire garage is going to be dumping into the neighborhoods now.

    From my experience, the best traffic calming device is photo enforcement. Most people using this street are there frequently – it’s not really a thoroughfare, right? You start getting speeding tickets in the mail and it changes behavior quickly.

  • Chris Kobar

    I have lived in the neighborhood (River House) for 11 years and have personally never encountered any real “speeders” along that (actually) short length of road. To be straight, the only time I have ever worried about danger while driving/walking along that road is NOW, since the work.

    First, the narrower road is NOT making drivers slow to a crawl. I’ve already seen a few (rare) drivers whip by, almost enjoying the new “race course” obstacles. That is more dangerous to all.

    Second, given the great number of park-goers who park there, the frequency of doors opening and people on the street-side of cars means that instead of being able to drive a bit further from the parked cars to ensure pedestrian safety, there is now almost no room and so everyone is a greater danger, regardless of how much slower or not one drives.

    Third, the big island that now exists in the center of the road is not, as theorized, making things safer. On the contrary, in actual practice, it is making things much worse. This is because of two real-world situations that the planners seem to have overlooked. First, the island is directly in front of two driveways at River House 1600, which means road drivers must now drive much closer to any cars that may be heading out of those driveways, increasing the likelihood of a collision. Worse, despite the posted NO PARKING sign a good 75 feet in front of the island, every single day I have driven down that road since the work I have noticed that cars continue to park all the way up to the very island. This means that it is very dangerous navigating around the island. While I certainly blame the illegal parkers, the County should have considered this and should be enforcing the NO PARKING zone vigorously, at least for a time so that people will realize that the rules have changed.

    In short, in all my years in the neighborhood, I cannot fathom any sound rationale for the construction. I wonder if it merely took a few neighborhood “squeaky wheels” to clamor about dangerous speeders (that don’t really exist) to cause all these changes. Were the road a real traffic hazard, I — who drives there, jogs there, lives there — would have certainly supported such a cause long ago.

    Bad decision.

  • Chris Kobar

    As already said, simple speed bumps and a traffic camera would have been perfect. Trees? There are already trees along the road. And the island really is a death-trap that will cause accidents, probably to the innocent. And if speed is a real danger, why isn’t this kind of thing being done along S. Joyce Street IN FRONT OF Pentagon Row. THAT is where all the speeding occurs, right in front of that popular plaza where lots of people cross the street.

    I would ask that the work be undone and a smarter solution be introduced next time.

  • Les

    Because of the islands, it really is a nuisance to get in and out of 1600 S Joyce ST (River House), which is not a small building. Wish they would have told me about that when I moved in on Feb. Probably will move out because of that. It is a shame because it is a nice building.


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