Sketches of New Courthouse Interchange Released

by April 27, 2011 at 12:52 pm 11,269 53 Comments

If you’re used to seeing the ugly, dangerous Route 50/Courthouse Road interchange, get ready for a big change. VDOT has released some sketches of what the interchange will look like by 2014.

Next month VDOT will begin work on a $39 million project to revamp the aging, confusing mess of on-ramps and off-ramps. The interchange’s bridges will be rebuilt and dedicated acceleration/deceleration lanes will be added.

For the next two an a half years, motorists can expect nightly closures of 2-3 lanes of Route 50 in both directions, as well as occasional closures of side streets and on/off ramps. VDOT says it will announce the closures in advance and provide signed detours.

VDOT will be holding a public meeting on Tuesday, May 3, to answer neighborhood questions about the project. The meeting will be held at 6:00 p.m. at the Arlington County Boardroom (2100 Clarendon Blvd).

See the full VDOT press release after the jump.

This month, the Virginia Department of Transportation begins a $39 million project to improve safety and accessibility at the congested Courthouse Road and 10th Street interchanges on Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) in Arlington County. The project will be complete in the fall of 2013.


Beginning mid-May, drivers can expect up to two of three lanes in each direction on Route 50 to be closed weeknights from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. through the interchanges.


Four future closures with signed detours are also expected over the course of the two-year project. The schedule and duration of these closures and the alternate routes will be announced well in advance:

  • Northbound ramp to Courthouse Road closed as well as tie-in of Fairfax Drive to westbound Rt. 50
  • Closure of Fairfax Drive between Courthouse Road and Scott Street
  • Closure of ramp from southbound 10th Street to eastbound Rt. 50 and Fairfax Drive
  • Detours for removal of Courthouse Rd. bridge over Rt. 50

These two interchanges, constructed in the early 1950s, are tightly spaced by today’s standards, with short acceleration lanes and insufficient capacity to accommodate current and future traffic volumes.


The project includes rebuilding the existing bridges, and improving the interchanges by adding dedicated acceleration/deceleration lanes separated from the main roadway. These new lanes will improve traffic flow by managing the merge of entering and exiting vehicles.


Additional improvements include:


  • Signalized intersections providing access from eastbound Route 50 to 10th Street and Courthouse Road
  • Ramps providing access from westbound Route 50 to 10th Street and Courthouse Road
  • A signalized “T” intersection providing access from both directions of Fairfax Drive to the Courthouse Road ramp
  • A bicycle trail added eastbound on Arlington Boulevard from Pershing Drive to Rolfe Street, and relocating and extending the westbound trail under the 10th Street bridge

The project also features a public art component consisting of custom-designed concrete panels and LED back-illuminated, patterned metal grillwork designed by artist Vicki Scuri, working with the Arlington Cultural Affairs Public Art program.


A “pardon our dust” meeting for the local community will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 3 at the Arlington County Boardroom at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard.


Flippo Construction Co., Inc. is the contractor for the project. More information on the project, including renderings, detailed traffic data and detour maps, is available at the project page on VDOT’s website here.

  • Not too many VW Microbuses running around in 2011.

    • MyHood

      The microbus was the first thing I noticed too. +1

      • Dan

        …..but there should be a peace symbol bumper sticker on the VW….

      • Ben Grande

        Well, the project was planned many, many years ago. Back then, the VW was one of the best family vehicle. Sometimes, Richmond takes some extra time to deliver. The cost back then was estimated at $10 million and guess who is paying the difference?

    • CW

      Lol…I too liked how their representative vehicles were a 335i convertible, a tour bus, an avalanche, and the microbus. The first two are spot on; the last two, not so much.

      • PL25rd

        Sadly, CW, I was t-boned by an Avalanche in Ballston last October. I’m fine (my little Honda was not), but there are a few too many enormous trucks around Arlington.

  • Scott

    Is it really that bad now that we need to make it even more dangerous for over two years just to “fix” it?

    • Glebe Roader


      • Burger

        I would guess Scott is really talking about the fact that all kinds of other constrution projects are going on in the area making traffic a complete mess. Couldn’t the interesction way until things like Constitution Ave and 66 ramp lanes be close to finish before throwing more wrenches in the works.

    • Skeptical

      Yes yes yes.

  • Dubai

    Sometimes I wish we could build things like this in 2 weeks like they do in Dubai, sigh.

    • CW

      Well, import a couple million laborers from India, put them up in some shantytowns (south arlington maybe?) and you can!

      • Overgrown Bush

        If you were to round up the folks standing around all the 7-Elevens in Northern VA and pay them $10/hour you could get quite a few hands cheap to make some progress. B

    • MB

      We’re not so much into slave labor (well, not lately).

      • dynaroo

        Just have to bust a few unions first…

    • R. Griffon


  • PCity

    The top two pictures have both sides of the road (i.e. all four lanes) of the road going the same way…did I miss something???

    • Scott

      Yeah I noticed that too. I was trying to decide if the ramp was between the lanes of traffic (and thus not seen). I’m inconclusive based on the few photos shown.

    • CW

      No. Those are just the westbound lanes on the lower elevation. This picture, not linked on this article, shows it better:

      I believe the idea is to have the through lanes (the left two) and then have one local “acceleration” lane as they call it with ramps feeding in, instead of short ramps having to merge into full-speed through traffic. That’s just what I’ve surmised from a very quick look though.

      • PhilL

        I count 5 lanes in each direction. Is anyone on the County Board aware they are widening 50 and not even providing carpool lanes! Where is the environmental impact study and lawsuit!

        • Thes

          It’s only “spot widening”.

  • Lacey Forest

    I wish they’d extend on down and fix the ramp from Washington Blvd WB to Rt. 50 WB.

    And yes, the 45 y.o. VW van was the first thing I noticed in the renderings.

    • I love it. It has windows on the roof and what appears to be a rag top sunroof.

    • Kirk

      They should also fix the very dangerous Washington Blvd./Rt. 50/2nd St. South area.

  • KalashniKEV

    For a real improvement, they need to tear down those sketchy buildings near the bottom of the hill and replace them with “less affordable” housing.

    • Elizabeth

      Heyyyy! I used to live there and they were lovely and affordabl…oh, I see. Yeah, they gotta go.

      (winky emoticon)

      • KalashniKEV

        How many years ago could those horrible slum buildings be described as “lovely???”

        (On a side note, I’m sure Mr. SoCo absolutely loves them because they’re not made out of wood!)

    • MDP

      ARLnow needs a “Like” button so I can apply it to this comment.

  • wava_2

    This is way over-designed, and fairly ugly in my opinion. What’s wrong with a simple, minimalist freeway ramp. There is beauty in honest, and unadorned concrete construction. And the quality of the renderings are horrible. I have a feeling that VDOT’s engineers tried to do some in-house design work best left to other professionals.

  • Thomas

    Just a site comment… When I click on the pictures for more detail, the image blow-up is layered under banner ad…probably wasn’t intented.

    Happens in Chrome 11 and IE 9.

    • Thomas,
      Thank you for your feedback. We’re aware of this issue and working to correct it.

  • abc

    These renders have no sense of scale & proportion plus the photoshop skills are lacking too. Unfortunately, it seems that most previous comments are mainly based on some random car rather than street planning and theory.
    I have more to say but rather stay in S. Arlington. (CW!)

  • TuesdaysChild

    “The project also features a public art component consisting of custom-designed concrete panels and LED back-illuminated, patterned metal grillwork designed by artist Vicki Scuri, working with the Arlington Cultural Affairs Public Art program.”

    For an overpass? Public art?

    • PhilL

      I would call 10 lanes of highway through Arlington beautiful public art all by itself. If they want to dress up the bridges with lights that’s just a bonus.

    • Burger

      Art! absolutely, where else would the graffiti go?

  • wava_2

    Nothing against artists. But this is a project better left to an architect working with engineers. Otherwise, keep it simple and unadorned. I’m afraid that the Glebe Rd bridge replacement will be similarly over-designed.

  • Jo

    . . . . or an ugly distraction . . . .

  • OX4

    They can do whatever they want as long as they don’t hang God-awful post-modern oil paintings under the bridge like in Crystal City *shudder*

  • wava_2

    Pure engineering, no fanciful, gratuitous art.

    If VDOT wants to get fancy, sponsor a design competition open to teams of architects and engineers. No more silly art projects.

    • OX4

      Is that a postcard from Dallas?

  • wava_2

    I don’t mean to disparage artists, who often work with other designers like architects, lighting designers, and landscape architects. But artists by themselves should not be hired to “pretty up” basic infrastructure. The result is most often kitschy.

    And the light feature will look terrible when parts of it will inevitably fail to illuminate at some point in the future.

    For an example of poor bridge design, in the photo is a model of the “crazy basket bridge” as nicknamed by the Curbed blog. It will span a freeway in LA. It was unfortunately designed by an artist without the input of more suitable design professionals. A waste of money.

  • Tre

    The trees in the median will be missed. This new design has concrete jungle written all over it. blah.

  • ArlForester

    I will miss playing chicken with the cars coming eastbound on to Courthouse Rd while I try to enter the lanes they just left. Are they doing anything about the left lane entry on to 50 from 10th St? That one is fun too.

    • NotChrisZimmerman

      Eastbound traffic will also have “local” or service lanes, on the left side of the through lanes (i.e. middle of the road) and elevated. From Courthouse Road or 10th St, headed east, you’ll still turn left but into slower traffic, not directly into the fast lanes.

  • Arlingtron

    It’s nice to have renderings to visualize the finished project but I searched and could not find ANY diagram of the completed intersections. Lots of before diagrams, written descriptions, rendered photos, but nothing about how the lanes, signals, and roadways will be configured as viewed from above.

    I am glad there will be access from east 50 to 10th St. Should relieve some of the local traffic on my residential street which is a popular cut-through route to the Clarendon/Courthouse area.

  • PhilL

    One thing the renderings do not show is the potential sound barrier mentioned in the Categorical Exclusion to the Environmental Impact Study. Noise abatement barrier may be required on the west side from Court House Rd to Rolfe, between 9 and 24 feet high. It also says the proposed right of way does not seem to have enough room to erect the barrier if it is later determined it is needed.

    And @Arlingtron, if you look at the VDOT project page and click on the Proposed 2032 Interchange Traffic Volume Data link, you can kind of see the configuration of the new collector-distributor lanes and the signalized T-intersections for 10th and for Court House.

  • Chris Wiz

    The map of the project is tremendously useless. Come on, man!

  • MDP

    I couldn’t tell by looking at the sketches, but under the new design are they going to maintain the nonsensical fork on Courthouse Rd, such that if you are driving on court house rd. toward 50 you have veer right to turn left onto 50 (eastbound on 50) and veer left to turn right onto 50 (westbound on 50)?? This design is so backwards.


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