High Grass Makes Tricky Merge Even Trickier

by ARLnow.com October 25, 2011 at 9:30 am 4,053 44 Comments

The tricky merge from eastbound Columbia Pike to northbound Washington Boulevard has been made even trickier recently due to high grass.

The merge, which lacks an acceleration lane to get up to the speed of fast-moving traffic on Washington Boulevard, has been the scene of numerous fender benders. While it was still hard for drivers to see oncoming traffic when the grass was mowed, cab drivers tell us that it’s now even harder.

Luckily, the entire interchange is slated for replacement by 2015.

  • drax

    Grass is stupid. Just plant some ground cover that doesn’t grow high and doesn’t need mowing and doesn’t require paying someone to spew pollution in the air to mow it every few weeks.

    • Zoning Victim

      Yeah, I agree. Does anybody know what would work for that around here? I’d like to replace my crummy lawn with something like that because I agree with you; grass, with all of its maintenance and water requirements, is stupid.

      • St. Augustine

        It’s acutally not that bad. We get so much rain here, you can easily get away with not watering–or fertilizing, etc. If you’re worried about the environmental effects of mowing, electrics are great.

        You could plant flowering shrubs in rows, with a walkway going through all of them.

        • Zoning Victim

          I never water (except for my vegetable garden when we don’t get enough rain) or fertilize, so my lawn looks terrible. It’s all dandelions, clover and even some bare patches with some awful looking grass in between. I’m probably going to end up doing something like that if I can’t find a better solution, but it’s really expensive versus having something that will just provide ground cover without any fuss.

          • drax

            Use something appropriate for the situation. A native plant is usually best because it is adapted for our area – not going to die, not going to grow out of control. If you have shade, plant something that likes shade (not grass!) Make sure your soil is right, and if not, condition it first.

            These things, along with not having to mow, could make for a much nicer and much easier to handle landscape.

          • Carl

            Do you have any species in mind that are native and will not die or grow out of control or grow taller than grass?

          • drax

            There are lots of options depending on shade vs. sun, etc. that you have, plus if you want to walk on it, etc. I know people in shady areas who have all-moss “lawns” that can be walked on and look great. You can put down things like thyme or creeping flox that work a bit like grass too.

            This company makes it easy to find just the right plant for the right spot:


          • St Augustine


          • St. Augustine

            If you rip out all the stuff that’s there and re-seed, you’ll have decent grass. This is a good time of year to do it. (You do have to pull up weeds with any lawn, though.)

          • drax

            But then you’ll end up with more grass. Grass sucks, remember?

            And you won’t have good grass just by ripping and seeding if your soil is bad, which is probably why your lawn is a crap hole in the first place, other than the fact that it is made of grass, which sucks.

          • St Augustine

            Evidently, you’re in the minority, because most people have grass in their front lawn. It looks good, feels good, and in this part of the country is not hard to maintain. This isn’t Arizona or Texas. And most alternatives look like crap–a big mess of random ugly plants.

      • drax


        I use native plants only. Some of these are exotics.

        You don’ t have to completely replace all grass – beds with groundcover and shrubs can take up alot of space with a little grass in between.

        • Zoning Victim

          This will help, thanks…

          • drax

            Look for native plant sales in the spring for more abundant and cheaper natives to buy.

    • JimPB

      Drax speaks my mind.

      • drax

        It will only take another 100 years or so for government to figure it out.

    • R. Griffon

      Agreed, but one thing you might consider: I bought a mechanical “reel mower” last year and LOVE IT. No gas, no pollution … not even electricity or chords to worry about. And you know what? It’s actually BETTER for your lawn b/c it actually cuts the grass rather than rip it like deck mowers do.

      And the very best part? It’s almost completely silent, so I’d go out and mow my lawn during the cool first-light hours in the sweltering heat of summer when my neighbors were asleep and barely even broke a sweat. 🙂

      There are many available, but this is the one I got (from Home Depot) and have been very happy with:


  • Andrew

    The whole DC metro area is full of terrible merge points. The one here is not even a merge, it is a yield.

    • NPGMBR

      Yeah this one is definitely one of the worst. I rarely have to use it and always try to avoid it but every time I do im typically sitting there for a good while waiting for the people in front of me to find a safe time to merge.

  • CW

    The high grass is really, really dangerous where the pedestrian path crosses the off-ramp from 50 westbound onto Fairfax drive at Queen Stret. When I’m on the pedestrian path, I can hardly see traffic on 50, which is usually flying down that off-ramp at 60 mph.

  • JamesE

    The one on the other side of the road in that photo is far more terrible. The 395 S exit and Columbia Pike merges in the same lane, atrocious design.

    • Andrew

      Agree. People coming from Columbia Pike seem to not understand what yield means…

      • DarkHeart

        It’s really interesting when you are trying merge from Col Pike onto SB Wash to get to 110 N.

  • These interchanges were designed and built for a much lower car base than we have now. Time to be changed, and get rid of the grass please.

  • Jim Webster

    Maybe if the antitax nitwits in Richmond would fund adequate transportation, VDOT could afford to mow more frequently (or, as suggested, plant something that grows more slowly).

  • Free Marketeer

    Sounds like folks are insinuating that SOCIALISM is the answer. It is NOT. If the grass needs to be mowed a PRIVATE citizen or business will mow it.

    If nobody mows it, it proves that the FREE MARKET does not VALUE short grass in that median.

    And if multiple accidents cause multiple injuries or even deaths, it is fine. THE INVISIBLE HAND WILLS IT SO!

    • Josh S

      The Free Marketeer, brought to you by FREDTERP.

    • drax

      Agreed! No socialism! Simply put a toll booth on that median, with a guy and a lawnmower next to it. Any consumer who wants lower grass can put money in the toll and get it mowed. So much more rational.

  • Arlwhenver

    We’ve had a foot of rain in the last month and a half. The grass loves it, and has grown way beyond what is normal for the last cut of the season.

  • Virginia no-merge land

    Back in the day, I learned that merge meant that cars could weave two lanes of traffic into one. Then I moved to Virginia where “merge” is the same as a dead end street except cars are flying along at 50 mph. I do not know why VDOT will not replace its “merge” areas with stop signs.

    Also, there is a science to highway grass. Highway grass scientist work to develop grasses that grown only to a certain height and no more. I wonder if VDOT uses that type of grass seed or if it stuck with a 1950’s mentality.

    Rather than whining about a highway problem, why not look up the name and email address for the VDOT people responsible for repairs/maintenance and letting them know of the problem. Local government does not work because magic ferries fly around looking for problems to fix. Simple emails (or online forms) usually cause a situation to be fixed within a short amount of time.

    • madisonmanor

      The problem is that you are dealing with two entities who probably don’t talk much to each other. Arlington County ‘owns’ Columbia Pike, and is responsible for all the maintenance, while VDOT has responsibility for Washington Blvd.
      Based on continuing complaints about the state of disrepair of the road surface of the Pike, I’m not holding my breath that the County will do anything about it soon.

  • Nostradamus

    can we get some taxi driver confessions or quotes or are we going to be left to wonder?

    • Smitty

      “It’s very hard to merge, see around the high grass, and grope my passenger at 3 a.m.”

  • Swag

    Pretty sure back when VDOT started cutting funds for mowing a few years ago, they mentioned that there would be a way to report areas like this that needed to be mowed.

    Anyone feel like some googling?

  • Flying Spaghetti Monster

    The same thing happens in Shirlington when the grass grows high. Why will nature not conform to our needs?

    • Noodlelicious

      Ramen, Brother!

  • PhilT


    Crews will continue to address areas along all roads as needed where vegetation may limit the sight distance of drivers, cyclists or pedestrians. Citizens are encouraged to report any roadside vegetation causing sight distance issues by filling out VDOT’s online maintenance request form at http://www.virginiadot.org or by calling 800-367-7623 (ROAD). TTY users, call 711.

  • CW

    Nice discussion of grass above and big thanks for the mowing hotline number. If this thread were on Greater Greater Washington, all the comments would be about how that merge needs a sidewalk and crosswalk and about how the photographer “endangered the public” by taking the picture.

    • Josh S

      Plus there would be a link to a book written by a U of Vermont professor on how grassy medians are an unfair subsidy to the driving class.

  • #

    This thread makes me want to go back to work.

  • Relaxing not mowing

    Pearl’s Premium available at HomeDepot online.

    It’s grass, but does not grow tall and does not need water. Unlike regular turf, Pearl’s Premium grows roots 12+ plus inches so that it becomes a permanent plant, not just a temporary grass that needs constant attention.

    Free’s up my time not having to attend to my yard.

    • drax

      Cool, thanks for the tip.

      Turf grass is still boring though.

  • Sigh

    You people need lives.

  • Cut

    Good Job ArlNow…they just cut the grass here this morning!


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