Proposed Pike Improvements To Be Presented

by ARLnow.com March 13, 2012 at 9:35 am 4,804 59 Comments

Work is underway to design improvements to the streetscape of Columbia Pike. On Monday, March 26, county staff and consultants will present their partially-completed design to the community.

The Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements project has the goal of transforming the 3.5 mile Pike corridor, running from Fairfax County to S. Joyce Street, into a “complete street — a street designed to be more livable and safer by accommodating all users.”

The design seeks to not only make the Pike more accessible to pedestrians, but to get it ready to “support future high-quality, high-frequency transit service” — which may include enhanced bus service or the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar.

The current design, which is 50 percent complete, will be presented from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on March 26, at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th Street S.). All interested community members are encouraged to attend and provide input.

Among the changes proposed in the initial designs:

  • New left-turn lanes for better traffic flow
  • New planted medians
  • Sidewalk greenery and landscaping
  • Improved bus stops
  • Undergrounding of overhead utilities
  • Wider sidewalks
  • New crosswalks
  • Eight additional traffic signals
  • Bike accommodations and facilities

  • Josh S

    I love the bus drawings. Apparently WMATA has some 1965 vintage buses they plan on putting back into service.

    • SouthPikeGuy

      That is what the new articulated buses look like.

  • Ben

    I guess a dedicated bike lane separated from the street would be too forward thinking?

    • SouthPikeGuy

      They have that. It is called “one block over”

      • FrenchyB


      • drax

        Yes, literally – it’s the “bike avenue” idea.

      • NPGMBR


      • LivesonthePike

        Agreed x 100 most of the folks on bikes are rude and obtrusive on main roads. Skip the entire bike lanes or bikes can use entire lane crap.

    • Josh S

      What SPG said, also – much of Columbia Pike is too narrow to do all the other things they want to do AND have a dedicated bike lane.

    • bobco85

      While having a separated bike lane would be amazing, Columbia Pike does not have room for it. I try to avoid biking on Columbia Pike whenever possible, and know that there are plenty of alternative routes to Columbia Pike that can be used. Same goes for Glebe Road.

    • MB

      The Columbia Pike “bicycle boulevards” plans can be found here – http://www.columbiapikeva.us/street-improvements/bike-boulevards/

      I think it’s a great concept, but have some concerns that their implementation will lag behind the rest of the work on Columbia Pike. As noted elsewhere in the thread, Columbia Pike isn’t particularly pleasant to bike on, and I think most cyclists already avoid it (east-west). Bike boulevards can help address that, but there’s a limit to how out-of-the-way casual cyclists will go before the attractiveness/convenience of cycling (as an alternative to driving) fades. For example, S. 12th St. is a nice alternative to Columbia Pike until you run into S. Cleveland St. – then what? Back up to the Pike? Down to S. 13th Rd. and then . . . ?

      Not an easy problem to fix.

  • 1234

    Some left turn arrows and a repave would do wonders.. . .

    • NPGMBR

      True but im not looking forward to the addition of more traffic signals.

  • CrystalMikey

    Left turn lanes!? Thank the maker!

  • Andy

    It would really help if they included cut-outs for the bus stops so that every time one of the “high frequency” busses stops, it doesn’t create the usual backup.

    • SteveP

      The left turn lanes should partially address that concern. If cars turning left don’t block traffic then through traffic can stay in the left lanes.

      The cut-outs are good and bad. Cars can get by when the bus is stopped. However, for the bus it isn’t always easy to pull back into traffic which makes them slower, gets them off schedule, and creates a less smooth ride (a concern if people are standing).

      I’d try and focus on speeding up passengers boarding the bus by increasing use of SmarTrip cards, purchase of fares at the stop (this could be done and the new super stops), etc. Reducing the number of stops might help as well even though the stop would be longer, the stopping locations would be predictable and therefore easier to avoid for regular commuters.

  • MC

    Not sure if this one is the right solution, but Columbia Pike needs traffic flow help, with left turn lanes and bus cut outs priorities as others have mentioned. Also, need better sidewalks. The meridian may prevent left turns into parking lots and drive throughs, which would help.

  • nom de guerre

    Where’s da streetcar?

    • CW

      Was wondering this myself.

      • Lloyd

        They need to put the Columbia Pike budget on a streetcar-free diet. Hopefully this is the first step.

      • Chris Slatt

        Picture the bus with skinnier wheels.

        • CW

          Right, but if there are rails and wires, I’d figure that would have made it into the drawing.

          • South Awwwlington

            Pretty sure that phase (to begin in 2014-2015) will be in later images.

          • truth be told

            Nope. It will be DOA before it breaks ground.

  • ArlNeighbor

    Pretty sure they already had this meeting like 2 winters ago. Not sure what they plan to accomplish by re-reviewing the same topics. What’s more scary is that Arlington is faster paced than the surrounding jurisdictions. Hope this is resolved soon and they are able to move past the planning stage.

  • Clarendon Cruiser

    I’m glad they are leaving 1′ – 6″ for the gutter, since that’s where I usually end up by the end of the evening.

  • msnolan

    so they are proposing this and then will figure out where the street car is going to run?

    • Josh S

      Street car is scheduled to run in the right lane. I don’t think these proposed changes would impact that at all. (In fact, by adding left turn lanes, it would facilitate it. And by adding a planted median, it pretty much rules out any other alignment.)

  • Charles

    Columbia Pike is usually such a bottleneck! If you’re in the right lane, you get trapped behind a bus.If you’re in the left lane, you get trapped behind a left-turning person who fails to use a turn signal. Maybe these changes will help.

    However I have little faith Arlington County Planning can get anything right (except adding stop lights to intersections where they aren’t needed).

    • Josh S

      I just assumed that was the case in every city with buses around the country. What I usually do to address the issue is change lanes. That seems to work out pretty well for me.

      • MC 703

        Tradin’ paint on Glebe like I do every evening

        • Rick

          rubbins racin!

  • Burger

    Adding a turning lane makes a great deal of sense…adding a median less so. Adding a median means that people will not make left turn lanes to go to a store across the street. For a business owner it would be like reducing your ability to attract customers.

    I’ll concede that many business will survive many will feel the hit. Lee Highway has a number of establishments that frequently “turnover” because the the median restrictions making it harder to make a left turn.

    • M

      The median makes sense for the same reason left turn lanes make sense – having people turning left from the travel lane slows down traffic. I don’t think businesses that go under actually report in their bankruptcy filings that the cause of their trouble is the inability of customers to turn left into their parking lots.

      • Burger

        Please read my post. I think a left turn is fine – but the median is wrong.

    • Balderdash Champion

      businesses failing because of a median?

      Thats a new one. Sorry but I totally disagree with that. If the business is good, people will go.

      • Burger

        As I said go look at Lee Highway. There are numerous locals that “turnover” repeatedly. Part of that can be directly attributed to the median blocking people from making a left turn. They have to go to the cut outs and make a u-turn (many times illegal) or a left turn. Many people will continue to drive until they get to a similar place with a right turn.

        • Josh S

          Hmmm. Smacks of speculation unsubstantiated with any data.

        • drax

          I drove on a major road in NJ once that had a median all the way through – no left turns at all except at a few lights. The businesses seemed to be doing okay (and traffic flowed great). Probably because there were no alternatives and people couldn’t just continue on to the next easy left turn.

  • Rick

    Clearly Columbia Pike needs 8 more traffic lights. Maybe we can cut the every 500 feet down to 400 this way

    • Andy

      Only every 400 ft? It would be great if they could achieve that on Wilson Blvd. Every 100 ft is becoming the norm there. And they are completely unsynchronized.

      They put in that new one near Gold’s Gym in Ballston, to appease the pedestrians. And now what happens is that the pedestrians don’t wait for the light, they just J-walk. So it’s even more dangerous now than it was before the light went in, because cars coming around that curve from the west, approaching a green light, aren’t prepared to slam on their breaks due to the pedestrians crossing against the light.

      • Josh S

        Slam on their brakes? Going 25 MPH? (The speed limit there.)

        Also, more seriously, “to appease the pedestrians?” As if pedestrians were second class citizens? Newsflash – the transportation system is for everyone – in a car, in a bus, on a bike, or on two feet. Cars don’t own it. They share it.

        • Rick

          It’s mid curve, and if you find 10 cars in a row going 25 mph or under i’ll give you ten bucks.

          The lights on Wilson (with the exception of [email protected] and [email protected]) are horribly out of sync. Takes ten minutes to get from Washington Blvd to courthouse if I’m lucky.

  • Josh S

    I hate the verb “undergrounding.”

    • M

      I agree – the word “underground” should be deverbed. 🙂

    • FrenchyB

      ‘Undergrounding’ is a perfectly cromulent word.

      • Marc

        Its use embiggens us all.

        • Josh S

          I guess I must admit it is very impactful, when used properly. But don’t tell the olds, they just haven’t a clue.

  • ArlNeighbor

    The main reason for the left turning lanes as discussed at the last meeting is because there are residences on The Pike and they have to facilitate their ability to travel North or South without going around full blocks.

  • YTK

    Put the bikes in the street — after al they ARE vehicles — I’m tired of playing dodge-em with the cretins who ride their bikes on the sidewalk at full speed with no advance warning and expect us to have eyes in the backs of our head so we can see them coming.

  • Mary-Austin

    There really is no need to put in a light at S Oakland Street. Waste of time and money.
    Also, why do all of this and then tear it up in a few year with the streetcar?

    • nom de guerre

      Because just like the streetcar, it makes absolutely no sense given the competing priorities that the county currently faces at the present time.

  • EastPike

    This is an incredible annoyance for those of us who live on the pike and need to turn left out of our neighborhood. All traffic will be funneled through the neighboorhood to the one block that has a light and isn’t cut off by the median. More traffic on back roads, and less options for exiting our home.

    For the greater good, yadda yadda, it’s going to suck for my family.

    • drax

      Lots of changes to roads that improve traffic flow are counterintuitive, but this could actually make things better.

      • Suburban Not Urban

        Why – because you say so – try a substantive response to substantive issues raised by the commenter.

  • don

    Google ‘Deuce Bus Las Vegas’ to see the great bus service we could have on the Pike for 1/10th the cost of a streetcar system.

    • Lou

      Learning from Las Vegas. So appropriate for The Pike.

    • Josh S

      Not really? It doesn’t sound like this bus service is anything like a regular city bus / mode of public transportation. Maybe more like the Circulator in DC.

      • Piker

        Love the Circulator in DC!

        It is a great model for what they can have on Columbia Pike.


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