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ACPD Reminding Rosslyn Drivers Not to ‘Block the Box’

by ARLnow.com October 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm 4,813 77 Comments

The Arlington County Police Department is embarking on a public education campaign to get drivers to stop blocking intersections and crosswalks on Lynn Street in Rosslyn.

Starting this week, the police department has assigned extra traffic patrols to the area during the morning rush hour, when gridlock gets especially bad on Lynn Street. (Although traffic is often heavy during the evening rush hour, as well.)

The officers will remind drivers that it’s illegal to block the box — to enter into an intersection during a green light when there is no room to clear the intersection. For now, the officers will not be issuing citations, according to ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck, who called morning congestion on Lynn Street a “disaster.”

“You should expect to see additional police presence in that area,” Sternbeck said. “We’re hoping in the immediate future that this education campaign will get people to change their behavior. Hopefully we can make an impact there, because it’s been a concern for a long time.”

In support of the campaign, the Transportation Engineering and Operations Bureau of Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services will be installing “Do Not Block Intersection” signs at all of the intersections along N. Lynn Street between Wilson Boulevard and the Key Bridge. Existing Do Not Block Intersection signs at N. Lynn Street and Wilson Boulevard, meanwhile, will be replaced with larger versions of the sign.

“The signs are currently being fabricated and should be installed within the next three (3) weeks,” said DES spokeswoman Myllisa Kennedy. In addition to the signs, this coming spring DES will be installing pavement markings at the Wilson Boulevard and Lynn Street intersection which are intended to “help define the ‘box.'”

Lynn Street serves commuters heading to the GW Parkway, I-66 and D.C. via the Key Bridge.

  • Captain_Obvious

    Box-Blockers !

    • Zoneboy

      CITIZENS Reminding APCD to do something about all the drivers who routinely run red lights, or fail to stop fully when turning right on red. KWITCHER BITCHIN APCD. Maybe try a little more enforcement.

  • novasteve

    Wow, so NYC-like. May be they can fine people for honking horns too and we’ll just be like NYC other than we can buy 32oz cokes here.

    • SteamboatWillie

      Is there anything that you aren’t sour about? Good luck with the relocation.

      • drax

        Guys, when he does finally move, I’m going to need some help getting that rocking chair in his car that we bought him to rant in from his porch, okay?

    • MC 703

      How can anyone be against this? The box blockers are infuriating and make traffic so much.

      • miniMC 703


        • MC 703

          Thanks, lil’.

  • Jim

    It’s definitely needed, kudos to the cops for stepping up. Only wish they WOULD be giving out citations.

    • Captain_Obvious

      Not issuing citations? What’s the point ? What a massive waste of time and resources.

      • Lieutenant_Latent

        Other than ensuring the smooth[er] flow of traffic in situ, no point at all.

        • Captain_Obvious

          It’s not really ensuring the flow of traffic if they are not ticketing drivers. Drivers will realize they can’t get a ticket and will block the box anyway.

          • Lieutenant_Latent

            in the time-space continuum, the ticketer & the ticketee have to stop in some physical space for some amount of time. increase the space and the time to required to issue a ticket and you’re being counterproductive.

          • drax

            They can come back next month and start giving tickets.

      • Jim

        They’ve been out there off and on for a few weeks- they’re just stopping traffic when the over-fill starts and drivers begin to enter intersections they shouldn’t. It’s helpful.

      • speonjosh

        Your comment belies a massive lack of imagination.

    • Banksy

      Good point. If they don’t want to hold up traffic by writing tickets, could they use traffic cameras and send tickets to people at home?

      • CW

        Or the goverment could just install shock collars on all of us and tie them to spy satellites that look to see if we’re doing anything bad.

        • SM Guy


        • drax

          When it comes to box-blockers, I might consider that.

  • elsie

    Can a sign be added to the Ft. Myer/Wilson intersection? In the afternoon people always get stuck in the intersection and then try and run through the busy crosswalk. I’ve almost been hit several times.

    • kc

      Amen. The intersection down the hill is worse in the AM but the one you reference is horrible in the PM.

  • UYD Fan

    Build more roads or institute peak hour pricing. This type of things makes economists’ heads explode (whether or not that is a bad thing….)

    • Right of Center

      How about peak of the peak hour pricing! Genius!

  • John Fontain

    The entire congestion problem on Lynn Street could be fixed in a heartbeat if they would change the timing of the light at Lynn and 19th Street. 19th Street gets the green in the morning for waaaaayyy too long relative to the volume of cars.

    • NoVapologist

      The problem is not that the light on 19th and Lynn is too long, it is that it is no longer synched with the light at 19th and Moore. By the time that the light at Lynn turns green, the light at Moore has turned red, meaning that only the four cars able to line up at Lynn can go through (and the odd car turning left from Moore to 19th). By the time the light at 19th and Moore turns green again, the light and 19th and Lynn is about to turn red again. It wasn’t always this way.

      I drive through 19th and Lynn twice-a-day every day. It’s a mess. Even more so in the evening rush.

  • B Walsh

    I wish the officers would also keep cars out of the bike lane. I ride through here most mornings and often blocked by cars waiting to turn right onto Wilson.

  • Glebe Roader

    Maybe no citations for now, but as soon as the signs go up, the citations should be written.

    • speonjosh

      It appears the blocking the box is already illegal. No signs needed to justify writing tickets.

  • Ralph

    “should be installed within the next three (3) weeks”

    Thanks for clarifying that it’s three weeks. (3) rather.

    • 4

      How does one actually say “three (3)”? Something like “Three, open parantheses, the numeral three, close parantheses”?

      • drax

        It’s pronounced “three, I’m a bureaucrat who can’t write in plain English, three.”

        • Josh S

          drax, your funny bone is working well this week….

  • bobco85

    I have two ideas for this (one may be ever so slightly more feasible than the other):

    1) Create an app for pedestrians that can take pictures of the box-blockers’ license plates which will get sent to the ACPD.

    2) Install lift structures over every intersection that will pick the offending vehicles up and put them off on the side. It would be like the pin machines at bowling alleys.

    • NoVapologist

      You don’t need peds to do the work. D.C. already uses red light cameras to photograph and cite cars that block the box.

    • Eric

      Tear down the Artisphere and open the overpass to allow Lynn St. cars to fly over Wilson Blvd.

  • Ryan

    I was driving on Wilson the other evening at the intersection with Lynn and had to wait through two consecutive green lights even though I was at the front because people were blocking the box.

    People (including buses) would drive into the intersection even when the light was yellow and there was clearly no way they would clear the box. It was the closest I’ve come to road rage.

  • 350sbc

    I think a “Don’t Block the Box” sign is needed at every intersection in Northern Virginia.

  • Bender

    It should be noted that not being allowed to enter the intersection, even if green, is contrary to the prevailing rule in most places with respect to making a left turn. That is, in most places, you are not only allowed, but are expected to enter the intersection while green and then wait to make the turn, yielding to on-coming traffic and making the turn when it clears. Such practice is not “blocking the box” because when the traffic clears, even if because of a red light, the turn can be made and the intersection cleared.

    To be sure, Falls Church recently issued a “Focus on Safety” public advisory which states —
    “A red-light violation occurs when a motorist enters an intersection after the traffic signal has turned red. Motorists already in the intersection when the signal changes to red are not considered red-light violators. For example, a driver who enters an intersection on a green light will not receive a citation, even if that motorist must wait until the light turns red to complete a left-hand turn after oncoming traffic clears.”

    Applying such a “do not block the box” to left turns ends up making things more dangerous, with people stopped behind the stop line and having to proceed all that much farther to make the turn, and it is all the more dangerous when the turn is made when the light turns to red. As noted above, it is not a red-light violation to complete the turn when the light is red if you entered the intersection when it is green, but if you stop at the stop line, then it will be a violation if you enter the intersection to make that same turn when it turns red.

    • esmith69

      Just because they won’t give you a ticket for being in the intersection and waiting to turn left when the light turns red does not necessarily mean you should be doing that.

      I was always taught not to enter any intersection (regardless of whether I am going straight through it or making a turn) unless there is a visible break in oncoming traffic that I plan on taking advantage of to complete my turn. Or in the case of going straight through the intersection, if I see the traffic light a block in front of me turn green and gridlock in front of me starts to move.

      • Hollywood

        Maybe you should learn the rules of driving…

      • Glebe Roader

        I think you were taught wrong for urban driving. If you’re making a left, you probably need to get in the box, wait for oncoming traffic to clear (probably when their light turns red), and make your left turn.

      • drax

        You need to unlearn what you were taught.

        Get out there. If the light turns red, you’re already in the stream of traffic of the crossing street you want to turn onto, just sideways. Complete your turn and move on.

      • SamW

        Thank you, esmith69. I think this is especially important in urban settings, contrary to what others have said, because you have so many pedestrians/cyclists/etc that get the go-ahead as soon as your light turns red. You’re essentially failing to give the right-away when you run your light.

    • speonjosh

      Whether making a left or going straight, you can still look ahead and make a judgment as to whether you will be able to get through the intersection before it turns red on you. You may be advised to proceed one quarter through the intersection when making a green, but you don’t have to.

    • Brian

      THANK YOU!!! I always thought you were supposed to enter the intersection. I’ve seen signs saying “Don’t Block the Box” in Baltimore and didn’t know what the heck they meant. Nobody should be getting tickets for these little-known rules that only apply in certain areas. I block the box every single day at intersections around Arlington. In some cases, it’s the only way you’ll be able to make the turn you need to make.

  • SomeGuy

    If they’re serious about a “public education campaign,” why have they not published anything about it on their site? At the time I’m writing this comment, I see nothing on their news site.

  • veeta

    This is needed at Highland and Wilson. Cars turning left onto Wilson from Highland try to ram through the crosswalk, which always has people in it, and they block the people going south on Highland. This will one day result in a road rage incident at the very least.

  • Signs Ain’t Going To Help

    Just try waiting outside the box and hear the cacophony of horns and cursing behind behind you ……

    • drax

      How about you ignore them, like most adults ignore idiots around them?

      • Norm

        Heal thyself.

        • drax

          Back atcha.

    • drax

      Oh, and I’m going to honk at you if you block the box and you’re in my way….

      • Trent

        How about you ignore them, like most adults ignore idiots around them?

  • Jerome Smiff

    It would be better if the police would issue tickets to the “box blockers” that I see blocking fire stations every day. I would hate if they were responding to my house for an emergency and be delayed by someone blocking their exit.

  • bobbytiger

    Officers will “remind”drivers? In other words, without the issuing of a citation, nothing will change. Kinda like driving in the rain with no lights on.

  • Choogirl

    Please patrol Nash St & Lee Hwy. I am so sick of waiting through the light at Nash & Lee 2-3 iterations just b/c some jerk decided he wants to block the intersection.

  • George

    The entire road should just be closed for good that would solve the traffic problem.

    • Sam the Cat

      Agreed. If you elimnate the road, you elimnate the problem. No road, no cars. Problem solved.

  • sunflower

    “for now, the officers will not be issuing citations”. FOR NOW being the operative words. after the signs go up and most people understand that blocking the box is illegal, enforcement will follow.

    • Larchmont

      For now = again. How many times before tickets are issued? This is not the first time the cops have been done this.Have a binder full of tickets pre-written so they just have to fill in tag, license number, and have the inconsiderate sob’s sign. Cash cow! I’m all for these signs but we don’t need them before ticketing.

  • Rick

    Traffic cops (with whistles and vests and gloves) would be nice to have around in Clarendon at night and Rosslyn during the day. Because it’s really hard to write tickets in white gloves, it will never happen.

  • Kathy

    All this bitchin’ and moaning about how bad the drivers are really cracks me up. These are the same drivers who scream about how cyclists don’t stop at stop signs or go thru red lights. I’m not justifying the latter’s behavior but drivers need to get off the hypocritical high horse any time there is a cyclist related story. You don’t see the cycling community here bashing you do you? (except me of course)

  • Fumunda

    Since all you knuckleheads have figured it out so quick, please advise how we can get you in county jobs right away, best of the bunch gets to be mayor – let’s stop messing around. Dooo doo dooo dooo dooo dooooooo – Charge!

    • Glebe Roader

      You know Arlington County doesn’t have a mayor, right?

      • The Mayor of Arlington

        au contraire mon frere!

        • Glebe Roader

          Sorry, Mayor, I stand corrected. Maybe I should change my handle to The New Glebe Road Bridge.

      • Josh S

        Fumunda has not grown the thick skin that is required for reading ARLNow comments.

        Yes, people here have an amazing capacity to chime in with petty criticisms of just about everything that is posted. It’s sort of a dull roar – you learn to tune it out and only respond when things get especially bad. But you have to figure out clever ways of responding or else you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

  • Debs

    Besides the signs…Yes, cameras will work…especially if the citation fee is like $200 each time. Some car drivers will be faced with a $1000 /wk added expense to drive to work…AND their insurance will take the hit. WHY do people drive and talk on their phones at the same time…it is very dangerous. Like a previous poster…I too have been almost hit crossing legally in the crosswalk at that intersection. One of my coworkers slammed his fist on the back of a car when it touched him …the owner swore at him but did not stop…since the driver had hit him while he was legally walking in the crosswalk……

    • Josh S

      I’ve found that in written communciation the “like” filler word is truly out of place. I don’t think that even an internet comment board is intended to be a transcript of what you might say in oral communication.

      For example, your post would not be changed in effect or meaning if you just left the word “like” out.

  • CW

    I truly believe that pedestrian scrambles aka Barnes Dances are the solution to all of Arlington’s mixed-mode transportation conflicts, but it’s never going to happen. You ask a traffic engineer why pedestrian scrambles aren’t a good idea and they speak in tongues for like 5 minutes and then say “WELL…THEY JUST…AREN’T!!!”

  • drax

    Will streetcars block the box?

    (Can’t believe I’m first).

    • sunflower

      “the best defense”. …and all that

      • Sharon

        A pedestrian was just hit there this morning and it was VERY bad. I tried to look at the news to see if I can see anything but the EMTs were doing CPR this morning and his legs were messed up. Not sure of the outcome but I hope the person is ok.

  • Terry

    Rosslyn is a pedestrian nightmare and this was one of the issues I often complained about when I lived there. Glad they’ve finally decided to do something about it. Don’t sit your damn car in the middle of a crosswalk.

    • Neighbor

      This campaign is not about cars being in crosswalks. It’s about cars being in the intersection and blocking the cross-flow of other vehicles. That creates gridlock. A car being parked in the crosswalk is stupid and annoying but is a navigable obstacle.

  • Rich22203

    Instead sending cops to sit and monitor and decide when to write citations, Just put two cops at the intersection at rush hour to direct traffic. Most folks will block a box but won’t when an officer is there with his hand up.


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