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Steel Plates on Wilson Blvd in Ballston To Be Removed

by ARLnow.com March 4, 2013 at 10:55 am 26 Comments

N. Randolph and Wilson Blvd steel plates (photo courtesy Frank Murphy)(Updated at 11:00 a.m.) A pair of steel plates that have been causing a bumpy ride for motorists heading westbound on Wilson Boulevard near the Ballston Common Mall may soon be removed.

The plates were installed near the intersection of Wilson Boulevard and N. Randolph Street early last year after residents of the nearby Archstone Ballston Square apartments complained about noise coming from a Dominion Virginia Power vault cover, underneath which sits electrical equipment for their building, according to the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services (DES). The vault cover (located in the left-hand westbound travel lane) was broken and causing loud noises when cars drove over it.

The plates were to be installed over the vault cover as a temporary measure until it could be fixed. However, as of last month, the cover still wasn’t fixed and the plates were causing problems for drivers. In addition to producing a bumpy ride, one driver says the plates damaged his car.

“Recently I hit the corner of the grate with my vehicle and it knocked the alignment off my car,” resident Frank Murphy claimed in a Feb. 27 email to county officials. “I am sure each person listed on this email has traveled west on Wilson Boulevard and noticed these dangerous grates. The corner of one grate sticks up 4 inches.”

Murphy said the county refused to reimburse him for the alleged damage, saying the plates actually belong to Archstone. Archstone and Dominion, meanwhile, are finally planning to repair the vault covers and remove the steel plates, as soon as this month, according to the county.

“Dominion Power has approved the new vault designs, a contractor has been paid to do the installations,” according to DES spokeswoman Laura Smith. “Vault work should hopefully be completed before the end of March 2013.”

That’s little consolation for Murphy and his repair bill.

“I have to pay the money out of my pocket,” he told ARLnow.com. “It’s bulls–t!”

Photo courtesy Frank Murphy

  • DeportEmAll

    Archstone should pay.

    • Josh S

      The problem is that I imagine proving cause and effect would be very difficult. Should Archstone resist paying, it would unfortunately probably be too expensive to sue them.

      • BlackLetter

        And that’s what class action is all about.

      • Taco Boy

        try small claims court

  • South Awwlington

    So anyone can place anything on a County road, not have it removed by the County and no one, the County nor the owner, are liable. Interesting.

  • Willowy

    Those plates really are horrible and they poke up AT LEAST 4 inches. It’s pretty inexcusable how long they have just stayed there. I’d imagine that Archstone would have to pay for the damages to Mr. Murphy’s car. Otherwise, what’s to stop anyone from obstructing the street?

    • JB

      Yes, but he’d also need some kind of proof, or else what’s to stop anyone who’s alignment is off to claim that it was the steel plates and get a free repair on Archstone? They’re not going to pay for something unless he could demonstrate it wasn’t some other pothole he hit that caused it. At a minimum I’d think he’d have needed to pull over as soon as he hit the plate that caused the damage, and called the police to file a report, just like with a car accident. At least then he’d have something to go into court with.

      • Willowy

        Fair point. That direct and proximate cause stuff will getcha every time!

  • Ashton Heights Represent

    If this would go to court, I’d imagine the county would have to pay. They are responsible for letting Archstone put those plates there. However, I am not a lawyer.

    • Ron

      It’s not clear who installed them. Am I missing it somewhere in the article? It doesn’t seem likely that Dominion would let a third party mess with their vaults.

    • Clarendon

      The County has sovereign immunity against stuff like this.

  • NoVA RN

    It’s truly shocking that the Archstone Ballston Square would cause a ruckus at all, let alone one like this!

  • SomeGuy

    This wouldn’t have been a problem in the first place if they had just used steel trolley rails on the pavement instead of steel plates. Totally avoidable.

    • Mark P

      This poor attempt at anti-streetcar humor is unnecessary. Go away.

      • SomeGuy

        Your poor attempt at making me go away was unsuccessful. I’m here.

  • flyover_country

    Might try smalls claims court. May be some limitation on bringing action about the county, state, federal Gov’t. Also depends on what your time is worth.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    The problem here is – where is the accountablity for the buisness entities to the county? 15 months is ridiculous to fix something that the county obviously believes is the responsibility of either Archstone or DVP. Why hasn’t the county held permits, licenses or brought some leverage to bear on the behalf of the residents and the rest of the county.


      agreed. and unfortunately this is occurring all over the county.

  • JaneJacobs

    Steel plates damaging your car, security guards brawlin’ at the mall and even coworkers at Mary’s cafe trying to boil one another. Ballston is the epitome of urban blight.

  • David

    I’d like the County to pay for some alignments I’ve had due to potholes….not holding my breath.

  • John Fontain

    Mr. Murphy is right about those plates. I hit them a few weeks back and thought my tire blew. Those plates are a safety hazard not only because they are causing vehicle damage but because they could cause an accident.

  • ShirleyYouJest

    Love it. You N. Arlington folks complaining about steel plates make us folks in the Shirlington area jealous – y’all clearly don’t have to put up with the mess that was/is Four Mile Run, Walter Reed and Columbia Pike. Try about 4 alignments in the last 6 months. Get over it.

  • Gris

    My cousin Eddy had to have his steel plates removed too. Every time his wife would rev up the microwave, he’d pee his pants and forget who he was for a half hour.

  • JTJT

    Plates removed holes to be filled sometime in July.

  • Texas Aggie 1966

    It is the county’s responsibility and they shirked it! Man up and pay for his alignment. Those plates have been there for a year and EVERYONE knows of the hazard and the county should have had Archstone or whomever fix it. THEY are responsible for protecting our safety and they didn’t do it. The roads are worse than a third world country as it is. Wilson, down by BJ.s is breaking up in huge chunks, Fairfax and Wilson intersection in all directions? The “fix” is a lose term meaning “make it worse”…..what a waste of tax money. Fire them all and get a civilian contractor and FORCE decent work.

  • spamhamwich

    Plates are still there….guess it all depends on your definition of “soon.”


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