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County Board Approves Pedestrian-Only Streets in Arlington

The Arlington County Board has approved adding pedestrian-only streets and low-speed “shared streets” to its transportation repertoire.

The amendments to the county’s Master Transportation Plan were approved unanimously at the Board’s meeting on Saturday.

As we reported in September, the county’s long-term plan for Rosslyn includes a multi-block, pedestrian-only stretch of 18th Street to replace Rosslyn’s skywalk system. Additionally, sections of 14th and 15th streets in Courthouse are slated to become shared streets.

Before the Board’s vote on Saturday, the Master Transportation Plan did not permit either street type.

More information, from an Arlington County press release:

The Arlington County Board adopted today proposed amendments to the Master Transportation Plan Street Element, incorporating two innovative changes: a new pedestrian priority street type — a car-free street that provides pedestrians access to adjacent buildings — and “shared streets” — for pedestrians, bicyclists and low speed vehicular traffic. These amendments will accommodate street variations as envisioned in the Rosslyn and Courthouse Sector Plans and provide guidance for potential use in other parts of the County.

In the Rosslyn area, nine block-length pedestrian priority street segments are planned to replace the remaining skywalk segments, break up north-south blocks and enhance access to the Rosslyn Metro Station. Segments of 18th Street North (from North Lynn Street to North Oak Street) will accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists only, without regular motor vehicle access. Implementation of the pedestrian priority street segments are expected to occur over time as private properties on those blocks are redeveloped.

In the Courthouse Square area, segments of 14th and 15th Streets North (between North Uhle Street and Courthouse Road) will be prioritized as low-speed “shared streets,” emphasizing needs of both pedestrians and bicyclists through use of distinctive paving materials and level travel areas. These streets will be primarily intended for pedestrians, but open to slow-speed vehicle traffic.

“Arlington is a varied community that puts an emphasis on various modes of travel – be it walking, biking, taking transit or driving,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “These street variations are very exciting and an important step in improving access and safety for the many residents, visitors and commuters that walk and bike around Arlington each and every day.”

The Board voted 5 to 0 to approve the amendments.

Background

In July 2015, the Board adopted an update to the Rosslyn Sector Plan that called for eventual development of several new street segments. In September 2015, the Board adopted the Courthouse Square sector plan update and its proposal of creating sections of shared streets.

The idea of new street types is the result of considerable public involvement. The two new street types were initially envisioned during the development of the sector plan updates, with the names and definitions further refined in hearings by the Arlington Planning and Transportation commissions.

Now that these changes have been accepted, the new street types can be applied elsewhere in the County when approved through a community planning process and action by the County Board.

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