Press Club

The Right Note: Transportation Changes?

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Arlington is considering adding additional traffic lights to Route 1 as part of a large scale streetscape modification along the corridor. While the discussion of “improvements” has been ongoing for some time, Amazon’s landing in Crystal City is shining a new light on it.

The lights would create at-grade intersections in two locations. Not only would such a change create a traffic nightmare during the removal of the overpasses, it would create some other long term headaches as well.

Currently, residents on the Pentagon City side of Route 1 can walk safely under the road to get to the Crystal City metro stop. If the road is taken to grade level, they will have to cross at a traffic signal. It not only creates additional hazards for them, it would make turning right onto Route 1 from Crystal City very difficult during peak commuting times. And adding pedestrian signals to accommodate those on foot would only slow the movement of vehicles along the major thoroughfare, causing more backups and more emissions from idling cars.

The changes would also make access to Long Bridge Park and the new aquatics center more difficult for residents on the Pentagon City side of Route 1. In fact, one of the major advantages of the new pool was supposed to be pedestrian and bicycle access for the neighborhood. By removing the underpass at 12th street, the county would wipe out much of that advantage. And, if you have ever dropped your child off for a soccer practice during busy times of the day, you know a traffic light to cross Route 1 could create new traffic headaches as well.

While making traffic conditions better should be a good rationale when it comes to transportation changes, Arlington officials have long made it known that they do not place a priority on the convenience of drivers. This is evidenced by the removal of a travel lane in each direction on Eads Street, which runs parallel to Route 1. This move caused more vehicles to cut through the residential streets to avoid new backups at the existing intersections.

Hopefully the pedestrian safety concerns will win out when it comes to Route 1. However, it is more likely the County Board will assure those concerns will be addressed if they move forward with removing the overpasses.

Speaking of transportation, ARLnow reported yesterday that the number of cabs on the road is down significantly in Arlington. For years, cab companies took consumer use of their services for granted. Their phone or online reservation systems were antiquated and too often unreliable. Some cabs did not take credit cards as payment. Drivers often seemed reluctant to make change for cash transactions.

As a result, they opened the door to competition from ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft as well as on-demand options of government-subsidized bicycles and free market scooters. The only question now is, how much more market share will the cabs lose?

Mark Kelly is a 19-year Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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