Arlington County will be studying a two-mile stretch of S. George Mason Drive, from Route 50 to the border with Fairfax County, to identify potential transportation improvements.
The study is happening now because the road is a solid candidate for grants that have applications due in the winter. But before they can apply, county staff need to examine current conditions and hear from locals about their biggest safety concerns, according to Leah Gerber, an county transportation planner.
She said one reason staff are optimistic about grant funding is because the upgrades would benefit residents of census tracts with high concentrations of ethnic minorities, or “equity emphasis areas,” according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
Over the next two months, staff will analyze data such as transit ridership and traffic counts and develop concept plans for three segments of the road:
- North Segment — Arlington Blvd to Columbia Pike
- Middle Segment — Columbia Pike to S. Four Mile Run Drive
- South Segment — S. Four Mile Run Drive to county line
Staff will also develop 15% designs for the Columbia Pike-county line segment.
“The southern portion we feel will really be eligible for grant funding,” said Valerie Mosley, the bureau chief of Transportation Planning and Capital Project Management for Arlingtons Department of Environmental Services.
The study is slated for commission and County Board review this fall, in time for applications to go out this winter.
“We’re working on a fairly truncated timetable for this study and we wanted to start by asking about your experience,” public engagement coordinator Nate Graham said during a community kick-off meeting last week. “That feedback from the community will help us, along with data analysis, plan a study and identify solutions that can resolve those issues.”
A survey, open through Sunday, May 1, asks respondents how safe they feel walking, scooting, driving and biking the road. People can signal their preferred upgrades from options such as protected bike lanes, sheltered bus stops, bus-only lanes and widened sidewalks. Using an interactive map, respondents can pinpoint specific locations they say need attention.
What staff members know so far is that some residents have long requested safer pedestrian crossings through improvements such as flashing beacons. One oft-cited intersection is with 6th Street S., near the National Foreign Affairs Training Center, where shrubbery and trees make it hard to see oncoming cars.
Some cyclists, meanwhile, have pointed out inconsistent bike infrastructure, with lanes that start and stop at random. Other residents say more parking enforcement is needed between Columbia Pike and S. Four Mile Run Drive, where large commercial trucks park despite being too wide for the parking spaces available.
Meanwhile, county data indicate there are heavy traffic levels and a number of crashes at the George Mason Drive intersections with S. Four Mile Run Drive and Columbia Pike, which see about 12,400 vehicles per day. Crashes at the two intersections are a major concern, Gerber said, because they occur near a major crossing for the Washington & Old Dominion Trail and in a part of Arlington with active bus use.
Arlington County identified this road for improvements three years ago but talks ramped up in the last two years, after staff realized it would be a good candidate for grant funding, Gerber said. The $240,000 study will be funded locally and with money from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.
The project will not be wholly contingent on grant funding, however.
“In the event we don’t receive the grant funding, we have the grounding for why this is an important corridor and we will pursue the pieces of the capital projects through our Capital Improvement Program process,” Mosley said. “We’re committed to making this happen.”
This month, locals can participate in two walking tours to get a better sense of road conditions. They will cover the Four Mile Run area and Columbia Pike, and the dates and times are as follows:
- Four Mile Run: Saturday, April 23, 12-2 p.m., departing from the Barcroft Community Center
- Columbia Pike: Thursday, April 28, 2 to 4 p.m., departing from the basketball courts in Alcova Heights Park
Additional opportunities for public engagement this year include a workshop this spring and a meeting this summer.
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