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VDOT advances plans to add median, turn lanes to crash-prone Route 50 segment

Three years after studying a crash-prone stretch of Arlington Blvd, the Virginia Dept. of Transportation is moving forward with plans to make some improvements.

There will be a virtual meeting this Thursday on changes coming for a nearly mile-long stretch of Route 50 between Glebe Road and Fillmore Street. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2030, VDOT spokesman Mike Murphy tells ARLnow.

The changes, based on study recommendations made in 2020, include building a raised median along Arlington Blvd and adding eastbound and westbound dedicated left-turn lanes at Irving Street.

Difficulty making left turns and a lack of dedicated left-turn lanes were a top concern for surveyed members of the public, says VDOT. Other top concerns included “aggressive driving.”

Currently, this segment of Route 50 averages 58,000 vehicles a day and has a median that ends just east of the Glebe Road underpass. It also has a few tricky intersections where drivers can turn left, such as at Irving Street. During rush hour, drivers going straight can be seen jumping around those turning left to avoid waiting for them to turn.

Beyond adding left-turn lanes at Irving Street, VDOT also plans to:

  • extend the eastbound and westbound left-turn lanes at Fillmore Street
  • extend the eastbound service road to connect existing driveways between S. Old Glebe Road and Jackson Street
  • extend the westbound service road to connect existing driveways between Irving Street and Jackson Street
  • Reconstruct portions of the shared-use paths on both sides of Arlington Blvd

The state transportation department is also mulling new lighting between Irving and Fillmore streets, on-street parking between Garfield and Fenwick streets and bus stop improvements.

These recommendations came from VDOT’s 2020 Strategically Targeted Affordable Roadway Solutions study. This assessed safety and operational upgrades for this segment of Route 50, which VDOT says experiences congestion during rush hour and a high number of crashes.

Crashes on Arlington Blvd between Fillmore Street and Glebe Road (via VDOT)

Within four months of the release of recommendations, the Arlington County Board endorsed an application for $25 million in grant money to realize these upgrades.

In 2021, the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved $29 million in Smart Scale funding for this project, Murphy says.

But the plan did not sit well with members of the county’s Transportation Commission. Downvoting the application, they argued VDOT did not evaluate how high speeds contribute to crashes or consider how to lower speeds, such as by narrowing lanes. County staff, meanwhile, sought the commission’s approval retroactively.

In a column subsequently written for ARLnow, Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said the following:

VDOT’s decision to select a costly, construction-intensive capital project to solve the safety issues in this stretch means our community will be stuck with six to eight years of additional crashes, injuries and even fatalities when VDOT’s own study makes it clear that a the majority of the safety benefit of their preferred alternative could be implemented in the short-term, with temporary materials and a much lower cost.

Residents and road users can provide feedback through Thursday, Sept. 14.

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