Arlington, VA

Arlington is once again planning to convert an outside lane on Lee Highway to bus and HOV only.

The Transportation Commission unanimously approved staff’s request to seek $1 million in funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission for pavement treatment, restriping, and signage for a new bus lanes.

The lanes would operate eastbound from N. Veitch Street to N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn during morning peak period, and westbound from N. Oak Street to N. Veitch Street during evening peak periods, staff said in the application. The lane would otherwise be open to general-purpose travel.

The sections with a bus lane are three lanes in each direction, and during peak periods roughly 25 loaded buses travel down that stretch of Lee Highway per hour, according to county documents.

“The section between North Veitch Street and Rosslyn is very heavily congested and sharply degrades bus performance and reliability, which will be improved by the lane conversion,” staff said.

An application for the project was submitted last year, but staff said at the Transportation Commission that funding was not approved because the designs had not advanced enough and were too broad in scope.

“The FY 2021-2022 application has been re-scoped to focus on the portion of Lee Highway with the greatest need,” staff said in a request to file the applications. “That has in turn reduced the estimated cost by one-third compared with the previous application.”

Staff said the deadline for grant submission is the end of January and the county would hear back in the spring. If approved, funding would include a feasibility test and the project could be incorporated into ongoing plans to reshape Lee Highway.

Photo via Google Maps

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Police are conducting a death investigation after a person died on a Yellow Line train Tuesday evening.

Arlington County medics were dispatched to the Pentagon Metro station around 4:15 p.m. for a report of a person suffering a medical emergency on a Yellow Line train bound for Huntington. The individual was found unresponsive and in cardiac arrest, and was declared dead shortly after medics arrived on scene, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli.

Metro Transit Police and officers from the Pentagon Force Protection Agency both responded to the Metro station with medics.

The incident prompted delays and single-tracking on the Blue and Yellow lines. The single-tracking ended shortly before 5 p.m.

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Trackbed lighting installation is prompting the closure of four Orange and Silver line stations in Arlington this weekend.

The Ballston, Virginia Square, Clarendon and Courthouse Metro stations will be closed Saturday and Sunday, WMATA says on its website.

Shuttle buses will run between East Falls Church and Rosslyn throughout the course of the weekend.

On either end of the Orange and Silver lines, trains will run every 12-15 minutes, as usual. At night, the last train on each of the Orange and Silver lines will run some 35-40 minutes earlier than usual, to accomodate shuttle schedules.

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Arlington has been again named a Silver-level “Bicycle Friendly Community.”

Arlington is among 102 U.S. communities to achieve the designation from the League of American Bicyclists as of late 2019. The League also recognized 347 communities at the Bronze level, 34 at the Gold level and 5 at the Platinum level.

(The Platinum-level communities are Davis, California; Boulder and Fort Collins, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; and Madison, Wisconsin.)

“The program considers five main criteria and three key outcomes in its evaluation, including the current state of local bicycle networks, evaluation and planning efforts for the future and the availability of education and encouragement programs for adults and youth,” Arlington County noted in a press release.

The county says it’s working to improve safety for cyclists by creating a Vision Zero Action Plan that will help “prevent serious injuries and deaths from traffic crashes.”

In the press release below, Arlington officials tout some of the bike amenities that helped the county achieve Silver-level status.

1. 50 miles of shared-use trails and 40 miles of dedicated bike lanes, including a growing number of protected and buffered bike lanes

We know – it’s winter. But they’re out there, right now, waiting for you and your favorite sweater! Arlington County clears snow from a number of the most popular commuter trails so you can bike, or run, on them all year round. You can always explore them digitally and make plans for spring, if that’s more your thing.

2. Meet some new friends on a bike ride

No matter what you are into, someone in Arlington is organizing a bike ride to do it. You can try BikeArlington’s easy social rides to fun destinations, a community-led family bike ride with Kidical Mass, an Arlington Parks and Recreation’s 55+ group ride or even introductory rides lead by local bike shops.

3. Learn to ride (or learn to ride more confidently)

If you’re one of the many adults in the region interested in learning to ride a bike, you can join BikeArlington and WABA for a class next spring. They also have classes for riders looking to understand how to ride safely and confidently on the local roads or trails. Arlington Public Schools has kiddos covered with their bike education unit for second graders.

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Construction on four new transit stations along Columbia Pike is set to begin this week, per county officials.

Nearly seven years after the uproar over the million dollar bus stop, the county awarded a $1.64 million contract to build the first 4 out of 23 planned bus stops along the Pike. The stations include large glass shelters, seating, lighting, trash cans, real time bus arrival displays and a higher curb for easier boarding.

Part of Arlington’s planned “premium transit network,” the improvements are intended to provide a better transit experience along the busy Columbia Pike transit corridor.

Per the construction map, the new stations will be located near the intersections of:

  • Columbia Pike and S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • Columbia Pike and S. Buchanan Street
  • Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street
  • Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road

More from the county’s website:

Work will begin at the South Four Mile Run Drive location, then move to the other locations in the order listed above. The current bus stop at Four Mile Run Drive will be moved one block east to Columbia Pike and South Wakefield Street during construction.

Constructing the stations will be a two-step process. First, our contractor will build the supporting infrastructure for the four stations, then they will return to each site to install the shelters and other station features. It will take several months to construct each location’s supporting infrastructure, which includes an 85 to 120-foot-long station platform with higher curb, the shelter foundation, a concrete bus pad in the roadway and electrical connections.

Installation of the station shelters is expected to start in summer 2020, once the fabricator, which is manufacturing the shelters for all 23 station locations, begins production.

Arlington’s 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Plan allocates a total of $16.9 million for the 23 stations, which includes the above-ground structures and supporting infrastructure, site design, project management and construction costs. The remaining stations are expected to be constructed between 2020-2023.

The county withdrew its original construction plans six years ago after the the prototype cost of the Walter Reed Drive stop, first reported by ARLnow, was revealed to cost over $1 million. The plans drew outrage from the public and attention from national and international press.

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(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) An entrance to the Pentagon Metro station is expected to close soon, temporarily and during off-peak hours, to allow for water infrastructure work following flooding at the station.

A pipe burst on Nov. 27, filling part of the station with several inches of standing water. Metro says a new water supply pipe will need to be constructed, as repairs are not feasible for the original pipe, which runs under the Pentagon itself and dates back to the station’s original construction.

An exact date for the start of the temporary closure was not given. Shortly after a contract to construct the new water line is awarded, the north entrance to the Metro station is expected to close “outside of weekday rush hours,” Metro said.

More from a press release:

Metro customers entering or exiting Pentagon Station during off-peak travel times will need to use the “South Entrance” escalators or the elevators due entrance configuration changes associated with the construction of a new water supply line to serve the station’s facilities, including employee restrooms and maintenance sinks.

Dating to the station’s original construction, the original water supply pipe failed on November 27, sending water streaming into the station through air ducts and elevator shafts. The rush of water dislodged some ductwork, and caused a partial ceiling collapse in a service room. The station was closed for several hours to remove several inches water that had accumulated on the mezzanine level.

Because the original water line runs beneath the Pentagon — an inaccessible location — Metro engineers have recommended abandoning the original pipe and constructing a new water line on a new route around the building.

The Pentagon has been an active and supportive partner to expedite the construction process and necessary security clearances for workers. Metro has already engaged its contractor community and expects to award a contract as early as next week. Once a construction contract is awarded and a formal schedule is developed, Metro will update customers on the expected duration of the project.

CUSTOMER INFORMATION

Due to construction activity and security considerations associated with the portable restrooms, Metro is advising customers who use Pentagon Station to expect entrance configuration changes during off-peak travel times. The changes will continue until a new water line is constructed and water service is restored to the station, a process that likely will take several weeks.

Specifically, outside of weekday rush hours, the station’s “North Entrance” will be closed and all customers will need to use the South Entrance, which will remain open at all times.

During rush hours–Monday through Friday, 5:00-9:30 a.m. and 3:00-7:00 p.m.–the North and South entrances will both be open and available for customers. Elevator service to the station will be available at all times.

Rail service on the Blue and Yellow lines is not affected by this project.

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Metro has released the results of a pivotal study of options for increasing capacity of the Metrorail system, and the preliminary conceptual designs suggest big transit changes might eventually be coming to Arlington.

Among the ideas floated by the transit agency are a second Rosslyn Metro station, a new tunnel under the Potomac, and an new stretch of the Silver Line to either run down Columbia Pike or through North Arlington.

Metro says its “Blue/Orange/Silver Capacity & Reliability Study” is necessary because the existing Rosslyn tunnel is a bottleneck for all three lines, producing delays and crowding that will only get worse — particularly in Arlington — due to expected population and job growth.

The study is intended to “identify the best and most cost-effective solutions to address future ridership, service, and reliability needs on these Metrorail lines,” Metro said. “The approval of dedicated funding from Metro’s jurisdictional partners provides funding to bring the existing system into a state of good repair and keep it well maintained going forward; however, there are future transportation needs that we must begin addressing now.”

Among the changes being considered are:

  • A second Rosslyn Metro station, with a pedestrian connection to the current station.
  • A second tunnel across the Potomac.
  • A Blue Line extension to run from Rosslyn through Georgetown and upper Northwest D.C., and into Montgomery County.
  • A Blue Line extension to run from Rosslyn through Georgetown and mid-city D.C., and into Prince George’s County.
  • A new urban core loop “connecting Pentagon, Rosslyn, Georgetown, the Dupont and Shaw neighborhoods, and the Navy Yard/Waterfront area.”
  • New “NoVa Circulator” option that will route some trains from the Pentagon, around Rosslyn and down the Orange/Silver line toward Courthouse.
  • A Silver Line extension down Columbia Pike and up Route 7, connecting with the West Falls Church Station.
  • A Silver Line extension north of I-66, through North Arlington and McLean.

Major capital projects like a Metro line extension would take several decades and the cost is only described as “high.”

The idea of running Metro down Columbia Pike was discussed while debate raged over the since-canceled Columbia Pike streetcar project, and might find some public support, but the concept of Metro running through mostly residential North Arlington seems much more politically infeasible. Wherever a new Metro line runs, big changes, development and a rise in property values can be expected, as happened with the original construction of the Metrorail system in Arlington.

A number of comparatively minor changes are also proposed, like pocket tracks, crossovers and turnarounds to better mitigate delays and incidents, reconfiguring train seats to provide more space, and adding new station entrances.

Metro says it is now embarking on a public engagement process, with a goal of selecting a set of “locally-preferred” options, both long- and short-term, by next fall.

A public open house is planned in Arlington next week, to be held Monday from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at George Mason University’s Van Metre Hall (3351 Fairfax Drive) in Virginia Square.

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(Updated at 1:35 p.m.) The Pentagon Metro station is closed due to a reported water main break.

Photos posted to social media show riders walking through several inches of murky water to exit the station.

The flooding was first reported by Metro around 7:30 a.m. Blue and Yellow line trains are bypassing the station and buses were brought in to run between the Pentagon and Pentagon City stations.

“The flooding at Pentagon Station is the result of an apparent water main break,” Metro later said via Twitter. “Response personnel on scene addressing the issue.”

Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services inspected the water main break and determined that the line belongs to WMATA.

The station is expected to reopen by the evening rush hour, according to Metro.

The Unsuck DC Metro Twitter account highlighted a number of photos posted on social media, showing flooding in the station:

https://twitter.com/cacaobunni/status/1199665701629374464

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Arlington could be extending a protected bike lane in Crystal City, a block from Amazon’s future home.

The county posted on its website that intends to “rebuild 18th Street South between Fern and Eads Streets in order to continue the existing South Hayes Street protected bike lane further east.”

Designs on the website show the current unprotected bike lanes being converted to protected lanes without a loss of vehicle travel lanes. Additional pedestrian-safety upgrades are also planned.

A group of residents advocating for eliminating single occupant car commuting at Amazon’s future headquarters celebrated the news. On Twitter, the group thanked DES and wrote the planned infrastructure was “GOOD NEWS!”

https://twitter.com/CarFreeHQ2/status/1191824320194060288?s=20

“The project will improve the safety of the South Fern Street and 18th Street South intersection by removing the southbound right turn slip lane and building curb extensions on all four corners of the intersection to reduce pedestrian crossing distances,” said Department of Environmental Services (DES) spokesman Eric Balliet.

“It will also extend the existing protected bike lanes on South Hayes Street (west of the Fern St/18th St intersection) along 18th Street from South Fern to South Eads Street,” he added.

The project will include features for pedestrians, like high visibility crosswalks. Per the county website:

Additionally, the intersection of 18th Street South and South Fern Street will be rebuilt to decrease crossing distances and decrease the existing impervious area. This will improve pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle safety at the intersection.

The project will also add stormwater retention, replace a water main and upgrade the streetscape, helping improve the connection between the core of Pentagon City and Crystal City.

The work is part of the 18th Street S. Complete Streets project and is expected to cost the county $5.3 million, which will be paid for by funds earmarked in the Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2017-2026 and a Crystal City transportation infrastructure fund.

Near Amazon’s HQ2, cycling advocates have also successfully pushed for more protected bike lanes.

Arlington first added plastic bollards and moved out the parking area along S. Hayes Street in 2014 to physically protect cyclists from cars. Since then, DES has tested out more protected bike lanes, adding two in Ballston and Courthouse.

However, transit advocates have pushed for the county to pick up the pace, citing the dangers of cars blocking unprotected lanes which forces cyclists into dangerous, busy roads. In addition to cyclists, bike lanes are also used by e-scooter riders.

Balliet said the department expects construction on the 18th Street S. project to begin next fall.

Images via Arlington County & Google Maps 

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Arlington may soon be making electric scooters a more or less permanent fixture of the county’s streets and sidewalks.

The County Board will vote on an ordinance change during its meeting this Saturday, November 16 to allow e-scooter companies to operate in Arlington — provided companies fulfill the requirements of a new permitting system starting next year.

The code change would make the pilot program for “micro-mobility devices” a permanent part of Arlington’s transit system after officials originally approved a nine-month pilot program in September 2018 — and extended it ever since.

If Board members approve the proposed code changes on Saturday, it would allow scooter companies in Arlington to continue operating as long as they fulfill the requirements of the new permit application and pay the still-to-be-determined application fees by January 1, 2020. Much like the pilot program, the County Manager’s office would also be allow to cap the number of devices permitted per company, demand equitable deployment, and levy penalties.

The program will also specify some “community and information sharing requirement” according to a staff report to the Board — a similar requirement to the one in Los Angeles that Uber refused to fulfill, and which led city officials to rescind the company’s permits over Uber’s objections.

But moving forward on the scooter program in Arlington isn’t a surprise considering a recent Mobility Lab report encouraging county leaders to make the scooter program permanent.

The recent report drew support from bicycle and pedestrian advocates, and also recommended that the county roll out some changes next year, including:

  • Adding more safe infrastructure like protected bike lanes for scooters and cyclists, as outlined in the county’s recently updated Master Transportation Plan.
  • Addressing parking complaints by creating a map of approved parking spots as well as “no-go” areas.
  • Eliminating barriers to lower-income users by waiving company’s requirements that users need credit cards

Users traveled just over 400,000 miles on scooters in Arlington between Oct. 2018 and June 2019, per a staff report, but some crashes and blocked sidewalks have prompted discussions about age restrictions and designated parking spaces as well as allowing scooters on some trails.

“Staff proposes that it be permissible to use County sidewalks (with limitations), trails, and on-street bicycle facilities for micro-mobility travel, unless specifically signed/marked otherwise,” wrote county staff in a report to the Board for Saturday’s meeting. “One of the first steps in implementation of the new ordinance would be to sign/mark as prohibited for riding those key sidewalk conflict areas identified during the Pilot program.”

The question of whether scooter riders should be allowed on sidewalks has been a topic of debate among some local groups. Staff is recommending allowing sidewalk use in areas of the county where bike lanes are not a viable option.

“Key stakeholder groups including the Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Bicycle Advisory Committee, and Commission on Aging expressed concern that irresponsible sidewalk-riding could be a danger to pedestrians of any age, however they also expressed support for allowing responsible sidewalk-riding where it was not inconsistent with volumes of pedestrians using the facility, and where safe in-road options are not present,” the staff report says.

The Commission on Aging also expressed concerns that “scooter parking would create an obstruction to safe pedestrian circulation, especially near public transit stops and stations.” County staff seeks to address those concerns with restrictions that specify that scooters should be parked upright and off to the side on sidewalks, if not in a designated scooter dock.

Earlier this year, lawmakers in Richmond passed legislation requiring localities to create their own regulations for where users could ride, and park, the devices.

The new ordinance would not, however, preclude future changes to the scooter program.

“Staff commits to a review of the program and consideration of potential refinements to the ordinance at or about one year after ordinance changes go into effect,” a county staff report states.

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A new car-sharing company for quick trips or all-day rentals has quietly rolled out vehicles in Arlington and D.C.

The sedan ARLnow spotted in the Bluemont neighborhood was discreet, with a sticker reading “dash” on the driver’s side door. It is part of the “Penske Dash” car-sharing venture recently launched by Michigan automotive services company Penske Corp.

However, the service’s debut is “awkward” timing considering Car2Go has been cutting service, and General Motors, Lime and BMW have also pulled out from their car-sharing programs, as TechCrunch reported.

The former CEO of Car2Go, Paul Delong, is leading local operations for Dash, per TechCrunch.

Dash’s Chief Operating Officer Michael Montri told ARLnow today (Thursday) that the company was choosing to invest anyway because Penske’s focus on slow growth for the program, experience in automotive, and partnership with Colonial Parking would help it succeed where others had failed.

“As the automobile industry undergoes rapid change, alternative transportation models are becoming more common place, particularly in densely populated urban areas,” he said. “Mobility as a Service (MaaS) provides a hassle-free and environmentally friendly alternative to private car ownership.”

Montri added that Arlington and D.C. were “great” spots to pilot Dash because “residents of these communities have shown an interest in, and comfort with, new mobility models,” and the local governments were willing to work with companies offering new transit programs.

Penske joins French company Groupe PSA, which also launched its own car-sharing program “Free2Move” in the D.C. area in June. Groupe PSA’s program now operates around 600 vehicles in D.C. and Arlington, according to industry news site Automotive News.

Montri did not answer how many Dash cars Penske planned to roll out in the county when asked by ARLnow.

Dash works in a similar way to competitors like Free2Move and Car2go: users download an app to create an account, locate an available Volkswagen Jetta, and unlock it with the app to get behind the wheel.

Users can then “return” the cars by parking anywhere it is street legal in Arlington or D.C. However, the service’s warns people to avoid underground garages where apps can struggle for signal.

Dash credits up to $25 to fuel up the cars, but users pay the rest, along with a 45 cent charge per minute spent driving the car. The difference between Dash and its competitors, Montri said, was better vehicle upkeep and customer service.

Montri’s full statement about Dash is below.

As the automobile industry undergoes rapid change, alternative transportation models are becoming more common place, particularly in densely populated urban areas. Mobility as a Service (Maas) provides a hassle-free and environmentally friendly alternative to private car ownership. 

Penske has a legacy in transportation solutions, spanning automobiles, services and trucks. We bring our expertise to the marketplace, and alongside our partners, Penske Dash offers best-in-class quality and operational excellence.

Our entry into any market will be methodical as we grow in partnership with local communities, pursuing customer satisfaction and repeat business as primary metrics rather than number of users or vehicles. Additionally, both the A-to-B and rent-by-minute models provide added flexibility for those who may not wish to return their rental to the same starting point, or return, by a specific time.

In Washington DC, Penske Dash’s partnership with Colonial Parking gives members a guaranteed free parking solution in dense, city center areas so they can avoid struggling to find street space.

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