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County Readies Update of Cycling Infrastructure Plans, Sketching Out Dozens of Potential Improvements

Arlington transportation planners are weighing major revisions to the guiding document for the future of the county’s bike infrastructure, sketching out a wish list of new trails and bike lanes they want to see over the coming years.

County officials have recently begun circulating a draft version of an updated “bicycle element” to Arlington’s “Master Transportation Plan.” The document was last updated a decade ago, and a working group has spent more than a year crafting potential changes for the plan.

In all, it contains 26 new pieces of cycling infrastructure from the last time the plan was revised, including a bevy of new trail segments, additional on-street lanes and trail renovations. The county is now soliciting public feedback on the draft in the form of a community survey, with additional engagement efforts to come.

But the document also includes some broad goals for county officials to pursue to meet the needs of cyclists over the coming decades, with a special focus on how Arlington can make people feel safer while riding their bikes on local streets.

“Many residents have identified that they do not have suitable bicycle facilities within their neighborhoods or ones that connect to the local destinations that they want to travel to,” the draft document reads. “Other bicyclists do not feel comfortable riding with or amongst motor vehicle traffic and they feel that some on-street bikeways do not provide sufficient separation from motor vehicles. While the County has developed many on-street bikeways in recent years, their distribution and connectedness across the Arlington is currently uneven.”

To that end, the updated plan calls for plenty of infrastructure improvements to meet that goal. The county’s budget squeeze, however, will make it a challenge for the County Board to find finding for many of these projects, at least in the near term.

But the document does identify several improvements that have already been funded in the county’s long-term construction plans, including three additions from the plan’s last update. Those include:

McKinley Road Buffered Bicycle Lanes – Revise the roadway markings on McKinley Road between the Custis Trail and Wilson Boulevard to include buffered bicycle lanes. Undertake the roadway marking along with construction of crossing enhancement to provide for improved access to McKinley Elementary School and the Custis Trail.

S. Clark Street Cycle Track – Construct an off-street cycle track that connects the planned Army Navy Drive protected bicycle lane at 12th Street South to 18th Street S. and the Crystal City Metrorail station.

Shirlington Road Bridge – Reconstruct the Shirlington Road bridge, and adjacent sidewalks, to provide an enhanced, wide bicycle and pedestrian path along the west side of the roadway that links the W&OD and Four Mile Run trails.

As for the rest, some the new planned changes only impact small sections of trails or roadways, requiring only small funding commitments. Others are substantially more ambitious.

Among the bigger asks are requests for the renovation of the entirety of the W&OD Trail as it runs through Arlington, and the portion of the Four Mile Run Trail south of W. Glebe Road, totaling about 5.5 miles in all.

“Improvements may include: trail widening, minor realignments, new pavement markings, wayfinding signage and consideration of the addition of trail lighting,” the document reads.

When it comes to new and improved trails, other planned projects include upgrades for the entirety of the Bluemont Junction Trail and and the construction of a new, half-mile long bike and pedestrian trail connecting the site of the former Northern Virginia Community Hospital in Glencarlyn to the nearby Forest Hills neighborhood.

Some of the plan’s more substantial on-street projects include the construction of bike lanes and other improvements along “the entirety of S. George Mason Drive,” stretching about 2.1 miles in all. The document also envisions new bike lanes along N. Highland and N. Herndon streets, between Key Boulevard and 7th Street N., to allow for easier access to the Clarendon Metro station.

Additionally, the document recommends the creation of some new “bike boulevards,” or coordinated infrastructure improvements to give cyclists an alternative to bypass busy roads for quieter side streets.

The county’s previously constructed some off Columbia Pike, and the plan envisions one along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor (on Key Boulevard, N. Jackson Street and 13th Street N. between N. Rhodes and N. Quincy streets) and another connecting Ashton Heights and Lyon Park (on 5th, 6th, 7th and N. Fillmore streets to connect Henderson Road to Pershing Drive as it meets Washington Blvd).

The county is planning an open house to collect in-person feedback on the new bicycle element on Jan. 14 at Phoenix Bikes (909 S. Dinwiddie Street), set to run from 6-7:30 p.m.

Photo via Arlington County

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Planners Plot Out Changes Aimed at Reducing Crashes at Memorial Circle

Transportation officials are proposing a host of safety improvements for Memorial Circle, a confusing confluence of roads connecting Arlington National Cemetery to the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

The circle has long been the site of all manner of dangerous crashes, particularly those involving cyclists and pedestrians looking to access the nearby Mt. Vernon Trail or cross into D.C. But the National Park Service has drawn up a series of changes for the roads in the area designed to address the issue, including traffic pattern changes to transform the circle into something more like a traditional roundabout.

“The project area is at a major convergence of regional roadways and modes that interact through a complex series of roadway merges (on-ramps), weaves, diverges (off-ramps), and intersections, resulting in traffic congestion and crashes,” NPS planners wrote in a November environmental assessment. “The proposed action would change the way area users access and circulate through the area by car, bicycle, or foot.”

Officials estimate that the area saw approximately 600 crashes between 2006 and 2012. Lawmakers previously secured some safety improvements for the G.W. Parkway and the circle to try to address the issue. The new NPS proposal would address not only the circle itself, but also the roads approaching the area from both the north and south: S. Arlington Blvd and Washington Blvd.

Perhaps the most substantial change park officials are proposing would be cutting back on one lane of traffic in the circle, in order to “allow the circle to function more like a modern roundabout,” the NPS wrote. That means that drivers in the circle would have the right of way, and anyone entering the circle would need to yield to them.

The NPS also plans to split up an island on the east side of the circle, near where it meets the Memorial Bridge, allowing two westbound lanes coming from the bridge to “bypass the circle and head north onto S. Arlington Boulevard” and one lane of traffic to proceed and enter the circle.

For roads north of the circle, officials are proposing some improved signage at the various intersections, including “fluorescent yellow advance pedestrian crossing warning signs” at some and “rapid flashing beacon” signs at others.

But they’re also envisioning more dramatic improvements, like reducing Washington Blvd down to one lane, and removing both the “existing southern exit ramp connecting S. Arlington Blvd and S. Washington Blvd” and “the existing far left exit lane of S. Arlington Blvd.”

As S. Arlington Blvd exits the circle, the NPS also envisions reducing the road from three lanes down to two leading up to the crosswalk. The existing far left lane leading onto a ramp to S. Washington Blvd is slated to be removed, as is the exit ramp itself.

The NPS is planning similar pedestrian sign improvements for intersections south of the circle, as well as other lane reductions.

One major change would be the construction of a new concrete island where Washington Blvd enters the circle to its south, allowing two lanes of the road to bypass the circle and reach the Memorial Bridge, and one lane to enter the circle. That would require a slightly widening of the road in the area, the NPS wrote.

The plans also call for Washington Blvd to be reduced from four lanes to three south of the circle “in order to simplify merging patterns,” while the G.W. Parkway would be widened “to add an acceleration lane allowing traffic from Arlington Blvd to enter the parkway in its own dedicated lane before merging onto the two-lane parkway.”

Additionally, the NPS envisions relocating two bike and pedestrians crossings south of the circle. One, located as a trail crossing Washington Blvd, “would be relocated closer to the Circle, to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to cross where vehicle speeds are slower and where drivers are anticipating conflicts.” The other, designed to help people cross the parkway to the southeast of the circle, would be moved slightly further north of the parkway.

The NPS traffic analysis of these proposed changes suggest they’d generate “an overall improvement” in congestion on the roads, in addition to substantial safety upgrades.

People in the bicycling community are pretty skeptical of the latter assertion, however.

The NPS is accepting comments on the plans through Dec. 29.

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County Set to Officially Open New Washington Blvd Bike Trail Today

(Updated at 12:22 a.m.) Arlington County is set to celebrate the opening of a new section of the Washington Blvd Bike Trail today (Nov. 30).

The event will take place from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. along the new bike trail on the east side of Towers Park (801 S. Scott Street). Capital Bikeshare bikes will be available for attendees to try out the trail after remarks from the speakers.

Construction on the trail began in January. Work zipped along over the last few months to complete it before the end of fall.

The new 10-foot-wide trail runs between Towers Park and 2nd Street S. in Penrose, to provide more seamless access for cyclists and pedestrians to a previously constructed trail between Arlington Blvd and Walter Reed Drive.

This story has been updated

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Morning Notes

Shatner: Arlington E-Bike Rules ‘Barbaric’ — E-bike enthusiast and Priceline pitchman William Shatner, better known as Star Trek’s Captain James T. Kirk, said via Twitter yesterday — in response to a tweet from the sassy Arlington Dept. Environmental Services Twitter account — that Arlington’s prohibition on e-bikes on local trails is “barbaric.” [Twitter]

Kojo Coming to Crystal City — WAMU 88.5 is bringing the Kojo Nnamdi Show to Crystal City for “a town hall-style discussion about how local officials, businesses, and community members in Northern Virginia and the region are reacting to Amazon’s decision.” Those wishing to attend the taping can register online. [Kojo Nnamdi Show]

Upgrades for Ballston Senior Housing — “The Arlington County Board [Tuesday] approved a low-interest loan of $3.025 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to help renovate The Carlin, a 162-unit, 10-story building located at 4300 N. Carlin Springs Road. The Carlin serves low income elderly residents who are 55 years and older.” [Arlington County]

‘Arts District’ Near Crystal City? — “Even before the specter of Amazon’s second headquarters put stars in everyone’s eyes in Crystal City, Stratis Voutsas and Georgia Papadopoulos, managers of a trust that owns many buildings on the neighborhood’s ‘restaurant row,’ were dreaming up a plan to bring more people across U.S. Route 1 to the neighborhood… The trust wants to build an open-air park and plaza on a parking lot and site of a Greek restaurant the trust owns behind some of the 23rd Street restaurants. It would have artist spaces tucked below, facing onto 22nd Street.” [Washington Business Journal]

Amazon News Roundup — Amazon’s HQ2 search was about “selecting locations with specialized kinds of talent that meet certain needs,” and “Crystal City… puts Amazon closer to tech talent, but also to government leaders, cloud customers, and the U.S. Department of Defense.” Crystal City is built upon the former Abingdon Plantation and the new Amazon presence “affords us the opportunity to recognize and memorialize the lives of those enslaved there.” Meanwhile, a former JBG executive who left to help build a $3 billion development in Tampa is returning as the company prepares for Amazon’s arrival.

Nearby: New Wawa and New Restaurant — A new Wawa is coming to Vienna, making it the closest Northern Virginia location to Arlington for the beloved convenience store chain. And an acclaimed chef is planning to open a new Italian restaurant on N. Washington Street in the City of Falls Church.

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Biking, Boating Changes Approved for Theodore Roosevelt Island

(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Parks officials have signed off on some big changes at Theodore Roosevelt Island, including the rehabilitation of a troublesome section of the Mt. Vernon Trail and the addition of several new landing spots for small boats and kayaks.

The National Park Service announced yesterday (Monday) that it will move ahead with a variety of construction projects on the island, located off the George Washington Memorial Parkway near Rosslyn, after settling on some final designs and certifying they’ll have minimal environmental impacts on the island.

Some of the changes will be relatively small, like the addition of some new signs and markers detailing Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy — the island is home to the lone memorial to the nation’s 26th president in D.C. Others will be more substantial, such as the total overhaul and realignment of a boardwalk-style bridge on the Mt. Vernon Trail, which runs from underneath the Roosevelt Bridge to just south of the island’s parking lot.

The park service’s plans call for a “replacement of the bridge deck and railing to provide a smoother riding surface.” That will likely come as good news to area cyclists, who have nicknamed it “the Trollheim Bridge” for its treacherous surface — TheWashCycle blog described it as a the “notoriously slippery part of the Mt. Vernon trail that has caused literally thousands of crashes” in a post last year.

The main, 1,400-foot-section of the bridge also meets an additional 90-foot section toward its north end, creating an awkward “T” intersection for cyclists. The realignment work will eliminate that intersection, creating a new left turn lane as well.

Other walking trails on the island will see some improvements under the plans as well. The NPS is hoping to improve connections between the pedestrian bridge and the island’s Memorial Plaza and create “universal access to the entire Swamp Trail, including access to the comfort station.” That small rest stop is also set to see a refresh under these plans.

The NPS is also hoping to add a total of four landings for canoes, kayaks and row boats on the island. Each one will be about 12 feet wide, and provide “access for approximately 4-5 kayaks/canoes,” according to the park service’s documents. The plans also call for the construction of a roughly 100-foot-long “floating dock” for larger craft, to be located at the island’s northeast corner, once the home of a ferry landing.

The park service noted in an environmental analysis of these proposed changes that, currently, “boaters and kayakers anchor or beach their non-motorized watercraft on unmarked areas along the shoreline.” Officials fear that the “practice impacts natural and archeological resources and has the potential to expose boaters and kayakers to underwater hazards in shoreline areas,” reasoning that the new landings should alleviate that issue. The area could also be in line to see increased boating activity, should the NPS’ plans to build the long-anticipated Rosslyn boathouse continue to advance.

Additionally, the park service wants to add some more vegetation and trees to the largely wooded island. Some new shrubs will be designed to cover up existing “social” bike trails on the island’s north shore line; other tree plantings will replace the roughly 200 ash trees the NPS had to remove last summer due to an “emerald ash borer infestation.”

The NPS says it’s still searching for funding for the entire range of projects on the island, but some will move ahead in the near term. The Mt. Vernon Trail bridge improvements, for instance, are currently out for bid by federal officials and could be completed by sometime in 2020.

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Transit Advocates, Neighbors Urge Inclusion of Bike and Pedestrian Trail Along New Long Bridge

A coalition of businesses, neighborhood groups and transportation advocates are urging planners to include a bike and pedestrian trail along the long-planned replacement for the Long Bridge, a key railroad connection from Virginia into D.C.

A total of 15 organizations from Arlington, the District and the rest of the metropolitan Washington region penned a new letter last Thursday (Nov. 1) to both local and federal transportation officials working on the project, calling the inclusion of a trail alongside the bridge part of “a once in a generation opportunity to transform our regional transportation network.”

Planners are still sorting out exactly what the new bridge might look like. The original structure, which runs from near the Pentagon in Arlington to Southwest D.C., was built back in 1904, and officials from around the region have viewed replacing it as a necessary step for improving freight and passenger rail service between D.C. and Northern Virginia.

However, the prospect of including a trail alongside the new Long Bridge was not formally included in the various assessments of potential designs of the project. Accordingly, the group penning the letter sought to emphasize the benefits such a trail could have for the region’s commuters, and its economy.

The organizations — which include the Crystal City Civic Association, Friends of Long Bridge Park, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and Greater Greater Washington — stressed that any new trail crossing the Potomac River would provide “crucial links to several important regional trails.” The current crossing along the 14th Street Bridge does not offer a connection to the regional trail network on the D.C. side. of the bridge, and the friends group supporting the Mt. Vernon Trail co-signed the letter.

The groups also stressed that such a trail would spur economic development “by linking two key activity nodes in Southwest D.C. and Crystal City.” That goes doubly so if officials also follow the groups’ recommendation that the trail “connect to the esplanade in Long Bridge Park” and “extend as far towards L’Enfant Plaza as physically possible” on the D.C. side.

Perhaps most importantly, the letter urges that the trail “be funded and constructed concurrently with the rail component of the Long Bridge project,” and that it “should be incorporated into the design of the broader project in a way that optimizes the achievability of the project with regard to cost and complexity.”

In a draft of an environmental impact statement prepared in late June, federal and local planners stress that any trail is “not part of the purpose and need” of the project. Even still, they agreed to include the study of four potential trail crossings in more detailed studies of the project to be completed over the coming months.

Planners have so far narrowed potential designs of the bridge replacement down to two options; both involve building a new, two-track bridge alongside the existing structure, but one alternative calls for the current bridge to stay in place and the other would involve fully replacing it.

Two of the trail designs call for building the crossing alongside the new bridge. Two others call for building the trail along its own, independent bridge: one proposal envisions it being upstream of the new two-track bridge, another would be downstream.

The transit advocates at Greater Greater Washington have expressed doubts about these proposals in the past, arguing that the designs “do the bare minimum” and represent a missed opportunity for planners. However, officials did agree to examine trail crossings over the Long Bridge Park side of the G.W. Parkway, “with an evaluation of connections to the Mount Vernon Trail and Ohio Drive S.W.,” two features that were previously championed by Greater Greater Washington.

Even still, there remains no guarantee that the trail will indeed be included in the project — the June report notes that Virginia rail officials noted “noted that the primary focus of the project is increasing rail capacity, and expressed significant concerns regarding safety and constructability of any combined-mode structure.”

Planners are still a long ways off from finalizing designs, however. The first step is settling on a single “preferred alternative” to examine in more detail, which planners hope to do within the next two months.

Officials then hope to have engineering and environmental analyses drawn up by summer 2019, and the project still needs additional funding. Virginia officials and the rail company CSX, which owns the bridge, have committed to chip in a total of $30 million for the effort, though there’s no telling just how much the bridge replacement might ultimately cost.

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Morning Notes

Street Smart Campaign to Start Up Next Week — “As part of the Arlington County Police Department’s overall traffic safety program, the Special Operations Section is again participating in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Fall Street Smart campaign. This region-wide public safety campaign, which runs from November 5 – December 2, 2018, aims to educate drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and scooter operators about existing traffic laws and how to safely share our roadways.” [Arlington County]

County Board Lauds County Staff — In a video posted on YouTube, County Board Chair Katie Cristol and Vice Chair Christian Dorsey said “thank you” to Arlington County staff for the hard work that helped propel the county to high resident satisfaction ratings. “We are really proud of you… of your commitment to excellence and the role you play in making Arlington a terrific community.” [YouTube]

Bicycling Meetups This Fall — “Fall has arrived in Arlington, leaves have started to change colors, and temperatures are dipping overnight… If you’re looking for a good excuse to ride bikes and drink coffee this fall, like I do, there are plenty of local opportunities to make that happen.” [BikeArlington]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

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JBG Smith’s Major Crystal Square Project Nears Approval, Though Some Concerns Linger

Plans to transform a section of Crystal City into a new retail hub for the neighborhood could soon move ahead, though neighbors and cyclists are still pressing for changes to the redevelopment effort.

Many of JBG Smith’s plans for the “Crystal Square” project, centered on a block of Crystal Drive between 15th Street S. and 18th Street S., are up for approval by the County Board this weekend. The long-awaited project would completely revamp the existing office buildings on the block, adding a new movie theater, grocery store and other retailers to replace the existing Crystal City Shops at 1750.

County staff and planners have generally given the project a green light, given its potential to help speed along the transformation of a block centered around the area’s Metro station. Even still, some people living nearby worry that the construction will blot out some of Crystal City’s limited green space, and won’t address the neighborhood’s transportation challenges.

The heart of the Crystal Square development, backed by the area’s largest property owner, generally isn’t up for dispute. In all, JBG Smith plans to add 84,000 square feet of retail and commercial space along Crystal Drive by renovating some of the existing buildings on the property, and tacking on some additions as well.

The main draws will be a three-story movie theater, reportedly an Alamo Drafthouse location, and a 15,000-square-foot “small format specialty grocer,” like a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Those businesses, and perhaps many others, will generally be centered closest to Crystal Drive’s intersection with 15th Street S., and the existing one-story retail in the area will likely be demolished to connect the theater and the grocery store, removing a small park in the process.

County staff note in a report for the Board that the proposal “not a complete redevelopment that breaks up the existing superblock with new public streets,” as might eventually be desirable for the area, it is a chance to “create a high-quality public realm…[that] enhances multimodal access and connectivity by placing large regional draws such as a movie theater and grocer within easy access of the Metro, bus stops, and VRE station.”

However, cycling advocates worry that all these plans will do little to improve connectivity to the Mt. Vernon Trail, leaving people highly dependent on cars in the area. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association is urging cyclists to press for protected bike lanes along both Crystal Drive and 18th Street S. to create a safer, low-stress place to bike that wouldn’t be constantly blocked by parked cars.

JBG Smith declined to comment for this article, but it seems the developer doesn’t see much room for protected bike lanes in the area. While a bike lane along Crystal Drive is included in the Crystal Square plans, county transportation staff told the Planning Commission back in February that “there is not enough space to provide a protected bike lane” on the road.

Eventually, JBG says it could also build a two-story retail building further down the block, at Crystal Drive’s intersection with 18th Street S. That feature has drawn a bit more scrutiny from neighbors, who note that the site was long envisioned as a new park to replace the green space set to be removed in the earlier construction.

“The proposed two-story building would take a chunk out of that green space and destroy the sight line from Crystal Drive up to Clark/Bell [Streets,” Crystal City Civic Association President Carol Fuller told ARLnow. “The CCCA has been fighting this for months.”

Fuller points out that the location is also the proposed place for a second Metro station entrance, but with the county putting the brakes on that project as it deals with a funding crunch, she argues it would make much more sense to delay consideration of adding a new building there as well. Otherwise, she sees it as a “poison pill” impacting the whole development proposal.

The Planning Commission ultimately voted to endorse that building back in May, though many members expressed grave concerns about the proposal. The Parks and Recreation Commission even said it was “premature” to allow the building until securing firm funding commitments from JBG to ensure a park of some kind is indeed built on the space.

Those concerns aside, the Board seems unlikely to take action on that part of the proposal, at least in the near term.

JBG is also asking for permission to revert one office building on Crystal Drive back to office space, doing away with plans to convert it into an apartment building, a move fueling speculation that the company wants to wait to see if Amazon tabs the neighborhood for its second headquarters before committing to plans for the building.

Staff recommend that the Board defer any consideration of that request, and plans for the two-story building, for up to a year, given all the uncertainty still surrounding the site.

The Board will take up consideration of the project at its meeting Saturday (Oct. 20).

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Lime Becomes Second Company to Bring Dockless Scooters to Arlington

Lime has become the second company to start offering dockless electric scooters in Arlington, expanding into the county soon after officials signed off on a pilot program to allow more of the vehicles around the area.

The company successfully applied for that program and is so far only offering scooters, not bikes, in Arlington, according to county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet. Bird was the first company to drop its dockless scooters in the county this summer, though Lime has been courting support from the county’s business community for months now.

Even still, the company, which also operates in D.C., has been reticent to mirror Bird’s approach and deploy scooters in Arlington without the county’s blessing. But after the County Board signed off last month on a nine-month “demonstration project” for companies to test out dockless vehicles, allowing each company to operate up to 750 vehicles in Arlington over the length of the pilot, Lime jumped in.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how many scooters its deployed in Arlington. The terms of the pilot program allow dockless companies to deploy up to 350 vehicles right away, then increase the size of the fleet by 50 vehicles per month, so long as they can meet ridership targets.

Bird is the only other company to sign up to participate in the pilot program as of yet, Balliet said. County officials previously warned the Board that as many as 10 companies could ultimately apply, given the other firms already operating bikes and scooters in D.C., which is why they initially pressed for a lower cap on the number of vehicles allowed in the county.

County staff specifically mentioned Skip as one company looking to expand into Arlington right away, and CEO Sanjay Dastoor previously told ARLnow that the company is indeed interested in bringing its scooters to the county. Dastoor did not respond to a request for comment on his plans for the pilot program, and a quick scan of Skip’s mobile app shows only a handful of scooters currently in Arlington.

Not everyone seems thrilled to have more scooters on Arlington’s streets. A photo taken by a passerby and sent to ARLnow this morning, below, shows a Lime scooter snapped in half in front of P.F. Chang’s in Ballston.

Photo (bottom) courtesy Richie F.

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Morning Notes

Pupatella Raking in the Dough — “Budding Neapolitan pizza chain Pupatella has raised $3.75 million from several investors to open up to eight new company-owned pizza joints in the D.C. area.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Ranks as Top Bike City — “Arlington ranked 17th, up from 25th two years ago. [Bicycling] magazine states Arlington could have made a higher jump in the rankings, but Metro funding issues left less for biking improvements and limited improvements.” [Patch]

Deer Danger on Local Roads — “Across Northern Virginia, nearly 500 motorists will likely strike a deer in the road over the last three months of the year. Virginia wildlife officials are warning drivers to slow down this fall to avoid striking deer and other large animals that are found more often in the roadway.” [InsideNova]

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VDOT Unveils Final Designs for W&OD Trail Bridge Over Lee Highway

State transportation officials have firmed up their plans for a new bike and pedestrian bridge over Lee Highway in East Falls Church, putting the project on track for construction to kick off next spring.

VDOT unveiled final designs for the planned Washington & Old Dominion Trail bridge at a community meeting last Thursday (Oct. 11), sketching out more details on the bridge that is designed to offer a safer alternative to the trail’s current crossing at the highway’s intersection with Fairfax Drive.

The bridge’s design is largely unchanged from plans that VDOT showed off last summer. Some of the biggest changes include the removal of a barrier with streetlights running down the middle of the bridge and a change to the “piers” holding up the bridge — they now include open space in the middle of their “v” shape.

Officials initially proposed a design for the bridge that featured a trussed roof and red paint, yet some neighbors objected to those features, as well as the bridge’s potential to disrupt long-range plans for the area’s transportation networks.

Planners ultimately changed the bridge’s color and removed the roof, and even agreed to tweak the lighting features on the bridge too. Instead of a barrier lined by street lights, the bridge will now include lighting underneath the v-shaped posts running along its sides.

VDOT also detailed potential traffic disruptions prompted by the bridge’s construction at the meeting. Officials expect that there will be temporary closures on Lee Highway as the bridge’s beams and girders are put in place, and they expect that the fire lane on Fairfax Drive will be closed as construction continues. The W&OD Trail will also be realigned temporarily to allow for the construction, and could also see some temporary closures.

Planners are tentatively hoping to begin work on the bridge early next year, then wrap it up by the fall of 2020. The work will also move in tandem with the I-66 eastbound widening project, which VDOT also hopes to complete in late 2020.

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Morning Notes

Memorial Ride for Arlington Cyclist — A memorial ride is planned tonight in D.C. for Arlington resident Thomas Hollowell, who was killed while riding his bike to work last week near the intersection of 12th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. [Facebook]

Master Bike Plan for Arlington — Planners are putting the finishing touches on which bike infrastructure projects to include in Arlington County’s updated master plan. Currently in: the Army Navy Country Club Connector. Currently out: a connection from the Marine Corps War Memorial to the Roosevelt Bridge. [TheWashCycle]

Grumbles About Pike ‘Premium’ Bus — One outspoken Twitter user is on a mission to highlight the shortcomings of the new Columbia Pike “premium transit network.” Some have said the long-promised bus improvements have been underwhelming and have suffered the same service issues of every other mass transit line in town. However, the same Twitter user’s attempt at a petition to “bring back the Arlington streetcar” only has one signature so far. [Twitter, Change.org]

Walmart Buys Eloquii — Fashion-forward, plus-size women’s clothing retailer Eloquii has been acquired by Walmart. The e-commerce company opened its first bricks-and-mortar location at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall. [TechCrunch, Forbes]

Optimism for Malls — At a Bisnow event in Tysons yesterday, a panel of commercial real estate pros said shopping malls in urbanized areas like Tysons (and, by extension, Arlington) are better off than their more suburban counterparts that are suffering in the era of Amazon. In Arlington, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and the soon-to-reopen Ballston Quarter account for a large portion of the local retail industry. [Tysons Reporter]

Reminder: Emergency Alert Test — Expect your phone to buzz and beep just after 2:15 p.m. as part of a nationwide federal emergency alert test. The alert will be sent via mobile carriers and the national Wireless Emergency Alerts system, not via Arlington County’s Arlington Alert. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Morning Notes

Arlington Holds Disaster Drill for Cyclists — “On Saturday BikeArlington and the Office of Emergency Management held the county’s first Disaster Relief Trial, modeled after such events in Oregon, Washington, and California… 70 registered families, teams, and individual bikers traveled throughout Arlington, stopping at four checkpoints and completing eight challenges.” [Local DVM]

Marymount Launches Internship Fund — “Marymount University has announced plans to financially support students who intern at non-profit organizations that do not have the resources to pay them. The new ‘Sister Majella Berg Internship Fund’ is a way to solidify partnerships between the university and local safety-net organizations, new Marymount University president Irma Becerra said.” [InsideNova]

AT&T Donates $30K to Local Nonprofit — “Bridges to Independence announced today a new contribution from AT&T. A private, nonprofit organization, Bridges is dedicated to serving families experiencing homelessness in the City of Alexandria and Arlington County, VA. AT&T’s support will directly benefit Bridges’ mission by expanding the organization’s Youth Development Program which serves children experiencing homelessness.” [Press Release]

Ballston Apartment Building Sold — “The Chevy Chase Land Company… announced today the $90 million acquisition of 672 Flats, a 173-Unit Class A apartment building in the heart of Ballston.” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin

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JUST IN: Arlington Cyclist Killed in D.C.

A 64-year-old Arlington man was killed while riding his bike to work in D.C., according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

The crash occurred yesterday (Monday) morning on the 1200 block of Constitution Avenue NW. A driver in a dark sedan ran a red light at a high rate of speed, struck Thomas Hendricks Hollowell in the crosswalk and drove off without stopping, according to police.

Despite a quick response from police and passersby, Hollowell died from his injuries. NBC 4’s Adam Tuss reported that Hollowell rode his bike to work at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History every day.

Image via Google Maps

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VDOT Finalizes Plans for W&OD Trail Bridge Over Lee Highway

Transportation planners will soon unveil the final design of a new bike and pedestrian bridge stretching over Lee Highway in East Falls Church.

VDOT plans to show off the finalized schematics for the Washington & Old Dominion Trail bridge at a community meeting next month, capping off a design process that drew plenty of flak from neighbors last year. The new bridge, which is being built as part of widening work on I-66 eastbound in the area, is designed to replace the trail’s current crossing at the highway’s intersection with Fairfax Drive and offer a safer environment for walkers and cyclists.

Officials had initially proposed a design for the bridge that featured a trussed roof and red paint, yet neighbors objected to those features, as well as the bridge’s potential to disrupt long-range plans for the area’s transportation networks.

But VDOT has since tweaked its design to address the most controversial features, proposing a bridge that’s gray in color without a trussed roof, in a bid to address some of those concerns. Even still, some questions about noise walls and public art lingered during a meeting on the project last year.

Planners will look to address those worries and more at an Oct. 11 meeting at Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd) from 6:30-8:30 p.m., where they’ll deliver a presentation on “final design plans and aesthetic details.”

If all goes as planned, construction is set to start on the bridge by spring 2019 and run through fall 2020.

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