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Bike Advocates Craft New Map of DC Region’s Cycling Trails to Promote Holistic Thinking

A coalition of bicycling and transit advocates has drawn up a new map of the entire D.C. region’s bike trails, in a bid to promote a more holistic view of the area’s biking options.

The Capital Trails Coalition released the “diagrammatic map” today (Monday), displaying not only the 436 miles of existing trails across the region but also another 302 miles of planned paths that will someday create even more connectivity for cyclists.

The coalition, which includes both local government transportation agencies and a host of advocacy groups, included bike trails in six jurisdictions around the region on the map: Arlington County, Alexandria, D.C., Fairfax County, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County. Coalition Chair Jack Koczela hopes that will help people to see cycling as a viable option no matter where they live around the D.C. region, laying out a clear, unified guide to easily bikeable trails for commuting and recreation alike.

“We hope this comes to have the feel of the iconic Metrorail map,” Koczela told ARLnow. “This is so people can get an idea of what it is we’re talking about in terms of actual trails available to everybody around the region.”

Koczela says the coalition has spent more than two years now drafting the map, as the group sought to work with cyclists to identify trails that are both easy to ride and provide good access to the region’s activity and transit centers.

He’s hoping that the map will prove particularly useful to D.C. suburbs like Arlington. If commuters currently rely on cars or public transit to get to work because they aren’t sure how a trail that starts in Arlington connects with one in D.C., or even Maryland, he foresees this map being a vital resource to provide alternatives.

“A lot of people’s experience on trails is really hyperlocal, and a lot of people aren’t thinking of these trails as a way to connect them to other areas of the region,” said Carm Saimbre, communications coordinator for the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, a coalition member. “The vision with this is to create connections and fill gaps in the network, so it becomes just as established as getting around the Beltway by car.”

With so many planned trails included on the map, Koczela notes that the document is certainly an aspirational one in many respects. In Arlington alone, the map includes not only trails currently under construction, like a new section of trail alongside Washington Blvd, but also ones still in the planning stages, like the extension of the Mt. Vernon Trail from Theodore Roosevelt Island.

But by showing just how adding more trails could better connect the region, Koczela thinks the map will be a valuable tool as his coalition lobbies for more funding for bike infrastructure going forward.

“Our goal for the next year is to increase awareness and get the political community engaged, thinking about the trails as a network,” Koczela said.

Photo via the Capital Trails Coalition

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Lubber Run Park Bridge Closes Temporarily

A bridge for walkers and cyclists in Lubber Run Park is now closed, at least temporarily.

An alert on the county’s website says the bridge, closest to N. George Mason Drive as a trail runs over Lubber Run itself, will be closed “until further notice.”

A tipster first notified ARLnow about the closure on Friday (Aug. 3). County parks spokeswoman Susan Kalish says workers checked on the bridge while doing some park maintenance, and subsequently decided to close it.

“Our crew was concerned with the bridge but they aren’t bridge experts,” Kalish wrote in an email. “They closed the bridge and have scheduled a bridge expert to check it out.”

Kalish expects the county is “erring on the side of caution” with the closure, but she stressed that “safety is our number one concern.”

The county’s posted detour signs for anyone using the trail, and is directing walkers and bicyclists away from the bridge while work continues.

The park, located at 200 N. Columbus Street, was recently the site of a community gathering to pay tribute to the soon-to-be torn down Lubber Run Community Center.

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County Holding ‘Our Shared Street’ Block Party to Educate Commuters

Commuters looking to learn more about local transportation options can swing by a block party along Columbia Pike tomorrow night (Tuesday).

Arlington Transportation Partners is hosting its second “Our Shared Street Pop-Up” event on a closed street at the intersection of S. Oakland Street and Columbia Pike, just across from the Oakland Apartments.

The event is designed to connect people to county transportation resources like Walk Arlington and Bike Arlington, in addition to a host of private options as well. Notably, this year’s gathering will feature dockless electric scooter companies Bird and Lime — the former has already started operating in Arlington, while the latter is very much eyeing the county for expansion.

Lime will also be offering its dockless bikes for riders to try, and Capital Bikeshare will be on hand as well to show off its wares to potential customers. The event will also feature games, giveaways and free food from local restaurants.

The party will start at 5 p.m. Tuesday night, and the county has a list of frequently asked questions about the event on its website.

Photo via Arlington Transportation Partners

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Section of Custis Trail Along I-66 Closes Today for Repairs

A section of the Custis Trail running alongside I-66 near Rosslyn is set to close for the next month.

Starting today (Monday), workers will start repairing the trail as it runs between N. Adams Street and McCoy Park to make it a bit more hospitable to cyclists. Construction is set to last through Aug. 24.

Specifically, Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation and its contractors will focus on “a series of bumps, or undulations, on the trail surface near the pedestrian flyover bridge over I-66,” according to a blog post by Bike Arlington program manager Erin Potter.

“This part of the Custis Trail is too narrow (between a retaining wall and I-66) to allow repair work to happen while the trail is open,” Potter wrote.

The county plans to post signs for detours for both pedestrians and cyclists near the closed section of the trail. Walkers and runners will be redirected down N. Adams Street and then along Lee Highway to bypass the construction, while bicyclists have their choice of three different options.

Bike Arlington has full details on the detours posted on its website.

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Arlingtonians Cycle, Raise Thousands of Dollars to Support Cancer Research

Five Arlington residents will cycle through parts of Massachusetts next weekend (Aug. 4-5) to support cancer research and care.

Since 1980, the Pan-Mass Challenge bike-a-thon has raised over $598 million. All of the funds raised by riders go to Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The Arlington participants — Andrew Carpenter, Ryan Gillis, Robyn Norrbom, Chris Smith and Andrew Evans — have been riding in the PMC for between one and nine years including this year, according to their profiles on PMC’s website.

Norrbom, who is racing for the first time, is a breast cancer survivor and has seen multiple family members battle cancer.

“My motivation was really to go to give back… to research especially,” she said. Norrbom will ride 109 miles in one day, and her team has raised over $20,000.

Gillis began biking in the PMC in 2012 while his father and a close friend struggled with cancer. He will bike 192 miles over two days, and has raised over $6,000.

“The significant amount of money that this raises makes a real difference,” Gillis said.

Riders must raise at least $600 to participate in the challenge, and required fundraising amounts increase depending on the rider’s route. PMC aims to raise $52 million this year with over 6,300 participants.

When a loved one has cancer, “it’s really hard not being able to do something,” Norrbom said. Participating in the PMC “just empowers you, I think,” she said. “Even if I’m not the scientist [or] not able to give lots of money per day out of pocket.”

Photo courtesy Pan-Mass Challenge

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Van Buren Bridge Reopens, Complete with New Walkway

The Van Buren Bridge near the East Falls Church Metro station is back open after months of renovation work, complete with a new walkway for cyclists and pedestrians.

The city of Falls Church had been working since last fall to repair and widen the bridge, located near where N. Van Buren Street intersects with 18th Street N. and running over Benjamin Banneker Park.

The bridge previously lacked a sidewalk of any kind, forcing pedestrians into the roadway. Accordingly, the $300,000 construction project won some regional transportation funding for its potential to provide a smoother connection for people looking to reach the nearby Metro station with the new 12-f00t walkway.

With the W&OD Trail close by as well, planners also envision the bridge improving conditions for cyclists in the area.

The project’s conclusion also marks the end to detours on N. Van Buren Street, which previously routed drivers onto nearby roads like 19th Street N. and N. Sycamore Street.

File photo

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County Could Speed Up Design Work on Army Navy Country Club Access Road

County officials seem to have found some money to speed up design work on an access road to link the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive.

County Manager Mark Schwartz initially proposed some hefty delays for the project, which is set to stretch across a section of the Army Navy Country Club, in his proposed 10-year plan for county construction efforts. Under his proposal, design work on the effort wouldn’t even start until fiscal year 2027, with construction set for 2029.

The county’s budget challenges have ensured that Arlington officials haven’t suddenly found enough money to build the road, and its accompanying bike and pedestrian trails, right away. But county staff did manage to track down about $230,000 to pay for design and engineering work starting in fiscal year 2020, officials told the County Board during a work session Tuesday (July 10).

That news is quite welcome for Board members and residents alike, considering that the county has been working to build the 30-foot-wide road since 2010, in order to better connect Columbia Pike to Crystal City.

The road would run from S. Queen Street, near Hoffman-Boston Elementary, to the I-395 underpass, where a country club access road meets up with Army Navy Drive. The process of securing an easement to even cross the country club in the first place was a challenging one for the county, but the two sides ultimately struck a deal after the county agreed to allow the club to build a larger clubhouse than county zoning rules would ordinarily permit.

Staff cautioned the Board that reallocating this money for design work won’t do anything to change when the project gets built, at least for the time being. But members supported the change all the same as a way to provide some more detailed plans for the Board to consider a few years from now, when the county’s fiscal picture could improve.

“At least it’s getting us somewhere,” said Board member Erik Gutshall. “We’ve got to move the ball forward.”

In order to get that design work moving, the Board would need to pull $105,000 away from some minor arterial road projects over the next two fiscal years, and another $125,000 away from the “Walk Arlington” program for pedestrian-centric projects. The latter move will leave just $50,000 available for the program in 2020 and 2021.

But Board members seem to believe the funding shake-up is well worth it, particularly as bicycling advocates stress the importance of the project.

“There is a compelling case to be made that this will allow one of our largest growing population centers, Columbia Pike, to have more access to one of our major commercial and office centers of Crystal City,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “The most important thing is we get the scope of this proiect to the point where we can have those conversations about feasibility.”

County transportation director Dennis Leach cautioned that additional examinations of the project could reveal that it’s too challenging for the county to pursue. He noted that the “steep grades” in the area, combined with its proximity to woodlands and I-395, could all combine to make the effort “extremely expensive.”

Initial estimates pegged construction costs around $5.2 million, but the county hasn’t updated that figure in years.

Cristol added that there are also “big questions” about whether the county can afford to bring the project into compliance with federal accessibility laws. However, she did suggest that one avenue for addressing those cost concerns might be redirecting some revenue generated by the commercial and industrial property tax on Crystal City businesses, as the area would potentially stand to benefit from the project.

“I look forward to the prospect of a taking a better scoped project and having a conversation with the business community about whether it’s a proper use of that tax money,” Cristol said.

The Board will make the reallocation of money for the access road official when it votes to approve a final Capital Improvement Plan on Saturday (July 14).

Photo via Google Maps

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Crime Report: ACPD Looking for Pushy Bike Thieves

A woman tried to stop a quartet of bike thieves from leaving her apartment building, but they shoved her out of the way and fled the scene before police arrived.

The incident happened this past Sunday evening on the 1200 block of S. Courthouse Road, just south of Columbia Pike.

The four suspects stole a bike from the building’s storage area despite being discovered by the resident.

More from this week’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:

ROBBERY, 2018-07010172, 1200 block of S. Courthouse Road. At approximately 6:55 p.m. on July 1, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was attempting to retrieve her property from the secure storage area of a building when she encountered four suspects attempting to steal bicycles from the storage area. The victim attempted to prevent the suspects from exiting, however, she was pushed away. The suspects fled in possession of one of the bicycles from the storage area. The victim did not require medical treatment. Suspect One is described as a black male, approximately 20 years old, six feet tall, 185 lbs., with a heavy build, a faded high top haircut and a goatee, wearing red shorts and a white t-shirt. Suspect Two is described as a light skinned Hispanic or Middle Eastern male, approximately 20 years old, 5’8″, 130 lbs., with a skinny build and thin mustache, wearing a gray t-shirt, dark blue jeans, white socks and sandals. Suspect Three is described as a black male, approximately 20 years old, six feet tall, 140 lbs., with a thin build, wearing glasses, a gray and red t-shirt, dark sweat pants, white socks and sandals. Suspect Four is described as a black male, approximately 20 years old, 5’10”, 140 lbs., with a thin build, wearing a black t-shirt and navy pants. The investigation is ongoing.

The rest of this past week’s crime report highlights, including one that we’ve already reported, after the jump.

MISSILE INTO OCCUPIED DWELLING, 2018-07020028, 800 block of S. Arlington Mill Drive. At approximately 3:55 a.m. on July 2, police were dispatched to the report of a destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined that while the victim was inside his residence, a known suspect threw rocks through the window, causing it to break. The investigation is ongoing.

BRANDISHING, 2018-06290101, S. Four Mile Run Drive at Columbia Pike. At approximately 12:21 p.m. on June 29, police were dispatched to the report of an armed robbery just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was walking in the area when he approached two suspects on foot. During the verbal exchange, one of the suspects brandished a firearm and demanded the victim’s property. The victim yelled for help and the suspects fled on foot. The victim was not injured and nothing was reported stolen. A lookout was broadcast for the two suspects based upon the description provided by a witness and arriving units located the two suspects nearby. Petitions for Possession of a Handgun by a Juvenile, Brandishing a Firearm, Carrying a Concealed Weapon and Possession of Marijuana were obtained for the juvenile suspect. The investigation into the involvement of the second suspect is ongoing.

BURGLARY (late), 2018-06290173, 900 block of S. Columbus Street. At approximately 5:07 p.m. on June 29, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary just discovered. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 6:30 a.m. and 4:45 p.m., an unknown suspect(s) gained entry to a residence and stole items of value. There is no suspect description. The investigation is ongoing.

UNLAWFUL WOUNDING, 2018-06280024, 3100 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 2:20 a.m. on June 28, police were dispatched to the report of an assault with injury. Upon arrival it was determined that the suspect had exited a taxi and was involved in a verbal argument with the driver over the fare. When a witness intervened, the suspect allegedly became aggressive and struck the witness in the face. The victim did not require medical treatment. Responding officers canvased the area and located the suspect. Oscar Castillo, 32, of Arlington, VA was arrested and charged with Unlawful Wounding and Drunk in Public.

BURGLARY, 2018-06280212, 100 block of N. Wayne Street. At approximately 6:34 p.m. on June 28, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary just discovered. Upon arrival it was determined that between 7:25 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., an unknown suspect(s) forced entry into a residence and stole cash. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

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More Than 100 Cyclists Flood Columbia Pike to Advocate for Better Bike Routes

More than 100 bicyclists hit Columbia Pike on Saturday (June 23) to draw attention to a new push to improve bike routes along the road.

The newly-formed advocacy group Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County organized the roughly two-mile-long “Bike for the Pike” protest ride, which ran down Columbia Pike from the Penrose Square Park to the intersection with with S. Four Mile Run Drive.

The group is lobbying county leaders to consider a slew of improvements to make the Pike corridor easier on cyclists, arguing that large sections of the road remain unsafe. County Board members Libby Garvey and Erik Gutshall attended Saturday to lend their support to the effort.

“Despite budgeting over $100 million in the current adopted capital plan to make Columbia Pike a complete street, the county’s current plans wouldn’t even provide a complete bike facility that runs the full length of the Pike, let alone one that is safe, direct and low-stress,” Chris Slatt, the group’s founder and a transit-focused blogger, wrote in a statement. “#Bike4ThePike was a chance to say ‘We’re here, we ride, we pay taxes, we deserve safe, direct, low-stress routes.'”

The county has indeed made efforts to improving transit options along the Pike, with long-awaited changes to Metrobus service along the corridor starting yesterday (June 24). But Slatt’s organization is pressing for a variety of new roadway improvements and policy revisions to make the Pike even more hospitable to cyclists.

In the near term, Slatt wants to see the county conduct a “comprehensive safety review” of the Pike’s intersection with Washington Blvd. In a news release, the group notes that the area “has been the site of numerous bicycle and pedestrian crashes” since VDOT finished a major overhaul of the interchange a few years ago, and Slatt wants to see the county commission a study of the area within the next year.

His group is also advocating for the construction of a parallel bike and pedestrian bridge over Four Mile Run in the next three years, arguing that the current bridge is “dangerously narrow and lacks any sort of buffer from speeding traffic.”

They’re also pushing for traffic signal changes to make 9th Street S. friendlier for bicyclists as it intersects with both S. Glebe Road and S. Walter Reed Drive, as well as the construction of an access road connecting the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive within the next five years — the county likely won’t start work on the latter project until 2027.

Slatt’s group plans to hold additional advocacy events focused on bicycling, walking and public transit around the county in the coming weeks.

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Bird’s Dockless Electric Scooters Now Available in Arlington

Dockless electric scooters have now made their way to Arlington.

The electric vehicle company Bird scattered dozens of its scooters across the county on Sunday (June 24), becoming the first company to offer the vehicles in Arlington. Bird’s operated in D.C. for the past few months, in addition to several other electric bike and scooter “ride sharing” firms like Lime and Skip.

Company spokesman Nick Samonas says Bird scooters are now available in Ballston, Clarendon, Crystal City, Pentagon City and some areas along Columbia Pike, and he noted that “as ridership grows, the company will expand its fleet to serve all of Arlington’s residents and communities.”

“As Arlington rapidly develops, it’s clear there’s an urgent need for additional transit options that are accessible, affordable and reliable for all residents and local communities,” Samonas wrote in an email. “Birds are a great solution for short ‘last mile’ trips that are too long to walk, but too short to drive.”

Anyone hoping to use the scooters needs to download the company’s mobile app, then use it to find an available scooter. The app then guides would-be riders through the process of piloting the scooter, parking it and, of course, paying for the ride. Bird charges a base fee to “unlock” each scooter, then assess an additional fee based on how long riders use the vehicle.

Samonas declined to discuss how many scooters the company has made available across Arlington — though a quick scan of the app Monday morning shows more than 50 scooters around the county — but he said the company will only add more vehicles “when each is being ridden three or more times per day.”

Spokesmen for Lime and Skip, the other dockless scooter companies operating in D.C., didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on whether they plan to follow suit and expand to Arlington. As of Monday morning, Lime’s app does show one scooter available just outside Crystal City; Skip’s scooters, meanwhile, remain on the other side of the Potomac River for now.

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County Picks Three Troublesome Intersections for Improvements

Three troublesome intersections across Arlington are now set for some improvements, as part of the county’s “Neighborhood Complete Streets” program.

The county revealed yesterday (Wednesday) that it has chosen a trio of intersections for “pilot projects” of the program, which is designed to fund a whole host of local road projects in areas plagued by frequent accidents. In the coming months, workers will start construction at:

  • 6th Street S. at S. Adams Street in Penrose
  • N. Buchanan Street at 13th Street N. and 14th Street N. in Waycroft-Woodlawn
  • 6th Street N. at N. Edison Street and N. Emerson Street in Bluemont

At 6th Street S., officials chose the intersection due to its “extremely wide pedestrian crossing,” according to the county’s website.

“Though there is a center median, it doesn’t provide a refuge for pedestrians crossing 6th Street South, which is both a bicycle and transit route,” staff wrote.

Similarly, county staff note that the “intersection of 6th Street N. and N. Emerson Street has a sharp bend that leads to the intersection of 6th Street N. and N. Edison Street, which is extremely wide.”

“The large width of this neighborhood intersection makes it easy for cars to travel quickly through this area, even while turning, and makes for a longer pedestrian crossing,” staff wrote.

Finally, the county is aiming for improvements at N. Buchanan Street in order to make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to gain access to nearby Woodlawn Park.

Officials have yet to decide on the exact details of the construction at these intersections, and will hold a series of public meetings to collect community input:

  • 6th Street S.: Trinity Episcopal Church Children’s Center, Tuesday (June 19) at 7:30 p.m.
  • N. Buchanan Street: Entrance of Woodlawn Park at N. Buchanan Street and 14th Street N., June 23 from 9:30 to 11:30 am and June 25 from 8:30 to 10:30 am.
  • 6th Street N.: Arlington Traditional School, June 27 at 7:30 p.m.

The county is planning to add “tactical/interim improvements” at each intersection this fall, as it works on more extensive plans.

Arlington officials picked these three projects after asking for public submissions of tricky intersections around the county and reviewed 169 potential projects in all. The county is currently studying all of those intersections, and will eventually score and rank each one for potential funding going forward.

However, transportation officials warn that the county’s recent budget squeeze has forced staff to trim funding for the program a bit, though they have not eliminated it entirely.

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Morning Notes

That Time Anthony Bourdain Visited Va. Square — The late, lamented Anthony Bourdain visited Arlington’s El Pollo Rico for a 2009 episode of his Travel Channel show No Reservations. [Patch, YouTube]

Arlington At the RAMMYs — Updated at 9:15 a.m. — No individual Arlington restaurant won a RAMMY regional restaurant award Sunday night, though regional chain Moby Dick House of Kabob, which has locations in Shirlington and Clarendon, won in the “Favorite Fast Bite” category, and Cheesetique in Shirlington was nominated under the “Favorite Gathering Place of the Year” category. [Washingtonian]

Clarendon, Crystal City Bike Races — Despite the threat of rain, both the Clarendon Cup and the Crystal Cup of the annual Armed Forces Cycling Classic largely avoided weather woes over the weekend. [Twitter, Twitter, Cycling News]

Photo courtesy @thelastfc

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Bike Races Prompting Road Closures in Clarendon, Crystal City This Weekend

The return of the Armed Forces Cycling Classic to Arlington will prompt a few road closures this weekend, with Clarendon impacted Saturday (June 9) and Crystal City facing closures Sunday (June 10).

Cyclists of all skill levels will compete in the 21st annual “Clarendon Cup” Saturday. The event features professional cyclists competing in what is billed as “one of the most difficult criterium races in the USA, due to technical demands of the course and the quality of the participant.”

Arlington County Police are planning to close the following roads around Clarendon from 4:30 a.m. to approximately 4 p.m. that day:

  • Wilson Blvd., from N. Fillmore Street to Washington Blvd.
  • Clarendon Blvd., from Washington Blvd. to N. Fillmore Street
  • Washington Blvd., from Wilson Blvd. to N. Highland Street
  • North Highland Street, from Wilson Blvd. to Washington Blvd.
  • North Garfield Street / N. Fillmore Street, from Wilson Blvd. to Washington Blvd.


On Sunday, riders will square off in the “Crystal Cup,” and police plan to close more roads from 4:30 a.m. to about 5 p.m.:

  • Crystal Drive, from S. 15th Street through S. 23rd Street
  • Wilson Blvd., from N. Kent Street to the Route 110 ramp
  • Route 110, from Rosslyn to Crystal City
  • S. Clark Street, from S. 20th Street to S. 23rd Street
  • S. 20th Street, from Crystal Drive to S. Clark Street
  • S. 18th Street, from Crystal Drive to S. Bell Street
  • S. 23rd Street from Crystal Drive to S. Clark Street
  • Crystal Drive (West side), from S. 23rd St to the Central Center Parking Garage
  • S. 12th Street and Long Bridge Drive

Police also plan to post “no parking” signs in the vicinity of both races. Anyone with their vehicle towed should call the county’s Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222.

Photo via the Armed Forces Cycling Classic

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Planners Nearing Final Designs for Complex Long Bridge Overhaul

(Updated at 1:55 p.m.) Transportation planners have nearly finalized designs for a long-awaited effort to overhaul Virginia’s only railroad connection to D.C.

Officials from Virginia, D.C. and an alphabet soup’s worth of federal agencies have spent years working on plans to replace the Long Bridge — which runs roughly parallel to the 14th Street Bridge — and improve rail capacity over the Potomac River.

Officials say they are almost ready to commit to more concrete plans to guide the redesign. The project still needs millions of dollars in funding to move ahead, and construction wouldn’t start until 2020 at the earliest, yet planners are pushing to have engineering and environmental analyses drawn up by summer 2019.

State rail officials told the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission at a meeting last night (June 7) that they’ve managed to narrow down a long list of alternatives for replacing the bridge, which stretches from near the Pentagon in Arlington to Southwest D.C., to two final possibilities.

Both plans involve building a new, two-track bridge alongside the existing structure, which was first built back in 1904. One alternative calls for the current bridge to stay in place; the other would involve fully replacing it.

Either way, officials believe the project is critical for initiatives like ramping up Virginia Railway Express and Amtrak service between Virginia and the District.

“It is really a bridge of national significance,” Jennifer Mitchell, the director of the state’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation, told the commission. “It carries a tremendous amount of traffic with commuters that would otherwise be on I-66 or 395.”

Doug Allen, the CEO of VRE, stressed that increasing rail capacity across the Potomac will be particularly critical for his trains. Commercial freight trains from the company CSX, which owns the bridge, often have to compete with commuter trains for space on the tracks, and Mitchell suggested that running a second bridge alongside the Long Bridge would help avoid that sort of conflict.

“For us to be able to add more service to our trains, we need to add more tracks there,” Allen said.

But even with so many people invested in seeing the project finished, Mitchell was sure to note that the whole effort is “very complex.” The bridge stretches just past historic resources like the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, not to mention other, “sensitive areas dealing with security” in D.C. itself, Allen said.

The project will also require extensive conversations about how exactly officials can include bike and pedestrian options alongside the new bridge, a key point of concern for Arlington’s representatives on the commission.

Allen noted that officials are considering two options for bike and pedestrian crossings that would not be attached to the Long Bridge, running closer to the bridge for Metro trains nearby, but still included in the overall project. But he said planners could decide to add bike and pedestrian options on the new bridge itself, though he did note that could prompt some “security concerns.”

Whichever option officials choose, Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol urged Allen to keep bicyclists, walkers and runners in mind throughout the planning process, given the unique opportunity this project presents. After all, she noted, the current crossing along the 14th Street Bridge does not offer a connection to the regional trail network on the D.C. side.

“By tying the regional trail network together, this would allows hundreds or even thousands of commuters to get off our roads,” Cristol said. “Trying to come back and do this at a later date… would be incredibly difficult due to the sensitivity of the assets here.”

Mitchell says officials hope to have more public meetings on the project this fall, with cost estimates, preliminary engineering plans and an environmental impact analysis all ready by next summer.

Then, leaders will have to somehow find funding for the project. She says the state rail agency and CSX have committed to chip in a total of $30 million for the effort, and she fully plans to ask state lawmakers for more money by the General Assembly’s 2020 legislative sessions.

“We are trying very, very hard to get this schedule completed on time,” Mitchell said.

Photo via Google Maps. Graphics via the Long Bridge Project.

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Army Navy Country Club Access Road Set for Lengthy Delay Due to County Funding Woes

Construction work on an access road crossing a portion of Army Navy Country Club could be pushed back by nearly a decade, as Arlington grapples with a funding squeeze impacting transportation projects.

County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan calls for engineering work on the project, which is designed to link the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive, to start by fiscal year 2027 with construction kicking off two years later. The county has long expected to start design work for the project by fiscal year 2020, with work to begin in 2022.

Since 2010, county officials have aimed to build the new road, which would be reserved for emergency vehicles looking to more easily cross I-395, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. The 30-foot-wide road would run from S. Queen Street, near Hoffman-Boston Elementary, to the I-395 underpass, where a country club access road meets up with Army Navy Drive.

The process has required a good bit of back-and-forth with the country club — the county only secured an easement on the club’s property as part of a deal to allow Army Navy’s owners to build a larger clubhouse than county zoning rules would ordinarily permit. Some members of the country club even sued the county to block the arrangement, over concerns that cyclists and pedestrians on the proposed trail would be disruptive to golfers.

Yet Arlington leaders have pressed ahead with the project all the same, with the County Board approving two different updates to the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, known as the CIP, including funding for the project.

Schwartz hasn’t gone so far as to ask the Board to abandon the project — his proposed CIP calls for the county to spend $837,000 on engineering work in fiscal years 2027 and 2028 — but the delay does reflect Arlington’s new challenges paying for transportation projects.

As he’s unveiled the new CIP, Schwartz has frequently warned that the deal hammered out by state lawmakers to send the Metro system hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funding has hammered localities like Arlington. Not only does the deal increase the county’s annual contribution to Metro, but it sucks away money from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a regional body that would ordinarily help localities fund transportation projects.

With the county having to shift money around to compensate for those changes, officials say smaller projects like the Army Navy access road will necessarily suffer.

“Overall, the transportation CIP has fewer resources for smaller, neighborhood-scale improvements due to reduced funding resulting from legislation,” Jessica Baxter, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services, told ARLnow via email.

The project’s delay comes as particularly bad news for people living in the Arlington View neighborhood. One resident, Eric Davis, told ARLnow via email that he fears delaying the project would “endanger the lives of nearby bicyclists and pedestrians.”

“With Columbia Pike being our only access out of the neighborhood, this new access road would give us a safe alternative to reaching Pentagon City, Crystal City, and other points east,” Davis wrote. “And, if/when connected to the Washington Boulevard path currently under construction, it then becomes an essential north/south connection in Arlington for bikes and pedestrians.”

Davis also pointed out that the project as a whole could be in jeopardy if delayed much longer.

The county’s CIP documents note that the easement for the country club’s land was recorded back in March 2012, and “may terminate automatically if construction contracts are not awarded within 20 years of that date.” Baxter noted that “the current schedule anticipates completion before the easement expires,” however.

Any delay is also contingent on the County Board approving the change in the CIP. The Board is in the midst of holding a series of work sessions on the CIP this month, but doesn’t expect to sign off on a final spending plan until July 14.

Photo via Google Maps

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