Student Organizes Concert for Ukraine — “The granddaughter of a refugee from Ukraine who was forced to leave her home due to World War II, Sofia Parfomak knows all too well what millions of present-day Ukrainians are going through since the Russian invasion began in February. Parfomak, a dual enrollment student at Marymount University and Bishop O’Connell High School, has taken the crisis to heart.” [Marymount University]
Synetic Prepares for New Season — “Arlington-based Synetic Theater has announced plans for its 2022-23 season, which will explore ‘otherness’ and relationships to those who are different. ‘When I first came to this country as a refugee, I did not speak the language; it was disorienting but also magical,’ said Paata Tsikurishvili, cofounder and artistic director of the troupe.” [Sun Gazette]
Video: Drivers Blocking Bike Lanes — “Photo came out in ARLnow that police put a lighted sign to stay out of bike lanes so pulled a few clips from yesterday’s ride, which could be from any day I ride. I don’t even use the bikes lanes much then drivers get mad at me. Am sure drivers will give the sign all the attention it deserves.” [YouTube]
Nearby: Falls Church Transforming — “Under the guidance of the Falls Church City Council, the recent developments have increased City property tax receipts to fund such civic projects as constructing the new Meridian High School, renovating and expanding the Mary Riley Styles Library and updating and expanding City Hall, all while reducing the city’s property tax rate by roughly nine cents per thousand dollars of assessed valuation.” [Northern Virginia Association of Realtors]
It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 85 and low of 70. Sunrise at 5:57 am and sunset at 8:34 pm. [Weather.gov]
Five “Complete Streets” roadway project designs are ready for community feedback.
As part of Arlington County’s Complete Streets program, the projects aim to improve safety and access on local roads. The changes are usually made in conjunction with repaving projects and mostly involve re-striping the roadway, sometimes at the expense of parking or through lanes.
According to the project website, the five stretches of roadway that are up for improvements this year are:
- Wilson Boulevard — N. George Mason Drive to N. Vermont Street (Bluemont)
- Clarendon Boulevard — N. Garfield Street to N. Adams Street (Clarendon / Courthouse)
- Clarendon Boulevard — Courthouse Road to N. Scott Street (Courthouse / Rosslyn)
- S. Abingdon Street / 34th Street S. — Bridge over I-395 (Fairlington)
- N. Ohio Street — 12th Road N. to Washington Boulevard (Madison Manor / Highland Park-Overlee Knolls / Dominion Hills)
Those interested in giving feedback on the designs can fill out an online form on the project website through Wednesday, July 6. The final plans are expected to be released in late summer or fall.
S. Abingdon Street bridge
The county’s Department of Environmental Services plans to remove under-utilized parking from the S. Abingdon Street bridge over I-395 in Fairlington.
The project would add buffer zones to the bike lanes to improve access for cyclists and safety for those using the sidewalks, while narrowing the travel lanes for speed control, according to its concept design summary.
Residents previously expressed concern about drivers speeding on the bridge while students walk to and from school.
The bridge is also part of a planned VDOT rehabilitation project, which will include adding concrete protective barriers and replacing bearings.
Wilson Blvd between N. George Mason Drive to N. Vermont Street
The segment of Wilson Blvd in Bluemont between N. George Mason Drive and N. Vermont Street, near Ballston, could see additional high contrast markings at high conflict crosswalks, according to the designs.
The plan is to reduce Wilson Blvd to one travel lane in each direction, with a center turn lane into N. George Mason Drive to better control vehicle speed.
The design plan also includes modifying markings to extend the left turn lane near N. George Mason Drive. The project would also add bike lanes and a continuous center turn lane east of the fire station.
The section of Wilson Blvd between George Mason and the Safeway grocery store saw similar changes last year.
Clarendon Blvd from N. Garfield Street to N. Adams Street
A segment of Clarendon Blvd is set for changes between N. Garfield Street and N. Adams Street, in the Clarendon and Courthouse area, including the removal of nine parking spots.
Apart from reducing parking spaces, the project team also plans to add high contrast markings at high conflict crosswalks. A bike box is set to be added at Clarendon Boulevard’s intersection with N. Garfield Street to make turning easier for cyclists.
The plan will also add parking protection to the bike lane between N. Garfield Street and N. Edgewood Street. A county summary says residents in the area expressed concern about speeding, unsafe pedestrian crossings and double parking in the bike lane.
Demolition of the former Jaleo restaurant building in Crystal City began this week, as the site plan review process for a redevelopment on the block kicked off earlier this month.
The proposal by JBG Smith is making its way through the county approval process to turn the 2250 Crystal Drive and 223 23rd Street S. buildings into two apartment towers with ground floor retail and an underground parking garage.
The two 30-story apartment towers replacing the former restaurant space and the aging 11-story “Crystal Plaza 5” office building would include:
- A “West Tower” at 223 23rd Street S. that would be 309 feet tall and have 613 dwelling units, 4,379 square feet of retail and 184 parking spaces
- An “East Tower” at 2250 Crystal Drive that would be 304 feet tall, and have 827 dwelling units, 13,059 square feet of retail and 249 total parking spaces
An underground garage structure would serve both buildings, averaging 0.3 spaces per unit, and connect to the existing parking structure on the block, county planner Michael Cullen said in a presentation earlier this month.
For years Jaleo has fed Crystal City. Now the construction dinosaurs get to eat pic.twitter.com/6H49NiFcDN
— Mikala Jamison (@notjameson) May 17, 2022
JBG Smith also proposes moving the plaza and pedestrian access to a collection of underground shops and corridors to the northwest corner of the east tower.
Once approved and constructed, the buildings would make the block, called “Block M” in the 2010 Crystal City Sector Plan, 80% residential. Most of the buildings on Block M are owned by JBG Smith.
There was one adjustment in JBG’s most recent presentation to the Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC).
Along the east-west connection, JBG Smith added a park option based on community feedback at the Long Range Planning Committee, said Madhvi Shukla with JBG Smith. In both options, the whole east-west connection, which links Crystal Drive and another path to 23rd Street S., would be publicly accessible.
“The section that isn’t chosen for the park would have a public access easement to ensure whichever park space is chosen has public access to both Crystal Drive and to the underground entry,” she said.
Three park spaces are incorporated in the plan, which ultimately will total 26,000 square feet, but one of the spaces will be phased into its final size over time, Shukla said.
The 13,000-square-foot park envisioned in the 2010 Crystal City Sector Plan would not be fully finished unless JBG Smith redevelops the Crystal Plaza 6 apartments at 2221 S. Clark Street. In the interim, the park will total about 8,000 square feet on the site’s southwest corner, and an alley between the two towers will be a dead end.
The north-south connection between 23rd Street and the east-west connection would be designed to prioritize pedestrians, with 8 and 9-foot sidewalks, elevated planters for protection and string lights to signal it’s a pedestrian-first zone, Shukla said.
On 23rd Street, there will be protected bike lanes going in both directions, Shukla said, as well as a protected bike lane on Crystal Drive. While the 23rd Street realignment will narrow the roadway, it will have the same number of lanes without a median.
On June 13 and July 21, there will be virtual SPRC meetings to discuss the project. Planning Commission meetings and a County Board vote are expected this fall.
Arlington County has sent the project out for bidding by contractors, while staff continue to acquire the easements needed for construction.
“Project staff expect the easement process to be wrapped up by the time the construction contract appears before the County Board for approval — anticipated later this summer,” Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Nate Graham said.
Construction could start this fall and be completed in the summer of 2025, according to the project webpage. Initially, the county had expected construction to begin in spring 2020 and be complete this spring, but extra tasks required to receive federal aid dragged out the planning process by a few years.
A coalition of local transit advocates celebrated the news, which has been seven years in the making.
The Army Navy Drive Complete Streets Project is officially out to bid! Many thanks to everyone who has worked to see this transformative project through over the last 7+ years! https://t.co/qSMXM7ioMD
— Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County (@susmoarlington) March 30, 2022
Crashes are a frequent occurrence along Army Navy Drive. The $16.87 million project aims to reduce conflicts among cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians with narrower lanes — to slow down vehicle traffic — as well as bus-only lanes, protected left turns and signalized right turns, clearer sidewalks and shorter crosswalks.
The south side of Army Navy Drive will have a two-way bike lane protected by a line of trees. This will link to a future two-way bicycle lane planned for S. Clark Street, between 12th Street S. and 15th Street S. and the planned protected bike lanes on S. Eads Street, which will run past both phases of Amazon’s HQ2.
“The project will rebuild Army Navy Drive within the existing right-of-way as a multimodal complete street featuring enhanced bicycle, transit, environmental and pedestrian facilities,” the county says. “The goal of the project is to improve the local connections between the Pentagon and the commercial, residential and retail services in Pentagon City and Crystal City.”
The new Army Navy Drive will be reduced to two through lanes in each direction, narrowing to one lane east of S. Eads Street.
The reduction will accommodate a bus lane between S. Joyce Street and S. Hayes Street so that buses will not block traffic while loading passengers. This dedicated transit lane will help extend an existing network of bus lanes from the City of Alexandria to Crystal City into Pentagon City.
Additional improvements include replacing raised medians with planted ones and planting greenery to reduce stormwater runoff. Five intersections will get new traffic signal equipment.
The project’s early phases kicked off in the summer of 2015 with a traffic analysis evaluating how biking, walking, scooting and driving conditions would be impacted in 2020 and 2040 by the ongoing redevelopment of Pentagon City and Crystal City. That has since been expedited by the ongoing construction of HQ2.
Arlington County plans to resurface a stretch of N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn to improve the driving and cycling experience.
The project is part of the county’s annual effort to resurface about 100 lane miles of roadway, prioritizing those in the most need of upgrades and those adjacent to development, schools or county-led capital projects. It is the second of two “complete streets” resurfacing projects proposed for 2021, the other being changes to Wilson Blvd in the Bluemont neighborhood.
The plans for N. Lynn Street extend from the exit ramp for Arlington Blvd (Route 50) to Wilson Blvd. Proposed changes include adding “sharrows” — encouraging drivers to share the road with cyclists — connecting with existing bike lanes, plus buffering existing bike lanes, improving markings for a bus stop, and adding markings where drivers have to cross a bike lane to turn right.
“This concept design accommodates the existing traffic by maintaining the same vehicular lane configurations, it adds additional separation between people driving and biking with protected and buffered bike lanes, it enhances the network connectivity with improved bike markings, and it improves visibility of right turn conflicts with the application of green markings,” said county transportation planner Catherine Seebauer during a recorded presentation.
Right after the Arlington Blvd exit ramp, the county proposes adding northbound bike “sharrows” — markings indicating where cyclists and vehicles have to share the road — that will link up to the existing bike lane after the intersection with Fairfax Drive.
“That exit ramp is a VDOT-controlled road, so Arlington County is somewhat limited in what changes we can make there, but a reconfiguration of those on-off ramps is being looked at as part of [Core of Rosslyn Transportation Study], so long-term changes are in development for that intersection,” Seebauer said.
The vehicle lanes will be narrowed after Fairfax Drive, though they will still meet the county’s standard width of 11 feet, she said.
“The extra room allows us to provide more room for other facilities,” she said, including upgrading the existing bike lanes to be protected bike lanes. “They will be separated from vehicle lanes by parked vehicles and a small buffer strip.”
Where the bike lane merges with an existing bus stop, the bus stop markings will be improved. Further up, close to the intersection with Wilson Blvd, green paint and bollards will alert drivers and cyclists about a conflict point, where drivers have to cross the bike lane to make a right turn.
From the exit ramp to Wilson Blvd, four parking spaces will be removed to improve sightlines, Seebauer said.
An online comment period for the project closed yesterday (Tuesday). The resurfacing work will be done later this summer and fall.
Peak Heat, Statistically Speaking — “Based on history, we are now at the hottest point of the summer. While it can still be brutally hot in the weeks ahead (and probably will be at times), we are about to begin our gradual descent into winter, using average temps.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]
Arlington Home Prices Keep Rising — “A total of 369 properties went to closing last month, up 62 percent from 228 in June 2020… The average price of single-family homes in the county was $1,217,376 last month, up 9.8 percent from $1,109,179.” [Sun Gazette]
Protected Bikes Lanes for HQ2? — “Amazon.com Inc.’s newest PenPlace design would add protected bike lanes along a key roadway adjacent to the 11.6-acre campus and a new bike share station near the planned ‘Helix’ tower. During Arlington’s Long Range Planning Committee’s virtual meeting Tuesday, Amazon’s HQ2 landscape architect Scape presented its revised vision for the site’s 2.1 acres of open space and transportation networks.” [Washington Business Journal]
Woman Finds Bullet Hole in Window — “3900 block of Columbia Pike. At approximately 6:09 a.m. on July 13, police were dispatched to the report of suspicious circumstances. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was awoken at approximately 10:00 p.m. on July 12 to a loud pop sound. The following morning, she discovered a bullet hole in her window.” [ACPD]
Affordable Apartments Set for Renovation — “Arlington County is backing away from plans to buy part of the Park Shirlington apartment complex in South Arlington as the developers are instead pitching a full renovation of the affordable community. The county is set to deliver a $22.7 million loan to power the rehabilitation of all 293 units on the 15.7-acre parcel.” [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington Is a ‘Top Digital County’ — “Arlington County is once again ranked among the top digital counties in the nation. The Center for Digital Government and National Association of Counties has named Arlington to the No. 2 spot for their 2021 awards in the 150,000-249,999 population category.” [Arlington County]
New Record for W-L IB Program — “W-L students surpassed their worldwide peers in diploma pass rate, average score pass rate, and the average points earned by diploma candidates. In addition, the overall pass rate for all W-L students participating in [International Baccalaureate] classes, including Diploma Candidates and Course Candidates, is the highest in the 25-year history of IB at W-L at 92.6%.” [Arlington Public Schools]
‘Arlington Tech’ Students Earn Degree — “Seven Arlington Tech Class of 2021 graduates are the first APS students to earn Associates Degrees by taking courses offered through both Arlington Tech and the Career Center.” [Arlington Public Schools]
A major redevelopment proposal in Rosslyn is facing pushback from those who think it doesn’t do enough for cyclists and pedestrians.
McLean-based Jefferson Apartment Group is proposing a 27-story mixed-use residential complex with 424 units at 1901 N. Moore Street, replacing the 1960s-era RCA building. Two towers will be connected at the top by a penthouse and at the base with ground floor retail.
But as the project moves through the public review process, some have expressed concerns a number of transportation-related issues: the proposed unprotected bike lanes along 19th Street N., the project’s parking ratio, and the pedestrian experience along the block.
These three topics are likely to resurface during a follow-up Site Plan Review Committee meeting on Monday, March 15 — and perhaps later this spring, when the project will go before the Planning Commission and the County Board.
“We’ve been identifying issues, responding to citizen comments, and having very good discussions with surrounding community groups,” said Andrew Painter, an attorney with land use firm Walsh Colucci, during the first SPRC meeting last month.
Staff members are considering some protections for the proposed 19th Street bike lanes in response to public input.
“It may be possible to provide an additional level of protection in one direction” on the block from N. Lynn to N. Moore streets, said Principal Planner Dennis Sellin, adding that staffers “don’t see the capacity to do it in both directions.”
Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said 19th Street N. has enough traffic to qualify it for protected or buffered bike lanes.
Another hot issue was the parking ratio of .625 spaces per residential unit. Jefferson is proposing 290 total spaces, split among 265 residential spaces, 15 retail and 10 visitor spaces, according to a staff report.
“The goal is to right-size the garage to meet the market demand but not provide extra that incentivizes people to drive,” Painter said.
Although the proposal is within county guidelines, Sellin said “we would certainly accept a lower ratio.” The minimum is .2 spaces per unit but the lowest Sellin said he has seen proposed is .38 spaces per unit.
North Rosslyn Civic Association representative Terri Prell said people, particularly the elderly, still need cars for tasks such as grocery shopping.
“You have to understand this is a residential community, not a business community,” she said.
Lowering the ratio would attract people who want to lead a car-free lifestyle, Slatt said, asking for data on space utilization rates.
The parking needs to be built partially above ground due to “particularly dense rock” and Metro tunnels. To conceal the parking above the retail and below the residential units — and add public art — the architect is exploring adding graphics by local artists, said architect Shalom Baranes.
The Metro tunnels add another complication: a longer expected demolition process.
It'll take about 3 months to dismantle the existing RCA building. Developer says that's because they're over the Metro tunnels.
"They do frown upon explosions over their tunnels."
— Stephen Repetski (@srepetsk) February 12, 2021
As for the pedestrian experience, some members were concerned that the block will be too long and there will be no opportunities for cutting through it. Sellin said the block is comparable to others at 400 feet long.
SPRC Chair Sara Steinberger said knowing the length “may not change the community’s feelings on what feels like a longer stretch of block when you have large buildings covering a greater area.”
In 2017, Weissberg Investment Corp., which developed the RCA building in the 1960s, filed plans to redevelop the RCA site — but those plans were put on hold indefinitely in 2018. Jefferson started filing application materials in May 2020.
Thanks to some push from local advocates and the county’s Transportation Commission, a new mixed-use development at 1900 Crystal Drive could be required to include protected bike lanes on Crystal Drive, a long time sore spot for bicyclists in the area.
“It’s almost a hoax on bicycle riders to say there’s a bike lane here when as a practical matter there isn’t,” said Transportation Commissioner Jim Lantelme.
At the Transportation Commission meeting Thursday night, the Commission recommended that developer JBG Smith be required to turn the existing bicycle lanes into protected lanes while adding new protected bike lanes to 18th Street S.
“First the Commission recommended that the County Board require JBG Smith to build protected bike lanes on 18th Street either as part of their upcoming 1900 Crystal Drive development or as part of the already-approved Central District Retail development,” Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said in a press release. “Furthermore the Commission recommended that the County Board direct staff to study an appropriate cross-section for Crystal Drive that would safeguard those on bikes and scooters and, if schedules permit, incorporate the results of that study into the public space designs for 1900 Crystal Drive and any other unbuilt development approved along the Crystal Drive corridor.”
The last recommendation from the Transportation Commission was that the County and JBG develop a temporary southbound protected bike lane on Crystal Drive if the public process isn’t completed in time to be incorporated into the 1900 Crystal Drive plans.
County staff said in their report that making the lanes protected would require further traffic studies and analysis, with staff noting that a new bike lane would carve out part of the street and would have an impact on open space, traffic, or parking. That kind of impact would require a public process that would take additional time.
The developer said they hope to start construction at the end of March, with the streetscape being one of the last parts of the project to be completed.
“I worry there is the possibility we would not have a final decision-ready on Crystal Drive ready before this window closes,” Slatt said.
“There’s a lot of good, new information heard tonight,” said Gillian Burgess, chair of the Bicycle Advisory Committee. “Crystal Drive bike lanes are blocked so often that they’ve become the test case for new apps and data collection that seek to test how often bike lanes are blocked.”
With three site plans in the area, Burgess said the County has a rare opportunity to improve the conditions for cyclists and other road users there.
The 1900 Crystal Drive proposal is set to be discussed by the Planning Commission tonight (Monday).
Photo via Google Maps
At this point, the bike lane blocking problems on Crystal Drive are well understood. The combination of popular retail establishments, standard painted bike lanes and entitled drivers leads to non-functional bike lanes.
The situation on Hayes Street by the Pentagon City Metro entrance is similarly dire, though less well-studied. Parkingdirty.com found they were blocked between 51% and 63% of waking hours and it is a common complaint area on Twitter.
Almost a new year, always the same Hayes St pic.twitter.com/8wMfkNxBic
— Car-Free #HQ2 (@CarFreeHQ2) December 30, 2019
Now a development project is moving forward that is currently on-track to duplicate these same mistakes. JBG Smith’s 1900 Crystal Drive project proposes to build two large residential towers on Crystal Drive between 18th and 20th Streets. The project will upgrade the sidewalks on its street frontage and provide new on-street parking spaces, but it proposes unprotected, paint-only bike lanes on both Crystal Drive and 18th Street.
To make matters worse, the project proposes significant new retail all along Crystal Drive and the corner of 18th and Crystal Drive will eventually be home to a 2nd entrance to the Crystal City Metro Station. The Metro station entrance and the new retail will generate significant pick-up and drop-off activity; where will people do this pick-up and drop-off? Where will people park for “just a minute” while they run into the retail? Our experience on Crystal Drive and Hayes Street give us the answer: in the bike lane.
Calls during the Site Plan Review (SPRC) process to provide a protected bike lane along the street frontages have not been accepted by staff, at least as of the last SPRC meeting. Staff acknowledges that the Crystal Drive bike lanes are a problem, but maintain that two blocks of protected bike lane in front of this one development aren’t helpful and that instead the County must find a comprehensive solution for this entire stretch and that the curb-to-curb width being provided by the development is sufficient for this.
Unfortunately, they have not provided a plan to find this comprehensive solution. They have not indicated a timeline for finding this comprehensive solution. They have not identified a funding source for this comprehensive solution.
Rail Project Will Include New Pedestrian Bridge — “As part of the Long Bridge project, a stand-alone bike and pedestrian bridge would be built upstream from the new rail bridge, allowing people to walk or bike across the Potomac River between the D.C. waterfront and Crystal City in Arlington. Virginia officials said the state plans to build that pedestrian and bike bridge.” [Washington Post]
Weekend Propane Leak in Ballston — Per the Arlington County Fire Department: “FD and Haz-Mat units are on scene in the 4000 blk of Fairfax Dr investigating a report of a large propane [tank] leaking… Crews located a large propane tank leaking at a building under construction. The leak has been controlled and units are remaining on scene to [perform] air monitoring.” [Twitter]
ACPD Increasing Bike Lane Enforcement — “The county… says that Arlington police are stepping up their enforcement of bike lane violations. Cycling advocate Gillian Burgess says that she has seen evidence of more police presence, though she believes that the problem will ultimately be solved by better street design, not enforcement.” [WAMU]
Rosslyn Startup Gets Big Investment — “Arlington-based Advantia Health, a growing national provider of women’s healthcare, announced a $45 million investment by BlueMountain Capital Management, LLC (BlueMountain), a subsidiary of Assured Guaranty Ltd. This funding comes after a year of rapid growth.” [Advantia Health via Potomac Tech Wire]
Arlington could be extending a protected bike lane in Crystal City, a block from Amazon’s future home.
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!”
“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.
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.