Arlington, VA

Shirlington Road bridge crosswalk (Photo via Google Maps)

As Arlington County prepares to build a new pedestrian and bike bridge in Shirlington — two decades in the making — some continue to express concerns about safety.

Late last week, the county brought advanced concept designs to the community for a new pedestrian and bike span between the Shirlington and Green Valley neighborhoods, and for maintenance to the existing bridge, which has only a narrow pedestrian sidewalk.

While incorporating previous public feedback into the design, questions still cropped up about safety and convenience, particularly regarding the crosswalks across busy S. Arlington Mill Drive and Shirlington Road, which provide access to the W&OD and Four Mile Run trails. Both are heavily-traveled by cyclists.

The first part of the project will be to improve and update the existing bridge. The bridge is in need of routine maintenance and resurfacing, and this project provides a chance for other needed renovations, the county says.

Based on public feedback, staff said they will widen the sidewalk to about 7 feet from a previous 3-5 feet. They will also coordinate the design aesthetic with the renovations to Jennie Dean Park, while adding new guardrails.

However, despite some urging it, the county won’t be removing the slip lane from the I-395 ramp. While admitting that it’s not bike or pedestrian-friendly, county officials say there isn’t much that can be done at present.

The lane is owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Adding a crosswalk there would also increase risk for an incident due to traffic taking the right turn with speed, while the lane it could lead to traffic backing-up on the I-395 ramp.

“We, at the county, are very much interested in [removing the lane],” said Jason Widstrom, Arlington County Transportation Capital Program Manager. “Unfortunately… it is not within our authority to remove it.”

Construction for these renovations should begin in the late summer or early fall of this year and be completed prior to the end of the year.

Then, at the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022, construction will begin on a prefabricated, 15-foot pedestrian and bike bridge located 20 feet to the west of the existing bridge. It will parallel the existing bridge, will be multi-use, and have “enhanced pedestrian treatments.”

Additionally, improvements are being made to those crosswalks at Arlington Mill Drive and near the Four Mile Run Trail.

Based on feedback, the county is widening pedestrian ramps and the refuge median, redesigning curbs and the crossing to allow for better sightlines, and adding new rapid flashing beacons to improve visibility of the crosswalk. There’s also thought of trimming trees to further help sightlines.

Crosswalk safety, particularly near the Four Mile Trail, has long been a concern for residents.

“County staff is well aware of the history of the crosswalk and the troubles of trying to cross at this location,” says Widstrom.

Funding for these projects are coming from a state grant and will cost just over $1 million.

County officials said they would like to do a longer term study about adding a bridge that goes over Shirlington Road and thus separates vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

That study remains “down the road,” however, and costs to add that bridge could exceed $8 million.

In the meantime, said Widstrom, “we are trying to make the situation a bit better.”

Photo (1) via Google Maps, (2) via Arlington County

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The County Board approved safety improvements for pedestrians and cyclists on Columbia Pike over Four Mile Run, as well as other changes, during its regular meeting on Saturday.

The approved $1 million Four Mile Run bridge project includes widening the northern sidewalk next to westbound traffic from five feet to 10 feet and narrowing the traffic lanes. Lighting will also be added to the northern side of the bridge.

Sturdy guardrails will be installed at the approaches to the bridge, but not on the bridge, county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet previously told ARLnow. The expanded sidewalk will remain 9 inches above street level, to help protect pedestrians.

County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said during the meeting that he was pleased to approve the project, which makes the bridge more accessible.

“It is part of a big investment that we’ve been working on for multiple years, the Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements project,” he said.

Board member Takis Karantonis said the changes are significant and a long time in coming.

“This has always been a big problem for pedestrians,” he said. “It’s really scary sometimes, with traffic going both ways, very fast.”

Community feedback has also been positive, notes a county staff report.

“The widening is a welcome change that many in the community have asked for during the outreach and engagement on the Columbia Pike Multimodal Project,” the report said. “The addition of lighting has also been received positively, as the community members shared that this section of the Pike often feels dark and unsafe.”

Some community members requested a barrier between the sidewalk and road. The suggestion was ultimately not included, as the bridge cannot fit one along with a widened sidewalk and four travel lanes, according to the report.

Implementation was anticipated to begin last fall, but the timeline changed because the County decided to combine the updates to the sidewalk with other scheduled maintenance on the bridge, hiring one contractor to do both, Balliet said in an email.

Separately, the Board also gave its stamp of approval to the proposed realignment of the eastern end of Columbia Pike, part of a project that adds 70 acres to Arlington National Cemetery near the Air Force Memorial.

The federal government is paying for the $60 million road project, after acquiring county-owned land for the expansion via an eminent domain suit last summer.

The project realigns segments of Columbia Pike, S. Joyce Street and Washington Blvd, constructs a new S. Nash Street, partially eliminates Southgate Road and designs a new portion of trail, according to a staff report.

Images via Arlington County

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The group Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail are asking for help over the next three weeks to fix a trail bridge next to Theodore Roosevelt Island.

The efforts come after successful fundraiser that raised more money than the friends needed to apply non-skid treatment to the bridge, which is nicknamed the “Trollheim Bridge” and has a reputation for being dangerous to bike riders.

After scrubbing away mold, moss and mildew, the Friends are turning to fixing loose boards and replacing damaged boards, another hazard on a bridge that the organization says is “notoriously slippy.”

The opportunities are part of the ongoing effort to “make Trollheim Bridge a little less trollish,” said the announcement on the website.

This Saturday, the friends will be reattaching boards bicyclists often hear “flopping around” on the bridge. Next Thursday, they will be replacing rotting deck boards. On Saturday, Dec. 5, there will be a second event for fixing boards on the bridge.

“There’s a lot of freaking loose boards,” the announcement said. “If we run out of boards, we’ll start flipping some of the boards to extend their life.”

The Friends encourage those who are interested to register via the above links. According to the registration page, volunteers are asked to bring water, gloves, a safety vest and a cordless drill, if they have one.

Extra money from the GoFundMe fundraiser went toward a pressure washer that is speeding up cleaning, as well as extra non-skid treatment for two other bridges with many crashes, including Bridge 1 north of Mount Vernon estates.

In May, the National Park Service released a study of the trail that recommends widening it in some places, particularly hot spots for crashes. There were 225 reported bike and pedestrian crashes on the trail between 2006 and 2010, according to the study, though most were reported in parts of the trail south of the bridge.

The 18.5-mile Mount Vernon Trail sees approximately one million annual users.

The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail, founded in 2018, supports the National Park Service and helps keep the trail safe through education, trail maintenance and community events.

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Morning Notes

Parent Group Calls Out APS — From the Black Parents of Arlington: “In addition to tracking incidents of racism, APS needs to implement mandatory anti-racism and implicit bias training for all teachers and staff throughout the system on a regular basis. Moreover, APS must begin to track incidents of racial and ethnic hostility and make these findings public. The time is now. We will no longer wait. Arlington’s Black children deserve better.” [Facebook]

Pizzeria to Open Next Month in Clarendon — “A storied Connecticut pizza shop is making one of its biggest moves, opening a new location in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood next month. Colony Grill is gearing up to debut Oct. 13 with a 5,200-square-foot space, taking over at 2800 Clarendon Blvd. for the Gallery Clarendon art installation pop-up that shuttered in February. The restaurant offers seating for 170 guests in three different areas.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Potomac Bridge Moving Forward — “With the state budget in tatters and commuter levels at record lows, now might hardly seem the right moment for Virginia to embark upon a $1.9 billion rail project. However, the recent conclusion of the Long Bridge’s environmental impact study has cleared the way for the commonwealth to do just that.” [Virginia Mercury]

Eagle Scout Project at Fire Station 5 — “A special project is taking shape to honor the victims of September 11th.
A piece of steel from the World Trade Center was brought to the Arlington County Fire Department nearly ten years ago. Now, a local high school senior and aspiring Eagle Scout wants to transform the area into a place where people can gather.” [WUSA 9]

Arlington Man Jailed in Belarus — “A U.S. diplomat warns that her Belarusian American husband’s health is in ‘immediate danger’ following his late-July arrest by security forces of the authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Vitali Shkliarov, a political analyst and dual citizen who worked on the presidential campaigns of both Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, was detained while visiting his parents in his hometown of Gomel, Belarus, in the runup to the country’s Aug. 9 presidential elections.” [NPR]

County Reaffirms Fair Housing Commitment — “Arlington will continue to follow the federal government’s 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, despite the federal government’s July 2020 action to rescind that rule within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the County Board said in a resolution approved at its September 15 Recessed Meeting.” [Arlington County]

Local Historian Dies — “It is our sad duty to announce the passing of beloved historian Ed Bearss, one of the legends of the battlefield preservation movement and a long-time member of the American Battlefield Trust board.” [National Parks TravelerTwitter]

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Morning Notes

County Board to Consider Bridge Pact — “The Arlington and Alexandria governments are planning to formalize their long-shared responsibilities for maintenance of five bridges that span Four Mile Run between the two communities. The new agreement sets out the share of funding for future short-term and long-term rehabilitation of the five bridges – at West Glebe Road, Arlington Ridge Road, Shirlington Road, Route 1 and Potomac Avenue – as well as maintenance costs.” [InsideNova]

Meal Donation to Hospital — Per a spokeswoman: “At 12:45 p.m., roughly 1,500 meals from local restaurants will be delivered to Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington as part of a 9/11 Day and World Central Kitchen initiative to support first responders and frontline healthcare workers on the 19th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The local restaurants participating in the delivery to Virginia Hospital Center are Arepa Zone, La Ceiba and Bistro Bis.”

Board to Vote on ART Facility Contract — “The Arlington County government is moving forward with planning for reconstruction of its Arlington Transit (ART) operations and maintenance facility, located on Shirlington Road in the Four Mile Run/Green Valley area. County Board members have been asked to approve a contract of roughly $3.9 million for planning, design and construction-administration services for the $81 million project. Stantec Architecture is receiving the contract.” [InsideNova]

Local Bars Welcome NFL Season — “‘We’re delighted to have live sports back,’ said Dave Cahill, general manager of Ireland’s Four Courts in Arlington, Virginia. ‘We’re fortunate here at the Four Courts; we have three different rooms, and we have a large outdoor area. So we have 18 televisions inside and three TVs outside. Having three rooms, it’s going to allow us to spread people out all over the rooms, 6 feet apart and still enjoy the football,’ he said.” [WTOP]

GOP Senate Candidate Addresses Civ Fed — “His longshot candidacy notwithstanding, Daniel Gade received a polite reception from delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation. ‘I’m the sort of person who will always tell you the truth,’ the Republican U.S. Senate nominee said at the Sept. 8 event. His opponent, incumbent Democrat Mark Warner, was invited but did not attend the forum, convened online due to the public-health pandemic.” [InsideNova]

County Encourages Local Hotel Bookings — “For most of us with out-of-town family and friends, it’s been far too long since we’ve been able to get together. And with safety being everyone’s top priority, you may not be comfortable yet hosting guests in your Arlington house, condo or apartment. With plenty of space, great fall deals and packages, and an array of enhanced health and safety programs, Arlington’s 44 hotels can offer the ‘spare bedroom’ for your visitors this fall.” [Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

More APS Tech Issues Reported — Several people contacted ARLnow yesterday to report more technology issues involving remote learning. While Wakefield High School’s principal posted a possible fix on social media, APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said that any remaining problems were isolated: “At last check this morning, there were 25,273 APS-provided student devices active on our network. There are some issues at the secondary level, but we are working directly with those students to reset their devices.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Sept. 11 Commemoration Tomorrow — “Arlington County will commemorate the lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and express gratitude to all those who responded that day with a virtual event. To ensure everyone’s safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, the public will view the event online or on the County’s cable channels.” [Arlington County]

State Grant to Boost COVID Testing — “The Virginia Department of Health has provided the Department of Human Services with $320,287 to increase COVID-19 testing capacity. The grant award covers the period August 1, 2020 through December 30, 2020. Grant funds will support operations and logistics at testing sites.” [Arlington County]

Amazon Holding Virtual Career Day — “Amazon is looking to build on the success of last year’s Career Day events across six U.S. cities that hosted 17,000 job seekers with over 200,000 people who applied for jobs in the week leading up to the event. The new completely virtual event will open Amazon Career Day 2020 to everyone, regardless of their location. Some of the new employees will be placed at Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia, which is continuing to expand following its opening last year.” [Good Morning America, Amazon, WTOP]

Progress on DCA Expansion — “Project Journey is well on its way. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority this week offered an update on its two-pronged, roughly $650 million modernization program at Reagan National Airport. The final product will deliver a new north concourse, replacing the oft-maligned Gate 35X, and new security checkpoints. The former is expected to open in July 2021, and the latter by the fourth quarter of 2021.” [Washington Business Journal, NBC 4, InsideNova]

Wide Pedestrian Bridge Proposed — “The final EIS for Long Bridge recommended building 14′ wide pedestrian and bike bridge connecting Long Bridge, the MVT and East Potomac Park. Governor Northam committed to funding pre-COVID. This will be huge for regional trail connectivity.” [Twitter, Friends of the Mt. Vernon Trail]

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(Updated at 5 p.m.) Crossing Four Mile Run on Columbia Pike on foot or bike can be nerve-wracking, with scarcely any space separating pedestrians from the busy street. A new project set to get underway in a few months should make that crossing a little easier.

The Columbia Pike Four Mile Run Bridge Pedestrian Enhancements project will bump out the northern sidewalk along westbound traffic to 10 feet, double the current five feet. Vehicle travel lanes will, in turn, be slimmed down.

The project also will add lighting to the northern side of the bridge.

There is currently nothing except the curb separating pedestrians from vehicles, but the project will add guardrails in spots to help improve safety.

“The sturdier guardrails will be installed at the approaches [but] not on the bridge itself,” said county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet. “The expanded sidewalk will remain 9″ tall to provide protection for pedestrians.”

Balliet said there’s no word yet on when the improvements will be completed.

“The project is currently in design,” he said. “Implementation of the bridge enhancements is expected this fall, but we don’t yet have a start or end date for the work.”

The project arose out of public feedback from the Columbia Pike west end project, in which local residents said the sidewalks were too narrow and the too poorly lit to feel safe traveling along the bridge at night.

Images via Arlington County

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N. Glebe Road is expected to close for nine straight days next year for a bridge rehabilitation project.

In a recently-posed video presentation, VDOT provided an update on its planned Pimmit Run bridge project. The presentation details the plan to replace the deteriorating bridge deck and steel supporting beams with large, prefabricated components.

Sections of the bridge deck and support beams will be constructed off-site and trucked in, then placed with a crane. That will allow crews to replace the entire top of the bridge much faster than with conventional construction techniques, which would require a sequential series of lane closures.

The downside is that the bridge — and thus N. Glebe Road, just up from Chain Bridge — will need to be closed to traffic entirely for an estimated nine days next year.

The project is set to kick off next spring and wrap up in the fall of 2021. Its projected cost of $9.5 million will come from state and federal funds.

The bridge was built in 1973, serves 13,000 vehicles per day, and is suffering from corroding concrete and steel supports. The project will replace the entire bridge deck and support beams, while also repairing the concrete bridge piers in and around Pimmit Run, near where it flows into the Potomac.

The rehabilitated bridge will have new rails and barriers, as well as a widened pedestrian path.

During the project, traffic heading to and from Chain Bridge will be detoured via McLean and N. Chain Bridge Road. A closure of N. Glebe Road just up from the bridge last week, due to water main work, resulted only in minor traffic impacts — albeit during a pandemic during which many people are working from home.

VDOT is asking for anyone with feedback on the project to email [email protected] by Aug. 7.

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Morning Notes

Dorsey Hasn’t Returned Union Donation — Arlington County Board and WMATA board member Christian Dorsey, “who promised three months ago to repay a $10,000 campaign donation that violated the board’s ethics policy, has not yet refunded the money and is likely to be replaced as Virginia’s representative on the regional board. Dorsey said Wednesday that he is working on a wire transfer to return the money to a transit union that routinely negotiates with Metro.” [Washington Post]

Beyer Slams Impeachment Trial — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) issued the following statement… ‘Today Senate Republicans ended their impeachment show trial. It will go down as one of the most craven events in American history.'” [Press Release]

County Board Race Fundraising Update — “The two Democrats vying for Arlington County Board entered 2020 with roughly the same amount of cash on hand, according to figures from the Virginia Department of Elections. Incumbent Libby Garvey had $16,823 in her campaign kitty as of Dec. 31, while challenger Chanda Choun had $16,155, according to data reported after the Jan. 15 filing deadline.” [InsideNova]

West Glebe Road Bridge Open House — “The deteriorating West Glebe Road Bridge, on the Arlington border near I-395, will be the topic of an open house next week. The bridge is currently closed to large vehicles weighing more than 5 tons due to structural deficiencies. It’s set for a major rehabilitation project, likely starting later this year.” [ALXnow]

Forum to Discuss Repealing Second Amendment — “Encore Learning will present a forum on ‘Repeal the Second Amendment: The Case for a Safer America’ on Monday, Feb. 10 at 3 p.m. at Central Library. The speaker, American University professor Allan Lichtman, will discuss his perspectives on gun safety and will argue for national legislation and the potential revision of the U.S. Constitution.” [InsideNova]

Dirt Closes Restaurants in Miami, Too — “On Thursday at 11 p.m., employees were told via a text message from DIRT Regional Director of Operations Aaron Licardo that both the Sunset Harbour and Brickell locations were closing for good. The two Miami spots closed on the heels of the Virginia location shuttering; that restaurant, located in Ballston, lasted less than a year. The message employees received claimed the company ‘found no other way to keep these locations open.'” [Miami Herald]

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The return of several bridges lost in last summer’s flooding will depend on the upcoming Arlington County budget, officials tell ARLnow.

Arlington homes, businesses, parks and some infrastructure suffered significant damage last year during the July 8 flash flooding. Among the casualties of the storm were seven bridges in parks throughout Arlington.

“There was one in Bon Air and Gulf Branch parks, and two in both Lubber Run and Glencarlyn parks,” Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said in an email.

A small pedestrian bridge at 38th and Chesterbrook, in the Old Glebe neighborhood, was also destroyed, but has since been replaced. Kalish said it was a simple wooden bridge and there was sufficient funding in the maintenance budget. None of the other destroyed bridges have been replaced.

While the six other bridges have been removed, Kalish said replacing them will be an item considered in the upcoming Capital Improvement Plan — a ten-year plan to address infrastructure issues. Discussion of the proposed CIP is scheduled to run from May to July following the adoption of the operating budget in April.

In addition to the bridges, the restrooms at Bon Air Park are also still closed, and will remain closed indefinitely, the county said in an update on Jan. 24. The update notes that following repairs “all of the [damaged] picnic shelters, volleyball courts and playgrounds are open.”

Staff photo by Ashley Hopko

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