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Rendering of one of the new transit stations to be constructed on Columbia Pike this summer (via Arlington County)

New shelters are expected this summer at eight bus stops on Columbia Pike.

The project was delayed last year because of structural problems with the original shelter design, but the delay presented an opportunity to increase the original contract and complete more stations at one time.

At its meeting on Saturday (July 16), the Arlington County Board approved giving Sagres Construction Corporation another $1 million to up the number of shelters it is installing from 4 to 8.

The contractor will also modify the signage and electrical systems at the stations.

The new transit stations will be equipped with glass roofs and side windscreens, real-time bus arrival displays, lighting and seats. Each station platform is also set to be between 90 and 120 feet long to accommodate two buses, according to the project’s website.

The transit stations will be located between the intersection at Columbia Pike and S. Greenbrier Street, and S. Dinwiddie Street, according to a report to the Board.

Anticipating the installation of these new transit stations, multiple bus stops in both directions of Columbia Pike are set to be relocated starting Sunday (July 24). The westbound stops are at S. Dinwiddie Street, S. Greenbrier Street, S. Buchanan Street, S. Oakland Street and S. Glebe Street; the eastbound ones are at S. Greenbrier Street and S. Columbus Street, according to the county website.

The construction of these new stations is part of the Columbia Pike Transit Stations project. The eight stations are expected to be built this summer. Another 15 are set to be constructed between 2023 and 2025, according to the project’s website.

The new transit stations aim to provide better accommodation for bus riders and transform Columbia Pike to a “more transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly ‘Main Street,'” according to the report.

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The intersection between S. Glebe Road and S. Arlington Ridge Road (via Google Maps)

Upgraded traffic lights, roads and bus stops are expected at the intersection of S. Glebe Road and S. Arlington Ridge Road.

The Arlington County Board approved awarding a $1.6 million contract to the D.C. firm Fort Myer Construction Corporation for the project during its meeting on Saturday (July 16).

As part of a larger county program to upgrade “outdated” traffic lights, this project will change the span wire currently holding the traffic signals at the intersection to mast arms.

Other upgrades to be carried out include constructing curb ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, adding high-visibility crosswalks and renovating bus stops at that location.

Currently, the intersection near the Four Mile Run Trail and the Alexandria border has narrow sidewalks, long pedestrian crossings and outdated bus stops. The project aims to “improve pedestrian safety and accessibility at the intersection,” according to the report.

The contract approved by the Board includes at 15% contingency on top of the construction firm’s $1.4 million bid, which came in lower than the county engineer’s construction cost estimate. Funding for this project was included in the adopted Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2022 to 2024.

The project is expected to be completed by fall of next year, according to the county’s Traffic Signal Upgrade Project website.

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Morning Notes

A flying porta-potty over a construction site in Clarendon (photo courtesy Peter Golkin)

More New Transit Stations Along the Pike — “Arlington County Board members on July 16 are expected to approve a contract revision that will allow for installation of eight transit stations along Columbia Pike, rather than the four originally envisioned when the contract was first consummated. The proposal calls for upping the contract total from $1.65 million to $2.72 million to accommodate the doubling of pre-fabricated transit stations to be installed at various spots along the route.” [Sun Gazette]

Missing Middle Form Closes Today — A feedback form for Arlington’s Missing Middle Housing Study is closing today, as the County Board is set to hold a work session on the draft proposal to allow relatively small-scale multifamily housing where only single-family homes can currently be built. The work session, which comes amid both vocal opposition to and support for the proposal among dueling groups of residents, starts at 3 p.m. today. [Arlington County, Arlington County]

Local Credit Union Merger — “Arlington Community Federal Credit Union (FCU) has announced plans to seek regulatory approval to merge with Alexandria-based InFirst Federal Credit Union, resulting in an organization with combined assets of more than $700 million. As part of the merger process, Arlington Community FCU will determine and announce a name for the combined credit union before merger completion.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Tuesday — Humid throughout the day with storms possible in the afternoon and evening. High of 90 and low of 70. Sunrise at 5:55 am and sunset at 8:36 pm. [Weather.gov]

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After a year of work surveying residents, two civic associations are going to the county with a request: to make a stretch of N. Carlin Springs Road safer for pedestrians.

Drivers routinely go 40 mph on the 30 mph road, which is used by kids walking to Kenmore Middle School, says Christopher George, who spearheaded the community initiative. People have to cross four lanes of traffic without marked crossings to get to two heavily used bus stations, which lack ramps to make them accessible to people with disabilities.

“It’s very dangerous for people who take the bus to cross the street,” he tells ARLnow. “Kenmore students are pretty much told not to cross the street because it’s so dangerous.”

Members of the Bluemont Civic Association (BCA) and the Arlington Forest Citizens Association (AFCA) want slower speeds, safer crossings and greater enforcement of speeding and street crossing laws on N. Carlin Springs Road between N. Edison Street and N. Kensington Street.

Their asks come after more than a year spent surveying neighborhoods, conducting site walks and drafting a report.

Residents say they want to see:

  • Marked crossings accessible to people with disabilities
  • Medians with pedestrian refuges, curb extensions and streetscaping at the intersections of 2nd Street N./N. Jefferson Street and at N. Greenbrier Street
  • A speed limit on N. Carlin Springs Road of 25 mph, not 30 mph
  • Dark sky-compliant Carlyle-style street lights

Members sent a joint resolution to the County Board and County Manager Mark Schwartz requesting that they pilot these changes before fully implementing them.

They said these changes could qualify as upgrades for the county’s annual repaving efforts, its Vision Zero program to reduce pedestrian deaths and serious injuries or the county’s Neighborhood Conservation program, designed to let residents identify and plan projects in their neighborhoods.

The two intersections mentioned by the association members are “in the queue to look into for evaluation,” says Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors.

And a lower speed limit could be coming to the street. This year, DES is studying 30 mph roads ­­– including N. Carlin Springs Road ­­­– to determine which “could be a good fit for either a speed limit reduction or other measures such as signage,” she said.

DES expects the study will be done before the end of the year.

The two neighborhoods have worked together before to seek funding for pedestrian safety improvements on N. Carlin Springs Road, George said.

Arlington recently made intersection safety upgrades on N. Carlin Springs at N. Edison and N. Wakefield streets that included curb extensions, rapid flashing beacons, accessibility improvements, widened medians and other improvements, Pors said.

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A scary incident involving a bus driver and a passenger in Shirlington turned out a bit less serious than it appeared at first glance.

It happened the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 22, on the 2900 block of S. Quincy Street, the location of the Shirlington Bus Station.

“At approximately 9:44 p.m. on December 22, police were dispatched to the report of a person with a gun,” said an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “Upon arrival, it was determined that the unknown male suspect entered onto the bus and attempted to ride without paying. The driver requested payment and after the suspect refused, stepped off the bus and asked the suspect to follow.”

“The suspect allegedly brandished what is believed to be an air soft gun and fired multiple times,” the crime report continued. “The suspect then fled the scene on foot, entered onto a different bus and left the area prior to the arrival of police. No injuries or property damage were reported. There is no suspect description. The investigation is ongoing.”

It’s unclear whether the bus was an ART bus, a Metrobus or otherwise.

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Customers enjoy outdoor dining at Good Company Doughnuts & Café (courtesy photo)

Locally-owned Good Company Doughnuts & Café in Ballston is trying to save its bustling outdoor patio from being downsized by a county transportation project.

Arlington County is installing a bus shelter in front of the business at 672 N. Glebe Road before the winter. Good Company co-owner Charles Kachadoorian says the shelter will obscure much of the storefront from the street and halve the available outdoor seating, both of which will hurt business.

“Our indoor space is small, so we continue to limit seating to our beautiful outdoor patio in order to keep our staff and neighbors as safe as possible. Unfortunately, we are at risk of losing more than half those patio seats,” he said. “We requested the county delay the installation and relocate the shelter to an area on the sidewalk that will serve the intended purpose while allowing for Good Company, a locally-owned and operated business that truly cares about its neighbors, to continue to thrive.”

Located on the ground floor of the 672 Flats apartments, Good Company not only stayed afloat during the pandemic but provided free lunches to Arlington public school kids. Meanwhile, the patio became a popular open-air gathering spot for locals and tourists seeking coffee, breakfast, lunch and of course, decadent donuts. Kachadoorian says there’s been a “huge response” from patrons and neighbors who want to see the patio stay.

The plan to build the shelter at the corner of N. Glebe Road and 7th Street N. was approved as part of the site plan for 672 Flats in October 2015, said Ben Aiken, the director of constituent services for the county. Arlington received $12,500 for the bus shelter from 672’s developer and a $6,000 bus shelter grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation as part of the bus stop improvement program.

That’s four years before Good Company opened in April 2019.

“There was no way they would’ve known in 2015 that there’d be this restaurant with neighborhood appeal,” Kachadoorian said. “The important thing for us is to get the site plan adjusted and move the bus stop.”

Arlington County says the project will not impact the seating Good Company is permitted to operate.

“Arlington is committed to supporting our small businesses and we have been in close contact with Good Company Doughnuts & Cafe on this issue,” Aiken said. “The business will still be allowed to keep their approved outdoor dining, as it does not impede access to the bus stop…. While the restaurant has indicated the bus stop’s location will take away half of their dining, it appears this is because of an unpermitted expansion beyond their approved seating area.”

The row of seating closer to the road is not permitted because of the dimensions of the proposed bus shelter, confirmed Kachadoorian. He says he’s been talking with the county about his extra seating and his desire to see that row made permanent.

He says the patio can’t expand around the corner, as the sidewalk is not wide enough, but the shelter could move further south on N. Glebe Road where it wouldn’t block a business.

“For us, it’s more important to have the patio, so we’d be willing to help defray the cost or do whatever needs to be done to move the shelter,” he said.

Aiken maintained that Good Company’s storefront should still be visible after the shelter is in place.

“The bus stop uses our lowest profile shelter design, is transparent, and should not significantly impact the visibility for Good Company,” he said.

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) A multi-year project to improve transit along Columbia Pike has been delayed by design problems associated with the proposed bus shelters.

As a result, the first eight of 23 new transit stations, which the Department of Environmental Services was aiming to deliver this spring, will likely be installed next spring. In the meantime, temporary shelters have been installed at these locations, and bus service is set to return to half of them tomorrow (Friday).

The new stations comprise a $16.9 million project to transform the Pike into a “transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly ‘Main Street,'” according to the county. The County Board approved the upgrades in the summer of 2018 as part of the 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Plan.

“New stations will make transit along the Pike easier, safer, more attractive and accessible — encouraging more people to use it,” the project webpage said.

The bus stop project dates back to the since-nixed plan for a Columbia Pike streetcar. A prototype stop, at the corner of the Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive, made national headlines after ARLnow revealed that it cost more than $1 million.

A map of completed, under-construction and planned changes to Columbia Pike for improved bus transit and multimodal experience (via Arlington County)

More recently, the station work has been stalled by structural flaws discovered with the bus shelters specially designed for the project, which feature a kit-of-parts design intended to cut down on costs compared to the custom-made $1 million “Super Stop.”

“Last November, our shelter fabricator, Future Systems, built a prototype of the shelter and identified stability issues with it,” said DES spokesman Eric Balliet. “After the design was revised, there were still concerns about its construct-ability and stability. These design issues were causing project costs to increase and further delays in delivery of the first stations.”

DES has opted to install prefabricated shelters from the same manufacturer, a decision supported by the County Board, which directed the department to finish these eight stations by the end of summer 2022. Choosing the prefabricated shelters will allow DES to finish those stations in spring 2022 instead of spring 2023, and will save more than $7 million, according to a recent report.

“Kit of parts” bus shelter vs. prefabricated bus shelter (via Arlington County)

“By the end of the year, we expect to receive the final shelter drawings from Future Systems, to be followed in early 2022 with a Notice to Proceed for production and delivery of the first eight station shelters,” Balliet said. “Installation of shelters and amenities for the first eight stations is expected in spring 2022.”

The prefabricated shelters maintain some of the original shelter’s features — glass finishing, protection against bad weather and real-time bus arrival displays — and will have equivalent or more seating. The shelters are also shallower, giving pedestrians more room.

When finished, the stations will be accessible to people with disabilities and will have platforms that can fit two buses.

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Commuters in Ballston now have access to new bus bays on Fairfax Drive, outside the entrance to the Ballston Metro station.

The refreshed bus bays feature “new bus shelters, sidewalks, and planters,” said Eric Balliet, a spokesman for Dept. of Environmental Services. He added that work along Fairfax Drive should be “substantially complete in August.”

These upgrades are part of a four-phase project to update the transit facilities and public areas surrounding the Metro station. Improvements to multimodal facilities along Fairfax Drive comprise the project’s first phase.

The county expects the project will be 100% complete next summer, he said. The goal of the project is to increase transit usage and safety, improve the facilities as well as access to them and circulation around them, and enhance their design and provide sustainable infrastructure.

With phase one nearing substantial completion, the county is embarking on the second phase. Access to bus bays and pedestrian paths along the east side of N. Stuart Street will be impacted during this phase, which is expected to last until spring 2022, the project webpage said.

“Access to businesses along east side of N. Stuart Street will be maintained throughout this phase,” the webpage noted.

Since Sunday, some ART and Metrobus service along N. Stuart Street and N. Stafford Street has been relocated to the new bus stops on Fairfax Drive and temporary ones on the west side of N. Stuart Street. On Monday, attendants could be seen helping commuters get to the right bus stop.

WMATA say it is still working to provide printed schedules for riders.

Phases three and four will focus on upgrades to two plazas, one on N. Stuart Street and one on Fairfax Drive, and each phase is expected to last three months. Once all four phases are complete, commuters will see a number of additional upgrades, such as additional bike parking, expanded public space along Fairfax Drive, a dedicated “kiss-and-ride” curb space and a dedicated shuttle bus curb space and bus shelter.

In addition, “landscaping and benches for the planter areas, bus stop flag poles and real-time bus information displays will be added toward the end of the project,” Balliet said.

The County Board approved the project in December 2019, and construction — expected to last 18 months — was slated to begin in the summer of 2020.

“The project experienced delays due to the need to relocate telecom and electric utilities lines,” Balliet said. “We now expect the entire project to be completed in summer 2022.”

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Morning Notes

Beyer Lauds Vaccine Mandate for Feds — “Requiring vaccinations for the full federal workforce is the right thing to do for the health of the workforce and the nation they serve. Including all civilian federal employees and contractors in this mandate is huge, it will mean this covers a very large number of workers. This policy rightly prioritizes federal workers’ health.” [Press Release]

No Mask Mandate in Va. So Far — “Virginia recommends that even vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors in certain circumstances, but with different locations experiencing different levels of COVID-19 transmission, the state has stopped short of issuing a mandate.” [Tysons Reporter]

Mask Mandates for Pentagon and D.C. — “Effective immediately, the Department of Defense has ordered that masks must be worn at all Pentagon facilities, regardless of vaccination status.” “Masks will again be required indoors in D.C. beginning Saturday, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser ordered, in a reversal of recent policy driven by new federal guidelines that recommend indoor masking in areas where coronavirus transmission is high.” [InsideNova, Washington Post]

Reports of Sick Birds Decreasing — “After Virginia and other states began receiving reports of a mysterious illness sickening or killing birds in late May, reports are starting to go down. However, the cause of the birds’ illness and deaths remains unknown.
The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources provided the update on the bird mortality event Wednesday.” [Patch]

Bus Bay Closures Start Sunday — “To make way for the Ballston-MU Multimodal Improvements Project, the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) will be temporarily closing several Metrobus bays near the Metrorail station. Starting Sunday, bus bays A,B,C,D, and J will be closed, which will impact a number of Metrobus routes. The changes will also cause many detours as the buses alter their routes to access the new bays.” [Patch]

Local Diver Wins Another Title — “A triple-crown high-school diving champion from the winter season has added another title to her 2021 resume. Dominion Hills diver Ellie Joyce won the oldest-age senior girls age group with a 227.75 point total at the Divisional 4 championships of the Northern Virginia Swimming League. During the high-school campaign as a sophomore for Washington-Liberty, Joyce won Liberty District, 6D North Region and Class 6 state championships for the Generals.” [Sun Gazette]

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Morning Notes

Mystery Disease Still Killing Songbirds — “Jennifer Toussaint, chief of animal control in Arlington, Virginia, can’t forget the four baby blue jays. In late May, worried residents had delivered the fledglings to her clinic just outside of Washington, D.C., within just a few hours. Each was plump, indicating ‘their parents had done a great job caring for them,’ Toussaint says. But the birds were lethargic, unable to keep their balance, and blinded by crusty, oozing patches that had grown over their eyes…. Since May, when the illness was first recognized in and around Washington, D.C., researchers have documented hundreds of cases in at least a dozen species of birds in nine eastern and midwestern states. ” [Science Magazine, InsideNova, Fox News]

Plaque to Honor Breast Health Fund’s Namesake — “The Arlington Free Clinic (AFC) on July 7 held a plaque unveiling to celebrate the life of Sharon McGowan, an Arlington mother of seven who died at age 45 after battling breast cancer, and to mark the transfer of a fund in her name supporting breast health… The fund supports mammograms and biopsies for uninsured patients (including those AFC serves) fighting breast cancer in Northern Virginia.” [Sun Gazette]

Pentagon City Bus Stop Relocations — “Starting on Sunday, July 11, bus stops A, B and C along S. Hayes Street at the Pentagon City Metro station will be closed while in road concrete pads are installed at the bus bays. Buses that serve the closed stops will be temporarily relocated to bus stops E, T1 and T2 (see map below). The bus stop relocations will mainly impact Metrobus and Metroway service. The bus stop relocations will not impact ART bus service.” [Arlington Transit]

Prosecutor Pushes Back on ‘Myths’ — From Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church: “Myth: Restorative justice is a ‘get out of jail free card.’ Reality: Restorative justice is not synonymous with diversion.” [Twitter]

Event for New Chamber Music Quartet — “The newly formed 9th Street Chamber Music LLC will host a launch party on Friday, July 16 at 5 p.m. on the lawn at St. George’s Episcopal Church, 915 North Oakland St. The event will include music, food and drink for purchase, a raffle and more.” [Sun Gazette]

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Arlington County is gearing up for the construction of new bus bays, bus shelters and seating areas close to the Ballston Metro station.

As construction starts on the improvements to the transit hub near the Ballston Metro station, Arlington County cautions that drivers should expect lane closures on streets near the Ballston Metro station over the next year and a half of construction.

The project website has an unflattering description of the current transit hub outside the Ballston Metro station, calling the bus shelters aging and crowded with congested bus bays and sidewalks. The area also suffers from no kiss-and-ride drop off for the Metro station, no dedicated shuttle bus area, and no wayfinding signage.

The plan is to replace the current infrastructure with new bus bays and bus shelters with modern furnishings, expanded seating, and real-time bus information. Improvements will also include:

  • Additional bike parking
  • Expanded public space on Fairfax Drive
  • Dedicated Kiss-and-Ride curbspace
  • Dedicated shuttle bus curbspace and bus shelter
  • Improved aesthetics
  • Improved wayfinding signage

The work is currently expected to start mid-to-late April, according to Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet.

“We’re working to finalize permits now with a construction start this spring,” Balliet. “Work is planned to start along Fairfax Drive first.”

Construction is scheduled to be broken up into the following phases:

  • Phase 1 – Bus bays along Fairfax Drive
  • Phase 2 – Bus bays along North Stuart Street
  • Phase 3 – Plaza on North Stuart Street
  • Phase 4 – Plaza on Fairfax Drive

During the construction of the new bus bays, the project website said buses will be temporarily routed to the west side of N. Stuart Street, which will have temporary bus shelters for riders.

Once the work starts, the construction is expected to last 18 months with teams working from 6 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

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