Press Club

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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Morning Notes

Elite Yorktown Swimmer Has Bright Future — “So far during her three-year high-school swimming career, Victoria Huske has never lost an individual race. Included in Huske’s victories for the Yorktown Patriots’ standout are six individual state championships in various strokes and she has been a member of five winning relays with one close second.” [InsideNova]

Fairlington Bus Stop Getting a Roof — “Arlington County anticipates beginning work on enhancement of the bus stop at the corner of S. Buchanan Street and 30th Street S., which include installation of a weather shelter, the week of March 9th.” [Twitter]

New Tech Helps County Explore Pipes — “With no interruption to service, our new high-tech pal PipeDiver today explored key Arlington water supply pipes, gathering a wealth of unprecedented data to assess conditions now and for long-term planning.” [Twitter]

Whitlow’s to Serve Beer with Your Face on It — “Ever wanted to drink your face? Well join us [Thursday] night from 6:30pm-8:30pm! @guinness will take your [photo], and in less time than it takes to pour a perfect pint, the 3D Malt Printer puts your face in your beer.” [Instagram]

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Construction on four new transit stations along Columbia Pike is set to begin this week, per county officials.

Nearly seven years after the uproar over the million dollar bus stop, the county awarded a $1.64 million contract to build the first 4 out of 23 planned bus stops along the Pike. The stations include large glass shelters, seating, lighting, trash cans, real time bus arrival displays and a higher curb for easier boarding.

Part of Arlington’s planned “premium transit network,” the improvements are intended to provide a better transit experience along the busy Columbia Pike transit corridor.

Per the construction map, the new stations will be located near the intersections of:

  • Columbia Pike and S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • Columbia Pike and S. Buchanan Street
  • Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street
  • Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road

More from the county’s website:

Work will begin at the South Four Mile Run Drive location, then move to the other locations in the order listed above. The current bus stop at Four Mile Run Drive will be moved one block east to Columbia Pike and South Wakefield Street during construction.

Constructing the stations will be a two-step process. First, our contractor will build the supporting infrastructure for the four stations, then they will return to each site to install the shelters and other station features. It will take several months to construct each location’s supporting infrastructure, which includes an 85 to 120-foot-long station platform with higher curb, the shelter foundation, a concrete bus pad in the roadway and electrical connections.

Installation of the station shelters is expected to start in summer 2020, once the fabricator, which is manufacturing the shelters for all 23 station locations, begins production.

Arlington’s 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Plan allocates a total of $16.9 million for the 23 stations, which includes the above-ground structures and supporting infrastructure, site design, project management and construction costs. The remaining stations are expected to be constructed between 2020-2023.

The county withdrew its original construction plans six years ago after the the prototype cost of the Walter Reed Drive stop, first reported by ARLnow, was revealed to cost over $1 million. The plans drew outrage from the public and attention from national and international press.

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The Arlington County Board has approved a nearly $5.5 million contract to revamp the area around the Ballston Metro station.

The project — a refinement of an earlier plan, which we last reported in 2014 — will build nine bus bays, covered bus shelters and new seating areas.

More from Arlington County:

The Board voted unanimously to approve a $5.45 million contract, including $909,080 (20 percent) contingency, with Ardent Company, LLC for major improvements to the bus stop and seating areas along North Fairfax Drive and North Stuart Street. The project will expand pedestrian circulation spaces, and add real-time information displays to nine bus stops in the area. Antiquated streetlights will be upgraded, landscaping added and the existing bus driveway on Fairfax Drive will be replaced with four new saw-tooth bus bays. The North Stuart Street sidewalk will be made more accessible to persons with disabilities.

The project, included in the County’s Capital Improvement Plan, will be funded with a combination of federal, state and local funds. It is expected to begin in early spring 2020 and last for 18 months.

“Upon completion, Arlington County will take ownership and maintenance responsibility of the new furniture, information signage, and bus shelters,” a county staff report notes.

“As Arlington grows, it is essential that the County continue to improve our transportation infrastructure,” County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said in a statement.

A separate plan calls for the Ballston Metro canopy to be replaced with a public art installation, “which will consist of a dozens of LEDs that can be individually programmed to respond to motion sensors that detect riders coming in and out of the station.”

The county is also currently working to kickstart a project to build a second entrance to the Ballston Metro entrance.

Photo via Google Maps

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