Arlington, VA

(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) It was clear skies for commuters this morning (Friday) celebrating Bike to Work Day.

The annual tradition encourages commuters to ditch their cars and ride their bikes to and from work. In Arlington, 10 pit stops and themed celebrations were sprinkled across the county.

The Bike to Work event at Rosslyn’s Gateway Park filled the park with spandex-clad cyclists mingling and expressing exuberance at the perfect weather. In the tight-knit community of cyclists, there were frequent reunions between riders throughout the park.

“It was a great ride today,” said Henry Dunbar, director of active transportation for Bike Arlington and a coordinator of the event. “This is about as ideal as it gets.”

Dunbar said the event caters to the one-third of riders who are first-time bicycle commuters. Dunbar said the goal is to teach them about bicycle safety and encourage them to make bicycle commuting a daily habit.

For new riders, Dunbar said the best thing to do is find a more experienced rider and tag along with them.

“Ride with experienced cyclists,” Dunbar said. “All the brochures in the world aren’t as good as someone guiding you through that one tricky intersection on your way into work.”

Dunbar nodded over to the N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway intersection — a crossing regularly packed with cyclists, pedestrians and cars. The crowding is exacerbated by construction around the intersection that’s part of the Custis Trail improvements — construction Dunbar said is likely to continue for another full year.

Several bicycling-focused organizations had stands set up in Rosslyn to help encourage a car-free lifestyle. Robert Santana attended on behalf of the Arlington Car-Free Diet campaign and distributed information about the impending Metro closures.

“I was worried we’d be talking mostly to people who were already car-free,” Santana said, “but people have seemed really interested.”

Tents were set up around the park, with businesses like Nando’s Peri-Peri offering free meals or other local organizations offering bicycle-specific services.

“Today has been fantastic,” said Bruce Deming, a “bike lawyer” who specializes in representing injured cyclists. “There’s a huge crowd, just tremendous turnout. I’m proud to be a part of this event.”

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Detours start today along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail to allow for construction of a bridge over Lee Highway.

The trail will be closed between Little Falls Street and Lee Highway and is scheduled to remain closed until fall 2020, when the new bridge is scheduled to open, according to VDOT.

Pedestrians will be detoured north and turn right onto Fairfax Drive, while cyclists will be sent south to Jefferson Street, which does not have a sidewalk.

The new bridge over Lee Highway is planned to offer a safer crossing at a busy intersection for the over 2,000 people who use the trail in this area on peak days.

The W&OD isn’t the only trail facing closure soon. Starting May 6, the Custis Trail is scheduled to close at the I-66 underpass near Bon Air Park to allow for the construction of an additional I-66 East lane.

Trail users will be diverted to an existing pedestrian bridge to the east.

Like the W&OD closure, the Custis Trail closure is expected to last until fall 2020, at which point the trail will be shifted slightly south for visibility and safety improvements.

Both projects are part of VDOT’s Transform 66 project.

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Construction is ramping up on the widening of one of the most congested sections of I-66, and that will prompt some changes on county trails and streets lining the highway.

The County Board gave the go-ahead yesterday (Tuesday) for VDOT workers to relocate some local trails and build a noise wall and storm drain associated with the project. Once it’s completed, I-66 eastbound will boast an extra travel lane between Exit 71 in Ballston and the highway’s intersection with the Dulles Connector Road, long one of the worst traffic choke points in the region (and even the country).

The construction will impact areas along the highway throughout Arlington, however, prompting the Board’s latest action.

Perhaps the largest change is the relocation of part of the W&OD Trail near East Falls Church to a new pedestrian bridge running over Lee Highway, and county officials formally gave VDOT workers permission to start work on that project last night.

VDOT just finalized plans for the bridge this past fall, following a bit of controversy over its design, and hopes to start work on it sometime this spring.

Workers also now have the county’s permission to build a new noise wall near the N. Harrison Street bridge over I-66 in the Bluemont neighborhood. But that wall will block off a portion of the Custis Trail as it runs alongside the highway, and workers plan to create a new connection from the trail onto the bridge itself, according to a county staff report.

Additional construction on the highway widening will also force workers to connect a portion of the Custis Trail near Bon Air Park to an underground tunnel beneath I-66.

The county will also construct “park benches, trail signage, lighting, bike shelter and racks, railing and fencing” along the new sections of the trail, the staff report said.

State officials awarded a contract for the $85.7 million project in 2017, and they’re currently hoping to have the new lane open by fall 2020.

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Starting this week, construction to improve the intersection of Lee Highway and N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn will significantly narrow a portion of the Custis Trail.

The Custis Trail will be restricted to six feet wide for the section between N. Fort Meyer Drive and Lynn Street, as crews work to transform one lane of Lee Highway into additional trail width and buffer space.

The trail narrowing will last for nine to 10 months while construction takes place on the south side of the trail.

Construction on the two-year, $9.3 million project officially kicked off in May and will happen in phases to reduce impacts on pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers, according to the county.

Workers will add wider sidewalks, on-street bike lanes and improved curb ramps as the northbound and southbound sections of Lee Highway meet Lynn Street.

The project will also include improvements to the Custis Trail as it runs alongside Lee Highway, including bicycle and pedestrian facility upgrades, lane reconfiguration and widening of the trail.

For street beautification efforts, the “Corridor of Light” public art installation will get added to each of the four corners of the Interstate 66 bridge.

The county is helping to fund the construction. The project, expected to wrap up in spring 2020, will require some lane and sidewalk closures.

Photo via VDOT and rendering via Arlington County

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Arlington is kicking off a new phase of construction along the Custis Trail near Rosslyn, as workers add a bevy of safety improvements to the area.

The county’s contractor plans to kick off work at the intersection of N. Scott Street and Lee Highway on Monday (Aug. 13), so long as the weather cooperates.

Anyone using the trail will need to follow a short detour onto N. Scott Street as it meets 21st Street N., but the county hopes the detour will only last about a week.

Earlier this year, the county kicked off bike safety improvements along Lee Highway, widening the trail itself, improving some trail crosses and crosswalks and adding curb extensions. County contractors are also reconfiguring the bike lanes on both N. Scott and N. Quinn Streets as part of the construction, resulting in some road closures in the area.

The county also plans to add new traffic signals at Lee Highway’s intersection with N. Scott Street, but planners predict they’ll only be installed “after completion of major construction activities”, likely “in the latter half of 2018.”

Workers are also busy repairing the trail as it runs alongside I-66 between N. Adams Street and McCoy Park, necessitating another detour in the area set to last through the end of the month.

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A new protected bike lane is on the way for Courthouse this month.

Workers are set to add the new lane along N. Veitch Street as it runs between Wilson Blvd and Lee Highway, in a bid to better connect the Custis Trail with both Courthouse and Rosslyn.

Construction on the protected lane is set to move in conjunction with the county’s paving work starting this month, and will require some adjustments for the area’s on-street parking. Workers have also temporarily relocated the Capital Bikeshare station along N. Veitch Street to the road’s intersection with Key Blvd in preparation for the construction.

Soon afterward, the county also hopes to retool parking along N. Troy Street as part of the repaving work, set to take place sometime in “late summer.”

In subsequent phases of this project, the county plans to extend a previously built protected bike lane between N. Oak Street and N. Quinn Street in Rosslyn, linking the neighborhood to Courthouse. Some paving work on that effort could start as soon as this month.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Safety improvements on three Custis Trail intersections have begun.

The project will reconfigure bike lanes at N. Quinn and N. Scott streets, as well as widen the Custis Trail. Other safety improvements include curb extensions, ADA-compliant curb ramps, trail separation from Lee Highway, and crosswalks with higher visibility.

Construction has temporarily closed a lane of Lee Highway. Jersey barriers have been erected to form a bike detour along the right-hand, westbound lane of Lee Highway between N. Scott Street and N. Oak Street.

At least one Arlington bicyclist took to social media to cheer on the bicycling infrastructure, saying the jersey barriers were “better than 99 percent of bike facilities in the U.S.”

In addition to the Lee Highway lane closure, the north legs of the intersection at both N. Scott Street and N. Oak Street will be restricted to one lane. Northbound traffic will be permitted only at the N. Scott Street intersection, while southbound traffic will be permitted only at N. Oak Street intersection, according to the county.

Detour signs will be present to guide drivers out of the North Highlands neighborhood.

The bus stop for the ART 55 and WMATA 3Y buses will be relocated from the construction zone to the west side of the N. Scott Street and Lee Highway intersection. Part of the construction includes plans for an improved bus stop with a bench.

Project funding comes from a Federal Highway Administration bicycle and pedestrian safety program grant.

Work hours are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Monday through Thursday, and between  9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays. The project web page notes that construction is anticipated to wrap up at all three points in May.

The Custis Trail project is being done in concert with the N. Lynn Street esplanade project, for which the Arlington County approved additional funding this week.

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A D.C. taxicab drove onto the Custis Trail yesterday and the incident was caught on video.

The taxi was seen driving onto the bike path Monday afternoon near the MOM’s Organic Market on Lee Highway. A passerby saw it happen and ran to make sure the driver, who was apparently lost, was able to safely get off the trail and back onto the road.

“I followed him right away to make sure he backs up,” said Wael Salha, who also took the video.

Salha says that he frequently uses the path and believes that a narrower trailhead and more car-blocking bollards could have prevented the driver from mistakenly turning onto the path.

“I always use that trail and I was really worried,” he said, adding that he’s not trying to get the driver in trouble.

“I hope that this will not affect the driver’s job,” he said. “This is not my intention, I was only concerned about the people’s safety and [want] more precaution on the county’s end.”

A V.I.P. Cab Company phone operator was unable to connect ARLnow.com to the driver with partial plate numbers, but was able to confirm that all cab drivers with V.I.P. are required to use G.P.S. while driving passengers. The operator added that normally the cab company stays within Washington, so the driver was in unfamiliar territory.

Photo (bottom) via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Lost Dog Reunited With Owner — A dog that disappeared under mysterious circumstances is back at home this morning, her owner says, after the man who picked her up as she was wandering around North Arlington saw a sign with the dog’s photo and dialed the phone number on it. [Facebook]

County Lauded for Digital Prowess — Arlington has been named one of the “top 5 counties for digital government” by StateTech magazine. The county was lauded for “embracing open data and transparency” in decision making and citizen outreach. [StateTech]

Sewer Work At Westover Park — There will be some impacts along the Custis Trail starting today as a multi-day emergency sewer repair project gets underway at Westover Park. [Twitter, Twitter]

Death at Belvedere Condos — A man reportedly jumped to his death at the Belvedere Condominiums near Rosslyn on Friday. The complex’s pool and pool deck were closed Friday as police investigated the incident.

Priest Who Admitted KKK Past Still Venerated Confederacy — A priest in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington might not have been totally forthcoming when he admitted and renounced his KKK activity as a young man. Even after becoming a priest, in the early 2000s, Rev. William Aitcheson “was a ‘fervent advocate of the Confederacy’ who would joke about ‘Saint Robert E. Lee’ in homilies at the church,” one former student of his recalled. [Washington Post, Washington Post]

Nearby: Two Men Jump From Aqueduct Bridge — One man is dead and another in grave condition after both jumped from the Aqueduct Bridge in Georgetown, near the Key Bridge, into the Potomac River. A friend of the men said they were hanging out on the bridge when one decided to jump, then the other jumped in to save him. Boats and and a helicopter were used as part of the subsequent rescue operation. [NBC Washington]

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A 22-year-old Falls Church man has been arrested and charged with assaulting two women along the Custis Trail.

Police say Marvin Velasquez touched a woman walking the trail inappropriately on Wednesday afternoon. He also grabbed a second woman and then exposed himself to her, according to a news release.

The incidents happened along the trail near where it crosses Spout Run Parkway. Police are now trying to figure out whether there may be additional victims.

More from an ACPD press release:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Special Victims Unit are seeking additional witnesses or victims related to the following matter. A suspect has been charged in an incident involving female victims in the area of the Custis Trail. Marvin Sosa Velasquez, 22, of Falls Church, VA was arrested and charged with indecent exposure and two counts of assault and battery. The suspect was held on no bond in the Arlington County Detention Facility.

At approximately 4:37 p.m. on August 23, police responded to the 1900 block of N. Calvert Street for the report of an assault and battery. Upon arrival, it was determined a female victim walking on the bike trail was touched inappropriately by a male suspect. While investigating the incident, officers located a second female victim who reported the same male suspect grabbed her around the waist. The female victim was able to free herself from the suspect. The suspect then pulled down his pants and exposed his genitals to the victim. Responding officers canvassed the area and located a suspect matching the victim’s descriptions in the 3300 block of Lee Highway.

Investigators believe there may be additional victims. Anyone who had previous contact with the suspect is asked to call Detective J. McGrath of the Special Victim’s Unit at 703-228-4244 or [email protected]  Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

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