The pace of road paving in Arlington has more than tripled in the past five years, according to newly-released stats.
A new county-produced video (above) states that Arlington paved 91 lane miles of roadway in 2015. That’s up from 25 lane miles paved in 2009 and 30 lane miles paved in 2010.
Arlington County made “significant investments in road paving in 2015,” the video says, calling it “a banner year for roadwork.” The total cost of the paving program last year: $13 million.
The previously lethargic pace of road paving, combined with a number of unusually harsh winters, led to complaints from residents that Arlington’s roads were in poor shape, especially for a county that prides itself on providing a high level of government services.
The tide started to turn with the adoption of the FY 2013-2022 Capital Improvement Plan, which called for paving at least 72 lane miles per year to put the county back on an engineer-recommended 15 year paving cycle. Arlington has a total of 974 lane miles of county-maintained roadway.
In 2015, Arlington County paved portions of a number of major local roads, including Crystal Drive, Columbia Pike, Washington Blvd near Lee Hwy, and Army Navy Drive. The county was also especially proactive about filling potholes last year, filling 12,100 compared to the previous five-year average of 6,600 per year.
Mike Moon, Deputy Director of Operations for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, touted the county’s paving progress.
“The 91 lane miles we paved in 2015 was a doubling of our effort compared to 2012,” Moon said. “It was a significant effort and we’re really pleased with how the paving program went this year.”
Arlington County has plugged a vulnerability in its automated services system for homeowners, after the vulnerability was brought to officials’ attention by ARLnow.com and a local IT services provider.
The vulnerability was in a phone system and website used by the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services to automate waste pickup scheduling and water service changes.
The phone system would allow a caller to enter either an account number or their address. When one entered an address, however, the system would then provide that homeowner’s name and account number.
With the account number, one could theoretically go online and shut off the home’s water service, or order a big pile of mulch to be delivered to their yard and billed to their account.
ARLnow.com tested the vulnerability and came one click away from sending a big mulch pile to the front yard of a national media personality who lives in Arlington. Through a spokeswoman, that individual declined to comment or be identified in this article.
Within a week of ARLnow.com notifying the county, the automated phone system had been taken offline — callers now only have the option of speaking to a customer service representative — and some account number fields were removed from online forms.
“Our approach is customer-focused and to make it convenient for residents to make service requests, order mulch and report problems through the County website or by telephone,” said Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “It is a philosophy our customers value based on their feedback.”
“To date, we have not had a problem with people misusing the system,” Baxter continued. “As with any system, we are always looking for ways to improve while balancing the needs of our customers. Thanks for bringing this matter to our attention.”
Alexander Chamandy, the founder of Arlington-based IT services firm Envescent, LLC, was the first to spot the vulnerability.
“I discovered this unauthorized information disclosure issue by accident when scheduling a curbside pickup with Arlington,” he said. “It was disconcerting that one’s account information, name, address and other details could be shared with an unauthorized party. Because identity theft and data breaches are on the rise I felt it was important to alert ARLnow.com and Arlington County.”
The leaves are falling, and the county is coming to take them away.
Arlington County’s leaf collection program is scheduled to start next week, eventually offering two ways for locals to rid their yards of leaves.
“We provide residents of the county opportunities to get rid of their leaves in an environmentally responsible way,” Solid Waste Bureau Chief Erik Grabowsky said in an informational video about the program (above).
Leaf bag collection begins on Monday. The county will collect full, biodegradable paper leaf bags the day after regular trash collection. The collection runs every weekday from Nov. 2 through Jan. 8, including all holidays except for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
These biodegradable bags can be reused from last spring’s waste collection, purchased at hardware stores, or picked up from one of the following locations, while supplies last:
- Aurora Hills Community Center, 735 18th St. S.
- Courthouse Plaza Information Desk, 2100 Clarendon Blvd.
- Lee Community Center & Park, 5722 Lee Highway
- Long Branch Nature Center, 625 S. Carlin Springs Rd.
- Lubber Run Community Center, 300 N. Park Dr.
- Madison Community Center & Park, 3829 N. Stafford St.
- Solid Waste Bureau, 4300 29th St. S.
- Thomas Jefferson Community Center, 3501 2nd St. S.
Vacuum leaf collection will begin the following week on Nov. 9, running every Monday through Saturday until Dec. 17, excluding Thanksgiving. Residents are asked to rake leaves into piles along the curb, making sure the pile only has leaves in it and is clear of cars and storm sewers.
The vacuum will make two passes in each neighborhood, scheduled based on when the leaves in each area will fall.
“We did an analysis of the types of trees in the county [because] the leaves from various types of trees will fall at different times,” Grabowsky explained. “We’ve tweaked the schedule a little bit so we think we’ve actually now optimized our collection program for vacuuming. We’re hoping this year is as successful as last year.”
Part of ensuring this success is giving at least one weekend’s notice before a vacuum collection. Yellow signs around a neighborhood will indicate the vacuum’s first pass, and orange signs will indicate the second.
“We try to be thorough and diligent to make sure we don’t miss anybody,” Grabowsky added.
More information about how to prepare for leaf collection is available on the county’s website.
Photo via DES
That’s the message from Arlington County, which is no longer accepting plastic bags as part of their curbside recycling program. Instead, those wishing to get rid of grocery bags need to take them back to grocery stores, which can recycle them.
The change comes as a result of new recommendations from the county’s Solid Waste Bureau, said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Meghan McMahon.
Plastic bags can be difficult to recycle because of their flimsy nature, McMahon said.
“Plastic bags tend to get stuck and cause damage to the recycling facility machines,” she said. “Recycling companies can spend hours shutting down machinery and pulling out the bags.”
The county has a list of grocery stores accepting plastic bags for recycling available on its website, McMahon said. According to the website, plastic bags can be placed in marked containers outside of certain grocery stores.
“Combine bags with other bags or place liners or plastic film inside other plastic bags,” the county said on its website. “Many Arlington retail stores such as Whole Foods, Costco, Safeway, Harris Teeter and Giant collect and recycle plastic bags. Look for the specially marked containers when you are out in the County. Or, reuse your bags during your next visit to store.”
Arlington will still recycle paper bags, like those from Whole Foods.
The recycling change came as a surprise to some residents.
Marianne Petrino-Schaad, a Douglas Park resident, said the county did not send out a letter informing residents about the changes.
‘The only way we seemed to be notified of this was a little magnet stuck in the trash pickup,” Petrino-Schaad said. The magnet, pictured above, notes items that should not be recycled in addition to those that should. Previously, the county advised residents to recycle bags by placing multiple plastic bags in one bag.
While taking the plastic bags to a grocery store is not too much of a hassle, she said she was frustrated that residents pay for recycling services and now they aren’t taking items like plastic bags, wire coat hangers and shredded newspaper.
“To my mind it’s an example of what I call, and other people, call shadow work,” she said.
A garden in front of a Columbia Forest home is center of a debate between the county’s Department of Environmental Services and a local resident.
Maraea Harris created a Change.org petition to save her garden, which is planted on a hellstrip, the piece of land between a sidewalk and the road. It all started when a county official told Harris to remove the garden because it violated the county’s weed ordinance due to the plants’ heights, she said.
“Rather than work with me to create a workable solution while maintaining the environmental value and beauty of the space, the only option I was given was to make it grass or mulch,” Harris said on the petition.
Harris appealed the county’s decision. Yesterday, someone in the county manager’s office informed her that the county will postpone the removal of the garden until it can discuss the case internally, she said.
The county reached out to Harris after receiving a complaint that the garden made the sidewalk — located along a dead end portion of S. Buchanan Street — inaccessible for handicapped people, said Luis Araya, a county official with the Department of Environmental Services.
“A DES inspector contacted the owner of the residence and asked them to remove these items from the public street right-of-way as they created a hazard to public safety and were unauthorized use of the public right-of-way,” Araya said. “The county does not allow such uses to the public.”
According to the Arlington County Garbage, Refuse and Weed Ordinance, weeds and grass have to be one foot tall or less. The ordinance does not specifically mention whether flowers can be planted in the public right of way.
“The purpose of grass strips that exist between the curb and sidewalk on public streets are to accommodate street lights, water meters, street signs and other infrastructure-associated items maintained by the County and private utility companies,” Araya said.
Residents must also keep all vegetation off of sidewalk and the road in order to prevent safety hazards. Harris’ garden was becoming dangerous, Araya said.
“There are many potential safety hazards that the public can encounter in unauthorized landscaped areas in the public right-of-way such as tripping hazards, visibility issues for vehicles, narrower sidewalks limiting the width of ADA clearances for wheelchairs and, in this particular location, bee stings,” he said.
Harris said that she had no problem adjusting her garden to make the sidewalk more handicap accessible. However, she did not want to completely remove the garden, which brings butterflies and other insects to the neighborhood.
“It is a small space but there is more life in the 4 x 20 ft. space than all the neighborhood grass lawns combined,” she said on the petition.
Despite the one complaint from a neighbor, Harris said most people on S. Buchanan Street enjoy the garden. As of today, 53 people had signed the petition for the garden, including some of Harris’ neighbors.
“They like to have it because their kids walk by it to what’s in it and what’s growing,” she said.
As a gardener, Harris said it is frustrating that the county has many pollination and environmental efforts, but they want to mow over her garden hellstrip garden and others like it. Helping residents understand the guidelines and working toward a compromise over the hellstrips would be more beneficial, she said.
“Instead of coming after them, why not support them?” Harris said.
A third entrance to the Pentagon City Metro station is slated to open as soon as next month.
Arlington County is wrapping up work on a Metro entrance on the northeast corner of S. Hayes Street and 12th Street S., next to the offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Transportation Security Administration, the latter of which is moving to Alexandria in two years.
The stairs-only entrance and pedestrian access tunnel connect to what is currently a set of glass doors in the station’s mezzanine. While no official opening date has been set yet, the opening is “tentatively scheduled for the end of September,” according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet.
The entrance and tunnel was actually first built in 1984, but “for a number of reasons, was never opened to the public,” according to the county. In order to open it, the county needed to rehabilitate the tunnel, repairing lighting, electrical connections, leaks, deteriorated doors and gates, floor tiles and other 30-year-old infrastructure. The county also added security cameras, an emergency call box and new signage.
The total cost of the project is $1.3 million. The county says the expense is worth it in order to provide another entrance to a busy station next to the Arlington’s largest shopping center. The new entrance may also help accommodate a coming influx of riders from new development in the area, including a new Whole Foods.
“The opening of the entryway will provide an additional access/egress point to this busy Metrorail station, one of the County’s highest ridership stations, and to the adjacent retail center, Fashion Centre,” the county said in its recent Capital Improvement Plan.
The county, not WMATA, will be responsible for ongoing maintenance of the tunnel.
A county water crew’s effort to smoke some bees out of a hollow tree ended with a fire department response earlier today.
The incident happened Wednesday morning near the intersection of 17th Street N. and N. Buchanan Street, in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood.
An Arlington Water, Sewer, Streets Bureau crew was trying to rid the tree of the bees, in order to replace a meter box below the tree, when something seemingly went wrong.
“Crews discovered a beehive in the hollow part of the tree and smoked it out so they could access the box,” said Meghan McMahon, a spokeswoman for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services. “The tree began smoking badly, so crews called the fire department.”
“[Firefighters] sprayed the tree down as a precautionary measure… the tree did not catch fire,” McMahon noted. “Crews didn’t want to take any chances in today’s dry, hot weather.”
The tree is scheduled to be removed by the county parks department Thursday, at which time the water crew will try again to replace the meter box.
Don’t expect Arlington’s crumbling sidewalks to be repaired any time soon.
That’s the message from a memo sent by the county’s Dept. of Environmental Services.
ARLnow.com first reported in March that many sidewalks built over the past two years were crumbling, most likely due to the combination of a snowy winter, salt and water-laden concrete.
While ugly, the sidewalks are not dangerous and are unlikely to crumble further, the memo says. While a possible repair method has been found, DES says it will not be widely applied until it can be tested during “a harsh winter.”
The memo, as obtained by ARLnow.com:
Dear Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee:
This is a follow-up notification to inform you about the status of sidewalk deterioration on recently constructed projects in the County. Since our last communication, we discovered the deterioration was not just isolated to a few locations that could quickly be repaired, but is in fact a region-wide problem. We want to keep you informed about what we have learned over the past few months and what our plan of action will be moving forward.
We conducted an extensive investigation including an independent analysis of deteriorated concrete samples, as well as a review of our specifications and construction practices. The investigation concluded that the concrete has a weak surface due to high water content and this weak surface can flake off when exposed to repeated freeze-thaw cycles in the presence of salt. This is known as scaling and is superficial in nature as it only affects approximately the top 1/8″ in most locations. This is also occurring in surrounding jurisdictions, including Fairfax and Montgomery County, who have similar specifications and construction practices.
Our investigation has also revealed that the strength of the concrete below approximately 1/8″ to 1/4″ is significantly higher and the scaling at most locations is not expected to get worse. Considering the overall depth of a sidewalk is 4″; the overall durability is also not likely to be affected.
We want to emphasize this is not a safety concern and only affects the appearance of the sidewalk. We have identified a possible repair methodology that may be viable for use at the most severely affected locations. This method will be evaluated at a few pilot sites before considering wider use.
The evaluation process will require the sites to go through a harsh winter to confirm efficacy. At that point, we will determine our next steps on repairs or continued monitoring for each affected location. Unfortunately, this will be a lengthy process and we ask for your patience.
As we continue to construct new sidewalks, the County is taking additional quality assurance measures to minimize the likelihood of more scaling, while still balancing costs against the risk of deterioration and its overall impact. The County has implemented new material testing protocols and has enhanced our construction inspection methods. We will also be proactively communicating with residents in areas where new concrete is installed about the importance of limiting salt use within the first year.
Arlington County will be working closely with other jurisdictions to compare repair methods and approaches and will continue to collaborate to find the best solution. We appreciate your understanding as we work to resolve this issue and we will continue to keep you informed.
Another big battle is brewing in Bluemont and this one is not about bocce.
Wilson Blvd was recently repaved and restriped between the Safeway and Bon Air Park, so that instead of four lanes of traffic, it is now has two lanes of traffic, a turn lane and two bike lanes. The change seems to have brought about two separate realities.
To hear one group of residents tell it, traffic is flowing as normal but families can finally walk down the narrow sidewalks along Wilson Blvd without the fear of imminent vehicle-induced death.
To hear the other group tell it, the loss of a lane in each direction is causing a traffic nightmare that’s adding 20-40 minutes to Wilson Blvd commutes during the morning and evening rush hours. Their tales of woe are relatively consistent.
“I had the displeasure of commuting westbound on Wilson Blvd Thursday [May 28] at 6 p.m.,” driver Alexi Bustillo told ARLnow.com via email. “It took me 20 minutes from Glebe and Wilson to Manchester and Wilson (1 mile distance).”
“Morning traffic backs up from the light by Bon Air Park up the hill… with dangerous merging,” said Josh Laughner, via Twitter. It’s “dangerous [because you can’t] see traffic stopped at bottom of [the] hill. At night it’s pretty bad where the merging starts by Pupatella. I never had any backups morning/night when it was two lanes all the way through.”
“The message boards of [the Boulevard Manor and Dominion Hills neighborhoods, to the west of the restriping] are full of the comments,” a tipster said. “Many complaints about trip times during morning and evening rush hours taking 20-40 minutes on the stretch between George Mason and Manchester.”
ARLnow.com visited the stretch during a morning and evening rush hour this week and didn’t observe any abnormally heavy traffic. Supporters of the restriping say, essentially, that it’s the answer to their pedestrian prayers and they don’t know what the critics are talking about.
“We are so grateful to Arlington County for these improvements!” said Ed Fendley, co-chair of the Bluemont Civic Association Sidewalk Safety Task Force. “The restriped roadway is working great. Traffic is flowing really well. Fewer drivers are speeding. When I’m driving, it is now easier for me to turn left onto Wilson because I can use the center turn lane to stage my turn.”
“It feels so much safer to walk and bicycle,” Fendley continued. “For the time ever, my kids and I bicycled on Wilson Boulevard to go to La Union restaurant. The road is now safer and more accessible for everyone — just as we had hoped.”
“I just want to say that for the first time in the 23 years I’ve lived on Kensington Street, my family and I have been able to comfortably walk down Wilson Boulevard,” said Chris Healey, Fendley’s co-chair. “I can’t express how great it is to be able to walk to Safeway and the many great neighborhood restaurants and shops without worrying about being clipped by a passing car or bus. This is a giant step toward Bluemont becoming a true community. We look forward to phase two and we are confident that the momentum from the success of this project will take us there sooner rather than later.”
(Phase II of the project, which will take place should the county be satisfied with the flow of traffic and pedestrians on the reconfigured roadway, will include wider sidewalks and other improvements.)
“For the first time in two decades, kids can walk or bike safely to Ashlawn school and the pools on Wilson Blvd,” said Tom Carter, a 21-year Dominion Hills resident. “The walkable, bikeable stretch of Wilson should be extended from Seven Corners to Clarendon. Families should be able to walk and bike through the heart of Arlington.”
After the public outcry, poor design and organizational problems that warranted an independent review of the $1 million S. Walter Reed Drive Super Stop, Arlington’s scaled back plan for the rest of Columbia Pike is being met with general approval.
The new plan, to build 23 more transit stations at key intersections along the Pike for a total cost of $12.4 million, was brought before the public yesterday evening at the Arlington Mill Community Center. The stations will cost an average of 40 percent less than the prototype built at Walter Reed Drive.
The transit stations are 50 percent designed and now the county’s Department of Environmental Services, which is leading the project, is looking to incorporate public feedback.
“We want to improve on what happened with the Walter Reed station,” project manager Matthew Huston told the group of about a dozen community members last night.
The designs are modular, and some of the stations will have smaller or bigger overhangs, seating areas and boarding displays, based on demand. After installation, they can be added to once ridership increases, and it likely will; Huston said the county projects bus ridership to double on the Pike in the next 20 years.
Among those in attendance yesterday was David Dickson, the transportation chair for the Mount Vernon group of the Sierra Club. He and other attendees walked among panels county staff had laid out, showing residents the choices they had regarding side panels, layout of the information signs and seating.
“I think it’s good, and they’re working out the details,” Dickson said of the new proposal. “To the layperson, the redesign seems far superior to the prototype. It’s cheaper and seems like a better design.”
Huston compared the designs to transit stations in other communities, which cost roughly $500,000 on average. The “standard” size transit station on the Pike is projected to cost $469,000, and “extended” stops coming with a $672,000 price tag.
The examples from other jurisdictions Huston gave — Norfolk, Va., Charlotte, N.C., Grand Rapids, Mich., and Eugene, Ore. — all serviced either bus rapid transit or a light rail system. Columbia Pike, for now, is planned to have neither.
Among the questions and preferences attendees expressed on the stations were: a request for side panels, handicap accessibility and debating over how much protection from the elements should be provided when sacrificing sidewalk space.
The design for the first eight transit stations — two each at the Pike’s intersections of S. Glebe Road, Oakland, Buchanan and Barton Streets — is expected to be completed by July, after which construction can begin, Huston said.
Arlington Transportation Director Dennis Leach was also on hand to give residents an update on the county’s overall transportation plan and vision for the Pike corridor. With the additional bus service coming to Arlington Rapid Transit on the weekend, the county is trying to mitigate the delays in long-term transit planning caused by the streetcar’s cancellation.
(Updated at 5:00 p.m.) Many of the sidewalks built over the last two years in Arlington are already crumbling, and the county is trying to figure out why.
At least a dozen sidewalks all over the county — like the ones pictured above — appear significantly damaged, their surfaces crumbling and creating tiny pieces of debris. These are not pieces of aging infrastructure that plague the county, these are recently installed sidewalks that have worn down rapidly.
Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services oversees the sidewalks, and Engineering Bureau Chief Ramzi Awwad said DES knows about the issue and has been investigating it for “several months.” All of the sidewalks they have inspected — between six and 12, he said — were installed within the last one or two years. All of them have been built by the same specifications the county, and other surrounding jurisdictions, have used well before these issues came to the fore.
“Each location is unique with its specific properties,” Awwad said today. “There’s elevated water content in the top millimeter or two. When salt is applied to newly poured concrete, that’s when the deterioration occurs.”
Awwad said it’s not a safety issue — the damage is just to the very top level of the sidewalk — but he said the elevated water in the concrete was present during construction, not a result of excess precipitation. At this point, the county doesn’t know how the excess water got into the concrete, and doesn’t have a plan to repair it.
The specific type of deterioration occurring in Arlington’s newest sidewalks could be attributed to freezing and thawing. According to engineering training center PDHOnline, freezing and thawing can take its toll on any concrete with excess water underneath the surface. The photo used to illustrate freezing and thawing damage (on page 6 here) looks nearly identical to the issues Arlington’s new sidewalks have encountered.
According to a paper by concrete supplier Cemex, “It is not uncommon in the concrete industry for the contractor to add water to the load prior to or even during the unloading process to increase the slump and improve the workability of the concrete.” Too much water can cause the concrete to be more permeable, and therefore more susceptible to further water infiltration
Awwad said all of the sidewalks DES has inspected for deterioration were county projects completed by private contractors. Some private developers install their own sidewalks, adhering to county specifications, and none of the privately built walkways have reported this problem.
“The majority of what we’ve observed and we’re aware of has been county projects built by contractors,” Awwad said. He said different contractors have built the sections of now-deteriorating sidewalks.
Since discovering the problem, DES has instituted some changes.
“We’ve studied and implemented some best practices that will help this from occurring in the future,” he said. “That’s our first goal. In addition, as part of our investigation, we are studying repair methods that can remedy the issue.”
Awwad said the investigation should be wrapping up in a matter of weeks. He said the county investigates based on resident complaints, and the spots they have inspected so far have been brought to them by the public. The public can report crumbling sidewalks online or on Arlington’s app.
“Our residents are really our eyes and ears, particularly in capital improvement projects,” he said. “Residents are the ones who notified us, and we’re always appreciative when they do.”
The County Board approved an easement at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Hudson Street, allowing the county’s Department of Environmental Services to extend the curb at the intersection, improving sight lines for crossing pedestrians and shortening the time they are walking in the street.
“These curb extension go out about six feet from the edge of the sidewalk curb line at the corners of intersections and they shadow the ends of the on-street parking,” DES Program Manager Bill Roberts told ARLnow.com. “Curb extensions have been built along Wilson Boulevard, Clarendon Boulevard and throughout the commercial corridors at most of the marked intersections over the last 10 years … and within the residential neighborhoods at the higher-volume pedestrian crossings.”
This final curb extension — in front of the recently opened Don Tito restaurant — is the culmination of the Clarendon Central Park revitalization that began in 2013. County officials held a ribbon-cutting for the new park in November of that year, but the work on the last pedestrian improvement is expected to take a month this spring.
In addition to making it safer for pedestrians in the heavily foot-trafficked corridor, the extensions will have ADA-compliant ramps.
No on-street parking will be removed as a result of the curb extension, we’re told. Construction is expected to take about a month.
Photo via Google Maps
We hear that county roads crews have been unable to fully treat some treacherous stretches of roadway this afternoon due to the salt shortage, leaving drivers stranded on hills and frustrating police officers trying to reopen roads where there have been accidents.
Jessica Baxter, spokeswoman for the Dept. of Environmental Services, confirmed the salt shortage in an email to ARLnow.com this evening.
It’s been a really rough winter season, not only in our region but across the nation. The County is experiencing end of season low inventory levels of salt. Stock piles from our regional contractor are near depleted. We received mid-season resupply, but it was not enough due to the severity of this winter. We’re doing everything we can to receive additional tons as soon as possible.
Crews are working around the clock and their primary effort will be to plow snow from the streets. We’ll use salt conservatively and supplement with sand.
The problem is apparently impacting some other jurisdictions in the region as well. Additional information from Baxter:
We utilize a regional contract [for salt]. Almost all salt in our region comes from the port of Baltimore. We believe all jurisdictions are working carefully to manage their remaining supply.
Arlington has two salt storage facilities, one north side and one south side. Our maximum capacity is about 8,000 tons. We start the season each year at full capacity and refill during the winter.
About 5-6 inches of snow has fallen on Arlington so far today, with the snowflakes beginning to taper off. The snow has caused numerous accidents, stranded drivers, temporarily blocked roads and even the GW Parkway, and forced businesses to close early.
When trying to view the cameras on the website Trafficland.com, which the county’s own website links to, residents hoping to monitor traffic conditions on Wilson Blvd, Glebe Road and Columbia Pike are faced with a blue screen that reads “this image is temporarily unavailable.”
The feeds have been down, off and on, for months. In addition to residents trying to plan their commute, the cameras are also often used by members of the media for traffic reports and for reporting on crashes and road conditions during storms.
Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services says 90 percent of the county’s cameras are operational, and all the viewing issues lie with TrafficLand.
“Many cameras on TrafficLand can be down at any given time, and this is due to connectivity issues between functioning cameras and their website feed,” Baxter wrote in an email. “The county provides TrafficLand access to our video feeds. The connection between our feed and their server is up to them to maintain.”
There is no alternative place for the public to view these cameras, DES spokeswoman Jessica Baxter told ARLnow.com. A random sampling of other jurisdictions’ cameras revealed that most VDOT, D.C. and Montgomery County traffic cameras were working on Trafficland.
While the county maintains that the public’s inability to view the feeds is TrafficLand’s fault, it is currently undergoing a technological overhaul of the system. Starting next month, DES will begin to replace the copper wiring in its communication system with a fiber optic system as part of its ConnectArlington project, Baxter said. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2016.
“The new technology is expected to improve the connectivity and reliability of the County’s CCTV camera system,” she said. “It’s anticipated that the fiber upgrade will resolve the cameras that are down and improve reliability.”
Baxter could not say whether the fiber replacement would improve access to cameras via TrafficLand.
So far, TrafficLand has not responded to a request for comment.
Screenshot via TrafficLand
The Metro tunnel began to leak in the fall because a stormwater-retention system built by the county was overflowing, Metro spokeswoman Caroline Laurin told WUSA9. The county built that system in the median of S. Hayes Street as part of street upgrades for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
WMATA has placed pieces of sheet metal where the leaks are occurring, deflecting the water down the wall and away from passengers.
“When that retention pond overflows, water enters our station,” Laurin told the TV station, which first reported the leaks after seeing a tweet from a curious Metro rider. “This temporary solution will be in place until Arlington County can address the issue with the storm water retention structure.”
Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, which oversaw the road construction, said WMATA approved the work it did around the Metro station, and denies that it is to blame for the leaky tunnel.
“It’s not unusual to have leaks in tunnel systems, especially systems like the Pentagon City Metrorail tunnel that are 40 years old,” Katherine Youngbluth, the project manager for the S. Hayes Street improvements, told ARLnow.com in an email. “The rain garden facility that was constructed as part of the County’s Pentagon City Multimodal project (and all other aspects of the project that were adjacent to WMATA facilities) was fully vetted through WMATA’s review and approval process and received a permit for all construction work.”
Youngbluth said the county has known about the leak since the fall, but has only had preliminary talks with WMATA about whose responsibility it is to fix the leak. The county is “continuing to explore technical studies and solutions that are available for an investigation of this type” and doesn’t yet have a timeframe or cost analysis for the repair, she added.
The multimodal improvements wrapped up last year, and included new sidewalks, crosswalks, street lighting, landscaping, new street crossing areas and bicycle amenities to go with the rain garden. The total project cost was $9 million.
Photo via @jurbanchuk