(Update at 2:15 p.m.) Arlington County is preparing for the possibility of snow, sleet and freezing rain on Saturday, though the exact forecast is still far from certain.
“Crews began pretreating roads yesterday and will continue today to prepare for the expected icy weather conditions on the roadways,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien told ARLnow.com Friday morning.
“Due to the low confidence of this forecast, we are still analyzing the level of response that will be required” on Saturday, O’Brien continued. “A determination of resource levels and time of activation will be made this afternoon.”
VDOT, meanwhile, is encouraging drivers to stay off the roads in Northern Virginia on Saturday.
Virginia Department of Transportation and contract crews are preparing for plummeting temperatures and a gamut of winter weather forecast for northern Virginia this weekend, from early Saturday morning through Sunday morning.
Drivers are asked to monitor weather reports for the latest updates to avoid being on the road during periods of limited visibility or icy conditions. Stay off roads Saturday or delay trips until Sunday if possible, to avoid being caught in deteriorating conditions as weather transitions between snow, sleet and freezing rain through the day.
Crews began pretreating roads yesterday and will be staged roadside in the region by 10 p.m. tonight. Throughout Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington* counties (*Arlington maintains own secondary roads) crews treat about 5,200 lane miles of interstates and other high-volume roads with liquid magnesium chloride or brine when conditions allow for winter weather. Learn more about northern Virginia’s snow preparations.
Why does VDOT ask drivers to stay home?
- Visibility will be limited during periods of snow.
- Freezing rain causes an ice glaze that is difficult to see. Black ice often looks like pavement that is simply wet, making it extremely hazardous for driving or walking.
- Four-wheel drive vehicles cannot stop any better than two-wheel drive vehicles on ice.
It could be deja vu if the weather does trend toward more freezing rain. Icy weather caused a number of crashes and other problems on the roads in Arlington less than a month ago, on Saturday, Dec. 17.
Arlington County brine trucks could be seen pretreating roads around Clarendon earlier this afternoon. VDOT, meanwhile, says it’s preparing for a potentially messy Thursday evening and Friday morning commute.
“Road crews are conducting anti-icing activities today and tomorrow,” VDOT said in a press release. “Please watch for crews as they stage along roads prior to the storm. Crews will treat roads with salt and sand as needed once the storm begins Thursday afternoon, plow in areas where and if snow totals reach two inches, and will remain on duty throughout the course of the storm.”
The snow is not expected to amount to much — maybe just a dusting to an inch. But even a small amount of snow could cause slippery conditions and virtual gridlock.
With snow expected tomorrow afternoon, crews have been pre-treating the roads today and will continue this evening and tomorrow. #ARLwx
— Arlington DES (@ArlingtonDES) January 4, 2017
Our first snow is almost here! Expect snow to impact Thurs PM & Fri AM rush. Check wx & modify trip times. https://t.co/nmHVmLCRGN
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) January 4, 2017
Hmmm, guess what's coming our way! pic.twitter.com/dptq5SHqHy
— Doug Kammerer (@dougkammerer) January 4, 2017
— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) January 4, 2017
It might not be necessary with this storm, but Arlington County is urging residents this year to park in a parking lot or on the odd numbered side of local streets when it snows.
The county recently released the following video on the topic.
Arlington County says it’s hoping to get a stretch of non-working streetlights near Shirlington switched back on by the end of the year, but residents are complaining that the repairs have taken too long.
The dark streetlights are located along the S. Four Mile Run Drive service road, in front of the West Village of Shirlington condo complex.
Last Thursday, condo management sent an email to residents, encouraging them to press the county to expedite repairs, saying that the lights “have been out for over a year now.”
As many of you are aware, Management has made several attempts to have the county make repairs to the street lights on S. Four Mile Run Drive. Unfortunately, we have not been able to make any headway. The County representatives continue to advise us that these repairs are not a priority for them.
In our experience, it is usually helpful for (tax paying county) residents to contact the county. Fortunately, one of your neighbors has done so, and has provided the contact information below. So please bombard the County with your sincere concerns about the community’s safety. Please do remember to include the fact that these lights have been out for over a year now.
Residents say they are concerned about their safety.
“It is pitch black for those walking our pets or those walking to/from our cars,” said resident Chrissy Limetti. “How disappointing to read that resident safety is not a priority.”
The county, however, says that they’ve been working on the issue and expect the lights to be back on by the end of the year.
“Preliminary work on the streetlights in this area has occurred and crews will begin underground repairs in the next month,” Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Kathryn O’Brien tells ARLnow.com. “Repairs are expected to be completed by the end of December.”
The repairs are taking longer than usual because of the nature of what caused the outage in the first place.
“In this particular case, the outage is an underground issue caused by an old cable that will be replaced,” O’Brien said. “The complexity of the underground issue determines the response time which may take 45 days or longer. For an above ground issue (e.g., bulb replacement), repairs take about 14-21 days but more extensive equipment is required to repair an underground utility problem.”
O’Brien could not confirm whether a county employee actually said that the repairs weren’t a priority.
“To our knowledge, no one on our streetlights team told this person that their issue wasn’t a priority,” she said. “We are still investigating this to see if they may have spoken to someone else. Every outage is a priority and the type of outage and availability of crews and equipment determines the completion time.”
Streetlight outages can be reported to the county online.
Arlington County is in the process of installing a new, protected bike lane on Wilson Blvd through part of Rosslyn.
The bike lane will help cyclists safely traverse a busy, challenging stretch of Wilson Blvd, between N. Oak and N. Quinn streets. County officials say that stretch was being repaved, presenting an opportunity to reconfigure the bike lane.
“We are always looking for ways to improve safety and accessibility for all modes of travel as described in our Master Transportation Plan,” said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter.
“Our Transportation, Engineering and Operations Bureau worked closely with the Rosslyn BID and received input from the Bicycle Advisory Committee on the final design — which should be completed in the next few weeks,” she added.
A protected bike lane is typically separated from traffic using some combination of plastic bollards, landscaping, curbs and car parking. The county’s first protected bike lane project, in the Pentagon City area, moved the bike lane next to the curb and placed the street parking zone between the bike lane and traffic.
Photo via @BikeArlington
Presidential Campaigns in Arlington — What do Ronald Reagan’s 1980 general election campaign, George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, Hillary Clinton’s 2008 primary campaign and John McCain’s 2008 general election campaign have in common? They were all headquartered here in Arlington. Among them, Reagan’s campaign was based in an unassuming office building on Columbia Pike. [Arlington County]
AFAC Reports Record Need — The Arlington Food Assistance Center has had a record 116,000 family visits over the past year and expects weekly family visits to increase to 3,000 next month. [InsideNova]
All About Storm Drains — Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services has answered some frequently asked questions about the county’s more than 10,000 storm drains. [Arlington County]
This week is National Public Works Week, and to mark the occasion Arlington County has released some crazy stats from its public works division, the Dept. of Environmental Services.
Here’s what the county says DES has done over the past year:
- “Collected some 34,000 tons of trash and another 31,000 tons of recycling curbside”
- “Carried more than 2.8 million passengers on Arlington Transit (ART) bus trips”
- “Paved 92 of the County’s 974 lane miles”
- “Filled 12,100 potholes in 2015, and 4,917 so far in 2016”
- “Cleaned and lined 57,000 linear feet of storm sewer pipe”
- “Fixed 217 water main breaks”
- “Replaced approximately three miles of water mains”
- “Cleaned and lined 2,300 linear feet of water mains”
- “Collected more than 2,300 tons of debris and sediment through street sweeping”
In a press release, the county noted that many of the jobs performed by DES crews took place while the average Arlington resident was sleeping or enjoying their weekend.
“Drinking water, trash, public transit, the sewers, streets and sidewalks rarely take a holiday,” the press release said. “Even County buildings need someone to maintain them, and it’s hard to vacuum or paint during regular business hours.”
Said County Manager Mark Schwartz:
“Every time you leave collection bins at the curb, pause for the crosswalk light or run the tap to brush your teeth, you’re interacting with the County’s Department of Environmental Services.
Sometimes the best work is the work you don’t notice. In Arlington we’re fortunate to have such dedicated, skillful men and women supporting our vital infrastructure.”
That’s nearly $4 million more than was spent the previous winter, when the county almost ran out of salt due to a succession of snow storms.
The total roadway snow removal expenditure — the figures quoted here do not include removing snow from bus shelters or sidewalks — for Fiscal Year 2015 was only $2.7 million, according to Arlington County. As of April 25, the FY 2016 bill was $6.5 million, about $5 million of which was associated with the cleanup from January’s Snowzilla blizzard, as the county revealed last month.
Why was this year’s bill so much higher? It’s mostly attributable to equipment rental costs, we’re told.
“The majority of this cost increase was associated with heavy contract equipment used during the January 22-29, 2016 blizzard,” explained Mike Moon, Chief Operating Officer of Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services.
“The amount of contract equipment deployed for this event far exceeded the requirements for the previous year and cost more than $4.0 million,” Moon continued. “With more than two feet of snow, heavy contract equipment was needed for the effort, which included hauling snow in our commercial corridors (Rosslyn, Ballston, Crystal City).”
Last month Arlington said that it can potentially recoup $2 million from federal disaster assistance funds, though the reimbursement process is a lengthy one.
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said in March that the county is considering changes to its snow removal efforts in the wake of January’s blizzard. Among the changes being considered is the purchase of additional heavy equipment and a new snow melter.
Flickr pool photo (top) by Starbuck77
We’re in the midst of the pothole season — that bumpy time on local roads as the spring thaw starts and asphalt pockmarks form.
Arlington County says its crews have filled 2,440 potholes this season, a relatively low number compared to last year’s record-setting 12,100 potholes following a rough winter.
They’re not here to save the world but the County’s Pothole Busters are out to prevent some haunting damage to tires, rims and maybe even your car’s pricey suspension.
If there’s a growing rut in your neighborhood, pick up the phone and call the Department of Environmental Services’ (DES) customer care center at 703-228-6570 (after hours, use 703-228-6555) to report the offender. Or complete the County’s online “Report a Problem” form.
Issues related to state routes such as Washington Boulevard are forwarded to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
With the arrival of warm weather, DES Pothole Buster crews have ramped up repairs along Arlington’s 974 lane miles of roads. Some 2,440 potholes have been filled so far this season. Last year the County patched a record-setting 12,100 dips and depressions.
In the words of Pothole Buster deputy director of operations Mike Moon, the goal is for all our streets to be “safe, smooth and durable” after a blizzard’s worth of harm.
Motorists can help by staying cautious and alert as additional trucks and crews are out repairing what at times may look like a supernatural asphalt assault.
For updates on Pothole Busters progress, follow @ArlingtonDES on Facebook and Twitter and look for the hashtag #PotholeBusters.
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.