Despite some reader sentiment that Arlington Transit’s ART buses drive dangerously, incident records from Arlington and WMATA appear to debunk any claim that ART bus drivers crash at a significantly higher rate than other urban bus drivers.
According to crash statistics provided by Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services, ART buses have had 26 “preventable accidents” this year, a rate of 2.23 accidents per 100,000 miles of revenue service. This number accounts for minor scrapes, including incidents in the ART bus depot.
ART bus drivers came under renewed scrutiny last week when one was charged with reckless driving after causing a seven-car crash on Columbia Pike last week, sending four people to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. That driver, 26-year-old Agere Sileshi, had been driving in “revenue service” for four weeks, and is “currently on administrative leave,” according to DES spokesman Eric Balliet.
Sileshi is an employee of contractor National Express Transit, which declined comment through a spokesperson on Sileshi’s employment status and ART bus’ driving records. Sileshi was driving in the Columbia Pike Plaza parking lot and the bus was out of service when the crash occurred. Balliet said “no ART route goes into that parking lot.”
Balliet said the average crash rate for buses in “an urban environment” is between 1.0 and 2.0, but many jurisdictions do not tally the minor incidents Arlington does. WMATA also counts those incidents, and, according to spokesman Dan Stessel, Metrobus’ rate in 2013 was 2.16 per 100,000 miles — just under ART’s 2.23 accident rate.
“You can rack up a lot of ‘collisions’ during the overnight hours as hundreds of buses are moved around tight spaces in bus depots for service, cleaning and refueling,” Stessel noted.
Balliet pointed out that ART has received high safety marks in recent years, including an American Public Transportation Association’s Gold Safety Award in 2011, an award for the service’s pedestrian safety training in 2012 and had a 90 percent satisfaction rate in a 2013 ridership survey. Baillet also says every ART bus driver must go through 120 hours of operator training.
Despite the statistical evidence, some around Arlington have said it’s only a matter of time before an ART bus causes more serious injuries. Serkan Altan, a Columbia Pike resident, has been contacting Arlington transit officials complaining about their drivers’ behavior.
“ART bus drivers are driving crazy in my area, especially around Dinwiddie Street,” Altan wrote in an email. “ART supervisors… were made aware of the safety issues with its [reckless] drivers, especially in that area where I live. They should be held liable.”
A resident’s complaint about a sidewalk closure led to action by county officials on Friday.
Arlington Ridge area resident Ted Billings snapped the photo above, showing a woman pushing a double stroller in the northbound lane of Army Navy Drive. The woman and her children were in the path of fast-moving traffic due to the closure of the only sidewalk on the long stretch between S. Nash Street and 20th Street S.
Billings talked to county staff members and also contacted ARLnow.com about the closure. Officials responded to the scene and determined that the construction crew that put the closure in place did not apply for the proper permits.
From Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman:
This work is being performed by private contractor who is involved with a residential build project in that vicinity. The sidewalk closure shown in the photo below did not go through the proper DES permitting review process nor were they issued the proper permit to close the sidewalk. County staff has informed the contractor of the violation and has directed them to get proper permits if they need to close the sidewalk again. The sidewalk has since re-opened. We appreciate the information provided by the resident.
Though pleased that the sidewalk was finally reopened, Billings said it required persistence — multiple county staff members initially told him nothing could be done about it, he said.
Arlington posted the open position on its jobs page this morning. According to county spokeswoman Mary Curtius, the position has been open for six months after interim deputy manager Jay Farr returned to his original post as deputy chief of the systems management division with the Arlington County Police Department.
Farr had replaced former Deputy County Manager Marsha Allgeier, who stepped down about a year ago into a part-time position as assistant county manager of special products, Curtius said.
The salary for the open position is “negotiable for up to $195,000″ and the responsibilities include overseeing the Department of Environmental Services, the county’s largest department.
“This executive will be a visionary leader who will focus on overseeing the Transportation, Environmental and Capital Programs,” the posting states. “The Deputy will focus on ensuring that the strategic vision and goals are being met and are aligned with the County mission and vision by providing oversight to all staff associated with the Programs and in collaboration with task forces, citizen groups and other stakeholders.”
The county also announced it was seeking a new director of Arlington Economic Development, who would become the full-time replacement for the late AED Director Terry Holzheimer. Holzheimer died in March of a heart attack. Deputy Director Cindy Richmond has served as acting director since Holzheimer’s death.
Arlington County has stepped up it pothole repair effort this year due to the harsh winter.
County crews were out filling potholes in response to resident requests this weekend, after spending the week plowing snow and cleaning equipment, according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Robyn Mincher. One of the stretches of road where crews worked “extensively” was the 2200 block of N. Harrison Street, where numerous potholes were reported.
The county has up to five times as many employees working potholes repairs this winter, Mincher said.
“We have five teams, about 35 employees, in our streets maintenance section concentrating on either potholes or snow,” she told ARLnow.com. “In lighter winters, we would typically have one team assigned to potholes.”
“We anticipate continuing to concentrate on potholes [this] week, and assessing over the next few weeks our needs for later in the spring,” she added.
In addition to responding to problem reports from residents — there have been more than a dozen pothole reports in the past 24 hours — crews are also “fixing other potholes we find along our travels,” Mincher said.
Video via Arlington TV
It’s a source of frustration for many residents, who have emailed and tweeted ARLnow.com about slippery back roads. It’s also a stark contrast for those who have lived in northern cities with more practiced snow-removal operations.
Why is Arlington, arguably the wealthiest county in America and a self-styled paragon of good government, seemingly overwhelmed by a few inches of snow when small workaday suburbs to the north can clear all of their streets with ease?
Is it lack of practice? Lack of resources? To try to figure that out, we took a look at another Arlington, an Arlington that doesn’t flinch when 4 inches of snow falls — Arlington, Massachusetts.
Arlington County has a population of 212,900 as of Jan. 1, 2013, and an area of about 26 square miles. Its total budget for FY 2014 is about $1.4 billion.
The town of Arlington, Mass., has one-fifth of the population of Arlington, Va., and one-fifth of the area. Its population is 42,844, according to the 2010 census, and it spans about 5.5 square miles. Its annual operating budget is about $132 million. It has 250 lane miles of roads compared to just under 1,000 for Arlington County.
The county, with an average snowfall just over 15 inches a year, allocates $1.1 million per year for snow preparation and removal, according to county Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman. It usually spends all $1.1 million, even the past two years when there was little accumulation at all.
According to Arlington, Mass., Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, the town, which has averaged more than 58 inches of snow per season the past three years, allocates $724,000 per year for snow removal, with a $500,000 reserve in case more is needed, but the amount spent fluctuates depending on how snowy it is. According to the town’s visual budget tool, it spent $2 million on snow removal in 2011, $550,000 in 2012 and about $1 million in 2013.
By way of comparison, the town spends about 1 percent of its budget on snow removal to clear 4 times as much snow as Arlington County, which spends less than 0.1 percent of its budget on snow removal.
Reagan National Airport recorded 3.8 inches of snow in total for the storm, according to Capital Weather Gang, which stopped before midnight Tuesday. Heilman said about 50 trucks were on the road — 40-45 county trucks and eight contractors — in three-and-a-half 12-hour shifts starting at 5:00 a.m. Tuesday until midnight on Wednesday. Hooking up plows to trucks started at 10:00 a.m. on Monday and road treatment began that afternoon.
“Not all side streets will be plowed to bare pavement,” Heilman wrote in an email, “however we believe all have been plowed and treated to some extent. Sun and warmer temperatures are needed now to help get down to more bare pavement over the coming days. We will continue to respond to calls and online notifications of areas that can use more treatment or plowing as needed, but we have ceased full operations.”
The town has a full-time fleet of 12 large trucks called “snow fighters,” Chapdelaine said, and it has pickup trucks and other vehicles to which plows are attached. After more than 2 inches of snow accumulates, the town brings in outside contractors.
Chapdelaine outlined the town’s snow removal strategy, beginning with sanding and salting the roads before a drop of snow falls, sending out watch teams to assess snowfall and accumulation, and strategically placing the bigger trucks on the hilliest streets that are most difficult to navigate in the snow.
Chapdelaine says the town has seven different “operational levels” for snow, which allows it to clear large amounts of precipitation in a matter of hours, not days. Each operational level signifies different personnel and equipment, intended to efficiently scale the town’s response to each winter storm. In towns like Arlington, Mass., that includes clearing the back roads of snow before they are allowed to turn into ice and slush.
“All-in-all they do a pretty good job,” said Spencer Buell, a reporter for the Arlington Advocate, the town’s local newspaper of record. “We have a multiple-step plan, the idea being we can dispatch with the snow fairly quickly. It’s a topic of conversation every year… [250 lane miles] to clear and they can usually do it in about a day. The issue is where to put all the snow sometimes.”
For one day only, drivers parking in Arlington are getting a reprieve. Because the frigid temperatures are a danger to enforcement workers and because the weather is causing an increase in meter malfunctions, meters will not be enforced.
The Department of Environmental Services maintains the county’s meters and reports this week’s colder weather and last week’s freezing precipitation led to a higher than usual number of malfunctions on the multi-space meters that dispense tickets. An average day typically requires around 15 repairs throughout the county. However, there were 29 repairs last Thursday, 76 on Friday and 61 yesterday.
DES also has received a higher volume of calls to the broken meter hotline (703-228-3298). Instead of the usual 40 calls per day, 90 came in on Friday and 117 came in on Saturday and Monday. DES does not yet have a tally for today, but anticipates similar numbers.
The multi-space meters have a wireless connection that automatically informs DES of any malfunctions, but the department relies on phone calls for learning about problems with coin operated meters.
Although DES maintains the meters, members of the Arlington County Police Department take care of enforcement. In light of the issues today, the department decided to suspend meter enforcement.
“Enforcement has been suspended due to a combination of the extreme cold weather creating a danger to public service aides, and the growing number of malfunctioning meters,” said ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “That’s just for today.”
The Arlington County government will still open on time. Federal government employees have the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework today.
The Arlington County Office of Emergency Management reports that trees and wires came down around the county during the overnight hours. Crews are currently on the scene of a large tree and wires down in the roadway at S. 23rd Street between S. Kent Street and S. Lynn Street. The road will be closed until the obstruction is safely removed. The incident has knocked out power to more than 500 homes, according to Dominion Power.
A number of roads, including some main arteries such as Washington Blvd. (pictured above), are covered in a layer of frozen slush because of the frigid temperatures following the storm. The Department of Environmental Services reports the county’s roads were not pre-treated yesterday because the forecast called for rain, to be followed by some snow.
“If we pre-treated the streets, the salt or brine would have been washed away and ineffective. Of course, the weather changed on us and snow came earlier and the temperature dropped sooner,” said DES Spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman. “Despite the change, WSS (Water, Sewer, Streets Bureau) has had 21 trucks out spreading salt since midnight. We were able to get some trucks on the roads treating high elevations and bridges around 9 p.m. (Thursday) when the snow started earlier than expected. They have been on primary (red) and secondary (blue) streets as well as the school routes (green). Many residential streets were also treated.”
More resources about the county’s snow response and any alerts can be found on the Arlington Snow & Ice Central website.
The new $32.6 million facility, on the opposite side of N. Moore Street from the current entrance, will feature three high-speed, high-capacity elevators.
The entrance will be able to serve up to 2,000 riders per hour, according to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services. Officials have said that they hope the entrance will help keep pace with the station’s soaring ridership, which has increased 23 percent in the past decade and is expected to increase even more with new office and residential development in the area.
Arlington County will be holding a grand opening ceremony for the new entrance — at 1811 N. Moore Street — on Monday, Oct. 7 at 9:30 a.m. The event will feature members of the County Board and will be open to the public.
In addition to the elevators, the station improvements include an emergency evacuation stairwell, a mezzanine passageway, a new station manager kiosk and new fare collection equipment. The Rosslyn Metrorail station is the busiest in Virginia, servicing more than 36,000 passengers per day, according to DES.
The county is asking residents to complete a survey by Sept. 13 in order to gauge interest in the addition. Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services estimates that adding yard and food waste to the recycling program will increase the county’s recycling rate from 50.3 to 79.3 percent. About 50 percent of what residents throw away is yard or food waste, DES says.
Representatives from local civic associations will also be participating in focus groups about the proposed changes.
The proposal comes as the county prepares to award new solid waste collection contracts by the end of the year. The new contracts will take effect in July 2014.
If collected, the food and yard waste would be diverted away from landfills and would instead be composted.
ARLnow.com contacted the Department of Environmental Services regarding the section of N. Veitch Street between Clarendon Blvd and Wilson Blvd.
The street does not have a yellow divider line and on numerous occasions, it has created confusion over which lanes belong to southbound drivers and which belong to northbound drivers. Some drivers even believe it may be a one way street.
According to DES spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman, the lane that is closest to the bike lane and bordered by the solid white line is for southbound drivers heading straight. The one directly next to it is for northbound vehicles turning west onto Wilson, and the final lane is for northbound traffic traveling straight.
Now that the county is aware of the confusion, we’re told a white arrow will be painted on the street in the lone southbound lane to reinforce the direction of travel. The intersection will remain without a yellow line because that could actually cause even more confusion for drivers based on where it would be placed, Heilman said.
“The reason there is no yellow line is because first of all, it technically would not be in the middle of the intersection,” said Heilman. “If you put in a yellow line, drivers would be crossing over the line into the middle of the turn lane.”
Heilman admitted that this is indeed a tricky area for drivers to navigate.
“It’s a very oddly shaped intersection, is what it comes down to,” she said.
Because the need for the new painted arrow was just discovered today, a formal request still has to be made and there is no set time for when drivers should expect to see it added.
Photo via Google Maps
The $39 million Route 50/Courthouse Road/10th Street interchange project is apparently running behind schedule.
The project was originally slated for completion this fall but, in a new county-produced video, Greg Emanuel, Director of Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services, says the project is now slated to be complete by the summer of 2014.
“It’s a multi-phased project,” Emanuel said in the video (above.) “It takes some time, because while it’s going on we need to maintain traffic.”
Arlington is contributing $1 million to the $39 million cost of the VDOT-led project. Construction started in April 2011. Recent work includes a realignment of the ramp from Courthouse Road to westbound Route 50, and the January demolition of the bridge from eastbound Route 50 to Courthouse Road.
The Courthouse Road bridge, and the 10th Street bridge that was torn down last year, were both originally built in 1954. No word yet on when they’ll be rebuilt, given the change in the project timeline.
Emanuel says the project will make the interchange safer and will help traffic flow more smoothly.
“Right now traffic is kind of complicated at these intersections,” he said. “This is going to provide new acceleration and deceleration lanes, and make it much safer for the traveling public that’s coming on and off these intersections.”
So far representatives from VDOT and DES have not responded to a request for comment.
The only problem is, the flyer advertised the E-CARE event that happened this past October. A spokeswoman for the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services says the mix-up happened due to a printing error made by a county vendor. The flyer was supposed to advertise the spring E-CARE event that’s happening on April 20.
“The correct flyers are now being printed and will be sent out at no cost to the County,” spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel told ARLnow.com. “The flyers will be accompanied by a note explaining the error.”
E-CARE allows residents to safely dispose of electronics and hazardous household items. The next event will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 20, at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Rd).
Photo courtesy @poiuytr
The snow storm alternately known as “Snowquester” or “Winter Storm Saturn” will dump up to 8 inches of the heavy, wet snow on Arlington between this afternoon and early Thursday, according to forecasters.
Arlington County says it’s proceeding with a “full mobilization” of its snow-removal crews.
From Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel:
Arlington County’s Department of Environmental Services is preparing today for a full mobilization to deal with the forecasted “[Winter] Storm Saturn.” The County will operate 46 of its trucks, and will secure six contract trucks or more as needed.
Staff are now hooking up equipment to the trucks in preparation for the storm, including plows, spreaders and chains. Starting at midnight, crews will begin working in 12-hour shifts (in compliance with safe practice standards) to treat and clear the streets. These shifts will continue through the storm and and extend into Thursday and Friday if necessary.
There are no current plans to haul or melt snow given the current forecast. This is subject to change depending on the storm.
Residents are encouraged to use the County’s online form to “Report a Snow Issue” 24 hours after the snow has stopped falling.
Earlier this year the county released a video about Arlington’s snow removal process and ordinances governing snow removal requirements for property owners.
By at least one measure, Arlington’s roads — all 376 miles of them — are in better shape than they were last year.
Since Nov. 1, Arlington County crews have filled 1,007 potholes on county-maintained roads, according to Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel. Compare that to the 2,184 potholes filled between the start of November and the end of February last year.
McDaniel attributed the big drop in potholes to the mild winter we’ve experienced so far.
Still, a report that came out last summer suggests that Arlington has plenty of room for improvement when it comes to street maintenance. On a scale of 0 to 100, the average Pavement Condition Index for Arlington’s roads was 68.9, down from a PCI in the low 80s about 10 years ago.
In general, how would you grade Arlington’s roads at the moment?
Repairs to a large 30-inch water main will continue into the weekend, causing continued low water pressure in a number of Arlington neighborhoods.
A leak was discovered in a 30-inch water main near the intersection of Arlington Boulevard and N. Irving Street last Wednesday. The leak necessitated the replacement of a portion of the water main.
Installation of the last section of pipe started this afternoon. According to Arlington County Dept. of Environmental Services (DES) spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman, the repairs are expected to wrap up this weekend, “barring unforeseen circumstances.”
While the 30-inch main remains out of service, residents of Alcova Heights, Arlington Heights, Barcroft, Buckingham, Douglas Park, Lyon Park, Penrose and other neighborhoods may experience low water pressure during peak use hours.
“County crews are systematically working to adjust valves to reduce the area of low pressure impact while repairs are underway,” DES said in an email. “The potential will continue for customers to experience low water pressure during the morning (6-9 a.m.) and evening (5-9 p.m.) peak hours until the repairs are complete.”
“We ask our customers to help reduce peak demand by minimizing water usage when possible (Example: running dishwashers and washing machines during off-peak hours and only when full, and showering at different times),” DES said.
While repairs on the main continue, the cold temperatures are causing more problems for Arlington’s water infrastructure.
Just this morning, DES crews responded to reported water main leaks at 26th Street S. and S. Clark Street in Crystal City, and at S. Orme Street and Columbia Pike, near the Sheraton National Hotel.
“With extremely low temperatures forecast this week, we may see additional leaks further reducing pressure in the system,” DES said. “If you see a leak, or have other water concerns, contact the Water Emergency hotline at 703-228-6555.”
Photos via Arlington County Dept. of Environmental Services