Arlington, VA

Arlington County has promised to build a sidewalk for every street, but when it comes to some residential neighborhoods progress is slow.

The main way sidewalks are built in residential areas is via the Neighborhood Conservation (NC) Program, which was created in 1964 and allows neighbors to weigh in on proposed sidewalk designs, among other small local projects that are proposed for county funding.

Officials told ARLnow the program is meant to give weight to resident feedback, which means concerns over parking and frontage sometimes trump pedestrian considerations.

Now the Arlington County Board is reviewing the NC program, and asking questions like, “Do NC Projects contribute to an appropriate balance between neighborhood and Countywide infrastructure goals and objectives?” according to a draft presentation with a working group meeting last week.

NC Program Manager Tim McIntosh told ARLnow during an interview last month that it’s a “lofty goal” to build a sidewalk on at least one side of every street, and it’s also hard to evaluate how much progress has been made.

“I don’t know that there are any statistics on how many sidewalks have been built since that plan has been put in place,” he said.

“There are several challenges to building sidewalks on every street,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet said. “In addition to the availability of eligible funding sources for improvements in neighborhoods, there are competing interests for the right of way on every street.”

“In some cases, adding a full sidewalk with curb and gutter would come at the expense of on-street parking, or it could impact private properties in the form of tree removal, yard regrading and retaining walls,” he added. “There also may be differences among residents on a street about providing needed easements. Our job is to balance these interests, as well as costs, as we implement projects.”

McIntosh said the public is generally supportive and wants to see sidewalks installed, “But once you start to get into the weeds and talk about where it’s going to be, people get a little more reserved about, ‘Well, geez, how is this going to affect my frontage? Or the parking on my street?'”

Bob Cannon, a Lee Heights resident, has long wanted a sidewalk on a particular stretch of the 2300-2400 blocks of N. Vernon Street, in the Donaldson Run neighborhood.

The street is unmarked and cars regularly speed around curves, he said. In May, one car drove over the curb near Cannon’s house, blew out a tire, and hit his neighbor’s car. He says crashes like this are common and pose a danger to pedestrians who have nowhere to walk but on the road. He’s frequently asked the county to build a sidewalk, or add speed bumps, bollards, or lane paint to improve safety, according to emails reviewed by ARLnow.

“I do not understand what the problem is,” said Cannon. “The solution is simple.”

Thus far, the county has not revealed plans to add a sidewalk to portion of the road in question.

“Can it improve? Absolutely,” said WalkArlington Program Director Henry T. Dunbar of the sidewalk building process. “That’s why we really push people to get involved.”

Dunbar said WalkArlington is training residents about pedestrian safety and how they can work with organizations like the Pedestrian Advisory Committee to push for safety improvements like sidewalks on their streets. One way he said WalkArlington helps is by conducting “walk audits” of neighborhoods with residents and identify danger spots.

The pedestrian element for the county’s Master Transportation Plan was last updated in 2008. At the time, the document noted that:

Arlington currently lacks a complete sidewalk on almost 20 percent of its local streets. While work is under way to construct missing sidewalks, at the current pace of funding and construction, the sidewalk network is not likely to be complete for another 25 to 30 years.

Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet said the department is currently reviewing the pedestrian element and deciding when DES can begin updates, as it recently did with the plan’s bicycle element.

Photo courtesy Bob Cannon

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Some downed wires have closed both lanes of Military Road in Donaldson Run.

County police say the wires are down along the 3000 block of the road, not far from Zachary Taylor Park and Taylor Elementary School.

A county traffic alert warns that the road will be closed for “an unknown amount of time,” and urges drivers to seek other routes.

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(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) A tree fell on a car in the Donaldson Run neighborhood Friday afternoon, amid the ongoing wind storm.

The incident happened around 4:30 p.m. on the 4200 block of Vacation Lane, not far from the Stratford building that houses the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program.

Initial reports suggest that a tree fell on a car, trapping the driver inside and sending live power lines down across the street. Firefighters were able to extricate the driver, who was reportedly not injured, within about 15 minutes.

Vacation Lane is expected to remain closed for an extended period of time, awaiting the power and tree removal crews.

Photo via Google Maps

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Workers from the county’s Department of Environmental Services stopped a sewage leak into the Donaldson Run stream overnight.

According to a tweet from DES, crews installed a bypass overnight into a sewage pipe, which broke due to its age, damage from tree roots and the recent cold temperatures.

Repairs to the pipe, which is in a remote location next to Zachary Taylor Park (2900 Military Road), are ongoing.

A DES spokesman said that the remote location made the leak hard to find, but that staff had been aware since last weekend.

“[S]taff did log the leak report over the weekend and the search began soon thereafter,” the spokesman said. “It just took a while for crews to find the leak because of the remote location — which you can see on the tweet photo.”

The spokesman reiterated that the “discharge that entered Donaldson Run will be diminished by natural flushing of the stream over time.”

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A broken sewer pipe caused a sewage leak into the Donaldson Run stream, affecting the water in two parks in Arlington County.

A spokesman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services said a resident reported discharge of sewage into the stream in Zachary Taylor Park (2900 Military Road) this morning.

On further inspection, the spokesman said, DES crews found that a sewage pipe had broken due to its age, damage from tree roots and the recent cold temperatures. Crews plan to repair it tomorrow (Tuesday), the spokesman added.

Those in the area should avoid contact with the water in the stream in Zachary Taylor Park downstream from N. Upshur Street, and also in the nearby Potomac Overlook Regional Park (2845 Marcey Road).

“The discharge that entered Donaldson Run will be diminished by natural flushing of the stream over time,” the spokesman said.

Both parks will remain open to the public.

Image via Google Maps

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Just over 2,250 Dominion customers are without power this morning in Arlington.

Strong winds overnight knocked out electricity to a large swath of Ballston and the Donaldson Run neighborhood. Other smaller, scattered outlets have also been reported.

A number of businesses are reportedly closed in Ballston as a result of the outage, including the Sport+Health club. So far Dominion’s website does not list an estimated time of restoration.

Arlington remains under a Wind Advisory through 10 a.m.

Map via Dominion

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A group of local residents have launched a petition against an Arlington County plan to remove more than 80 trees at the Donaldson Run Nature Area.

The nature area, part of Donaldson Run Park at 4020 30th Street N. between Military Road and N. Upton Street, is set to have a section of its stream restored early next year.

The project on Tributary B is designed to help prevent erosion by creating a new natural stream and re-connecting it with the flood plain. Opponents said the project would remove 81 trees, endanger another 52 and remove vegetation along 1,400 feet of Donaldson Run. Work to restore the stream’s Tributary A was completed in 2006.

But a group of residents have launched an online campaign against what it described as the “rapid loss of trees on public and private lands” and urged the county to reconsider.

“The Donaldson Run Tributary B [stream] restoration project, costing taxpayers over $1 million, sacrifices broad local natural environmental benefits for a narrow distant storm water purpose,” the petition reads. “This project must be put on hold until… comprehensive technical and cost/benefit reviews can be completed that include better alternatives that use the money most effectively to meet all the community’s goals.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had received 14 signatures.

Opponents of the project will host an event on Sunday, September 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the nature area to hand out free saplings to “expand our urban forest.”

Photo No. 4 via petition, photo No. 5 via Google Maps.

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Morning Notes

Blooms on ice

Arlington’s Irish Bars on St. Patrick’s Day — Today is St. Patrick’s Day and that of course means that Guinness will be flowing like water at Arlington’s half dozen Irish pubs. Among them: The Celtic House on Columbia Pike (recently lauded by Yelp and Travel + Leisure), Samuel Beckett’s in Shirlington, Ireland’s Four Courts in Courthouse, O’Sullivan’s in Clarendon, P. Brennan’s on Columbia Pike and Sine Irish Pub on Pentagon Row.

Arlington’s High-Earning Millennials — “Arlington has more millennials with a household income of $350,000 or more than any other jurisdiction in the country, with 8.7 percent of millennials among that wealthy cohort.” [Washington Post]

Donaldson Run Neighborhood Profiled — “Tracy and Jeremy Penfield bought their first house in Donaldson Run in Arlington County because they liked the location and the price. After living close to Metro for almost a decade, they welcomed the hilly, wooded neighborhood, which is largely car-oriented.” [Washington Post]

WeWork Creator’s Awards — WeWork, which has both co-working and co-living space at an office building in Crystal City, is giving out $20 million in grant awards to creators around the world, including here in the D.C. area. Applications to pitch an idea in D.C. are due this coming Monday. [WeWork]

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Power outage 2/9/17

Nearly 600 Dominion customers are without power in the Donaldson Run, Maywood and Riverwood neighborhoods of north Arlington.

Initial reports suggest Dominion crews shut down power to the grid after a tree or a large branch fell on a power line, which started arcing. Those crews are currently working on the lines on the 2600 block of Military Road, according to scanner traffic.

Power crews are keeping busy due to the high winds today. Nearly 2,500 Dominion customers are without power throughout Northern Virginia, though so far no other outages have been reported in Arlington.

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A Donaldson Run resident photographed what appears to be a bobcat in a neighbor’s backyard over the weekend.

Evelyn Powers says her husband spotted the big cat Saturday morning.

“She was awesome… super chill-relaxing in the sun,” said Powers. “We enjoyed [the] visit… from afar of course.”

Photos and video provided by Powers show the animal casually exploring the neighbor’s backyard.

Bobcats are predators that have been known to inhabit wooded and “urban edge” environments. They usually hunt rabbits, birds, mice, squirrels and other small game, but are generally not considered a threat to humans.

Another bobcat made news last week; “Ollie” the bobcat escaped from an enclosure at the National Zoo in D.C. but was later found and captured on zoo property.

Update at 12:25 p.m. — Some additional insight from Susan Sherman of the Animal Welfare League of Arlington:

I am not aware of a previous [bobcat sighting] in Arlington. Bobcats are a rare part of the native wildlife that can be found in Arlington. They are larger than traditional cats ranging from 2-3.5 ft long and around 1.5 ft at the shoulder. They are known for their shy nature and posing no threat to humans, property, or companion animals. They are a rare sight because of their reclusive nature — but it is mating season (from Dec. to around Feb.) and that could be why they caught this glimpse. They will traditionally be spotted in only the wooded urban areas throughout the county. We ask that the public call the Animal Control Department with any questions or concerns.

Photos and video courtesy @designpowers

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Morning Notes

Sunrise over Route 50 (Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi(

New Invasive Species Found in Arlington — A county contractor has found Wavyleaf Basketgrass, a particularly prolific invasive species, in Donaldson Run Park. The plant was removed but the county is now on the lookout for more. [Arlington County]

Murky Coffee Owner Still Owes County — Nicholas Cho, the proprietor of Murky Coffee, which closed six years ago in Clarendon, recently repaid his tax debts to the District of Columbia but still owes Arlington more than $84,000 in unpaid meals taxes and interest. [Washington Post]

‘Pub in the Park’ Coming to a Close — Rosslyn’s Friday evening Pub in the Park event series, which includes a mobile bar offering beer and wine, is ending for the season tonight. [Twitter]

Lyft Sees Lift in Arlington Corporate Customers — For some reason ride hailing service Lyft is seeing a relatively large increase in business from corporate customers in Arlington. [Pymnts]

Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi

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