Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) Arlington officials estimate that Monday’s flash flooding caused $3.5 million in damage to county infrastructure, particularly bridges in local parks.

As of last night, the an Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman said the department was aware of “at least six pedestrian bridges adjacent to the Four Mile Run stream and one storage building at Bon Air Park” which have been washed away.

Restrooms, playgrounds and picnic tables along local streams also sustained damage and “a few community centers experienced minor to moderate flooding,” though the community centers all remained open with “no major operational impacts,” we’re told.

The parks department damage assessment was updated Tuesday late afternoon to include the following:

  • Six pedestrian bridges adjacent to the Four Mile Run stream — one at Bon Air Park, two at Lubber Run Park, two at Glencarlyn Park and one at Gulf Branch Nature Center — were destroyed. Additionally, a bridge near the Glencarlyn Dog Park and one at Holmberg Park were damaged
  • The following picnic shelters are closed through Friday (July 12): Bluemont Park, Bon Air Park, Glencarlyn Park
  • Playgrounds at numerous parks lost safety surface in the flooding; as a result, Glencarlyn Park playground remains closed until further notice
  • A storage building at Bon Air Park was destroyed
  • James Hunter Dog Park [near Shirlington] experienced flooding and DPR is evaluating the fountain
  • The County’s Trails saw debris and dirt; Four Mile Run Trail suffered some asphalt damage

“The Department of Parks and Recreation is working to make our areas safe and operational as soon as possible after Arlington’s parks saw considerable damage on Monday,” said spokeswoman Martha Holland. “DPR is still working on gathering damage assessments from the storm, and some facilities may be closed as cleaning and repairs begin.”

Photos and video also shows damage along Lubber Run, near the amphitheater. A torrent of muddy water can be seen rushing through the park; pedestrian bridges were washed away, though the amphitheater itself was spared.

Foot bridges along even tiny babbling brooks were no match for raging floodwaters. One such wooden bridge connecting Chesterbrook Road and N. Vermont Street in the Old Glebe neighborhood was washed off its foundation and blocked off by caution tape this morning.

A couple of Arlington libraries were also impacted.

“The auditorium at Central Library sustained water damage and all programs are canceled this week,” Arlington Public Library spokesman Henrik Sundqvist told ARLnow. “Central Library opened up on schedule today.”

“Cherrydale Branch Library closed early yesterday due to flooding and power outages,” Sundqvist added. “We expect to open on time today.”

Arlington County has closed two roads that suffered damage to the road surface as a result of the flooding: until repairs can be made, 18th Street N. is closed between N. Lexington and McKinley streets, while 20th Street N. is closed at George Mason Drive.

“There’s no other significant damage to facilities at this time, but assessments are ongoing,” said county spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith.

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(Updated at 9:30 a.m.) Arlington County is considering a series of transportation improvements, including a fix to the complicated West and South Glebe Road intersection.

At Saturday’s County Board meeting the Board scheduled to vote on the approval of a series of grant requests for up to six projects with a total funding of up to $5.4 million.

The most expensive of the projects would be cleaning up the somewhat crash-prone Glebe Road intersection for $3 million in grant funding. W. Glebe Road, S. Glebe Road and S. Four Mile Run Drive all feed into the same intersection. By adjusting the geometry and the lane configuration, the county hopes to reduce instances of crashes.

Staff also note in the proposal that adjusting traffic signal timing and turn movements on S. Four Mile Run Drive could alleviate congestion on northbound I-395 by reducing backups on the ramp to S. Glebe Road.

The grant requests also include a series of transit improvements. The report notes that motorists frequently violate the Potomac Yard Transitway travel restrictions in Crystal City. The planned fix would add red markings to the lanes to denote the entry points to the transitway.

Other improvements include reliability upgrades for the 22F and 16Y Metrobus lines, serving Pentagon-Shirlingt0n-Fairlington and Columbia Pike-Court House-Farragut Square, respectively.

The 7Y Metrobus route would also gain additional noon-to-midnight bus service starting in December.

Also included among the grant requests is a funding request for $211,962 to extend the Commuter Store operations at the Pentagon for another 12 months. The store sells transit passes and provides commuter assistance, serving approximately 1,800 customers per month according to the staff report. Current funding for operations is set to expire on March 31, 2020.

Photos via Google Maps

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A new trail connection is now open between 7th Street S. and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

The new access point in Barcroft was open as of Monday, per a photo submitted to ARLnow’s Flickr Pool.

The eight-foot-wide trail connection is paved and comes with new signs and striping at both ends, according a county update on the construction which began this winter.

The Barcroft School and Civic League gave its stamp of approval to the trail connection’s design in February. The design was originally drafted in 2013, per plans posted on the county’s website.

Parts of Four Mile Run and W&OD trails were also under construction in February after the county said emergency repairs were needed to stop the stream from eroding.

Photo courtesy Flickr pool contributor Dennis Dmick

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(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) An SUV wound up in Four Mile Run creek in Bluemont Park this morning, prompting a hazmat response to contain a fuel spill.

The crash happened shortly before noon, near a parking lot adjacent to the intersection of N. Manchester Street and 4th Street N. It’s unclear how exactly the crash happened.

No injuries were reported. A woman could be seen sitting on the ground near the crash scene, being interviewed by police.

Arlington County firefighters placed booms in the creek to try to contain fuel from the SUV, some of which spilled into the creek and was visible as a sheen on the water.

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Arlington transportation planners’ latest attempt at crafting the future of the county’s cycling infrastructure has left neighbors, bicyclists and environmental advocates both pleased and disappointed.

The first draft of the 5o-page document, known as the bicycle element of the county’s Master Transportation Plan, originally included 26 cycling infrastructure projects including new trails and on-street bikeways. Since then, county staff has cut a few bike trails from the document, including two major projects: the Arlington Hall trail in Alcova Heights and another connecting the former Northern Virginia Community Hospital in Glencarlyn to Forest Hills, which were chopped after outcry from neighbors and environmentalists.

Still, bike advocates expressed broad support for the plan, but some think the latest draft doesn’t go far enough to ensure pedestrian safety and combat climate change.

“We made a number of changes in response to what we heard,” said Richard Viola, the project manager for updating the plan at the transportation division of the Department of Environmental Services (DES) told ARLnow Thursday. “I don’t think it negatively affects the overall plan, but it certainly shows a little more consideration of our natural resources.”

The plan is a sort of guiding “wish list” for the county, which some refer to as the “Master Bike Plan.” Viola’s group has been revising the document for more than a year, with the final version expected to be adopted later this spring. The latest edition will be posted publicly next week, he said.

During this latest revision, the county dropped its proposal for an off-street, half-mile trail connecting 6th Street S. to S. Quincy Street in the Alcova neighborhood at S. Oakland Street. The trail became a point of controversy because it could mean 6th Street residents lose some backyard privacy, and the county would cut down some important trees.

“We heard from a number of people from that Alcova Heights neighborhood that they did not want to see the trail built,” said Viola. “And then later we heard from a number of people in the neighborhood who want to see the trail build.” Ultimately, his working group shelved the Alcova trail idea for another time.

Another nixed idea was to extend the Four Mile Run Trail a half mile to connect with Claremont Elementary and Wakefield High. The Audubon Society wrote a letter in January warning that the proposal could cause “potential harm” to the rare magnolia ecosystem in the area.

“It’s a useful connection,” Viola said of the proposed trail. “People walk it today. But it would not be a suitable bike route when we thought about it because of the steepness [of the trail] and the proximity to this magnolia bog natural preserve.”

Another plan that became bogged down was a Glencarlyn/Hospital Trail connecting Glencarlyn and Forest Hills neighborhoods via the old site of the Northern Virginia Community Hospital. The half-mile project was envisioned by Viola’s team as a “low-stress route” between Arlington Boulevard and Columbia Pike because it could link up with other bikeways on S. Lexington Street, S. Carlin Springs Road, and 5th Road S.

The Audubon Society wrote that a trail passing through the old hospital site would “destroy valuable natural resources” in the conservation area that protects Long Branch Creek.

As a compromise, Viola’s team suggested instead widening the sidewalk on the east side of Carlyn Springs Road, so bikes and pedestrians can share.

“There are other comments they did not address in their plan,” said Audubon Society member Connie Ericson, referring to the organization’s January letter. “But we are pleased that they took some of our suggestions.”

However, members of the Arlington County Transportation Commission were “not wild” about the sidewalk idea, according to Commission Chair Chris Slatt.

Slatt told ARLnow Friday morning that members felt a paved, woodsy trail was too rare an opportunity pass up.

“There aren’t a lot of places where you could jog or bike without cars next to you,” he said. “It would seem like a shame to give up on that.”

In general, the plan drew praise from Ericson, and other advocates like D.C.-based Wash Cycle who said they couldn’t “spot any holes in the plans” in a January blog post.

Bruce Deming, who runs the Law Offices of Bruce S. Deming, Esq. and is known as the “Bicycle Lawyer,” also praised the Master Bike Plan for being “very thorough” and having a “cohesive strategy.” But he also told ARLnow in a phone call that, when it comes to safety, the “sense of urgency should be greater” in the latest draft.

The plan contains no mention of speed cameras — something Deming admitted is “politically unpopular” but reduces the injury and mortality rates in crashes with pedestrians and cyclists.

Deming also critiqued the plan for not prioritizing more bike lanes protected from cars, something 64 percent of respondents surveyed by the county wish for according to the Master Plan.

“According to the latest version of the plan, we’ve got 29 miles of bike lanes and 10 percent are the protected bike lanes,” said Deming. “I’d like to see that percentage increase substantially.”

Viola told ARLnow that the plan has been updated to language about “traffic safety education.”

The updates to Arlington’s Master Bike Plan are the first in 10 years, and according to Viola, the county doesn’t expect to undergo the process again for another decade. This comes a few months after the U.N.’s report indicating humans have 12 years to cut emissions before global warming causes permanent ecological damage, and reducing trips by car is one way to do this.

The Master Bike Plan acknowledges this, writing that improving the county’s pledges to improve air quality and reduce its emissions “depend greatly on shifting more travel to energy-efficient travel modes such as bicycling and walking.”

For Slatt, this means ensuring the infrastructure is so good it makes people want to ditch cars for bikes — something that would be easier to figure out how to do if the county allocated more resources and invested in high-end data analysis.

“People don’t people pick their transportation option because it saves the planet,” he said. “People pick their transportation option because it works for them because it’s faster or cheaper or makes them happy.”

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Some experimental parking changes throughout the Four Mile Run valley are going into effect over the next few weeks, as county officials weigh the best strategies for improving conditions in the area for pedestrians and drivers alike.

The county started rolling out the changes Saturday (Feb. 23) and plans to have all of them in place by the second week of March. Officials previously held meetings about the contemplated changes in Nauck this fall, and the County Board approved the general approach toward parking in the area as part of the Four Mile Run Valley Area Plan it passed in November.

The following roads are set to see parking changes over the next few weeks:

  • S. Four Mile Run Drive between Walter Reed Drive and Shirlington Road
  • S. Four Mile Run Drive (service road) west of Shirlington Road
  • S. Oxford Street south of S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • S. Oakland Street south of S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • S. Nelson Street south of S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • 27th Street S. between Shirlington Road to S. Nelson Street

Parking has been contested along parts of S. Four Mile Run Drive in particular, with neighbors frequently complaining about the bevy of commercial vehicles along the stretch of road. The debate over parking in the area was a particular flashpoint during the deliberations over the area plan, with some Nauck leaders arguing that their concerns went ignored by county officials.

Notably, the county will ban commercial vehicles from parking on either side of the “minor” service road section of S. Four Mile Run Drive, the section of the road that intersects with S. Oxford Street and is home to a variety of cul-de-sacs lined with duplexes and other small homes. Parking there will otherwise be unrestricted or available for up to 24 hours.

Along the main, “major” stretch of S. Four Mile Run Drive, the northern side of the road will be off-limits for overnight parking, from 1o p.m. to 7 a.m., between the road’s intersection with Shirlington Road and S. Oakland Street. Currently, parking is restricted there only between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays.

On the rest of the northern side of Four Mile Run Drive through the road’s intersection with S. Walter Reed Drive, parking will be available around the clock. It’s also currently restricted from 7-9 p.m. currently.

On the southern side of Four Mile Run Drive, people will be allowed to park for up to 10 hours at a time, outside of the block between S. Nelson and S. Oakland streets, which will be two-hour parking. Much of that side of the road is currently unrestricted or limited to two hours of parking.

The county is also changing up the rules on the south side of 27th Street S., which will now have a 10-hour limit. Much of the curb space in front of the area’s WETA facility is currently unrestricted.

Other changes will also impact some of the side streets running off Four Mile Run, where new two-hour parking limits are planned.

County police say they plan to strictly enforce these new restrictions to improve conditions in the neighborhood, though some residents are skeptical that the department’s staffing challenges will allow officers to make much of an impact in policing the area’s parking.

County officials also expect to eventually add new sections of sidewalk and a new pedestrian crossing island and curb extensions along S. Four Mile Run Drive. They could even move ahead with more dramatic changes going forward, like the addition of more angled spaces leading up to Jennie Dean Park or the conversion of S. Four Mile Run Drive into a two-lane road with a dedicated middle turning lane.

But first, the county plans to spend the next year or studying the impact of these new parking changes. The evaluation of that work will move in tandem with the planned changes at Jennie Dean Park, approved as part of the Board’s planning work for the area last spring.

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Some work to repair stream erosion will prompt a weeks-long closure of two trails in the Dominion Hills neighborhood starting next week.

The W&OD trail and Four Mile Run trail will both be impacted by the construction, aimed at reversing the impacts of erosion along Four Mile Run as it nears I-66. Construction is set to kick off on Monday (Feb. 18).

The work will force the closure of the W&OD trail for about a month, the county says, shuttering a section between N. Ohio Street and its intersection with the Custis Trail.

The section of the Four Mile Run trail in the area, between N. Madison Street and Patrick Henry Drive, will be closed for about six weeks.

“Tree impacts will be avoided to extent feasible,” the county wrote on its website. “Some trees will be pruned along the Four Mile Run trail in the vicinity of the staging/access area.”

Workers will post detour signs near the closed sections of the trails. Cyclists and pedestrians will be directed onto N. Manchester Street, then 10th Road N. to avoid the construction.

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(Updated at 10:15 a.m.) Anyone planning on hitting the Four Mile Run bike trail should watch out for a detour near the county’s Water Pollution Control Plant these next few days.

The county announced a “limited, partial detour” on the trail starting today (Wednesday) as it runs past 3304 S. Glebe Road, in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood along the county’s border with Alexandria.

A tweet from the county’s Department of Environmental Services said the work should last for a “few weeks,” and that it stems from construction at the sewage plant. A subsequent tweet described the primary disruption for trail users to be “a 200-yard one-lane merge.”

The County Board approved a series of repairs at the plant in 2017, with work planned on some aging water tanks at the treatment facility.

Anyone biking or running on the trail should follow posted detours.

Photo via Google Maps

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Safety concerns have prompted the county to close a sidewalk along a bridge over Four Mile Run connecting Arlington and Alexandria.

The western sidewalk of the bridge connecting S. Arlington Ridge Road with Mount Vernon Avenue is now closed indefinitely, the county announced last week.

Officials say a recent inspection revealed “beam deterioration” on one of the supports under the bridge’s western sidewalk. The structure was built back in 1956.

The county now plans to use “signage and barricades” to direct people to the other side of the bridge. A Metrobus stop serving the 10A, 10E, 23A and 23B routes and the entry to the Four Mile Run Park and the Four Mile Run Trail sit just before the north end of the bridge on the east side at S. Glebe Road.

Another Metrobus stop sits at the northwest corner of Arlington Ridge and Glebe Road, serving the 10A and 10E routes.

County engineers plan to “monitor conditions and look at eventual replacement options,” but have no timetable for the sidewalk to reopen.

The county closed sidewalks along another nearby bridge at W. Glebe Road over Four Mile Run due to similar concerns back in November.

Photo via Google Maps

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Workers are gearing up to make some repairs on the S. George Mason Drive bridge over Four Mile Run, so be on the lookout for some lane closures.

The county kicked off work on the bridge on Monday (Nov. 26), and it will likely last through spring 2019.

Workers will reduce from two lanes in each direction down to one as construction proceeds, but only during “non-rush hours,” according to a county NextDoor post.

The work will primarily focus on “patching and sealing,” mainly on “good weather days” through early next year.

Then, the county plans to repaint the bridge in summer 2019.

Photo via Google Maps

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Arlington officials have, at long last, approved a new planning document to guide the Four Mile Run Valley’s future, one of the last remaining steps for the county to take in the years-long debate over the area’s development.

The County Board unanimously signed off on new “area plan” for the Nauck valley on Saturday (Nov. 17), sketching out the county’s strategies for fostering the preservation and growth of industrial and arts-focused businesses in the area.

The plan also lays out a series of potential road and parking changes in the area, which have prompted some community consternation even as the planning process wraps up. Some Nauck leaders have previously expressed grave concerns that county officials aren’t listening to their suggestions for the area’s development, and that includes fears about the road changes on the way for S. Four Mile Run Drive.

“An important element is missing: trust,” Nauck Civic Association President Portia Clark told the Board. “The county needs to work with us to repair the loss of trust… We were here before the planning process began, and we’ll be here long after.”

But Board members expressed broad satisfaction with the plan, despite those anxieties, arguing that the roughly three-year-long planning process delivered an outcome that will benefit the community for years to come.

“We’re going to all look back on this process, as occasionally challenging as it was, and see that this will be a true jewel for not only South Arlington, but the county as a whole,” said Board member John Vihstadt, the Board’s liaison to a working group convened to assemble the plan.

The Board previously adopted a broad “policy framework” guiding all manner of future changes to the area this spring. The working group and county staff then relied on that document to develop a parks master plan for the area, primarily focused on the overhaul of Jennie Dean Park, and then assembled the final area plan.

Among the document’s proposed changes are road alterations designed to make S. Four Mile Drive and some of its side streets more friendly for both cyclists and pedestrians, and free up more parking along the road. Changes will include new sections of sidewalk, a new pedestrian crossing island and curb extensions, as well as more robust parking restrictions and enforcement to encourage more turnover.

But those alterations will only be temporary, as the county examines whether they actually work. Officials could even initiate more dramatic changes going forward, like the addition of more angled spaces leading up to Jennie Dean Park and even the conversion of S. Four Mile Run Drive into a two-lane road with a dedicated middle turning lane.

“There are still some concerns on the road changes… but the community has accepted the ‘test first, build later’ strategy,” said Charles Monfort, chair of the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group.

Yet Monfort’s leadership of the group attracted a public rebuke from one of his fellow vice chairs in a Washington Post opinion piece, as Robin Stombler argued that the public engagement process on all manner of issues was flawed — Monfort insisted Saturday that “anyone’s who wanted to speak has had many opportunities to do so.”

But Stombler and other Nauck residents charged that the parking changes are simply the latest example of the community’s concerns being cast aside. Clark pointed out staffing challenges in the Arlington police department means officers have less time to dedicate to traffic enforcement, making any pledge to step up the policing of parking violations on S. Four Mile Run Drive a hollow one.

“It makes no sense to test parking restrictions that will not be enforced and will actually increase parking turnover problems,” said Anne Inman, one of the Nauck Civic Association’s representatives on the working group.

Vihstadt also expressed some trepidation that the county is “really engaging in real time” on these issues, worrying that officials might “prioritize beauty and aesthetics over operational, on-the-ground needs for businesses and people who inhabit and do commerce in the valley.”

But county planner Richard Tucker reassured concerned neighbors, however, that the county is “going to move forward with understanding we’ll come back on this and make changes” after a year or so, if the parking plans aren’t working as intended.

“We test a little bit, we see what we learn and then maybe we expand that to other areas,” said Board member Erik Gutshall.

Beyond the parking changes, Tucker added that there are still few elements left to the planning work for the valley. In January, the county will kick off discussions on potentially adding an arts district to the area (a controversial point in its own right) and then convene a broader discussion on land use and zoning a few months later.

By and large, though, Board members hope the area plan’s adoption signals a major step forward for the county in charting out the valley’s future.

“When I walk down to Four Mile Run 25 years from now, the built environment will not look fundamentally different,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol. “And that speaks to this effort and what we all value about this area.”

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