Transportation officials are proposing a host of safety improvements for Memorial Circle, a confusing confluence of roads connecting Arlington National Cemetery to the Arlington Memorial Bridge.
The circle has long been the site of all manner of dangerous crashes, particularly those involving cyclists and pedestrians looking to access the nearby Mt. Vernon Trail or cross into D.C. But the National Park Service has drawn up a series of changes for the roads in the area designed to address the issue, including traffic pattern changes to transform the circle into something more like a traditional roundabout.
“The project area is at a major convergence of regional roadways and modes that interact through a complex series of roadway merges (on-ramps), weaves, diverges (off-ramps), and intersections, resulting in traffic congestion and crashes,” NPS planners wrote in a November environmental assessment. “The proposed action would change the way area users access and circulate through the area by car, bicycle, or foot.”
Officials estimate that the area saw approximately 600 crashes between 2006 and 2012. Lawmakers previously secured some safety improvements for the G.W. Parkway and the circle to try to address the issue. The new NPS proposal would address not only the circle itself, but also the roads approaching the area from both the north and south: S. Arlington Blvd and Washington Blvd.
Perhaps the most substantial change park officials are proposing would be cutting back on one lane of traffic in the circle, in order to “allow the circle to function more like a modern roundabout,” the NPS wrote. That means that drivers in the circle would have the right of way, and anyone entering the circle would need to yield to them.
The NPS also plans to split up an island on the east side of the circle, near where it meets the Memorial Bridge, allowing two westbound lanes coming from the bridge to “bypass the circle and head north onto S. Arlington Boulevard” and one lane of traffic to proceed and enter the circle.
For roads north of the circle, officials are proposing some improved signage at the various intersections, including “fluorescent yellow advance pedestrian crossing warning signs” at some and “rapid flashing beacon” signs at others.
But they’re also envisioning more dramatic improvements, like reducing Washington Blvd down to one lane, and removing both the “existing southern exit ramp connecting S. Arlington Blvd and S. Washington Blvd” and “the existing far left exit lane of S. Arlington Blvd.”
As S. Arlington Blvd exits the circle, the NPS also envisions reducing the road from three lanes down to two leading up to the crosswalk. The existing far left lane leading onto a ramp to S. Washington Blvd is slated to be removed, as is the exit ramp itself.
The NPS is planning similar pedestrian sign improvements for intersections south of the circle, as well as other lane reductions.
One major change would be the construction of a new concrete island where Washington Blvd enters the circle to its south, allowing two lanes of the road to bypass the circle and reach the Memorial Bridge, and one lane to enter the circle. That would require a slightly widening of the road in the area, the NPS wrote.
The plans also call for Washington Blvd to be reduced from four lanes to three south of the circle “in order to simplify merging patterns,” while the G.W. Parkway would be widened “to add an acceleration lane allowing traffic from Arlington Blvd to enter the parkway in its own dedicated lane before merging onto the two-lane parkway.”
Additionally, the NPS envisions relocating two bike and pedestrians crossings south of the circle. One, located as a trail crossing Washington Blvd, “would be relocated closer to the Circle, to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to cross where vehicle speeds are slower and where drivers are anticipating conflicts.” The other, designed to help people cross the parkway to the southeast of the circle, would be moved slightly further north of the parkway.
The NPS traffic analysis of these proposed changes suggest they’d generate “an overall improvement” in congestion on the roads, in addition to substantial safety upgrades.
People in the bicycling community are pretty skeptical of the latter assertion, however.
Surprise! @NPSGWMP has proposed a few half-assed safety improvements to Memorial Circle. Read about 'em here and decide if you think they'll keep you safe in the crosswalk: #bikedc #bikearlington https://t.co/MZAdUCONY4
— Chris Slatt (@alongthepike) November 29, 2018
Thought 2 – If this were implemented tomorrow, I'd still insist that nobody walk or bike anywhere near it because the crossings aren't safe
— Garrett Hennigan (@gwhennigan) November 29, 2018
The NPS is accepting comments on the plans through Dec. 29.
County Manager Warns of Tough Upcoming Budget — “Arlington County faces an estimated budget gap of $20-35 million for its 2020 fiscal year, which could require cuts to County services, increased taxes and fees, or a combination of the two. County Manager Mark Schwartz… said that County revenues are forecast to grow by a modest 1.5 percent, while expenditures for the County’s current set of programs are anticipated to grow twice as fast.” [Arlington County, Washington Post]
GW Parkway Rebuild Coming — “Much of the George Washington Parkway will see a complete rebuild in the next few years — and though it’ll surely result in smoother pavement and longer acceleration lanes, good things on the road only come after lengthy closures. An $150 million overhaul of the George Washington Parkway, including a rework of the interchange with Virginia Route 123, is moving forward.” [WTOP]
County: Report Suspicious Activity — Despite some recent pushback on questionable calls to law enforcement, Arlington County is still encouraging citizens to “See Something, Say Something.” Per the county: “Security is a shared responsibility so if you see something out of place, say something by reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement. Arlington County is safer when everyone is engaged and alert.” [Arlington County]
Cops Called on Food Vendor — Someone called police to report a pickup truck that was selling food without a permit on S. Scott Street near Columbia Pike Tuesday morning. The truck may have been delivering food to construction workers. [Twitter]
Crash on Memorial Bridge — A crash blocked two inbound lanes of the Memorial Bridge during this morning’s rush hour, prompting delays for commuters. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
A crash on southbound I-395 near Arlington Ridge Road temporarily closed the highway.
The crash happened in the usual rainy weather spot — as traffic rounds a curve en route to the Glebe Road and Shirlington exits. All southbound lanes were closed for a period of time, but three lanes have since reopened, with the crash moved over to the right-hand side.
Separately, a crash has been reported on the northbound GW Parkway near Key Bridge and is currently causing “traffic issues,” according to scanner traffic.
Prep work for major construction on the Memorial Bridge is prompting some lane closures and other travel disruptions in the area over the next few days.
Workers are planning to set up “staging areas” just south of Memorial Circle to prepare for a full rehab effort on the bridge later this fall, which will include a full weekend shutdown of the bridge in mid-September.
That means drivers in the area can expect “temporary lane closures as trucks deliver material there,” largely during the day. The closures could also impact the Mount Vernon Trail, with the National Park Service warning that the trail likely won’t close entirely but “users may have to wait while workers move material over it.”
The NPS recently had to schedule overnight lane closures on the G.W. Parkway and Washington Blvd to pave roads leading up to the stage area, but it expects that today (Friday) was the last day of those disruptions.
Labor Day should also mark the end of work on the Windy Run Bridge along the G.W. Parkway. Workers are hoping to do away with the lane closures and shifts that have marked that section of the parkway for the last few weeks sometime after the holiday.
Photo via National Park Service
Heat Advisory in Effect — Arlington and D.C. are under a Heat Advisory from noon to 8 p.m. today. The heat index this afternoon is expected to reach between 100 and 105 degrees. [National Weather Service, Twitter]
Hacked Sign Causes County Concern — ARLnow’s report about an electronic road sign near Shirlington being hacked to display a vulgar video game meme prompted a serious conversation at county government headquarters. “To some this is a ‘prank’ to me it is an indication of a lack of security on a portion of our [technology] infrastructure,” Arlington’s Chief Information Officer wrote in an internal email chain. “What if the message was ‘Terrorist Attack in Washington, please leave the area'[?]” [State Scoop]
Flag at Gov’t Buildings to Be Lowered for McCain — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered the state flag lowered to half-staff until sunset on Sept. 2 in honor of the late Sen. John McCain. The order applies to all local, state and federal buildings in Virginia. [Twitter]
Late Night Ramp Closure Planned — “The ramp from the southbound George Washington Memorial Parkway to eastbound I-66 and westbound Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) will be closed Wednesday night, Aug. 29 and Thursday night, Aug. 30 from midnight to 4 a.m. each night for work on the I-66 overpass, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.” [VDOT]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Plans are underway to address Arlington Memorial Bridge’s crumbling facade and deep structural issues, but over the next week it will mean extra traffic for morning commuters across the bridge.
From today (Monday) until Friday (Aug. 17) two lanes of Arlington Memorial Bridge on the G.W. Parkway will be closed to prepare the bridge for full rehabilitation later this fall. The rightmost westbound lane will be closed from 6 a.m. until 3 p.m. and the center eastbound lane will be closed from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.
The parkway will also see late evening closures over the coming week to prepare the bridge for rehabilitation later this fall. From Wednesday, Aug. 15 until Sunday, Aug. 19, one northbound lane of the parkway will be closed south of Memorial Circle, near the Potomac River. Closures will start at 7 p.m. and end at 5 a.m.
The plan is to move the construction equipment from the road to a fenced staging area on the river. Workers on-site will direct traffic as heavy equipment is moved into the construction site.
Cyclists and pedestrians on the Mount Vernon Trail may also experience delays during this process. While the trail won’t close, the equipment will be passing over the trail and workers onsite will be directing traffic on the trail.
The full bridge rehabilitation later this fall will reduce the bridge to three lanes of traffic: one eastbound, one westbound, and one that will shift to accommodate rush hour traffic.
In 2016, the Federal Highway Administration informed the National Park Service (NPS) that, without repairs, the bridge will require full closure in 2021. According to NPS, the current schedule of closures will help strengthen the bridge; adding new concrete to the roads, reinforcing the rusted steel drawbridge, and making repairs to the underside of the road. The full rehabilitation later this fall will replace the drawbridge span, replace most of the concrete across the bridge with prefabricated concrete panels.
The NPS is also closing lanes on the Windy Run Bridge to keep up with additional bridge rehab needs, with work running through the fall.
Photo via National Park Service
There may be yet more rain in the forecast, fresh on the heels of last month’s persistent storms, but don’t expect to see the sort of flooding that trapped dozens of people in their cars on the GW Parkway two weeks back.
That’s the word from National Park Service officials, who believe the waves of water covering the parkway back on July 17 were more a fluke than anything else.
The flooding, which impacted a stretch of the road as it winds past Reagan National Airport, was severe enough to strand about 25 cars on the parkway until firefighters could get them to safety. But the NPS doesn’t see much it can do to prevent that sort of flooding from happening again, simply because parkway officials believe it was largely a result of the extraordinarily rapid rate of rainfall.
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) July 17, 2018
Jonathan Shafer, a NPS spokesman, noted that meteorologists recorded more than 2.6 inches of rain per hour falling at the airport that day.
“Maintenance staff from [the parkway] think the drainage system there was overwhelmed by the large amount of runoff,” Shafer told ARLnow via email.
Shafer added that parkway “[does not] believe this area has flooded due to rain in recent memory,” though water main breaks have occasionally caused some problems north of the airport.
Warren Stewart, a 22-year resident of Northern Virginia, agrees that he’s never seen the parkway look as it did two weeks ago. He was driving toward D.C. to pick his son up from school on July 17 when he saw what looked like “a creek coming down the road.”
“From my truck back, it was not flooded and the cars in front of me were,” Stewart said. “They were bailing water out of their cars with buckets… Water rose up as high as their tail lights, for some of them.”
The parkway hasn’t experienced anything like the mid-July flooding since then, even as rain has continued to pound the region. That’s why Shafer thinks the best solution to avoiding any similar scary situations on the parkway is for drivers to “exercise caution” getting on the road when storms pick up.
“Conditions can change fast, and it’s hard to predict when and how the weather might affect them,” he wrote.
Shafer says the park service is hard at work studying drainage and stormwater management improvements on other sections of the parkway, though construction is likely years away.
Photo via @ArlingtonVaFD
Amazon Hiring Local ‘Economic Development Manager’ — Amazon is hiring for a new position of economic development manager in the D.C. area, though the company says the position is not connected to its HQ2 search. Per the Business Journal: “Responsibilities would include working on site selection, ‘new corporate initiatives, site expansion plans and requirements,’ and working with ‘state and community economic development, workforce and labor, taxation, and other key government agency officials, as well as chambers of commerce, utilities, and other key public/private stakeholder groups.'” [Washington Business Journal, Amazon]
New Food Hall Coming to Rosslyn — The team behind Chasin’ Tails seafood restaurant in East Falls Church is planning a new 5,000-square-foot Asian food hall, dubbed “Happy Endings Eatery,” at Rosslyn’s Central Place complex. Among the expected offerings will be Vietnamese food like summer rolls, noodle bowls and banh mi sandwiches; bubble teas; and Vietnamese coffee. [Washington Business Journal]
GW Parkway Traffic Woes — The kickoff of a new construction project caused bumper-to-bumper traffic on the GW Parkway yesterday. The project to repair the bridge over Windy Run is taking away one lane in each direction. Work is expected to last through early fall. [WJLA]
Free Food in Rosslyn Today — To celebrate the opening of its new U.S. headquarters in Rosslyn, Nestlé is planning to give away free food, drinks and ice cream at Central Place Plaza from 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. today. [Twitter]
Dying Dog Becomes Internet Star — “The saying goes: ‘Every dog has his day.’ That day has come for Smoke the hound, now featured in a viral video as he scratches off items on his bucket list. Smoke recently arrived at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington with terminal cancer. Now, the animal shelter is making every moment count.” [WJLA]
Photo courtesy Jeremy Galliani
The National Park Service is warning drivers about severe traffic backups on the GW Parkway starting today (Monday) and running through the fall, as rehab work on the Windy Run Bridge gets going.
Workers have spent the last few weeks removing guard rails and center curbs, as well as doing some paving work, in order to prepare for work on the bridge, located in northeast Arlington near the Woodmont and Riverwood neighborhoods.
Starting today, the NPS plans to reduce the parkway from four lanes down to three, and expects to:
- Lower the work zone speed limit to 35 miles per hour
- Direct all traffic into three narrow travel lanes
- Shift travel lanes to accommodate rush hour traffic
The NPS plans to always keep one lane open in each direction, reversing the third lane as needed to match the direction of traffic in the morning and evening rush hours on weekdays.
That means the reversible lane will run northbound from noon to 8 p.m. and run southbound from 8 p,m. to noon. On Saturdays and Sundays, the reversible lane will only run southbound.
“Drivers should expect a lower speed limit, narrower lanes and a substantial police presence until this fall,” park superintendent Alexcy Romero wrote in a statement.”We need to shift traffic so that workers can safely rehabilitate the road surface of Windy Run Bridge.”
The bridge was built back in 1959, and the NPS plans to “restore the bridge deck by removing and replacing its top layer” in order to extend its life.
While work on Windy Run should wrap up before the year is out, the NPS also warns that “all of the bridges and roadway on the northern part of [the parkway] will also soon need maintenance work.” The NPS recently closed a public comment period on some of that planned work, and expects to release more details in the coming months.
Photo via the National Park Service
Some major renovations are on the way for the GW Parkway as it runs from Rosslyn to I-495, and transportation planners want to hear from you about how the highway can improve.
The National Park Service, which maintains the road, is accepting public comments on the project from now through July 14. The effort is a long way from kicking off — the NPS has yet to even find funding for the construction — but officials are dubbing it a “major rehabilitation” of that section of the highway as it nears “the end of its design lifespan.”
According to a press release, the construction work will start at the parkway’s Spout Run Parkway exit and include:
- Making drives smoother by replacing the asphalt pavement
- Repairing stormwater management systems to keep excess water from damaging the road
- Improving safety by strengthening roadside barriers and constructing new concrete curbs
- Rehabilitating parts of two historic, scenic overlooks
- Lengthening entrance and exit lanes at some interchanges
The park service’s current plans also call for the replacement of the stormwater drainage grates that line the parkway, which have long made for a bumpy ride for drivers. The construction would also include improvements at the parkway’s interchange with Chain Bridge Road in McLean, such as adding a new traffic signal to the area.
Anyone looking to comment on the project can do so on the NPS website, or attend a June 27 open house from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Turkey Run Park in McLean.
NPS is tentatively planning on kicking off construction sometime in 2020.
Action Coming on Child Care Initiative — “When it comes to addressing issues related to child care, “this is a year we’re looking to see some concrete action,” [Arlington County Board Chair Katie] Cristol said during a May 30 meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Arlington.” [InsideNova]
Arlington Ridge Closures Continue — Daytime work will continue today on a collapsed 18-inch stormwater pipe, necessitating the daily closure of Arlington Ridge Road between Glebe Road and 23rd Street S. Rain and a leaking water main break slowed crews down last week. [Twitter]
County Board Primary Update — “The two candidates competing in the June 12 primary for the Arlington County Board are what voters might expect of a Democrat in the affluent, educated, rapidly urbanizing enclave — highly prepared, willing to get into the details of local issues and claiming fealty to the county’s tradition of careful, long-term planning.” [Washington Post]
GW Parkway Bridge Work Next Week — Work to repair a bridge carrying the GW Parkway over Windy Run in Arlington is scheduled to begin next week. The work will result in lane closures that could snarl traffic, especially when more impactful repairs start — likely in late July. [WTOP, InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler
Apple Eying Arlington, N. Va. — It’s not just Amazon — Apple is also looking to establish a large new office, potentially in Northern Virginia. Crystal City and the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor are among the sites the world’s most valuable company is considering for a new campus that would bring 20,000 jobs to the area. [Washington Post, Washington Business Journal]
Flood Watch Today — A Flood Watch is in effect today, starting this afternoon and running through Friday night. Heavy rain — 3 to 5 inches — is expected through Friday evening. [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]
W-L Alums Against Name Change — Hundreds of Washington-Lee High School alumni have signed on to oppose the removal of “Lee” from the school’s name. A decision on the name could come later this year. [Falls Church News-Press]
ACPD Detective Honored — Det. Rosa Ortiz has been named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by Arlington County Crime Solvers. Ortiz’s dogged work on cold cases “demonstrates our commitment to pursue cases, no matter how much time has passed,” said Arlington County Police. [Facebook]
Students Plant Trees Along GW Parkway — “Students from the Children’s International School in Rosslyn recently joined their parents and community volunteers in planting 32 trees in a previously weedy area along the southbound George Washington Memorial Parkway ramp to Key Bridge.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
The crash happened this afternoon in the southbound lanes of the parkway in Arlington near Donaldson Run. One person is being evaluated for potentially serious injuries.
The U.S. Park Police helicopter, Eagle 1, was called in to transport the patient, prompting the closure of the entire parkway, according to scanner traffic. Arlington County medics are also on scene.
— WTOP Traffic (@WTOPtraffic) May 10, 2018
File photo from 2014, above, courtesy @CAPT258
(Updated at 4 p.m.) A vehicle has overturned on the GW Parkway near the Roosevelt Bridge.
The crash happened around 3:30 p.m. Initial reports suggest the vehicle crossed several lanes of traffic before running off the side of the southbound GW Parkway.
The vehicle overturned and came to rest on the driver’s side. The occupant of the vehicle was able to get out and was not reported to be seriously injured.
Southbound traffic is slow approaching the crash scene, backing up well past the Key Bridge.
— Chief 288 (@Chief288) April 9, 2018
Image (top) via Google Maps
A pair of eagles and their eaglets have taken up residence along the GW Parkway, around Arlington’s Ft. Bennett Park northwest of Rosslyn.
Glenn Mai, a local resident who spotted the nest, said it is “viewable from Ft. Bennett Park” and “there are currently three chicks in the nest that can be seen with binoculars and/or a spotting scope.”
Another local spotted the nest late last month and has since posted several photos via Twitter.
— Gideon Mountain Hunt (@terriermanUSA) April 5, 2018
— Gideon Mountain Hunt (@terriermanUSA) April 5, 2018
— Gideon Mountain Hunt (@terriermanUSA) March 30, 2018
Bald eagles, according to Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, build nests that are about five to six feet in diameter and two to four feet tall — making the nests the largest among birds. It can take up to three years for a pair of eagles to build a nest.
Photos courtesy of GM and MB/Flickr