Arlington, VA

(Updated at 5 p.m.) Arlington County Police are now on scene of a big traffic jam on Columbia Pike reportedly caused by a food giveaway.

Initial reports suggest that the Mega Market Express, at 5001 Columbia Pike in the Pike Plaza shopping center, is giving away hundreds of meals as part of a promotion announced on Facebook. Police were not informed of the giveaway in advance, according to scanner traffic.

A large crowd has gathered around the store and Columbia Pike is jammed with traffic in both directions. Streets approaching the Pike like S. Dinwiddie Street are also at a standstill.

“This is absolutely insane,” said ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott, after arriving on scene. “No one is practicing social distancing.”

Officers are working to spread out the crowd and get traffic moving again. As of 5 p.m., the store had closed and was beginning to hand out certificates to let people pick up their giveaway items at a later time, according to scanner traffic.

Arlington’s emergency alert system is encouraging people to avoid the area.

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Arlington has the 25th worst commute in the country, according to a new set of rankings.

The county was ranked just a couple of spots up from cities like Phoenix and San Jose, California. The rankings take into account the average commute time, the percentage increase in commute time over the past five years, percentage of workers with a one hour or longer commute, and median income.

The study by the website SmartAsset found that Arlingtonians have a 30.1 minute commute on average, an increase of 2.4 percent compared to five years ago. Just over 7 percent of Arlington residents have an hour or longer commute.

Surprisingly, New York and Los Angeles — two cities with notorious commutes — only ranked No. 9 and 12 respectively. That’s despite NYC having the longest average commute (42 minutes). The top three worst commutes, according to SmartAsset, belong to North Las Vegas; Hialeah, Florida; and Philadelphia.

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(Updated at 6:45 p.m.) Some local roads around Arlington are becoming snow-covered as moderate-to-heavy snow continues fall into the early evening hours.

Early dismissals for the federal government and local schools resulted in an early rush hour, with I-66, I-395 and Columbia Pike jammed as of 2:45 p.m. Conditions have since improved somewhat, but slow traffic remains on large portions of 395 in Arlington.

Some 1-2 inches of wet snow is expected to fall before the flakes start tapering off around 5 p.m.

“Snow is getting heavier and visibility is dropping,” VDOT said this afternoon. “There’s not much accumulation on the roads, but even a little bit can causes spin outs if people drive like it’s a dry road. We’ve got lots of trucks out treating, but plan for a longer commute.”

ART and Metro buses are continuing to operate on a normal weekday service schedule, though ART warned of “minor delays depending on weather conditions this evening and overnight as snow, and any remaining rain may freeze.”

Most Arlington County facilities and offices remained open this afternoon, though county-run recreational programs after 2 p.m. were cancelled. Trash and recycling collection were suspended for the rest of the day earlier this afternoon.

Though arterial routes and highways were mostly wet, local officials encouraged anyone on the roads to take caution.

“As they head home, commuters and drivers should exercise caution and know the safety rules for dealing with winter road emergencies,” AAA Mid-Atlantic said in a press release. “Some research suggests the first snowy day of the year is ‘substantially more dangerous’ for drivers. What’s more, some earlier research revealed some drivers are ‘more likely to become involved in a crash during the first snowfall of the season compared to other snow days.’ Even so, ‘the first winter storms of the season usually result in numerous crashes because people fail to adjust their driving habits to the road conditions,’ area police and transportation officials advise.”

More from Virginia State Police:

Virginians are still advised to do the following if traveling today:

  • Use headlights. Increasing your visibility helps you to avoid slick and dangerous spots on the road, as well as helps other drivers see you better. Also, it’s a state law that if the windshield wipers are active, then headlights must be on.
  • Slow your speed. Though state police works closely with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to identify problem areas on Virginia’s highways during storms, drivers still must drive for conditions. Slowing your speed gives you more time to safely react and avoid a crash. Drive your vehicle based on your ability to properly maintain control of your vehicle.
  • Don’t tailgate. You need increased stopping distance on slick road surfaces. Give yourself more space between vehicles traveling ahead of you in order to avoid rear end collisions.
  • Buckle Up. Most crashes that occur during winter weather are caused by vehicles sliding into guardrails, off the road or other vehicles. Wearing your seat belt protects you from being thrown around the inside of your vehicle and suffering serious injury in a crash.
  • Check Your Vehicle. Make sure your vehicle is in good working order for the conditions. Fill up the tank in advance. Check windshield wipers, windshield wiper fluid, tire tread, battery life, etc.
  • Don’t leave home without a window scraper, blanket, bottled water, snack, cell phone charger and flashlight.

Forecasters and local officials are warning of a freeze overnight that could turn roads and sidewalks icy, in time for the morning commute.

Some photos above are via users on our Facebook page. Additional snow photos around Arlington, via Twitter, are below after the jump.

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Police and firefighters are on scene of a crash along Route 50 that left two people trapped in an overturned van.

The crash happened shortly before 8 a.m. on the ramp from Glebe Road to westbound Route 50.

The ramp and two lanes of westbound Route 50 are closed due to the emergency response. Morning rush hour commuters should expect slow traffic on both directions on Route 50.

The trapped occupants of the vans were quickly freed by rescuers. They’re injured but expected to be okay.

Earlier this morning a portion of eastbound I-66 was closed at Washington Blvd in Arlington for a reported multi-vehicle crash.

More on the Route 50 crash via social media:

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A woman has been injured after striking a deer along Spout Run Parkway tonight.

The crash happened between the GW Parkway and Lorcom Lane, during a foggy evening commute.

Initial reports suggest the woman was bleeding profusely from the face after the force of the impact shattered the car’s windshield. The deer was found dead nearby.

Traffic maps show increasingly heavy westbound traffic on Spout Run, starting shortly after the exit from the GW Parkway.

Map via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

A Few Flakes Expected Tonight — “In the evening, precipitation will probably take the form of scattered snow showers over most of the region, ending before midnight. Little to no accumulation is expected.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter/@NWS_BaltWash]

Kudos to the Leaf Collectors — “Hats of to these guys. Leaf collectors jumping out of their truck to help my elderly neighbor rake her leaves.” [Twitter/@KathieNotnow]

Heavy Traffic at DCA — Sunday, which was said to be the busiest travel day of the year, saw big backups on the roads at and around Reagan National Airport. [Twitter/@LukeBerndt, Twitter/@EvanLambertTV]

Arlington Seeking Park Ranger — “Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) currently has a vacancy for Park Ranger… Park Rangers patrol designated Arlington County Parks; provide visitor information and programming services; support other County programs (maintenance, sports, recreation); and… help ensure park security and visitor safety.” [Washington Post]

Yorktown Falls in Regional Final — “It was no easy path for the Yorktown Patriots finishing second in the region tournament. After a five-point first-round victory, third-seeded Yorktown (11-2) knocked off the host and second-seed Madison Warhawks, 25-10, in the semifinals. Then Nov. 30, Yorktown fell to the juggernaut, top seed, host and undefeated Westfield Bulldogs, 35-7, in the 6D North Region Tournament high-school football title game.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) Expect heavy traffic at the airports and on local highways as more than a million people depart the D.C. area for the Thanksgiving holiday.

According to Reagan National Airport, peak travel days include today (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday), plus Saturday and Sunday for those returning from their Thanksgiving vacation.

Travelers are advised to take Metro and use terminal garages due to ongoing construction for a new 14-gate concourse at DCA, titled “Project Journey,” that has reduced lane capacity on the Arrivals roadway in front of Terminal B/C. Meanwhile, big storms affecting large portions of the country may bring flight delays and cancellations.

On the roads, AAA Mid-Atlantic is predicting a “big exodus,” with the worst traffic expected tomorrow.

“As a result, holiday travelers exiting the area and those staying put for the holiday, will encounter heavier traffic congestion, as well as travel delays that are almost three times longer than the normal delays — if there is such a thing around here — during the afternoon rush hours on any given Wednesday.”

Another traffic tracking company agrees, saying 3-5 p.m. on Wednesday should bring the worst traffic on D.C. area highways and arterials.

As Thanksgiving is one of the worst times of the year for crashes, Virginia State Police will be participating in Operation C.A.R.E. — Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort — starting tomorrow and running until December 1. The program, will increase police visibility and traffic enforcement efforts throughout the five-day holiday period.

The Arlington County Police Department, meanwhile, has partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a high-visibility “Click It or Ticket” campaign, starting today and running until December 6.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority had the following tips for travelers, after the jump.

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Morning Notes

Advocates Pushing for Less Parking at HQ2 — “Amazon wants employees at its new Northern Virginia headquarters to commute car-free to work… So why does the development’s current design include an underground parking garage with nearly 2,000 spaces — guaranteeing that a significant chunk of Amazon’s workforce will drive to work?” [Greater Greater Washington]

Express Lanes Causing 14th Street Bridge Slowdown? — Some commuters have been taking to social media to gripe about what they say is heavier traffic caused by the I-395 Express Lanes: “This morning the express lanes made 395N regular lanes undriveable. The problem is they closed off the 14th street bridge hov to regular traffic, which is creating a tremendous clog point. Its now taking 30 mins just to cross the 14th street bridge.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Northam in Arlington Today — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is scheduled to attend the Governor’s Transportation Conference this morning at a hotel in Crystal City. [Cvent]

‘Feuerwehrmann’ Joins ACFD for Three Weeks — “Two Arlington County Fire Department crews had a unique opportunity recently when they welcomed a fellow firefighter from the Aachen Fire Department in Germany.  Lieutenant Sebastian Ganser, a firefighter, paramedic, and fire instructor in Arlington’s sister city of Aachen, Germany, spent three weeks with Station 5C in Crystal City and Station 2B in Ballston — living and working alongside Arlington’s firefighters and paramedics.” [Arlington County]

Long-Distance Runners Arriving in Arlington Soon — “Josh and Brian will be running roughly 500 miles from Massachusetts National Cemetery to Arlington National Cemetery in VA for your donations. This journey will take between 10-14 days averaging 40-50 miles per day. They will start on November 11th, 2019 (Veterans Day) and will only stop to eat and sleep until they make it to Arlington, VA.” [Mission 22]

Road Closures for Annual 5K — “The 5th annual Jennifer Bush-Lawson Memorial 5K Race will take place on Saturday, November 23, 2019. The Arlington County Police Department will implement several road closures from approximately 8:00 AM until 11:00 AM to accommodate this event.” [Arlington County]

Planetarium Boosters to Stay Active During Closure — “The Arlington school system’s lone planetarium will be closed for about a year and a half starting later this month, as construction takes place turning the nearby Arlington Education Center building into classroom space. But leaders with the Friends of Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium say they will fill the gap with programming elsewhere during the closure.” [InsideNova]

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The much-hyped Popeyes chicken sandwich is back and causing some traffic chaos in at least one corner of Arlington.

The sandwich returned to Popeyes restaurants on Sunday, weeks after the chain sold out nationwide amid a national craze. With the return of the sandwich, however, has come problems — some more serious than others.

Around lunchtime today, the sandwich was causing a traffic jam in front of the Popeyes at 4675 King Street — on Arlington’s western border, not far from Wakefield High School.

One lane was effectively blocked along westbound King Street approaching the Walter Reed/Beauregard Street intersection as drive-thru customers waited over 40 minutes to get their hands on the savory combination of bread, fried chicken and sauce. In the eastbound lanes, drivers trying to turn left into the cathedral of cluck also caused heavy traffic.

Leaving the restaurant, college student Bryce Davis of Ft. Washington, Md. was empty-handed.

“I waited at least 30 minutes and left without a sandwich,” he told ARLnow. “The wait is ridiculous. With social media and everything, there is too much emphasis placed on just a chicken sandwich. I heard it’s pretty good, though.”

For Nick Jirasophakul, an Alexandrian who works at a local car dealership, the sandwich was worth the slog.

“I think it’s worth the wait,” he said, chowing down with coworkers. “The sauce really ties it together. The sauce is good and it’s crispy.”

Similar to the drive-thru wait, Jirasophakul and his coworkers reported waiting about 40 minutes inside.

“This is my second time” getting the sandwich, Jirasophakul said. “It’s better the second time.”

Photos and reporting by staff photographer Jay Westcott

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Morning Notes

Climate Change Protests in D.C.Updated at 8:45 a.m. — As expected, demonstrator are blocking a number of key intersections in D.C. this morning to protest against government inaction in tackling climate change. The roadblocks have caused major backups on northbound I-395. [WTOP, Twitter]

APS Implements New Verification System — “Arlington school officials say a new, higher-tech effort to gather requisite start-of-school information from parents is moving forward as expected. The new online-verification process has been completed by 54 percent of families as of Sept. 19, Superintendent Cintia Johnson told School Board members.” [InsideNova]

County Board Approves Pike Redevelopment — “A new six-story apartment building and ground floor retail will replace an aging shopping center and surface parking lot at the northeast corner of South Glebe Road and Columbia Pike, under a plan approved today by the Arlington County Board.” [Arlington County]

Worker Hurt Friday in Madison Manor — “Scanner: ACFD on scene of a worker who fell out of a tree on the 900 block of N. Potomac Street in Madison Manor. Being transported by ambulance to a local trauma center with potentially serious but non-life threatening injuries.” [Twitter]

Post Praises Swell Sausages at Ballston’s Bronson — “The five kinds of housemade sausages emerged from the kitchen tinkerings of Barley Mac chef Chris Harman and co-owner Mike Cordero, Koh says. Both the bratwurst and the wiener, reminiscent of a hot dog that spent a semester abroad, have a pleasantly snappy casing and a peppery pungency. The Bronson is rightly proud of its sausages, which are available to-go from a case at the front.” [Washington Post]

Ballston Harris Teeter Design Event — “Come share your thoughts on the consolidated design for the public space at Harris Teeter on N. Glebe Rd at an open house Mon., Sept. 23 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. in the Arlington Room at the Medstar Capitals Iceplex (accessible from the 8th floor). This design is based on prior community feedback. Don’t forget your sweater! The Arlington Room is next to the rink and you might get a little chilly.” [Arlington County]

APS Trying to Fix Bus Issues — “Arlington school officials continue to work out start-of-school transportation kinks, with a goal of having everything running as expected by the end of the month… ‘We have heard from families who are still experiencing challenges,’ Superintendent Cintia Johnson told School Board members on Sept. 19. ‘We’re working to resolve all the concerns.'” [InsideNova]

New LEED Certification in Ballston — “4201 Wilson Boulevard, a 595,000-square-foot office building at Ballston Exchange in Arlington, VA, has earned LEED Silver certification, making it the first office building in the state of Virginia to certify using the LEED v4 Building Design + Construction green building rating system from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The building constitutes one half of the 776,000-square-foot Ballston Exchange development.” [Press Release]

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(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) Planned climate change protests in D.C. may cause major disruptions during Monday morning’s commute.

Arlington County Police are warning those driving into the District to expect delays. Also expected: an increased police presence in Arlington.

“The National Capital Region may experience traffic disruptions during the morning commute on Monday, September 23, 2019, due to protests in Washington D.C.,” ACPD said in an advisory Friday afternoon. “Commuters are encouraged to follow local news reports and adjust travel as necessary. Police will monitor conditions and the public can expect to see an increased law enforcement presence throughout Arlington County.”

Protesters affiliated with the group Shut Down DC plan to block key roads and intersections to “bring traffic and business as usual to a standstill.” Their goal, according to Washingtonian, is “creating major havoc… to get people in power to pay attention and enact change” to address climate change.

“Shut Down says its blockades are being strategically placed to impact the most powerful in DC: the intersections chosen will all be near places of money or power; the group is staying out of the way of public transportation,” Washingtonian reported.

Monday’s planned action follows a worldwide climate change strike today. Millions took to the streets in some 150 countries around the globe, organizers said, while a youth-organized event in Arlington drew dozens to the Courthouse area.

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