VDOT is proposing to convert I-66 inside the Beltway to High Occupancy Toll lanes during peak hours, accessible only to buses, cars with three or more occupants, and those willing to pay a toll. Currently, I-66 is not tolled and is accessible to cars with two or more occupants during peak times.
The proposal also reportedly removes the allowance for Clean Fuel plates, which permits commuters with such plates, issued before July 1, 2011, to drive in the HOV lanes without meeting the passenger limit.
Hybrid vehicle owner, I-66 commuter and community organizer Greg Scott is the founder of a new group called the 66 Alliance. Scott says the new changes will hurt commuters who have used these lanes for years.
“That means that VDOT plans to repeal the commuting rules under which tens of thousands of Northern Virginians have made major life decisions — where to live, where to work, where to send their kids to school, and what vehicles to drive — without so much as a public hearing, notice or comment period,” Scott said in a press release.
The changes appear to be already decided, Scott claimed, based on conversations he had with VDOT officials. He said that his I-66 commute saves him about 30 minutes of travel times each way.
“So the choice would be [tolls] or 10 days of your life every year,” Scott said.
Park Activists Taking It Too Far? — Residents pushing for the Arlington School Board to scrap a plan to build a new elementary school on parkland next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School might have taken their effort to preserve parkland too far. Activists reportedly placed “Save TJ Park” signs in the yards of some school board members overnight before the vote on a new Arlington Public Schools Capital Improvement Plan. School-related activism “seems to be getting out of hand,” writes Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey. [InsideNova]
HOV Enforcement Today — Virginia State Police, Arlington County Police and other D.C. area law enforcement agencies are conducting an HOV enforcement campaign today on I-395, I-66 and other local highways. The enforcement took place during the morning rush hour and will take place again during the evening rush hour. [Associated Press]
WETA Takes Ownership of ‘NewsHour’ — Shirlington-based public TV station WETA has taken ownership of the PBS NewsHour from longtime owner MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. The NewsHour is produced at WETA studios in Shirlington, but has lately been struggling to raise funds for its $25-30 million budget. [New York Times]
The County Board may decide to decrease speed limits on a number of roads throughout Arlington, including the main thoroughfares from Rosslyn to Clarendon. Board members are scheduled to take up the issue at their meeting on Saturday (July 13).
The Department of Environmental Services conducted studies to examine the viability of changing speed limits on several streets. Information was gathered regarding factors such as vehicle speeds, collisions, traffic volumes, pedestrian and bicyclist activity and development patterns. Studies were performed in the following areas: N. Meade Street from Arlington Blvd to Marshall Drive (formerly Jackson Avenue), Clarendon Blvd from Washington Blvd to N. Oak Street, Wilson Blvd from Route 110 to Washington Blvd, and N. Sycamore Street from Washington Blvd to 17th Street N. and N. Roosevelt Street from 17th Street N. to the county line.
The studies indicated that speed limits along N. Meade Street, Clarendon Blvd and Wilson Blvd could be decreased from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour. The N. Sycamore Street/N. Roosevelt Street studies indicated the speed limit could be lowered from 35 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour.
Arlington’s Master Transportation Plan includes a policy to design streets with lower vehicle speeds without impeding or diverting traffic. Part of that involves adopting a 25 mile per hour speed limit in the county’s “downtown” areas where pedestrian traffic is high, such as along Wilson Blvd and Clarendon Blvd.
The Board also has been asked to authorize the correction of speed limit discrepancies along parts of I-395 and I-66. According to VDOT records, the speed in the regular lanes of I-395 from Alexandria to D.C. is 55 miles per hour. The county code, however, was recently discovered to list a portion of the segment as 35 miles per hour, and that the entire segment is 55 miles per hour. There is a similar discrepancy between county code and VDOT records regarding the HOV lanes. Additionally, the county code does not include speed limits for I-66, but VDOT lists the limits at 45 miles per hour and 55 miles per hour, depending on the section in question.
County staff members recommend Board approval for the speed limit discrepancy corrections and for decreasing the speeds along the four stretches of county roads.
The cost of installing new speed limit signs to reflect the changes is estimated to be $5,000. Funds are available in the Fiscal Year 2014 Department of Environmental Services Transportation Engineering and Operations operating budget.
Superstorm Sandy — nee Hurricane Sandy — brought heavy rain and fierce winds to Arlington Monday night and early Tuesday morning.
Arlington was “spared the worst of the storm’s impact,” according to county officials, but Sandy and her 60 mph wind gusts knocked down dozens of trees across the county, many of which fell onto roadways and into houses.
As of 8:45 a.m., Arlington County was reporting 22 incidents of trees falling onto or into houses. No injuries were reported and authorities made sure all residents were safe. In fact, there are no known storm-related fatalities or injuries, according to county officials.
About 40 roads were still blocked by downed trees, including Washington Boulevard at N. Utah Street in Ballston, seen above. Crews were working to remove the trees, but some fell across power lines, requiring assistance from Dominion.
Approximately 20 traffic signals are not functioning this morning. All dark intersections should be treated as an all-way stop.
As of 9:10 a.m., Dominion was reporting 15,586 customers without power in Arlington, down slightly from more than 18,000 last night.
Statewide, from Sunday to 6:00 this morning, Virginia State Police responded to 2,549 traffic crashes and disabled vehicles, and received a total of 4,605 calls for service. At the height of the storm, state police say they were fielding 155 calls for service an hour. VDOT, meanwhile, has lifted HOV restrictions on I-395, I-95, I-66 and the Dulles Toll Road today.
While winds aren’t quite a strong today, Arlington officials say fallen debris, high standing water and remaining weather impacts are still making travel hazardous.
“We continue to urge caution,” the county said. “Conditions remain potentially dangerous outside. Avoid going out onto the roads. Never drive into standing water.”
Those who must travel today will eventually be able to do so via Metro. The transit agency says it will restore limited bus and rail service starting at 2:00 p.m. Trains and buses will operate on a Sunday schedule.
Update at 10:25 a.m. — Arlington Public Schools says a decision about reopening schools on Wednesday will be made “by early this evening.”
VDOT has lifted all rush hour HOV restrictions on I-66 inside the Beltway through Tuesday.
The agency says it made the decision to waive the HOV requirement today and tomorrow in order to “help ease delays on arterial routes due to signal outages.” Across Northern Virginia, VDOT says there are more than 80 traffic signals affected by power outages and about 50 roads closed due to downed power lines and trees.
Regular HOV restrictions will remain in effect on I-395 and on I-66 outside the Beltway. HOV rules on I-66 will also be waived on Wednesday due to the July 4 holiday.
Separately, the Office of Personnel Management announced today that it will extend its unscheduled leave/unscheduled telework policy through Tuesday for federal government employees affected by Friday’s storm.
‘SmokeHouse’ Coming to Pentagon City — Two veterans of The Palm restaurant are teaming up to create “Epic SmokeHouse,” described as a cross “between a fine dining steakhouse and a barbecue joint.” The restaurant will reportedly be located inside the Millennium at Metropolitan Park apartment building at 1330 S. Fair Street, near Pentagon City mall. [Washington City Paper]
County Launches ‘Green Streets’ Program — Arlington County has launched a pilot program to build bioretention systems into road medians, in an effort to remove pollutants from stormwater runoff before it reaches the Chesapeake Bay. [Connection Newspapers]
Hundreds Busted in HOV Crackdown — A Capitol Region HOV enforcement crackdown on Tuesday netted nearly 650 traffic summonses and arrests, including nearly 450 HOV violations. In Virginia, the enforcement was conducted by Virginia State Police, Arlington County police and other local law enforcement agencies. [CBS Local]
Expect Heavy Memorial Day Traffic — More motorists are expected to hit the roads in the D.C. area this Memorial Day weekend than at any time since the start of the recession, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. [WJLA]
AIM Offers Video Production Camp — Arlington Independent Media is offering a summer video production camp for youth ages 10 to 13. The two week camp will allow participants to “develop a story idea, write a script, shoot footage, and edit their own short production” with the guidance of media professionals. [Arlington Independent Media]
Flickr pool photo by Damiec
Bikes Stolen From Arlington Found on Craigslist — A woman who had her bike stolen from the Ballston Metro station last month ended up finding the bike for sale on Craigslist by a dealer in the District. When she went to D.C. police for help recovering the bike, however, she was reportedly told that police there can’t help her because she’s an Arlington resident. [DCist]
Pike Development Voted Down by Planning Commission — Last week the Arlington County Planning Commission voted against plans for a residential development at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road. Planning commissioners objected to the project’s plans for routing traffic only onto eastbound Columbia Pike and southbound Glebe Road, as well as to the composite siding that will be used to cover the buildings. The vote against the project was made despite the fact that it complies with existing zoning codes. [Arlington Mercury]
Va. HOV Rules Clarified — “Virginia’s rules for who’s legal in the HOV lanes are a mess — and they keep changing,” writes Robert “Dr. Gridlock” Thomson, who goes on to explain what exactly the current HOV rules are for highways like I-395 and I-66. [Dr. Gridlock]
Real Estate Rise in Arlington — April was a good month for real estate sellers in Arlington. The number of sales and the average sales price were both up by double digits compared to one year prior. The average residential real estate sales price in Arlington is now $613,421 — $809,450 for single family homes only. [Sun Gazette]
Options for Recycling a Computer — If you have some old computer equipment you need to get rid of, there are several options for recycling a computer in and around Arlington. [Arlington Virginia Computer Repair]
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
The “I-66 Multimodal Study,” as its called, began in July 2011. Study organizers held public meetings in December 2011, are scheduled to hold additional public meetings in April, and are expected to wrap up in May with a final report.
“This study will identify a range of multimodal and corridor management solutions (operational, transit, bike, pedestrian, and highway) that can be implemented to reduce highway and transit congestion and improve overall mobility within the I-66 corridor, between I-495 and the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge,” VDOT says on its web site.
Currently, I-66 is HOV 2+ in the peak direction during peak hours, with no other restrictions on the reverse peak direction or during off-peak hours. With the exception of the recently “spot improvements,” I-66 consists of two travel lanes in each direction.
Among the theoretical options the study is considering for I-66, as outlined at a recent public meeting:
- A. No new I-66 lanes. Peak direction to be bus/HOV 3+ only during peak hours. Reverse peak direction to be bus/HOV 2+ only during peak hours. No off-peak restrictions.
- B. Convert I-66 into an electronically tolled bus/HOV/high occupancy toll (HOT) highway. Single occupancy vehicles and HOV-2 vehicles would be tolled in both directions, 24/7. Buses and HOV 3+ vehicles would not be tolled. Optionally, a third travel lane may be added to I-66 in each direction.
- C1. Lane added in each direction on I-66. Peak direction to be bus/HOV 3+ only during peak hours. One reverse peak lane to be bus/HOV 2+ only during peak hours. No off-peak restrictions.
- C2. Lane added in each direction on I-66. Peak direction to be bus/HOV 3+ only during peak hours. All reverse peak lanes to be bus/HOV 2+ only during peak hours. No off-peak restrictions.
In order to make your holiday traveling easier, the Virginia Department of Transportation is suspending most lane closures during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Here’s what VDOT said in a release:
RICHMOND — The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is clearing a path for travelers this holiday season by lifting lane closures over the extended Christmas and New Year’s weekends.
VDOT will suspend lane closures from noon Friday, Dec. 23, to noon Tuesday, Dec. 27, and again from noon Friday, Dec. 30, to noon Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012.
“We want everyone to arrive safely at their destinations during the year-end holidays,” said VDOT Commissioner Greg Whirley. “We are opening lanes where appropriate to increase lane capacity on our interstates and other major roads. I encourage motorists to do their part to keep one another safe by obeying all traffic laws, staying alert and engaged behind the wheel, and being courteous to your fellow motorists.”
While temporary work zones are lifted during the holiday period, VDOT is always prepared to mobilize in case of inclement weather. VDOT will monitor weather forecasts for any snow or ice that could affect travel over the holidays. Its offices and snow-removal equipment will be fully staffed in the event of any accumulation.
In addition, the Northern Virginia High Occupancy Vehicle Lane schedule is as follows:
The I-95/395 reversible lanes will be open to all traffic:
- Southbound from 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23 until 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24
- Northbound from 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24 until 6 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 27 when HOV-3 takes effect
- HOV restrictions on I-95, 395 and 66 are lifted on Monday, Dec. 26
The I-95/395 reversible lanes will be open to all traffic:
- Southbound from 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30 until 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31
- Northbound from 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 31 until 6 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3, when HOV-3 takes effect
- HOV restrictions on I-95, 395 and 66 are lifted on Monday, Jan. 2
Free Coffee Today — 7-Eleven stores are offering a free medium coffee, any flavor, from 7:00 to 11:00 this morning. [Facebook]
Marshals Service Sheds Staff Cars — The free ride is over for dozens of employees at U.S. Marshals Service headquarters in Crystal City, the Wall Street Journal reports. The law enforcement agency is sending more than 100 take-home vehicles, including SUVs and high-powered sedans, from its headquarters to its field offices. Since the cars were law enforcement vehicles with emergency lights, they allowed Marshals Service employees to use HOV lanes on their commutes to work. Now, only about 30 headquarters employees will have that privilege. [Wall Street Journal]
Lackluster Fundraising for Arlington GOP — The Arlington County Republican Committee has been running a fiscal deficit since the beginning of the year. Even with the November election approaching, the organization was only able to raise $4 during the first 28 days of September. [Sun Gazette]
Grand Opening for Yoga Studio — The new Little River Yoga studio at 6025 Wilson Blvd will be celebrating its grand opening on Friday with a weekend of free classes, massages, and giveaways, according to owner Stair Calhoun. [Little River Yoga]
We’re riding along with Virginia State Police this morning as law enforcement agencies region-wide conduct a “Capitol Region HOV Awareness Day” mass enforcement operation.
So far drivers on I-395 have been well-behaved — we’ve only seen two HOV violators in the past hour and a half.
That will likely change, we’re told, as the commute goes on. Typically, more drivers will try to test their luck near the end of the morning rush hour.
The most surprising observation so far? The number of hybrid and clean fuel vehicles on the road. Such vehicles, with clean special fuel license plates issued before July 1, 2006, are exempt from HOV rules on I-395 and I-95. Hybrid drivers, it seems, take full advantage of that exemption.
The Arlington County Police Department is partnering with Virginia State Police and other local law enforcement agencies to conduct a “Capitol Region HOV Awareness Day.” Officers will be conducting “saturation patrols” during the morning and evening rush hours in an effort to boost enforcement of High Occupancy Vehicle laws on I-395, I-66 and other local highways.
Two HOV Awareness Day operations last year resulted in police issuing more than 2,300 summonses and arresting two fugitives.
Authorities released the following press release about the operation this evening.
Virginia and Maryland law enforcement agencies are partnering June 14, 2011, to conduct another “Capitol Region HOV Awareness Day.”
The comprehensive traffic-safety enforcement operation will involve High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) saturation patrols by Maryland State Police, Virginia State Police, Alexandria Police, Arlington County Police,
Fairfax County Police and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police (MWAA PD).
Virginia law enforcement will be targeting HOV violators on Interstates 66, 95, 395, and the Dulles Toll Road. Maryland State Police will be conducting its HOV enforcement efforts on Interstate 270 and Route 50.
During both morning and evening rush hours, law enforcement will be utilizing moving and stationary enforcement methods to detect and deter HOV violators. Police will be adjusting their enforcement methods throughout the operation in order to prevent traffic backups and added congestion.
With the increased presence of troopers and officers on the highways, motorists are reminded of Virginia’s “Move Over” law. The “Move Over” law requires motorists to change to another travel lane or, when not able to, to cautiously passing emergency personnel stopped out on the road.
Two multi-state HOV enforcement operations were conducted in May and July of 2010 and yielded a combined total of 1,669 HOV violations. The one-day initiatives also resulted in more than 2,300 summonses and arrests for other violations and offenses, to include the arrests of two fugitives.
Police say 28-year-old Juanita Maxwell ignored orders to stay in her vehicle, then refused to comply with other police commands. According to the police report, she called 911 and then fought officers as they attempted to place her under arrest.
Maxwell was charged with resisting arrest and false summoning of law enforcement. She also received summons for an HOV violation and a window tint violation. She was released on a $1,250 bond.
Four people have been injured, two seriously, in a wreck in the northbound HOV lanes of the 14th Street Bridge.
Nearly a dozen police, fire and medic units from Arlington and the District have responded to the accident scene. Northbound HOV traffic on I-395 is backed up to Washington Boulevard.
Several vehicles were involved in the collision.
On WTOP’s Ask the Governor program this morning, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was asked about the state law that allows vehicles with clean fuel license plates (like hybrids) to travel on HOV lanes without occupancy restrictions.
“Is there any point at which that will formally and permanently be canceled?” a caller asked the governor, adding that single-occupant hybrids “clog up” the HOV lanes during rush hour.
McDonnell, who signed a one-year extension of the law in March, noted that the law was “put in place in previous administrations… to create an incentive for using fuel-efficient cars.”
McDonnell said the exemption, which expires on June 30, 2011, will be examined as part of his administration’s transportation effort.
“The overall idea behind these… high occupancy lanes is to reduce congestion, and one person in a car doesn’t do that,” McDonnell said. “It’s part of one of the overall things that we’re looking at in the Department of Transportation in order to get people moving faster. Being able to have more people in one vehicle, or in rail or other modalities, is part of the solution.”