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VDOT Finalizes Plans for W&OD Trail Bridge Over Lee Highway

Transportation planners will soon unveil the final design of a new bike and pedestrian bridge stretching over Lee Highway in East Falls Church.

VDOT plans to show off the finalized schematics for the Washington & Old Dominion Trail bridge at a community meeting next month, capping off a design process that drew plenty of flak from neighbors last year. The new bridge, which is being built as part of widening work on I-66 eastbound in the area, is designed to replace the trail’s current crossing at the highway’s intersection with Fairfax Drive and offer a safer environment for walkers and cyclists.

Officials had initially proposed a design for the bridge that featured a trussed roof and red paint, yet neighbors objected to those features, as well as the bridge’s potential to disrupt long-range plans for the area’s transportation networks.

But VDOT has since tweaked its design to address the most controversial features, proposing a bridge that’s gray in color without a trussed roof, in a bid to address some of those concerns. Even still, some questions about noise walls and public art lingered during a meeting on the project last year.

Planners will look to address those worries and more at an Oct. 11 meeting at Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd) from 6:30-8:30 p.m., where they’ll deliver a presentation on “final design plans and aesthetic details.”

If all goes as planned, construction is set to start on the bridge by spring 2019 and run through fall 2020.

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Overnight Eastbound I-66 Closures Start Sunday

Starting Sunday (Aug. 26), I-66 will be hit with overnight lane closures. Over the next two months, lane closures will occur between 9:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. on the eastbound lanes.

The first lane closures will close the outside lane to allow crews to strengthen and repave the shoulder. Once this work is completed, the lanes will shift to allow crews to work on widening the median. 

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) warned that late-night travellers to expect delays and urged drivers to use caution near road work.

The repairs are part of the broader I-66 Eastbound Widening Project expected to add a new lane along four miles of I-66 by fall 2020.

The project comes with several local improvements, including new sound barriers, a new bridge over Lee Highway for the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, and constructing a new direct access ramp from I-66 to the West Falls Church Metro Station.

File photo

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Morning Notes

County Raises $40,000 for Citizenship Fund, Urges Donors to Give Elsewhere — Arlington officials say they have more than enough money in a newly created fund to help immigrants afford fees associated with the naturalization process. Only four people have applied for the money so far, and the county is recommending residents save their money for other nonprofits instead. [Washington Post]

Flooding Hits Arlington… Again — Last night’s intense storms prompted yet more flooding, including some scary conditions on Lee Highway. Some indoor flooding was even on tap for SER Restaurant in Ballston. [Twitter, Twitter]

A Soft Opening for New Japanese Barbecue Restaurant in Clarendon — Gyu-Kaku, on N. Hudson Street just across from Don Tito, is now accepting customers by reservation only. The first D.C.-area location for the chain previously ran into some permit problems, but is now back on track. [Washington City Paper]

Dockless Scooters Vex Local Policymakers — Just as Arlington officials were caught a bit off guard by the arrival of Bird’s electric scooters last month, other localities are mulling the best way to craft policies for the vehicles. Alexandria has started to see some scooters from both the county and D.C. pop up in its borders, but leaders are taking a “wait and see” approach. [Washington Business Journal]

Police Target Solo Drivers on I-66 Inside the Beltway — Virginia officials want to crack down on anyone violating the HOV policies on I-66 in the morning and evening rush hours, in a bid to make sure the new tolls are working as intended. [WTOP]

County Volunteers Get a Round of Applause — Volunteer Arlington held its second annual “Arlington Cares” event in Ballston to laud people giving back around the county. [InsideNova]

Photo via @thelastfc

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Morning Notes

Flash Flood Watch Remains, Though Rain is Subsiding — Weather watchers warn that a risk of floods remains through this afternoon, but things are set to get steadily dryer as Thursday and Friday get closer. [NWS]

Are Tolls Worth It on Virginia’s HOT Lanes? — A new study shows it’s a bit of a mixed bag for commuters, though anyone hopping on I-66 instead of Route 29 or Route 50 is probably getting their money’s worth. Researchers don’t see those arterial roads as viable alternatives, given the time savings 66 still offers during rush hour. [WTOP]

Metro Remains Less-Than-Ideal for Blind Riders — Months after a blind woman fell off a platform due to problems with Metro’s new 7000-series trains, the transit service is still scrambling to improve conditions for the visually impaired. [Washington Post]

Nearby: A Tornado Touched Down Near Thomas Jefferson High School — Officials believe a twister made a roughly one-minute-long appearance near the school, around the border of Alexandria and Annandale. [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo via wolfkann

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Morning Notes

Flash Flooding Hits Arlington — Yesterday’s rain closed a series of roads around the county. First responders had to pull 40 people from 25 stranded vehicles on the G.W. Parkway, which was closed for several hours due to standing water. [Twitter]

How to Beat the I-66 Tolls Inside the Beltway — A new study suggests the best way to save some cash on I-66 is to leave home early, particularly before 6:30 a.m. [WTOP]

Zoning Problems Bedevil Carlin Springs Daycare — The Bright Horizons Child Care and Education Center, located on the county-owned Carlin Springs Road property, could be bound for demolition, even though the county doesn’t have enough money to pursue long-term plans at the site. [Arlington Connection]

Tree Activists Blast the County Board — Local conservationists took the Board to task on a variety of tree canopy issues Saturday, including the fate of the large dawn redwood tree set to be cut down in Williamsburg. However, Board members lamented there’s not much they can do to meet the activists’ demands. [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo via Dennis Dimick

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Police Still Looking for Wrong-Way Driver Who Caused Head-On I-66 Crash

(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Arlington police are still searching for a man who drove the wrong way on I-66 Sunday (July 8) and caused a major accident before fleeing the scene.

County police have charged 28-year-old Victor Ebai of Springfield with felony hit and run and eluding police in connection with the incident, which ended only after he crashed head-on into another car near Rosslyn on I-66.

Police subsequently revealed Monday (July 9) that officers pulled another man from Ebai’s vehicle after it caught on fire following the crash. The passenger was transported to George Washington University Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage says police are not planning to charge the passenger with a crime. U.S. Secret Service spokesman Shawn Holtzclaw added that his agency isn’t pursuing charges against the man either. Neither would say if police believed the man was in the car voluntarily or against his will.

Holtzclaw also confirmed early reports that the victim in the head-on crash was a federal government worker who was heading to work in D.C. at the time of the crash. They’re withholding the victim’s identity, but did say they were taken to Virginia Hospital Center with non-life threatening injuries.

The Secret Service is involved in the investigation because the incident started when one of its agents noticed a red Chevrolet Sonic driving the wrong way early Sunday morning on I Street NW in D.C. The agent tried to pull the driver over, but he kept driving, continuing to drive against traffic in the eastbound lanes of I-66.

The two cars collided shortly afterward, prompting a large emergency response. Police believe Ebai managed to flee the area on foot, escaping despite a search for Ebai that involved the Fairfax County police helicopter.

Arlington County police are leading the investigation into the incident.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Police Searching for I-66 Wrong-Way Driver — Police are still looking for the driver who crashed into another vehicle while driving the wrong way on I-66 near Rosslyn early Sunday morning, after being chased by a uniformed Secret Service officer who spotted the car driving the wrong way in D.C. [Fox 5, WTOP, Twitter]

Vehicle Crashes into House in Barcroft — A vehicle that was driven into the side of a house in the Barcroft neighborhood Sunday morning caused only minor damage to the building, according to the fire department. [Twitter]

Truck Brings Down Power Lines in Long Branch Creek — “Downed power lines caused around 1,000 customers to lose power in Arlington County on Saturday. Dominion Power said a truck ‘snagged’ the lines and broke two of the power poles around 8:15 a.m. It also damaged some vehicles in the area.” [WJLA]

Runner Struck By Car Hopes to Run Marathon — A local runner who was struck by a car while running recently hopes to run the Marine Corps Marathon in the fall despite suffering two broken bones in her foot. [Twitter]

Projects to Transform Crystal City — Six major transportation projects “will play a significant role in transforming the Crystal City area in the coming years.” [Bisnow]

Arlington Teens Arrested in Ocean City — Three teens from Arlington were arrested in Ocean City, Maryland after they pulled over to ask police officers about parking in the area and the officers “immediately recognized the strong odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle.” They searched the car and found “roughly a half a pound of marijuana along with prescription drugs, methamphetamine, brass knuckles, an assisted opening knife and several items of drug paraphernalia,” plus “a full face mask in the vehicle [and] a .25 caliber handgun.” [The Dispatch]

Dems Still Distributing Print Newsletter — Print may be waning as a medium, but the Arlington County Democratic Committee is still going all-in on its printed campaign newsletter, “The Messenger.” The party is recruiting more than 400 volunteers to distribute the newsletter to homes throughout the county. [InsideNova]

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Construction Kicks Off on Eastbound I-66 Widening, New Lane to Open in 2020

Construction kicked off this morning (Thursday) on a persistently congested section of eastbound I-66 with a ceremonial groundbreaking on Fairfax Drive.

The estimated $125 million project will add a lane to stretch approximately four miles inside the Beltway — from the Dulles Connector Road to Fairfax Drive — while mostly maintaining the existing right of way.

VDOT plans to complete construction of the lane in fall 2020. There will be night time lane closures along the project route throughout the summer to accommodate construction, according to information presented at a June 5 community meeting.

Night time closures will continue on a more limited basis through summer 2019. By the end of this summer, VDOT plans to begin primarily conducting work during the day without lane closures.

The findings of a noise analysis in the fall will potentially allow VDOT to incorporate approved noise walls into final construction plans.

Two other projects are slated to be completed by October 2021 as part of the widening initiative. First, a new ramp will be built to establish direct access to the West Falls Church Metro station from the highway. Second, a pedestrian bridge will be constructed over Lee Highway on the W&OD Trail. Currently, the trail crosses Lee Highway at its intersection with Fairfax Drive.

These plans have not gone uncontested — Preservation Arlington included the inside the Beltway portion of the highway on its 2017 list of “endangered historic places” and some East Falls Church residents have expressed concerns about the pedestrian bridge, for example.

Shannon Valentine, Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation, noted in her keynote address at the groundbreaking that I-66 is often considered one of the worst highways in America. Efforts such as this project, dynamically priced tolls on I-66 and an increase in travel options aim to change that.

“As we move forward, smart, targeted investments like the eastbound widening today are steps… [toward] building a transportation platform that supports and enhances our workforce, jobs, business investment and growth,” Valentine said.

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I-66 Tolls Have Yet to Convince Arlington Commuters to Choose Transit

The new tolls on I-66 inside the Beltway may be steep, but new data suggest they have yet to convince people to turn to Arlington’s public transit options instead of driving.

The rush hour tolls have been in place on I-66 between Rosslyn and the Beltway since December, but a new report by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission does not show any substantial increase in Metrorail or local bus ridership around Arlington.

The regional transportation planning group’s researchers did find some upticks in express bus ridership in Fairfax and Prince William counties, which benefits from fewer rush hour traffic delays on I-66 post-tolling. Yet NVTC staff stresses that there is currently no clear evidence that the tolls, designed to convince commuters to carpool or turn to public transit to ease congestion on the highway, are having their desired effect broadly.

“While public transportation systems transport significant numbers of commuters from the Washington, D.C. suburbs to downtown, overall transit ridership in Northern Virginia has shown a gradual decline, which is influenced by employer transit benefits, transit service reliability, telework, and real estate development, among others,” the NVTC report reads. “However, new commuter and express bus services supported by the I-66 Commuter Choice [tolling] program have demonstrated stable demand and are expected to grow.”

The group examined ridership data on Metro’s Orange and Silver lines, running between stations west of the Ballston stop and Ballston itself, as well as between Ballston and stations east of it. For the month of February, the NVTC found that ridership increased by about 4 percent from the same month in 2017.

However, staff noted that could be due to the transit system’s recovery from its “SafeTrack” maintenance program, noting that “it is difficult to discern the influence of I-66 tolling from these statistics.”

The NVTC also found that bus ridership in the I-66 corridor declined from a similar time period a year ago, particularly in Arlington. Staff found that Arlington Transit routes along the corridor dropped by a total of 12 percent when comparing February 2018 to the same month last year, and Metrobus ridership in the area fell by 10 percent.

The new tolls helped local bus services run some buses more frequently along the corridor, but the group found declines in ridership on those routes too. For instance,  ART started running buses on its 55 route once every 12 minutes during rush hour starting in June 2017, yet ridership fell by 7 percent when comparing February 2018 to February 2017.

Similarly, 2A Metrobuses now run every 10 minutes instead of every 15 during periods of peak ridership — and the route saw a 10 percent drop in riders, the report found.

However, the NVTC noted that bus ridership “declines persist before and after the I-66 tolling,” not only in Arlington in recent years, but also across the region and even the country.

They’re also hopeful that commuters are still taking time to adjust to the beefed up transit options, and are merely taking time to adjust their schedules accordingly.

“The public transportation service capacity added in FY2017 through the I-66 Commuter Choice program has met with stable demand,” staff wrote. “A ramp-up in demand is expected in the coming years.”

File photo. Charts via NVTC.

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State Police Investigating Fatal Motorcycle Crash on I-66

A motorcyclist died in a crash last night on I-66, near Arlington’s western border.

The crash happened just before 10 p.m.

“According to witnesses, two motorcycles were westbound on I-66 and traveling at a high rate of speed,” Virginia State Police said in a brief press release. “One of the motorcycles rear-ended a car traveling west on I-66. The impact of the crash caused the motorcycle to run off the interstate and strike the guardrail.”

“The motorcyclist died at the scene,” the press release continued. “The driver of the car was not injured in the crash.”

State police are investigating the crash. The name of the deceased has not yet been released.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

New Weapon in Battle Against Opioid Addiction — “Arlington County has taken a proactive measure in the fight against prescription drug abuse by installing three permanent drug-take back boxes. The public can now safely and securely dispose of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medications 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 day a year. This disposal service is free and anonymous with no questions asked.” [Arlington County]

Lack of 5G Could Hurt Amazon Bid — Arlington’s lack of 5G wireless service could hurt it in the eyes of Amazon as the online giant considers the county for its second headquarters, says a letter to the editor writer. The county should have more actively adjusted policy and lobbied carriers for 5G, the writer suggests. [InsideNova]

Woman Arrested After Victoria’s Secret Assault — “A D.C. woman was arrested for attacking two employees at a Victoria’s Secret in Arlington after she says one of them followed her around the store, according to authorities.” [WJLA]

Average I-66 HOV Round Trip Cost — The average round trip cost for single occupant drivers on the I-66 Express Lanes, from their December opening to the end of April, was $12.72, according to new data. Some drivers have faced steeper tolls during “peak of the peak” times. [InsideNova]

Photo courtesy Jeremy Galliani

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VDOT to Discuss Widening Work on Eastbound I-66

Workers are about to kick off construction on one of the most congested sections of eastbound I-66, and VDOT is rolling out its plans to widen the highway early next month.

State transportation officials are holding a community meeting to discuss the project on Tuesday, June 5 at Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd). The event will run from 6:30-8:30 p.m., with a presentation from VDOT set to start at 7 p.m.

VDOT is adding another lane to eastbound I-66 between the Dulles Connector Road and Fairfax Drive (Exit 71), which is routinely ranked as one of the most intensely jammed locations in all of Northern Virginia. The work is taking place within the existing I-66 right of way.

The $85.7 million project will also connect two existing ramps at the I-66 and Route 7 interchange to connect I-66 eastbound directly to the West Falls Church Metro station. Additionally, plans call for a new bridge for the W&OD Trail over Lee Highway.

VDOT is hoping to start construction this year and open the new lane on I-66 by the fall of 2020.

Photo (1) via Google Maps

 

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Morning Notes

I-66 Toll Tweaks Coming — The Virginia Department of Transportation will tweak the algorithm it uses to calculate tolls in the I-66 express lanes, which possibly could lead to lower tolls, although VDOT doesn’t guarantee lower tolls in the long run. The high tolls caused outrage among drivers when they were first instated in December and drew national attention, although transportation officials contend they work as intended with deterring single-passenger vehicle trips. [WTOP]

Three Questions with Del. Lopez — Del. Alfonso Lopez offers some short responses to questions about his accomplishments and challenges facing Arlington. [Arlington Magazine]

Substance Use Town Hall — Arlington County will hold a town hall on substance use tonight at Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road) from 7-9 p.m. Panelists including police, school and human services officials, and the discussion will be moderated by Kimberly Suiters from ABC 7. A resource fair will immediately precede and follow the town hall. [Arlington County]

New Monument for the Old Guard — “A special ceremony [took] place in Arlington, Virginia Tuesday to honor more than 230 years of service by the Third U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard. Soldiers, veterans and leaders from across the Army will gather for the unveiling of The Old Guard Monument at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.” [Fox 5]

Streetlight Demonstration Tonight — County staff will hold an LED streetlight field demonstration bus tour tonight for residents to see and learn more about the products under consideration in the Streetlight Management Plan. The bus leaves at 8 p.m. from the Arlington Career Center (816 S. Walter Reed Drive). Registration is required. [Arlington County]

Traffic Enforcement Time Adjusted — According to an updated press release sent this morning, the all modal traffic enforcement scheduled for tomorrow at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street will now be from 1-2:30 p.m.

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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I-66 Bridge Rehab Work Starting Up, Lane Closures Scheduled

Rehabilitation work on the I-66 bridge between the Rosslyn tunnel and D.C. has begun, according to the Virginia Dept. of Transportation.

Crews began setting out concrete barriers and pavement markings overnight on Wednesday, and will continue to do so through tonight (Thursday).

Lane closures on eastbound I-66 will be scheduled Monday-Friday from 9:30 p.m.-5 a.m., while westbound I-66 closures will be scheduled from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. on the same days.

VDOT expects traffic impacts to be minimal throughout the construction, which is expected to be completed by the summer of 2019.

For the next day or two, VDOT will periodically close the ramp from the southbound GW Parkway to the Roosevelt Bridge and westbound Route 50. The closures will take place between midnight and 5 a.m. to “allow for the installation of concrete barriers under the I-66 bridge,” according to the National Park Service.

The $5.7 million construction project will resurface the bridge’s deck, repair piers and abutments, and repave I-66 approaching the bridge.

According to VDOT, the bridge averages 54,000 vehicles a day eastbound and 44,000 westbound.

Photo courtesy VDOT

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Honking Metro Trains Irking Residents Along I-66

If you live near I-66, between the East Falls Church and Ballston Metro stations, the rumbling of Metro trains is a noise you’re probably used to.

But at least one person who lives in that area has taken to social media to comment on what she says is a recent escalation in noise: the constant, loud honking by trains as they roll by.

Video uploaded to Twitter indeed seems to show jarringly loud honking for a residential neighborhood.

The resident posted that she has lived at that location for 13 years and that this is a new neighborhood problem.

The social media complaints go as far back as January 22, and regular Twitter posts indicate that the honking hasn’t ceased or abated, and occurs after rush hour as well as on the weekends.

Though WMATA officials haven’t yet answered an ARLnow request for comment, Metro replied to the resident on Wednesday via Twitter and said that the honking is a safety measure.

“Thank you for contacting us about the frequent honking near your home,” the transit agency wrote. “At times trains may come across animals or unauthorized people near or on the tracks resulting in the operator to blow the train horn. Your tweet was shared with the Rail Division for review.”

That explanation, the resident replied, seems unlikely given the frequency of the honking.

“Thank you for responding, however this is a constant occurrence… All day every single day,” she said. “This is new and extremely intrusive to anyone who has a home nearby.”

Update at 2:15 p.m. — The resident who first contacted ARLnow.com about the honking says it has stopped since the publication of this article. Also via Twitter, some say that the honks may have to do with workers on or near the tracks.

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