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I-66 at sunset

If you plan on driving on I-66 during peak hours next month, make sure there are at least two other people in the car with you to avoid paying a toll.

I-66 is shifting from HOV-2 to HOV-3 in early December, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recently announced. Starting Dec. 5, only those with traveling with three or more people will be eligible to avoid the tolls, which apply inside the Beltway during peak travel times and directions.

Single riders or those traveling with just two passengers will now have to pay a toll, at a price based on traffic volume — known as “dynamic tolling.”

The inside the Beltway I-66 tolling takes place on non-holiday weekdays from 3-7 p.m. westbound and 5:30-9:30 a.m. eastbound.

Hours of operation for I-66 Express Lanes inside of the Beltway (image via screenshot/VDOT)

VDOT also notes that in order to use the lanes during these rush hours, drivers need to have an E-ZPass transponder. The state transportation agency said in a press release that the new requirements are “consistent with HOV requirements on the other express lanes in Northern Virginia.”

The I-66 tolling inside of the Beltway started five years ago, accompanied by a g ood amount of griping about the high toll prices. Previously, the lanes could only be used by high occupancy vehicles during peak times, with no options for paying a toll.

Construction is now complete on the 22-mile section of Express Lanes outside of the Beltway that runs from Fairfax County into Prince William County, after about six years of work. The eastbound lanes are opening this weekend with the westbound lanes opening by the end of the month, both a few weeks ahead of schedule.

More from the press release:

Motorists can choose to use the 66 Express Lanes, which are adjacent to general purpose lanes on I-66, by paying a toll. Toll prices are dynamic, and fluctuate depending on traffic volumes and speed in order to manage demand for the lanes and keep traffic flowing. Eligible High Occupancy Vehicles (HOVs) can use the 66 Express Lanes toll-free but must have an E-ZPass Flex set to the “HOV On” mode.

Currently, vehicles must have two or more occupants to qualify as HOV on I-66. Starting Monday, Dec. 5, vehicles will need to have three or more occupants to qualify as HOV on I-66 and travel the express lanes without paying a toll. This change from HOV-2+ to HOV-3+ will apply across the entire I-66 corridor including the 22.5-miles of 66 Express Lanes located outside the Beltway, as well as the nine miles of 66 Express Lanes located inside the Beltway between I-495 and Route 29 in Rosslyn, which operate on weekdays during peak periods in peak commute directions. This HOV-3+ requirement is consistent with HOV requirements on the other express lanes in Northern Virginia.

This change from HOV-2+ to HOV-3+ also will take effect on the stretch of I-66 west of the express lanes between Haymarket and Gainesville where there will continue to be a traditional HOV lane that operates during peak travel periods.

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Updated at 2:45 p.m. — At least one lane has reopened as crews work to finish clearing the crash scene.

Earlier: All lanes of westbound I-66 are currently blocked at the Rosslyn tunnel due to a crash.

An SUV crashed and overturned near the entrance to the tunnel around 1:30 p.m. Police are on scene and report that the driver was able to get out of the vehicle prior to their arrival.

The crash happened near the beginning of what had been a backup between Rosslyn and the N. Glebe Road exit of I-66.

No serious injuries have been reported. Westbound I-66 traffic is being diverted to Rosslyn and drivers in the area should expect heavy traffic.

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I-66 Rosslyn tunnel (photo courtesy VDOT)

VDOT has kicked off work on its I-66 Rosslyn Tunnel Rehabilitation project.

The nearly $38 million project is expected to stretch well into 2025, retrofitting the tunnel under Rosslyn’s Gateway Park that was built some 40 years ago.

The construction will prompt some lane closures on I-66, but mostly during overnight hours.

More from a VDOT press release:

Construction is underway on the rehabilitation and improvements to the Rosslyn Tunnel that carries I-66 under North Nash Street, Fort Myer Drive, North Lynn Street and Gateway Park, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. The project’s purpose is to improve safety and extend the overall life of the tunnel.

The project includes removing the existing tunnel ceiling to improve long-term maintenance; upgrading electrical systems; installing a new fireproofing system; repairing steel beams, abutment and pier concrete, and joints; cleaning and repairing bearings; and replacing the tunnel lighting system.

Lane closures on I-66 associated with the project will mainly occur overnights, with at least one lane of I-66 in each direction open at all times.

The tunnel, which opened to traffic in 1983, is nearly a fifth of a mile long and averages 64,000 vehicles a day.

The $37.7 million project is financed with state funding and is scheduled for completion in summer 2025.

For the most recent updates and to learn more, visit the VDOT project webpage.

Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are reminded to use caution when traveling in active work zones. Be alert to new traffic patterns and limit distractions.

You can get real-time traffic, work zone and incident information online at 511virginia.org, via the free mobile 511Virginia app, or by calling 511 in Virginia anywhere anytime.

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Crash response on I-66

All lanes of eastbound I-66 lanes approaching Rosslyn were closed tonight due to a crash.

A car crashed and overturned shortly after 8:30 p.m. No serious injuries were reported but traffic was diverted onto Langston Blvd while crews worked to clean up the crash scene.

About an hour later, the highway has reopened

This is at least the second instance in as many days of a car overturning after a crash in rainy weather.

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Eastbound I-66 at Exit 72 / Langston Blvd (via Google Maps)

Someone driving the wrong-way on I-66 in Arlington caused a crash that seriously injured three people, state police say.

The crash happened early this morning around 1:30 a.m., near one of the Langston Blvd exits between Rosslyn and Glebe Road.

“At approximately 1:23 a.m. Monday (Sept. 19), Virginia State Police received an emergency call concerning a vehicle driving west in the eastbound lanes of I-66,” VSP spokeswoman Corinne Geller tells ARLnow. “As state troopers were responding, the wrong-way vehicle struck an eastbound vehicle head-on near Exit 72.”

“The driver of the wrong-way vehicle, and the driver and passenger in the eastbound vehicle were all transported to a nearby hospital for treatment for serious injuries,” Geller continued. “The crash remains under investigation and charges are pending.”

ARLnow is awaiting an update on the condition of the three people seriously hurt in the crash.

Hat tip to Dave Statter. Photo via Google Maps.

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Ballston Beaver Pond during a pause in renovations (staff photo by Mavis Chan)

The Ballston Beaver Pond might become Ballston Wetland Park, a more befitting name since the beavers have moved on.

The human-made pond, originally built to collect stormwater runoff and trash from I-66, is undergoing a $4 million renovation. With that makeover and the fact that the beavers have taken their dam-building skills elsewhere, the pond and park are set to get a new name.

Earlier this year, residents were given the opportunity to recommend a new name for the park.

In July, four finalists were revealed:

  • Ballston Wetlands, as a way to highlight the wetland feature.
  • Crossroads Wetland Park, to recognize nearby Ball’s Crossroads, which was one of the more populated areas in the county in the mid-19th century and the inspiration for Ballston’s name
  • Thaddeus Lowe Park, to honor the Union Army’s Chief Aeronaut who performed aerial reconnaissance from his hot air balloon near this location.
  • Wetlands Vista Park, because of the natural feature and the new vista platform that’s being built at the park.

Last week, Arlington’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) voted to move forward on a slight variation of the top vote-getter — “Ballston Wetland Park.”

“As the County was renovating the pond to be more of a destination for nature lovers and to better support its important wetland function, it seemed appropriate to update its name,” Department of Parks and Recreation spokesperson Susan Kalish told ARLnow. “While the area does not have beavers, which generally migrate from pond to pond, it is a wetland and it is in Ballston.”

The Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee is planning to vote on the proposed name either next month or October. Then, it will go to the Parks and Recreation Commission later in the fall. If the recommended new name passes both bodies, it will then head to the County Board for a vote likely in October or November.

The reason for the change is that the beavers have gone bye-bye.

The pond was originally built back in 1980 to collect stormwater runoff from I-66. However, in the 1990s, and to the surprise of county officials, beavers started moving in — along with other wildlife like muskrats, geese, heron, egrets, redwing blackbirds, fish, and turtles.

The beavers proceeded to do what they do best, which is building dams and messing up drainage systems. The dams compromised water quality, prevented certain vegetation from growing, and essentially defeated the park’s purpose of being for stormwater runoff.

However, the beavers have since moved on.

The county began planning renovations back in 2011, but it took eight years to acquire all the easements. Then, right when construction and draining were about to start, the pandemic delayed the project again. Finally, in December 2021, work began on renovating the pond and park.

As part of that work, the county is installing beaver baffles as a means of keeping the busy mammals out.

The county is also adding updated trash control devices, turtle basking stations, interpretive signs, and a new boardwalk on the eastern side of the pond.

With work ongoing, the bike trail on the east side is currently closed. A temporary detour is in place along the south side of the pond, that connects Washington Blvd to the Custis Trail.

The work is expected to wrap up next summer.

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Another day of trucker convoys in the area have resulted in major traffic headaches for those heading into D.C.

Police have just lifted a series of road closures in District, implemented to try to mitigate the vehicular demonstrations against Covid-related policies. Several convoys headed through Arlington earlier this afternoon, and there were recent reports of a slow-moving group on Route 110 near the Pentagon.

The damage has been done: northbound traffic on I-395 is backed up to Shirlington, while inbound traffic on I-66 is backed up well past the Rosslyn tunnel.

There are also considerable delays on the GW Parkway, in both directions prior to ramps heading into the District, as well as backups on the Key Bridge and N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn.

More via Twitter:

https://twitter.com/DCPoliceTraffic/status/1504890738529734663

https://twitter.com/DCPoliceTraffic/status/1504917414236102663

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Constantin remembers growing up in Ukraine and his mother taking him to the streets to protest against the Soviet Union’s occupation of his homeland.

Those memories were at the forefront while Constantin, now an Arlington resident who works in blockchain technology, embarked on a mission.

Over the course of Monday afternoon, he hung Ukrainian and American flags side-by-side on a dozen I-66 overpasses, running east from the Falls Church area to Rosslyn.

“[I’m doing this] to express gratitude towards everything that the United States has done for Ukraine so far,” Constantin, who did not want his last name used out of safety concerns, tells ARLnow. “It’s a unifying message that represents both what America and Ukraine stand for, which is democracy and freedom.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine last week, there has been an outpouring of support for the country internationally, across the U.S. and here in Arlington. Local officials expressed support for Ukraine immediately after the invasion and last night the County Board condemned Russia’s “unprovoked attack” on Arlington’s Ukrainian sister city, Ivano-Frankivsk.

Constantin immigrated to America in 1993 and has lived in North Arlington for about two decades, after first moving here after grad school. He’s a U.S. citizen, but has never forgotten his Ukrainian roots. Over the years, Constantin says he has continued to fundraise, support, and bring awareness to Ukraine’s fight for sovereignty. That includes pressing Congress in 2014 to pass the Ukraine Freedom Support Act.

Yesterday, as soon as he started hanging the flags on the overpasses, he saw an outpouring of support for the Ukrainian cause.

“As soon as I put the Ukraine flags up, people started honking,” Constantin says. “To me, as a Ukrainian American, it is such a positive and inspiring note of support.”

On the overpasses where there was foot traffic, people shared their words of support and some stopped to help him put up the flags.

One woman with a child in the backseat of her car even pulled up beside him to give Constantin $100 cash to “do the right thing.” He says he’ll be donating the money to Ukrainian recovery efforts.

As of this morning (Tuesday), most of the flags remained. The one on the Glebe Road overpass seemed to be gone, either blown away by the wind or taken down.

“There is a pro-Putin set of Russians in D.C. and [the] U.S., in general,” Constantin notes. Public works employees are also tasked with removing items displayed on overpasses, though it’s often a low priority.

Constantin plans to put more flags up, saying Beltway overpasses are next. He also says he’s working with a network of volunteers to send thousands of helmets to Ukraine for civilians and the military.

Constantin still has family and friends in the country that he speaks to and worries about. They are living in constant fear, he says, hearing explosions and seeing fireballs in the streets.

Though he agrees with the measures that the U.S. has taken so far against Russia, and is hopeful that this is the last time Russia will fight a war with Ukraine, he’s also realistic.

“I’m proud people are paying attention now, but fearful that eventually will become desensitized to the horror… and move on. And Russia will keep going,” Constantin says. “This is why the flags could be a reminder to continue the support.”

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Nearly 40 years later, Rosslyn’s Gateway Park may finally officially become Arlington County’s responsibility.

This weekend, the County Board is set to vote on approving a land use permit between the Virginia Department of Transportation and the county formally allowing Arlington the use of Gateway Park. The agreement also pushes the responsibility of maintaining the park to the county.

Additionally, the permit grants the county the ability to change the park’s name.

An approval would mark the end of a decades-long period where there was no written agreement in place between VDOT and the county in regards to the operation and maintenance of the public park along Langston Blvd.

In 1984, VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration agreed to build an urban park between N. Nash Street and Lynn Street as a way to mitigate the impacts of constructing I-66 through Rosslyn.

At that time, an agreement was struck between VDOT and the county which called for the Commonwealth to construct the park and pedestrian bridge, with Arlington reimbursing VDOT for adding benches, bike racks, drinking fountains, and pay phones.

Rosslyn Gateway Park (via Google Maps)

The county and VDOT also committed to signing a 99-year lease that put Arlington in charge of maintaining the park, including the pedestrian bridges, concrete structures, landscaping, facilities, and utilities. The remaining details were to be negotiated and it was expected the lease was going to be brought to the County Board for approval in 1986.

That never happened, according to last month’s county report, and it’s unclear why.

“Despite more than 20 years of on-again, off-again discussions and negotiations, the terms of a 99-year lease were never agreed to and no lease has ever been signed by VDOT and the County,” reads the report.

Despite this, over the last 37 years Arlington has continued to operate and perform routine maintenance at Gateway Park even without a signed, written agreement.

That’s expected to change come this weekend, but in a slightly different form than initially outlined back in the 1980s.

That’s because, in 2015, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring determined that VDOT didn’t have the authority to lease the park to the county. Rather, a land use permit was the only mechanism available to provide Arlington access and use of the public park.

Six years later, that agreement is finally ready to be approved by the County Board.

Read More

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Flood Warning as Heavy Rain Falls

Update at 10:30 a.m. — The Flood Warning expired and the Flash Flood Watch, originally in effect until this afternoon, has been cancelled as the rain moves out.

Earlier: Arlington County is under a Flood Warning this morning.

The warning was issued shortly after 5 a.m. Already areas of minor flooding have been reported, including high standing water along I-66 between East Falls Church and Ballston, which closed all but one eastbound lane, according to the National Weather Service.

The warning is in effect until 7:45 a.m.

More from NWS:

509 AM EDT THU SEP 23 2021

…FLOOD WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 745 AM EDT THIS MORNING FOR SOUTHEASTERN MONTGOMERY, ARLINGTON AND EASTERN FAIRFAX COUNTIES AND THE NORTHWESTERN DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, THE CITY OF ALEXANDRIA AND THE CITY OF FALLS CHURCH…

AT 509 AM EDT, DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED THE FIRST AREA OF HEAVY RAIN HAS EXITED THE WARNED AREA. BETWEEN 0.5 AND 1.5 INCHES OF RAIN HAVE FALLEN, WHICH RESULTED IN SOME MINOR URBAN AND POOR DRAINAGE FLOODING. ADDITIONAL MODERATE TO HEAVY RAIN IS EXPECTED TO MOVE ACROSS THE AREA OVER THE NEXT SEVERAL HOURS, WHICH COULD LEAD TO ADDITIONAL FLOODING.

SOME LOCATIONS THAT WILL EXPERIENCE FLOODING INCLUDE… ARLINGTON… ALEXANDRIA… GERMANTOWN… ROCKVILLE… BETHESDA… GAITHERSBURG… ANNANDALE… OLNEY… SPRINGFIELD… FORT HUNT… VIENNA… GROVETON… FALLS CHURCH… HUNTINGTON… FORT BELVOIR… PIMMIT HILLS… MCLEAN… AMERICAN LEGION BRIDGE… ROSSLYN… CRYSTAL CITY…

ADDITIONAL RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF 0.5 TO 1.5 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE IN THE WARNED AREA.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN WHEN ENCOUNTERING FLOODED ROADS. MOST FLOOD DEATHS OCCUR IN VEHICLES.

BE ESPECIALLY CAUTIOUS AT NIGHT WHEN IT IS HARDER TO RECOGNIZE THE DANGERS OF FLOODING.

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Langston Blvd, formerly Lee Highway, at N. Veitch Street (via Google Maps)

The Arlington County Board took a step toward converting one lane of the newly renamed Langston Blvd into a bus- and HOV-only lane.

On Saturday, the Board accepted and appropriated a $710,000 grant from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to pay for the transit project, which will run through parts of Rosslyn. Last year, Arlington County applied for funding from the Commuter Choice program, which helps pay for transit upgrades using toll revenue from I-66 inside the Beltway.

“This is an area where we are continuing to work toward multi-modal,” said Board Chair Matt de Ferranti during the regular County Board meeting on Saturday. “On Lee Highway, soon to be Langston Blvd, we will have a bus-only lane so that more residents can move more quickly to work, through our community, and home as well.”

This grant will cover pavement treatment, restriping, and signage for the new bus lane. The lane will run eastbound from N. Veitch Street, near Courthouse, to N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn during peak morning hours.It will run westbound from N. Oak Street to N. Veitch Street during the evening peak period.

At other times, the lane will continue as a general-purpose travel lane.

This segment of Route 29 in Rosslyn “is very heavily congested and sharply degrades bus performance and reliability, which will be improved by the lane conversion,” a staff report said.

Pre-pandemic, that section of Lee Highway carried around 25 loaded buses per hour, according to the report.

The project could take two years to complete, according to Eric Balliet, a spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.

“The County Board’s acceptance and appropriation of the funds signals the start of the project,” he tells ARLnow. “The schedule included with the NVTC funding application was 26 months from project start to end of construction.”

The funding is less than the full $1 million that the county applied for, but staff are not earmarking more for it.

“We will work to deliver the project within this funding amount,” Balliet said.

The county mulled this project over before, even seeking funding — unsuccessfully — in 2019.

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