Drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians alike should start seeing changes soon to the busy and confusing “Five Points Intersection” in Cherrydale.
Crews are currently digging up areas of the intersection of Lee Highway, Military Road, Old Dominion Drive, N. Quincy Street and N. Quebec Street.
They will upgrade traffic signals, add bike lanes, improve crosswalks and transit stops, widen sidewalks and add new ADA-accessible curb ramps. The intersection also will get new concrete curbs and gutters, sidewalks, driveways, asphalt pavement and street lighting.
Already, several medians around the intersection have been widened, while work is underway to dig up the corner of Lee Highway and Military Road.
During construction, those in the area can expect the following work hours and construction impacts, per a county press release:
- Work hours will be 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday (9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday in the project area along N. Quincy Street).
- Construction crews typically will close one travel lane adjacent to the work area with drums/cones while maintaining one lane of traffic in each direction.
- All businesses located within the project area will remain open.
- Sidewalk detours and temporary crosswalks will be used to maintain pedestrian access throughout the project area.
- Several bus stops will be temporarily relocated during construction. Notices will be posted in advance on bus stop flags, and will say where temporary bus stops will be located.
“Improving this busy intersection at the Lee Highway/Old Dominion Drive and N. Quincy Street/Military Road — a major transportation crossing for pedestrians, bikers, transit users and motorists — is part of the County’s larger effort to make the Cherrydale neighborhood safer and more accessible for all modes of travel,” said the county’s Director of Transportation Dennis Leach in a statement.
The work is expected to be completed next summer. County staff spent several years studying ways to improve safety for pedestrians and help simplify some dangerously complicated traffic patterns.
A local YouTube personality waited at a red light near Virginia Hospital Center for 20 minutes earlier this week, and posted his experience to his channel.
Angelo, who describes himself as the creative director of the FlyingOverTr0ut channel, says he makes “sketches, commercial parodies, music videos, short films, drama, 9 hour videos of me sleeping, unauthorized T-Mobile commercials, and videos about my easily confused Greek mom.”
But a video posted July 18 shows him having a more troubling experience. It shows Angelo waiting at a red light at the intersection of Washington Blvd and N. George Mason Drive in Waycroft-Woodlawn for more than 20 minutes.
A timer in the bottom-right corner shows he waited 20 minutes and 30 seconds for the light to change at approximately 2:30 a.m.
The full video is below, although be warned there is strong language and it may not be suitable for viewing at work.
— Mike Lewan (@mlewan3) July 21, 2017
And for those with slightly less time to spare, Angelo posted an edited version of what he describes as his “expose of this intersection,” edited by fellow YouTube user gr18vidz14kidz.
A spokesman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services said they responded to his inquiry on Twitter, and that crews “improved the signal timing this week and will continue to monitor the timing at the intersection.”
Photo via Google Maps.
County officials say the reduction of a westbound turn lane on Arlington Mill Drive near Shirlington is a pilot program and the backups it’s causing will be resolved by traffic signal adjustments.
Arlington Mill Drive was recently re-striped at the “T” intersection with S. Walter Reed Drive. One of the two left turn lanes from Arlington Mill to Walter Reed was removed and blocked off with bollards, a move intended to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
There is heavy bike and pedestrian traffic at the intersection, which connects two sections of the Four Mile Run Trail.
But the lane removal has caused traffic to back up during peak times, according to several accounts. Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey wrote about the backups last month, proclaiming the lane reduction to be part of the county’s “semi-official ‘drivers must suffer’ policy.”
Last week a Twitter user also reported significant evening rush hour delays.
— HT Gold (@Skywarpgold) July 11, 2017
Also, only half of that line got through the light before it turned red. Before the single line was two, and all cars could get through.
— HT Gold (@Skywarpgold) July 11, 2017
(The backups seem to be short-lived; a brief evening rush hour visit by a reporter last week did not reveal any long lines.)
In a statement released to ARLnow.com, officials with Arlington County’s Dept. of Environmental Services said that the lane re-striping is a “test” that is being evaluated ahead of a larger intersection improvement project, slated for next year.
The test will help traffic engineers determine adjustments to the traffic signal timing, which should alleviate any delays, officials say. Potentially complicating the plan, however: there is already heavy traffic on Walter Reed Drive during the evening rush hour, which could be exacerbated by changes to the traffic light cycle.
The full statement from DES, after the jump.
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Most Dangerous Intersections in Arlington — The three most dangerous intersections in Arlington, by 2016 crash data, are: Washington Blvd and S. Walter Reed Drive (22 crashes), Army Navy Drive and S. Hayes Street (28 crashes), and Route 50 and Washington Blvd (37 crashes). [Arlington Magazine]
FAA Facility Issue Causes Delays — Construction-related fumes prompted the evacuation of a Federal Aviation Administration building in Leesburg last night and caused flights to be delayed at all three major Washington area airports for several hours. [WTOP, Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Bekah Richards
A local teen is trying to make a difference by lobbying for safety improvements to a crash-prone intersection.
At 13 years old, Williamsburg Middle School student Andy Nogas is too young to vote, but not too young to email the Arlington County Board and ask for members’ help.
“I have seen more than 15 crashes and many near misses [at this intersection and] I am writing to ask you to do something about this,” Nogas wrote.
Nogas said in an interview he has seen everything from serious crashes to fender-benders at the intersection, and he and his family have almost been involved in multiple accidents there themselves. Last year, as Nogas was coming home from an after-school event, he witnessed a particularly brutal crash.
“The car was upside-down and all the windows were shattered open,” Nogas said. “I saw the flipped car and a couple of ambulances.”
After this experience, Nogas knew he needed to do something. He spoke to his parents and told them he wanted to contact somebody about the intersection. After they gave him an explanation of how local government works, he decided his best bet was to contact the County Board.
“He was off to the races,” said Holly Scott, Nogas’ mother. “He was very excited to be able to send a message to the county about an issue that’s important to him, his friends and some of our other friends who live in the community.”
“Here is a possible solution that I hope you could look into: a stoplight,” Nogas wrote. “There are many ways you could program it, such as time it with the stoplight at Williamsburg Blvd and Old Dominion Drive, use it only during rush hour and use flashing lights at other times or use it like the stoplight at Yorktown Blvd and Little Falls Road. When one car approaches, the light will change. I hope you will please consider this option to improve safety on our roads.”
A reply from the Board promised they would assign staff to study the intersection.
Nogas said he was happy with the response and hopes the Board will take action, as the intersection is not far from Williamsburg Middle School.
“There are a lot of kids near there. They go to the same middle school as me and I know they have to cross [that intersection],” Nogas said.
Nogas’ mother said she has never reached out to the county herself, so she is particularly impressed by her son’s actions.
“I’m very proud,” she said. “I’m pleasantly surprised at the traction that his letter has gained… it’s definitely been very heartwarming and it certainly is encouraging him to think about what other things he can do to be helpful in his community.”
And while one would think Nogas aspires to work in the government or in law, he actually wants to be an artist. He just happens to care about the safety of those around him.
Map (top) via Google Maps
Public Hearings Set for Sign, Rosslyn Streetscape Changes — At its meeting Saturday, the Arlington County Board set public hearings for changes to the county sign ordinance related to mixed-use retail centers and industrial districts, which would allow for more blade signs in certain places. The Board also set hearings for a plan that “would establish a cohesive set of streetscape furnishings to strengthen Rosslyn’s character, and encourage more pedestrian use and vibrancy in Rosslyn’s core.” [Arlington County]
Washingtonian Spends Day in Crystal City — The staff from Washingtonian magazine spent Friday — Bike to Work Day — in Crystal City, filing stories about everything from quirky neighborhood fixtures like a reasonably-priced strip club and a long-time puppet store to WeLive, TechShop and other places driving Crystal City’s innovation economy. The goal was to report “stories of a place that’s creating a new future for itself in the ashes of one that didn’t quite work out the way everyone thought.” [Washingtonian]
Bike to Work Day Record — This year’s Bike to Work Day set a regional record, with 18,700 registrants at 85 D.C. area pit stops. [Twitter]
Beyer Calls for Expulsion of Turkish Ambassador — On Friday Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) urged the Trump administration to kick the ambassador of Turkey out of the country in response to a violent confrontation between protesters and bodyguards for the visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey, meanwhile, today summoned the U.S. ambassador to complain about police treatment of the bodyguards who were seen beating up protesters. [Rep. Don Beyer]
D.C. Man Is Big Arlington Thrive Donor — A retired ophthalmologist who lives in D.C. has donated more than $750,000 to the nonprofit Arlington Thrive over the past few years, after reading about it in a Washingtonian magazine article. Arlington Thrive, formerly known as Arlingtonians Meeting Emergency Needs, “delivers same-day emergency funds to our neighbors in crisis, so they can be secure in their jobs, health, and homes and thrive in a caring community.” [Washington Post]
Board Approves Intersection, Stormwater Projects — The Arlington County Board has approved more than $2.3 million in contracts to improve safety at the intersection of Arlington Blvd and N. Irving Street and construct a “green streets” stormwater management system along Williamsburg Blvd. [Arlington County]
Arlington Represented on Route 1 Renaming Group — The former president of the Arlington NAACP and former president of the Arlington Historical Society have been appointed to an “Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Renaming Jefferson Davis Highway” formed by the City of Alexandria. The city is moving forward with its effort to strip Route 1 of its confederate monicker, but wants to coordinate with Arlington in case the county decides to lobby Richmond to allow it to rename the road. [WTOP]
Columnist Blasts Website Comments — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark says that reader comments about the candidates in the recent Democratic Arlington County Board caucus were “inflammatory” and “pea-brained.” He singled out ARLnow’s comment section and “the slightly-more-civil commenters in the Sun-Gazette.” Caucus winner Erik Gutshall, meanwhile, said he seldom reads the comments, opining that “some are thoughtful, but it’s like opening a horror show.” [Falls Church News-Press]
The intersection of Arlington Boulevard (Route 50) and N. Irving Street is set to undergo a major safety transformation.
The County Board due to award a contract for the work on Saturday. Upgraded traffic signals, improved sidewalk connectivity, new and more accessible bus stops and marked turn lanes are slated for the intersection.
There will also be better connections to the nearby Arlington Blvd trail, while pedestrians will get new push buttons to help them cross the street, countdown signals and technology to detect vehicles and cyclists in the street.
The project is close to Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Community Center and what will, in two years, be a new elementary school.
The County Board will vote on awarding a contract worth an initial $729,000, with an additional $109,000 as a contingency. A report by county staff on the project notes that it is administered by the Virginia Department of Transportation, with primary funding from the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program.
Under the current funding model, just over $650,000 will be covered by federal money, with the remaining $180,000 covered by the county’s Transportation Capital Fund, which allocates commercial tax revenues to transportation projects.
In their report, staff did not raise any issues with the project. It has already been presented to the Arlington Heights and Ashton Heights Civic Associations and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committees.
If approved by the County Board, construction is set to begin this fall. There are no road closures planned for the project.
Kalina Newman contributed reporting.
The busy and confusing “Five Points Intersection” in Cherrydale is set for an overhaul after the County Board awarded a construction contract Saturday.
Board members unanimously awarded a contract worth just under $1.7 million to A&M Concrete Corporation to improve the streetscape at the intersection of Lee Highway, Military Road, Old Dominion Drive, N. Quincy Street and N. Quebec Street.
The revamped intersection will include upgraded traffic signals, new bike lanes, improvements to crosswalks and transit stops, widened sidewalks and new ADA-accessible curb ramps. It also includes construction of new concrete curbs and gutters, sidewalks, driveways, asphalt pavement and street lighting.
In 2013, the Cherrydale Citizens Association expressed opposition to proposed changes, arguing some aspects created more danger for motorists.
But after some tweaks, the association’s fears appear to have been taken into account. The association’s newsletter expressed hope that the changes would make things better for all road users.
County staff has been exploring improvements at the intersection for several years to improve safety for pedestrians and help simplify some dangerously complicated traffic patterns.
A&M’s original bid of $1.4 million for the contact was the lowest of four submitted. A contingency of $280,000 has been added to take into account any cost overruns.
The Arlington County Board is considering giving its blessing to several easements needed for a long-awaited plan to revamp a tricky intersection in Clarendon.
If approved, the county will pay the Catholic Diocese of Arlington nearly $25,000 for permanent and temporary easements on a portion of church property along Washington Blvd, to be used for sidewalk, curb, gutter, utilities and drainage purposes.
The overall plan calls for improvements to “access and safety for those who walk, bike and drive.” The project’s goals include upgrades such as improved traffic signals and streetlights, wider center medians, shorter pedestrian crossings, bike lanes and curb extensions.
“Current travel across the intersection can be difficult due to its extreme width and the skewed alignment of its roadways,” according to a County webpage. “North Irving Street also enters the circle area in two offset locations, further complicating the traffic pattern.”
This wasn’t the only idea that Arlington County considered. Roundabouts, one-way street couplets and other alternative designs all were analyzed, but the County found those elements “would have negative impacts on all modes of transportation, especially for pedestrians.”
If all goes according to plan, the engineering design will be completed this spring, clearing the way for construction to begin next summer. Project completion is pegged for the summer of 2019.
The intersection, located near the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department at the confluence of Lee Highway, Old Dominion Drive, N. Quincy Street, Military Road and N. Quebec Street, has long been a source of ire for pedestrians and drivers alike because it can create dangerously complicated traffic patterns.
This frustration increased in 2013 when the county chose to move forward with proposed changes to the intersection as part of the Cherrydale Lee Highway Revitalization Program, over the objections of neighborhood residents. While the changes were intended to improve the intersection for pedestrians in keeping with the program’s goal of a more walkable Cherrydale, residents claimed they made the intersection even worse.
According to a 2014 neighborhood update on the project, some alterations that irked residents, such as guides directing cars to turn left in front of oncoming traffic (known as “puppy paw guides”), have since been removed.
As of now, the county is still moving forward with many of their proposed modifications. According to project manager Elizabeth Diggs, the project design is 90 percent complete and changes will include the installation of wider sidewalks, the addition of bike lanes, reflective crosswalks and handicap ramps, and upgrades to traffic signals, timing and street lights.
Diggs said recommendations from the Virginia Department of Transportation, county staff and an outside consultant were taken into account when finalizing the design. The project webpage says that recommendations from the Cherrydale Listserv and public meetings were also incorporated.
“The intersection improvements are being designed to improve vehicle turning movements and create a safer environment for pedestrian, bicycle and transit users,” said Diggs.
Construction on the project, originally planned for this spring and summer, is now slated to begin this winter.
The Arlington County Police Department has installed one of its movable-type signs — notably used to tell drivers “Don’t hit the car in front of you” in 2013 — at the intersection of N. Lynn Street, Lee Highway and the I-66 westbound off-ramp. The sign tells drivers to “Yield to Pedestrian,” a persistent problem as those coming off I-66 try to turn right on a green light toward the Key Bridge.
The sign is the latest in a multi-departmental effort to reduce accidents at the intersection. Last month, a temporary, no-turn-on-red signal was installed. The timing of the lights has been altered to give pedestrians and cyclists — coming from the Custis Trail to the west and the Mt. Vernon Trail to the east — a head start before cars begin turning.
In the future, more permanent measures like taking away a travel lane on Lee Highway and extending the curbs have already been approved and are in design phases.
When the sign was initially installed, it was blocking the pedestrian walk signal, but it has since been moved, according to ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
“The sign has been moved and strategically placed next to the signal,” he said. “A pedestrian brought [its placement] to our attention. It’s a good thing that citizens are paying attention to that sign and taking some safety precautions because that’s intersection is known to have quite a bit of interest.”
Photo courtesy @DanaCJensen
For mere seconds at a time, a sign flashing the symbol for “no right turn” illuminates next to the red light on the off-ramp of westbound I-66 at the intersection with N. Lynn Street.
The intersection has been labeled the “Intersection of Doom” because of its numerous accidents over the years. The confluence of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists from I-66, Lee Highway and Lynn Street trying to reach both points west, the GW Parkway and the Key Bridge has created a critical mass of safety hazards.
Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services has been planning safety improvements to the site and the new signal is just one of the planned changes. It was installed at the beginning of January.
“The sign has been integrated into the function of the traffic signal to restrict right turns from the I-66 off-ramp to Lynn Street during the time when pedestrians and cyclists receive the walk signal,” DES spokeswoman Jessica Baxter said. “The improvement reduces conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles at this busy intersection. Additional time has also been added to this walk signal phase.”
The light is one of the interim improvements DES has made before a planned $5 million safety project is built in a few years. The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2014, but delays in the design phase have caused the estimated completion date to be pushed back to 2017.
Chris Slatt, a cyclist and president of the Penrose Civic Association, said he appreciates the interim solutions but is tired of waiting for the permanent project.
“I applaud the County for working on quick-to-implement, low-cost, short-term fixes like the new no-turn-on-red sign,” he told ARLnow.com in an email this morning. “That said, the County simply must start turning around capital projects more quickly and when they do slip, they need to start communicating about what is going on.
“By the time Esplanade/Custis Trail project gets built, most anyone who attended the last public meeting about the project (in October of 2011) is going to have forgotten it ever existed,” he continued. “This is a complicated area to work in — there are VDOT-controlled roads, it backs on to NPS property, but everyone knew that going in to the project and it should have been accounted for in the original timeline.”
In the planned permanent improvements, a travel lane will be removed from Lee Highway, the Custis Trail would be widened, curbs would be expanded to slow down turning cars and on-street bike lanes will be added.
In three signal cycles ARLnow.com witnessed yesterday at the beginning of the evening rush hour, one car disregarded the briefly illuminated signal, turning right when lit up. Cars waiting at a red light see no indication of the new signal — and accompanying traffic rule — except for the unlit box. Two cars legally turned right on red over the same five-minute span, and the driver that made the illegal maneuver did it just seconds after the previous vehicles.
Baxter said DES will continue to study traffic patterns at the intersection, and configure the timing of the signals to bring it more in line with traffic signals.
Two recently completed bridges along Route 50 — at 10th Street N. and N. Courthouse Road — now look more colorful, thanks to a public art installation. But if you want to catch a glimpse of the art in its full glory, you’ll have to wait until it’s dark.
Arlington Cultural Affairs partnered with VDOT on both the custom-designed concrete panels on the sides of the road and metal grillwork on the overpasses. Both were the work of artist Vicki Scuri, who also designed an LED light show that backlights the grillwork at night.
The light display is programmed as a 15 minute loop that fades and gradually transitions between sets of colors. The show contains intentional sequences and transitions with a “range of non-highway colors” that suggest stained glass, Scuri said. The new light programming went live Friday night.
“The lighting, the pattern elements and the landscape are site specific responses to inform place, creating a signature landmark promoting wayfinding for the Arlington entries at Courthouse Street [sic] and 10th Street,” said Scuri, adding that she designed the art installations to reflect Arlington’s “classical architecture.” She said wanted to make a clear entry to Arlington that complemented the county’s lively, refined streetscapes.
Scuri was in Arlington last week to collaborate with the VDOT contract lighting designer and Arlington’s Department of Transportation to balance the artist’s creative vision with practicality and safety for those areas. They worked on the color and intensity of the lighting, among other things.
“This is a collective effort to provide both beauty and safety. I think we’ve done it,” said Scuri. “The entire project is a response to the site, to the native landscape and to the classical ornamentation of Arlington and that of Washington, D.C.”
The Rosslyn intersection where cyclists and pedestrians face drivers exiting I-66 has received safety modifications in the past two weeks and more changes are on the way, county officials said on a tour of the site Tuesday morning.
In advance of a $5 million overhaul slated to be complete in summer 2016, Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Transportation changed the timing of the traffic lights and walk signals at Lee Highway and N. Lynn Street last week, said Larry Marcus, the county’s head of transportation engineering.
“Pedestrians and cyclists are the priority at this location, period,” Marcus said as county officials and police watched people navigate the corner some locals call the “Intersection of Doom.”
One change is minor in cost but should be significant in impact: A no-turn-on-red sign is being installed at N. Lynn Street for those exiting I-66. That’s being done “as soon as possible,” Marcus said.
Additionally, cyclists and pedestrians crossing N. Lynn Street using the Custis Trail previously had a walk signal when all traffic lights were red — known as a “leading interval” — for just 2 seconds; the length of that signal was increased last week to 5 seconds, Marcus said. The county plans to increase the leading interval time to 15 to 20 seconds in the next six months, once new signal technology is installed.
“We’re giving more time for pedestrians and bikes to go first,” Marcus said, adding that new caution signs for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists will be added to the intersection.
Drivers headed west on Lee Highway, meanwhile, now have an additional 10 seconds of biker- and pedestrian-free time to clear the intersection.
To pair with engineering changes, the Arlington County Police Department has ramped up traffic enforcement and educational efforts at the corner where numerous car-on-bike accidents have occurred, Capt. James Wasem said.
“People can expect to see uniformed police officers out here flagging cars over, directing traffic, handing out some brochures and citing violations,” he said about the measures enacted about two weeks ago.
Police issued 228 citations at the intersection from Sept. 15, 2013 through the same date this year: 133 for failure to obey traffic signals, 32 for improper turning and 1 for failure to yield to a pedestrian. Fifteen car crashes occurred at the intersection within that period, police said; just two crashes on record involved pedestrians.
The ACPD assigns an officer to direct traffic at the intersection on weekdays from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. but must spread officers between that corner, schools and other frequent crash sites. The department began sending an officer to the location “as often as possible” following recommendations from a traffic analyst the county hired this year, Wasem said.
ACPD is seeking funding to assign two officers to Lee Highway and N. Lynn Street every weekday morning, plus an additional two officers at Lynn Street and Wilson Boulevard, Wasem said. The latter intersection has been facing a chronic problem of drivers “blocking the box” during rush hour since construction began on the Central Place project, blocking lanes of Lynn Street.
The additional staffing would cost $180,000 through next year.
All of the ramps, lanes and bridges for the interchanges of Route 50, N. Courthouse Road and 10th Street N. are open and finished.
Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette, Del. Patrick Hope and local and state transportation officials were on hand to cut the ribbon on the $39 million project that has been more than a decade in the making.
“My first County Board meeting in January 1998, in the first Board packet, the design of this interchange was in that packet,” Fisette said. “Really good things take time and partnerships. Hopefully we will continue to get these types of outcomes.”
The new interchange includes two new bridges at Courthouse Road and 10th Street, each with LED-lit metal grillwork displays, although the LED lights aren’t ready to be turned on yet. It includes a left-exit from eastbound Route 50 onto N. Courthouse Road, and turning lanes from westbound Route 50 that are separated from the three lanes of fast-moving traffic.
“Everyone who drives on Arlington Blvd every single day is going to have a much better experience,” Hope said.
In addition to the new traffic patterns and LED lights, the sides of the new highway have custom-designed concrete panels. The grillwork and panels were both designed by artist Vicki Scuri. The LED lights and landscaping along the highway are the only two components of the project that are not yet finished.
The project also included new bicycle and pedestrian paths along either side of the highway, with striping for two-way travel, between N. Pershing Drive and Courthouse Road on the westbound side, and Pershing and N. Rolfe Street on the eastbound side.
“This project represents the values we hold in Arlington. it’s about safety, it’s about travel choices,” Arlington Director of Transportation Dennis Leach said. “What an incredible difference this is if you are walking or biking.”