Press Club

(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) The loud pop sound produced by a pickleball hitting a paddle has led to the closing of a popular court at Glebe Road Park.

A new pilot program that began last month at the North Arlington park is temporarily closing a stand-alone outdoor pickleball court through the majority of the spring and summer.

As a replacement, the tennis court next to it is now striped to create two additional pickleball courts. With the change, there are now two lighted multi-purpose tennis/pickleball courts and one lighted tennis court at Glebe Road Park. The park’s hours also have been adjusted, with the lights now shutting off at 10 p.m. instead of 11 p.m.

The reason for these changes is that the pop of pickleball — an increasingly popular sport — is bothersome some nearby neighbors in the Old Glebe community.

“One of the issues with pickleball is complaints of the popping noise the paddle makes when it hits the ball,” Martha Holland, a spokesperson for the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation, tells ARLnow. “These concerns are not unique to Arlington but are prevalent in many communities nationwide. Many jurisdictions are grappling with finding the balance [given] the growth in pickleball.”

“These concerns were present before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Holland added. “However, the increase in play on the dedicated pickleball court at Glebe Road Park during COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation.”

The pilot program is set to run until September 6 and, at that point, the county will determine next steps.

“We will be checking in with the community (neighbors and court users) a couple times during the pilot to get feedback,” Holland wrote. “We hope to mitigate the sound issues by moving pickleball to the tennis courts.”

It’s no secret that pickleball’s popularity has surged over the last two years, due in part to it being a relatively low-impact social sport that allows players to stay within a relatively safe distance from one another.

This has, in turn led Arlington County to increase the number of courts available for pickleball.

But it also has caused some challenges. For one, there’s a limited number of available court space in the county. Back in November, county officials expressed some frustration that pickleball players were going rogue and unilaterally marking off pickleball boundaries on existing tennis and basketball courts.

At Glebe Road Park, the re-striping of a tennis court for pickleball hasn’t sat well with everyone vying for a share of that prime concrete real estate.

Helen White, part of the Arlington Pickleball Club‘s leadership team, says she’s heard from members that they’ve been “bullied” by tennis players when using the courts.

There is a county-run reservation system, allowing residents to book one of the tennis courts in 60 or 90 minute increments at $10 an hour. However, with many spots open, it’s unclear how much the system is actually utilized.

Then, there’s the noise of ball meeting paddle.

It was a single household that first brought a noise concerns to the county’s attention in August 2020, Arlington’s Director of Constituent Services Ben Aiken confirms to ARLnow. As time went on, though, more households complained to the county about the popping noise, Aiken says.

There was even talk of a petition, supposedly signed by about 20 households all living near the park on N. Old Glebe Road, though Aiken tells ARLnow that he has yet to receive a formal petition and is not aware of one circulating in the community.

ARLnow attempted to reach out to the homeowner who initially complained to the county, but they declined to speak for this story.

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A trio of Arlington intersections could soon be getting some new traffic signals and pedestrian safety improvements.

This Saturday, the Arlington County Board is set to review a $2.3 million contract to replace traffic signals that hang from wires to those attached to poles, or mast arms. The improvements also include wider sidewalks, accessible curb ramps and high-visibility crosswalks.

The work will be conducted at the following intersections, each in North Arlington:

The traffic signal replacements are part of a county program replacing outdated traffic signals to meet current federal and local standards.

“Signal upgrade projects implement new technologies such as accessible push button stations, CCTV for monitoring, video detection, and improved intersection lighting to improve safety, efficiency, and accessibility for all modes of travel,” according to a project webpage.

Mast-arm traffic signals on Langston Blvd (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Installing mast arm traffic signals on wide streets has been found to be a cost-effective way to reduce collisions, according to the Federal Highway Administration. One study of Virginia Department of Transportation data, however, found crashes decreased, but not by a statistically significant amount.

The FHWA also says span wire signals can have higher maintenance costs and are generally considered less aesthetically pleasing due to the overhead wires. But after these replacement projects occurred elsewhere in Arlington, some residents took to Nextdoor to mourn the loss of the wire-hung signals, which they said were not as bulky as the large poles that replaced them.

The three projects would join a half-dozen traffic light replacement projects already planned for this summer and fall.

Planned street signal replacements (via Arlington County)

The county is lumping in pedestrian safety and accessibility improvements with the replacements, per a county report.

Currently, the intersections lack curb ramps that are accessible to people with disabilities, while pedestrians have to contend with long crossings and narrow sidewalks, the county says.

Widening the sidewalks and adding accessible curb ramps and high-visibility crosswalks will create “safe, accessible, and user-friendly intersections,” the county says.

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(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) There’s a new temporary traffic circle along Military Road aimed at improving safety where it intersects with Nelly Custis Drive.

Where there used to be a stop sign for traffic on northbound Military Road, the county has added paint lines, bollards and raised temporary curbs, and partially demolished a median. The work was completed Saturday, according to a spokesman with the Arlington Department of Environmental Services.

The one-lane roundabout at the intersection in the Donaldson Run neighborhood was completed after the county resurfaced Nelly Custis Drive as part of its annual street maintenance program.

“This pilot project, in conjunction with the Vision Zero transportation safety program, will test the effectiveness of a roundabout for improving pedestrian safety and reducing vehicle speeding at the intersection,” according to the county. “It will be in place for one year to allow data collection of real-world conditions, and since it’s temporary, it can be adjusted as needed or removed easily if it doesn’t work.”

The county will study traffic patterns to determine whether to keep the roundabout or install a lighted intersection, per a county webpage on the project.

“Military Road and Nelly Custis Drive intersection safety improvements will focus on driver yield rates, shortening crossing distances for people walking through the intersection, providing predictable turning movements [and] reducing vehicle speeding,” the website says.

Some neighbors are displeased with the new traffic configuration. An October newsletter from the Old Glebe Civic Association called the changes “unwanted.”

The civic association said it has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the potential project for four years, and it would like to see the old traffic pattern restored after the study.

“OGCA pledges continued opposition to the roundabout,” it said. “Other civic associations have concurred with OGCA that the project is overly expensive, will not improve traffic safety, and will unnecessarily slow movement along Military Road.”

Per DES data, about 11,000 vehicles pass through the intersection daily. In a presentation this summer, county staff said conversions to roundabouts reduce pedestrian crashes by 27%, and conversions from stop-controlled intersection reduce injury crashes by 82%.

But OGCA argues that crash data for the intersection doesn’t merit the change.

“In August, OGCA argued that the… construction cost was unjustified given little evidence of any safety concerns,” the newsletter continues. “Only three accidents have occurred over the past eight years (two involving bicycles) out of the approximately 32 million vehicles that passed through the intersection during that period. Our letter also said removal of the stop sign and bike lane increases danger for pedestrians — particularly school children during morning rush hour — and also for bicyclists.”

Bike lanes were converted to “sharrows,” or arrows reminding drivers to share the road with cyclists, per a planning document.

The Military Road and Nelly Custis Road intersection roundabout (via Arlington County)

This is the last of three intersections — including those at Marcey Road and 36th Road N. — to be changed as part of a project aimed at improving safety along Military Road.

“These intersections were identified in a 2004 Arterial Transportation Management Study that suggested several recommendations to improve safety for all modes of transportation in the Military Road corridor,” according to DES.

Some local residents said in public comments that they supported the roundabout.

“As 25-year residents who live one block from this intersection and who walk, ride bikes, commute, and use the ART bus, we believe that a safer solution is needed due to excessive speed; drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians; and increased traffic volume,” said one couple.

The county website says the key takeaways for traveling through a roundabout are:

  • Always yield to pedestrians and cyclists at the crosswalks
  • When entering the roundabout, yield to vehicles and cyclists inside the roundabout
  • Signal when exiting the roundabout
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(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) A man suffered injuries that are reported to be life-threatening after an on-the-job accident in the Old Glebe neighborhood.

Police and medics were dispatched to a large, under-construction home on the 4600 block of N. Dittmar Road around 1 p.m. Initial reports suggest a worker was carrying a ladder when it made contact with power lines, electrocuting him.

The man is being rushed to a local hospital by Arlington County Fire Department medics.

Police are now investigating the accident. A Dominion power crew is also being requested to the scene.

A North Arlington neighborhood is on alert after someone deflated tires on at least five SUVs in the name of environmental justice.

The incident happened after midnight on Friday, June 18, along the 4600 block of 37th Street N. in the Old Glebe neighborhood.

“At approximately 12:45 a.m. on June 18, police were dispatched to the report of a vehicle tampering,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim’s two vehicles, which were parked in their driveway, had air pressure released from the rear driver side tire.”

“Officers canvassed the area and located three additional vehicles with tampered tire pressure,” Savage continued. “A flyer, allegedly left by the ‘Climate Liberation Front,’ was located on the windshield of the involved vehicles. The investigation is ongoing.”

As mentioned on a Nextdoor thread about the tire deflations, the note left on the vehicles (below) was almost identical to that left on SUVs in Sweden in 2007.

We have deflated one or several tyres of your SUV. Don’t take it personally. It’s your car we don’t like. You are certainly aware of the large amount of fuel it consumes. so we don’t have to enlighten you about that. But either you are ignorant of, or you don’t care about the fact that all the gas you consume by driving around in your SUV in the streets of the city has devastating consequences for others.

Scientists are entirely sure that we are very close to pushing climate change over a threshold, into a phase where it will be totally out of control and cause irreversible damage.

When the glaciers melt, people’s source of water disappear. When the deserts spread. agricultural fields become uncultivable. When the sea level rises, homes are inundated. Result: billions of refugees, countless deaths. It’s already estimated that 150,000 people die every year due to the effects of climate change, according to the WHO. As an affluent American you will survive longer then [sic] most. Those most vulnerable, and already worst afflicted by the global warming caused by Northern affluence, are the people of poor countries. In the end, however. climate chaos will affect us all, poor people as well as rich.

This does not have to happen if we impose a radical cut on carbon emissions. Now. Not tomorrow. That’s why we have disarmed your SUV by deflating the tires. Since you live in a city with a functioning and accessible public transportation system you will have no problem going where you want without your SUV.

Climate Liberation Front

@FrontClimate on Twitter

A tweet from the Twitter account of the “Climate Liberation Front,” sent before the tire deflation spree, said the action was “only the beginning.”

“Some new wannabe eco-terror bullsh–,” said a tipster who contacted ARLnow.

Savage said the police department has so far had no other reports of similar incidents. The department encourages anyone whose vehicle has been tampered with to call the Arlington non-emergency line at 703-558-2222 or to file a police report online.

The tire deflations attracted more than two dozen comments on Nextdoor. Some questioned the wisdom of inconveniencing residents as a method of fighting climate change.

“Do they think you’ll just wake up with flat tires and buy a Prius?” one person asked.

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A large tree fell amid gusty winds at the intersection of N. Old Glebe and Military road Friday afternoon, bringing down power lines and closing the intersection for an extended period of time.

Police and firefighters responded after the tree fell, though there were no initial reports of injuries nor was anyone reported struck. Tree crews are currently on scene and power crews are said to be en route.

The falling tree knocked down power lines and in turn snapped a utility pole. Just over 100 Dominion customers in the area, mostly in the Arlingwood neighborhood at the far northern tip of Arlington County, are without power.

The tree appears to have narrowly missed a stone sign for the Old Glebe neighborhood.

Dominion’s website says power is expected to be restored tonight. An Arlington Alert says the intersection is expected to remain closed overnight and drivers should seek alternate routes.

Also currently closed: a portion of N. Old Glebe Road near the Madison Community Center.

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As if the pandemic wasn’t bad enough, there’s now an apparent rabies outbreak in Arlington County.

Two days after the county warned of a possible rabies exposure in the East Falls Church neighborhood, animal control has captured two additional raccoons “showing neurological signs consistent with rabies.”

The raccoons were both captured in residential north Arlington neighborhoods: one on the 4300 block of 37th Road N., in the Old Glebe neighborhood near Glebe Road Park and the Gulf Branch Nature Center, and another on the 5100 block of 37th Road N., in the Rock Spring neighborhood near Williamsburg Middle School.

“On February 4, 2021, Arlington County Animal Control responded to two separate incidents for raccoons,” the county said in a press release. “Both of the raccoons in these incidents were captured and removed by animal control; both raccoons were showing neurological signs consistent with rabies. One of these raccoons may have had contact with two pets.”

“This outbreak is no longer contained to a specific neighborhood,” the press release warned, also citing the East Falls Church incident from Jan. 30, in which a rabid raccoon came into contact with a pet.

“We are urging residents in North Arlington to be vigilant,” said Kurt Larrick, a county spokesman. “We ask that residents ensure their pets are up to date on their rabies vaccines, keep their dogs on a leash, keep cats inside, remain vigilant and alert, and do not approach or interact with any wild animals.”

Rabies, as described in the press release, “is a disease that people and animals can catch from the bite or scratch of infected animals. It is fatal if medical care is not given promptly.”

“If you, your child, or your pet may have come into contact with any wild animals including bats or raccoons, please call Arlington County Animal Control at 703-931-9241 immediately,” the press release says. “If calling after hours, please stay on the line to speak with the answering service who will alert an Officer. If you see a raccoon that appears sick, lethargic, disoriented, or aggressive, do NOT approach the animal and please call Animal Control immediately.”

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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(Updated at 9:45 p.m.) Traffic throughout Arlington has reached apocalyptic levels as the closure of the Beltway’s Inner Loop continues well into the night.

Shortly before 2 p.m., a tanker truck overturned as part of a multi-vehicle crash just prior the American Legion Bridge. The cleanup from the crash and the hazmat response from a fuel spill prompted the complete closure of I-495 northbound before the bridge, sending tens of thousands of drivers bound for Maryland and D.C. into Arlington to try to make it across the remaining Potomac bridges.

In Fairfax County, that has meant gridlock on main eastbound arteries like Chain Bridge Road and Georgetown Pike. In Arlington, it has resulted in the following almost unthinkable traffic scenarios as of 9 p.m. on an otherwise clear and calm day:

  • Both directions of I-66 are jammed between Glebe Road and the Roosevelt Bridge.
  • Northbound N. Glebe Road is a virtual parking lot for more than two miles from just past Washington Golf and Country Club to Chain Bridge. The backups have been getting longer as the night goes on.
  • Northbound Military Road is a solid line of traffic from Zachary Taylor Park to the Glebe Road on-ramp. Police have shut down access to the road at Nelly Custis Drive, according to a tipster.
  • Side streets in the Old Glebe neighborhood are filled with cars attempting to find shortcuts.
  • Eastbound Route 50 is “in gridlock from Pershing Drive.”
  • Numerous highway on-ramps throughout Arlington have been closed by police to try to control traffic.
  • Eastbound Lee Highway is backed up to the MOM’s Organic Market.
  • Multiple intersections in Rosslyn are reported to be near-gridlock near Key Bridge, with police on scene directing traffic.
  • Northbound I-395 is crawling past Pentagon City.

The Inner Loop remains completely closed and is expected to remain closed until midnight or later.

The nightmare traffic has led to hours in the car for commuters and some frayed nerves. Police have responded to numerous reports of road rage incidents, as well as crashes on traffic-clogged streets.

More from social media:

Maps via Google Maps

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(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) Firefighters were called to a home in the Old Glebe neighborhood this morning (Tuesday) for reports of a fire, only to discover faulty equipment was simply filling the home with smoke.

First responders were called to the 4500 block of N. Dittmar Road around 9 a.m. today. Fire department spokesman Ben O’Bryant said they then discovered a “haze of smoke” in the home.

However, they subsequently found that a “bad HVAC unit” was the culprit, not any actual fire.

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) Firefighters extinguished a house fire in Northwest Arlington this morning.

First responders were called to a home along the 3700 block of N. Vernon Street around 10:20 a.m. today (Tuesday) in the Old Glebe neighborhood. Smoke was seen coming from the home, prompting firefighters to ask for a “Rapid Intervention Team” to be dispatched to help quickly bring the fire under control.

The fire was concentrated near the back of the home, according to the county fire department.

Department spokesman Ben O’Bryant told ARLnow that no one was inside the home when the fire broke out.

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The Old Glebe Civic Association is eyeing an expansion, planning to scoop up a few additional streets from neighboring Country Club Hills.

The group is currently hoping to add about three blocks to its boundaries, targeting homes that aren’t currently part of any civic association. In particular, the OGCA is looking at adding homes along Dittmar Road as it meets 35th Street N., N. Abingdon Street as it meets 36th Street N. and two cul-de-sacs off N. Vermont Street (one on 35th Road N. and one on 36th Street N.).

OGCA President Rich Samp told ARLnow that those streets are “one of the few areas in the whole county not included in any civic association,” after residents there decided decades ago decided not to join one. But considering that the streets sit adjacent to Old Glebe’s current boundaries, with part of Dittmar Road already ensconced within the civic association, Samp felt it made sense to push for the minor expansion.

“It’s a good idea to have all the neighborhoods in Arlington engaged with the local community… and we’re always trying to do things to make the neighborhood more cohesive,” Samp said. “And having entire streets, such as all of Dittmar Road, in the civic association probably helps to create more of a cohesive neighborhood sense.”

Samp says civic association members started knocking doors in the proposed expansion area a few weeks back to gauge neighbors’ feelings on the mater, and the reaction was broadly “positive.”

“The worst we heard was that some people expressed indifference, but the majority view was, ‘We’d love to join,'” Samp said.

The Arlington County Civic Federation requires civic associations to collect signatures to kick off the expansion process, so Samp says his group did just that. Now, he’ll need to win a green light from from both the civic federation and, eventually, the County Board to make it official.

“I don’t have a great sense for how long it’ll take,” Samp said. “But knowing how slowly the wheels of our group, and the government generally, turn, it’ll probably be a couple of months.”

Samp admitted that adding these neighborhoods is “hardly an earth-shattering step” for his group, but he does hope it can be the first expansion of many to come for the civic association.

“To go to more homes, it would’ve taken just huge amount of canvassing,” Samp said. “So we thought this would be a nice way to start it.”

Photo via the Old Glebe Civic Association

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