The Arlington County Board has signed off for NOVA Parks to apply for a $5.6 million grant that would widen a portion of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.
If approved, the project will widen two miles of the W&OD Trail between N. Roosevelt Street and N. Carlin Springs Road by eight feet. In addition, the trail will incorporate a “dual path” to divide walkers and cyclists.
“When I talk to trail users I hear the same complaint, which I will attribute to Yogi Berra, ‘No one goes there anymore because it’s too crowded,'” said chairman of NOVA Parks Michael Nardolilli during Tuesday’s recessed County Board meeting.
Officials are expected to know if the grant, submitted to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), has been approved by June 2020. If it is, the County Board will review the project plans before giving an official vote on whether to begin construction.
Nearly a dozen people spoke in opposition the project during Tuesday’s meeting. Many stressed that the project it could destroy a large number of trees and damage storm water management, while others expressed disappointment in what they describe as NOVA Park’s lack of public outreach.
Among the groups opposed to the widening is Arlington Tree Action Group, which called it — perhaps a bit hyperbolically — “the most environmentally destructive project that has ever occurred in Arlington’s public spaces.”
The Arlington County Board has moved consideration of a resolution that will allow NOVA Parks (formerly known as the…
“My commission learned of this a week ago with no information about what was being planned,” said Phil Klingelhofer, chair of the Arlington Urban Forestry Commission, a county commission that is also concerned about the project. “[This] is in fact putting a multi-lane highway for bikes through the middle of the park.”
Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said widening the trail would be great for the area’s bike community — citing recommendations from the county’s Master Transportation Plan — but also stressed the need for public engagement and environmental analysis.
“This whole conversation tonight has been one big, giant paradox,” said County Board member Eric Gutshall. “I can’t wrap my head around folks who are concerned about preserving nature and trees, allies to those interested in cycling and using alternative modes of transportation to be a part of larger, sustainable society — somehow, you’re against bicycling and trails.”
The County Board unanimously signed off on the application, with two recommendations for County Manager Mark Schwartz:
(1) Determine the data and analyses that NOVA Parks must submit to substantiate the safety and levels of service concerns along the subject street of the W&OD trail, and (2) initiate a process with NOVA Parks to determine the appropriate level of public engagement for the project along with the information that must be developed and presented…[including] plans to address environmental stewardship including impact on vegetation, flood risk management, erosion, and natural habitats.
“Our support for the seeking of funding, so those plans can be drafted, does not mean endorsement of the final design,” said County Board member Libby Garvey.
Nearby in Falls Church, NOVA Parks has begun a $3.7 million project to widen 1.2 miles of the W&OD Trail in Falls Church, funded mostly through a similar NVTA grant.
Scooters Can Officially Ride on Sidewalks, Trails — Details about the new, William Shatner-approved permanent e-scooter and e-bike regulations approved by the County Board over the weekend: “Motorized scooters and skateboards will have a top speed of 15 miles per hour, and e-bicycles will have a top speed of 20 miles per hour on streets and trails. When operating on public sidewalks, the top speed of all the devices is restricted to six miles per hour. The devices will not be allowed to operate on sidewalks where a protected bicycle lane is available and may be prohibited from other sidewalks.” [Arlington County]
Progress on Second Ballston Metro Entrance Plan — “At long last, Arlington seems to be making real progress on building a western entrance to the Ballston Metro station — and that includes finding a path to fund the stalled project. County officials plan to set aside an extra $25 million for the Metro station entrance, then ask for $33.5 million in regional transportation funding for the project.” [Washington Business Journal]
Ballston Harris Teeter Development OKed — “A mixed-use redevelopment approved today by the County Board will replace the Harris Teeter and the American Service Center on N. Glebe Rd. with apartments, a new grocery store, other ground floor retail and a new public open space… community benefits will include a $4.1 million contribution to affordable housing; new public street connections; improvements to the traffic signals at Randolph Street and Glebe Road, and the replacement of a large water main under Glebe Road.” [Arlington County]
Talento Not Seeking Reelection — “I have decided not to seek reelection to my School Board seat. Fulfilling my duties as a public servant take first priority for me and, while it is an honor to serve on the School Board, running a campaign while simultaneously fulfilling these responsibilities is not the best way for me to ensure our students have the future they deserve.” [Blue Virginia]
Jennie Dean Park Project Approved — “The Arlington County Board today approved a $15.5 million contract with MCN Build, Inc. to begin Jennie Dean Park’s long-awaited transformation.” [Arlington County]
Caps Host TAPS Families at Iceplex — “Late Thursday afternoon, family members of fallen soldiers got a chance to skate with Capitals players in Arlington, Virginia. The Capitals hosted the event with an organization called TAPS – the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.” [WJLA]
It’s Election Day — Voting today in Arlington will take place between 6 a.m.-7 p.m. at your local polling place. Most of the local candidates in competitive races penned essays describing why Arlington residents should vote for them. [Arlington County]
‘Baby Trump’ Greeting Key Bridge Commuters — Arlington Democrats have inflated a 13-foot “Baby Trump” on the Virginia side of the Key Bridge as part of a get-out-the-vote message. [Twitter]
Anti-Trans Group is Based in Shirlington — “From the 12th floor of a glass office tower in the Washington suburbs, a campaign to sway the governor’s race in Kentucky on Tuesday is being waged with an alarmist claim that has little to do with the race itself: If Democrats have their way, soon boys will be able to compete against girls in school sports.” [New York Times]
Growing Season Over in D.C. Area — “As of this morning, the growing season has been declared to have ended across our entire forecast area. Frost and freeze [watches and warnings] will not be issued again until Spring 2020.” [Twitter]
Pedestrian Enforcement in Clarendon Tomorrow — “As part of the Street Smart campaign, officers will conduct high-visibility traffic enforcement… November 6th from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. [on the] 2700 block of Clarendon Boulevard (Pedestrian Enforcement Detail).” [ARLnow]
Nearby: Va. Tech Unveils Plan for Potomac Yard — “Plans are starting to take shape for North Potomac Yard. Virginia Tech has submitted its first concept plan, showing what its Innovation Campus will look like just as the design of the Potomac Yard Metro station nears its final design phase.” [ALXnow]
Local governments are rolling out their annual “Street Smart” campaign with a warning about a recent uptick in the number of people on foot killed by drivers.
This fall, the annual campaign by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) will highlight a 14% increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities between 2017 and 2018 regionwide, from 77 people killed in 2017 to 88 in 2018.
The regional government organization unveiled a wall featuring crash stories told by victims yesterday (Monday) at 12th Street and Florida Avenue NE in D.C. That’s where cyclist and safety activist Dave Salovesh was killed by a speeding driver earlier this year — spurring citywide protests and as well as calls for change in Arlington. The wall project is expected to tour Maryland and Virginia as well, per a MWCOG spokeswoman.
One of the victims featured in the awareness campaign is Ren Werbin (above), who was struck while crossing Wilson Blvd near the Ballston Quarter mall around 11 p.m. on February 1. The impact broke vertebrae in Werbin’s back and shattered her collar bone, shoulder, and leg.
“I went from having a neck brace, to having a full back brace, to having a full leg brace, and not being able to move my right arm,” said Werbin in an interview filmed for the project “My world completely changed.”
Werbin spent three months in the hospital recovering from her injuries. An Arlington County Police spokeswoman told ARLnow that an investigation found that the driver — described in an MWCOG press release as “a teen driver in a car full of friends” who “blasted through an intersection” — had a green light at the time and was not cited.
Another testimonial is from a Rosslyn resident who was struck in a crosswalk.
“It happened so fast,” she recounted. “I walked like a penguin for months. Finally, I walked like a normal person, but I was scared of the streets. The physical pain passes, but it was traumatic.”
The most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates while driving a car has become safer over the years, walking on roads has become more dangerous. And the majority of pedestrian who are killed are hit after dark — a concern that grows later in the year when the hours of daylight wanes in the fall.
Last November saw the highest number of pedestrians hit in the D.C. area (292) out of any other month, per data shared by MWCOG. In Arlington, the month with the highest number of pedestrian collisions (15) was October.
Sometimes, however, the Type A-ness that helps make Arlington Arlington produces negative side effects. A prime example one might cite? More-impatient-than-average drivers.
Video posted by ACPD shows an undercover police officer, wearing a brightly-colored t-shirt, walking across Fairfax Drive at N. Kansas Street in a crosswalk as two vehicles approach. Neither stop nor appear to slow down, narrowly missing the officer, who then signals for each to be pulled over and cited.
The law, however, requires drivers to yield to pedestrians in such cases.
In all, 25 summonses for Failure to Yield to a Pedestrian in the Crosswalk were issued this morning during the enforcement action, police said.
“Remember that the streets don’t belong to any one of us, they belong to all of us,” police said in a tweet shortly after the campaign concluded. “Share our roadways with all travelers by being a PAL: Predictable | Alert | Lawful.”
Remember that the streets don't belong to any one of us, they belong to all of us. Share our roadways with all travelers by being a PAL: Predictable | Alert | Lawful.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) September 26, 2019
More: NHTSA advises the total safe stopping distance for a 30mph roadway is 119 feet. ACPD extended the safe stopping distance to 130 feet from the crosswalk at this location. The pedestrian enters the crosswalk at or before the vehicles reaches the marked safe stopping distance.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) September 26, 2019
Screenshot via ACPD
Completion of the Ballston Quarter pedestrian bridge over Wilson Blvd could be delayed by another three months.
The Arlington County Board is set to discuss extending the completion deadline of the under-construction bridge from September 1 to December 1 at its meeting tomorrow (Saturday). The delay is at the request of the mall’s owner, which is building the bridge as a condition of Ballston Quarter’s recent renovations.
The company cited “difficulties associated with the complexity, constructibility issues of the design, field modifications, and the current status of construction” as reasons for the extension, according to as staff report to the Board.
This will be the second time the bridge project has been delayed. Originally, the walkway was scheduled to open last fall so it would be ready for the first shops to open at Ballston Quarter. Then the deadline was pushed to September of this year.
A spokeswoman for mall operator Brookfield Properties told ARLnow they are “on track for a November opening” for the bridge, pointing interested locals to a blog with periodic bridge construction updates.
It’s been more than two years since the original Wilson Blvd bridge was torn down. Once the new walkway is completed, it will link the mall to the Ballston Metro station.
The school year for Arlington Public Schools starts up again on Tuesday (Sept. 3), and there are a variety of traffic changes around the county for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians to be aware of.
There are several new traffic patterns around new and newly-repurposed schools. At Dorothy Hamm Middle School in Cherrydale, there are new traffic signals and signs, crosswalks and crossing guards near the school at 4100 Vacation Lane. At The Heights Building on Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, students will be arriving at buses on 18th Street N., which will be closed to the public The Montessori Public School of Arlington on S. Highland Street is now a countywide school, meaning more buses will be at the school.
Drew Elementary School and the new Dorothy Hamm Middle School are both neighborhood schools now, meaning pedestrians and cyclists to the school are more likely.
According to the press release, drivers across the county should remember to:
- Obey speed limits which may change during school zone times.
- Avoid distracted driving and keep your attention on the road.
- Watch for students walking and riding bikes to school.
- Don’t pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading passengers. Violations could result in a fine of $250.
- On a two-lane road, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop.
- On a multi-lane paved road, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop.
- On a divided highway, vehicles behind the bust must stop. Vehicles traveling in the opposite direction may proceed with caution.
- Have all vehicle occupants wear their seatbelts.
- Pick-up and drop-off students in designated kiss and ride locations.
Pedestrians are reminded to only cross the street at the crosswalk and follow the instructions of crossing guards.
Bicyclists ages 14 and under are required to wear helmets, while helmets are recommended for everyone. Cyclists should keep to the right and ride with traffic, then to lock up the bicycle when not in use.
APS Students Now Can Identify as Nonbinary — “Students enrolling in schools in the District, Alexandria City, Arlington and Montgomery Counties now have the option to mark their gender as ‘X’ meaning nonbinary or unspecified. That’s in addition to male or female gender categories.” [WAMU]
Traffic Delays ACFD Response to I-395 Crash — “The I-395 incident happened shortly after 1 p.m. near the Duke Street overpass. Blunt said a crash left a woman trapped inside her car, but because of bumper-to-bumper traffic and other vehicles not moving out of the way, it took crews 24 minutes to respond when it would’ve taken them just eight minutes otherwise.” [Fox 5]
Pedestrian Tunnel Closure Date Set — “The 23rd Street tunnel is scheduled to close permanently on Tuesday, Sept. 3. The Virginia Department of Transportation will mobilize its contractor to begin deconstruction of the tunnel’s above-ground structures.” [Twitter, Twitter]
Nonprofit’s Student Program Deemed Success — “AHC Inc.’s college- and career-readiness program had a 100-percent high-school-graduation rate for participating students this year. A total of 24 students living in AHC’s local apartment communities participated in the non-profit housing provider’s readiness program.” [InsideNova]
Kiwanis Sell Lots of NJ Blueberries — “Those who purchased blueberries from the Kiwanis Club of Arlington earlier in the summer weren’t alone. Nearly 10,000 pounds of New Jersey berries were sold in the fund-raiser, netting nearly $10,000 that will be used to support grants aimed at serving children.” [InsideNova]
Storm Last Week Cast a Shadow — “A storm on the western horizon is casting a shadow on a storm on the eastern horizon. It doesn’t happen often. These are photos from last Wednesday.” [Twitter]
Nearby: Scooters Face Opposition in Alexandria — “Why scooters have drawn so much ire is among the most enduring mysteries of Alexandria ‘historic character’ activism. Alexandria’s history is replete with lots of vile historic character, like being a major center in the trade of enslaved people.” [Washingtonian]
A “block party” style event with a transportation theme is set for later this month along Columbia Pike.
Arlington County is hosting its third annual “Our Shared Street Pop-Up” on Thursday, August 22, in the parking lot at the intersection of S. Four Mile Run Drive and the Pike. The event will run from 5-7 p.m. that night, and will feature booths from transportation organizations with activities and answers to transportation questions.
“Our Shared Street is a block party where you can get to know your neighbors and local transportation options,” says the event’s website. “There are also tons of great giveaways happening and fun activities.”‘
The goal of the event is to share information about commuting by bike, rail, bus, car, or feet in the county. The county-run Arlington Transportation Partners is organizing the event along with Capital Bikeshare, BikeArlington, and WalkArlington, and Arlington’s Car-Free Diet.
— WalkArlington (@WalkArlington) August 7, 2018
Thanks to everyone who joined us for #OurSharedStreet Pop-up last week! Here's a recap of all the activities and #transportation information shared to empower Arlington communities: https://t.co/FeV2JKDEw8 pic.twitter.com/GiURNJHjBM
— ArlingtonTransPrtnrs (@ATPcommutes) August 13, 2018
What’s not yet certain is whether ride-hailing or e-scooter companies like Uber and Lyft will be present during the late August event — as they were for last year’s event. (The county’s e-scooter program was recently extended, but has seen a slight uptick in crashes and injuries.)
Tickets to the pop-up event are free, but attendees are encouraged to register in advance online.
Rosslyn’s Dark Star Park is growing and recently swallowed a nearby slip lane.
The park is notable for the somewhat strange concrete orbs and poles, designed to cast perfectly aligned shadows every August 1. The expansion of the park was planned as part of the Core of Rosslyn study, a project aimed at making Rosslyn’s street network more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly.
The first stage of the expansion is the closure of a slip lane between Fort Myer Drive and N. Lynn Street. The lane was closed last week and will now be used as park space, furnished with tables, chairs, and artwork.
According to the project website, the county government is hopeful that the community will use the new open space as a daily activity spot.
The next stage of the project will involve the expansion of Dark Star Park’s green space and sidewalks into the unutilized street space, but that expansion is still in the early design stages.
Funding for the second stage of the project is expected to be determined as part of the next Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) budget update.
Insert your own Grateful Dead reference, hippies.
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) July 25, 2019
Images via Arlington County
Proposed changes could help transform a major street in the Pentagon City and Crystal City area into a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly corridor, though it might make traffic a little more congested.
The Army Navy Drive Complete Street project would provide a physically-separated, two-way protected bicycle lane along the south side of Army Navy Drive from S. Joyce Street to 12th Street S. Changes would also make pedestrian crossings shorter and safer, with options to build dedicated transit lanes in the future.
According to the project website:
The project will rebuild Army Navy Drive within the existing right-of-way as a multimodal complete street featuring enhanced bicycle, transit, environmental and pedestrian facilities. The goal of the project is to improve the local connections between the Pentagon and the commercial, residential and retail services in Pentagon City and Crystal City.
The tradeoff for keeping all of this within the right of way is reduced motor vehicle lanes, with slowing traffic through the area billed as a feature rather than a detriment. For most of the route, traffic in each direction is at least two lanes wide, though east of S. Eads Street the plans call for it to narrow from two lanes to one in each direction.
At an open house yesterday (Tuesday) at the Aurora Hills Branch Library (735 18th Street S.), most of those in attendance were local cyclists expressing enthusiasm for the project.
“This is an unspeakably huge improvement for cycling,” said Chris Slatt, chair of the Transportation Commission. “This is a critical piece for connecting bicycle infrastructure.”
Cyclists at the meeting also took the opportunity to note that the improvements planned here were still a stark contrast to plans to realign Columbia Pike near the Air Force Memorial. Cycling advocates at the open house said the Pike plans would turn the nearby intersection of S. Joyce Street and Columbia Pike, which feeds into Army Navy Drive and is already not ideal for bicycling, into a “death trap.”
Photo (3) via Google Maps, project map via Arlington County Department of Environmental Services