Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Holiday Closures Start Tomorrow — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed on Friday, July 3, 2020, for observation of Independence Day… Metered parking [will not be] enforced July 3-4.” [Arlington County]

Affordable Housing Provider Celebrates Scholarships — “Celebrating graduation may have looked a little different this year, but we could not be any prouder of the students from our College and Career Readiness (CCR) program who graduated from high school in 2020. All 31 of the amazing young people who participated in the program this year are off to college in the fall. In total, they were accepted into 135 schools and received an estimated $1.24 million in scholarships and aid.” [AHC Inc.]

Animal Welfare League Not Reopening Yet — “For the health and safety our staff, volunteers, and the public, we have decided to remain closed for the public, but we expect to introduce in-person adoption by appointment on a very limited basis in the coming days. We also hope to begin selling spay and neuter vouchers online very soon.” [Facebook]

New Pedestrian Law Now in Effect — “Drivers must now fully stop, not just yield, for pedestrians in all crosswalks in Virginia or they could be slapped with a $500 fine. The law that went into effect Wednesday, July 1 requires drivers to stop for pedestrians in any marked or unmarked crosswalk… Last year there were 166 crashes in Arlington involving pedestrians. Four people were killed.” [NBC 4]

Another I-395 Daredevil Caught on Camera — It keeps happening: this time, a commercial vehicle was caught on video backing up and crossing all lanes of northbound I-395 to reach the HOV bridge into D.C. [Twitter]

0 Comments

(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) Arlington County will be holding a virtual public meeting tonight to discuss a trio of road projects set for later this year.

The county plans to repave and re-stripe portions of Wilson Blvd in the Dominion Hills and Boulevard Manor neighborhoods, Potomac Avenue in Potomac Yard, and Clarendon Blvd in the Courthouse and Rosslyn neighborhoods. The work is expected to take place this summer and fall, following the current public engagement process.

Arlington has been using its regularly-planned street maintenance to re-stripe roads in an effort make them safer, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists. It often involves the addition or enhancement of bike lanes, sharrows and crosswalks.

At an online meeting tonight from 6:30-7:30 p.m., held via Microsoft Teams, county staff will present the concept plans for its three 2020 projects while seeking public feedback.

More from the event page:

The Master Transportation Plan identifies routine street maintenance as an opportunity to provide cost-effective and easy to implement measures to improve safety and access for all people using the street. Community engagement is a core value in Arlington, and we wanted to provide opportunities for community members to share their feedback on the concept plans for the 2020 Street Maintenance season.

Please join county staff for an online meeting on Thursday, June 4 from 6:30-7:30 pm to learn about the project, ask questions and share feedback on the design concepts for the three 2020 Resurfacing Projects for Complete Streets.

Staff will present concepts for:

  • Wilson Boulevard – N Larrimore Street to McKinley Road (Dominion Hills/Boulevard Manor)
  • Potomac Avenue – S Crystal Drive to Alexandria City Line (Potomac Yard)
  • Clarendon Boulevard – N Nash to N Oak Street (Clarendon-Courthouse/Radnor/Fort Myer Heights)

The country recently repaved and re-striped portions of Lorcom Lane and Military Road. The work was done in conjunction with construction on the new Dorothy Hamm Middle School.

An online open house in April discussed all four projects.

0 Comments

Portions of the Mount Vernon Trail in Arlington should be widened due to heavy use and crash risks, according to a new study.

The National Park Service this month released a report on its Mount Vernon Trail Corridor Study, which examined the condition of the trail, usage patterns and potential improvements.

The trail, which runs along the Potomac from the Rosslyn area to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, is used by more than one millions cyclists and pedestrians per year. But its 1970s-era design no longer reflects current engineering standards and the trail’s heavy usage, the report says.

“The trail is relatively narrow by modern standards, and characterized by meandering curves, timber bridges, and in some areas, dense vegetation,” says the report. “The MVT is beginning to show its age, from deteriorating pavement and bridges, to limited accessibility features, and outdated signage and striping. These attributes, combined with increasing usage and user behavior, contribute to risk exposure and considerable crash history.”

There were 225 reported bike and pedestrian crashes on the trail between 2006 and 2010, according to the study. Many of those were at crash hotspots along the trail in Arlington, including near Reagan National Airport, Gravelly Point and the 14th Street Bridge.

“Trail intersections, roadway crossings, surface transitions, and blind curves along the MVT were associated with higher crash and injury rates,” the report says. “On average, the MVT experiences one ambulance call per week related to a bicycle or pedestrian injury.”

“Collisions are more likely to involve male bicyclists (although males are typically overrepresented in the bicycling community),” the study also notes.

Reported crash injuries range include lacerations, bone fractures and head injuries, attributable to both single-person wrecks and collisions between trail users.

Among the near-term (1-4 year) improvements recommended in the report are new way-finding signs, increased trail maintenance, reduced-slip surfaces on bridges, and new “slow zones” at certain points on the trail.

“‘Slow zones,’ including the appropriate signage and pavement markings [could] be used at areas of high conflict among different trail users (e.g., at Arlington Memorial Bridge, Belle Haven Park, Gravelly Point, and other appropriate locations),” the report says.

The recommendations for medium-term changes — potentially 5-7 years away — are more drastic.

The study recommends that portions of the trail in Arlington be reconstructed and widened to at least 11 feet, in accordance with modern multi-use trail standards, compared to the current average 8-9 foot width. Another possibility: separating cyclists and pedestrians in high-traffic areas like Gravelly Point.

That’s in addition to improved trailheads at Crystal City and Gravelly Point, with “more bicycle parking, repair stations, and additional amenities.”

More from the report:

Widening the trail to meet this standard improves trail safety by providing appropriate width to minimize user conflict in high-traffic areas. Focus areas for widening and modernization include:

  • The portion of the trail located between Four Mile Run and the Theodore Roosevelt Island Bridge, pursuant to NEPA analysis. Some segments of trail in this area face widening constraints, but much of this high-use segment could be widened to better align with best practices and serve trail users.
  • Trail intersection enhancements, such as implementing trail roundabouts, at the 14th Street Bridge and Four Mile Run to better manage these conflict areas by slowing bicycle traffic and reducing conflict points.
  • Consider the use of bicycle-pedestrian separation at areas such as Gravelly Point, which have high levels of user conflict and pedestrian use. This could include a designated pedestrian path or increased separation and access control between the trail and adjacent site. A potential trail redesign in this location could also reduce motorist and trail user conflict at the trail intersection with the Gravelly Point parking lot.

A Mount Vernon Trail widening might not sit well with some local activists. A similar proposal, to widen portions of the W&OD Trail in Arlington and provide separate lanes for cyclists and pedestrians is facing opposition from some who have expressed environmental concerns.

0 Comments

Those who want to see Arlington close lanes or whole streets during the pandemic will have to keep waiting.

County officials say they don’t have the resources to close lanes  in order to create extra space for social distancing among cyclists and pedestrians.

“Due to the many challenges involved, there are no plans at this time to open/close vehicular traffic lanes for walkers and bikers,” Arlington County spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith tells ARLnow.

Some — including ARLnow columnists — have been pushing for such closures, with vehicle traffic down and more people trying to get out of the house for outdoor recreation.

From WAMU last month:

Local governments in Denver, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and other cities around the world have made more space for people, by taking away a lane of roads that have seen declining vehicle traffic or closing some roads altogether.

In D.C., about 700 people signed a letter requesting some lane closures to make larger sidewalks, turn some streets into “local traffic only” and open streets parallel to trail networks. […]

On Friday, Mayor Muriel Bowser shot down the idea on the Kojo Nnamdi show saying, “I don’t want to send the message to people to go out and have a festival.”

A few days later, Bowser announced the closure of a portion of Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park, along with two other parkways.

In Arlington, the neighboring Aurora Highlands and Crystal City civic associations have made specific lane closure recommendations to the County Board, calling for lanes along S. Hayes Street, S. Joyce Street, 12th Street S. and Potomac Avenue to be blocked off.

“Local residents are at risk of coronavirus exposure while being outdoors because of limited space for essential social distancing,” Aurora Highlands Civic Association President Scott Miles wrote in an email last week. “Bike lanes are limited and sidewalks are too narrow to keep a safe distance from the crowds of fellow travelers. Meanwhile vehicular traffic is low, and street parking is underused as most offices and non-essential retail are closed.”

The two civic associations recommended “a specific network of connected streets that are relatively flat and straight, creating better visibility for everyone and easier travel for all pedestrians, including those with disabilities,” he added.

In an online town hall this past Friday, however, Arlington County Police Chief M. Jay Farr said the police department doesn’t have the “thousands” of traffic cones and barriers, not to mention the extra staffing, to create and enforce temporary pedestrian zones on local streets.

He said road closures might look easy during special events, but those events are planned well in advance, are for a short period of time, and require a “tremendous amount of resources and assets… to keep the roads safe.”

“It looks like closing the road is really not going to be that complex the thing, however I just wanted to remind everybody that when we start to look at any road closure there’s a number of factors that go into it,” including things like parking and access to buildings, he said.

“We have many businesses that are dependent upon the conversion of some of our parking to pick up in drop-off spots,” Farr continued. “Most of the places that I’ve seen identified [for closures] also include a number of avenues in and out of apartment buildings or in and out of somebody’s home.”

More from the town hall:

Photo courtesy Aurora Highlands Civic Association

0 Comments

There’s growing evidence that the outdoors are, other than one’s home, the safest place to be during the pandemic.

A study in China revealed that the vast majority of outbreaks reviewed were the result of indoor transmission of the coronavirus. Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb discussed the findings on social media and on CNBC Thursday.

“I think local governments, state governments should be looking at what activities we can move outside, because things can be done outside,” Gottlieb said. “You want to have religious services, you should think about moving them outside. Gym classes, restaurant tables, anything that we can move outside heading into the warm months I think you’re going to have a safer environment for doing things.”

The coronavirus is a highly contagious and deadly disease that is not going away anytime soon. There are no miracle cures at this point, just ways to slow the spread.

Staying quarantined until a vaccine comes, if a vaccine ever comes, might be necessary for those most at risk — those over 65 and with certain chronic health conditions — but it’s not a viable long-term option for the entire population. Many months of home isolation would likely lead to an economic calamity and, well, human nature seems to suggest that lots of people would eventually rebel against it.

Thus, some level of opening up is coming. As Bill Gates wrote on his blog yesterday:

Most developed countries will be moving into the second phase of the epidemic in the next two months. In one sense, it is easy to describe this next phase. It is semi-normal. People can go out, but not as often, and not to crowded places. Picture restaurants that only seat people at every other table, and airplanes where every middle seat is empty. Schools are open, but you can’t fill a stadium with 70,000 people. People are working some and spending some of their earnings, but not as much as they were before the pandemic. In short, times are abnormal but not as abnormal as during the first phase.

The rules about what is allowed should change gradually so that we can see if the contact level is starting to increase the number of infections. Countries will be able to learn from other countries that have strong testing systems in place to inform them when problems come up.

Urbanists have been calling for closing some streets to cars to allow better social distancing for pedestrians and cyclists for weeks now. So far, Arlington has not responded with any solid plans to do so. But what if closing some streets not only allowed safer outdoor recreation, but boosted local small businesses?

Such a scenario might be possible as the curve bends and growth of new COVID-19 cases goes down.

Imagine Clarendon and Wilson Blvds closed in Clarendon, at least on weekends, allowing restaurants and shops to spread out tables and store shelves while pedestrians strolled in the street — a giant sidewalk cafe. Gyms could get in on the action as well. And that could be repeated in Ballston, Crystal City, Westover, and other business districts.

Sure, you would have to have a way to ensure it doesn’t get too crowded. And those who are not dining should be wearing masks to help prevent spreading disease to others, even if it’s less likely to happen outside. Also, such activity would be weather dependent, labor intensive (for businesses, police and county officials), and wouldn’t necessarily be the salve that keeps restaurants in business through the end of the pandemic, whenever that may be.

But as we discussed around the 40 minute mark of last night’s Zoom chat with local business owner Scott Parker, it could be a start and a source of hope and normalcy.

What do you think?

0 Comments

Update at 1:40 p.m. — The County Board meeting scheduled for this weekend has been delayed until Saturday, April 25.

At its Saturday meeting, the Arlington County Board is set to consider a construction contract for upgrades to a portion of 23rd Street S. in Crystal City.

As part of the first phase of a two-phase project, the county is planning to “widen the sidewalk and retail parking areas on the south side of 23rd Street” between Route 1 and S. Eads Street. That will mean improved pedestrian safety and better ease of use for the existing parking lot that serves Young Chow restaurant, the Crystal City Restaurant gentlemen’s club, and 7-Eleven.

“Lane widths will be reduced, but the number of travel lanes will remain the same as today,” a county staff report says. “The new curb re-alignment will create more room for vehicles in the shopping plaza to maneuver without encroaching onto the sidewalk.”

Additionally, the $1.33 million construction contract will add new landscaping, crosswalks, ADA-accessible curb ramps and upgraded traffic signals at the intersection of 23rd and Eads. The overall project cost for Phase 1 is about $2.1 million, which will be funded by a regional Northern Virginia Transportation Authority grant.

“Upon approval by the county board, construction is expected to begin Summer of 2020 and to be complete in Winter of 2021,” says the staff report.

Phase 2 of the project is still in design but is expected to upgrade 23rd Street S. between Route 1 and Crystal Drive, with new sidewalks and trees on either side, while removing the grassy median in the middle. That project being planned in conjunction with JBG Smith’s major redevelopment project on the north side of 23rd Street.

“Phase 2 of the project is anticipated to implement similar improvements on 23rd Street South east of Richmond Highway to Crystal Drive,” the staff report notes. “Phase 2 is currently in 30% design and is being coordinated with private sector redevelopment efforts along 23rd Street South.”

The stretch of 23rd Street S. between Arlington Ridge Road and Crystal Drive, which includes the Crystal City’s well-known restaurant row, is seeing a series of infrastructure changes as Amazon arrives in the neighborhood. A project to replace a major water main along 23rd Street is currently underway, and the county recently finished closing an underground pedestrian tunnel under Route 1.

Separately, the County Board on Saturday will also take up the renaming of the Crystal City Business Improvement District to the “The Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard at National Landing Business Improvement Service District.”

Street view via Google Maps

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Police Searching for Groping Suspect — “N. Glebe Road at 24th Road N. At approximately 7:45 p.m. on April 1, police were dispatched to the report of an assault just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 7:30 p.m., the female victim was walking in the area when the unknown suspect approached her from behind and grabbed her buttocks. The victim turned around and yelled at the suspect, who fled on foot prior to police arrival.” [Arlington County]

Beyer Concerned About Small Biz Loan Program — “U.S. Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) this evening held an urgent conference call with representatives of over a dozen Virginia lending institutions to discuss questions and concerns about the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan program.” [Press Release]

Caps Player Helping to Feed First Responders — “Caps player Garnet Hathaway may be off the ice during this pandemic, but he’s leaning into giving back. He’s got a program that is providing meals to Arlington County’s first responders.” [Fox 5]

Should Some Lanes Become Pedestrian Zones? — With greatly reduced levels of traffic, and guidelines for those out and about to maintain six feet of distance from one another, some localities are mulling temporarily repurposing vehicle travel lanes into pedestrian zones. A few residents are calling on Arlington to consider something similar. [Twitter, Twitter]

Follow ARLnow on Instagram — Stuck at home and want to see more of what’s going on around different parts of Arlington? Follow our Instagram account for daily updates from ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott. [Instagram]

0 Comments

A bus station on Washington Blvd is temporarily closing for improvements to an intersection a couple blocks north of the Virginia Square Metro station.

The intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Nelson Street is considered a “hot spot” of crashes, according to an Arlington County project webpage. It’s located on the northeast corner of Quincy Park, one block from Washington-Liberty High School, and several blocks from intersections that have seen a number of notable crashes involving pedestrians.

“Three pedestrian crashes occurred at this location in the three-year analysis timeframe,” staff said in a webpage for the project. “Traffic speeds are generally higher than the posted speed limit. Auto and pedestrian volumes at this location are also relatively high for the facility type.”

The County plans to install rectangular rapid flashing beacons for pedestrians and to make additional crossing and curb improvements to make the intersection more accessible. The changes will also make the sidewalk wider on the northern side of Washington Blvd.

A county staff presentation from December suggests construction will take place over the course of this spring and summer. WMATA says the bus stop at the intersection will be discontinued starting today (Monday) and passengers should board or exit at N. Quincy Street and N. Lincoln Street a block west and east respectively.

Other parts of Washington Blvd have also gone through changes to make the street safer, including the nearby intersection of N. Utah Street.

Map via Google Maps

0 Comments

Arlington is planning to host an open house to mark the start of the development of the county’s Vision Zero Action Plan.

Last July, the County Board directed County Manager Mark Schwartz to develop goals and an action plan for a comprehensive analysis of traffic safety in Arlington as part of the County’s Vision Zero goals — the name for a series of initiatives aimed at eliminating traffic fatalities.

Details on the plan were vague at the time, though similar plans have been enacted in Alexandria, where some changes like traffic calming measures and lane reductions have been famously controversial.

The open house is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 28, from 5-8 p.m. at Washington-Liberty High School (1301 N. Stafford Street). An event listing said visitors will be able to learn more about current Vision Zero plans and share their priorities for improving transportation safety in Arlington.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

0 Comments

Arlington could finally make progress on a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Four Mile Run near Shirlington that’s been under discussion for nearly two decades, according to county staff.

Staff told the Transportation Commission at a Jan. 9 meeting that the current bridge, which carries two lanes of vehicular traffic in each direction on Shirlington Road, has inadequate bicycle-pedestrian facilities, with only a 3-5 foot sidewalk available.

Pedestrian access on Shirlington Road has been a thorn in the county’s side for years, with efforts made in the past to widen nearby sidewalks and make them more pedestrian-friendly — while the bridge bottleneck remained.

The bridge itself is still in good condition, staff said, so rather than reconstruct the bridge staff said a new bicycle and pedestrian-only bridge constructed 20 feet to the west would provide an alternative transit route without cutting into traffic on the Shirlington bridge.

The project, staff noted, has already been fully funded in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, but not plans have moved forward.

An open house for the pedestrian bridge project is scheduled for Feb. 11 from 6-8 p.m., in which nearby civic associations will be invited, though the location of the open house was not announced. Staff said renderings for the bridge will be available at the open house.

“We are starting to implement what came out of the Four Mile Run area plan,” staff said.

The Four Mile Run plan also considered a, underpass running beneath the bridge, negating the need for cyclists and other trail users to cross busy Shirlington Road, though that was not discussed at the Transportation Commission meeting. Arlington County is currently working on a $15.5 million renovation project for Jennie Dean Park, adjacent to the future bridge.

Photo via Google Maps

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Regular Schedule for ART Tomorrow — “ART will operate holiday service on Christmas Day (December 25) and New Year’s Day (January 1). On both days, ART 41, 42, 45, 51, 55 and 87 will operate Sunday service. All other ART routes will not operate. ART will operate regular weekday service on December 24.” [Arlington Transit]

Holiday Hours at Pentagon City Mall — The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City is “offering special holiday hours to accommodate busy holiday shoppers… Shoppers can have their gifts beautifully wrapped this holiday season for a nominal fee with all proceeds benefiting Arms Outstretched, a local nonprofit organization supporting wounded warriors. The gift-wrapping service will be located on the second level near Nordstrom.” [Press Release]

Travel Tips at National Airport — “The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is gearing up for another record holiday travel period at both Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport. As the holidays approach, the Airports Authority expects to see heavier traffic and passenger volumes.” [Press Release]

Video Highlights ACPD Crosswalk Enforcement — “WATCH: The Arlington County Police Department routinely conducts pedestrian crosswalk safety enforcement campaigns using decoy officers and federal standards for safe stopping distances.” [Twitter]

Football Team Drops By Elementary School — “Earlier today, the @dcdivasfootball visited Long Branch to talk about who they are, following your passion, health/fitness, and then walked through a few drills. The D.C. Divas, which play in the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA), are one of the most well-known and successful teams in women’s tackle football.” [Instagram]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list