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by Alex Koma June 14, 2018 at 4:15 pm 0

Three troublesome intersections across Arlington are now set for some improvements, as part of the county’s “Neighborhood Complete Streets” program.

The county revealed yesterday (Wednesday) that it has chosen a trio of intersections for “pilot projects” of the program, which is designed to fund a whole host of local road projects in areas plagued by frequent accidents. In the coming months, workers will start construction at:

  • 6th Street S. at S. Adams Street in Penrose
  • N. Buchanan Street at 13th Street N. and 14th Street N. in Waycroft-Woodlawn
  • 6th Street N. at N. Edison Street and N. Emerson Street in Bluemont

At 6th Street S., officials chose the intersection due to its “extremely wide pedestrian crossing,” according to the county’s website.

“Though there is a center median, it doesn’t provide a refuge for pedestrians crossing 6th Street South, which is both a bicycle and transit route,” staff wrote.

Similarly, county staff note that the “intersection of 6th Street N. and N. Emerson Street has a sharp bend that leads to the intersection of 6th Street N. and N. Edison Street, which is extremely wide.”

“The large width of this neighborhood intersection makes it easy for cars to travel quickly through this area, even while turning, and makes for a longer pedestrian crossing,” staff wrote.

Finally, the county is aiming for improvements at N. Buchanan Street in order to make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to gain access to nearby Woodlawn Park.

Officials have yet to decide on the exact details of the construction at these intersections, and will hold a series of public meetings to collect community input:

  • 6th Street S.: Trinity Episcopal Church Children’s Center, Tuesday (June 19) at 7:30 p.m.
  • N. Buchanan Street: Entrance of Woodlawn Park at N. Buchanan Street and 14th Street N., June 23 from 9:30 to 11:30 am and June 25 from 8:30 to 10:30 am.
  • 6th Street N.: Arlington Traditional School, June 27 at 7:30 p.m.

The county is planning to add “tactical/interim improvements” at each intersection this fall, as it works on more extensive plans.

Arlington officials picked these three projects after asking for public submissions of tricky intersections around the county and reviewed 169 potential projects in all. The county is currently studying all of those intersections, and will eventually score and rank each one for potential funding going forward.

However, transportation officials warn that the county’s recent budget squeeze has forced staff to trim funding for the program a bit, though they have not eliminated it entirely.

by Alex Koma June 8, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

(Updated at 1:55 p.m.) Transportation planners have nearly finalized designs for a long-awaited effort to overhaul Virginia’s only railroad connection to D.C.

Officials from Virginia, D.C. and an alphabet soup’s worth of federal agencies have spent years working on plans to replace the Long Bridge — which runs roughly parallel to the 14th Street Bridge — and improve rail capacity over the Potomac River.

Officials say they are almost ready to commit to more concrete plans to guide the redesign. The project still needs millions of dollars in funding to move ahead, and construction wouldn’t start until 2020 at the earliest, yet planners are pushing to have engineering and environmental analyses drawn up by summer 2019.

State rail officials told the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission at a meeting last night (June 7) that they’ve managed to narrow down a long list of alternatives for replacing the bridge, which stretches from near the Pentagon in Arlington to Southwest D.C., to two final possibilities.

Both plans involve building a new, two-track bridge alongside the existing structure, which was first built back in 1904. One alternative calls for the current bridge to stay in place; the other would involve fully replacing it.

Either way, officials believe the project is critical for initiatives like ramping up Virginia Railway Express and Amtrak service between Virginia and the District.

“It is really a bridge of national significance,” Jennifer Mitchell, the director of the state’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation, told the commission. “It carries a tremendous amount of traffic with commuters that would otherwise be on I-66 or 395.”

Doug Allen, the CEO of VRE, stressed that increasing rail capacity across the Potomac will be particularly critical for his trains. Commercial freight trains from the company CSX, which owns the bridge, often have to compete with commuter trains for space on the tracks, and Mitchell suggested that running a second bridge alongside the Long Bridge would help avoid that sort of conflict.

“For us to be able to add more service to our trains, we need to add more tracks there,” Allen said.

But even with so many people invested in seeing the project finished, Mitchell was sure to note that the whole effort is “very complex.” The bridge stretches just past historic resources like the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, not to mention other, “sensitive areas dealing with security” in D.C. itself, Allen said.

The project will also require extensive conversations about how exactly officials can include bike and pedestrian options alongside the new bridge, a key point of concern for Arlington’s representatives on the commission.

Allen noted that officials are considering two options for bike and pedestrian crossings that would not be attached to the Long Bridge, running closer to the bridge for Metro trains nearby, but still included in the overall project. But he said planners could decide to add bike and pedestrian options on the new bridge itself, though he did note that could prompt some “security concerns.”

Whichever option officials choose, Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol urged Allen to keep bicyclists, walkers and runners in mind throughout the planning process, given the unique opportunity this project presents. After all, she noted, the current crossing along the 14th Street Bridge does not offer a connection to the regional trail network on the D.C. side.

(more…)

by Alex Koma June 6, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

Construction work on an access road crossing a portion of Army Navy Country Club could be pushed back by nearly a decade, as Arlington grapples with a funding squeeze impacting transportation projects.

County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan calls for engineering work on the project, which is designed to link the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive, to start by fiscal year 2027 with construction kicking off two years later. The county has long expected to start design work for the project by fiscal year 2020, with work to begin in 2022.

Since 2010, county officials have aimed to build the new road, which would be reserved for emergency vehicles looking to more easily cross I-395, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. The 30-foot-wide road would run from S. Queen Street, near Hoffman-Boston Elementary, to the I-395 underpass, where a country club access road meets up with Army Navy Drive.

The process has required a good bit of back-and-forth with the country club — the county only secured an easement on the club’s property as part of a deal to allow Army Navy’s owners to build a larger clubhouse than county zoning rules would ordinarily permit. Some members of the country club even sued the county to block the arrangement, over concerns that cyclists and pedestrians on the proposed trail would be disruptive to golfers.

Yet Arlington leaders have pressed ahead with the project all the same, with the County Board approving two different updates to the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, known as the CIP, including funding for the project.

Schwartz hasn’t gone so far as to ask the Board to abandon the project — his proposed CIP calls for the county to spend $837,000 on engineering work in fiscal years 2027 and 2028 — but the delay does reflect Arlington’s new challenges paying for transportation projects.

As he’s unveiled the new CIP, Schwartz has frequently warned that the deal hammered out by state lawmakers to send the Metro system hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funding has hammered localities like Arlington. Not only does the deal increase the county’s annual contribution to Metro, but it sucks away money from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a regional body that would ordinarily help localities fund transportation projects.

With the county having to shift money around to compensate for those changes, officials say smaller projects like the Army Navy access road will necessarily suffer.

“Overall, the transportation CIP has fewer resources for smaller, neighborhood-scale improvements due to reduced funding resulting from legislation,” Jessica Baxter, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services, told ARLnow via email.

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by Bridget Reed Morawski April 6, 2018 at 3:00 pm 0

Arlington County may be known as a generally pedestrian-friendly place, but you can get ticketed for jaywalking here.

At least 18 citations were issued in 2017 for common pedestrian code violations, according to the Arlington County Police Department.

Nine citations were issued for “pedestrian disobey walk/don’t walk,” and another nine were issued for “pedestrian walk in street when sidewalk is available,” according to ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

(The term jaywalking, while colloquially used to describe those crimes, is technically not an offense code in Virginia.)

“As part of a police officer’s routine duties, they enforce various traffic laws for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists,” Savage told ARLnow.com. “Officers utilize their discretion and take enforcement action when there is a clear danger to the safety of travelers.”

At least one of these enforcement actions occurred yesterday outside of the Deloitte offices in Rosslyn (1919 N. Lynn Street), according to a tipster, who sent a photo of a man waiting near a police cruiser as an officer wrote up a citation.

Pedestrian-related citations, dependent on the exact nature of the offense, can result in fines of $66 (including processing fee).

Recent pedestrian-related fines, including fines for paying attention to a mobile device while crossing the street, have drawn attention from D.C. to Honolulu.

The annual Street Smart regional traffic safety campaign kicks off soon, running from April 16-May 13. The law enforcement effort attempts to encourage safe behavior among pedestrians, drivers, and bicyclists “through high visibility traffic enforcement and education while reducing the number of traffic related crashes and injuries.”

by Bridget Reed Morawski March 22, 2018 at 9:45 am 0

The pedestrian tunnel that crosses Route 1 in Crystal City will eventually be removed as part of the 23rd Street alignment project, though a scheduled closing has not been set.

The project, which is several years out, will “accommodate redevelopment on the east and west intersections of 23rd Street S. between Crystal Drive and S. Clark-Bell Street” in two phases. (Clark and Bell streets are also being realigned and merged into one.)

The tunnel may be closed before the project begins, “because it is underutilized” and because of upkeep costs, according to a county spokesperson. The tunnel was intended as a safety improvement, though many locals take their chances at street level due to the tunnel being dark and smelling like urine.

Robert Mandle, Crystal City Business Improvement District’s chief operating officer, cited several reasons for the change, including increased visibility for the row of restaurants along 23rd Street S. and what he called the “surprisingly common misconception that the tunnel will take you to Metro.”

“The interest in closing the tunnel really arises from the fact that most people use the surface crossing because the tunnel is longer, indirect, and uncomfortable,” Mandle wrote in an email to ARLnow. “Recent safety enhancements completed by Arlington County have further improved the existing signalized crossings.”

by ARLnow.com March 7, 2018 at 9:45 am 0

Crews are starting construction this week on changes to an intersection in Courthouse.

The $640,000 project is intended to provide pedestrian safety improvements at the intersection of Clarendon Blvd and 15th Street N. One major change is the removal of a slip lane.

The plan is to remove a one-way portion of roadway that serves as a shortcut to 15th Street N. in front of county government headquarters, and instead have Clarendon Blvd traffic access 15th Street via a 90 degree turn at the traffic signal-equipped intersection a bit farther down the road.

As currently configured the triangle of roadway leads to conflicts between cars and pedestrians, county staff says. The goal of the project is to improve “pedestrian safety, circulation and access in and around Courthouse Plaza.”

The new intersection will include additional trees, green space and other amenities for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Construction hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Friday, according to the county website.

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 28, 2018 at 2:45 pm 0

The Arlington County Board approved $1.4 million in additional funding for the N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway esplanade and safety enhancement project.

The Virginia Department of Transportation came to county officials with a cost estimate significantly higher than the initial $7.95 million price tag, which was approved by the Board in December 2016.

The increase is due to lengthened construction time, increased materials and labor costs since the 2016 estimate and design changes relating to traffic plans, according to the county manager’s report. Initially, the call for construction bids in March 2017 only received one bidder, which was rejected “due to previous established restriction on the bidder by VDOT,” according to the manager’s recommendation.

The project will bring pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements, such as wider sidewalks and on-street bike lanes, as well as traffic management and street beautification to the N. Lynn Street and Custis Trail area. A public arts project, the long-delayed Corridor of Light project, will also be installed, but only at the four corners of the I-66 bridge.

Safety is a significant component of the project. The intersection of Lynn Street and Lee Highway, once dubbed the “Intersection of Doom,” has been the scene of numerous vehicle vs. pedestrian crashes over the past few years, though collisions are down since interim safety improvements have been installed

The Board unanimously approved the increase in budget at its Tuesday meeting. Project construction should wrap up by May 2020.

File photos

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 22, 2018 at 4:30 pm 0

A Crystal City to Reagan National Airport pedestrian connection is feasible, according to a study conducted by the Crystal City Business Improvement District.

The study, released today (Thursday), determined that the connection would allow most Crystal City residents and employees to walk to the airport within approximately 15 minutes. The connection would link the airport’s terminal B/C parking garage with a JBG Smith private office building complex on Crystal Drive near 20th Street S.

Construction is estimated to cost approximately $38 million, with annual maintenance fees of $100,000. Various possible pedestrian connection configurations, including both open air and enclosed setups, were illustrated in the study. One configuration envisions the pedestrian bridge as a park-like destination, akin to New York City’s High Line.

The majority of airport arrivals are via either private car or taxi. Only 12 percent of arrivals are via Metro, according to the study.

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 22, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

Enhanced crosswalks and curb extensions are coming to S. Walter Reed Drive, just south of Columbia Pike, in an effort to calm traffic and improve intersections for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Storm sewer upgrades and raised medians will also be added to the stretch of S. Walter Reed Drive between 11th Street S. and 13th Street S. The current “bike boulevard” will move from 12th Street S. to 11th Street S. between S. Highland Street and S. Cleveland Street.

County Manager Mark Schwartz has recommended awarding the project to Fort Myer Construction, headquartered in Washington. The County Board is scheduled to consider the contract at its Saturday meeting. The contract cost is $444,575.11, with a change order contingency allocation of $88,915.02.

Photo via Google Maps

by Anna Merod February 8, 2018 at 2:15 pm 0

The emergency lights are on at the Pentagon City Metro station’s underground pedestrian tunnel, but nobody’s there.

The third entrance to the Metro station is still closed despite an Arlington County staff report scheduling a March 2017 opening. The tunnel is now supposed to open sometime this spring, wrote Catherine Matthews, communications specialist for the county’s Dept. of Environmental Services, to ARLnow.com via email.

The pedestrian tunnel connected to the Metro is located at the northeast corner of the intersection of S. Hayes Street and 12th Street S. The tunnel opening was initially scheduled for 2015.

The county made an agreement last year with WMATA to claim responsibility for maintaining and operating the $1.3 million tunnel.

“Over the past year the connection, operations and maintenance agreement with WMATA has been amended and a separate letter agreement with Brookfield Office Properties has been executed; specifically to confirm and finalize procedures for the opening and closing of the tunnel each day,” Matthews said.

WMATA and Brookfield Office Properties are responsible for finalizing the procedures for opening and closing the tunnel, according to Matthews, and once that has been done the tunnel will open, she added.

When it does open, the tunnel will be available to pedestrians weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

by Chris Teale January 23, 2018 at 11:15 am 0

A 60-year-old man suffered non-life-threatening injuries after being struck by a car on Washington Blvd earlier today (Tuesday) near Washington-Lee High school.

A driver in a white SUV struck the man just before 10:30 a.m. at the intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Stafford Street. According to scanner traffic, he had a head wound but was conscious, and was attended to by nearby construction workers before police and medics arrived.

Officers from the Arlington County Police Department canvassed witnesses nearby but did not close any roads, and traffic appeared to be flowing as normal.

Washington Blvd has had well-documented issues with pedestrian-vehicle conflicts in recent years, despite various safety improvements being installed. A teen was struck by a car in 2016 at its intersection with N. Utah Street and suffered a serious head injury.

In the aftermath, police stepped up traffic enforcement at the intersection to enforce traffic laws on scofflaw drivers. Still, reports of drivers ignoring pedestrians in the crosswalk continued.

by Chris Teale December 27, 2017 at 9:45 am 0

A shared-use path is now open on eastbound Washington Blvd near the Pentagon, part of a bridge rehabilitation project in Arlington County.

The Virginia Department of Transportation said a 14-foot wide path for bicycles and pedestrians along eastbound Washington Blvd (Route 27) over Route 110 opened yesterday (Tuesday).

The path is now 14 feet wide on the bridge and replaces a narrow concrete sidewalk that pedestrians and cyclists used to use. It is 10 feet wide on the approaches to the bridge.

Drivers in the area can expect some delays starting tonight (Wednesday), as eastbound traffic on Washington Blvd will shift onto the newly-constructed portion of the bridge. The traffic shift allows construction crews to demolish the middle portion of the bridge and rebuild it.

Work is expected to last from 10 p.m. tonight until 5 a.m. tomorrow (Thursday). Drivers are advised to seek alternate routes.

VDOT said it still believes the $31.5 million project is on track to wrap up next year. It will replace the existing bridge, built in 1941, with one that is wider, longer and taller.

Photo via VDOT

by Chris Teale December 19, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

A bill in the Virginia State Senate would require that drivers come to a complete stop when yielding to pedestrians crossing the street.

The bill, SB 46 introduced by state Sen. Barbara Favola (D), adds language to state law telling motorists what constitutes yielding to a pedestrian: “by stopping and remaining stopped until such pedestrian has safely crossed,” per the bill text.

Favola’s bill would require drivers to stop and remain stopped at the following places:

  • Clearly marked crosswalks, whether at mid-block or at the end of any block.
  • Any regular pedestrian crossing included in the boundary lines of the adjacent sidewalk at the end of a block.
  • Any intersection when the driver is approaching on a highway where the maximum speed limit is 35 miles per hour.

Language on when drivers must yield to pedestrians is included in the Virginia Criminal and Traffic Manual, but does not include the line to have drivers stop.

“Under this bill, a car would have to stop. Right now all you have to do is yield,” Favola told ARLnow.com. “So if a pedestrian is crossing and is on one half of the crosswalk, a car can go through the other half. This would make them stop completely.”

Favola’s district includes sections of Arlington County. The new legislation comes on the heels of a recent enforcement effort by the Arlington County Police Department, during which officers cited more than 30 motorists at several intersections for failing to yield.

The bill would not change the fines for violations: $100-$500 when street signs require drivers to yield and no more than $100 at crossings with shared-use paths like trails.

by Chris Teale December 8, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

The Arlington County Police Department cited 20 drivers yesterday (Thursday) on Columbia Pike for failing to yield to pedestrians, as part of an active enforcement effort.

Officers stationed themselves at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street in Alcova Heights and an officer in a bright orange shirt crossed the street as cars in the distance started to approach. ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said they cited 20 people for failing to yield.

The enforcement effort is part of its 2017 Street Smart Pedestrian, Driver, and Bicyclist Safety Campaign. A similar enforcement by police officers took place in mid-November.

The program aims to change road users’ behavior while reducing the number of crashes and injuries. Officers ticketed motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians who violated traffic laws.

by Chris Teale November 17, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

Arlington County Police cited 11 drivers in two places earlier this week for failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said the tickets were issued from two locations: the intersections of Washington Blvd and 4th Street N. in Lyon Park; and Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street in Alcova Heights.

Police said the program is part of its 2017 Street Smart Pedestrian, Driver, and Bicyclist Safety Campaign from November 6 through December 3.

The program aims to change road users’ behavior while reducing the number of crashes and injuries. Officers ticketed motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians who violated traffic laws.

Officers will conduct another high-visibility enforcement effort on November 30.

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