State transportation officials have firmed up their plans for a new bike and pedestrian bridge over Lee Highway in East Falls Church, putting the project on track for construction to kick off next spring.
VDOT unveiled final designs for the planned Washington & Old Dominion Trail bridge at a community meeting last Thursday (Oct. 11), sketching out more details on the bridge that is designed to offer a safer alternative to the trail’s current crossing at the highway’s intersection with Fairfax Drive.
The bridge’s design is largely unchanged from plans that VDOT showed off last summer. Some of the biggest changes include the removal of a barrier with streetlights running down the middle of the bridge and a change to the “piers” holding up the bridge — they now include open space in the middle of their “v” shape.
Officials initially proposed a design for the bridge that featured a trussed roof and red paint, yet some neighbors objected to those features, as well as the bridge’s potential to disrupt long-range plans for the area’s transportation networks.
Planners ultimately changed the bridge’s color and removed the roof, and even agreed to tweak the lighting features on the bridge too. Instead of a barrier lined by street lights, the bridge will now include lighting underneath the v-shaped posts running along its sides.
VDOT also detailed potential traffic disruptions prompted by the bridge’s construction at the meeting. Officials expect that there will be temporary closures on Lee Highway as the bridge’s beams and girders are put in place, and they expect that the fire lane on Fairfax Drive will be closed as construction continues. The W&OD Trail will also be realigned temporarily to allow for the construction, and could also see some temporary closures.
Planners are tentatively hoping to begin work on the bridge early next year, then wrap it up by the fall of 2020. The work will also move in tandem with the I-66 eastbound widening project, which VDOT also hopes to complete in late 2020.
Plans to make Rosslyn a bit easier to navigate for pedestrians and bicyclists are coming together, though county officials are concerned that some of the proposed changes might further snarl traffic in the area.
The county unveiled its latest designs for future of the “Core of Rosslyn” at a public meeting last Tuesday (Oct. 2), which includes plans to convert several streets around the Rosslyn Metro station into two-way roads, remove the Fort Myer Drive tunnel under Wilson Blvd and add a host of new connections for cyclists and walkers.
However, transportation planners worry that these alterations will produce “significant increases in gridlock” over the next decade or so, according to meeting documents.
In all, they’re projecting that the proposals will increase wait times at intersections in the neighborhood by a total of 19 minutes during the morning rush hour (with especially acute problems at the already jammed intersection of the Key Bridge, G.W. Parkway and Lee Highway) and a total of six minutes during the evening rush. They’re hoping to refine these designs in the coming months to address those issues, while maintaining the positive parts of the plan.
Certainly, planners expect the changes will result in substantial improvements in Rosslyn’s offerings for people who aren’t relying on cars to get around. The designs included 14 new or improved crosswalks for pedestrians, and more than 1.3 miles of new protected bike lanes included in the design. The lanes, largely set to run along Fort Myer Drive, N. Moore Street and N. Nash Street, are designed to ease bike connections to the Key Bridge and Mt. Vernon and Custis Trails.
The plans also keep alive the county’s long-considered possibility of building a car-free, “pedestrian corridor” running from 18th Street N.’s intersection with N. Oak Street to N. Kent Street, a change that would replace the Rosslyn skywalk system to make the Metro station more accessible.
Yet the county expects that this design would create some new challenges for walkers and cyclists as well. In particular, allowing two-way access on roads like N. Fort Myer Drive, N. Lynn Street and N. Kent Street will create a host of new “conflict points,” where cars are turning across crosswalks, prompting further delays for all involved.
That’s why Arlington officials are still accepting feedback on tweaks to the design.
Among the questions they want answered is whether people actually want to see the Fort Myer Drive tunnel filled in and transformed into a regular, signalized intersection with Wilson Blvd. The change would prompt additional delays at the intersections, and would involve “extensive construction costs and [a] long timeframe,” but could make it substantially easier for people to access the Rosslyn Metro station.
Similarly, planners want to know if making N. Lynn Street a two-way road is worth the extra traffic headaches it might entail. The county projects that the change “reduces confusion and allows for more direct routing” if it’s put in place, but it would also force officials to find new access points to the G.W. Parkway, I-66 and the Key Bridge.
The county plans to finish collecting feedback by Friday (Oct. 12), then unveil revised designs in the coming months. Officials hope to have final study recommendations for the area ready by sometime this winter.
Transportation planners will soon unveil the final design of a new bike and pedestrian bridge stretching over Lee Highway in East Falls Church.
VDOT plans to show off the finalized schematics for the Washington & Old Dominion Trail bridge at a community meeting next month, capping off a design process that drew plenty of flak from neighbors last year. The new bridge, which is being built as part of widening work on I-66 eastbound in the area, is designed to replace the trail’s current crossing at the highway’s intersection with Fairfax Drive and offer a safer environment for walkers and cyclists.
Officials had initially proposed a design for the bridge that featured a trussed roof and red paint, yet neighbors objected to those features, as well as the bridge’s potential to disrupt long-range plans for the area’s transportation networks.
But VDOT has since tweaked its design to address the most controversial features, proposing a bridge that’s gray in color without a trussed roof, in a bid to address some of those concerns. Even still, some questions about noise walls and public art lingered during a meeting on the project last year.
Planners will look to address those worries and more at an Oct. 11 meeting at Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd) from 6:30-8:30 p.m., where they’ll deliver a presentation on “final design plans and aesthetic details.”
If all goes as planned, construction is set to start on the bridge by spring 2019 and run through fall 2020.
(Updated at 10 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools is indefinitely suspending its incentive program to push employees out of their cars, after the effort proved to be a bit too successful — and expensive.
The school system’s Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Commuter Program provides stipends to employees for turning to public transit, walking, bicycling, carpooling and other options to limit the number of cars going to and from schools.
It was budgeted for $222,600 last year, but School Board spokeswoman Linda Erdos said actual expenses were over $389,000. While the difference was covered in last year’s budget, Erdos said the budget for the program remained the same for FY 2019 without the same flexibility.
“No one wanted to make any changes, but we also had to find a way to reduce the growing deficit,” said Erdos in an email. “Carpoolers and transit users also receive stipends, and staff believed that maintaining those programs was important because it immediately reduces an employee’s direct costs for commuting (fares, toll fees and fuel) and keeps the number of cars in school parking lots lower.”
Erdos said the school system looked at reducing the stipend for walkers and bicyclists, but were still left with a $50,000 deficit.
At last Thursday’s School Board meeting (Aug. 30), Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations John Chadwick stated that part of the reason the bicyclists’ and pedestrians’ incentives were targeted was because the data showed they’d be more likely to continue using those methods to get to school.
“Looking at numbers and usage, those members of staff who used to bike and walk would be most likely to continue using walking and biking to school,” said Chadwick. “If we applied the benefit to users of the carpool, we would likely get more people returning to single use cars and have more cars around our schools, more congestion, which causes safety concerns and issues of air quality. Faced with a difficult decision, we determined it would be most useful to suspend bike [and] walk benefits.”
Teachers at the Aug. 30 meeting said they dismayed by the decision.
“Two years ago, the incentive program helped me change my habits,” said Aaron Schuetz, a physics teacher at Yorktown High School. “Now, biking to work is my primary mode of transportation… [it was] disappointing to get email that it was cancelled.”
The suspension of the motor-free benefits was effective Sept. 1, which some teachers noted was an abrupt change.
“I was surprised to see benefits eliminated with three days notice,” said Jeffrey Bunting, an english teacher at Yorktown High School. “I found the process maybe a little cynical how it was eliminated… I fully agree there are probably improvements that can be done, but I encourage the Board and Mr. Chadwick not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Erdos said the Office of Multimodal Transportation Planning in the Department of Facilities & Operations will continue to work on reorganizing the program and will release more information later this year about the changes.
Photo via Arlington Public Schools
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) A pedestrian was struck by a taxi cab in a crosswalk along a busy section of Columbia Pike, per scanner traffic.
The incident happened around 3 p.m. today (Tuesday), near the the intersection of the pike and S. Walter Reed Drive, just near the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse.
County police spokeswoman Kirby Clark said the pedestrian “suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was transported to an area hospital.”
She added the driver was cited for “failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.”
Photo courtesy of @karaokemookie
A bridge for walkers and cyclists in Lubber Run Park is now closed, at least temporarily.
An alert on the county’s website says the bridge, closest to N. George Mason Drive as a trail runs over Lubber Run itself, will be closed “until further notice.”
A tipster first notified ARLnow about the closure on Friday (Aug. 3). County parks spokeswoman Susan Kalish says workers checked on the bridge while doing some park maintenance, and subsequently decided to close it.
“Our crew was concerned with the bridge but they aren’t bridge experts,” Kalish wrote in an email. “They closed the bridge and have scheduled a bridge expert to check it out.”
Kalish expects the county is “erring on the side of caution” with the closure, but she stressed that “safety is our number one concern.”
The county’s posted detour signs for anyone using the trail, and is directing walkers and bicyclists away from the bridge while work continues.
The park, located at 200 N. Columbus Street, was recently the site of a community gathering to pay tribute to the soon-to-be torn down Lubber Run Community Center.
Arlington is gearing up to test some protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety features along a heavily trafficked stretch of N. Pershing Drive in Lyon Park.
The county plans to install the new “safety and accessibility improvements” on the road between Washington Blvd and N. Barton Street in the coming weeks, as part of some previously scheduled summer paving work in the area. Mainly, the construction will focus on adding protected bike lanes alongside some new landscaping designed to better separate cars from pedestrians.
Transportation planners have been studying the road for potential improvements since last summer, over concerns that Pershing can be challenging for cyclists and pedestrians alike along the road as it leads up to Route 50. While the county hopes to eventually make the changes permanent, Arlington’s gloomy financial picture means that officials will merely be testing out the new features over the next few years as “a cost-effective opportunity to implement improvements early,” according to the county’s website.
Workers also plan to relocate the Capital Bikeshare station in the area once the paving work gets going. The station currently sits along 7th Street N., but the county is planning to move it up the block a bit to where the road intersects with Washington Blvd, adjacent to a gas station in the area.
County transportation spokesman Eric Balliet says that work will likely start sometime in September, noting “we don’t have an exact timeframe yet.”
Someday, the county plans to add pedestrian safety and bus stop accessibility improvements at intersections all along Pershing as it runs to meet N. Glebe Road. However, those projects are on hold until the county can come up with a bit more funding.
Commuters looking to learn more about local transportation options can swing by a block party along Columbia Pike tomorrow night (Tuesday).
Arlington Transportation Partners is hosting its second “Our Shared Street Pop-Up” event on a closed street at the intersection of S. Oakland Street and Columbia Pike, just across from the Oakland Apartments.
The event is designed to connect people to county transportation resources like Walk Arlington and Bike Arlington, in addition to a host of private options as well. Notably, this year’s gathering will feature dockless electric scooter companies Bird and Lime — the former has already started operating in Arlington, while the latter is very much eyeing the county for expansion.
Lime will also be offering its dockless bikes for riders to try, and Capital Bikeshare will be on hand as well to show off its wares to potential customers. The event will also feature games, giveaways and free food from local restaurants.
The party will start at 5 p.m. Tuesday night, and the county has a list of frequently asked questions about the event on its website.
Photo via Arlington Transportation Partners
After a man was struck by a car in the middle of a Bluemont intersection, some of his neighbors see new urgency for their years-long effort to force the county to improve conditions for pedestrians in the area.
County police say Eric Larsen was crossing N. Carlin Springs Road near its intersection with N. Edison Street early in the morning last Monday (July 16), when a car slammed into him. Larsen was taken to George Washington University hospital with non-life threatening injuries, and neighbors say he’s still recovering from some broken bones caused by the crash.
Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage says “charges are pending” against the driver, but people living in the area see the intersection’s design deficiencies as the real cause of the crash.
Lora Strine, who lives in the Arlington Forest neighborhood nearby, says her citizens’ association has pressed the county for changes in the area going back to at least 2016. She points out that Carlin Springs is a popular option for walkers looking to reach the Ballston Metro, as Larsen was at the time of the accident, or even the Safeway near the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Drive.
Yet Strine says the area lacks clearly marked crosswalks or traffic calming measures to slow drivers, particularly on such a wide road, and she can’t understand why it’s taken the county so long to address the issue.
“This accident is not really an accident,” Strine told ARLnow. “It’s really been years in the making.”
Arlington officials point out that they’re hardly ignoring the area, however.
County transportation spokesman Eric Balliet says workers plan to install a flashing sign that can be activated by pedestrians crossing Carlin Springs near the road’s intersection with N. Harrison Street, just a few blocks from the Larsen crash. That signal should be in place as soon as next month.
Balliet added that the county is also planning some curb extensions and crosswalk improvements all along Carlin Springs, leading up to Edison Street, with work set to start in the spring of 2019 and wrap up the following year.
But Strine feels that’s far too long for the neighborhood to wait, and managed to secure a meeting with county staff and County Board member John Vihstadt to make that argument.
Vihstadt says “the jury is still out” in terms of how, exactly, the Board might be able to speed up the construction, though he certainly agrees with Strine’s assessment of the intersection. He’s spent the last year or so working with Arlington Forest residents on the issue, and he sees a need for the county to act quickly, as development in Ballston continues to ramp up and bring people to the area.
“That’s an awful long time to wait for these measures,” Vihstadt said. said. “I don’t find that acceptable at all.”
At the very least, Vihstadt hopes to see the county beef up the webpage displaying details about the road improvements to keep neighbors better informed.
But even if Vihstadt can successfully convince officials to speed up construction, Strine worries that the work won’t actually slow cars speeding along Carlin Springs. She’d much rather see an additional stop light in the area, or even a stop sign, to bring speeds down.
“They’re wasting time and money by making changes that we know aren’t going to work,” Strine said. “These are just incremental changes: another Band-Aid, as one of my neighbors said.”
While county officials are confident that their planned changes will indeed slow passing cars, Vihstadt agreed that he wants to see the county do more to take into account “context-specific considerations” raised by neighbors about local road projects.
Overall, he lamented that this latest community clash is indicative of a pattern he’s seen all around Arlington in recent years, and provides a clear example of how the county still struggles to balance traffic congestion and pedestrian safety.
“While we like to say that our public policies like ‘the car-free diet‘ are having a positive impact on Arlington traffic, and I think they are, a lot of neighborhoods don’t yet feel that way,” Vihstadt said.
The Van Buren Bridge near the East Falls Church Metro station is back open after months of renovation work, complete with a new walkway for cyclists and pedestrians.
The city of Falls Church had been working since last fall to repair and widen the bridge, located near where N. Van Buren Street intersects with 18th Street N. and running over Benjamin Banneker Park.
The bridge previously lacked a sidewalk of any kind, forcing pedestrians into the roadway. Accordingly, the $300,000 construction project won some regional transportation funding for its potential to provide a smoother connection for people looking to reach the nearby Metro station with the new 12-f00t walkway.
Great news! The Van Buren Street bridge has now reopened to all traffic, including pedestrian & bicycle access! The new bridge has a dedicated walkway & improved access to the @WODTrail & the @ArlingtonVA Benjamin Banneker Park. #BikeDC #BikeVA pic.twitter.com/MqexG8vHTs
— City of Falls Church (@FallsChurchGov) July 24, 2018
With the W&OD Trail close by as well, planners also envision the bridge improving conditions for cyclists in the area.
The project’s conclusion also marks the end to detours on N. Van Buren Street, which previously routed drivers onto nearby roads like 19th Street N. and N. Sycamore Street.
County officials seem to have found some money to speed up design work on an access road to link the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive.
County Manager Mark Schwartz initially proposed some hefty delays for the project, which is set to stretch across a section of the Army Navy Country Club, in his proposed 10-year plan for county construction efforts. Under his proposal, design work on the effort wouldn’t even start until fiscal year 2027, with construction set for 2029.
The county’s budget challenges have ensured that Arlington officials haven’t suddenly found enough money to build the road, and its accompanying bike and pedestrian trails, right away. But county staff did manage to track down about $230,000 to pay for design and engineering work starting in fiscal year 2020, officials told the County Board during a work session Tuesday (July 10).
That news is quite welcome for Board members and residents alike, considering that the county has been working to build the 30-foot-wide road since 2010, in order to better connect Columbia Pike to Crystal City.
The 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 of securing an easement to even cross the country club in the first place was a challenging one for the county, but the two sides ultimately struck a deal after the county agreed to allow the club to build a larger clubhouse than county zoning rules would ordinarily permit.
Staff cautioned the Board that reallocating this money for design work won’t do anything to change when the project gets built, at least for the time being. But members supported the change all the same as a way to provide some more detailed plans for the Board to consider a few years from now, when the county’s fiscal picture could improve.
“At least it’s getting us somewhere,” said Board member Erik Gutshall. “We’ve got to move the ball forward.”
In order to get that design work moving, the Board would need to pull $105,000 away from some minor arterial road projects over the next two fiscal years, and another $125,000 away from the “Walk Arlington” program for pedestrian-centric projects. The latter move will leave just $50,000 available for the program in 2020 and 2021.
But Board members seem to believe the funding shake-up is well worth it, particularly as bicycling advocates stress the importance of the project.
“There is a compelling case to be made that this will allow one of our largest growing population centers, Columbia Pike, to have more access to one of our major commercial and office centers of Crystal City,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “The most important thing is we get the scope of this proiect to the point where we can have those conversations about feasibility.”
County transportation director Dennis Leach cautioned that additional examinations of the project could reveal that it’s too challenging for the county to pursue. He noted that the “steep grades” in the area, combined with its proximity to woodlands and I-395, could all combine to make the effort “extremely expensive.”
Initial estimates pegged construction costs around $5.2 million, but the county hasn’t updated that figure in years.
Cristol added that there are also “big questions” about whether the county can afford to bring the project into compliance with federal accessibility laws. However, she did suggest that one avenue for addressing those cost concerns might be redirecting some revenue generated by the commercial and industrial property tax on Crystal City businesses, as the area would potentially stand to benefit from the project.
“I look forward to the prospect of a taking a better scoped project and having a conversation with the business community about whether it’s a proper use of that tax money,” Cristol said.
The Board will make the reallocation of money for the access road official when it votes to approve a final Capital Improvement Plan on Saturday (July 14).
Photo via Google Maps
Brick crosswalks in Arlington are a thing of the past — as the county works to make crossings easier to maintain and to see.
The county said today, via press release, that it plans to start replacing any crosswalks featuring brick or “street print,” an asphalt pavement designed to look like brick, as it kicks off a new paving effort over the coming weeks.
Workers will now install reflective, “high-visibility white thermoplastic markings” instead at crosswalks. The county found that the cost of maintaining brick crosswalks was “prohibitive,” particularly considering that they weren’t especially effective.
“Paver and street-print markings — often in dark, clay-like hues — also failed to generate significant reductions in traffic speeds and demonstrated poor visibility in low light and during precipitation,” the county wrote in the release. “They also often lost their quaint appearance when street and underground repairs were necessary.”
A full map of county paving projects getting underway this year is available on the county’s website.
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.
(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.
“By tying the regional trail network together, this would allows hundreds or even thousands of commuters to get off our roads,” Cristol said. “Trying to come back and do this at a later date… would be incredibly difficult due to the sensitivity of the assets here.”
Mitchell says officials hope to have more public meetings on the project this fall, with cost estimates, preliminary engineering plans and an environmental impact analysis all ready by next summer.
Then, leaders will have to somehow find funding for the project. She says the state rail agency and CSX have committed to chip in a total of $30 million for the effort, and she fully plans to ask state lawmakers for more money by the General Assembly’s 2020 legislative sessions.
“We are trying very, very hard to get this schedule completed on time,” Mitchell said.
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.
The project’s delay comes as particularly bad news for people living in the Arlington View neighborhood. One resident, Eric Davis, told ARLnow via email that he fears delaying the project would “endanger the lives of nearby bicyclists and pedestrians.”
“With Columbia Pike being our only access out of the neighborhood, this new access road would give us a safe alternative to reaching Pentagon City, Crystal City, and other points east,” Davis wrote. “And, if/when connected to the Washington Boulevard path currently under construction, it then becomes an essential north/south connection in Arlington for bikes and pedestrians.”
Davis also pointed out that the project as a whole could be in jeopardy if delayed much longer.
The county’s CIP documents note that the easement for the country club’s land was recorded back in March 2012, and “may terminate automatically if construction contracts are not awarded within 20 years of that date.” Baxter noted that “the current schedule anticipates completion before the easement expires,” however.
Any delay is also contingent on the County Board approving the change in the CIP. The Board is in the midst of holding a series of work sessions on the CIP this month, but doesn’t expect to sign off on a final spending plan until July 14.
Photo via Google Maps