Arlington, VA

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

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Morning Notes

Helicopter Complaints Continue  — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), one of the lawmakers who requested the study, said that helicopter noise is ‘our number one constituent complaint’ and that the number of complaints has risen steadily since he took office in 2015.” [Washington Post]

Early Morning Apartment Fire — “Units were called to 2400 blk 27th Ct S for fire in 4 story garden apt. On arrival crews found balcony #fire on floors 1 & 2 being controlled by #firesprinklers. Fire extinguished, no extension inside. No injuries.” [Twitter]

New Election Chief Sworn In — “When Gretchen Reinemeyer was sworn in as Arlington County’s general registrar, she became only the fifth person to hold the position since it was created in 1947. Reinemeyer is succeeding long-time registrar Linda Lindberg who is retiring at the end of the month after serving more than 25 years in the Arlington Voting and Elections Office–16 of them as general registrar. [Arlington County]

YHS Student Helps Improve Pedestrian Safety — “Pedestrians in Arlington, Virginia, may notice flashing yellow lights when crossing the street, thanks to one high schooler who’s working to make streets safer… Jake Smith, who graduated Yorktown High School on Thursday, interned with the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services to help them plan their beacon project and keep cars accountable.” [NBC 4, Arlington County]

Zoning Keeps Parts of Arlington Exclusive — “Arlington does have a decent amount of area zoned for multi-family housing, but it’s concentrated in the more southern parts of the county. This makes North Arlington completely inaccessible to many and is the source of the county’s geographical inequality.” [Blue Virginia]

Dozen New Arlington Police Officers — “The Arlington County Police Department welcomed 12 new officers this week, as Session 140 graduated from the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy (NVCJA) and took their oath to serve and protect the residents and visitors of Arlington County.” [Arlington County]

Local Businessman Sentenced — “A prominent Northern Virginia businessman has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for multiple fraud schemes that cheated investors out of roughly $20 million. Todd Hitt, 54, of Arlington, Virginia, pleaded guilty earlier this year in federal court in Alexandria to soliciting investments in building projects as part of what amounted to a Ponzi scheme.” [Associated Press, Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Arlington County Board members are scheduled to consider paving a connection between the W&OD Trail and 9th Street S. in Barcroft by the Buchanan Community Garden.

The proposal is to put an asphalt connection and a stop sign between 9th Street and the trail, crossing an area on the side of the trail currently used by Dominion subsidiary Virginia Electric Power Company.

County staff wrote in a report to the Board that they hope paving and providing signage to formalize the path will “improve mobility for pedestrians and cyclists between nearby neighborhoods and the W&OD Trail.”

The W&OD Trail was recently designated as a “primary route” for cyclists during this year’s update to the county’s Master Transportation Plan, while 9th Street S. is a key bicycle route that runs parallel to Columbia Pike.

The Board is scheduled to discuss the 9th Street S. connection during its meeting this Saturday, June 15. The proposal is currently on the meeting’s consent agenda, a place members usually reserve for items expected to pass without debate.

If members OK the proposal, County Manager Mark Schwartz will sign a letter with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, which owns and operates the W&OD Trail, giving the county permission to build and maintain the connection.

Arlington has recently been working on adding new connections to the W&OD Trail.

In April, the county opened a new connection between the W&OD Trail and 7th Street S., and last month the county secured a $680,000 grant to study ways to better connect the W&OD and the East Falls Church Metro station.

Images via Arlington County

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VDOT has officially kicked off construction on the new Washington & Old Dominion Trail bridge over Lee Highway.

A new county video, above, shows renderings of the white bridge with decorative safety walls over the highway. The bridge is expected to accommodate the approximately 2,000 daily trail users.

The construction is part of the project to widen I-66 eastbound between Exits 67 and 71, which began last year. As part of the construction, some disruptions are expected for trail users and drivers in the area.

Per Arlington County:

Bicyclists and pedestrians should expect a temporary trail realignment and detours during construction. The first trail detour has closed the W&OD Trail between Little Falls Street and Lee Highway (near mile marker 5.5) and for a short portion on the east side of Lee Highway. In addition, Fairfax Drive will be closed to traffic, Lee Highway will have short traffic stoppages at night, and there may be lane closures on side streets.

“Once the project is complete, cyclists and pedestrians can expect a much-improved experience on this portion of the W&OD Trail,” the county said in a press release.

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Morning Notes

Fire Outside Shirlington Apartment BuildingUpdated at 9:30 a.m. — “ACFD working to extinguish a dumpster fire near an apartment building at 3000 S. Randolph Street in Shirlington. ‘Smoke conditions’ reported in portions of the building.” [Twitter, Twitter]

The Cost of Renaming Washington-Lee — “It will cost taxpayers about a quarter of a million dollars to change ‘Lee’ to ‘Liberty’ on the name of Arlington’s oldest public high school. School officials have released an estimate of $224,360 for the name change, with about two-thirds of the total for ‘soft costs’ (uniforms, athletic equipment and the like) and the remainder ‘hard costs’ such as signage.” [InsideNova]

Local Teen Gets Celebrity Shoutout — “When [H-B Woodlawn student] Cole Goco, 17, sits down to draw his comic Billy the Pop, every line and contour is decisive. He uses pen, after all. And, after five years, hundreds and hundreds of strips published regularly to a blog, two self-published comic books, a dedicated following, and — most recently — the recognition of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s safe to say Goco knows what’s doing.” [DCist]

Rosslyn Startup Gets Another Investment — “Frontier Capital, a Charlotte-based growth equity firm focused exclusively on B2B software, today announced a strategic growth investment in Phone2Action, a digital advocacy platform that connects citizens to lawmakers.” [BusinessWire]

Bomb Squad Investigates Suspicious Car at DCA — “A portion of the daily parking lot at Reagan National Airport was closed [Wednesday] morning after suspicious contents were spotted inside a parked car. Authorities checked out the car ‘out of an abundance of caution’ and nothing hazardous was found, per an airport spokeswoman.” [Twitter]

Local Pedestrian, Bicycle Crash Reduction Effort Honored — “The Arlington County Pedestrian Bicycle Crash Reduction Campaign aims to reduce bicycle and pedestrian-involved traffic crashes through the coordination of education, engineering and enforcement… Arlington County saw a seven percent decrease in pedestrian crashes and a 29 percent reduction in bicycle-related crashes in 2018.” [Virginia DMV]

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Officials are hoping to find ways to close the only break in the 45-mile long Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Transportation Planning Board (TPB) approved $680,000 in assistance for 13 projects, including one to look into options to close a gap near the East Falls Church Metro station.

The W&OD Trail is a regional pedestrian and bicycle trail with 3,000 plus daily users. This trail is used for walking and bicycling to the East Falls Church Metrorail Station and for longer-distance bicycle commuting across the area. The only gap in the 45-mile long W&OD Trail is in East Falls Church. The trail gap creates conflicts involving trail users and motorized traffic. This project will use technical assistance to identify alternatives for constructing an off-street connection of the trail sections in the East Falls Church area.

Currently, the trail breaks at 19th Road N., just before the Metro station.

TPB received 25 applications for transportation project funding from regional governments before the April 2 deadline, according to a press release.

The applications were judged partially on how they reflected TPB’s long-range regional transportation plan “Visualize 2045” and its goals to move more people around the growing Greater Washington area without adding more cars.

Last summer, the Van Buren Bridge near East Falls Church Metro re-opened after the City of Falls Church repaired it with a $300,000 regional grant to help connect cyclists with the station and with the W&OD. VDOT, meanwhile, is currently working on a new pedestrian bridge over Lee Highway near the Metro station.

Images via Google Maps

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The county is moving forward with long-held plans to narrow lanes and widen sidewalks on Columbia Pike near the Penrose neighborhood, but not everyone is on board.

County staff presented an updated version of the plan last week to the Penrose Neighborhood Association. It calls for narrowing the lefthand travel lanes on the Pike east of S. Wayne Street down to 10 feet, and narrowing the righthand lanes, next to the sidewalk, to 11 feet.

The project is slated for the section of the Pike between S. Garfield Street and S. Quinn Street, staff told ARLnow, and the total Columbia Pike right-of-way width is expected to remain 56 feet width.

It’s also part of a years-long plan to improve the Pike and add more room for pedestrians and bicyclists. However, attendees at the meeting said they fear tighter lanes could mean trickier turning and more accidents for cars.

“The goal of the project is to make Columbia Pike a safer, more accessible route for all users by creating a balance between pedestrian, bicycle, transit and vehicle spaces,” said county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet in an email Monday.

Even after the presentation by the county, some local residents remained skeptical.

“No satisfactory or convincing reason was offered by the county regarding the plan to reduce the lane size,” said one man. “It is quite concerning that a main hub such as Columbia Pike is expected to suffer significant lane reductions that will likely create traffic backups and accidents.”

“At the meeting we discussed many scenarios, like could a school bus pass a garbage truck, could a Giant delivery truck make the turn into Adams Street, could an 18 wheeler pass a bus on the left,” Penrose Association President Maria “Pete” Durgan said, adding that county staff agreed to look into the questions.

Bailliet said the plan is based on “urban street design guidelines from the National Association of City Transportation Officials,” which “recommend that lanes should not be greater than 11 feet as they may cause unintended speeding and assume valuable right of way at the expense of other modes.”

Bailliet says the new lane widths have also already been rolled out in other parts of the Pike, including on the sections between:

  • Four Mile Run and S. Wakefield Street
  • S. Oakland Street and S. Garfield Street
  • Washington Blvd and Columbia Pike interchange

The plan was listed in the the bike component of the county’s Master Transportation Plan, which the County Board updated last week. In it, the county said it intends to build “wide multi-use trails, or wide sidewalks, along at least one side of Columbia Pike in the areas east of S. Wayne Street and west of Four Mile Run” for bikes and pedestrians to share.

“It is tackling a tough question,” the Penrose Neighborhood Association’s website said of the revised lanes. “With only a limited amount of right-of-way, how should that space be allocated? Turn lanes? Street Trees? Wider sidewalks? Bike lanes?”

The reason to widen the sidewalks, Bailliet said, was in part to allow a more vibrant and business-friendly streetscape, but also partially to provide a way for cyclists to connect with the designated bike boulevards that run parallel the Pike.

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Plans are coming together for a major transformation of Rosslyn’s streets, as county officials advance a series of proposals designed to someday make the neighborhood a bit more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians.

The county is holding a public meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) to unveil a newly revised design for the future of Rosslyn’s street network. Known as the “Core of Rosslyn” study, planners have been working since 2017 to finalize a redesign of the neighborhood that comports with the “Rosslyn Sector Plan” the County Board adopted in 2015.

Some of the proposed changes, revealed in detail last fall, are quite substantial.

Perhaps the largest one is the removal of the Fort Myer Drive tunnel under Wilson Blvd, transforming it into a traditional at-grade, signalized intersection. The county could also follow through on long-contemplated plans of building a car-free, “pedestrian corridor” running from 18th Street N.’s intersection with N. Oak Street to N. Kent Street, replacing the Rosslyn skywalk system to make the Metro station more accessible.

Another major change included in previous proposals was the conversion of N. Fort Myer Drive, N. Lynn Street and N. Moore Street into two-way streets. But officials are now rolling out a revised set of plans that would keep the latter two streets as one-way roads, after hearing feedback from the community on the study.

Planners have indeed seen Lynn Street as a particularly challenging option for opening up to two-way traffic. Though officials expect the change would make things a bit less confusing for drivers, it would also force the county to find new access points to the G.W. Parkway, I-66 and the Key Bridge.

Other proposed changes include 14 new or improved crosswalks for pedestrians, and more than 1.3 miles of new protected bike lanes. Those are largely set to run along Fort Myer Drive, N. Moore Street and N. Nash Street, and are designed to ease bike connections to the Key Bridge and the Mt. Vernon and Custis Trails.

The public meeting on the “Core of Rosslyn” plans is set for the Observation Deck at CEB Tower (1800 N. Lynn Street), located on the 31st floor of the massive office building, tomorrow from 4-7 p.m.

The county hopes to have final results of the study ready for consideration sometime this summer.

File photo

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Construction work on the Ballston Quarter pedestrian bridge will prompt yet more road closures tonight (Friday), but the more extensive work set for weeknights is on hold for a bit.

For the second straight week, workers plan to close Wilson Blvd between N. Randolph and N. Stuart streets starting at 8 p.m tonight through Sunday at 6 p.m.

Workers lifted the bridge’s frame into place over Wilson last month, where it will eventually connect the newly revamped Ballston Quarter development with the neighborhood’s Metro station, running through the Ballston Exchange development at 4201 Wilson Blvd.

However, the four months of work set to snarl traffic in Ballston on weeknights is on hold, county officials announced this week. They’d originally planned to start closing the eastbound lanes of Wilson Blvd to allow for more glass installation on the bridge starting Monday night.

“Due to recent inclement weather, installation work on the pedestrian bridge was delayed,” Will Voegele, senior vice president for mixed-use development at Brookfield Properties (the company that bought Ballston Quarter developer Forest City) wrote in a statement.

“Barring any additional weather-related delays, construction will continue to move forward as scheduled,” he added.

The county says that weeknight closures will now begin on March 17. From 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night, the eastbound lanes of Wilson Blvd will be off-limits to drivers for the next eight weeks. Then, they’ll close the westbound lanes for another eight weeks.

This is far from the first delay for this project, or Ballston Quarter as a whole. Forest City had originally hoped to have the bridge open in time for stores to begin opening at the development this fall, before pushing back construction for months.

The developer has also missed its own targets for opening some stores to customers, and it’s currently unclear where things stand with its new food court. A few restaurants are now open in the new “Quarter Market,” but it’s unclear when the full, 14-restaurant food hall will be ready.

Photo 1 via @ArlingtonDES

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Rosslyn is set to see a few more pedestrian safety improvement over the course of the next year or so.

The neighborhood’s Business Improvement District, which advocates for Rosslyn businesses by collecting a small property tax, is planning a variety of short-term fixes to make the bustling streets a bit safer for walkers.

In plans delivered to the County Board Saturday (Feb. 23), the BID says it hopes to use some of its tax revenue to work with county police on the fixes, as part of a broader initiative to make the area more walkable. County officials have even contemplated the more drastic step of make certain roads in Rosslyn “car-free,” though they have yet to settle on a precise strategy for the neighborhood beyond some guiding principles.

In the short term, the BID plans to build new “crash-grade planters to help delineate safer pedestrian crossings” at several intersections. Many of the roads crossing Wilson Blvd are often the site of robust crowds in the morning and evening rush hours.

The BID also hopes to expand some of its “wayfinding” efforts “that will eventually encompass not only pedestrian signs, but also traffic signage” to better brand each section of Rosslyn. The BID has already done some work in that department, setting up area maps, and even rolling out efforts to improve green space in the area, including the county’s first “parklet.”

In the long term, the BID plans to continue to work on efforts to someday convert streets like N. Fort Myer Drive, N. Lynn Street and N. Kent Street into two-way roads, though those changes are still a ways off.

Other, more ambitious efforts could someday remove the Fort Myer Drive tunnel under Wilson Blvd, or replace the existing Rosslyn skywalk system in favor of an all-pedestrian and cycling corridor leading up to the area’s Metro station. Some new developments in the area could help spur progress on the latter effort.

But all of these changes won’t be on the way until the new fiscal year, according to the BID’s proposal. The group is also asking the Board to hold its tax rate on local businesses level at $.078, though ever-rising real estate values will send the BID an extra $166,000 in revenue from a year ago.

Photo via Rosslyn BID

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(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Washington Blvd is about to get a bit of a makeover as it runs between Bluemont and Westover, and county officials are looking for some input on potential changes for the area.

VDOT is planning on repaving the road between its intersection with N. Frederick Street and N. McKinley Road later this summer.

As part of that process, workers expect they’ll remove the brick crosswalks and median in the Westover area, as the road runs between N. McKinley Road and N. Longfellow Street. The county is currently working to replace all of its so-called “brick pavers” across Arlington in favor of crosswalks that are both easier to maintain and a bit more visible at night.

Accordingly, the county is looking to accept feedback on what sort of road features could replace those and make the area a bit safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Officials are holding an open house tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Westover Branch Library (1644 North McKinley Road) from 6-7:30 p.m. to accept suggestions.

The county is hoping to make it a bit easier to access the library, the nearby Post Office and the area’s popular businesses, like the Westover Beer Garden and the Italian Store.

“The county is considering several re-striping options, including high visibility crosswalks, bike treatments, and a limited change option,” staff wrote on the county’s website.

That should come as good news for some neighbors concerned about pedestrian safety in the area, especially after a driver struck an elderly woman with a car in a Westover crosswalk in November.

The county is also examining some potential improvements as the road runs between Westover and East Falls Church, including some new bike lanes, additional pedestrian crossings and clearer markings for existing crossings.

Officials are also planning on holding a “pop-up” engagement session at the Westover Farmer’s Market in the library plaza Sunday (March 3) if you can’t make this week’s meeting. Starting later this week, the county will also accept online comments through the end of March on its website.

Photo via Google Maps

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