Arlington, VA

The school year for Arlington Public Schools starts up again on Tuesday (Sept. 3), and there are a variety of traffic changes around the county for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians to be aware of.

There are several new traffic patterns around new and newly-repurposed schools. At Dorothy Hamm Middle School in Cherrydale, there are new traffic signals and signs, crosswalks and crossing guards near the school at 4100 Vacation Lane. At The Heights Building on Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, students will be arriving at buses on 18th Street N., which will be closed to the public The Montessori Public School of Arlington on S. Highland Street is now a countywide school, meaning more buses will be at the school.

Drew Elementary School and the new Dorothy Hamm Middle School are both neighborhood schools now, meaning pedestrians and cyclists to the school are more likely.

According to the press release, drivers across the county should remember to:

  • Obey speed limits which may change during school zone times.
  • Avoid distracted driving and keep your attention on the road.
  • Watch for students walking and riding bikes to school.
  • Don’t pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading passengers. Violations could result in a fine of $250.
  • On a two-lane road, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop.
  • On a multi-lane paved road, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop.
  • On a divided highway, vehicles behind the bust must stop. Vehicles traveling in the opposite direction may proceed with caution.
  • Have all vehicle occupants wear their seatbelts.
  • Pick-up and drop-off students in designated kiss and ride locations.

Pedestrians are reminded to only cross the street at the crosswalk and follow the instructions of crossing guards.

Bicyclists ages 14 and under are required to wear helmets, while helmets are recommended for everyone. Cyclists should keep to the right and ride with traffic, then to lock up the bicycle when not in use.

File photo

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Morning Notes

APS Students Now Can Identify as Nonbinary — “Students enrolling in schools in the District, Alexandria City, Arlington and Montgomery Counties now have the option to mark their gender as ‘X’ meaning nonbinary or unspecified. That’s in addition to male or female gender categories.” [WAMU]

Traffic Delays ACFD Response to I-395 Crash — “The I-395 incident happened shortly after 1 p.m. near the Duke Street overpass. Blunt said a crash left a woman trapped inside her car, but because of bumper-to-bumper traffic and other vehicles not moving out of the way, it took crews 24 minutes to respond when it would’ve taken them just eight minutes otherwise.” [Fox 5]

Pedestrian Tunnel Closure Date Set — “The 23rd Street tunnel is scheduled to close permanently on Tuesday, Sept. 3. The Virginia Department of Transportation will mobilize its contractor to begin deconstruction of the tunnel’s above-ground structures.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Nonprofit’s Student Program Deemed Success — “AHC Inc.’s college- and career-readiness program had a 100-percent high-school-graduation rate for participating students this year. A total of 24 students living in AHC’s local apartment communities participated in the non-profit housing provider’s readiness program.” [InsideNova]

Kiwanis Sell Lots of NJ Blueberries — “Those who purchased blueberries from the Kiwanis Club of Arlington earlier in the summer weren’t alone. Nearly 10,000 pounds of New Jersey berries were sold in the fund-raiser, netting nearly $10,000 that will be used to support grants aimed at serving children.” [InsideNova]

Storm Last Week Cast a Shadow — “A storm on the western horizon is casting a shadow on a storm on the eastern horizon. It doesn’t happen often. These are photos from last Wednesday.” [Twitter]

Nearby: Scooters Face Opposition in Alexandria — “Why scooters have drawn so much ire is among the most enduring mysteries of Alexandria ‘historic character’ activism. Alexandria’s history is replete with lots of vile historic character, like being a major center in the trade of enslaved people.” [Washingtonian]

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A “block party” style event with a transportation theme is set for later this month along Columbia Pike.

Arlington County is hosting its third annualOur Shared Street Pop-Up” on Thursday, August 22, in the parking lot at the intersection of S. Four Mile Run Drive and the Pike. The event will run from 5-7 p.m. that night, and will feature booths from transportation organizations with activities and answers to transportation questions.

“Our Shared Street is a block party where you can get to know your neighbors and local transportation options,” says the event’s website. “There are also tons of great giveaways happening and fun activities.”‘

The goal of the event is to share information about commuting by bike, rail, bus, car, or feet in the county. The county-run Arlington Transportation Partners is organizing the event along with Capital Bikeshare, BikeArlington, and WalkArlington, and Arlington’s Car-Free Diet.

What’s not yet certain is whether ride-hailing or e-scooter companies like Uber and Lyft will be present during the late August event — as they were for last year’s event. (The county’s e-scooter program was recently extended, but has seen a slight uptick in crashes and injuries.)

Tickets to the pop-up event are free, but attendees are encouraged to register in advance online.

Image via Twitter/Arlington Transportation Partners

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Rosslyn’s Dark Star Park is growing and recently swallowed a nearby slip lane.

The park is notable for the somewhat strange concrete orbs and poles, designed to cast perfectly aligned shadows every August 1. The expansion of the park was planned as part of the Core of Rosslyn study, a project aimed at making Rosslyn’s street network more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly.

The first stage of the expansion is the closure of a slip lane between Fort Myer Drive and N. Lynn Street. The lane was closed last week and will now be used as park space, furnished with tables, chairs, and artwork.

According to the project website, the county government is hopeful that the community will use the new open space as a daily activity spot.

The next stage of the project will involve the expansion of Dark Star Park’s green space and sidewalks into the unutilized street space, but that expansion is still in the early design stages.

Funding for the second stage of the project is expected to be determined as part of the next Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) budget update.

Images via Arlington County

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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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