We’re in the midst of the pothole season — that bumpy time on local roads as the spring thaw starts and asphalt pockmarks form.
Arlington County says its crews have filled 2,440 potholes this season, a relatively low number compared to last year’s record-setting 12,100 potholes following a rough winter.
They’re not here to save the world but the County’s Pothole Busters are out to prevent some haunting damage to tires, rims and maybe even your car’s pricey suspension.
If there’s a growing rut in your neighborhood, pick up the phone and call the Department of Environmental Services’ (DES) customer care center at 703-228-6570 (after hours, use 703-228-6555) to report the offender. Or complete the County’s online “Report a Problem” form.
Issues related to state routes such as Washington Boulevard are forwarded to the Virginia Department of Transportation.
With the arrival of warm weather, DES Pothole Buster crews have ramped up repairs along Arlington’s 974 lane miles of roads. Some 2,440 potholes have been filled so far this season. Last year the County patched a record-setting 12,100 dips and depressions.
In the words of Pothole Buster deputy director of operations Mike Moon, the goal is for all our streets to be “safe, smooth and durable” after a blizzard’s worth of harm.
Motorists can help by staying cautious and alert as additional trucks and crews are out repairing what at times may look like a supernatural asphalt assault.
For updates on Pothole Busters progress, follow @ArlingtonDES on Facebook and Twitter and look for the hashtag #PotholeBusters.
The left lane of northbound Route 110 approaching Marshall Drive was shut down by Arlington County Police during the evening rush hour after nearly a dozen vehicles became disabled, blocking traffic with flat tires caused by what officers described as a “crater” in the road.
As of 7 p.m. the lane was still blocked and traffic was backed up almost to the Pentagon. VDOT crews were on scene making emergency repairs.
A local TV station was also on scene, interviewing the stranded motorists as they changed tires or awaited roadside service.
Update at 8:30 p.m. — The pothole has been repaired, at least temporarily, and the lane has reopened.
Shirlington Tree Lighting Rescheduled — Due to rain, the Shirlington tree lighting event scheduled for tonight has been rescheduled. The holiday event is now set for Monday, Dec. 7 from 6-8:30 p.m. [Facebook]
Yona Now Open in Ballston — New ramen restaurant Yona opened for lunch yesterday in Ballston, attracting a “packed house” for $15 bowls of ramen. The restaurant, at 4000 Wilson Blvd, plans to start serving dinner on Friday. [Yona, Twitter]
Pothole Attracts Attention of Pentagon Police — A pothole on a stretch of roadway near the Pentagon attracted the attention of security forces after at least three cars became disabled due to running over it. Pentagon police are sent to investigate any time a vehicle stops on the site of the highway in view of the building. In 2010 a man fired shots at the Pentagon from his car on the side of I-395. [WTOP]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Pothole-filled roads have been reported around the county and there have also been scattered accounts of flat tires and other pothole-related damage.
Arlington County has an online form for reporting potholes. Yesterday, we asked readers to report, via Twitter, the location of some of the worst potholes in Arlington. Here are some of the responses:
- “All of Wilson Blvd heading towards Ballston from 7 Corners to Glebe. It’s like off-roading.” (@isaachulvey)
- “Sycamore between 26th and Lee Highway” (@aoadair)
- “Courthouse Rd from Clarendon Blvd leading down to 50. Was only it last night and there’s literally craters from 14th down” (@mel_shoe)
- “Veitch St. right near Corner Bakery, nearest cross street is Clarendon Blvd. Absolutely horrendous potholes in a couple spots” (@vizzle311)
- “George Mason and N Pershing, same pothole comes back each time they fill it” (@RobertoClaure)
- “Old Dominion from Glebe to Williamsburg Blvd” (@JohnVasapoli)
- “Henderson Road and Thomas Street has become a nightmare over the past week! 3 potholes in the same stretch, no way to dodge” (@eablack)
- “Spout Run Pkwy between Lee Highway and GWPkwy, both ways” (@michbttx)
- “Construction zone on Glebe from just south of Columbia Pike to the post office. 6+ months now, no improvement. Maddening.” (@Ariadnes_Thread)
- “Nash St in Rosslyn, btwn Key Blvd and Wilson is atrocious. It is just one big pothole after another.” (@kylekeller)
- “The N-B stretch of S. Shirlington Rd. off 395N has been a disaster for over a year.” (@KyleFisherMBA)
- “Four Mile Run Rd between Geo Mason and Col Pike” (@dtwynn)
- “On Barton at 10th, heading toward 9th. As you head up hill, giant trench. Part fixed, but huge hole still there to right side.” (@samerfarha)
- “Fillmore between 10th and Clarendon Blvd. there are 4-5 huge ones!” (@emilylynnwalsh)
- “Corner of 28th Street S and 26th Street S” (@spencer4fsu)
- “On Carlin Springs Road by the bridge over George Mason Dr. Both sides” (@GusMacker1)
One more big problem spot of note: the George Washington Parkway, near Spout Run Parkway, which was partially shut down this morning for repairs after “over a dozen cars” were damaged by potholes.
Arlington County says crews are now tackling potholes on major roads, with plans to get to neighborhood streets a bit later in the spring. From Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter:
It’s been a rough winter season on our roads, particularly with the amount of frozen precipitation and sustained periods of extreme cold temperatures. As we enter this spring season, it is our priority to get crews out there to make potholes repairs. We will do so for the next two months beginning with major arterials. This will include working late into some evenings on non-arterial streets, as well as scheduling teams for Saturday work when weather allows.
AAA Mid-Atlantic issued a press release this morning, suggesting that drivers should file claims for pothole damage against local governments. The press release (reprinted, after the jump) also has tips for avoiding potholes.
Reward Paid for Bank Robbery Tip — Arlington County Crime Solvers has paid a reward for a tip received that led to the arrest of a bank robbery suspect. The tipster called a 1-800 number to leave a tip after seeing a press release about the Dec. 6 robbery at Capital One Bank in Ballston Common Mall. [Arlington County]
Williamsburg Middle School Closed Monday — Williamsburg Middle School was closed Monday due to a pipe that burst over the weekend, damaging part of the school. [WUSA 9]
‘CoworkCafe’ Launches in Clarendon — A new coworking space concept called CoworkCafe has launched in the lounge next to Boccato Gelato in Clarendon. For $150-200 per month, those seeking to get work done can access the lounge as often as they like. They also get a $50 credit toward food and beverage. [Washington Business Journal]
Solar Co-Op Launching in Arlington — A group of Arlington residents is banding together to form a solar co-op, which will allow members to obtain bulk discounts on the purchase and installation of home solar power equipment. [Sun Gazette, Virginia Sun]
‘Soulless’ Tweeter Spotted in Arlington — Byron Tau, the Wall Street Journal reporter who asked last week if Arlington was the “most soulless place in the United States,” was photographed over the weekend smiling widely at Courthouse’s Fire Works Pizza. “No comment on the record,” Tau tweeted in response to the photo. [Twitter]
Reminder: Pothole, Water Main Break Reporting — As the freeze, thaw, refreeze cycle continues during the month of February, numerous water main breaks and large potholes have been reported around Arlington. If you spot one that needs to be fixed, you can quickly file a report about it via the following “report a problem” online form. [Arlington County]
Drivers and pedestrians alike should be on the lookout for ice this morning as the temperature dips back below freezing.
Forecasters say slippery conditions are likely. From the National Weather Service.
… PATCHES OF ICE RESULTING IN HAZARDOUS TRAVEL POSSIBLE THIS MORNING…
AIR TEMPERATURES WILL FALL BELOW FREEZING THIS MORNING AND CONTINUE DROPPING THROUGHOUT THE DAY. WITH ROAD TEMPERATURES ACROSS MARYLAND AND WEST OF I-81 ALREADY BELOW FREEZING… THIS WILL LEAD TO ANY SNOW AND ICE THAT MELTED YESTERDAY TO REFREEZE ON UNTREATED SURFACES. PLEASE USE EXTRA CAUTION AND GIVE YOURSELF EXTRA TIME TO GET TO YOUR DESTINATION IF TRAVELING TODAY. REDUCE SPEED AND STAY ALERT FOR PATCHES OF ICE AND SLICK ROAD CONDITIONS.
The changing temperatures are also playing havoc with pipes that are exposed to the elements. Several instances of burst pipes have been reported around Arlington this morning.
The freezing and refreezing is also causing some big potholes on local roads, like the one seen below on the 4700 block of Washington Blvd.
— Michael Rosen (@Mike_EDIH) February 23, 2015
School Boundary ‘Refinements’ Approved, Parents Peeved — The Arlington School Board on Thursday approved a series of small “refinements” to elementary school boundaries in North Arlington by a 3-1 vote. The changes will impact a few dozen current McKinley and Tuckahoe elementary students over the next two school years, transferring those students to other nearby schools. Several parents whose kids are affected have contacted ARLnow.com, calling the process and subsequent decision “short sighted,” “pointless” and “a sham.” [Arlington Public Schools, InsideNova]
Big, Tire-Eating Pothole on Wilson Blvd — An Arlington resident says he got a flat tire after driving over a monster pothole in the left-hand lane of westbound Wilson Blvd at N. Patrick Henry Drive. Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services responded to the man’s tweet, saying repair crews have been notified. [Twitter]
ACPD Assists with Bust of Diner Owner — The owner of a popular Baltimore diner has been arrested in a cocaine sting that Arlington County police helped to arrange. Prosecutors say Anthony Vasiliades, owner of the Sip & Bite diner, which was featured on the TV show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” tried to buy $50,000 worth of cocaine from an undercover Arlington detective. [Baltimore Sun]
Casting Call for Arlington Cyclists — More than 50 people have signed up for a casting call for a promotional campaign that will highlight “everyday Arlington citizens who use a bicycle as means of commuting and/or recreation.” The casting call for the county-sponsored campaign, which will feature six short documentary films, ends today. [Modacity, Twitter]
County Planning Effort Launches — The Arlington County and School Boards have jointly appointed a 24-member “Facilities Study Committee” that is tasked with building “a consensus framework regarding the community’s future funding and facility needs.” The launch of the committee comes as Arlington Public Schools faces push back from residents as it tries to find county-owned land on which to build badly-needed new schools. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Brendan
County, State Consider Pothole Claims — Potholes abound on roads in Arlington. Should your car be damaged by a pothole, Arlington County and VDOT both investigate pothole damage claims. But as a result of the legal principle of sovereign immunity, which protects the state and local governments from lawsuits, a pothole damage claim is usually only paid in special circumstances. [InsideNoVa]
Hotel Bar Renovates, Expands — O’Malley’s Pub, an “Irish-style” bar inside the Holiday Inn National Airport Hotel near Crystal City, has recently renovated its interior and expanded its footprint by 30 percent. [PR Web]
Arlington Chess Champ Ranked Nationally — Sam Schenk, a sixth-grade student at Williamsburg Middle School, is the 69th ranked chess player among 6th graders in the U.S. [InsideNoVa]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Arlington County has stepped up it pothole repair effort this year due to the harsh winter.
County crews were out filling potholes in response to resident requests this weekend, after spending the week plowing snow and cleaning equipment, according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Robyn Mincher. One of the stretches of road where crews worked “extensively” was the 2200 block of N. Harrison Street, where numerous potholes were reported.
The county has up to five times as many employees working potholes repairs this winter, Mincher said.
“We have five teams, about 35 employees, in our streets maintenance section concentrating on either potholes or snow,” she told ARLnow.com. “In lighter winters, we would typically have one team assigned to potholes.”
“We anticipate continuing to concentrate on potholes [this] week, and assessing over the next few weeks our needs for later in the spring,” she added.
In addition to responding to problem reports from residents — there have been more than a dozen pothole reports in the past 24 hours — crews are also “fixing other potholes we find along our travels,” Mincher said.
Video via Arlington TV
Those roads fall below 60 percent on the Pavement Condition Index scale, which is an indicator that those roads are susceptible to “more rapidly” developing potholes. On average, Arlington’s roads sit at 69.8 percent, according to county Water, Sewer and Streets Bureau Chief Harry Wang.
Wang cautioned against categorizing Arlington’s roads as above-average or below-average nationally. But he said Arlington’s recent resident survey that cited road conditions as a main concern was evidence that the county should not be satisfied.
“That means that 70 percent [PCI] is not good enough,” Wang told the Arlington County Board yesterday. “There are many lane miles and surface areas that need great attention.”
The county plans to pave 72 miles of roads this year, a jump from 49 miles each of the last two years. County Manager Barbara Donnellan said they plan to increase that number next year — and discuss road conditions in more detail — during Capital Improvement Program discussions.
Wang said county streets maintenance staff is currently driving on main and arterial roads replacing potholes. About 80 percent of the county’s main roads have had their potholes repaired, he said, and the rest should be completed by the end of this week.
“We’re not waiting for complaints to come in,” he said. “We just drive zone by zone and see whatever needs to be fixed.”
Wang also said that between Jan. 8 and Feb. 20, the county has had to perform 89 repairs on water mains, and average of 2.1 breaks per day. The average age of the county’s water mains is 55 years, and he said 90 percent of the mains that have broken or cracked are older than 55 years.
The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
If you drive around Arlington much these days, the pothole slalom is happening multiple times per trip. I even saw one pothole today that someone had put an orange traffic cone in, presumably to alert drivers of just how bad it was.
Unfortunately, there is only so much swerving you can do and still remain in your lane of travel to avoid them. Sooner or later, your tire will drop in. You will hear a loud thud. And, you will hold your breath hoping you didn’t leave a piece of your car behind.
Cars are getting flat tires, bent rims, and damaged suspensions. Potholes are a problem only a car service station owner doesn’t mind so much.
With colder than usual temperatures and higher than normal amounts of snow, we cannot blame the Arlington County Board for the existence of potholes. However, we should be watching to see how quickly the problem is remedied.
The changing temperatures this winter have also brought on a series of water main breaks – two within a block and a half on my street alone. My counterpart at Peter’s Take covered this issue at length last week.
Replacing aging infrastructure and other ongoing maintenance issues often seem to get the short end of stick in the budget. Instead, we tend to focus on debates over the cost of swimming palaces, trolleys and arts centers. This is what you could call the “shiny new toy” syndrome. Elected officials often like to point at grand building projects and say “look what I did.”
What the shiny toy debates teach us is that the problems with addressing basic infrastructure needs is not a money problem — it is a priority problem.
Like it or not, if you are a local office holder you are responsible to the voters for street lights, trash pickup, potholes, and many other unglamourous issues that impact people’s everyday lives. The level of constituent service you provide when it comes to seemingly mundane problems is the true test of the type of public servant you really are.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
A monster pothole has been claiming hubcaps and testing the suspensions of unsuspecting drivers in Pentagon City.
The pothole is located on S. Joyce Street, across from Pentagon Row. As of last night, it measured approximately 4 feet by 4 feet, with a depth of 6 to 9 inches. That makes it even bigger than our previous contender for biggest pothole in Arlington, which was located on N. Fillmore Street in Clarendon.
The pothole was consistently being run over by the right tires of vehicles last night, occasionally producing a loud thud from those with smaller vehicles or tighter suspensions.
The pothole has been there for at least two weeks, and has been growing bigger by the day. Myllisa Kennedy, spokeswoman for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, suggested that the maintenance crews responsible for filling potholes have been slowed down by recent snowstorms.
“Crews have had to shift back and forth between pothole/other maintenance work and snow because of all the storms — doing as much as they can when the weather is cooperating,” she said via email.
Kennedy explained that Arlington County prefers to use a more durable method of pothole repair, which requires better weather conditions than the more temporary alternative.
“Crews fix the potholes using a longer lasting ‘hot’ mix — as opposed to a ‘cold’ mix used for temporary repairs in some places — whenever possible to reduce the likelihood we have to come back around and fix the same pothole,” she wrote.
The harsh winter is producing more potholes this year, Kennedy said. Maintenance crews are expected to be back out on the streets today trying to catch up on the pothole backlog.
“The severe weather fluctuations this winter are leading to more potholes earlier in the season and thus there is a need to for crews to start focusing on pothole repairs sooner than they would in milder winters,” said Kennedy. “Our plan is to get back out and continue filling the potholes County-wide. Our streets crews, which total about 35 employees, will be out on the roadways today, throughout this month, and well into the spring working to fix the potholes caused by this year’s extreme freeze and thaw weather. We will also bring in contractors to help with larger potholes and patches.”
This pothole, on N. Fillmore Street in Clarendon, is one of the biggest we’ve seen in Arlington.
It’s about two feet across and several inches deep. But is it actually the biggest in Arlington, which is being plagued by potholes as a result of the especially cold and damp winter?
If you’ve seen one that might be bigger, let us know in the comments. And post a photo, if you have one.
APS Boosts Bus Service to TJ, Kenmore — In response to criticism from parents, Arlington Public Schools has extended bus service to more than 200 additional Thomas Jefferson Middle School students. It has also added bus service for another 28 Kenmore Middle School students. [Sun Gazette]
TV Station Goes on Pothole Patrol in Arlington — WUSA9 has gone on “pothole patrol” in Arlington and found “a plethora of pits along North Harrison Street.” One of the station’s attempts to report the potholes online apparently didn’t work and the county acknowledged there were “a few bugs in the system.” We’ve previously reported on pothole problems on Columbia Pike and elsewhere in the county. [WUSA9]
Annual 9/11 5K Race Registration Open — Registration is now open for the 13th annual Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K. The race will take place this year on Sept. 6. [9/11 Memorial 5K]
District Taco to Open in Dupont Circle — Arlington’s own homegrown restaurant chain District Taco will be opening a location at 1919 M Street NW in Dupont Circle. The location is District Taco’s fourth brick-and-mortar restaurant. A fifth location, in Vienna, could be coming later this year. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
There’s little relief in sight for drivers and bus riders traveling down some rough portions of Columbia Pike.
Arlington County is planning to finish repaving the section of the Pike from S. Wakefield Street to Four Mile Run Drive by April, but so far the county has no plans to repave the increasingly pockmarked eastern portion of the Pike, including the “Pike Town Center” business district, within the next six months. Potholes are expected to be filled by this spring, but a full repaving could be several years away.
“Over the next several years, Arlington County will continue with utility undergrounding and street improvement projects, which will include roadway paving in three areas on Columbia Pike: Four Mile Run Bridge to County Line, South Oakland Street to South Wakefield Street, and South Garfield Street to South Rolfe Street,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Robyn Mincher tells ARLnow.com. As of last year, the streetscape improvement project was expected to run through 2018.
Apart from the Columbia Pike streetcar, which is a separate project, planned street improvements for the Pike include a repaved roadway, better pedestrian facilities, more street trees and planted medians. But for some Pike residents and business owners, those improvements are too slow in coming.
“I do believe that the delays they are having with the transportation issues will eventually halt all momentum the Pike has had with growth,” said Sybil Robinson, who owns Twisted Vines Wine Bar and Bottleshop (2803 Columbia Pike). “Businesses that opened here with the promise of increased foot traffic and customer base may have to close since they’ve been just getting by for years now. We’re all trying to share the same small customer base that lives in the area. Once places start to close, you can forget new businesses coming here.”
Takis Karantonis, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, says he appreciates the improvements but is worried about the “glacial pace” of some projects.
“While the driver’s experience on the Pike… is very challenging, it is the pedestrian realm what concerns us the most,” he said. “Utility undergrounding and streetscape improvements have been taking more time than anybody would have had anticipated. This is a challenge for everybody, but especially for businesses along our corridor… reliable timelines are of essence.”
Robinson said she’s heard complaints specifically about the rough roadway, but doesn’t actually think that particular problemn has has much of a direct impact on her business.
“We’ve definitely had customers complain about the road conditions, but as soon as they fix one problem spot, another pops up,” said Sybil Robinson, who owns Twisted Vines Wine Bar and Bottleshop (2803 Columbia Pike). “In terms of business impact, I don’t think it has hurt us too much. Most of our customers live on or near the Pike and the road conditions impact them on a daily basis going to and from work — so they know what to expect.”
Arlington County took responsibility for the maintenance of Columbia Pike from VDOT in 2010. John Antonelli, a Pike resident and an outspoken streetcar critic, says the county is shirking a neighborly duty by leaving the Pike in a state of disrepair.
“Arlington County has to understand that part of being a gateway community is to be a gateway,” he said. “Columbia Pike is a commuter road to the Pentagon and it behooves us as a good neighbor to ensure that our businesses and their employees and customers can get to and from as quickly as possible.”
“It’s a mess,” Antonelli added, about the Pike. “But it is more driveable now then it will be if they put the trolley in.”
One bit of good news for drivers is that VDOT is planning to repave Columbia Pike from S. Quinn Street to S. Orme Street next, as part of its Columbia Pike/Washington Blvd interchange project, according to VDOT spokeswoman Jennifer McCord.