Arlington, VA

Three safety and beautification projects are coming to western Arlington streets.

This Saturday the County Board is scheduled to vote on $2.8 million in construction contracts for Neighborhood Conservation projects. The three projects are all at the western edge of Arlington, near Falls Church.

The project at Patrick Henry Drive near Westover Apartments will add dedicated bike lanes from Washington Boulevard to 16th Street N.

The other two projects — 2nd Street South at S. Kensington Street and N. Quintana Street — will add new sidewalks. The N. Quintana Street project will also add streetlights.

The projects are all planned to:

  • Improve pedestrian connectivity
  • Provide disability accessible routes
  • Rehabilitate existing roadways
  • Improve drainage

The projects are 32 percent more expensive ($883,379) than when they were first proposed in 2017, which staff attributed to inflation in construction costs and higher construction standards enacted by the county since then.

Photo via Google Maps

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Though National Skip The Straw Day already passed this year, three local Girl Scouts are asking their fellow students not to use plastic straws for a week.

The Claremont Immersion School students presented their research on the effect that plastic straws have on the environment to third through fifth grade science classes last week.

The project is part of a Girl Scouts bronze award project, in which junior level scouts tackle a project that they believe will “create a long-lasting change in their community.”

The trio, all members of Arlington Troop 4594, hopes to have at least 300 students sign the pledge and use paper, silicone, bamboo or steel straws — or no straws at all.

According to one of the girls’ parents, Levi Novey, the girls also intend to approach two restaurants, pitching a plastic straw-free dining area.

According to Novey, the three girls are being advised by two mentors: Kate Ceste, the Arlington County Solid Waste Bureau’s contracts manager, and Elenor Hodges, executive director of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment.

Photos courtesy of Levi Novey

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It’s been about a year and a half in the making, but today marked the ribbon cutting for the newly revamped Clarendon Central Park.

County Board members Mary Hynes and Jay Fisette joined county employees for the ceremony, including many from the Department of Environmental Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation directly involved in planning the renovations. Hynes was one of the speakers and thanked all the people involved, from planners to construction workers, for bringing the idea to fruition.

“It addresses so many different goals,” Hynes said. “That great collaboration has led to this amazing space, which will be well used by not only the people who live nearby, but all of the people who come and enjoy our restaurants and the other amenities that Clarendon offers. It’s going to, I think, be a great addition to this neighborhood for many, many years to come.”

Improvements to the park and Metro plaza include new bike shelters, landscaping, irrigation, tables and chairs, lighting and ADA-compliant pavers. The plaza was designed to have more open space for events, such as the farmers market, and for easier pedestrian access to the Metro.

In May of 2012, the County Board approved a contract for the first phase of the project, worth more than $760,000. Workers completed the first phase — the eastern portion ending near the Clarendon Metro elevator — last December, and an additional $197,000 was requested at that time to complete the rest of the park.

County officials believe the hard work and long process involved in this project are worth the end result: an improved “gateway to Clarendon” that thousands of people pass through each day.

“This has been a little bit of a long, torturous journey,” said Dennis Leach with the Department of Environmental Services. “But I think the result is pretty phenomenal.”

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Rendering of proposed Latitude Apartments building in Virginia SquareResidents at the Monroe Condominium (3625 10th Street N.) in Virginia Square take issue with plans for a nearby apartment development, and they want the county to do something about it.

The site in question currently houses a one-story bank building and a two-story office building with surface parking. There is a request to rezone the land at 3601-3625 N. Fairfax Drive from commercial to residential in order to move ahead with the proposed Latitude Apartments project. The 12-story building would contain 256 residential units and 5,600 square feet of ground floor retail space along Fairfax Drive.

Some Monroe residents believe the plan is progressing without adequate community input. They claim the project directly violates the Virginia Square Sector Plan, which calls for a commercial building on the site. In a written statement, the condo association’s board of directors asked the County Board to reject Latitude’s site plan application.

In response to the association’s complaints and request for county action, Helen Duong with the Arlington County Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development said, “We’re still evaluating the proposal and will be developing a recommendation in the near future.”

The Monroe board’s written statement called the Latitude plan “ill conceived.” It also says the project would “have a disastrous effect on the Virginia Square Community,” by upsetting the desired residential-commercial balance, creating a street parking burden and overwhelming the Virginia Square Metro station.

Monroe board officials will hold a public forum at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 19, in the condo building’s community room. All Virginia Square residents are encouraged to attend the meeting to receive more information about the Latitude Apartments project and to express their views.

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A CubeSat device (photo via Wikipedia)(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) Students at St. Thomas More Cathedral School (STM) are taking part in what has been dubbed “Mission Possible.” It’s a rare opportunity build a satellite and launch it into orbit.

According to an article published this week by Satnews.com, students will get assistance from a NASA Mission Manager in building a CubeSat, which is a miniature satellite used for space research. The satellite will collect data to be used for school research in math and science.

STM computer teacher Melissa Pore is helping to manage the project. She said yesterday was the official kick off and construction should begin in about two weeks.

“The really unique part about it is making the projects tie in to what’s already expected in the classroom, and giving that real world simulation for the kids,” Pore said. “Every student will have a part and will touch a piece of the hardware, whether they’re screwing in a bolt or putting together an onboard camera, they will all have a part.”

One of the things the satellite is expected to do is to take wide angle photos of small asteroids, of Earth and of St. Thomas More Cathedral School.

More than 60 high schools and universities participate in the CubeSat program, but STM would be the country’s first Pre-K through 8th grade elementary school to participate. The goal is to launch the CubeSat in late 2014.

STM received a donation of $10,000 to assist with the satellite launch from ATK Space Systems. The school has also received equipment such as solar panels and cameras from space industry donors. Anyone interested in donating additional resources or time to the project should contact Melissa Pore at [email protected]

CubeSat photo via Wikipedia

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Civic association leaders, with an assist from the county’s Wisdom Works group, are hoping to establish a county-wide “Senior Village” to help Arlington’s sizeable population of seniors remain independent and in their own homes.

The project is based on a concept that has taken root in a number of communities across the country. A network of volunteers band together to provide services to older residents who wish to remain in their neighborhoods and out of retirement homes or senior living communities.

Services can include daily check-ins, home maintenance, social events or tasks as minor as help opening email or a ride to the supermarket.

“As people get older, there are some things they just can’t do,” said Pete Olivere, a longtime Glencarlyn Citizens Association member who last October started talking to other neighborhood groups about forming an Arlington village. “We wanted to build on the very active civic association type bases that Arlington has and use those as building blocks toward delivering volunteers.”

There are about 25,000 over-60 residents in Arlington, reflective of the expected nationwide surge in the senior population as members of the “baby boomer” generation age into retirement.

Wisdom Works, organized by the county’s community engagement program, came up with much of the design of the village, which Olivere said is likely a year or two away from launching. The group will be promoting the concept and looking for volunteers today (Friday) through Sunday at the Arlington County Fair.

A Wisdom Works “project team” of mostly retired residents came up with a hub-and-spoke model for the village, with volunteers assigned to senior residents in, or close to, their own neighborhoods.

The team also deals with non-senior issues. Program Manager Barbara Karro said they’ll likely take on childhood obesity soon.

“We were able to go county-wide, and that enabled Pete to have a group outside of a civic organization to work with,” Karro said. “Particularly in Arlington, we have just an amazing resource in terms of their skills and lifetime experience. As this group of seniors gets larger, that would be a shame to waste.”

The hub would provide record-keeping and liability insurance (a major hurdle to some village set-ups) for volunteers. Villages come in a variety of forms. Some are funded by private donations. Others require  monthly membership fees.

The Arlington senior village, which will be set up as a nonprofit agency independent of the county, will require “a modest membership fee.”

Olivere, 64, said the group has about 30 willing volunteers after a couple of presentations to civic and senior groups. He hopes the fair will open up the concept to more.

“A lot of these things foster a neighbor helping neighbor type environment, just to make sure an older person isn’t struggling” Olivere said. “These are things that can make a difference.”

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The Columbia Pike Implementation Team is holding a meeting tonight, and anyone interested in the Pike’s future is welcome to attend.

The focus will be on the progress of the Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements Project and what should be done next to reach its goals. The county started the project to analyze transportation along the 3.5 mile Columbia Pike corridor, and suggest improvements for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles.

Residents are encouraged to attend the meeting and offer feedback on the recommended design. It’s tonight from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 S. 16th St.).

More information on the Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements Project can be found here.

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On Saturday, Arlington County board members will debate where to award some $3 million worth of Neighborhood Conservation funds.

The funds are intended to pay for basic street and park improvement projects, which are proposed by neighborhood groups. This year, most of the money is coming from a $9 million Neighborhood Conservation bond, approved by Arlington voters in November.

In December, the county’s Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee (NCAC) recommended seven projects for the first round of funding under the new bond, out of 33 proposals. The recommended neighborhood projects are listed below.

  • Rock Spring — $12,500 — Neighborhood sign design, fabrication, installation
  • Rock Spring — $732,245 — Beautification, pedestrian safety and street lighting improvements on Williamsburg Blvd from George Mason Drive to N. Kensington Street
  • Arlington Heights — $381,478 — Beautification, pedestrian safety and street lighting plus sidewalk, curb and gutter improvements on Arlington Blvd from S. Fillmore Street to S. Irving Street (Phase 2)
  • Douglas Park — $495,000 — Park improvements, lighting and trail upgrades to Doctor’s Run Park
  • Ballston/Virginia Square — $719,956 — Sidewalk, curb, gutter, beautification and pedestrian safety improvements on Kirkwood Road from Lee Highway to 14th Street N.
  • Dominion Hills — $269,678 — Beautification, pedestrian safety, sidewalk, curb and gutter improvements on Patrick Henry rive from 9th Street N. to Wilson Blvd (Phase 3)
  • Columbia Heights — $391,703 — Sidewalk, curb, gutter and street lighting improvements on 11th Street S. from S. Edgewood Street to S. Cleveland Street

There are two rounds of Neighborhood Conservation funding each year. In October, the NCAC and the county board agreed to spend $3.87 million on ten separate projects throughout the county.

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VDOT is planning to widen the ramp from the HOV lanes of I-395 to Eads Street in Pentagon City.

The project would add an extra turn lane to the ramp, which often gets backed up during the morning rush hour. The ramp serves commuters heading to both Pentagon City and to the Pentagon itself. The left turn necessary to head to the Pentagon parking lots is a bit tricky, leading to some of the backups.

VDOT advertised the project in yesterday’s Washington Post. The agency says it will hold a public hearing on the project if anyone requests it in writing.

The proposal seems rather uncontroversial. The ramp is tucked away in the existing I-395 concrete jungle next to the Pentagon, several blocks from the nearest residential building. A VDOT report found no significant adverse impacts resulting from the project.

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Getting from place to place by car or bus may be getting a bit easier in Arlington.

This weekend the county board is expected to approve a $4 million contract that will install six miles of fiber optic line along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, Columbia Pike and Glebe Road. It’s the first phase of a long-term traffic management project that planners hope will allow more intelligent, real-time management of traffic flow in the county.

In addition to connecting 54 county traffic signals, the fiber line will add capacity for traffic management tools like traffic cameras, motorist information signs, and traffic counters.

The initial phase of the project includes four new traffic monitoring cameras, at the intersections of Washington Boulevard and Wilson Boulevard, Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive, Columbia Pike and Glebe Road, and at Glebe Road and Arlington Boulevard (Route 50). An additional 17 cameras throughout the county could be installed by the end of the year, according to Traffic Engineering and Operations Bureau Chief Wayne Wentz. The new cameras would supplement the Arlington’s existing 29 traffic cams.

The first phase of the project also includes a new motorist information sign — commonly used to relay real-time traffic information or advisories — on Route 50 at Pershing Drive. Additional signs are planned as more fiber is installed.

Through enhanced monitoring and improved communication, the fiber lines will eventually lead to a smarter traffic management system that is able to automatically change traffic signal timings to deal with unexpected changes in traffic patterns.

“Our long-term plan for our intelligent transportation system is to measure traffic in real time and adjust traffic signal timing patterns on a daily or hourly basis,” Wentz said. “It will let us do more things to deal with congestion.”

Currently, traffic signal timings are adjusted systematically every three years. Individual re-timings are conducted more frequently in response to specific complaints, Wentz added, and systems are in place to deal with specific high-traffic events like the Fourth of July or an evacuation of D.C.

In addition to traffic management applications, the fiber lines will also be used as a common network backbone for county facilities, from schools to libraries to bus depots. The traffic monitoring systems will also be of use to public safety agencies, who will be able to “monitor special events and reduce response time to incidents,” according to a staff report.

When the multi-phase project is completed, fiber optics will have replaced 52 miles of “outdated and unreliable” copper lines from the 80s, at a cost of about $20 million. Most of the project is expected to be complete by the end of 2014, Wentz said.

Flickr pool photo by pderby

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The county board has approved $3.87 million to fund ten neighborhood conservation projects.

The projects “will upgrade parks, and improve streets, sidewalks and street lighting in 10 neighborhoods across the County.”

Seven of the ten neighborhoods selected are in North Arlington.

The projects, as detailed in a county press release:

  • Aurora Highlands — $592,280 to improve S. Ives St. – 20th St. S to 23rd St. S  sidewalks, curbs, gutters and street lighting
  • Leeway — $546,738 to improve N. Nottingham St – 22nd St. N to Lee Highway
  • Buckingham — $498,538 to improve pedestrian safety and street lighting, for beautification and the possible replacement of colonial streetlights with Carlyle Style lights
  • Lyon Park — $498,000 to improve and beautify N. Daniel St./9th St. N-Washington Blvd. to 10th St. N sidewalks, curbs, gutters
  • Clarendon-Courthouse — $487,000 to improve Rocky Run Park and N. Barton St., by building two lighted, multi-use courts; renovating playgrounds; building synthetic field, accessible pathways, site furnishings and fencing
  • Old Glebe — $485,100 for N. Old Glebe Road – N. Stafford St. to N Military Rd. historic preservation/park interpretation at Forth Ethan Allen – Madison Community Center
  • Cherrydale — $374,000 to improve N. Kenmore St-S. of Lee Highway to 20th St. S.
  • Boulevard Manor — $353,887 to improve sidewalks, curbs, gutters and street lighting for 1st Street N and N. Montague St.
  • Foxcraft Heights — $12,500 to help community locate, design, build and install a neighborhood sign.
  • Columbia Heights — $12,500 to help community locate, design, build and install neighborhood sign.
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