Coming Soon: No Left Turn at a Busy Clarendon Intersection

(Updated at 4 p.m.) Arlington County will soon be adding a permanent turn restriction at a busy Clarendon intersection.

As part of the changes to the “Clarendon Circle” intersection of Clarendon, Washington and Wilson boulevards, westbound traffic on Washington Blvd will no longer be allowed to turn left onto Wilson Blvd.

The move will eliminate a tricky turn but will mean that some drivers will have to adjust their routes to get to their destinations.

The restriction is set to go into effect a bit later this month, county officials say. Other, temporary restrictions will also be put into place.

More from a press release:

In late March, the left turn from westbound Washington Boulevard to Wilson Boulevard will be permanently removed during construction to improve the Clarendon Circle intersection.

Construction will soon start on sidewalk improvements along Washington Boulevard between Clarendon Boulevard and North Hudson Street. Travel lanes on this section of Washington Boulevard will be reduced from two lanes to one and the left turn to Wilson Boulevard will be removed. Once this work is complete, the road will be restored to two through lanes but left turns to Wilson Boulevard will remain prohibited.

Drivers on westbound Washington Boulevard will have other options for reaching Wilson Boulevard. Before Clarendon Circle, drivers can turn left onto 10th Street North and then make a left to Wilson Boulevard. If they continue through the Clarendon Circle intersection, drivers can turn left onto North Kirkwood Road and then make a right onto Wilson Boulevard.

The County is redesigning the Clarendon Circle intersection and reducing its overall size to improve access and safety for people walking, biking and driving. Wider sidewalks and medians will make it safer and easier for people traveling around the intersection and shorten crossing distances.

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County Plans Another Meeting to Discuss New Strategies for Easing Traffic Around DCA Rideshare Lot

County officials and representatives from ridesharing companies are planning another community meeting to talk through traffic headaches generated by a staging lot for Uber and Lyft drivers serving Reagan National Airport passengers.

Arlington leaders will convene another gathering on the subject next week — in tandem with Uber, Lyft and airport executives — though they hope they’ve managed to alleviate many of the issues the community raised last fall.

At the time, many people living near the lot (located at 2780 Jefferson Davis Highway in Crystal City, adjacent to S. Eads Street and a Holiday Inn hotel) said the surge of rideshare drivers in the area had snarled traffic in the neighborhood.

Airport officials only started directing drivers over that way to account for National’s massive “Project Journey” construction effort, requiring drivers to wait in the lot until would-be passengers request rides. But, back then, the lot only had one entry/exit to reach S. Eads Street, prompting big traffic backups and encouraging drivers to cut through other parking lots in the area to more easily reach the airport.

The county responded with an “interim” fix designed to make a difference in the short-term — officials opened up another entrance/exit to the lot along Route 1, installing a temporary traffic light to allow drivers to turn onto the road and jump onto an exit ramp leading directly to the airport access road.

Since then, county staff say they’ve recorded a 73 percent drop in the number of cars exiting onto S. Eads Street each day. Officials say they’ve also met with Uber, Lyft and airport executives to discuss additional steps, like “exploring the use of technology and messaging through the [rideshare] apps to reduce the volume of vehicles coming to the lot and seeking additional staging locations to reduce demand.”

The county is also mulling another, more costly change.

Officials are currently exploring the possibility of aligning the lot’s temporary exit onto Route 1 with 27th Street S., which sits directly across from the staging area. That would allow cars from the lot and 27th Street to turn at the same time, perhaps cutting down on wait times at each traffic light.

“Implementation would require relocating a traffic signal pole, replacing [the] temporary traffic signal with a permanent traffic signal pole on Route 1, and reconfiguring the [rideshare] lot to allow proper ingress flow,” county staff wrote on Arlington’s website.

That project comes with a $250,000 price tag and take at least a year to complete — plus, it requires the County Board’s approval.

Staff plan to discuss that option and others at the upcoming meeting. It will be held in the Crystal City Community Room at the Crystal City Shops (2100 Crystal Drive) on March 18, from 6-7:30 p.m.

Photo 1 via Arlington County

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Plans to Guide Transformation of Rosslyn’s Streets Taking Shape, With Another Open House Set Tomorrow

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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County Plans Incremental Transportation Projects Alongside Major Efforts to Prepare for Amazon

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With Amazon hoping to open a headquarters in Arlington, Crystal City’s transportation network can’t seem to stay out of the spotlight.

Major redevelopment is coming whether or not local resistance turns the e-commerce giant away, but the attention-grabbing headlines and all-at-once infrastructure proposals don’t reveal how mobility investment is a gradual process – or how Crystal City has been steadily improving its transportation infrastructure since long before the HQ2 contest even began.

Crystal City has long been slated for some major transportation investments: Long Bridge reconstruction could enable MARC to bring commuters straight from Maryland to Crystal City and let people bicycle straight to L’Enfant Plaza. A new Metro entrance would make it much easier to connect to bus service. A remodeled VRE commuter rail station would enable larger and more trains, Metroway expansion will strengthen ties with Pentagon City and Alexandria, and a pedestrian bridge to the airport would take advantage of the fact that DCA is three times closer to Crystal City than any other airport in America is to its downtown.

These projects are big: big visibility, big impacts, big cost. They have all been in the pipeline for years, and Amazon is bringing them renewed attention and new dollars.

However, these major investments aren’t the only projects that will update Crystal City’s decades-old transportation infrastructure. Just as important as these headline-making proposals are the more incremental projects that, block by block, are making Crystal City an easier place to get around — and, just like their larger counterparts, these smaller projects have been given some extra weight by HQ2.

Old Visions, New Funding

One document has guided much of Crystal City’s development for the past decade: the Sector Plan. The Crystal City Sector Plan made many suggestions for possible improvements. Not all of them have yet come to fruition, but many have, and the plan continues to drive Arlington’s conversation about Crystal City.

That conversation has recently become a little more ambitious. Amazon’s HQ2 announcement brings not only attention, speculation and more than a little resistance — it will also bring very definite funding. Arlington and Alexandria, combined, “have secured more than $570 million in transportation funding” while the commonwealth of Virginia has committed to $195 million for the same.

This new funding flows mostly toward old designs, all of them focused on alternatives to the car. Arlington’s Incentive Proposal discusses 10 transportation “example projects.”  Five of them fall within Crystal City itself, of which all but one follow ideas that originated in the Sector Plan (the remaining project, VRE station expansion, isn’t new either).

Moving Block by Block

Most of Crystal City’s streets were built in the 1950s and 1960s, and followed the “modernist” school of city planning.

They separated pedestrians from cars as much as possible, often putting pedestrians in bridges or tunnels; located stores in malls rather than on sidewalks; and spaced out intersections widely so that cars could accelerate to highway speeds. The Sector Plan calls to convert these into “Complete Streets” that will “accommodate the transportation needs of all surface transportation users, motorists, transit riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians.”  

It can be easy to think of transportation investments as one-off projects. The CC2DCA pedestrian bridge to the airport, for example, is an all-or-nothing endeavor. Half of a bridge wouldn’t be very useful for anybody.

Because of its focus on the street level, the Sector Plan calls for gradual change. It endorses street transformation projects that can be completed incrementally — block by block, street by street, improving the area’s transportation network over time. It seeks “to balance any proposed investments in transportation infrastructure with improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the existing network, so that the maximum benefit can be delivered at the lowest cost.”  

This approach pairs well with Crystal City’s desirability for land developers. Most significant developments in Arlington are governed by the site plan process, through which the county negotiates with developers for community benefits — which might include a street renovation. Robert Mandle, chief operating officer of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, explained that “as a redevelopment plan, many [Sector Plan] improvements were anticipated as occurring in conjunction with opportunities presented from redevelopment.”

For example, the Crystal Houses III residential project includes a 0.7-acre public park paid for by the developer as well as improvements to the surrounding sidewalks that will enhance pedestrian mobility.

Another example of incremental transportation investment is the conversion of Crystal Drive to a two-way street for its entire length. The process began in 2004, funded at first by a private developer, but since 2013 all work has been county-funded. It began its third and final phase of construction on Feb. 22 and is expected to be finished by December. No streets will be closed.

Mandle, of the Business Improvement District, speaks highly of the project: “improving the pedestrian streetscape and the public realm has been a key priority for all of the two-way projects, including new street trees, wider sidewalks, and bicycle infrastructure… [the projects] enabled the creation of a strong retail main street, a key amenity for attracting businesses to the area.”

Mark Schnaufer, capital projects manager for Arlington County’s transportation division, adds that the two-way project “has helped create a grid system where people have multiple options for traveling around Crystal City, providing direct access from any direction.”

Another incremental street project, also under Schnaufer’s lead, is the block-by-block creation of Clark-Bell Street. Clark-Bell will run between Route 1 and Crystal Drive, parallel to them, and help create a more mobility-friendly environment by breaking up large blocks and providing an alternate north-south path.

Because county-led projects are gradual, they’re not likely to get swept up in the excitement of sudden news. Schnaufer emphasizes that the street improvement projects “are progressing as they did before Amazon’s decision.”

However, developer-led projects like Crystal Houses III follow the private sector’s schedule — and Amazon might kick that up a gear.

Route 1: An “Urban Boulevard”?

For many Arlingtonians, the archetypal image of Crystal City is of angular brown office buildings blurring past from a driver’s seat on Route 1.

The road is legally called Jefferson Davis Highway, which Arlington can’t change because it’s under VDOT authority, and it is the central spine that reaches from Pentagon City to Alexandria. At the moment, though, this road does as much to sever as it does to connect — and the most ambitious, most important project in the Sector Plan is an attempt to change that.

Specifically, the Sector Plans calls to “[m]aintain the capacity of the current Jefferson Davis Highway while enhancing its physical environment into an urban boulevard, and direct traffic primarily to arterial streets to minimize adverse impacts of cut through traffic into surrounding neighborhoods.”

So, what does “urban boulevard” mean?  It means wide, comfortable, welcoming sidewalks, bicycle and e-scooter accessibility, tearing down overpasses and designing buildings that form a natural, coherent enclosure to the street. It doesn’t mean slowing down cars — Connecticut Avenue in Northwest D.C., for example, carries similar volumes of traffic in a setting that is much for pleasant for pedestrians and bicyclists.

One major advantage of a more urban Route 1 is in the development that it will enable. By cutting off access ramps and frontage streets, and by potentially narrowing lanes, the reconstruction of this boulevard will actually free up substantial amounts of land along the sides of the street.

The Sector Plan dedicates much of this space to new development. New development brings many potential benefits — a more practical, mixed-use environment, new residential structures (perhaps for Amazon employees), and, by pressing closer to the street, a more coherent, urban atmosphere.

Another advantage will be closer connections to Pentagon City.  Mandle hopes that an improved Route 1 will “better unify the Crystal City and Pentagon City neighborhoods into a singular downtown area.”

Two intersections will be centerpieces of any attempt to change Route 1. First, in the north, the elevated crossing of 15th Street S. defines an automobile-oriented connection between Crystal City and Pentagon City. The Sector Plan calls for the overpass to be demolished and for the streets to intersect directly.

According to Schnaufer, this project could soon be taken up by VDOT as part of the agreement between Amazon and the commonwealth of Virginia, although specifics are still unclear.

Second, in the south, Route 1 meets the Airport Access Road. As it stands, the intersection is all but impossible to cross on foot.

The crown jewel of the Sector Plan is a proposal to convert that intersection and its looming overpass into a beautiful, green circle with Route 1 through traffic diverted into an underpass — just like, for example, Dupont Circle in DC. This proposal, dubbed ‘National Circle’, has never left the drawing board, and there does not seem to have been any new planning or design work done since the Sector Plan was published.

Crystal City in the 21st Century

Amazon chose Crystal City for HQ2 in large part because of the transportation that’s already there. Between 2001 and 2014, because of federal employment changes, Crystal City lost about as many jobs as Amazon will bring, leaving the area with empty Metro seats and a surfeit of parking. “As a result,” says the county, “there is tremendous capacity on existing transit services to carry many more people than we do today.”

Furthermore, Amazon itself is prepared to implement ‘transportation demand management‘ strategies, like transit commuter benefits. These strategies, in which Arlington is considered a national leader, help reduce the car commuting that clogs our streets with vehicles and our air with exhaust.

For Schnaufer, of Arlington County Transportation, this is a story about Arlington as a whole just as much as it is about Crystal City.  

“Arlington County is known as a leader, in Virginia and across the country, for how we design transportation infrastructure projects,” he said. “Both the quality of our existing street infrastructure and the County’s plans for future improvements help attract companies like Amazon to Arlington.”

Mandle agrees, saying that “Arlington’s commitment to both incremental and larger infrastructure projects, even prior to the Amazon deal, illustrates an awareness that these infrastructure improvements were critical to enhancing the area’s economic competitiveness and long-term growth.”

Ultimately, the Sector Plan’s goals for National Circle and its other high ambitions for a gradually-improving Crystal City will remain guideposts for the area long after Amazon’s arrival.

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NoVa Congressional Delegation Pushes for Funding for Major GW Parkway Rehab Work

Federal officials think they have a good shot at winning $126 million in grant funds to make a series of badly needed repairs on a long section of the GW Parkway, and Northern Virginia’s congressional delegation is throwing its weight behind the effort.

The National Park Service, which maintains the road, is currently applying for a hefty U.S. Department of Transportation grant to fund rehabilitation work on a roughly eight-mile-long stretch of the parkway, as it runs between the Spout Run Parkway in Rosslyn and I-495. Now, both of Virginia’s senators and three local members of Congress are lending their support to the funding push, in a bid to finally afford some changes on the aging roadway.

“The proposed project will address serious deterioration of the GWMP and implement significant safety improvements,” the lawmakers wrote in a Jan. 8 letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “This project will improve a critical link in the National Capital Region’s transportation network while preserving the historical and cultural characteristics that make the parkway one of the most scenic roadways in the country. These proposed improvements will increase the safety of visitors while significantly extending the life of the parkway.”

Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (both D-Va.) both signed the letter, as did Virginia Reps. Don Beyer (D-8th District) and Jennifer Wexton (D-10th District). Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s lone, non-voting representative in Congress also added her support.

The NPS says the construction work, set to cost about $150 million in all, will start at the parkway’s Spout Run Parkway exit and include:

  • Making drives smoother by replacing the asphalt pavement
  • Replacing guardrails and repairing walls
  • Repairing stormwater management systems to keep excess water from damaging the road
  • Constructing new concrete curbs
  • Rehabilitating parts of two historic, scenic overlooks
  • Lengthening entrance and exit lanes at some interchanges

Officials also hope to use the cash to replace the stormwater drainage grates that line the parkway, which have long made for a bumpy ride for drivers. They’re also envisioning adding four “emergency turnarounds,” in order to allow police to more easily redirect drivers who stop on the road due to a crash or inclement weather.

The construction would also include improvements at the parkway’s interchange with Chain Bridge Road in McLean, like adding a new traffic signal to the area.

The lawmakers note in the letter that this northern stretch of the parkway was first built in 1962, and with more than 33 million vehicles using the road each year, it’s badly deteriorated in the decades since.

The NPS is hoping to win the funding through the Department of Transportation’s “Nationally Significant Federal Land and Tribal Projects” program. In a release, park service officials said they believe the project “will compete well” for cash through that program, given the parkway’s “significance” and the fact that the NPS has already wrapped up schematic design work for the construction.

If all goes well, officials hope to kick off construction sometime next year.

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Morning Notes

Chamber Backs Amazon Incentives — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has provided its formal stamp of approval, supporting the planned Arlington County government incentive package for Amazon. The package ‘will have positive benefits for the Arlington community as a whole,’ the business organization said.” [InsideNova]

New County Finance Director Appointed — “Maria Meredith has been named Arlington County’s new Director of the Department of Management and Finance (DMF), effective January 14, 2019. She will be responsible for approximately 50 staff involved in the County’s financial operations, including management and budget, accounting, purchasing and real estate assessment.” [Arlington County]

Arlington Road Project Recognized — “We’re ready to announce the winners of our highest honor of the year — the 2018 Streetsie Award for Best Urban Street Redesign. Our readers weighed in and chose… Arlington, which received more than 1,000 votes for its road diet/protected bike lane project on Veitch Street.” [StreetsBlog]

Local Startup Struggling to Pay Bills — “Trustify, the Arlington company that provides private investigation services through digital platforms, has had trouble making payroll since October and is in arrears to its landlord and several other vendors, according to at least five employees who recently left the company.” [Washington Business Journal]

Button for Filing Air Noise Complaints — Residents in Maryland, Northwest D.C. and elsewhere have a new tool for filing complaints about noise from Reagan National Airport air traffic: a converted Amazon Dash button that does the heavy lifting of filing complaints with aviation authorities. [Washington Post]

‘Floss-Cutting’ Ceremony for Dental Clinic — “The Arlington Free Clinic recently celebrated completion of a $1.5 million fund-raising drive to support construction and outfitting of a dental facility to support those in need across Arlington. The capital campaign, which was launched by support from longtime volunteer and donor Mary Mellon (whose father died of a tooth infection he could not afford to treat when she was a teen), will allow the clinic to triple the number of dental patients it can serve.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Reminder: Yellow Line Shutdown Starts Today — There will be no Yellow Line service today through Sunday, Dec. 9 as Metro works to repair the Yellow Line bridge over the Potomac. Yellow Line riders can instead take the Blue Line and/or free shuttle service. [ARLnow, Twitter]

New ‘Clarendon Circle’ Traffic Restriction — Work on improvements to the busy “Clarendon Circle” intersection are underway and have resulted in at least one traffic pattern change. During construction, drivers will not be allowed to make the “tricky” left from eastbound Washington Blvd to Clarendon Blvd, and will instead have to follow a detour via N. Kirkwood Road. [Twitter, Arlington County]

Civ Fed Prepares Tree Canopy Resolution — “The Arlington County Civic Federation in December will weigh in on the development plan of Upton Hill Regional Park and, more broadly, on Arlington government policies on retaining or removing trees during redevelopment on public land. A resolution demanding a temporary halt to current development plans at Upton Hill was introduced at the Civic Federation’s Nov. 13 meeting and will be debated and voted on Dec. 4.” [InsideNova]

Minor Bluemont House Fire — Firefighters extinguished an out-of-control fire in the fireplace of a Bluemont house Saturday night. No injuries were reported but the home, on the 900 block of N. Frederick Street, suffered some smoke damage. [Twitter, Twitter]

Another Traffic Nightmare at DCA — As if the gridlock caused by the Veterans Day shutdown of the National Airport Metro station wasn’t bad enough, the traffic nightmare repeated itself Sunday evening, during one of the busiest travel days of the year. Some drivers reported spending hours trying to get to and from the airport. [NBC Washington, Twitter]

CBS Looks at Clarendon’s Vpoint Apartments — On Saturday morning, CBS News took a close look at the vPoint affordable housing project in Clarendon. The project, which converted a stand-alone church to a combination worship space and apartment building, is potentially a model for other communities struggling with affordable housing. At the time, however, the redevelopment faced lawsuits and other community opposition. [YouTube]

Amazon News Roundup — Arlington saw only modest successes in its quest to pitch itself as a tech hub over the past few years, but Amazon’s arrival changes that narrative in a big way. That said, half of the jobs Amazon brings to Arlington will be non-technical. Meanwhile, Amazon may benefit lower-income residents in New York City more than in Arlington, as subcontractors in New York will be subject to the state’s $15 per hour minimum wage; Virginia’s minimum wage is currently the federal $7.25 per hour minimum. And Nashville, some say, will be the biggest winner in terms of Amazon’s new presence boosting the local commercial real estate market.

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Morning Notes

Mi and Yu Opening Update — According to its website, Mi and Yu Noodle Bar, which was originally expected to open in September in the revamped Ballston Quarter mall, is now slated for a February 2019 opening. The opening of the mall — and the numerous new restaurants that will call it home — was at last check delayed until late October. [Mi and Yu Noodle Bar]

Improvements for McKinley Road — “Arlington County Board members on Oct. 20 are expected to award a contract worth up to $426,700 for modify curbs and intersections and establish a median along McKinley Road from Wilson Boulevard north to 11th Street North. The project is designed to improved safety for pedestrians and bicyclists in the corridor, including students attending McKinley Elementary School.” [InsideNova]

Memorial Bridge Work, Woes — Rehab work is well underway on the Memorial Bridge, but long-term lane closures are continuing to cause — in the words of one commuter — “insane” traffic backups during rush hour. [Twitter, Twitter]

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Morning Notes

County Manager Warns of Tough Upcoming Budget — “Arlington County faces an estimated budget gap of $20-35 million for its 2020 fiscal year, which could require cuts to County services, increased taxes and fees, or a combination of the two. County Manager Mark Schwartz… said that County revenues are forecast to grow by a modest 1.5 percent, while expenditures for the County’s current set of programs are anticipated to grow twice as fast.” [Arlington County, Washington Post]

GW Parkway Rebuild Coming — “Much of the George Washington Parkway will see a complete rebuild in the next few years — and though it’ll surely result in smoother pavement and longer acceleration lanes, good things on the road only come after lengthy closures. An $150 million overhaul of the George Washington Parkway, including a rework of the interchange with Virginia Route 123, is moving forward.” [WTOP]

County: Report Suspicious Activity — Despite some recent pushback on questionable calls to law enforcement, Arlington County is still encouraging citizens to “See Something, Say Something.” Per the county: “Security is a shared responsibility so if you see something out of place, say something by reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement. Arlington County is safer when everyone is engaged and alert.” [Arlington County]

Cops Called on Food Vendor — Someone called police to report a pickup truck that was selling food without a permit on S. Scott Street near Columbia Pike Tuesday morning. The truck may have been delivering food to construction workers. [Twitter]

Crash on Memorial Bridge — A crash blocked two inbound lanes of the Memorial Bridge during this morning’s rush hour, prompting delays for commuters. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Lubber Run Project Budget Boosted — “Arlington County Board members on Sept. 22 agreed to add about $1.4 million to the budget for rebuilding Lubber Run Community Center, which will push the construction cost to $41.14 million and the management fees to $4.11 million.” [InsideNova]

Clarendon Circle Construction Begins — “Things will start looking different in Clarendon and not because of too many cosmos at Don Tito’s. The long-awaited Circle intersection improvements project kicks off today.” [Twitter]

Neighborhoods Want in on W-L Name Discussion — “The president of the Buckingham Community Civic Association thinks Arlington school leaders may need some remedial work in geography. Bernie Berne used the Sept. 20 School Board meeting to complain that his community had been shut out of the committee set up to suggest new names for Washington-Lee High School, even though it is closer to the school than another civic association that has been included on the panel.” [InsideNova]

Fire at Columbia Pike Building — On the 5100 block of Columbia Pike: “First arriving units found a fire contained to an appliance. The fire was extinguished. All occupants are safe & accounted for.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Tree Advocates Increase Pressure — “Another month has brought another round in the ongoing dispute between tree activists and the Arlington County Board – and much of the give and take on both sides is beginning to sound familiar to the point of repetitious. Activists in support of expanding the county’s tree canopy were among a number of advocacy groups that descended on the Sept. 22 County Board meeting. Among their chief complaints: The county government hasn’t done anything to prevent the removal of trees during an upcoming expansion project at Upton Hill Regional Park.” [InsideNova, Twitter]

Fox News Highlights Lucky Dog — Arlington’s Lucky Dog Rescue continues to get national attention for its work rescuing dogs from areas flooded by Hurricane Florence. Over the weekend Fox News broadcast from Shirlington to bring attention to the dogs that are now available for adoption. [Yahoo]

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Lane Conversion and Speed Decrease May Be Coming to Crystal Drive

If approved at tomorrow’s (Saturday) County Board meeting, a portion of one of Crystal City’s thoroughfares will receive a substantial upgrade and a speed limit downgrade.

Crystal Drive is currently a one-way street between 26th and 27th streets, but as part of an ongoing conversion project it will be turned into a two-lane roadway. The project will also add a right turn lane at the northbound intersection of Crystal Drive and 26th Street S., a left turn lane at the westbound intersection of Crystal Drive and 27th Street S., and bike lanes and sidewalk improvements.

The two-lane expansion in other sections of Crystal Drive occurred in 2013. The two-lane conversion between 26th and 27th Streets S. will be the third and final phase of the street’s conversion to an almost entirely two-way road.

At tomorrow’s meeting, the County Board will vote on a contract for the $1.2 million project.

At the same meeting, the Board will also vote on whether to authorize a public hearing on lowering the speed limit along Crystal Drive from 30 to 25 mph.

The county’s Transportation Master Plan recommends 25 mph as the standard speed limit on arterial streets in Arlington’s downtown districts where there are high volumes of pedestrians and high density land development. A study of the local traffic was conducted at the request of the Crystal City Business Improvement District and determined that Crystal Drive qualified for a speed limit reduction.

If approved, the speed limit reduction will be considered at the Board’s Oct. 20 meeting.

Photo and map via Arlington County

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Cherrydale Has 15 Complaints About Five Points Intersection

(Updated at 12:15 p.m.) The busy “Five Points Intersection” in Cherrydale, which was just overhauled to the tune of $1.7 million, is still not very popular with some people in Cherrydale.

The neighborhood’s civic association has called a meeting with county staffers to discuss “new problems caused by the County’s reconstruction.” The association listed fifteen different issues on its website.

Construction on the project, which was the result of several years of study and discussion, wrapped up this summer, but many residents remain unhappy with the way the intersection is configured.

“Years after Cherydalers offered their input, the County went ahead with its own plans for the intersection,” the civic association’s website says. “While the project offers some improvements, on balance it seems to have created more problems than it has solved. We have asked that County staff who have decision-making authority attend our meeting, but we don’t have confirmation on who exactly from the County will be attending.”

The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 3, at H-B Woodlawn (4100 Vacation Lane) starting at 7:30 p.m.

In response to the complaints and meeting request, Arlington County’s Dept. of Environmental Services issued the following statement Friday.

County staff received the list of concerns from the Cherrydale Civic Association, and held an on-site meeting with them on Sept. 17. As with any right-of-way project, we intend to conduct an after-action engineering analysis upon project completion to determine whether the design of the intersection is performing as envisioned during the planning process. This analysis involves site observations and collecting traffic data, and we optimize and make tweaks as needed based on those observations. This process will take up to three months.

We will continue to work with the Civic Association. We will need to have the analysis underway in order to make recommendations on all comments for how to move forward.

The full list of 15 community concerns is below.

1. Eastbound traffic on Old Dominion during morning rush hours backs up much more substantially than it ever used to, with the back-up extending beyond Glebe Road. We are requesting that the County prioritize its signal re-timing program for this stretch of Lee Highway/Old Dominion to alleviate this back-up.

2. The County’s signal programming decisions concerning the left turn signals for cars turning left from westbound Lee Highway onto either Quincy Street or Old LeeHighway is confusing and problematic. The left arrow signal turns red after only 7- or 8- seconds after turning green, causing cars to come to a full stop. The left arrow signal then quickly resumes as a blinking yellow left arrow for another 9- or 10-seconds, but drivers must contend with oncoming traffic from Old Lee Highway. This signaling program dramatically reduces the flow of left-turning traffic and causes cars to back-up on westbound Lee Highway, especially during the afternoon rush hours. We are requesting that the County revisit this signal timing.

3. The new left turn patterns for cars turning left from Military Road onto Lee Highway and from Quincy Street onto Old Dominion is also reducing traffic flow through the intersection. The new pattern allows far fewer left-turning cars to clear the intersection before the light turns red, and also causes a queue of left-turning cars that have already entered the intersection from Military Road to remain in the intersection after the left arrow for westbound cars on Lee Highway turns green, further reducing the number of cars that can turn left from westbound Lee Highway onto either Quincy Street or Old Lee Highway. This also poses a hazard to pedestrians in the new crosswalk on Lee Highway. We are requesting that the County restore the long-standing left-turn pattern for Quincy Street and Military Road and place signs to so indicate.

4. The signal visors on the traffic lights for westbound cars proceeding from westbound Lee Highway to Old Dominion are so restrictive that westbound cars cannot even clearly see the signals. This is causing confusion and reducing the flow of westbound traffic through the intersection.

5. Collectively, these signal problems make for angry drivers who tend to speed through the intersection after the signals have changed, which is extremely dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.

6. The new pedestrian crosswalk on the east side of the intersection near Browns Honda and Northside Vet is very hard to see for drivers turning left from Military Road onto eastbound Lee Highway and is behind the stop line for westbound Lee Highway. Drivers caught in the short left-turn signal from westbound Lee Highway tend to block the cross walk, and other westbound cars also block the crosswalk. We are requesting that the County modify many aspects of the intersection to make the crosswalk safe, including the left-turn system for cars coming from Military Road.

7. The pedestrian signal across Military Road automatically comes on almost 20 seconds after the light of westbound cars on Lee Highway turns green and only after the signal for eastbound Old Dominion turns green. We are requesting that this be changed to follow the signal timing for westbound Lee Highway.

8. The pedestrian signal across Old Lee Highway only turns on when the light is green for Military Road and Quincy Street. We are requesting that the pedestrian signal come on after the left arrow for cars traveling westbound on Lee Highway turns red but the light is green for cars traveling eastbound on Old Dominion.

9. The pedestrian signal across Quincy Street only turns on when the light is green for Old Dominion. We are requesting that the pedestrian signal also come when the light is green for cars traveling eastbound on Old Lee Highway.

10. One of the new curb ramps for the new crosswalks come up at 90 degrees from the street. This design is challenging for people on wheels (wheelchairs, strollers, bikes, scooters, etc.) and poses an unnecessary risk of falls. We are requesting that the County reinstall the curb with sloped sides, similar to what the County recently installed at Route 50 and Henderson Streets.

11. The stop-for-pedestrians placard in the middle of the street on Military Road near the Vacation Lane crosswalk is no longer on the yellow line, and now sits at least one foot into the southbound traffic lane of Military Road. This is causing cars to swerve into the newly painted bike lanes on this part of Military Road, and presenting a serious hazard to cyclists. We are requesting that the County relocate this placard ASAP.

12. We remain disappointed that the County did not eliminate the slip lane from Military Road to Old Dominion. The slip lane seems unnecessary and is not pedestrian friendly. Cars using the slip lane are stopping in the pedestrian crosswalk before turning onto Old Dominion. We are requesting that the County now eliminate the slip lane or at least ensure that there is adequate signage to ensure that cars actually yield to pedestrians and stop blocking the crosswalk.

13. Cars and work vehicles are parking/puling over in some of the new bike lanes, especially on southbound Quincy Street south of 21stStreet. This causes bikers to reenter the traffic lane. We are requesting that the County install bollards, ensure that it has adequate no-parking signs along this stretch of Quincy Street, and actively ticket & tow violators to ensure the bike lanes are actually usable for bikers.

14. Several cars turning left from southbound Pollard Street onto eastbound Lee Highway are still coming to a full stop in front of the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department and waiting for the Lee Highway light to turn green. This also blocks traffic for cars proceeding north on Pollard Street onto Lee Highway. Although the County has added do-not-block intersection signs in this area, the intersection remains confusing for drivers. We are requesting that the County put the same yellow X-pattern striping in front of the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department that it has placed in front of County-owned Fire Station No. 3 just up the street on Old Dominion.

15. Now that the County has re-aligned the eastbound lanes in front of the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department and the 3800 block of Lee Highway (in front of Gaijin Ramin/Subway/Fit To Be Tan), visibility for drivers turning from Oakland Street is much improved, and the County’s/VDOT’s no parking bollards in front of Subway seem unnecessary. Those businesses have long struggled because of the lack of adequate “teaser” parking along Lee Highway, and we recently lost a much-loved business due to inadequate customer traffic. The County seems to allow parking closer to almost every other intersection. We are requesting that the County/VDOT reduce the no-parking zone to match up with other intersections.​

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Construction Wraps Up on Route 50 Intersection Improvements

Construction has wrapped up on improvements to Arlington Boulevard (Route 50) at the Manchester Street and Park Drive intersections.

According to Eric Balliet, transportation spokesperson for Arlington County, the road and lane closures around the project have come to an end and landscaping work on the surrounding area is expected to begin this fall.

The intensity of traffic in the area led the county to develop a series of improvements to reduce speeding and accidents along Arlington Boulevard. New improvements include ADA curb ramps, sidewalk improvements, high-visibility crosswalks and upgrades to the signals. New curbs and gutters, along with new trees, were added at the Park Drive intersection.

Improvements were made to the street, with new asphalt pavement and lane striping. The storm drainage pipes at the site were also upgraded.

The project had been in the design process since 2011, with construction beginning late in 2017.

Photo from Google Maps

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Cherrydale ‘Five Points Intersection’ Work to Wrap Up Soon

An overhaul of the “Five Points Intersection” in Cherrydale should be completed soon, with night work to finish pavement markings and paving scheduled from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Monday (July 30) and continuing through Thursday (Aug. 2), weather permitting.

Work got underway last September, and changes included upgrading all traffic signal equipment, adding or modifying several lanes and improving crosswalks.

The County Board awarded a contract for the revamping last April after several years of study and discussion of the intersection, which is located at Lee Highway, Old Dominion Drive, N. Quincy Street, Military Road and N. Quebec Street.

The county advises drivers to avoid the intersection during the upcoming night work.

Photo via Arlington County

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County Plans to Replace Brick Crosswalks With ‘High-Visibility’ Markings

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.

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