Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Western Smoke Causing Hazy Skies — “The local National Weather Service office pointed out today in its technical discussion that the smoke is caught in the jet stream and moving overhead around 20,000 to 25,000 feet high. Smoke from the historic fires out West now covers much of the country, and it is expected to continue to be an issue in the days ahead.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Board Approves Road Project — “Arlington County Board members on Sept. 12 approved a contract worth up to $805,000 for improvements to the intersection of 18th Street North with North Glebe Road and North Wakefield Street, aimed at providing a better walking and biking experience for children and others headed to Glebe Elementary School.” [InsideNova. Arlington County]

Ret. Deputy Seeking Answer to 9/11 Mystery — “Nineteen years after the 9/11 attack at the Pentagon, a retired Arlington Sheriff’s deputy still doesn’t know if the badly injured man he pulled from the burning building survived. He doesn’t know his family or even his name — and Art Castellano still cries about it whenever something reminds him of that day. Now, WUSA9 is trying to help reunite the two men.” [WUSA 9]

Teacher Seeking Desk Donations — “Students across Northern Virginia are turning homes into classrooms, so Arlington art teacher Jeff Wilson decided to rally the community to help. Wilson posted a request online for people to donate their old desks to help students who are learning from home.” [WJLA]

Local Business Legend Dies — “Russell A. Hitt, who helped transform the family business into one of the nation’s largest and most successful general contracting firms, died Sunday at his Falls Church residence. The 85-year-old Arlington native is survived by his wife of 66 years, Joan; four children and 15 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, many of whom now work at Hitt Contracting Inc.” [Washington Business Journal]

No, the FBI Didn’t Conduct a Raid in Rosslyn — “The FBI’s Washington field office says it did not raid the home of Arlington conspiracy theorist Jack Burkman, despite a Washington Post story that apparently took Burkman’s word that his home had been tossed by federal agents.” [Washingtonian, Daily Beast, Washington Post]

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N. Glebe Road is expected to close for nine straight days next year for a bridge rehabilitation project.

In a recently-posed video presentation, VDOT provided an update on its planned Pimmit Run bridge project. The presentation details the plan to replace the deteriorating bridge deck and steel supporting beams with large, prefabricated components.

Sections of the bridge deck and support beams will be constructed off-site and trucked in, then placed with a crane. That will allow crews to replace the entire top of the bridge much faster than with conventional construction techniques, which would require a sequential series of lane closures.

The downside is that the bridge — and thus N. Glebe Road, just up from Chain Bridge — will need to be closed to traffic entirely for an estimated nine days next year.

The project is set to kick off next spring and wrap up in the fall of 2021. Its projected cost of $9.5 million will come from state and federal funds.

The bridge was built in 1973, serves 13,000 vehicles per day, and is suffering from corroding concrete and steel supports. The project will replace the entire bridge deck and support beams, while also repairing the concrete bridge piers in and around Pimmit Run, near where it flows into the Potomac.

The rehabilitated bridge will have new rails and barriers, as well as a widened pedestrian path.

During the project, traffic heading to and from Chain Bridge will be detoured via McLean and N. Chain Bridge Road. A closure of N. Glebe Road just up from the bridge last week, due to water main work, resulted only in minor traffic impacts — albeit during a pandemic during which many people are working from home.

VDOT is asking for anyone with feedback on the project to email [email protected] by Aug. 7.

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The Arlington County Board has approved road improvement projects on three arterial streets and two neighborhood streets.

The arterial street projects involve Americans with Disabilities Act improvements to bus stops and ramps, improvements to crosswalks, and other changes to S. Arlington Ridge Road, N. Carlin Springs Road and Military Road — at an estimated cost of $550,000.

More from a county staff report:

The work proposed for the intersection of South Arlington Ridge Road and South Lang Street will provide a safer pedestrian crossing to Gunston School and provide ADA compliant bus stops. The improvements at the intersections of North Carlin Springs Road and North Edison Street and North Wakefield Street will deliver ADA compliant bus stops and installation of a RRFB (rectangular rapid flashing beacon) at the North Edison Street intersection. The project planned for the intersections of 36th Road North and North Marcey Road with Military Road will include ADA compliant bus stops and realignment of the intersection for North Marcey Road for improved vehicle movement.

The Board also approved two “Neighborhood Complete Streets” capital projects, including:

  • New sidewalk, curb ramps, and paving along 13th Street S. between Walter Reed Drive and Glebe Road, in the Douglas Park neighborhood
  • Curb extensions and improved bus stops along 7th Road S. in the Arlington Mill neighborhood

The 13th Street project has the goal of a safer pedestrian experience on a street commonly used by cut-through traffic, with an incomplete sidewalk. The 7th Road S. project aims to create “pinch points” to reduce vehicle speeds, on a stretch where speeding and crashes are problematic. Both projects have an approximate cost of $600,000.

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The final plans are in for a trio of road projects in Arlington, and two out of three involve the removal of travel lanes.

The projects — in Rosslyn, Dominion Hills and Crystal City/Potomac Yard — are all part of the county’s 2020 road repaving schedule. Each has been singled out for changes to the lane striping via the county’s Resurfacing Projects for Complete Streets program, which aims to make streets safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians via inexpensive means during the regular repaving cycle.

The first project is planned in Rosslyn along Clarendon Blvd, from N. Rhodes Street to N. Oak Street, near the standalone Starbucks. The plans call for new sections of buffered and protected bike lanes, green paint for bike lanes through intersections, upgraded signage, and no reduction in travel lanes — though it will remove seven of 78 on-street parking spaces.

The Clarendon Blvd project is set to start construction this month.

The second project will reconfigure Potomac Avenue in the Potomac Yard area of Crystal City, from Crystal Drive to the county line. The project calls for upgraded bike lanes, an interim on-street pedestrian zone along a construction site, new turn lanes, and 34 new parking spaces. One of two travel lanes in each direction will be removed, though the road has relatively light traffic.

The Potomac Avenue project is also set to start construction this month, and is reportedly now underway.

Finally, the last project will make changes to Wilson Blvd through the Dominion Hills neighborhood, from Bon Air Park to the county line. It calls for the addition of turn lanes, dedicated school and transit bus stop lanes, curb extensions for shorter crossing distances, buffered bike lanes, and marked bike lanes through intersections. It adds one parking spot to the stretch but removes one of two travel lanes in each direction.

The removal of lanes follows a prior, similar project along sections of Wilson Blvd from Bluemont to Bon Air Park, which was somewhat controversial at the time but only resulted in minimal traffic impacts for the average rush hour commuter.

The Wilson Blvd project is set to start construction later this summer or in the early fall.

The design process for the three projects involved two virtual open houses and rounds of public feedback, through which a number of modifications to the plans were made.

File photo (top). Street view images (1) (2) and (3) via Google Maps.

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Update at 1:40 p.m. — The County Board meeting scheduled for this weekend has been delayed until Saturday, April 25.

At its Saturday meeting, the Arlington County Board is set to consider a construction contract for upgrades to a portion of 23rd Street S. in Crystal City.

As part of the first phase of a two-phase project, the county is planning to “widen the sidewalk and retail parking areas on the south side of 23rd Street” between Route 1 and S. Eads Street. That will mean improved pedestrian safety and better ease of use for the existing parking lot that serves Young Chow restaurant, the Crystal City Restaurant gentlemen’s club, and 7-Eleven.

“Lane widths will be reduced, but the number of travel lanes will remain the same as today,” a county staff report says. “The new curb re-alignment will create more room for vehicles in the shopping plaza to maneuver without encroaching onto the sidewalk.”

Additionally, the $1.33 million construction contract will add new landscaping, crosswalks, ADA-accessible curb ramps and upgraded traffic signals at the intersection of 23rd and Eads. The overall project cost for Phase 1 is about $2.1 million, which will be funded by a regional Northern Virginia Transportation Authority grant.

“Upon approval by the county board, construction is expected to begin Summer of 2020 and to be complete in Winter of 2021,” says the staff report.

Phase 2 of the project is still in design but is expected to upgrade 23rd Street S. between Route 1 and Crystal Drive, with new sidewalks and trees on either side, while removing the grassy median in the middle. That project being planned in conjunction with JBG Smith’s major redevelopment project on the north side of 23rd Street.

“Phase 2 of the project is anticipated to implement similar improvements on 23rd Street South east of Richmond Highway to Crystal Drive,” the staff report notes. “Phase 2 is currently in 30% design and is being coordinated with private sector redevelopment efforts along 23rd Street South.”

The stretch of 23rd Street S. between Arlington Ridge Road and Crystal Drive, which includes the Crystal City’s well-known restaurant row, is seeing a series of infrastructure changes as Amazon arrives in the neighborhood. A project to replace a major water main along 23rd Street is currently underway, and the county recently finished closing an underground pedestrian tunnel under Route 1.

Separately, the County Board on Saturday will also take up the renaming of the Crystal City Business Improvement District to the “The Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard at National Landing Business Improvement Service District.”

Street view via Google Maps

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The main lanes of I-395 may be a bit busier on weekends for the next couple of months.

VDOT is planning to shut down the I-395 Express Lanes from Edsall Road to the D.C. line, starting this weekend, for a construction project. The shutdown will start around 11 p.m. on Fridays until early Monday morning, and is set to take place over the course of at least 10 consecutive weekends.

The closures will help with road work at Shirlington Circle, in Arlington, and the ramps to and from Seminary Road in Alexandria.

More from a VDOT press release:

The I-395 Express Lanes from near Edsall Road to the D.C. line are scheduled to close for at least ten consecutive weekends, beginning this weekend, March 6-8. These weekend closures are planned to begin at 11 p.m. Friday nights until 4 a.m. Monday mornings, and are needed for crews to complete hydro-demolition and bridge deck overlay placement at Express Lanes entrances and exits at Shirlington Circle and Seminary Road, as well as drainage, utility work and other construction activities. Closures will not occur over Easter weekend, April 10-12.

Travelers should plan ahead and allow extra travel time or take alternate routes. Work is weather dependent and may be rescheduled in the event of inclement weather.

File photo

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The Arlington County Board is set to vote this weekend on a $1.4 million construction contract for improvements to N. Pershing Drive.

The project calls for “Complete Streets” safety upgrades at four intersections — three in Lyon Park, near the Lyon Park Community Center, and one in Ashton Heights.

“The project will install curb extensions, bus stop improvements, ADA compliant sidewalks and curb ramps, high-visibility crosswalks and a signal upgrade at the intersection of North Fillmore Street,” a county staff report says. “The project also proposes a bioretention system at the intersection of North Pershing Drive and North Oakland Street. Bioretention is one of the County’s tools to mitigate the water quality impacts from existing development.”

The work is intended to improve safety for all users of the moderately section of busy road, between Washington Blvd and N. Glebe Road.

“Pershing Drive is categorized as an urban minor arterial and serves thousands of automobile trips each day,” the county said on its website. “Pershing Drive also supports bus service (ART & WMATA) and many bicyclists and pedestrians.”

“Pershing Drive is currently marked by many challenging intersections with long crossing distances, non ADA-compliant curb ramps and missing crosswalks,” the website adds. “The Pershing Drive right-of-way is variable and very narrow… meaning little space is available for accommodating multimodal improvements.”

County staff note that the project will not include any flood mitigation efforts:

County staff have reviewed the project location from the perspective of flood risk and found that the project area does not currently experience significant flooding. This area is not identified as a priority location for installing storm infrastructure to reduce the likelihood of flooding, and as a result, storm sewer upgrades are not included in this project.

The four intersections set for construction in late 2020, after the contract is approved, are:

  • Pershing and N. Fillmore Street
  • Pershing and N. Garfield Street
  • Pershing and N. Highland Street
  • Pershing and N. Oakland Street

Arlington County has been working to obtain easements from property owners to facilitate the upgraded sidewalks and other project features. That work is now complete, though the county was not able to obtain easements for upgrades at N. Oxford Street, which was to be the fifth intersection but was subsequently removed from the project.

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The Arlington County Board this weekend is set to consider a $4.5 million contract to rehabilitate an out-of-service water main in the middle of N. Glebe Road.

The 36-inch transmission main — the same size as the large pipe that burst and shut down N. Glebe Road near Chain Bridge in November — was placed out of service in 2013 due to concerns about a catastrophic failure. A transmission line was built parallel to it after a major water main break on N. Old Glebe Road in 2009 and is currently providing service to the area.

County officials say rehabbing the old main, which was built in 1972, will help provide redundancy in the county’s water system. Arlington’s water comes from the Washington Aqueduct in D.C., by way of pipes that cross the Potomac River at Chain Bridge then branch out to various parts of the county.

The project will run along N. Glebe Road from Old Glebe Road to Little Falls Road — a distance of about 0.8 miles. Residents should expect lane closures and daytime water service interruptions during the course of the project, the county staffers said in a report to the County Board.

The Board is expected to vote on the contract at its meeting this Saturday.

More from the staff report:

This contract is for the rehabilitation of a transmission main built in 1972 in the right-of-way of North Glebe Road between Old North Glebe Road and Little Falls Road. The transmission main was placed out of service due to a catastrophic failure in 2009. The proposed rehabilitation work will prevent the likely future failure of this transmission main and bring it back to service which will provide redundancy for the water main network.

The proposed transmission main rehabilitation is part of the Water Main Rehabilitation / Replacement program outlined in the Capital Improvement Plan. Inspection and evaluation of the existing transmission main subsequent to the November 2009 break revealed that the transmission main was subject to failure. Therefore, a 36″ transmission main was installed in parallel and the existing failing transmission main was placed out of service in 2013. The proposed rehabilitation work consists of lining the existing transmission main that was placed out of service and replacing some portions of it. The overall goal for the proposed rehabilitation is to reinstate the transmission main which is currently out of service and provide the required redundancy to meet water demand in the area. […]

The scope of this project involves the rehabilitation of existing infrastructure along the same corridor and the construction will cause some water services disruptions throughout the duration of the project. These disruptions will not be for an extended period. Traffic flow will be maintained throughout the project duration by keeping at least one lane open each direction during working hours throughout the project duration. The traffic impacts of the project have been communicated via the project website and through Civic Association presidents. Progress updates regarding the construction of the project will continue to be regularly provided to the communities via the two channels noted above.

Upon contract award and before the start of construction, a detailed letter about the project and construction schedule will be sent to the presidents of both Civic Associations and then be distributed to residents who will be directly impacted by the project. Additionally, water service disruptions will be coordinated with the affected residents in advance of any shutdowns. All shutdowns will be limited to construction hours during the work day.

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(Updated at 10:40 a.m.) Big changes are finally coming to the intersection of N. Glebe Road and Lee Highway.

The Arlington County Board will consider a project to add left turn lanes to Glebe approaching the busy intersection. Also part of the project: undergrounding utilities, upgrading bus stops and streetlights, and replacing an old water main.

Currently, northbound and southbound traffic on Glebe each gets its own green light, allowing unobstructed left turns. The new turn lanes will allow simultaneous green lights, thus improving traffic flow and giving pedestrians more time to cross the street, according to a county staff report.

The construction will come with a steep price tag: between $3.4 and 3.9 million. The Board is set to vote on a contract with the low bidder, Rustler Construction, Inc., at its meeting this Saturday.

The first phase of the project, including utility undergrounding, kicked off in 2017. The county has spent years obtaining easements from property owners along Glebe, allowing the roadway expansion, which has general support from local residents.

“There is broad public support for this project because it is significantly improving multimodal mobility and access without any trade-offs aside from construction disruptions and right-of-way impacts,” says the staff report.

“During the lengthy easement acquisition process, the design was revised many times to accommodate surrounding property owners’ requests for considerations such as minimizing the amount of offstreet parking lost, maintaining existing driveway accesses, adding landscaping, and shifting bus shelter locations to not hinder the visibility of commercial monument signs.”

One slightly controversial aspect of the project is the LED streetlights Dominion plans to install.

“Several community members and stakeholder groups have expressed concern with the aesthetics and character of the streetlights selected for the project area – Dominion Energy maintained cobra LED style lights,” the staff report says.

“These lights were selected for the project area by the County’s Streetlight Management Plan (SMP)… Cobra LEDs are preferred for both the Lee Highway (Route 29) and Glebe Road (Route 120) project corridors because they more efficiently illuminate higher speed, wider arterial roadways than post-top lights, thus resulting in needing approximately 30% fewer light poles (and sidewalk pole obstructions) in the project area.”

More on the project from county staff:

The project will widen North Glebe Road (Route 120) to add northbound and southbound full-width left turn lanes. The widening of the street necessitated undergrounding the overhead utilities present throughout the project area. Crews began the utility undergrounding work in January 2017 and are nearing completion of this phase.

The subject intersection improvements will improve safety and mobility for motorists, pedestrians, and transit riders at the intersection, as well as reduce cut-thru traffic along adjacent residential neighborhood streets. Following construction of the new left turn lanes and replacement of the traffic signal equipment, the implementation of a new signal phasing and timing plan will significantly decrease vehicle, transit, and pedestrian travel times through the intersection.

The project is also replacing and upsizing over 1,750 LF of old cast iron water mains in the project area and is upgrading the five (5) existing bus stops with new amenities, pads, and shelters (installed by separate project), as well as installing empty underground conduits giving the shelters the capability to be equipped with real-time transit arrival boards if warranted in the future.

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(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) Six highway workers along I-66 in Arlington were injured, four seriously, after an alleged DUI driver plowed into their work zone overnight.

The crash happened around 12:30 a.m. on I-66 near the N. Quincy Street overpass. Virginia State Police say the driver of a GMC Yukon veered into an active work zone, striking the half dozen workers before slamming into a light pole.

The driver was arrested for DUI and two passengers who allegedly tried to flee the scene were apprehended by Arlington County Police nearby, according to VSP. The six workers and two of the GMC occupants were brought to local hospitals, but all are expected to survive.

Initially, some of the injuries were reported to be critical and potentially life-threatening. A task force of Arlington and Fairfax County medics treated and transported the eight injured people.

More from VSP:

At 12:29 a.m. Thursday (Dec. 5), Virginia State Police responded to a crash within a Highway Work Zone in the westbound lanes of I-66 at Quincy Street near Exit 72 in Arlington County.

A GMC Yukon traveling west on I-66 swerved into the active Work Zone and struck six highway construction workers. The vehicle continued off the right side of the I-66 and crashed into a light pole.

There were three occupants in the GMC. The driver and a passenger in the GMC fled the scene on foot. State police and Arlington Police apprehended the two near the scene.

Arlington County Fire transported a total of eight individuals. Four of the highway workers are still being treated at Fairfax Inova for serious, but non-life threatening, injuries. Two other highway workers and the two male GMC passengers were transported to George Washington University Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

The driver of the Yukon, Kevin L. Blyther, 44, of Centreville, Va., has been charged with driving while intoxicated, one felony count for failure to stop at the scene of a crash involving an injury and one count of driving on a suspended/revoked license. Blyther is being held at the Arlington County Adult Detention Center.

There was a Virginia State Police vehicle positioned in the work zone with its blue lights flashing and the work zone was equipped with additional safety equipment and amber flashing lights to alert motorists of the active Highway Work Zone.

The crash remains under investigation.

This is not Blyther’s first serious run-in with the law. In 2017, he was arrested in Centreville following what police described as a six-hour barricade situation and domestic assault.

VDOT, meanwhile, is thanking social media users for an “outpouring of support” for the contractors who were struck.

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A portion of Lee Highway in Rosslyn will be closed during the day this week for paving.

The southbound section of Lee Highway, adjacent to the Custis Trail between N. Lynn Street and Fort Myer Drive, is expected to be closed from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday.

The work is part of the Lynn Street Esplanade and Custis Trail widening project.

More from a Virginia Dept. of Transportation press release:

Southbound Route 29 (Lee Highway) between North Lynn Street and Fort Myer Drive will be closed Wednesday, Nov. 20 and Thursday, Nov. 21 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day for paving as part of the Lynn Street Esplanade and Custis Trail Improvements project, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Traffic will be detoured via North Lynn Street and Fort Myer Drive back to southbound Route 29.

During the closures, traffic coming from the Key Bridge will still be able to proceed through the Fort Myer Drive/southbound Route 29 intersection. The Custis Trail will also remain open to bicyclists and pedestrians during the work.

A quarter-mile of a wider Custis Trail from North Lynn Street to North Oak Street opened to bicyclists and pedestrians in August. The overall Lynn Street Esplanade and Custis Trail Improvements project is scheduled for completion in spring 2020.

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