Arlington, VA

Arlington County is in the midst of a number of major projects, from road construction to new recreational facilities, and a newly-published county video provides updates on eight of those projects.

The projects included in the video on the Arlington TV YouTube channel include:

  1. Demolition along S. Clark Street in Crystal City to make a more open, and walkable streetscape
  2. Construction in Clarendon Circle to simplify and shrink the intersection between Wilson Blvd, Clarendon Blvd, and Washington Blvd
  3. Repaving a section of Washington Blvd in Westover and removing brick crosswalks
  4. Green streets” improvements along 22nd Street N. to add gutters, curbs, and a rain garden, a project county staff said in the video should be completed later this month.
  5. Water main replacement under 1 mile of S. Arlington Ridge Road to increase water pressure for residents and first responders during emergencies.
  6. Re-building the Lubber Run Community Center, which is expected to open in 2021.
  7. Constructing the foundation of the long-awaited and controversial Long Bridge Aquatic & Fitness Center. But don’t hold your breath: staff says construction is still scheduled into 2021
  8. Converting the natural field at the baseball field in Gunston Park to synthetic turf.

“Note that these projects are all actively underway, so they might be further along now than they appear in the video,” a description below the video reads.

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Expect lane closures and heavy traffic on I-395 this weekend and at least four consecutive weekends due to a bridge rehabilitation project.

VDOT says crews will be working to “rehabilitate five bridges along I-395 between the Springfield interchange and Washington, D.C. line,” but the work will require closing at least two lanes at a time throughout the weekend, from Friday nights through Monday mornings.

This weekend’s work will take place between Duke Street and Pentagon City, in the northbound lanes.

More on the closures from a VDOT press release:

Travelers should expect lane closures on the I-395 general purpose lanes beginning the weekend of April 26-28, and continuing for at least four consecutive weekends, depending on weather. The weekend closures, which will occur from Friday nights until Monday mornings, are needed for crews to safely rehabilitate five bridges along I-395 between the Springfield interchange and Washington, D.C. line. Motorists are encouraged to use alternate routes. If travel in this area is unavoidable, drivers should use caution and plan extra travel time.

What Drivers Should Expect:

  • Two general purpose lanes on I-395 will close for entire weekend periods starting on Friday nights through Monday mornings (alternating between south- and northbound directions, depending on location of bridge work); additional lane closures will occur in the opposite direction of I-395 as needed to allow crews to access work areas.
  • At least two general purpose lanes will remain open on I-395 (in both directions) during peak-travel daytime hours.
  • To help ease traffic impacts, the HOV lanes from just north of Edsall Road to the D.C. line will be open in the same direction as the bridge work, whether northbound or southbound.
  • Thru-traffic (northbound to DC and southbound to Springfield) will be encouraged to use the HOV lanes, while local traffic will need to use the two open general purpose lanes.
  • Weekly updates with specific closure information will be available at: 395ExpressLanes.com and VDOT’s 395 Express Lanes Web Page.
  • Current plans call for the reversible I-95 Express Lanes, from near Edsall Road to past Garrisonville Road in Stafford, to operate according to their normal schedule.

Details for First Weekend, April 26-28:

  • Work and double lane closures will take place in the northbound direction on I-395 from Duke Street (Exit 3) to past Pentagon City/Crystal City (Exit 8C).
  • HOV lanes will remain open in the northbound direction.
  • Ramps from Duke Street to I-395 North will be closed. Drivers should follow detour signs.

The 395 Express Lanes eight-mile northern extension are scheduled to open this fall.

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An ongoing project to convert nearly the entire stretch of Crystal Drive to a two-way road has entered another phase of construction.

Work is underway on Phase 3 of the project, which is converting one-way portions of Crystal City’s main street to more transit-and-bike-friendly two-lane configurations.

Phase 3 will reconfigure a one-way stretch of Crystal Drive between 26th and 27th streets, near the EPA headquarters, as well as a portion of 27th Street S. Construction started earlier this year and is expected to last about nine months, with the early work focused on the Route 1 and 27th Street intersection.

More from the project website:

The Crystal Drive Two-Way Conversion project is beginning to establish the street network needed to support future development and transit improvements planned by the Crystal City Sector Plan and Crystal City Multimodal Transportation Study. Upon completion, Crystal Drive will be a two-way street from South Potomac Avenue/27th Street South through 12th Street South.

Improvements for Phase 3 will include a loading area near the Hyatt Regency hotel, a new right-turn pocket for northbound Crystal Drive onto 26th Street, a bike lane on southbound Crystal Drive and sharrows on northbound Crystal Drive. 27th Street South will also be converted to two-way traffic from Crystal Drive to Route 1.

The intent of the project is to improve the navigability of Crystal City and improve safety for all modes of transportation. In addition to the street work, the project includes the installation of:

  • New traffic signals
  • Street trees
  • Intersection upgrades to include ADA-compliant crosswalk markings and ramps

Temporary lane and sidewalk closures are expected during construction, but no complete road closures are planned.

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(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 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 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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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.”

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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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