Bridges maintained by Arlington County are “generally in good shape.”
That’s according to Ramzi Awwad, the county’s Engineering Bureau Chief, in a county-produced “Street Beat” video segment (above).
Talking about bridge inspections that are currently underway in Arlington, Awwad said that routine inspections and maintenance help to keep overall infrastructure costs down.
“Our bridges are generally in good shape,” said Awwad. “Because that’s the case, we can focus on performing minor repairs before they become major problems. As bridge condition deteriorates further and further, the cost to make the repairs increases exponentially, so we want to make sure we get ahead of everything while we still can.”
Another big battle is brewing in Bluemont and this one is not about bocce.
Wilson Blvd was recently repaved and restriped between the Safeway and Bon Air Park, so that instead of four lanes of traffic, it is now has two lanes of traffic, a turn lane and two bike lanes. The change seems to have brought about two separate realities.
To hear one group of residents tell it, traffic is flowing as normal but families can finally walk down the narrow sidewalks along Wilson Blvd without the fear of imminent vehicle-induced death.
To hear the other group tell it, the loss of a lane in each direction is causing a traffic nightmare that’s adding 20-40 minutes to Wilson Blvd commutes during the morning and evening rush hours. Their tales of woe are relatively consistent.
“I had the displeasure of commuting westbound on Wilson Blvd Thursday [May 28] at 6 p.m.,” driver Alexi Bustillo told ARLnow.com via email. “It took me 20 minutes from Glebe and Wilson to Manchester and Wilson (1 mile distance).”
“Morning traffic backs up from the light by Bon Air Park up the hill… with dangerous merging,” said Josh Laughner, via Twitter. It’s “dangerous [because you can’t] see traffic stopped at bottom of [the] hill. At night it’s pretty bad where the merging starts by Pupatella. I never had any backups morning/night when it was two lanes all the way through.”
“The message boards of [the Boulevard Manor and Dominion Hills neighborhoods, to the west of the restriping] are full of the comments,” a tipster said. “Many complaints about trip times during morning and evening rush hours taking 20-40 minutes on the stretch between George Mason and Manchester.”
ARLnow.com visited the stretch during a morning and evening rush hour this week and didn’t observe any abnormally heavy traffic. Supporters of the restriping say, essentially, that it’s the answer to their pedestrian prayers and they don’t know what the critics are talking about.
“We are so grateful to Arlington County for these improvements!” said Ed Fendley, co-chair of the Bluemont Civic Association Sidewalk Safety Task Force. “The restriped roadway is working great. Traffic is flowing really well. Fewer drivers are speeding. When I’m driving, it is now easier for me to turn left onto Wilson because I can use the center turn lane to stage my turn.”
“It feels so much safer to walk and bicycle,” Fendley continued. “For the time ever, my kids and I bicycled on Wilson Boulevard to go to La Union restaurant. The road is now safer and more accessible for everyone — just as we had hoped.”
“I just want to say that for the first time in the 23 years I’ve lived on Kensington Street, my family and I have been able to comfortably walk down Wilson Boulevard,” said Chris Healey, Fendley’s co-chair. “I can’t express how great it is to be able to walk to Safeway and the many great neighborhood restaurants and shops without worrying about being clipped by a passing car or bus. This is a giant step toward Bluemont becoming a true community. We look forward to phase two and we are confident that the momentum from the success of this project will take us there sooner rather than later.”
(Phase II of the project, which will take place should the county be satisfied with the flow of traffic and pedestrians on the reconfigured roadway, will include wider sidewalks and other improvements.)
“For the first time in two decades, kids can walk or bike safely to Ashlawn school and the pools on Wilson Blvd,” said Tom Carter, a 21-year Dominion Hills resident. “The walkable, bikeable stretch of Wilson should be extended from Seven Corners to Clarendon. Families should be able to walk and bike through the heart of Arlington.”
Those roads fall below 60 percent on the Pavement Condition Index scale, which is an indicator that those roads are susceptible to “more rapidly” developing potholes. On average, Arlington’s roads sit at 69.8 percent, according to county Water, Sewer and Streets Bureau Chief Harry Wang.
Wang cautioned against categorizing Arlington’s roads as above-average or below-average nationally. But he said Arlington’s recent resident survey that cited road conditions as a main concern was evidence that the county should not be satisfied.
“That means that 70 percent [PCI] is not good enough,” Wang told the Arlington County Board yesterday. “There are many lane miles and surface areas that need great attention.”
The county plans to pave 72 miles of roads this year, a jump from 49 miles each of the last two years. County Manager Barbara Donnellan said they plan to increase that number next year — and discuss road conditions in more detail — during Capital Improvement Program discussions.
Wang said county streets maintenance staff is currently driving on main and arterial roads replacing potholes. About 80 percent of the county’s main roads have had their potholes repaired, he said, and the rest should be completed by the end of this week.
“We’re not waiting for complaints to come in,” he said. “We just drive zone by zone and see whatever needs to be fixed.”
Wang also said that between Jan. 8 and Feb. 20, the county has had to perform 89 repairs on water mains, and average of 2.1 breaks per day. The average age of the county’s water mains is 55 years, and he said 90 percent of the mains that have broken or cracked are older than 55 years.
The second act of today’s snowstorm has arrived, with a couple more inches of snow expected to accumulate.
The snow returned just as Arlington road crews were starting to tackle still snow-covered neighborhood streets. It could force the snow plows to continue focusing on primary and secondary arteries while the residential roads remain barely, if at all passable.
“Crews have moved into residential streets with a focus on school related routes,” Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services tweeted late this afternoon (Thursday). “Additional snow late could affect progress on residential/neighborhood streets.”
From DES, later: “Big, heavy snow flakes falling again. Although many main roads are clear, please don’t drive so plows can continue to do job.”
DES said that it could take up to 36-48 hours to clear roads after a 10-inch snowfall, which Arlington is on the verge of reaching, depending where in the county you were measuring.
The snow caused other, unexpected problems on the roads in some parts of Arlington.
On Lee Highway, near Rosslyn, a nearly half-mile-long portion of the fence that runs along I-66 collapsed onto one of the still snow-covered travel lanes, according to police radio traffic.
In Courthouse, a gigantic mound of plowed snow was piled up in the median, blocking a crosswalk adjacent to the Metro station. That is creating a hazard for pedestrians and drivers alike.
VDOT said tonight, before the snow started falling again, that it was making progress clearing roads in Northern Virginia.
“Interstates are mostly clear and wet,” VDOT said. “Primary roads are partially clear with some lanes open and many secondary roads remain snow-covered.”
VDOT warned that a refreeze may make driving even more treacherous overnight.
“Roads that appear to be bare pavement may become slick from sleet and refreeze,” the agency warned.
Other transportation options were slowly returning Thursday night.
Reagan National Airport’s main runway was back open as of 5:05 p.m., allowing some flights in and out. Still, many flights were canceled as a result of the 7 inches of wet snow that fell, making it difficult for crew to clear runways and taxiways.
“There have been significant flight cancellations throughout the day,” the airport authority said on its website. “Check with your airline for flight information and do not drive to the airport before confirming the status of your flight.”
Metrorail continued to operate on a near-normal schedule. Metrobuses are now running on major arteries again.
ART bus service, however, is still suspended. Arlington Transit said it will wait until 10:00 tonight to post an update on planned ART and STAR service tomorrow.
The National Weather Service, meanwhile, says that the D.C. area could receive another 2-4 inches of snow tonight before the winter storm system finally moves out.
… HEAVY SNOW TO IMPACT AREAS EAST OF BLUE RIDGE INCLUDING THE GREATER METROPOLITAN AREAS OF WASHINGTON AND BALTIMORE THROUGH MIDNIGHT…
AREAS OF MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOW WILL IMPACT THE REGION THROUGH MIDNIGHT… WHERE 2 TO 4 INCHES OF NEW SNOWFALL ACCUMULATION CAN BE EXPECTED AS AN UPPER LEVEL DISTURBANCE MOVES THROUGH THE AREA. AT 600 PM… MOST LOCATIONS HAVE TRANSITIONED TO ALL SNOW AFTER THE SLEET AND RAIN FROM EARLIER IN THE AFTERNOON.
THE AREAS OF HEAVIEST SNOWFALL WILL OCCUR ALONG AND EAST OF INTERSTATE 95… AND ALSO IN HOWARD AND CARROLL COUNTIES IN MARYLAND.
THIS ADDITIONAL SNOWFALL WILL MAKE TRAVEL HAZARDOUS AS ROADS WILL ONCE AGAIN BECOME SNOW COVERED. VISIBILITIES WILL BE LOWERING TO BELOW 1/4 MILE AT TIMES… SO TRAVEL IS NOT ADVISED UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.
With rapid changes in temperature and various types of liquid and frozen precipitation falling, potholes are beginning to appear with increased frequency around Arlington.
One such pothole, on Lorcom Lane just west of the intersection with Spout Run Parkway, is 3 inches deep at its lowest point. This afternoon it announced itself to passersby with a “thunk” each time an unsuspecting driver rolled over it.
Police radio traffic indicates there are several other significant potholes causing minor traffic problems in other parts of the county. Arlington officials say they’re trying to stay on top of such reports and fill in the pesky potholes as quickly as they can.
“The county has already tried to start our push on pothole work, beginning with two or three full days including work over a weekend,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Robyn Mincher said. “Temperatures in the teens and inclement weather have slowed down this effort. We will devote additional resources to potholes as we can in the next week or two, and then continue filling work through the winter and into spring when many potholes appear.”
Residents who observe potholes in Arlington can report it online directly to county staff.
Driving through Clarendon has become messier and is taking longer due to construction on several of the major roads in the neighborhood. It’s the latest area to be worked on as part of the annual paving program.
The affected area in Clarendon covers about five blocks — two along Wilson Blvd, two on N. Highland Street and one on N. Fillmore Street. Crews have been milling — removing the top layer of streets — and adjusting utilities as needed. Paving with two to three inches of hot-mix asphalt follows soon after, as well as line painting.
Because of the busy nature of the Clarendon neighborhood, contractors plan to do the paving portion on Sunday and Monday nights, weather permitting. Crews have been able to do the milling and utility adjustments during the day because those tasks are more flexible in terms of working around vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
Clarendon isn’t the only area getting repaved; an online map highlights in red the active paving projects throughout the county. Residents in the affected areas receive letters announcing the road work four to six week before it begins. Temporary “no parking” signs are posted along the roads and cars parked in the work areas during the restricted times will be towed.
The county’s annual paving program typically takes place between March and October because the hot-mix asphalt can only be applied in warm, dry weather. Currently, this year’s paving stands at about 87 percent complete.
By at least one measure, Arlington’s roads — all 376 miles of them — are in better shape than they were last year.
Since Nov. 1, Arlington County crews have filled 1,007 potholes on county-maintained roads, according to Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel. Compare that to the 2,184 potholes filled between the start of November and the end of February last year.
McDaniel attributed the big drop in potholes to the mild winter we’ve experienced so far.
Still, a report that came out last summer suggests that Arlington has plenty of room for improvement when it comes to street maintenance. On a scale of 0 to 100, the average Pavement Condition Index for Arlington’s roads was 68.9, down from a PCI in the low 80s about 10 years ago.
In general, how would you grade Arlington’s roads at the moment?
Pentagon City Elevator Contract Approved — The Arlington County Board has approved a contract to design a second elevator for the busy Pentagon City Metro station. The estimated $5.1 million elevator construction project has already received $4.5 million in federal funding. [Arlington County]
Arlington’s Roads Rate ‘Poor’ — More than one third of Arlington County’s 974 mile street network is in “poor” condition, based on the county’s own assessment. The reason for the poor road conditions may lie with spending. The county has been spending significantly less on paving than the amount recommended by its top streets official. [Patch]
Board Considers Solar at Supermarkets — County Board members say they’ll consider a Green Party proposal to either force or encourage supermarkets to install solar power arrays on their roof. The solar power could help refrigerate food during power outages. [Sun Gazette]
Maywood Neighborhood Profiled — The historic Maywood neighborhood of Arlington is “endearing and peaceful” and “extremely friendly,” according to a radio profile. [WAMU]
Renovations Revealed at Crystal City Hotel — Last week the 343-room Crystal City Marriott officially unveiled its $7 million redesign, which included new common areas like a new bar/restaurant and a new fitness center. [Marriott]
Flickr pool photo by Lifeinthedistrict
Forecasters say the precipitation will begin around 11:00 tonight, starting off as snow and sleet before transitioning to freezing rain overnight. The weather event is expected to end as plain rain around 1:00 p.m. tomorrow. Locally, snow and sleet accumulation could total up to an inch, with up to 1/10 inch of freezing rain, according to the National Weather Service.
Arlington County crews are preparing for the winter weather by pre-treating main roads with salt brine (see photo) to guard against icy conditions. Still, the county is asking residents to avoid unnecessary car trips during the storm.
“Team members and their equipment will be on standby overnight and will remain so until the weather event turns to full rain,” said Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel. “Residents are encouraged to stay off the roads due to the potential for hazardous conditions.”
Photo courtesy Arlington DES
Arlington County’s vacuum leaf collection has ended early.
The leaf season vacuum collection is complete. We are happy to report that the weather cooperated and other factors that allowed us to finish two days ahead of schedule. Thanks for everyone’s cooperation during this leaf season. Please note: the leaf bag collection will continue until January 14.
Leaf bag collection started on Nov. 1 and will run through Jan. 14. Leaf bags — which must be biodegradable, not plastic — are collected in neighborhoods one business day after garbage collection. Free leaf bags are available at a number of community centers around the county.
Arlington will begin its vacuum leaf collection service on Monday. There will be a second round of leaf vacuuming in December, ending on Dec. 24.
See below for the dates when vacuum collection will start for specific neighborhoods.
November 15 — Alcova Heights, Arlington View, Ballston-Virginia Square, Boulevard Manor, Clarendon/Court House, Colonial Village, Columbia Heights, Columbia Heights West, Dominion Hills, Forest Glen, Forest Hills, Foxcroft Heights, Glen Carlyn, Langston Brown, Long Branch Creek, Nauck, North Highlands, North Rosslyn, Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights, Waycroft-Woodlawn
Changes could be coming to Army Navy Drive that will make the intersection-laden and car-clogged stretch of road a lot friendlier to bicyclists.
This weekend, the county board is expected to accept $210,000 in federal grant money to help plan a bike route on the busy Pentagon City thoroughfare. The funds will also help plan a bike route on South Joyce Street that will connect Army Navy Drive, Columbia Pike and an existing pedestrian path.
Both routes are marked in yellow on the maps above.
County engineers currently envision a two-way bike lane on Army Navy Drive, made possible by narrowing the road’s comfortably wide lanes and shifting the median. South Joyce Street will likely only get a single bike lane, since its configuration is set by huge concrete structures that hold up the highways that run over it.
The grant-funded preliminary engineering phase is expected to last 8-9 months, according to Transportation Planning Bureau Chief Thomas Bruccoleri.
So far, no money has been made available for construction. Bruccoleri says the funds would most likely be allocated in the FY 2013 budget, meaning that the bike paths are at least a few years away.
Paving Update — Now that the section of Wilson Blvd near Whitlow’s is paved with smooth blacktop, workers are focusing on Washington Blvd. As of Sunday afternoon, one lane between North Highland Street and Pershing Drive was torn up, awaiting fresh asphalt. TBD reports that the repaving of Washington Blvd will stretch into next week.
Flames Seen From Plane Engine — The Associated Press reports that flames were seen coming from the engine of a US Airways plane landing at Reagan National Airport. The captain of the flight from Charlotte, N.C. declared an emergency but landed without incident. No flames were seen after it landed.
‘Old Guard’ Returns from Iraq — Soldiers from the Fort Myer-based Old Guard arrived back home Saturday night after serving one year in Iraq. More than 120 soldiers from the historic regiment, best known for its ceremonial duties at Arlington National Ceremony and the White House, provided security at an Iraqi prison. More from WUSA9.
Students Return to Marymount U — The familiar sight of parents helping their children move into the dorms returned to Marymount University over the weekend. The school’s incoming class includes a record 440 freshman and a record 335 transfer students. More from the Sun Gazette.
Walter Reed Drive has some new road markings and signs that may seem foreign to most drivers.
The markings, found in the middle of the right-hand travel lanes between South Glebe Road and Columbia Pike, are called “sharrows,” or “shared lane markings.” Together with “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs, they signal to cyclists and drivers that bicycles have the right to travel down the middle of the lane.
Sharrows are already in use in the District and Alexandria. They’re also in use in the bike-friendly cities of Portland, Seattle, San Fancisco and New York City.
Arlington plans to create sharrows in locations that are “popular with bicyclists and where streets form part of the bicycle network promoted on the County’s official bike map.” More sharrows are being created this year in conjunction with the county’s paving projects. The need for the shared lanes will be evaluated by Arlington’s Traffic Engineering and Operations Bureau.
Sharrows were adopted by the federal government after research from the U.S. Department of Transportation showed that the lanes significantly improved the passing space between cars and bikes while also cutting down on bad bike behavior, such as riding on the sidewalk.
Virginia is expected to officially adopt sharrows later this year.
Update at 3:50 p.m. — Arlington County spokesperson Shannon Whalen McDaniel says the the next spots for shallows will be:
- 2nd St S between Court House Rd and S Highland St
- N Sycamore St between 24th St N and 26th St N
Photos courtesy Arlington County.