Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

More Details on WeWork in Rosslyn — “WeWork has made it official: The coworking space provider is expanding, in a big way, into Rosslyn. Its newest location, expected to open in the second quarter of 2019, will include more than 1,400 desks across four floors of JBG Smith Properties’ CEB Tower, 1201 Wilson Blvd.” [Washington Business Journal]

Wreaths Laid Despite Rain — “Despite the rain, tens of thousands of volunteers came out on Saturday to lay wreaths on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery… President Trump made an appearance, speaking to soldiers while at the cemetery.” [WJLA, Fox News]

Explainer: State Roads in Arlington — “Though it’s not obvious, the roads you use every day are owned by an overlapping patchwork of governments, regulatory bodies, and private interests. This isn’t a story of tyrannical state governments imposing their will upon localities, but of intergovernmental coordination that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.” [Greater Greater Washington]

New ART Route Starts Today — “ART 72 connects North Arlington to Ballston and Shirlington. The new route, along with Metrobus 22A/C, brings more frequent weekday service between Ballston and Shirlington. Service operates every 20 minutes during rush hours and every 30 minutes the rest of the day.” [Arlington Transit]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Crews have broken ground on the first phase of the “Clarendon Circle” project, bringing improvements to one of the county’s trickiest intersections for pedestrians and cyclists but creating some temporary traffic changes.

The County Board approved in June the contract for the overhaul of the “Clarendon Circle” — the area where Clarendon, Washington and Wilson boulevards all meet, just past the Metro station.

The first phase of the project involves concrete work along eastbound Washington Blvd — west of Wilson Blvd and Fairfax Drive — along with removal of the existing curb and gutter in the area.

Ardent Construction Company began in September Clarendon Circle’s reconstruction, which is anticipated to last one year, according to the county.

Signs will provide detour directions. Drivers and pedestrians have the following options to Clarendon Blvd from Washington Blvd:

  • Turn right on southbound N. Kirkwood Road, which turns into 10th Street N. Then turn left on Wilson Blvd and continue straight.
  • Stay on Washington Blvd, crossing Wilson and Clarendon boulevards, and then turn left on N. Highland Street. Then turn right.

Additionally, left turns will be restricted on eastbound Washington Blvd along with the left turn from eastbound Washington Blvd to Clarendon Blvd through next summer.

Traffic disruptions with lane and sidewalk closures during the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. work hours on Mondays through Fridays are expected, the county said, adding that no weekend work is scheduled.

The planned improvements address planners’ desired changes to the intersection, like shortening the distances pedestrians have to walk across roads. The work will also include long-anticipated installation of additional bike lanes, the widening of Washington Blvd and the addition of upgraded traffic signals.

The project will also add a “green streets” element to N. Irving Street, next to the Silver Diner, which planners have said will help better manage stormwater.

Additional plans for the project include installing new Carlyle streetlights, adding curb extensions at the Liberty Tavern corner and planting more trees.

Maps via Arlington County

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Arlington officials are gearing up once more to ask state lawmakers for permission to change the name of the county’s section of Jefferson Davis Highway, and adopt Alexandria’s new chosen moniker for the road.

The County Board will review its legislative agenda for the upcoming General Assembly session for the first time tomorrow (Nov. 17), sketching out a host of priorities they hope the county’s representatives in Richmond will fight for when the legislature reconvenes in January. The county has long hoped for the state’s permission to change the name of Route 1, but Alexandria’s move to rename its section of the road “Richmond Highway,” when combined with Amazon’s impending arrival in Crystal City, could well lend new urgency to the effort.

Virginia law bars localities from assuming powers that aren’t specifically ascribed to them by the state code — a principle commonly referred to as the “Dillon Rule” for a notable court case on the matter — and that means the county doesn’t have the ability to change the highway’s name without the General Assembly’s permission.

But Republicans have consistently blocked any efforts to give Arlington the authority it needs to strip the former Confederate president’s name from the highway. Most recently, State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) introduced a bill to do so earlier this year — that measure was killed on a party-line vote in a Senate committee.

This time around, Arlington could specifically ask lawmakers for permission to “rename the section of Jefferson Davis Highway that runs through the county with the same name adopted by an adjacent jurisdiction,” in a nod toward Alexandria’s June vote to rename the highway. As a city instead of a county, Alexandria has a bit more latitude on the matter.

Republicans still hold narrow majorities in both the House of Delegates and the Senate, however, meaning that any name-change effort will face an uphill battle once more. Amazon’s decision to locate its new headquarters in the exact section of Arlington that’s home to Jefferson Davis Highway could prove to be a complicating factor, though.

Gov. Ralph Northam frequently made the state’s “inclusivity” a key part of his pitch to the socially conscious tech giant, and many Arlingtonians have pointed out the incongruity of Amazon’s public positions on social issues with a new headquarters sitting in the shadow of signs tied to the state’s legacy of slavery.

The County Board is set to open up the legislative agenda for a public hearing at its Dec. 17 meeting, then sign off on the document soon afterward. Other notable proposals include a renewed push to issue driver’s licenses to non-citizens, the expansion of renewable energy initiatives and the maintenance of last year’s dedicated funding deal for Metro.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Vida Fitness Coming to Rosslyn Development — “Vida Fitness has signed a lease for 27,000 square feet at The Highlands in Rosslyn… The Highlands is a 1.2-million-square-foot mixed-use development from D.C.-based developer Penzance. The project’s groundbreaking [was Wednesday] and the first phase is slated for completion in the second quarter of 2021.” [Commercial Observer, Twitter]

Naked Man at Va. Square Metro Station — A naked man walked into the Virginia Square Metro station during yesterday evening’s rush hour. Police quickly responded, took the man into custody and requested medics to the scene to evaluate him for a possible drug overdose. [Twitter]

Survey: Road Improvements Wanted — “The public has an improving view of the Arlington government’s commitment to care of local roads, but there continues to be significant room for improvement, according to an updated customer-satisfaction survey. Only 55 percent of residents surveyed believe county roads are in satisfactory condition, while 23 percent are unsatisfied with the local government’s efforts and 23 percent are on the fence.” [InsideNova]

Stabbing on Patrick Henry Drive — A person was stabbed along the 3000 block of Patrick Henry Drive near the Arlington border last night. The victim’s injuries were reported to be life threatening, according to Fairfax County Police, which used its helicopter in an attempt to find the suspect. [WJLA, Twitter]

No Lottery Jackpot, But… — A $10,000 Mega Millions lottery ticket was sold at a 7-Eleven store in South Arlington. A single ticket in South Carolina matched all the numbers for the $1.6 billion jackpot in Tuesday’s drawing. [InsideNova]

Nearby: McLean Islamic Center Vs. Zoning Restrictions — The McLean Islamic Center is challenging county-imposed restrictions on worship and parking, which limit attendance “to mitigate the MIC’s impact on the surrounding neighborhood.” [Tysons Reporter] 

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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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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A cement spill closed a lane and might have damaged a car on S. Glebe Road this afternoon.

The spill happened in the northbound lanes of Glebe just prior to the busy intersection with Columbia Pike. Traffic cameras showed a road crew hastily cleaning up the spill with shovels around 2:45 p.m., blocking the righthand lane.

As seen on the cameras, a white Mercedes Benz was stopped near the spill. Its driver called police to report damage to the car caused by the spill, according to scanner traffic.

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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.”

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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.”

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Large pothole on S. Joyce Street in Pentagon CityA third of Arlington’s roads are ripe for rapid potholes, according to a study conducted by county staff.

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.

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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.

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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.

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