Arlington, VA

A rental box truck ran off the side of Old Dominion Drive this afternoon, damaging a bench, a sign and a fence.

The crash happened shortly after 4 p.m., just west of the intersection of Old Dominion Drive and Williamsburg Blvd, in the Rock Spring neighborhood.

Traffic camera images show a yellow Penske rental truck on the sidewalk and a Metro bus stop sign on the ground. A black metal bench was also reportedly smashed, along with a fence and a tree in the yard adjacent to the sidewalk.

It’s not clear how the crash happened, nor whether any other vehicles were involved. No injuries have been reported. Police are on scene.

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When given a daunting task, like vacuuming up the leaves in front of every home in the county, one might be tempted to try to rush through it as quickly as possible.

But for one of Arlington County’s leaf vacuum crews, helping out residents and getting the job done right is the priority.

On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, a resident of the Rock Spring neighborhood near Yorktown High School posted on social media that a leaf collection crew was helping an elderly neighbor rake the leaves from her yard to the curb, where they could be vacuumed.

“Hats [off] to these guys,” she said, in a post that scored more than 100 likes on Twitter.

The resident, Kathie K., tells ARLnow that there’s even more to the story.

“I went to get coffee… as I was pulling out I noticed someone in a work uniform raking a pile of leaves on my street. He gave me a big wave as I drove by,” she recounts. “When I pulled back into my cul-de-sac he and the truck had made their way around the circle and were now at the end.”

The crew of two were now working in the yard of two older sisters who live together, going above and beyond even what was seen in the photo, Kathie said. They were raking and talking to one of the sisters, as well as a father and son who were out raking and had brought the crew some water.

“The leaf collector that gave me a big wave was in their yard raking leaves. Not just on the curb, he was all the way to her front door raking leaves to the street. She was helping, they were all chatting,” she continued. “I took a picture because the guys were just being kind. They changed my day and I’m sure everyone else who has seen the picture. I thought it was a nice way to start the holiday season.”

Peter Golkin, a spokesman for the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services, which handles leaf collection and other public works in the county, tells ARLnow that leaf collection crews are not required to help residents rake, but are often happy to help someone in need.

In this case, Golkin says driver Michael Hendricks, a permanent staffer in the Solid Waste Bureau and former Arlington Public Schools bus driver, and veteran seasonal crewperson Anthony Leftwich decided to help out — despite having a schedule to keep as they worked to wrap up the first leaf collection pass around the county by the end of the next day.

Hendricks “hopes someone would do the same for his own grandmother,” Golkin said.

With the second leaf collection pass now underway as of Monday, Hendricks offered some tips for residents.

“Try to keep cars away from the piles and don’t pile near cars to make it an easier reach for the vacuum hose,” he said. Also, Golkin noted, dry leaves can be a potential fire hazard when vehicles with hot catalytic converters park above them.

Leaf collection season is set to end on Dec. 18. That may seem like a relief to the crews, but Golkin said getting out into the residential neighborhoods and interacting with residents is usually a highlight of the season.

“The leaf crews especially enjoy sweeping through neighborhoods on Saturdays because kids are home from school and love watching the truck from a safe distance,” he said.

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After years of public outcry, and dozens of car crashes at an intersection in the Rock Spring neighborhood, county officials said they are working on a possible solution.

Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services (DES) says it will be installing signs with new rules for drivers on Little Falls Road at the intersection with Old Dominion Drive later this month. The changes will forbid drivers on Little Falls Road from turning left or going straight at the intersection during morning and evening rush hours — only right turns will be permitted.

“The changes are intended to help address a crash trend at this location that includes a high number of angle collisions involving drivers either turning left or continuing through the intersection from Little Falls Road,” said DES spokesman Eric Balliet.

The right-turn-only restriction will be in place between 7-9:30 a.m. and 4-6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Signs will be posted later this month before the start of the new school year, according to Balliet.

Last week, authorities closed the intersection due to a crash, something that neighbors say is all too common.

“Every single week there is at least one major accident at this intersection,” one resident wrote on social media in response to the article. “[The] last one was so bad two cars ended up in the front yard of the house in the corner.”

“It feels like there’s an accident there weekly,” another commentator wrote. “Neighbors have repeatedly asked for a four way stop or some traffic control at this location and have been told it’s not possible due to the proximity to the traffic light at Old Dominion/Williamsburg.”

In 2017, Williamsburg Middle School student Andy Nogas asked the County Board for help installing a stoplight at the intersection. An online version of his letter gained 112 petition signatures.

“I have seen more than 15 crashes and many near misses [at this intersection and] I am writing to ask you to do something about this,” he wrote.

In response, the Board pledged to assign a county staff member to the problem. Balliet said the resulting research indicated a traffic signal wasn’t the right solution:

Transportation Engineering & Operations staff evaluated several traffic management countermeasures for this location, including adding a traffic light, adding an all-way stop, and restricting certain types of vehicle movements. A signal is not warranted per engineering standards, as traffic volumes on Little Falls Road are too low. An all-way stop is not suitable as Old Dominion is a major arterial, and not feasible due to excessive queuing on Old Dominion based on traffic modeling. Adding movement restrictions is the recommended countermeasure to address the safety concerns.

About two years ago Arlington County completed a major road improvement project for this stretch of Old Dominion Drive, adding sidewalks, street lights, stormwater infrastructure and updated traffic signals.

Since Nogas’ letter, police have recorded 27 crashes at the intersection, according to Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage: seven in 2017, 13 in 2018, and 7 as of 2019 so far.

In total, Savage said people were injured in nine of those crashes.

“Once implemented, we will monitor its effectiveness and will encourage the community to share their experiences with the new restrictions,” Balliet said of the new turning rules.

Map via Google Maps

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A portion of Old Dominion Drive in the Rock Spring neighborhood, near the McLean border, is scheduled to be closed during the day this week for “urgent” repairs.

The road will be closed near the 37th Street N. intersection from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today through Friday, according to VDOT. The agency says a detour will in place.

The urgent repairs follow the flash flood emergency earlier this month.

More from VDOT:

Old Dominion Drive (Route 309) between North Edison Street and 37th Street North will be closed daily Monday, July 22 through Friday, July 26 for urgent slope repairs, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Old Dominion Drive will be closed between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day.

Traffic will be detoured via North Edison Street, 37th Street North, North Harrison Street, Williamsburg Boulevard and North George Mason Drive back to Old Dominion Drive.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Overnight House Fire in Rock Spring — The Arlington County Fire Department battled a blaze in the basement of a home in the Rock Spring neighborhood early this morning. One occupant of the home was brought to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation. [Twitter]

ACFD Battles Falls Church Fire — Arlington and Fairfax County firefighters battled a two-alarm house fire in Falls Church early Sunday morning. The home’s occupant was able to get out but was transported to the hospital. The house, which had “hazardous hoarding conditions” inside, it believed to be a total loss. [City of Falls Church, Falls Church News-Press]

Warner Blasts ‘Dark Underbelly of Social Media’ — Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) went on NBC’s Meet the Press over the weekend and addressed the topic of Facebook’s privacy issues and alleged Russian election interference. “I think the whole industry has been reluctant to accept the fact that we’re seeing the dark underbelly of social media, and how it can be manipulated,” Warner said, adding: “frankly, Mr. Zuckerberg needs to come and testify.” [YouTube]

Arlington on ‘Healthiest Communities’ Rankings — Arlington County ranked No. 31 on U.S. News and World Report’s new Healthiest Communities rankings. Neighboring Falls Church ranked No. 1 while the City of Fairfax ranked No. 6 and Loudoun County ranked No. 10. [WTOPU.S. News]

County Recognizes Businesses for Transportation Programs — “The Arlington County Board honored 19 local businesses and properties for their dedication to providing sustainable transportation to employees and tenants, as part of the Champions program. The program… motivates businesses, multi-family residential communities, commercial properties and schools to recognize the impact they can make on reducing traffic congestion in Arlington County.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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The Arlington County Board pushed back a decision on lighting athletic fields near Williamsburg Middle School, so plans can be studied further by county staff.

The Board’s unanimous 5-0 vote came after almost six hours of public testimony and discussion by opponents and proponents of the lights, with many opponents wearing matching green shirts. It means any decision on lights will be delayed to next year.

Instead of following staff’s initial recommendation to fund lighting the fields, Board members voted for County Manager Mark Schwartz to further study ways to increase the county’s stock of athletic fields, including through the use of synthetic turf and lights.

The study will include drawing on a section of the Williamsburg Field Working Group Final Report that concerns how to evaluate potential field lighting.

Schwartz announced in June he is recommending lights for the fields near Williamsburg Middle School and Discovery Elementary School in Rock Spring. He recommended that the two fields be lit with shielded LED lights that could be dimmed during evening play, and that lights be left on no later than 9:45 p.m. He suggested 84 lights installed on six 80-foot poles.

Board vice chair Katie Cristol said further study should take into account field usage and impacts on neighborhoods (referred to as “externalities”), as well as the usage of fields by those who live nearby.

“It seems appropriate to me that those who derive the benefits should also look to bear the externalities,” Cristol said. “I think it is appropriate that we bring both the benefits and the externalities, such as they are, to the users where they are.”

But the moods of some Board members began to fray towards the end of the discussion. John Vihstadt tried to add language to avoid what he described as the “singling out” of Williamsburg Middle School and give the study a broader context. But Cristol and others objected.

“To me the question is, what do we do with five years of community input, with countless hours of staff work, hundreds of thousands of dollars in analyses spent?” Cristol asked. “We’re simply going to throw that out and start with a new process? The question becomes: what more info does this Board need to make a decision on the question before us?”

The Board also directed Schwartz to study amending the county’s Zoning Ordinance to allow lights above the current maximum height of 68 feet, thus not requiring a special approval process. Board member Christian Dorsey expressed some reservations about directing “a study that already determines an outcome,” but the study will proceed.

“The whole idea that we would direct at the moment that we’re going to have a study with an outcome really doesn’t give it a whole lot of credence,” he said.

Divisions on the topic were apparent in both public testimony and the slew of letters about the project submitted by county commissions both in support and against. Opponents say lights are incompatible with the residential neighborhood, would create more traffic and light pollution while damaging wildlife and trees.

Dorsey said it was not so simple as to term opponents as “NIMBY” neighbors and supporters as youth sports advocates. He noted that there are no “neat boxes” on an issue like this.

“I think it would be a mistake to go away from this process thinking only that the people who oppose lights are NIMBYs, and the people who favor lights don’t care about neighborhoods,” Dorsey said.

Board chair Jay Fisette and colleague Libby Garvey expressed a willingness to vote for lighting the fields, citing the work at Wakefield High School to mitigate the lights shining on nearby houses as proof the technology has evolved.

Fisette noted “disappointment in the room” from all: opponents who wanted the lights plan nixed altogether and proponents who wanted them approved that day. The direction for further study means any decision will not be made until next year.

“We’ll all be back again, someday,” Vihstadt said. “And hopefully we’ll all find a better place.”

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A battle between residents and youth sports advocates will go before the Arlington County Board on Saturday (September 16) as Board members discuss adding lights to two synthetic turf fields.

County Manager Mark Schwartz announced in June he is recommending lights for the fields near Williamsburg Middle School and Discovery Elementary School in Rock Spring.

Schwartz recommended that the two fields be lit with shielded LED lights that could be dimmed during evening play, and that lights be left on no later than 9:45 p.m. Eighty-four lights would be installed on six 80-foot poles to light the fields.

And county staff is recommending the Board move his plan along, saying that it would allow for extended usage and neighbors’ worries can be mitigated.

Opponents say lights are incompatible with the residential neighborhood, would create more traffic and light pollution while damaging wildlife and trees.

And Saturday’s meeting could see neighborhood opponents come up against those in the youth sports community who say the lights will increase usage of the fields.

Neighbors of the fields delivered a petition with more than 550 signatures against lights on the fields to the County Board before Schwartz’s announcement. Several also sat on the Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Work Group to study the effects of lights and propose options.

In their report, county staffers note that the group “did not come to a consensus” on lighting the fields.

“The neighborhood civic association has stressed going back to at least 2009 or before that, its intention to try to preserve the neighborhood in its natural condition, to minimize traffic, to protect wildlife habitat and the tree canopy,” Gail Harrison, a member of the work group and a neighborhood opponent of lighting the fields, said at the time of Schwartz’s announcement. “The proposal would be inconsistent with all of those neighborhood goals.”

But youth sports boosters said the lights will be necessary as participation has increased, and fields in Arlington are growing overcrowded and struggling to keep pace with demand. According to county data, youth participation in sports has increased by 56 percent in the past five years, from just over 15,000 in 2011 to just over 24,000 in 2017.

By sport, soccer, baseball, softball, flag football, lacrosse and ultimate Frisbee all saw large increases in participation from 2011 to 2016, according to an infographic sent by a coalition of local youth sports organizations.

Soccer leads the way with more than 16,000 who play in the county, followed by baseball with just over 4,000. Those in favor of the lights are likely to have a strong presence too on Saturday.

“I suspect Arlington Soccer Association will have folks there and I plan to be there for Arlington Babe Ruth [baseball], as all youth sports leagues face the same problem: increased participation… and a limited number of fields,” said George Thompson of the Arlington Babe Ruth baseball organization. “Lighting will add hundreds of hours of annual playing time for the teams that use these fields for practice and games.”

Schwartz’s plan is not yet permitted under the site’s current zoning, nor is funding available for the lights. Staff recommended the Board approve funding new lights as part of the FY 2019 capital budget, and that Schwartz initiate studies on amending the county’s Zoning Ordinance to permit light poles above their current limit of 68 feet. Staff also recommended amending the site’s use permit to allow light poles to be installed.

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County Manager Mark Schwartz announced Friday he is recommending lights for two synthetic turf fields near Williamsburg Middle School and Discovery Elementary School.

Schwartz recommended that the two fields be lit with shielded LED lights that could be dimmed during evening play, and that lights be left on no later than 9:45 p.m. Eighty-four lights would be installed on six 80-foot poles to light the fields.

Schwartz said in a statement:

I appreciate the hard work that the Williamsburg Fields Evaluation Work Group put into assessing the risks and benefits of lighting the Williamsburg fields. Their thoughtful evaluation formed the foundation of my recommendation.

This was not an easy call, but the county’s policy is that we light synthetic turf fields, and I am convinced, by our experience in lighting other fields in residential neighborhoods, that we can mitigate whatever adverse impacts lights might have. Our entire community will benefit from providing more playing time for our growing number of young people who are playing field sports.

The recommendation has brought a strong reaction from local residents, who delivered a petition with more than 550 signatures against lights on the fields to the County Board.

The Board previously appointed the Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Work Group to study the effects of lights and propose options, but Gail Harrison, a member of the group, said it was not presented with the plan Schwartz has advanced until a few days before its last meeting.

Harrison said the “11th-hour proposal” by lighting company Musco was a “fundamental breach of the public process.” Harrison said adding lights is not appropriate for the Rock Spring neighborhood.

“The [Rock Spring] Civic Association surrounding the fields has taken a strong and consistent position over many years that field lights at this location are incompatible with the character of the neighborhood,” Harrison told ARLnow on Friday afternoon. “The neighborhood civic association has stressed going back to at least 2009 or before that, its intention to try to preserve the neighborhood in its natural condition, to minimize traffic, to protect wildlife habitat and the tree canopy. The proposal would be inconsistent with all of those neighborhood goals.”

Schwartz said he made his recommendation based on the need for more playing time on Arlington’s fields. He will bring his recommendations to the County Board’s September meeting for further discussion.

More from a county press release after the jump:

Read More

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A local teen is trying to make a difference by lobbying for safety improvements to a crash-prone intersection.

At 13 years old, Williamsburg Middle School student Andy Nogas is too young to vote, but not too young to email the Arlington County Board and ask for members’ help.

He emailed them a few weeks ago to request a stoplight be placed at the intersection of Old Dominion Drive and Little Falls Road in the Rock Spring neighborhood.

“I have seen more than 15 crashes and many near misses [at this intersection and] I am writing to ask you to do something about this,” Nogas wrote.

Nogas said in an interview he has seen everything from serious crashes to fender-benders at the intersection, and he and his family have almost been involved in multiple accidents there themselves. Last year, as Nogas was coming home from an after-school event, he witnessed a particularly brutal crash.

“The car was upside-down and all the windows were shattered open,” Nogas said. “I saw the flipped car and a couple of ambulances.”

After this experience, Nogas knew he needed to do something. He spoke to his parents and told them he wanted to contact somebody about the intersection. After they gave him an explanation of how local government works, he decided his best bet was to contact the County Board.

“He was off to the races,” said Holly Scott, Nogas’ mother. “He was very excited to be able to send a message to the county about an issue that’s important to him, his friends and some of our other friends who live in the community.”

“Here is a possible solution that I hope you could look into: a stoplight,” Nogas wrote. “There are many ways you could program it, such as time it with the stoplight at Williamsburg Blvd and Old Dominion Drive, use it only during rush hour and use flashing lights at other times or use it like the stoplight at Yorktown Blvd and Little Falls Road. When one car approaches, the light will change. I hope you will please consider this option to improve safety on our roads.”

A reply from the Board promised they would assign staff to study the intersection.

Nogas said he was happy with the response and hopes the Board will take action, as the intersection is not far from Williamsburg Middle School.

“There are a lot of kids near there. They go to the same middle school as me and I know they have to cross [that intersection],” Nogas said.

Nogas’ mother said she has never reached out to the county herself, so she is particularly impressed by her son’s actions.

“I’m very proud,” she said. “I’m pleasantly surprised at the traction that his letter has gained… it’s definitely been very heartwarming and it certainly is encouraging him to think about what other things he can do to be helpful in his community.”

And while one would think Nogas aspires to work in the government or in law, he actually wants to be an artist. He just happens to care about the safety of those around him.

Map (top) via Google Maps

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The driver of an Arlington Transit bus has been cited by police after a crash in north Arlington this morning.

The crash happened just after 8:30 a.m. near the intersection of Little Falls Road, Yorktown Blvd and N. Kensington Street.

“The ART bus veered off the roadway and struck two vehicles,” said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “The driver was cited with failure to maintain proper control.”

There were several people on board the bus at the time but no injuries were reported, Savage said. The two cars that were struck were parked at the time.

Photos by Samantha Moore

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Eli Check (photo courtesy Arlington County Police Department)Update at 1:20 p.m. — The missing boy was found around 1 p.m., according to police. He was located on the roof of Williamsburg Middle School.

Earlier: Arlington County Police are calling in resources from Virginia State Police to help search for a missing 12-year-old boy.

Police say Eli Check, 12, was last seen early this morning at his home on the 3400 block of N. Emerson Street, near Williamsburg Middle School in the Rock Spring neighborhood.

Check, who is transgender and identifies as male, was last seen dying his hair black, according to police.

“We’re worried about his safety,” said ACPD spokesman Capt. Bruce Benson.

At least one K-9 unit is involved in the search of the neighborhood around the boy’s home, Benson confirmed. Police are also asking for the public’s help.

From a press release issued shortly after noon today:

The Arlington County Police Department is asking for the public’s assistance in locating a 12 year old boy. Eli Check of Arlington, was last seen at his home in the 3400 block of N. Emerson St. at 2 a.m. on Monday, October 24, 2016.

Eli was last seen in his home dying his hair black. He is white, weighing 85 lbs. and is 5’0″ tall.  He may be wearing light colored blue jeans with multiple, multi colored patches on the legs.

Eli is transgender, female to male, and it is possible he may present as a female. Eli’s legal name is Eliana Check.

Anyone who has information about Eli is asked to call the Arlington County Police Department immediately at 703-558-2222.

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