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Morning Notes

Street Smart Campaign to Start Up Next Week — “As part of the Arlington County Police Department’s overall traffic safety program, the Special Operations Section is again participating in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Fall Street Smart campaign. This region-wide public safety campaign, which runs from November 5 – December 2, 2018, aims to educate drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and scooter operators about existing traffic laws and how to safely share our roadways.” [Arlington County]

County Board Lauds County Staff — In a video posted on YouTube, County Board Chair Katie Cristol and Vice Chair Christian Dorsey said “thank you” to Arlington County staff for the hard work that helped propel the county to high resident satisfaction ratings. “We are really proud of you… of your commitment to excellence and the role you play in making Arlington a terrific community.” [YouTube]

Bicycling Meetups This Fall — “Fall has arrived in Arlington, leaves have started to change colors, and temperatures are dipping overnight… If you’re looking for a good excuse to ride bikes and drink coffee this fall, like I do, there are plenty of local opportunities to make that happen.” [BikeArlington]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

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Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead, But You Can — Prepare Now

The average warning time for a tornado is 13 minutes. Would you be able to get your family to safety in 13 minutes? Would more time help?

The National Weather Service issues weather Watches when the potential for a weather incident exists, but how would you find out?

Be informed by signing up for Arlington Alert, the emergency notification system in Arlington County. It’s more than just notifications during major emergencies; you can also choose to receive alerts for weather, traffic closures and severe transit delays.

Currently, there are 25,763 people signed up for Arlington Alert; that’s less than 10% of the Arlington County population. Of those people, only 4,769 opted in to receive Flash Flood Warnings. These types of floods happen quickly, and have been happening in our area recently.

Would you be ready if that happened right now?

By Staying Aware, You Are Better Prepared!

September is National Preparedness Month and we challenge you to do one thing each week to get you and your family prepared.

  • Week 1: Sept 1-8 Make and Practice Your Plan
  • Week 2: Sept 9-15 Learn Life Saving Skills
  • Week 3: Sept 16-22 Check Your Insurance Coverage
  • Week 4: Sept 23-29 Save For an Emergency

Make an emergency plan and talk to your kids about it.

Make sure they know how to contact you or where your meeting location is if there is a fire in your home.

Learn first aid or sign up for ‘Until Help Arrives’, our hands-on training with the Arlington County Fire Department that teaches participants how to help until first responders arrive. Get an insurance check-up and set aside funds for an emergency.

Disasters don’t plan ahead, but you can. Prepare now!

Sign up for emergency notifications at ArlingtonAlert.com and follow us @ReadyArlington on Facebook and Twitter.

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Police to Enforce Laws During Traffic Safety Program

Arlington County police are gearing up for a new traffic safety enforcement push.

As part of this year’s 2018 Spring Pedestrian & Bicyclist Safety Awareness Program, police officers will be out enforcing traffic laws in Virginia Square and along Columbia Pike this week.

Tomorrow (May 1), officers will be enforcing traffic laws at Fairfax Drive and N. Kenmore Street from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. On Thursday (May 3), officers will conduct the same enforcement at Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street from 1-2:30 p.m.

Anyone spotted violating traffic laws in those areas — motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike — will be ticketed.

The bike safety campaign aims “to change pedestrian, driver and bicyclist behavior while reducing the number of traffic related crashes and injuries.”

The same campaign in 2016 targeted the Crystal City and Clarendon neighborhoods, and a similar campaign in the fall also took place on Columbia Pike.

More from the press release:

Each year, pedestrians and bicyclists account for a quarter of the traffic fatalities in the region, nearly 90 deaths per year. The Arlington County Police Department participates in numerous enforcement campaigns throughout the year in support of its commitment to improving transportation safety in the County. These campaigns combine public education and high-visibility enforcement to ensure that all travelers share the road safely.

Updated Columbia Pike enforcement timeline at 9:04 a.m. on May 2 due to updated press release sent from the ACPD that morning.

File photo

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County Board Approves Additional Funds for N. Lynn Street Esplanade

The Arlington County Board approved $1.4 million in additional funding for the N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway esplanade and safety enhancement project.

The Virginia Department of Transportation came to county officials with a cost estimate significantly higher than the initial $7.95 million price tag, which was approved by the Board in December 2016.

The increase is due to lengthened construction time, increased materials and labor costs since the 2016 estimate and design changes relating to traffic plans, according to the county manager’s report. Initially, the call for construction bids in March 2017 only received one bidder, which was rejected “due to previous established restriction on the bidder by VDOT,” according to the manager’s recommendation.

The project will bring pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements, such as wider sidewalks and on-street bike lanes, as well as traffic management and street beautification to the N. Lynn Street and Custis Trail area. A public arts project, the long-delayed Corridor of Light project, will also be installed, but only at the four corners of the I-66 bridge.

Safety is a significant component of the project. The intersection of Lynn Street and Lee Highway, once dubbed the “Intersection of Doom,” has been the scene of numerous vehicle vs. pedestrian crashes over the past few years, though collisions are down since interim safety improvements have been installed

The Board unanimously approved the increase in budget at its Tuesday meeting. Project construction should wrap up by May 2020.

File photos

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Video: D.C. Taxi Drives Onto Custis Trail

A D.C. taxicab drove onto the Custis Trail yesterday and the incident was caught on video.

The taxi was seen driving onto the bike path Monday afternoon near the MOM’s Organic Market on Lee Highway. A passerby saw it happen and ran to make sure the driver, who was apparently lost, was able to safely get off the trail and back onto the road.

“I followed him right away to make sure he backs up,” said Wael Salha, who also took the video.

Salha says that he frequently uses the path and believes that a narrower trailhead and more car-blocking bollards could have prevented the driver from mistakenly turning onto the path.

“I always use that trail and I was really worried,” he said, adding that he’s not trying to get the driver in trouble.

“I hope that this will not affect the driver’s job,” he said. “This is not my intention, I was only concerned about the people’s safety and [want] more precaution on the county’s end.”

A V.I.P. Cab Company phone operator was unable to connect ARLnow.com to the driver with partial plate numbers, but was able to confirm that all cab drivers with V.I.P. are required to use G.P.S. while driving passengers. The operator added that normally the cab company stays within Washington, so the driver was in unfamiliar territory.

Photo (bottom) via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Arlington Tree Canopy Increases — “Arlington’s tree canopy increased slightly from 2011 to 2016, according to new data, but remains below levels of a decade ago. A total of 41 percent of Arlington’s acreage was filled with tree canopy when evaluated last year, an improvement from the 40 percent from the last time it was studied.” [InsideNova]

Police: Drive Safely This Weekend –Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning and predicted six more weeks of winter, and the Patriots and Eagles will be facing off in Super Bowl LII on Sunday — both are occasions for the Arlington County Police Department to remind residents to drive safely. [Twitter, Twitter]

Arlington During the Sit-Ins — A Buzzfeed photo essay on the sit-ins features several photos from Arlington. [Buzzfeed]

Green Color in Stream Explained — A dye used in fire department training activities turned part of Four Mile Run bright green yesterday. [Twitter, Twitter]

Thank You to Quantum — Staff from Clarendon-based recruiting firm Quantum Search Partners helped ARLnow’s team move some heavy furniture as we expanded into a new office yesterday. Thank you for lending a hand!

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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Now in Effect: New Location for New Virginia Inspection Stickers

As of Jan. 1, there is a new location on your windshield for Virginia state inspection stickers.

Year 2019 inspection stickers — aka those issued in 2018 — should be placed on the lower driver’s side corner of the windshield (lower left from the inside of the vehicle), according to Virginia State Police. Existing stickers can stay where they are — the bottom center of the windshield — until they expire.

The change is “due to new innovations in the automotive industry” — namely, crash avoidance systems that need a clear line of sight at the center of the dashboard.

The new location applies to other stickers, like the Arlington County vehicle property tax decal, as well.

“This change in location will also apply to the placement of any other authorized stickers,” Virginia State Police said in a press release. “There have been no changes made to the size or appearance of the existing vehicle inspection sticker.”

“The core mission of the Virginia Safety Inspection Program is to promote highway safety and the crash
avoidance technology is another tool provided by manufacturers to ensure vehicles operated on the roadways are safe at all times,” said Capt. R.C. Maxey Jr., Virginia State Police Safety Division Commander. “Therefore, we immediately began evaluating the situation and set forth to make the necessary changes to the Motor Vehicle Safety Inspection Manual, which governs the placement of the safety inspection sticker on all vehicles.”

Photo courtesy Virginia State Police

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Local Business Owner Warns of Biking Dangers on Columbia Pike

A local business owner is urging road users on Columbia Pike to be more cautious, after what he said is a recent spike in accidents involving cyclists.

John Harpold, who manages the Papillon Cycles bike store at 2805 Columbia Pike emailed ARLnow.com just before Christmas after one such crash.

The crash took place at the intersection of Columbia Pike and Washington Blvd on December 21 at around 9 a.m. Photos that Harpold took at the scene show a bicycle that had been bent by the impact and an SUV with a damaged windshield.

Harpold said more must be done to make the Columbia Pike corridor safer for all road users.

“These cyclist-involved accidents are bad, and increasing,” Harpold said. “These are my customers and while I waited 10 minutes to get my car free of the resulting jam, 20 cyclists negotiated the mess from this accident and there were ample opportunities for more carnage. This really is a big safety community issue for our part of Arlington, and all road and sidewalk users.”

Columbia Pike was recently the scene of a separate enforcement effort around road safety by the Arlington County Police Department, as officers cited 20 for failing to yield to pedestrians.

Photos by John Harpold

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Parents Petition for Traffic Calming Near Thomas Jefferson Middle School

Parents of Thomas Jefferson Middle School students are petitioning for traffic calming measures on a stretch of road near the school where they report witnessing a number of vehicle-pedestrian close calls.

They’re asking for a crossing guard and a traffic-calming measure — such as a four-way stop — at the intersection of 2nd Street S. and Irving Street, which is a heavily traveled pedestrian thoroughfare for students going to and from school.

The entire stretch of 2nd Street S. near Thomas Jefferson Middle School, from Irving Street to Old Glebe Road, is well-traveled by vehicles and does not have four-way stops. Parents chose to ask for traffic calming at the Irving intersection because of the significant amount of both pedestrian and vehicle traffic at that particular spot. Plus it’s one of the few streets in the neighborhood that runs uninterrupted all the way from Columbia Pike to Washington Blvd., making it easier for motorists to speed than on adjacent streets.

The intersection, like the others on 2nd Street, may not have four-way stops, but it does have painted pedestrian crosswalks. Neighborhood residents say motorists ignore people in the crosswalks, though, especially during morning and afternoon rush hours. “That’s prime commuter time and prime school time,” said TJ parent Alisa Key.

Key saw a girl nearly get hit while walking in the crosswalk to school, and that prompted her to take action. “I couldn’t walk away from that without doing anything,” she said. “In the past two weeks, we have had multiple near misses and countless instances of motorists… disregarding kids in the crosswalk. We have taken it upon ourselves to help the kids cross safely because APS and the county have not.”

The group of concerned parents invited county officials to visit the site to see the dangers that students and other pedestrians face. The group reports that a number of representatives showed up from Arlington Public Schools, the county’s Department of Environmental Services, the police department and the county board.

DES currently is collaborating with APS and police on reviewing the intersection and will report the results of the study next week. According to a DES spokesperson, “The traffic study consists of collecting additional traffic volume, speed and pedestrian volume data to determine whether a four-way stop meets federal standards (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices).”

Parents are hopeful that the results next week indicate the need for increased safety measures, including a crossing guard. In the meantime, they’ve been taking turns positioning themselves at the crosswalk in the morning to make sure children get to school safely. They’ve also started an online petition requesting traffic calming measures, which has more than 400 signatures.

Parents are particularly worried about what happens when the volume of students increases upon completion of a new elementary school at the TJ site.

“The intersection at S. Irving & S. 2nd Street is a magnet for kids, bikers, walkers, etc. because there are currently three community attractions at this site — TJ Park, TJ Recreation Center, TJ Middle School and soon to be coming Fleet Elementary School,” said concerned parent and Arlington Heights resident Colleen Godbout. “This intersection needs calming measures immediately.  We can not wait for the accident that is inevitable here.”

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County Department Changes Name, Designs New Logo

One of Arlington County’s safety departments has undergone a staff-led rebranding effort, complete with a new name and a new look.

As of July 1, emergency management employees and those in the county’s Emergency Communications Center work in the Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management. Department staff voted for the name from several suggestions.

“While we do not often change the name of our departments, and not all departments have logos, in the past 15 years some have had name changes,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. Two examples are the current Department of Environmental Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation, which both underwent reorganizations.

At the heart of the Office of Emergency Management’s rebranding is an effort to be more inclusive of the entire department’s staff. The two initially had been separate divisions — OEM fell under the fire department and ECC under the police department — but they merged into the same department in 2004. Still, they kept their separate functions: Emergency management staff plan public preparedness campaigns and hazard and crisis mitigation, while communications staff run the 911 call center and dispatch first responders to the public.

The name, however, technically only covered the emergency management section, not the communications staff. Department director Jack Brown sought out a new name that more accurately represents both functions.

“The mission sets are a bit different, but bringing them together under one department makes a lot of sense,” said Brown. “The previous name only reflected part of the mission. We are on the same team, and our name now reflects that.”

Schwartz confirmed that these types of name changes should benefit both the county staff and the public. “Our goal is to ensure that each department’s mission and purpose is clear, both internally and publicly… We believe the new name makes the work of this critical team clear to all,” he said.

Instead of hiring an independent consultant for the rebranding, the project was fueled entirely by ECC and OEM staff, including the logo design. The logo incorporates elements representing various aspects of the department’s safety missions. For example, the radio tower represents communications, and the lightning and rain drops represent preparedness for weather events. The individual parts are encompassed within a pentagon shape.

“Our set of missions are within that pentagon. It’s a symbol, it reminds us why we’re here,” Brown said. “We’re here not just because of the Pentagon and 9/11. We’re here because really bad things happen and we want to prevent them from happening. If they do happen, we’re here to help the public get through it.”

That being said, Brown adds: “But these symbols are nothing without our people and their character. Our brand is our professionalism, our work ethic and our mutual commitment to public safety. I think these changes reflect that and I’m proud of this department and its future.”

Brown has been contemplating the rebranding for a couple years but set the plan into motion last fall. He received an overwhelmingly positive response when he asked for employee feedback about the idea, and some employees volunteered to help with the project.

The new brand’s launch was intentionally timed to reduce effects to the community. “We’re not going to do it in the middle of budget cycle, we’ll do it at the beginning of a fiscal year,” Brown said. That way, none of the budget documents for fiscal year 2017 needed to be remade and the department could start fiscal year 2018 with its new name.

To further reduce expenses, the department will not overhaul all items bearing its old name and logo in one fell swoop. Employees have been encouraged to make no-cost changes such as updating websites, presentations and email signature lines with the new name and logo. Plus, some low-cost items such as letterheads and entrance signs will be reprinted over the next few weeks. But lower priority items including business cards and branded clothing will remain unchanged for the time being.

“I’m very mindful of the county budget and its limited resources. Something like this shouldn’t break the bank,” Brown said. “Over time, as normal expendables need to be replaced we can make those changes. I’m not going to spend thousands and thousands of dollars of taxpayers money because of a changed logo and name.”

So far, employees seem to have a positive view of the changes. “I think they’re proud of it,” Brown said of the rebranding and the teamwork that went into it. “We’re all here for the same purpose: to keep Arlington safe. We have to take care of the public and also each other.”

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Middle School Student Asks County Board For Stoplight at Crash-Prone Intersection  

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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Increased Traffic Enforcement to Boost Safety

Police are ready to hand out more tickets as a way to boost awareness of pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

On Friday, police will set up at the corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Kenmore Street from 3-5 p.m. to enforce traffic laws. They’ll ticket any driver, cyclist or pedestrian who commits a violation. On May 2, they’ll do the same at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street from noon to 2 p.m.

ACPD will conduct the enforcement events as part of a larger D.C.-area safety campaign to reduce injuries and deaths by changing pedestrian, cyclist and driver behaviors. That campaign started yesterday and runs through mid-May.

Police note that cyclists and pedestrians make up nearly a quarter of the region’s traffic fatalities each year. They encourage everyone to safely share the roads and pay attention to one another.

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Morning Notes

Video of Weekend ATV Riders — For the second consecutive weekend, dirt bike and ATV riders took to county roads. This time, there’s clear video of the riders taking up all lanes of traffic on Route 50 and performing stunts. [WJLA]

Operation Firesafe in Full Swing — Arlington firefighters are hitting the streets for Operation Firesafe, which is the annual free door-to-door smoke alarm and fire safety canvassing program. Firefighters travel throughout the county on Saturdays from April through October to check residents’ fire safety and to install smoke detectors. Arlington residents can request a free smoke detector online. [Arlington County Fire Department]

Teen Leadership Program Applicants Wanted — The Leadership Center for Excellence is looking for motivated rising high school juniors and seniors for its summer Leadership Arlington Youth Program. [InsideNova]

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ACPD Making Spring Bike Safety Push

Arlington County Police will be stepping up its traffic enforcement and public enforcement efforts, starting today, to try to improve bicycle safety.

The Safe Bicycling Initiative will run from Monday, March 27 through Tuesday, April 4. It will “begin by educating motorists and bicyclists on traffic laws that apply to cycling with the goal of reducing crashes.”

More from an ACPD press release:

With the arrival of spring and warm weather comes an increase in bicyclist traffic. The Arlington County Police Department, in partnership with BikeArlington, is conducting the spring Safe Bicycling Initiative (SBI) in an ongoing effort to make Arlington County a safe place to ride a bicycle. The initiative will begin by educating motorists and bicyclists on traffic laws that apply to cycling with the goal of reducing crashes. Once motorists and bicyclists understand the law and their roles and responsibilities, it is easier for each to share our roadways.

From March 27 thru April 4, officers will be paying particular attention to individuals on bikes as well as the way motorists interact with them. By changing the behavior of motorists and bicyclists through education and enforcement of existing traffic laws, our roadways will be safer for everyone.

This initiative is part of Arlington County Police Department’s overall traffic safety program. Throughout the year, officers conduct education and enforcement campaigns to ensure the safety of all travelers.  Motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians are reminded to pay attention to one another and always proceed with caution and care for each other’s safety.

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Custis Trail Detours Begin Wednesday in Rosslyn

Custis Trail detours through Rosslyn (Courtesy Arlington County)Users of the Custis Trail around Rosslyn will begin experiencing phased detours starting tomorrow, as crews start utility work nearby.

From tomorrow until April 17, the trail will be rerouted east of N. Lynn Street onto an adjacent paved public driveway, according to Arlington County.

The route will have a steeper grade than the current trail, so bicyclists are advised to dismount before entering the detour zone.

On April 18, the next phase sees the trail rerouted at the northeast corner of its crossing at N. Lynn Street. The crossing will be shifted north until May 8.

The fourth and final phase begins May 9 west of N. Lynn Street, with the trail rerouted to the south side of Lee Highway between N. Lynn Street and N. Fort Myer Drive by Gateway Park until June 1. As the detour route for this phase is narrower than the current trail, bicyclists are asked to dismount or slow down when pedestrians are nearby.

Workers from the county along with the Virginia Department of Transportation and Dominion Virginia Power will be performing the work as part of the Lynn Street Esplanade & Custis Trail Improvements project. The project is intended to improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, particularly at the dangerous intersection of Lynn Street and Lee Highway.

Signs will inform trail users of the various detours, and work dates may vary.

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