For mere seconds at a time, a sign flashing the symbol for “no right turn” illuminates next to the red light on the off-ramp of westbound I-66 at the intersection with N. Lynn Street.
The intersection has been labeled the “Intersection of Doom” because of its numerous accidents over the years. The confluence of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists from I-66, Lee Highway and Lynn Street trying to reach both points west, the GW Parkway and the Key Bridge has created a critical mass of safety hazards.
Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services has been planning safety improvements to the site and the new signal is just one of the planned changes. It was installed at the beginning of January.
“The sign has been integrated into the function of the traffic signal to restrict right turns from the I-66 off-ramp to Lynn Street during the time when pedestrians and cyclists receive the walk signal,” DES spokeswoman Jessica Baxter said. “The improvement reduces conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles at this busy intersection. Additional time has also been added to this walk signal phase.”
The light is one of the interim improvements DES has made before a planned $5 million safety project is built in a few years. The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 2014, but delays in the design phase have caused the estimated completion date to be pushed back to 2017.
Chris Slatt, a cyclist and president of the Penrose Civic Association, said he appreciates the interim solutions but is tired of waiting for the permanent project.
“I applaud the County for working on quick-to-implement, low-cost, short-term fixes like the new no-turn-on-red sign,” he told ARLnow.com in an email this morning. “That said, the County simply must start turning around capital projects more quickly and when they do slip, they need to start communicating about what is going on.
“By the time Esplanade/Custis Trail project gets built, most anyone who attended the last public meeting about the project (in October of 2011) is going to have forgotten it ever existed,” he continued. “This is a complicated area to work in — there are VDOT-controlled roads, it backs on to NPS property, but everyone knew that going in to the project and it should have been accounted for in the original timeline.”
In the planned permanent improvements, a travel lane will be removed from Lee Highway, the Custis Trail would be widened, curbs would be expanded to slow down turning cars and on-street bike lanes will be added.
In three signal cycles ARLnow.com witnessed yesterday at the beginning of the evening rush hour, one car disregarded the briefly illuminated signal, turning right when lit up. Cars waiting at a red light see no indication of the new signal — and accompanying traffic rule — except for the unlit box. Two cars legally turned right on red over the same five-minute span, and the driver that made the illegal maneuver did it just seconds after the previous vehicles.
Baxter said DES will continue to study traffic patterns at the intersection, and configure the timing of the signals to bring it more in line with traffic signals.
Arlington received $400,000 — and will pledge an additional $100,000 — in federal grant money to improve the walking and biking routes to the three schools in North Arlington.
The funds will go toward building new trails and sidewalks in Bluemont for Ashlawn students and will fund sidewalk improvements at the intersection of N. Kensington and 36th Streets around Discovery and Williamsburg, which are on the same property. Discovery is still under construction, but is expected to open for the 2015-2016 school year.
From the same federal program, the MAP-21 grant, Arlington will also receive $200,000 to bring sidewalks and streets in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor up to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to a county press release, a county study from 2012 identified more than 1,000 locations in the corridor that were “inaccessible to persons with disabilities.”
The county will chip in $50,000 in pay-as-you-go WalkArlington funding to help fund improvements to these areas, which will be handled in order of severity.
“We’re delighted that we can use local funding to leverage federal dollars to help two key groups of Arlingtonians move more safely and easily: Arlington students who walk or bike to Ashlawn, Discovery and Williamsburg, and persons with disabilities in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “We welcome the federal government’s funding of these very important projects to improve safety and accessibility for all.”
Both improvement programs will continue identifying other sites around the county where safety and accessibility need to be addressed.
Arlington County has released a new video with tips for keeping yourself and county workers safe on the roads.
The brief video (above) includes the following tips for driving in the vicinity of county work trucks.
1. Slow down around work zones and provide county vehicles and personnel additional space needed to safely operate
2. Stay out of truck blind spots, located between the doors and the rear of the vehicle
3. Do not pull in front of a truck when you need to stop or slow down
4. Be sure to signal your intentions and do not make moves abruptly
5. When parking, be sure to park as close to the curb as possible
6. Always be a PAL (predictable, alert and lawful) on the roads
The video encourages residents who have complaints about unsafe behavior on the part of county truck drivers to call Arlington’s risk management office at 703-228-4444.
The Rosslyn intersection where cyclists and pedestrians face drivers exiting I-66 has received safety modifications in the past two weeks and more changes are on the way, county officials said on a tour of the site Tuesday morning.
In advance of a $5 million overhaul slated to be complete in summer 2016, Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Transportation changed the timing of the traffic lights and walk signals at Lee Highway and N. Lynn Street last week, said Larry Marcus, the county’s head of transportation engineering.
“Pedestrians and cyclists are the priority at this location, period,” Marcus said as county officials and police watched people navigate the corner some locals call the “Intersection of Doom.”
One change is minor in cost but should be significant in impact: A no-turn-on-red sign is being installed at N. Lynn Street for those exiting I-66. That’s being done “as soon as possible,” Marcus said.
Additionally, cyclists and pedestrians crossing N. Lynn Street using the Custis Trail previously had a walk signal when all traffic lights were red — known as a “leading interval” — for just 2 seconds; the length of that signal was increased last week to 5 seconds, Marcus said. The county plans to increase the leading interval time to 15 to 20 seconds in the next six months, once new signal technology is installed.
“We’re giving more time for pedestrians and bikes to go first,” Marcus said, adding that new caution signs for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists will be added to the intersection.
Drivers headed west on Lee Highway, meanwhile, now have an additional 10 seconds of biker- and pedestrian-free time to clear the intersection.
To pair with engineering changes, the Arlington County Police Department has ramped up traffic enforcement and educational efforts at the corner where numerous car-on-bike accidents have occurred, Capt. James Wasem said.
“People can expect to see uniformed police officers out here flagging cars over, directing traffic, handing out some brochures and citing violations,” he said about the measures enacted about two weeks ago.
Police issued 228 citations at the intersection from Sept. 15, 2013 through the same date this year: 133 for failure to obey traffic signals, 32 for improper turning and 1 for failure to yield to a pedestrian. Fifteen car crashes occurred at the intersection within that period, police said; just two crashes on record involved pedestrians.
The ACPD assigns an officer to direct traffic at the intersection on weekdays from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. but must spread officers between that corner, schools and other frequent crash sites. The department began sending an officer to the location “as often as possible” following recommendations from a traffic analyst the county hired this year, Wasem said.
ACPD is seeking funding to assign two officers to Lee Highway and N. Lynn Street every weekday morning, plus an additional two officers at Lynn Street and Wilson Boulevard, Wasem said. The latter intersection has been facing a chronic problem of drivers “blocking the box” during rush hour since construction began on the Central Place project, blocking lanes of Lynn Street.
The additional staffing would cost $180,000 through next year.
A resident’s complaint about a sidewalk closure led to action by county officials on Friday.
Arlington Ridge area resident Ted Billings snapped the photo above, showing a woman pushing a double stroller in the northbound lane of Army Navy Drive. The woman and her children were in the path of fast-moving traffic due to the closure of the only sidewalk on the long stretch between S. Nash Street and 20th Street S.
Billings talked to county staff members and also contacted ARLnow.com about the closure. Officials responded to the scene and determined that the construction crew that put the closure in place did not apply for the proper permits.
From Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman:
This work is being performed by private contractor who is involved with a residential build project in that vicinity. The sidewalk closure shown in the photo below did not go through the proper DES permitting review process nor were they issued the proper permit to close the sidewalk. County staff has informed the contractor of the violation and has directed them to get proper permits if they need to close the sidewalk again. The sidewalk has since re-opened. We appreciate the information provided by the resident.
Though pleased that the sidewalk was finally reopened, Billings said it required persistence — multiple county staff members initially told him nothing could be done about it, he said.
The pedestrian was crossing Lee Highway at a corner locals have called the “Intersection of Doom” about 8:20 a.m. when the driver of a black SUV plowed into her, officers and a witness said. The driver was headed north on N. Lynn Street and was making a left turn onto Lee Highway when she hit a northbound pedestrian who was using the crosswalk and had the walk signal, according to officers and witness David Clark.
Clark, a 56-year-old Rosslyn resident, was doing his daily exercise routine in Arlington Gateway Park near the intersection when he heard a yell.
“I was coming up from my pushup when I saw a lady crossing the street, and then I heard her holler,” he said. “The lady was in the crosswalk when she got hit.”
An ACPD officer was directing traffic when the crash occurred but momentarily had his back turned to that corner, officers said. An officer is posted weekday mornings from 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. at the intersection packed with drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, an officer said.
The pedestrian was taken to a hospital and thought to have a broken ankle, according to police scanner traffic. Officers on the scene said the driver could be ticketed, pending an investigation.
In May, the Arlington County Board approved spending an additional $75,000 on safety improvements to the intersection where cyclists have been hit by drivers several times. The upgrades will extend curbs at the intersection’s corners, modify traffic signals, add on-street bike lanes and remove a travel lane from Lee Highway. Construction was set to start in the spring and be complete in summer 2016.
NPS is preparing a new transportation plan and environmental assessment for the heavily-trafficked zone, Park Service Superintendent Alexcy Romero announced Thursday.
“The purpose of the [environmental assessment] is to reduce conflicts between trail, walkway and roadway users and to increase overall visitor safety around the memorial area,” Romero said in a statement.
The Park Service installed temporary flashing lights last winter at a crosswalk on the northbound GW Parkway, prior to the circle, to urge drivers to slow down for pedestrians and cyclists. In summer 2012, various other safety improvements — pedestrian warning signs, rumble strips for drivers and directional pavement markings — were installed.
The changes were made in response to a series of accidents and near-misses.
Comments on new safety improvements can be submitted through September 30 on the Park Service’s planning website.
The Park Service asks that commenters include their addresses, phone numbers and email addresses in their remarks, warning that “personal identifying information may be made publicly available at any time.”
Additionally, park staff will set up information booths at Alexandria farmers markets and near Memorial Circle.
The public will have opportunities to review the transportation plan following its release this fall, according to NPS. The Park Service is expected to make a final decision on the plan by the summer of 2016.
Photo (top) via Google Maps
APS purchased more than 325 Riddell Revolution Speed helmets this summer with carryover superintendent funds from last year’s budget, APS Supervisor for Health, Physical Education and Athletics Debbie DeFranco told ARLnow.com. The helmets all received five-star ratings from a new Virginia Tech Helmet Rating System, which grades helmets on safety from one (lowest) to five (highest) stars.
The helmets will replace current helmets that graded between two- and four-stars, said DeFranco, who added that all helmets APS has used in football practices and games had previously passed the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment tests for safety.
“We were really looking for the best our students could get,” DeFranco said. “Because safety is paramount in everything we do, [Superintendent Patrick Murphy] said when the study came out, ‘let’s see what we can do.’ We realized how many were not five-rated under the system, and replaced those with five-star rated helmets.”
The helmets are also adaptable to future technology, including in-development sensors to detect impact to the head. The sensors, if they are implemented in the future, would be able to measure hits that don’t necessarily result in concussions, but could still have negative impacts on a developing brain.
Head injuries in football have come under scrutiny in recent years after a spate of high-profile suicides among former NFL players and a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the NFL by former players accusing the league of covering up the long-term impacts of brain injuries. High school football players have also suffered, including some who have died on the field, from the impacts of the repeated blows to the head that are commonplace in football.
DeFranco said all athletes undergo “baseline testing” before the season starts to determine their cognitive function. That way, when they suffer an apparent head injury, trainers can measure their brain functionality and compare it to before the injury occurred.
“We have a series of protocols that are aligned with the state law and international standards for returning to play,” DeFranco said. “We make sure they’re seen by someone who’s an expert in brain injuries. Fortunately, because of the media notoriety [concussions have received], a lot of the pediatricians have gone ahead and gotten training in the field.”
“It’s hard because kids want to play, they want to practice, they don’t want to sit out and rest,” DeFranco continued. “We try to educate their peers to tell them they need to rest, because it can have residual effects. There have been unfortunate tragedies where kids can come back too soon where it has ended tragically. We want to avoid them at all costs.”
Former football player Chris Nowinski, a concussion expert and victim of post-concussion syndrome, will be training all APS coaches in a lecture that parents and athletes are encouraged to attend. Nowinski, co-founder of the Sports Legacy Institute, will speak at Wakefield High School on Monday, Sept. 15, at 7:00 p.m.
Update on 8/7/14 at 11:30 a.m. — D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Reggie Sanders says the love locks will be removed from Key Bridge today. “Locks are being removed because we don’t want to establish a precedence where our structures could become polluted with these types of campaigns. Also, it could jeopardize the functionality of the railings,” said Sanders.
Earlier: Lovers have started keeping their love under lock and key by latching padlocks bearing their names to the Key Bridge’s railings.
These “love locks” are meant to memorialize romantic relationships, but they can cause damage to fences and railings. At the Pont des Arts footbridge in Paris, thousands of couples latched love locks to a fence along the bridge. It was so weighed down by the locks that the fencing collapsed in June.
“This is the first time we’ve encountered this,” D.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Reggie Sanders said.
Last week, there were three combination locks on the railing on the left side of the Key Bridge (as seen from Arlington) and 45 combination and padlocks on the right side’s railing. Many of the locks had couples’ names or initials on them, and some included an anniversary date or an additional sentiment.
One lock says: “alex & andi 26 november 2011,” with an engraving of wedding bands.
With love locks, the owners lock them to a railing, fence or lamppost, discard the key, and hope their love will last as long as their lock.
New York City officials claimed last May that the more than 5,000 locks on the Brooklyn Bridge put it at risk for damages, the New York Daily News wrote, and endangered motorists driving under the pedestrian walkway.
According to the Irish Times, last February in Dublin, city officials put signs on the Ha’Penny Bridge to dissuade couples from putting locks there. Transportation officials removed approximately 661 pounds of locks from the bridge the previous year.
There are far fewer locks on the Key Bridge than those other bridges, seemingly not yet enough to cause damage. Sanders currently is looking into measures his department may take to remove the locks, and is researching which D.C. laws may change this practice.
Residents and business owners are encouraged to spend the evening getting out of the house and meeting their neighbors for National Night Out. Police officers and community leaders also will make the rounds to chat with residents.
The nationwide event happens the first Tuesday of every August and is sponsored by the non-profit organization National Association of Town Watch. It raises safety awareness and gives residents the opportunity to get better acquainted with the officers who patrol their neighborhoods.
Everyone is welcome to attend the family friendly events at the following locations:
- Arlington Forest Ice Cream Social — 200 block of N. Gavelston Street, 7:30 p.m. – TBD
- Barcroft Ice Cream Social — Community House at 800 S. Buchanan Street, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
- Fairlington — 3001 S. Abingdon Street, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
- Douglas Park — S. 12th Street & S. Irving Street, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
- Park Glen Condominium — behind the community center on S. Arlington Mill Drive, 5:00 p.m. – TBD
- Columbia Knoll Condominiums — 5111 S. 8th Road, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
- 6207 N. 31st Street — 6:30 p.m. – TBD
Are mom and dad heading out for dinner and leaving the kids at home?
The Arlington County Police Department has released a video with safety tips for children who are home alone. The tips include:
- Do not have friends over without an adult in the house to supervise.
- Keep your doors closed AND locked when you’re home alone.
- Do not open the door for anyone even if you know the person.
- Don’t answer the phone and never tell anyone you’re home alone.
- Make sure you have a trusted neighbor you can go to if you need help and a list of emergency phone numbers to call.
Those emergency numbers include 911 in an actual emergency, and the police non-emergency line (703-558-2222) for everything else, including reports of suspicious activity.
“Even playtime can be a dangerous time if kids aren’t careful,” says a new video from the county-run Arlington TV channel, released just in time for the start of summer.
(Last week was the last week of the school year for Arlington Public Schools students.)
The video, above, offers safety tips like “don’t play too close to the road,” and “never talk to strangers that approach you.”
If kids are approached or followed by a stranger, they’re encouraged to tell a trusted adult. That adult should then call police at 703-558-2222 — or 911 in an emergency — according to the video.
(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) A week after another cyclist was hit at the intersection of Lee Highway, N. Lynn Street at the Custis Trail, the Arlington County Board approved adding $75,000 to a contract to engineer improvements to the intersection.
The planned improvements to the area, which includes the trail’s intersection with Fort Myer Drive, include removing a travel lane from Lee Highway and extending the curb at the intersection’s corners. It also calls for upgraded traffic signals, on-street bike lanes, signs and landscape areas and a “Corridor of Light” public art feature.
The most troublesome part of the intersection. where numerous car-on-bike accidents have occurred, has been where two lanes of traffic from I-66 turn right on N. Lynn Street toward the Key Bridge. That traffic comes in conflict with pedestrians and cyclists on the trail, who get the green light at about the same time.
The improvements are designed to give cyclists less time in traffic as a result of the extended curbs, as well as greater visibility and a safer “queueing” area. In addition, the start of the Custis Trail would be widened to allow for greater cyclist and pedestrian flow.
The Board voted yesterday to amend its contract with Toole Design Group, which is designing the updates to the intersection, to include additional design of underground features and water main relocation. The project is expected to be 90 percent complete with design by this summer with construction beginning next spring and completing by summer 2016.
Once the project reaches 90 percent design, Arlington Department of Environmental Services says it will schedule a public meeting to present the intersection’s final design to the community.
According to DES, the design of the improvements were funded by a federal grant, and the construction is being paid for by the JBG Companies, which is developing the Central Place office and residential skyscrapers two blocks away. If approved, the contract amendment will bring the total cost of the design to almost $1.2 million. The construction is currently estimated to cost $5 million.
The intersection was cited as needing a redesign in the Realize Rosslyn public outreach process, and some have suggested a pedestrian tunnel or flyover. According to DES, there are no other plans for improvements to this intersection, but the construction doesn’t preclude any changes in the future.
“There’s been a lot of attention at ways we can improve this intersection,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said at yesterday’s meeting. “The Realize Rosslyn process is underway, and we did [talk about] incorporating some focus into potentially systemic changes to the intersection.”
In addition to the trail improvements, Arlington announced yesterday it purchased a plot of land adjacent to the intersection, at 1101 Lee Highway, to preserve green and recreational space for the area. The land might also some day be used for a realignment of the bike trail, to improve safety.
The county paid $2.4 million to a private landowner and is considering constructing an “ancillary boathouse” to pair with a proposed boathouse along the Potomac River that the National Parks Service is considering.
“Over the years, community members have voiced strong support for a boathouse in the County along the Potomac River,” the county wrote in its press release, “to create public access, establish a home for high school rowing programs and to offer educational opportunities related to life along the Potomac.”
Obama Visit Boosted Business at Bookstore — The November 2012 visit to One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street) by President Obama and his family boosted revenue at the East Falls Church store by 20 percent. The visit still continues to benefit the store, according to owner Eileen McGervey. [Washington Business Journal]
Miss Gay Arlington Crowned — The new 2014 Miss Gay Arlington is Coco B. Colby. Colby was crowned after besting three competitors during the April 18 event at Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City. Previous Miss Gay Arlington winners include Shaunda Leer, Stardust and Diamond D. Bottoms. [InsideNoVa]
County Promotes Building Safety — After a series of high-profile construction accidents this past fall, Arlington County has officially proclaimed May to be Building Safety Month. “Building safety is our focus every day, although most of that work happens behind the scenes,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette, in a statement. [Arlington County]
Crystal City Power Purge Today — Crystal City is holding its annual Power Purge and Shred from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. today. The event, at 1900 Crystal Drive, allows residents to recycle electronics, paper and to get rid of household paints and supplies. There’s also a specialty hard drive crusher for data security. [Crystal City]
Yorktown, W-L Soccer Game Ends in Tie — A “hard-fought, exhausting” boys soccer match between Yorktown and Washington-Lee ended in a scoreless tie Tuesday night. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
(Updated at 6:05 p.m.) Construction has created a glaring safety hazard in the middle of Rosslyn, and so far no one has done anything about it.
The new, $50 million high-speed elevator bank to the Rosslyn Metro station is now surrounded by construction fences — blocking the sidewalk in both directions — and leaving pedestrians only one way to go: across three lanes of N. Moore Street, a road heavily used by buses and taxis, in a mid-block stretch without so much as a marked crosswalk.
Making matters worse: pedestrians have limited visibility thanks to a large fenced-in equipment paddock in one of the lanes. Also, construction barriers across the street force pedestrians to cross diagonally, into traffic.
At one time, pedestrians could access the skybridge that runs across N. Moore Street. No longer: the skybridge is closed and awaiting demolition next weekend.
In the few minutes ARLnow.com was photographing the area this afternoon, a woman pushing a stroller could be seen craning her neck around the equipment paddock to try to spot oncoming traffic. Unable to see around a stopped bus further down the street, the woman and several people with rolling suitcases started crossing. As they crossed, an approaching taxi had to come to a quick stop to let them pass.
Some relief may be in sight next week.
Mike Reisinger, the project manager with Clark Construction, said on Monday and Tuesday next week, crews will be installing asphalt “within the depression in front of the WMATA elevators and opening the plastic barricades on the other side of Moore. This will allow foot traffic to cross in a perpendicular fashion rather than meander.”