Arlington County is working on plans to make safety and accessibility upgrades a trio of local streets.
Some of the changes could include adding sidewalks where there are none, removing obstructions from existing sidewalks, and extending curbs — — known as a “bump-out” — to make shorter pedestrian crossings.
Residents can learn more about this batch of “Neighborhood Complete Streets” projects in the Arlington Mill, Westover and Arlington Heights neighborhoods during a virtual meeting this coming Monday, May 8. t 7 p.m.
The projects were selected from more than 200 nominees by the Neighborhood Complete Streets Commission in February. The commission identifies and recommends for funding projects to improve the experience of cyclists and pedestrians — particularly those who need ramps or wider sidewalks to get around, such as people using wheelchairs or pushing strollers.
“Sidewalks free and clear of obstructions, streetlights, Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible curb ramps, safe space for bikes and appropriate street widths — these are all elements of a complete street,” per a county webpage.
Next week’s meeting will cover three projects selected after a competitive ranking process that considered gaps in sidewalks, heavy pedestrian use, speeding problems and surrounding socio-economic diversity.
On 8th Road S. between S. Dickerson and S. Emerson streets, in the Arlington Mill neighborhood, the county proposes building curb ramps accessible to people with disabilities and installing pedestrian bump-outs and other relevant signage and pavement markings.
“Existing conditions include complete sidewalks on both sides of the street and large intersections, which increase crossing distances for people walking,” per a project webpage. “Curb ramps are blocked by parked vehicles.”
The commission recommended 8th Road S. because of its crash history, traffic, high residential population, proximity to transit and location within a census tract that is lower income and more diverse.
On 14th Street N., in the Westover neighborhood, the county will install an accessible sidewalk for people walking between N. McKinley Road and the intersection with N. Ohio Street.
Arlington proposes installing sidewalk, curb and gutter, accessible curb ramps and new signage and pavement markings on the north side of the street.
The street won out over others because it is close to schools, transit and bike facilities but lacks consistent sidewalks, according to a project webpage.
Lastly, S. Irving Street near Thomas Jefferson Middle School is set to get an accessible, unobstructed widewalk between 2nd and 6th Street S. The upgrades will connect to a planned new sidewalk between 6th and 7th Street S.
Currently, the sidewalk on both sides are obstructed by utility poles and streetlights, according to the county.
The street projects are in a preliminary design phase and, as such, could change. None have “undergone any detailed survey or design work” or have been approved for funding, according to the county.
More opportunities for community engagement will arise as the designs are further developed, the county says.
Arlington County is preparing to make street improvements at the busy intersection of Wilson Blvd and 10th Street N.
The project will widen public sidewalks on both sides of Wilson Blvd and 10th Street N., between the Clarendon and Virginia Square Metro stations, and put existing utilities underground so that the sidewalks can be more accessible for people with disabilities.
“The newly constructed, wider public sidewalks will enhance the outdoor ambiance for pedestrians and establishments within the Project alignment,” according to a county report. “The Project limits will also serve to connect previously enhanced sections of Wilson Boulevard.”
The project spans Wilson Blvd from N. Kenmore Street to 10th Street N. and 10th Street N. between N. Jackson Street and N. Ivy Street.
To construct new sidewalks, the county needs an easement from Joe’s Kwik Mart, a convenience store attached to the Exxon gas station at 3299 Wilson Blvd. On Saturday, the Arlington County Board approved the easements.
The county says affected property owners “are supportive of the project’s scope and goals.”
According to the report, the convenience store will receive $11,300 in exchange for the easements, though the owner was fine with granting them without compensation.
“The agreed-to monetary compensation of $11,300.00 for [the] acquisition of the perpetual easement is based upon the appraisal of the fair market value of the property interest by an independent fee appraiser,” per the report. “The owner agreed to convey the aforementioned temporary easement areas to the County without any monetary payment or valuable consideration.”
This project is the last phase of a series of street treatments along Wilson Blvd that began in 2009. Between then and 2019, the county completed work between N. Monroe and N. Kenmore streets.
As part of the project, the county added new curbs, gutters and streetlights, made traffic signal and storm sewer improvements, planted street trees and repaved and repainted the street.
The Wild West of e-bikes and e-scooter parking is being tamed.
Last month, Arlington County began installing 100 special street parking spaces for shared and private micro-mobility devices. And shared transportation providers such as Bird, LINK and new arrival Veo are footing the bill.
Some locals have long complained that scooter parking blocks pedestrian and, at times, vehicle traffic. These “corrals” are intended to address this problem, now that Arlington permits the operation of up to 350 e-bikes and 2,000 e-scooters.
Each hitching post consists of three bike rack half-loops, which provide six parking spaces, surrounded by flex-posts that make the installation more visible to drivers.
“Scooter and bike corrals are designated parking spots in public areas for people to start and end rides safely,” said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors. “They are important to keep sidewalks clear for people walking, and aim to cutdown on tripping hazards and other risks for people sharing public spaces.”
About 20 existed in the county as of this past December. Planning and scouting for this new batch of corrals began last year, with the county on track to install 100 corrals by the end of this year and another 100 per year for the next three fiscal years, Pors said.
From start to finish, the process to choose a location and install a corral takes four months and costs about $1,000. The county is funding it with the $80 fee per device per year that micro-mobility companies pay to operate in Arlington.
These stations are being placed where cars are already restricted, such as curbs near intersections, to improve visibility.
“This particular example of placement also helps maintain visibility, so everyone traveling can keep a clear line of sight around high-traffic areas regardless of their mode of transportation,” she said.
As a bonus, drivers don’t lose street parking.
Of the corrals in place, most are located along the Rosslyn-Ballston and Route 1 (Crystal City/Pentagon City) corridors, where the bulk of rides have started since e-scooters and bikes arrived in 2018.
“The team is selecting corral locations throughout the county based on data showing where micro-mobility trips are being made,” Pors said.
The county, meanwhile, is taking suggestions for more locations — and maybe a different name, too.
Want to suggest new Arlington locations for "micro-mobility device corrals" or maybe just a better name for such things? https://t.co/EwWcRybbW4
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) September 6, 2022
Cycling advocate Gillian Burgess said in a tweet that she would like to see additional corrals in Arlington’s more suburban neighborhoods, where sidewalks are narrow and are easily blocked by bikes and e-scooters.
“They should put a corral by every crosswalk, to increase visibility,” she said. “They could start at [N. Nelson Street] at the crosswalk for the Custis Trail, which is also a hub stop.”
Although the corrals are placed where cars cannot park, one Twitter user observed that some drivers will just stop somewhere else — like a bike lane.
Construction is wrapping up at the intersection of Langston Blvd (Route 29) and Glebe Road.
Last week, the traffic signals hanging from wires were swapped out for new mast-arm signals. This week, the contractor is expected to complete the remaining sections of sidewalk, curb ramps, and curb and gutter, according to the county’s project webpage.
These changes were part of a years-long project to add dedicated left turn lanes, make bus stop upgrades, take utilities underground and replace an old water main. The changes were intended to improve safety, access and travel times for motorists, pedestrians and transit riders at the intersection.
And now, the county says the project is almost done.
“Construction on the intersection improvements is nearing the finish line,” the project’s webpage said.
Work was anticipated to be completed by this coming spring, but progress is moving faster than expected.
“Spring ’22 was the expected completion date when we started construction, but work has been ahead of schedule and we now expect substantial completion in September,” Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet said.
It’s a beautiful day to check out the new signal lights at VA-120/Glebe Rd @ US-29/Langston Bl. @WTOPtraffic @ARLnowDOTcom pic.twitter.com/kE6gpKcWQz
— Joe Conway, WTOP (@JoeConwayWTOP) August 27, 2021
The county said it will be releasing a schedule of the project’s final paving and the installation of the final pavement markings, both of which will likely occur at night this month (September).
The first phase of the project, including utility undergrounding, kicked off in 2017. The county has spent years obtaining easements from property owners along Glebe to allow the roadway expansion.
The County Board approved a $3.88 million contract for the remainder of the work in December 2019. Work started on this phase in May 2020, according to the project webpage.
This phase included the new exclusive left-turn lanes along N. Glebe Road “to ensure safer turning movements and reduce delays,” the county said. North-south traffic on Glebe had previously flowed only in one direction at a time, allowing turns without a dedicated turn signal but causing backups during rush hour.
The phase also included the mast-arm traffic signals with new phasing and timing, the upgraded water mains and stormwater infrastructure, enhanced crosswalks and bus stops, widened sidewalks and accessible curb ramps and commercial driveway aprons.
The need for upgrades to Langston Blvd and Glebe Road dates back to studies conducted in 2004.
“[The study] identified considerable traffic backups at the Lee Highway and Glebe Road intersection,” the county webpage said. “The backups resulted in traffic cutting through the neighborhood.”
The County Board is set to consider a set of projects that would upgrade sidewalks and improve a small park.
Of the four, three focus on pedestrian improvements with an eye toward walkability for Arlington Public Schools students in the Bluemont, Columbia Heights and Fairlington neighborhoods. The fourth would fund improvements to 11th Street Park in Clarendon.
These upgrades, at a cost of roughly $2 million in total, were given a thumbs up last December by Arlington’s Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee. This group identifies needed improvements such as sidewalks, street beautification, street lights and parks and recommends them to the County Board.
At the intersection of 6th Street N. and N. Edison Street in Bluemont, the committee proposes to widen some corners and build out the sidewalks as well as upgrade landscaping and accessible ramps.
“It’ll be very visible to cars that people are crossing,” project representative Nick Pastore said during the December meeting. “That will help slow the rate of speed of cars going around those corners.”
Drivers take these residential roads “at a pretty decent speed” to avoid N. George Mason Drive between N. Carlin Springs Road and Wilson Blvd, he said.
At the intersection of 12th Street S. and S. Scott Street in Columbia Heights, nearu Columbia Pike, NCAC is requesting $500,000 to conduct a feasibility study for improving the intersection by extending the street corners, and making improvements to the crosswalks, landscaping and accessible ramps.
“This improved crossing will help students walking from nearby S. Courthouse Road to Hoffman-Boston [Elementary School] safely cross a busy road,” said Kristin Haldeman, director of multimodal transportation planning for Arlington Public School, in a letter to the county.
She added that the extra curb space “will provide more room for students in the area who attend Gunston Middle School and Wakefield High School to wait for their bus at the intersection.”
Columbia Heights Civic Association member Sarah McKinley welcomed the project for the neighborhood of apartment buildings and condos, saying the committee has been criticized over the years for mostly benefitting single-family neighborhoods.
“Here’s an example of an NC project that can benefit both types of neighborhoods,” she said.
In Fairlington, the committee proposes a sidewalk, curb, and gutter along the north side of S. Abingdon Street between 31st Street S. and 31st Road S. — near the STEM Preschool and the former Fire Station 7.
Fairlington representative Ed Hilz said these changes would improve walking paths for students getting to Abingdon Elementary School.
“Currently, there’s a staircase that is not very convenient to negotiate for children,” he said.
Finally, a green space at 11th Street N. and N. Danville Street in Clarendon would get new furnishings, park signage and path lighting. Additionally, the lawn will be aerated.
“I think this park is heavily used so all these upgrades will be a tremendous benefit for the community,” project representative Alyssa Cannon said.
Money for the projects will come from the 2016 and 2018 Community Conservation bonds.
Images via Google Maps
Something exceedingly rare happened during last night’s County Board meeting.
A broad spectrum of Arlington civic life — including progressives, the Chamber of Commerce, business owners, county commissions and a local civic association — all lined up to speak against an ordinance recommended for approval by county staff — one that was temporarily approved by the Board a month and a half ago.
The Board voted 4-1 against extending the sidewalk crowding ordinance, which was approved on July 31 on an emergency basis and will now expire at the end of this month.
The ordinance was passed in a closed County Board session amid growth in coronavirus cases among younger Arlington residents, and outcry against large crowds lined up outside popular Clarendon bars and outdoor venues, as seen in photos posted to social media. It prohibited congregating in a group of more than three in designated zones in Clarendon, making violations a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of up to $100.
While the county’s health director and other local experts agreed that such crowding presented a risk of virus transmission, it was also not necessarily seen as riskier than other activities that remained perfectly legal — dining inside at a restaurant, driving with a group in a car, etc.
With the rate of new cases now down from the summer peak, the urgency with which the emergency ordinance passed was replaced at last night’s meeting by a more sober assessment of whether enforcement was worth the effort.
A county staff presentation suggested it was.
“Clarendon has seen an influx of patrons 10 p.m.-2 a.m.,” the presentation said. “Efforts to spread out long lines of patrons by officers and restaurant security have been met with defiance, confrontation, and hostility.”
County Manager Mark Schwartz, however, revealed that no fines — “zero… the number between negative one and one,” he said as County Board member Christian Dorsey sought clarification — have been issued so far, despite the posting of signs and an ongoing public education effort.
Community members who spoke before the County Board’s hearing were unanimous in their skepticism of the ordinance.
Gillian Burgess, chair of the Arlington County Bicycle Advisory Committee, started her remarks by listing the names of Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and others.
“There are but a few of the Black Americans who lost their lives due to minor infractions,” Burgess said. “After a summer of reckoning with America’s and Arlington’s racist past, we must acknowledge the role of over-broad laws and ordinances in allowing police a pretext to stop Black people and people of color.”
She went on to say, as also argued by Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt, that the ordinance prohibits common pedestrian activity, singling out those on foot.
The ordinance “seems to make it an infraction for me to walk down a specified sidewalk with my three young children,” she said. “It almost certainly would be an infraction for the four of us to wait at a bus stop on those sidewalk.”
“I support limiting the spread of COVID and urge the County Board to use every tool in its toolbox to support getting vulnerable children back into schools… this ordinance is not a tool that helps with this problem,” she concluded. “I urge the Board to repeal this.”
Joining in the criticism were representatives from the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, the Arlington Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and the Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association, as well as local business owners.
Spider Kelly’s owner Nick Freshman, speaking on behalf of business owners in the Clarendon area, said the ordinance is doing little to stop the spread of the virus while hurting main street businesses that are in danger of closing.
The Arlington County Board has approved road improvement projects on three arterial streets and two neighborhood streets.
The arterial street projects involve Americans with Disabilities Act improvements to bus stops and ramps, improvements to crosswalks, and other changes to S. Arlington Ridge Road, N. Carlin Springs Road and Military Road — at an estimated cost of $550,000.
More from a county staff report:
The work proposed for the intersection of South Arlington Ridge Road and South Lang Street will provide a safer pedestrian crossing to Gunston School and provide ADA compliant bus stops. The improvements at the intersections of North Carlin Springs Road and North Edison Street and North Wakefield Street will deliver ADA compliant bus stops and installation of a RRFB (rectangular rapid flashing beacon) at the North Edison Street intersection. The project planned for the intersections of 36th Road North and North Marcey Road with Military Road will include ADA compliant bus stops and realignment of the intersection for North Marcey Road for improved vehicle movement.
The Board also approved two “Neighborhood Complete Streets” capital projects, including:
- New sidewalk, curb ramps, and paving along 13th Street S. between Walter Reed Drive and Glebe Road, in the Douglas Park neighborhood
- Curb extensions and improved bus stops along 7th Road S. in the Arlington Mill neighborhood
The 13th Street project has the goal of a safer pedestrian experience on a street commonly used by cut-through traffic, with an incomplete sidewalk. The 7th Road S. project aims to create “pinch points” to reduce vehicle speeds, on a stretch where speeding and crashes are problematic. Both projects have an approximate cost of $600,000.
Update at 1:40 p.m. — The County Board meeting scheduled for this weekend has been delayed until Saturday, April 25.
At its Saturday meeting, the Arlington County Board is set to consider a construction contract for upgrades to a portion of 23rd Street S. in Crystal City.
As part of the first phase of a two-phase project, the county is planning to “widen the sidewalk and retail parking areas on the south side of 23rd Street” between Route 1 and S. Eads Street. That will mean improved pedestrian safety and better ease of use for the existing parking lot that serves Young Chow restaurant, the Crystal City Restaurant gentlemen’s club, and 7-Eleven.
“Lane widths will be reduced, but the number of travel lanes will remain the same as today,” a county staff report says. “The new curb re-alignment will create more room for vehicles in the shopping plaza to maneuver without encroaching onto the sidewalk.”
Additionally, the $1.33 million construction contract will add new landscaping, crosswalks, ADA-accessible curb ramps and upgraded traffic signals at the intersection of 23rd and Eads. The overall project cost for Phase 1 is about $2.1 million, which will be funded by a regional Northern Virginia Transportation Authority grant.
“Upon approval by the county board, construction is expected to begin Summer of 2020 and to be complete in Winter of 2021,” says the staff report.
Phase 2 of the project is still in design but is expected to upgrade 23rd Street S. between Route 1 and Crystal Drive, with new sidewalks and trees on either side, while removing the grassy median in the middle. That project being planned in conjunction with JBG Smith’s major redevelopment project on the north side of 23rd Street.
“Phase 2 of the project is anticipated to implement similar improvements on 23rd Street South east of Richmond Highway to Crystal Drive,” the staff report notes. “Phase 2 is currently in 30% design and is being coordinated with private sector redevelopment efforts along 23rd Street South.”
The stretch of 23rd Street S. between Arlington Ridge Road and Crystal Drive, which includes the Crystal City’s well-known restaurant row, is seeing a series of infrastructure changes as Amazon arrives in the neighborhood. A project to replace a major water main along 23rd Street is currently underway, and the county recently finished closing an underground pedestrian tunnel under Route 1.
Separately, the County Board on Saturday will also take up the renaming of the Crystal City Business Improvement District to the “The Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard at National Landing Business Improvement Service District.”
Street view via Google Maps
By the end of the month, Arlington County will start posting signs making it clear where e-scooters and e-bikes are not welcome.
The county today revealed that the sidewalks along nine different stretches of road, in six Arlington neighborhoods, will be off-limit to scooters and similar personal mobility devices. That follows the November passage of an ordinance allowing e-scooter and e-bike operation in the county, following a temporary pilot program.
The new no-go zone for scooters and the like, deemed “key sidewalk conflict areas,” are:
- Ballston: North Quincy Street between North Glebe Road and 9th Street North, westbound Fairfax Drive between North Glebe Road and North Wakefield Street
- Court House: North Veitch Street between Wilson Boulevard and Lee Highway
- Crystal City: South Eads Street between 12th Street South and 22nd Street South, and between Fort Scott Drive and South Glebe Road
- Lyon Park: North Pershing Drive between Washington Boulevard and North Barton Street
- Pentagon City: Army Navy Drive between South Nash Street and South Joyce Street, South Hayes Street between 15th Street South and 18th Street South
- Rosslyn: Westbound Wilson Boulevard between North Oak Street and North Courthouse Road
“Later this month, new signage prohibiting sidewalk-riding will be installed next to protected bicycle lanes, where people biking are separated from drivers with a parking lane or other physical barrier,” Arlington County said in a press release. “When a protected bike lane is available in the same direction of travel, shared e-scooter and e-bike riders must use it instead of the sidewalk.”
“Signage will be placed at the start of a sidewalk where sidewalk-riding is banned,” the press release said. “Initial enforcement of the new restrictions will focus on education and warnings.”
The county is now evaluating other stretches of sidewalk that are not next to protected bike lanes for possible scooter prohibition, “in the interest of public safety and welfare.”
Arlington has set up a website — ridedockless.com — that lists information about e-scooter and e-bike riding in the county, including rules, parking etiquette and info for businesses.
Arlington County has promised to build a sidewalk for every street, but when it comes to some residential neighborhoods progress is slow.
The main way sidewalks are built in residential areas is via the Neighborhood Conservation (NC) Program, which was created in 1964 and allows neighbors to weigh in on proposed sidewalk designs, among other small local projects that are proposed for county funding.
Officials told ARLnow the program is meant to give weight to resident feedback, which means concerns over parking and frontage sometimes trump pedestrian considerations.
Now the Arlington County Board is reviewing the NC program, and asking questions like, “Do NC Projects contribute to an appropriate balance between neighborhood and Countywide infrastructure goals and objectives?” according to a draft presentation with a working group meeting last week.
NC Program Manager Tim McIntosh told ARLnow during an interview last month that it’s a “lofty goal” to build a sidewalk on at least one side of every street, and it’s also hard to evaluate how much progress has been made.
“I don’t know that there are any statistics on how many sidewalks have been built since that plan has been put in place,” he said.
“There are several challenges to building sidewalks on every street,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet said. “In addition to the availability of eligible funding sources for improvements in neighborhoods, there are competing interests for the right of way on every street.”
“In some cases, adding a full sidewalk with curb and gutter would come at the expense of on-street parking, or it could impact private properties in the form of tree removal, yard regrading and retaining walls,” he added. “There also may be differences among residents on a street about providing needed easements. Our job is to balance these interests, as well as costs, as we implement projects.”
McIntosh said the public is generally supportive and wants to see sidewalks installed, “But once you start to get into the weeds and talk about where it’s going to be, people get a little more reserved about, ‘Well, geez, how is this going to affect my frontage? Or the parking on my street?'”
Bob Cannon, a Lee Heights resident, has long wanted a sidewalk on a particular stretch of the 2300-2400 blocks of N. Vernon Street, in the Donaldson Run neighborhood.
The street is unmarked and cars regularly speed around curves, he said. In May, one car drove over the curb near Cannon’s house, blew out a tire, and hit his neighbor’s car. He says crashes like this are common and pose a danger to pedestrians who have nowhere to walk but on the road. He’s frequently asked the county to build a sidewalk, or add speed bumps, bollards, or lane paint to improve safety, according to emails reviewed by ARLnow.
“I do not understand what the problem is,” said Cannon. “The solution is simple.”
Thus far, the county has not revealed plans to add a sidewalk to portion of the road in question.
“Can it improve? Absolutely,” said WalkArlington Program Director Henry T. Dunbar of the sidewalk building process. “That’s why we really push people to get involved.”
Dunbar said WalkArlington is training residents about pedestrian safety and how they can work with organizations like the Pedestrian Advisory Committee to push for safety improvements like sidewalks on their streets. One way he said WalkArlington helps is by conducting “walk audits” of neighborhoods with residents and identify danger spots.
The pedestrian element for the county’s Master Transportation Plan was last updated in 2008. At the time, the document noted that:
Arlington currently lacks a complete sidewalk on almost 20 percent of its local streets. While work is under way to construct missing sidewalks, at the current pace of funding and construction, the sidewalk network is not likely to be complete for another 25 to 30 years.
Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet said the department is currently reviewing the pedestrian element and deciding when DES can begin updates, as it recently did with the plan’s bicycle element.
Photo courtesy Bob Cannon
Three safety and beautification projects are coming to western Arlington streets.
This Saturday the County Board is scheduled to vote on $2.8 million in construction contracts for Neighborhood Conservation projects. The three projects are all at the western edge of Arlington, near Falls Church.
The project at Patrick Henry Drive near Westover Apartments will add dedicated bike lanes from Washington Boulevard to 16th Street N.
The other two projects — 2nd Street South at S. Kensington Street and N. Quintana Street — will add new sidewalks. The N. Quintana Street project will also add streetlights.
The projects are all planned to:
- Improve pedestrian connectivity
- Provide disability accessible routes
- Rehabilitate existing roadways
- Improve drainage
The projects are 32 percent more expensive ($883,379) than when they were first proposed in 2017, which staff attributed to inflation in construction costs and higher construction standards enacted by the county since then.
Photo via Google Maps