March: when it can be nearly 80 degrees one day and under 40 degrees the next. And in Arlington, the month marks the start of pothole filling and street repaving season.
There are 1,059 lane miles of roadway in Arlington County, and every March, the Arlington Department of Environmental Services launches its effort to fill in potholes caused by winter freezes and repave about 7-8% of roads.
The 2022 repaving season is kicking off with fewer pothole service requests while DES aims to repave 74 lane miles of road, spokesman Peter Golkin tells ARLnow.
This goal is about on-pace with the number of miles the department has repaved in recent years, according to data from DES.
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) March 8, 2022
But first, crews are attending to the potholes. Street repaving will begin later this month.
“March is generally the unofficial start of the pothole filling season as winter storm weather recedes and staff can focus on road conditions rather than storm response,” Golkin said.
So far, county crews have filled 462 potholes, of which 360 were filled in February, he says. Meanwhile, there have been about 254 pothole service requests filed by residents since Jan. 1, according to data from the county.
The number of potholes on local roads has generally declined over the last five years due in part to milder winters, compared to the colder, harsher winters in years past that caused thousands of potholes. The winter of 2019 broke that downward trend with more than 5,100 potholes, however.
“2019 stands out for a 10-inch snow event and about a dozen events total whereas the past couple of years have been much milder,” Golkin said.
This year also saw a few winter storms and extended bouts of freezing temperatures, which precipitated hundreds of water main breaks in Arlington. But the “historically snowy January” gave way to a mild February and — overall — a milder than normal winter for the sixth time in the past seven years, according to the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.
But potholes are not just declining because of weather, says the county’s sewers and streets bureau spokesman. Another factor is the county’s stepped-up repaving schedule over the last eight years.
“As the County invests more in paving and the overall street Pavement Condition Index (PCI) increases, the overall number of pothole fill requests trend downward,” Golkin said.
The index increased from a low of 67 out of 100 in 2014 — the result of years of anemic repaving rates — to 80.2 in 2020. Arlington achieved this lift after tripling the number of annual road miles paved.
Now, the county aims to repave 72 to 75 lane miles every year in order to maintain a score between 75 and 80, per the adopted 2021-22 fiscal year budget.
Road users can expect this work to start later this month and to continue through early fall.
“Paving season traditionally runs from the end of March to the end of September, but weather and contractor availability can push things back,” Golkin said. “A segment of planned paving may be shifted to another year for various reasons including nearby new utility work or a construction project nearby that’s fallen behind schedule.”
But progress on the project has elicited frustration from some local transit advocates, residents and community leaders.
The project will extend the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway north with a direct connection to the Pentagon City Metrorail station, while increasing trip frequency for bus riders. County staff say these changes will facilitate a “high frequency premium transit service” that will “add transportation capacity to support current and anticipated development in the area,” according to the county.
A meeting was held last night (Wednesday) to explain what residents and road users can expect in the first phase of the Transitway Extension project. People will also see changes to 12th Street S. during this phase of the project, as DES has decided to merge the extension work with “complete streets” improvements to 12th Street S., which curves south and becomes Crystal Drive near Long Bridge Park.
Those opposed say they are frustrated by the lack of community engagement when the designs were developed — last night’s meeting presented 100% complete designs — and say they have questions that have gone unanswered.
“I love the Transitway, and I’m eager to see it completed and see Metroway buses running more often, but I do not have confidence that DES has really done their best work on these plans, and am positive that they do not want to hear from the community,” Transportation Commission member Darren Buck tells ARLnow.
Transit advocates say the proposed configuration of the road and the sidewalk will not support the projected increase in folks living in the area, with the arrival of Amazon and other development concentrated in the area. Particularly, they say, the proposed 10-foot sidewalks will not provide enough space for bus riders and people traveling through the area on foot or scooter, as well as cyclists who will one day be able to connect to D.C. via Long Bridge Park’s esplanade.
County staff say the designs do respond to community comments and that the project cannot make changes that would disturb underground parking garages. Staff could not respond to follow-up questions before this article’s publication.
According to the staff presentation, the designs have been modified in response to concerns for pedestrian safety and circulation near the stations. The plans feature enough room for pedestrians to walk around the bus stations and to walk safely while buses make the sharp turn from Crystal Drive to 12th Street S, they said.
Two bus stations will be installed along the curb as part of the Transitway Extension. The road will be reconfigured to allow buses to take the curve at Crystal Drive and 12th Street S. safely within a dedicated transit lane.
The complete streets project, meanwhile, includes signal improvements and a new traffic signal at the intersection of 12th Street S. and Army Navy Drive. The roadway under Route 1 will be widened, and there will be sidewalk improvements from Army Navy Drive to S. Eads Street.
According to the county, the new bus stations will have:
- Real-time bus information
- Benches, bike racks and bins for trash and recycling
- Solar-powered lighting inside the shelters
- Near-level boarding, with a raised curb for easy access
- Concrete bus pads
- Artwork consistent with other transitway bus stations
After last night’s meeting, some cyclists shared their dismay with the project and the meeting on Twitter.
The public survey focuses on the east (northbound) side of the relatively small section of S. Eads Street running near Amazon’s future HQ2. It asks questions about living and working in Arlington, how individuals travel around the county, and how safe does one feel traveling along this particular segment of S. Eads Street.
The last page of the survey provides an interactive map, asking individuals to leave comments about their difficulty crossing the street, sightlines, and if pavement or sidewalks are in need of repair.
“We’re hoping to gather observations and experiences on how people use the street now across all modes, from biking and walking to taking transit and driving,” writes Eric Balliet, spokesperson for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, in an email to ARLnow. “We’d like to know what issues they experience, any safety or access concerns they have, and how they might want to see the street improved. The feedback will be used to guide the development of the concept design, which we will present later for another round of feedback.”
The existing streetscape includes a partially protected bike lane, inconsistent sidewalk, and a lack of street lighting. The layout of the street is also primarily oriented toward cars, according to the project’s webpage.
Improvements being considered include adding physical protection to the bike lane, adding more street lighting, and reconstructing and realigning sidewalks.
“Together, these improvements will create a safer, more accessible, and more comfortable environment for all users of the street,” says the webpage.
The county’s master transportation plan as well as other plans and studies all call for S. Eads Street to be reconstructed into a so-called complete street — one safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, mass transit users, and drivers. This was first implemented as a pilot project back in 2014.
The survey is part of the county’s “preliminary public engagement” process and will be open until Friday, April 23.
The concept design for the changes is set to be unveiled this spring or summer. Afterward, more time will be provided for the public to weigh in.
By the fall, the final concept design should be ready with engineering, design, and procurement of a contractor set to be completed by the spring of 2023.
Construction is scheduled to start in the summer of 2023 and be completed a year later, in the summer of 2024.
Image (2) via Arlington County
(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) Arlington County will be holding a virtual public meeting tonight to discuss a trio of road projects set for later this year.
The county plans to repave and re-stripe portions of Wilson Blvd in the Dominion Hills and Boulevard Manor neighborhoods, Potomac Avenue in Potomac Yard, and Clarendon Blvd in the Courthouse and Rosslyn neighborhoods. The work is expected to take place this summer and fall, following the current public engagement process.
Arlington has been using its regularly-planned street maintenance to re-stripe roads in an effort make them safer, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists. It often involves the addition or enhancement of bike lanes, sharrows and crosswalks.
More from the event page:
The Master Transportation Plan identifies routine street maintenance as an opportunity to provide cost-effective and easy to implement measures to improve safety and access for all people using the street. Community engagement is a core value in Arlington, and we wanted to provide opportunities for community members to share their feedback on the concept plans for the 2020 Street Maintenance season.
Please join county staff for an online meeting on Thursday, June 4 from 6:30-7:30 pm to learn about the project, ask questions and share feedback on the design concepts for the three 2020 Resurfacing Projects for Complete Streets.
Staff will present concepts for:
- Wilson Boulevard – N Larrimore Street to McKinley Road (Dominion Hills/Boulevard Manor)
- Potomac Avenue – S Crystal Drive to Alexandria City Line (Potomac Yard)
- Clarendon Boulevard – N Nash to N Oak Street (Clarendon-Courthouse/Radnor/Fort Myer Heights)
An online open house in April discussed all four projects.
A portion of N. Quincy Street is slated for a makeover this summer with new pavement and a bike lane.
Officials aim to repave the stretch of N. Quincy Street between the I-66 overpass and Fairfax Drive, near Washington-Liberty High School, and potentially approve one of three designs for a new bike lane that could eliminate parking spaces.
Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services polled residents about the three bike lane designs in a recent survey. The department will host an open house about the project on Tuesday, July 9, from 6-7:30 p.m., at Washington-Liberty (1301 N. Stafford Street).
The three bike lane configurations the department is considering are:
- Concept A: A buffered bike lane along both sides of N. Quincy Street in the northern section close to I-66. Adding the lane would eliminate 22 parking spaces along Quincy near the Buck site entrance where several single family homes sit.
- Concept B: A buffered bike lane that runs in the middle of N. Quincy Street, which removes only 10 parking spaces in the northern section close to I-66.
- Concept C: A buffered bike lane along the entire street, which would remove 42 parking spaces on the northern section of the street and 31 spaces on the south section.
“It’s almost like a mix and match,” DES Project Planner Christine Sherman told ARLnow. “Concept A shows parking on a block [of N. Quincy Street], concept B shows parking on a different block. Concept C shows the highest level of bike protection.”
All three concepts also add a crosswalk at the intersection of Quincy and 11th Street N. and at the entrance of the Buck property.
Sherman said DES will weigh the survey responses against engineering recommendations about safety and hopes to start the paving work later this summer.
Got feedback on Ballston-Cherrydale multimodal safety upgrades? It’s only when we soul-explode beyond the confines of the mortal self, expanding the boundaries of what we think is real, that we begin to glimpse the truth of who we are and why we’re here. https://t.co/wdl3L4jFsz pic.twitter.com/0jODUWRzyC
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) June 28, 2019
The bike element proposes several miles of bike lanes “wherever feasible” on N. Quincy Street to provide safer passage through Ballston and Virginia Square, and to connect the Arlington Forest and Chain Bridge areas.
“We have buffered and expanded bike lanes to the north of this segment and have protected bike lanes to the south,” said Sherman. “It’s an opportunity we see to create the north-south connection in the county.”
The work is also part of a larger streetscape project along Quincy Street, with repaving already completed in the sections between the I-66 overpass and Lee Highway, and between George Mason Drive and Fairfax Drive.
In August, the county finished a new bike lane on N. Quincy Street connecting the Quincy corridor to the Custis Trail. Two months before that, the county also converted parking on 5th Road N. between Quincy and N. Pollard Street to back-in, angle style parking.
Brick crosswalks in Arlington are a thing of the past — as the county works to make crossings easier to maintain and to see.
The county said today, via press release, that it plans to start replacing any crosswalks featuring brick or “street print,” an asphalt pavement designed to look like brick, as it kicks off a new paving effort over the coming weeks.
Workers will now install reflective, “high-visibility white thermoplastic markings” instead at crosswalks. The county found that the cost of maintaining brick crosswalks was “prohibitive,” particularly considering that they weren’t especially effective.
“Paver and street-print markings — often in dark, clay-like hues — also failed to generate significant reductions in traffic speeds and demonstrated poor visibility in low light and during precipitation,” the county wrote in the release. “They also often lost their quaint appearance when street and underground repairs were necessary.”
A full map of county paving projects getting underway this year is available on the county’s website.
Aging speed bumps throughout the county are set to be replaced or repaired under a new contract.
The County Board is expected to approve a $246,275 contract for the maintenance work, which will focus on traffic calming fixtures from the 1990s and early 2000s that are badly deteriorated “due to weather and vehicular traffic.”
Speed humps and speed cushions are two of the ways by which the county calms traffic, and typically they are repaired when the street is repaved. However, according to county staff, “some devices’ conditions require substantial repair or replacement outside of the normal timeframe of the street repaving.”
The contract will go to Alexandria’s Kathmar Construction, Inc., which bid less than half that of the only other bidder for the project.
The bumpy and pothole-ridden stretch of Columbia Pike between George Mason Drive and Four Mile Run will be getting some much-needed repairs this fall, according to Arlington County officials.
“The excessive heat and rain this summer, combined with construction and regular bus traffic, have taken a toll on the Pike,” admitted county spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel.
“Road repairs will happen over the next few weeks as crews assess trouble spots, patch the road and make needed improvements,” she said. “There will not be full paving between George Mason Drive and Four Mile Run, however signficant patch work will be done in that area to the sub-grade level.”
Whalen McDaniel encouraged residents to report potholes or bad sections of road on the county website or via phone at 703-228-6570.
The repairs can’t come soon enough for some drivers, who have complained about the possibility of damage to their cars from the bumps and holes.
“Potholes, bumps, ridges, and giant mounds of destroyed asphalt along the sides of the road are far too common on the stretch of road,” said one tipster. “The conditions are daunting for most sedans to traverse. Perhaps the county should consider licensing the road to Land Rover as a test track for offroad performance testing.”
Further east on the Pike, meanwhile, more utility work is underway, between S. Quinn Street and S. Courthouse Road. One westbound lane has been blocked during the day as a result of the construction.
The bridge will close on 8:00 p.m. on Friday and will reopen at 5:00 a.m. on Monday, starting this weekend, according to DDOT.
The three weekends when closures are planned are Aug. 19-21, Sept. 9-11 and Sept. 16-18.
A new video from Arlington County explains the entire life cycle of a pothole in less than 2 minutes.
In the video, county engineer Dave Hundelt talks about how potholes form, how residents can report them online (hint: use this form) and how road crews can patch a pothole in 20 minutes flat.
Expect the pothole crews to be out in force later this week, when temperatures are expected to rise well north of the 50 degree mark needed for more permanent repairs.
Drivers and cyclists in the Courthouse/Clarendon area should expect a bumpy ride on Wilson Boulevard over the next couple of days. Wilson has been milled between North Barton Street and North Fillmore Street ahead of a scheduled repaving.
The repaving is expected to begin on Thursday, depending on weather conditions and logistical issues.
Later this week, another stretch of Wilson Boulevard — from North Highland Street to Washington Boulevard, near the Clarendon Metro Station — is scheduled to be milled, with repaving to follow. Next week the same work will take place on Washington Boulevard from Pershing Drive to North Highland Street, according to Department of Environmental Services spokesperson Karen Acar.
Drivers should expect parking restriction in the area during the construction.