Join Club
A dip in the road along the 1100 block N. Randolph Street (staff photo by Dan Egitto)

On a recent afternoon along a stretch of N. Randolph Street in Ballston, a periodic thump-thump could be heard as drivers ran over a series of ruts in the road.

Some swerve or slow down substantially at an especially deep indentation midway down the 1100 block of N. Randolph Street. This is one of several dips between Washington Blvd and Fairfax Drive resulting from utility cuts during service line replacements.

Further down the road, at the intersection with Fairfax Drive, Washington Gas — the utility company responsible for the job — has filled in a rough spot in response to a resident’s complaints.

The patch, however, is higher than the surrounding road. Vehicles visibly rise and fall as they drive over it.

A local resident who asked to remain anonymous has been emailing county officials since January attempting to bring improvements to the street.

The county has contacted Washington Gas, but Arlington — despite being ultimately responsible for the street — doesn’t control how quickly the repairs get done, Communications Specialist Kiara Candelaria Nieves told ARLnow.

“Water, Sewer and Streets has no role in enforcement,” she said. “There is also no way to calculate the average time to close a request from when it’s received to when the work is completed by the utility.”

People can submit service requests through the county’s website. But again, when the county receives this feedback, it will simply “relay the information to the responsible utility.”

Water, Sewer and Streets will deem a request ‘closed’ once it has notified the private utility, but the timeline for work completion is up to the utility or its contractors,” Candelaria Nieves said.

As a utility company, Washington Gas operates under a different set of agreed-upon rules with the county — including any potential consequences for incomplete work — than those of a contractor, she said. Unlike with a contractor, the county cannot just terminate a contract if Washington Gas is slow to fix road issues.

Back on N. Randolph Street, county staff told our tipster that the bump at the Fairfax intersection doesn’t appear to be permanent “and may just be this way during utility repairs.” In the end, it’s the utility company’s job, not the county’s, to fix the ruts, the resident was told.

So for now, the swerving and rumbling will continue.

4 Comments

(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) The cherry blossoms have passed their peak and the days are getting warmer and longer. That means all signs point to the start of street paving season.

Every year, in March, the Dept. of Environmental Services embarks on its seasonal effort to repave some of its 1,061 lane miles of roadway. After stepping up repaving after years of anemic paving rates, the county has sharpened its focus on streets in poor condition and those that have a lot of traffic.

This year, nearly 58 lane miles are slated for repaving, says Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Peter Golkin. That is down from 74 lane miles last year and below the county’s typical target of 72 miles per year.

“That’s a bit lower than previous years but it takes into account the milder winter allowing for more maintenance,” he said.

More maintenance throughout the winter resulted in fewer road segments with cracking and potholes — two of the metrics the county uses for ranking streets from “poor” to “excellent.”

“Also factored in: avoiding conflicts with current and upcoming projects by other County departments and Washington Gas,” he said.

A new map, released Tuesday, shows which streets the county will pave and repair.

Some of the major streets slated for repavement include segments of:

“Paving season kicked off this week along S. Grant Street between 23rd and 24th Street S. with full depth paving,” Golkin said. “The more familiar mill and overlay work is starting somewhat later than usual, mid-April, to allow for public engagement regarding pavement markings and related safety features. Also, a new concrete maintenance contractor is getting a jump on some work pre-paving.”

As part of the repaving project, some existing traffic-calming features will be repaved, including a traffic circle at N. Highland Street and 7th Street N. in Lyon Park and speed “cushions” on N. Livingston Street in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood, near the county line.

Over the last nine years, the county has worked to bring up the “pavement condition index” on its roads from an overall score of 67 (out of 100), which is considered “fair,” to 82.4, which is considered “good,” in 2021, according to the proposed Fiscal Year 2024 budget.

“With the improvement in average PCI to 82.4, the County will be placing more emphasis on re-builds for streets with low PCI and/or with high traffic impacts,” per the budget. “Arterials are repaved more often due to the traffic volumes and type of vehicles using them, while neighborhood streets get slurry seal treatment every seven to ten years to extend their life rather than re-paving them as often.”

Arlington County plans to spend $10.3 million on paving in the FY 2024 budget, compared to $11.5 million in FY 2023, according to budget documents.

The county, meanwhile, is also attending to potholes that may have formed during the winter months. So far in 2023, Arlington had some 260 potholes, compared to 663 for the first three months of 2022, Golkin says.

“Less freezing and less need for road salt during winter obviously helps keep road surfaces in better shape,” he said.

For the eighth year in a row, the D.C. area had a relatively mild winter. The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang declared the end of the season last week, noting winter hardly showed up.

Photos 3, 67, 10 and 12 via Google Maps

0 Comments
Joe’s Kwik Mart and an above-ground utility pole (via Google Maps)

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.

Wilson Blvd improvements map (via Arlington County)
0 Comments

Some safety and accessibility improvements to a busy intersection in Pentagon City, near Costco, could move forward soon.

If the Arlington County Board awards the contract, which it is slated to do this weekend, the S. Fern Street and 15th Street S. intersection would to get a new traffic signal, while the existing paver crosswalks — which appear to be deteriorating — will be replaced with marked crosswalks.

The southwest corner would get a curb extension and the southeast corner will get new curb ramps and curb and gutter. Arlington County says the project will have “minimal impacts” to nearby properties, according to a board report.

The report says says it is undertaking this project because it probably won’t happen in conjunction with private redevelopment projects. Arlington County uses the bevy of development in Pentagon City and Crystal City — including Amazon’s HQ2 — as a vehicle for providing public benefits such as revamping old streetscapes.

“This project is part of the ongoing Crystal City/Pentagon City Accessibility and Safety Improvements in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) that makes repairs and improvements to crosswalks and curb ramps, traffic signal upgrades, landscape upgrades, bike facility upgrades, signage and striping modifications, and streetlighting,” according to a board report. “The project focuses on areas outside existing, discrete projects and private developments that are making similar improvements.”

This intersection is a few blocks from the Pentagon City Metro station and right by Amazon’s second headquarters, the first phase of which is under-construction and the second phase of which obtained Arlington County Board approval earlier this year.

Site context for the proposed improvements to the 15th Street S. and S. Fern Street intersection in Pentagon City (via Arlington County)

The nearly $698,000 contract, which includes almost $91,000 in contingency, is slated to go before the County Board for approval on Saturday.

It will mostly be covered with a $635,062 grant from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

The project is part of an ongoing program to upgrade traffic signal infrastructure, per the county report.

“Transportation Engineers use a variety of methods to prioritize signal upgrade locations, including the type of signal, age of the infrastructure, and the type of roadway facilities impacted,” according to the county website.

The report says staff will update the community in the weeks leading up to construction and periodically during construction via an email group list, a construction notification letter, the project webpage and the neighborhood-based social network Nextdoor.

0 Comments
Pothole on Lorcom Lane in 2014 (file photo)

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.

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.

Total potholes filled annually from 2017 through 2021

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.

Miles of streets planned for repaving versus repaved, since 2019

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.”

0 Comments

A dedicated bus lane and new bus stops are set to come for Crystal Drive and 12th Street S. as part of an expansion of the Crystal City/Potomac Yard Transitway to Pentagon City.

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.

A map of improvements to 12th Street S. and Crystal Drive (via Arlington County)

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.

Read More

0 Comments

Arlington County is seeking public input about improvements to the portion of S. Eads Street between 12th and 15th streets in Pentagon City.

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.

S. Eads Street has seen constant construction, planned improvements, and redevelopment in recent years due in large part to Amazon’s arrival to the county.

The other side of S. Eads Street — southbound — is also set to receive improvements as part of later phases of the (Amazon-funded) Metropolitan Park development.

Image (2) via Arlington County

0 Comments

(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.

At an online meeting tonight from 6:30-7:30 p.m., held via Microsoft Teams, county staff will present the concept plans for its three 2020 projects while seeking public feedback.

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)

The country recently repaved and re-striped portions of Lorcom Lane and Military Road. The work was done in conjunction with construction on the new Dorothy Hamm Middle School.

An online open house in April discussed all four projects.

0 Comments

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.

DES tweeted about the (now closed) project survey last week, along with a reference to presidential candidate and meme-machine Marianne Williamson.

The  recently-updated bike element portion of the county’s master transportation plan proposes N. Quincy Street become part of a north-south bike corridor.

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.

Image 1, 3-5 via Arlington County, image 2 via Google Maps

0 Comments

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.

0 Comments

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.

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list