Arlington, VA

(Updated at 10:40 a.m.) Big changes are finally coming to the intersection of N. Glebe Road and Lee Highway.

The Arlington County Board will consider a project to add left turn lanes to Glebe approaching the busy intersection. Also part of the project: undergrounding utilities, upgrading bus stops and streetlights, and replacing an old water main.

Currently, northbound and southbound traffic on Glebe each gets its own green light, allowing unobstructed left turns. The new turn lanes will allow simultaneous green lights, thus improving traffic flow and giving pedestrians more time to cross the street, according to a county staff report.

The construction will come with a steep price tag: between $3.4 and 3.9 million. The Board is set to vote on a contract with the low bidder, Rustler Construction, Inc., at its meeting this Saturday.

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, allowing the roadway expansion, which has general support from local residents.

“There is broad public support for this project because it is significantly improving multimodal mobility and access without any trade-offs aside from construction disruptions and right-of-way impacts,” says the staff report.

“During the lengthy easement acquisition process, the design was revised many times to accommodate surrounding property owners’ requests for considerations such as minimizing the amount of offstreet parking lost, maintaining existing driveway accesses, adding landscaping, and shifting bus shelter locations to not hinder the visibility of commercial monument signs.”

One slightly controversial aspect of the project is the LED streetlights Dominion plans to install.

“Several community members and stakeholder groups have expressed concern with the aesthetics and character of the streetlights selected for the project area – Dominion Energy maintained cobra LED style lights,” the staff report says.

“These lights were selected for the project area by the County’s Streetlight Management Plan (SMP)… Cobra LEDs are preferred for both the Lee Highway (Route 29) and Glebe Road (Route 120) project corridors because they more efficiently illuminate higher speed, wider arterial roadways than post-top lights, thus resulting in needing approximately 30% fewer light poles (and sidewalk pole obstructions) in the project area.”

More on the project from county staff:

The project will widen North Glebe Road (Route 120) to add northbound and southbound full-width left turn lanes. The widening of the street necessitated undergrounding the overhead utilities present throughout the project area. Crews began the utility undergrounding work in January 2017 and are nearing completion of this phase.

The subject intersection improvements will improve safety and mobility for motorists, pedestrians, and transit riders at the intersection, as well as reduce cut-thru traffic along adjacent residential neighborhood streets. Following construction of the new left turn lanes and replacement of the traffic signal equipment, the implementation of a new signal phasing and timing plan will significantly decrease vehicle, transit, and pedestrian travel times through the intersection.

The project is also replacing and upsizing over 1,750 LF of old cast iron water mains in the project area and is upgrading the five (5) existing bus stops with new amenities, pads, and shelters (installed by separate project), as well as installing empty underground conduits giving the shelters the capability to be equipped with real-time transit arrival boards if warranted in the future.

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Arlington County’s streetlights are still cooler than the newly approved statewide levels, but they could be warming up.

The county is in the process of switching to the warmer, low-intensity Light Emitting Diode (LED) streetlights favored by dark sky enthusiasts and recommended by the American Medical Association. But those new lights could be years away for most of the county-owned stock.

The Kelvin color scale measures the appearance of light from 1,000 to 10,000 Kelvin (K), with lower temperatures creating a “warmer” orange or yellow light — similar to the older, sodium-vapor streetlights — and higher temperatures creating a “cooler” light in the white or slightly blue range.

Currently, 85 percent of Arlington’s 7,350 county-owned streetlights are LED operate at a cooler 5500K, which is similar to the color of moonlight, officials say. Arlington County will soon be releasing a new Streetlight Management Plan that will recommend a color temperature of 3000K for residential areas and 4000K for mixed-use areas, according to Katie O’Brien, spokeswoman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.

The remaining older lights will be replaced at the end of their life cycle or whenever repairs or street improvements take place.

“This is applicable for streetlight installations moving forward,” said O’Brien. “This includes both new construction and replacements/upgrades. Current County-owned LED streetlights will be updated to new standards during regular maintenance or repairs.”

LED lights have a projected life cycle of 15 years or more, so the brighter and cooler lights kept in good condition could persist long after the standards are changed.

Virginia’s Commonwealth Board of Transportation voted last Wednesday to swap thousands of streetlights with warmer-colored LEDs. According to the legislation:

VDOT has ensured that the proposed LED Project has been designed to minimize lighting impacts to the environment and adjacent residents and property owners, including use of luminaires with a Correlated Color Temperature of 3000K where appropriate, while still providing proper illumination of the road in a way that best benefits road user safety and incident response.

Arlington is not the first locality to tone down its streetlight temperature levels. Chicago and nearby Takoma Park both lowered their streetlight levels to 3000K.

Dominion, which also operates thousands of streetlights in Arlington, is in the midst of its own LED conversion.

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The county could soon get started on some eagerly awaited improvements to Wilson Blvd in Virginia Square this spring.

Between 2009 and 2012, Arlington County completed two previous phases of road construction from N. Quincy Street to N. Lincoln Street, adding new sidewalks, streetlights, trees, bus shelters and a traffic signal at Oakland Street.

The second phase was divided into two different areas, with the first one finished in 2010 and the second one in 2012.

Now, last part of the project has been split into “east” and “west” phases along N. Kenmore Street.

The County Board is now set to award Sagres Construction Corp. a contract and $1,084,766 for the work needed for the “west” portion between N. Monroe Street and N. Kenmore Street. Construction could then begin next spring and then wrap the following summer.

For the final section, which spans from N. Kenmore Street to 10th Street N., construction is expected to start in spring of 2020 and then finish in spring of 2021.

Project elements for both “east” and “west” include new curbs and gutters, ADA-compliant sidewalks, traffic signal improvements, Carlyle-style streetlights and trees along the street. Upgrades to the storm sewers and new asphalt paving, signing and markings will also happen, according to the county.

“During the conceptual design process, residents especially noted concern for providing a safe pedestrian crossing at the N. Kenmore Street intersection,” according to county documents.

The Board is set to approve the contract at its meeting Saturday (Dec. 15) as part of its consent agenda, which is generally reserved for noncontroversial items.

Map via Arlington County

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A light pole toppled over on a busy road near Clarendon this afternoon (Thursday), prompting lane closures and traffic delays.

The pole fell to the ground around 5:45 p.m. on Washington Blvd at the intersection with 10th Street N. At least one vehicle was damaged — a sedan with visible damage to its front that was driven up onto the median. Two other vehicles were stopped nearby with no obvious visible damage. All three were being driven when the streetlight fell.

No serious injuries were reported. It’s unclear what caused the pole to fall.

Emergency vehicles blocked one travel lane in each direction on Washington Blvd, causing traffic backups in the area.

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Morning Notes

I-66 Toll Tweaks Coming — The Virginia Department of Transportation will tweak the algorithm it uses to calculate tolls in the I-66 express lanes, which possibly could lead to lower tolls, although VDOT doesn’t guarantee lower tolls in the long run. The high tolls caused outrage among drivers when they were first instated in December and drew national attention, although transportation officials contend they work as intended with deterring single-passenger vehicle trips. [WTOP]

Three Questions with Del. Lopez — Del. Alfonso Lopez offers some short responses to questions about his accomplishments and challenges facing Arlington. [Arlington Magazine]

Substance Use Town Hall — Arlington County will hold a town hall on substance use tonight at Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road) from 7-9 p.m. Panelists including police, school and human services officials, and the discussion will be moderated by Kimberly Suiters from ABC 7. A resource fair will immediately precede and follow the town hall. [Arlington County]

New Monument for the Old Guard — “A special ceremony [took] place in Arlington, Virginia Tuesday to honor more than 230 years of service by the Third U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard. Soldiers, veterans and leaders from across the Army will gather for the unveiling of The Old Guard Monument at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.” [Fox 5]

Streetlight Demonstration Tonight — County staff will hold an LED streetlight field demonstration bus tour tonight for residents to see and learn more about the products under consideration in the Streetlight Management Plan. The bus leaves at 8 p.m. from the Arlington Career Center (816 S. Walter Reed Drive). Registration is required. [Arlington County]

Traffic Enforcement Time Adjusted — According to an updated press release sent this morning, the all modal traffic enforcement scheduled for tomorrow at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street will now be from 1-2:30 p.m.

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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A light pole was struck by a vehicle in Clarendon and knocked to the ground, but luckily no one was hurt.

The accident happened around 10:15 a.m. Tuesday morning. Initial reports suggest that a box truck hit the pole, in front of Moby Dick House of Kabob (3000 Washington Blvd), sending it crashing down onto the sidewalk.

The glass light covers shattered across the walkway. No injuries were reported and the sidewalk was blocked off by police pending a cleanup.

Photos by Anna Merod

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Morning Notes

September Is National Preparedness Month — Arlington is marking National Preparedness month by reminding residents to sign up for emergency alerts, create an emergency plan and maintain disaster supplies. [Arlington County]

Crash on Columbia Pike — A car veered off the side of Columbia Pike and knocked a light pole over on the sidewalk in front of Lost Dog Cafe. No serious injuries were reported. The aftermath of the crash was caught on video. [Facebook]

Wreck Closes Northbound GW Parkway — Northbound traffic on the GW Parkway was diverted onto Spout Run Parkway for part of the AM rush hour due to a crash this morning near the overlooks. [Washington Post]

Rainy Day Today — Arlington can expect 0.5-1″ of rain throughout the day today as a cold front passes through. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Chris Guyton

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The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to consider five neighborhood improvement projects with a cumulative price tag of $5.3 million.

The projects have been advanced by a county committee via Arlington’s Neighborhood Conservation Program, which encourages neighborhoods to apply for funding for various types of local improvements.

The projects set for approval are:

  •  A new neighborhood sign for Long Branch Creek ($12,500)
  • Street improvements and new streetlights along 31st Street S. in Fairlington, between S. Randolph and Woodrow Streets ($1.7 million)
  • New streetlights on S. Oak, Ode and Orme Streets in Foxcroft Heights ($562,704)
  • Intersection improvements along 2nd Street S. at S. Wayne, Uhle and Wise Streets in Penrose ($1.6 million)
  • Street improvements along N. George Mason Drive between 11th Street N. and I-66 in Waycroft-Woodlawn ($1.4 million)

The County Board is expected to vote on the Neighborhood Conservation projects at its Saturday meeting. The measure also includes an additional $200,000 for the county’s “Missing Link Program,” which funds the construction of small stretches of new sidewalk to connect existing sidewalks.

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Streetlights out near the West Village of Shirlington condo complex

Arlington County says it’s hoping to get a stretch of non-working streetlights near Shirlington switched back on by the end of the year, but residents are complaining that the repairs have taken too long.

The dark streetlights are located along the S. Four Mile Run Drive service road, in front of the West Village of Shirlington condo complex.

Last Thursday, condo management sent an email to residents, encouraging them to press the county to expedite repairs, saying that the lights “have been out for over a year now.”

Hello Residents,

As many of you are aware, Management has made several attempts to have the county make repairs to the street lights on S. Four Mile Run Drive. Unfortunately, we have not been able to make any headway. The County representatives continue to advise us that these repairs are not a priority for them.

In our experience, it is usually helpful for (tax paying county) residents to contact the county. Fortunately, one of your neighbors has done so, and has provided the contact information below. So please bombard the County with your sincere concerns about the community’s safety. Please do remember to include the fact that these lights have been out for over a year now.

Residents say they are concerned about their safety.

“It is pitch black for those walking our pets or those walking to/from our cars,” said resident Chrissy Limetti. “How disappointing to read that resident safety is not a priority.”

The county, however, says that they’ve been working on the issue and expect the lights to be back on by the end of the year.

“Preliminary work on the streetlights in this area has occurred and crews will begin underground repairs in the next month,” Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Kathryn O’Brien tells ARLnow.com. “Repairs are expected to be completed by the end of December.”

The repairs are taking longer than usual because of the nature of what caused the outage in the first place.

“In this particular case, the outage is an underground issue caused by an old cable that will be replaced,” O’Brien said. “The complexity of the underground issue determines the response time which may take 45 days or longer. For an above ground issue (e.g., bulb replacement), repairs take about 14-21 days but more extensive equipment is required to repair an underground utility problem.”

O’Brien could not confirm whether a county employee actually said that the repairs weren’t a priority.

“To our knowledge, no one on our streetlights team told this person that their issue wasn’t a priority,” she said. “We are still investigating this to see if they may have spoken to someone else. Every outage is a priority and the type of outage and availability of crews and equipment determines the completion time.”

Streetlight outages can be reported to the county online.

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“Some cities are taking another look at LED lighting after AMA warning.”

That was the headline from a Washington Post article last Sunday, discussing the pushback against modern Light Emitting Diode streetlights in local communities. While the new streetlights are more energy efficient, last longer and save money compared to older sodium lights, some say they are too bright or cast to harsh of a light.

The American Medical Association warns that excessive blue light from certain LED streetlights could “disturb sleep rhythms and possibly increase the risk of serious health conditions,” according to the Post. Localities, however, say LED streetlights are not only more economical and more ecological, but are safer for drivers as well, helping to improve visibility on streets.

In Arlington, 85 percent of the more than 7,000 county-owned streetlights are now LED, according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien. Arlington’s streetlights operate at 5500 Kelvin, she said, casting a bluer tint than the warmer 3000K color temperature recommended by the AMA. The blue tint has been compared to that cast by natural moonlight.

When LED streetlights were first rolled out in Arlington neighborhoods, there were loud complaints from some groups of residents. Since then, O’Brien said, many of the complaints about lighting technology — more than 50 formal complaints between 2013 and 2016 — have been addressed.

“The County has installed shields on county-owned LED streetlights to help better direct the light towards the sidewalk and street,” she said. “Most LED streetlights are also on a dimming schedule to decrease in brightness throughout the course of the night, dimmed as low as 25% of full brightness.”

Nonetheless, the county is studying the AMA report.

“Arlington County streetlights meet current federal standards,” O’Brien said. “The County is studying AMA’s report that LED lights may have negative health and environmental impacts. We are researching this issue and will consider this report, industry standards, and other factors in making a final decision around LED streetlight temperature as part of the County’s Street Light Management Plan that will be completed in 2017. Additionally, our staff will work closely with Arlington’s Public Health Division throughout this process.”

LED streetlights are 75 percent more energy efficient than older models. Arlington expects to save $1 million annually once all county streetlights are converted to LED technology.

What do you think about LED streetlights in Arlington?

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Something knocked down a lamppost in Courthouse this afternoon.

The light toppled over in front of the CVS Pharmacy, near the Metro station. Luckily, no one was reported to be hurt by the falling mass of metal and glass.

The lamppost is located next to a bus stop. However, by the time an ARLnow.com reporter arrived on scene the lamppost had already been moved out of the middle of the sidewalk and none of the buses idling nearby had any sign of damage.

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