Better signage and wider lanes may be on their way for the Custis Trail.
The four-mile paved trail between the Key Bridge and the W&OD Trail is “a very useful short cut for area cyclists” getting to downtown D.C., but has some missing signage and limited sight lines, says local bicycling guide BikeWashington.org.
This winter, Arlington’s Environmental Services and Parks and Recreation departments began reviewing the trail to determine what kinds of improvements should be made.
The county says it intends to widen the trail to 12 feet in width where possible, enhance trail markings and wayfinding and improve existing lighting.
“This review will document the existing conditions of the trail and its access points, identify maintenance and improvement opportunities, and look for opportunities for future investment in the trail that delivers on county goals for park access, recreation, and multimodal transportation,” a project overview says.
Through Sunday, Feb. 18, people can submit feedback on how they use the trail, what their current experiences are and what changes they would like to see.
So far, resident feedback has raised concerns about poor and inconsistent lighting and paving, hazards from culverts and tree roots, poor visibility and a troublesome intersection near the Key Bridge that commenters say could benefit from a redesign.
The county is due to release preliminary infrastructure recommendations and a draft report in the spring, followed by a final report in the summer.
Photo via Google Maps
Wider sidewalks, additional turning lanes and changes to bus stops are part of a newly released plan to make a busy stretch of Glebe Road safer.
The Virginia Department of Transportation on Monday announced possible changes to 2.4 miles of Glebe Road between Columbia Pike and I-66.
This stretch of Glebe Road being studied, which averages about 24,000 vehicles a day, has registered numerous crashes in recent memory, including a crash in the Ballston area that injured multiple people in April 2022.
Several of the proposed upgrades are intended to address pedestrian safety.
VDOT is considering widening all sidewalks on this stretch to 5 feet and upgrading curb ramps in keeping with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Sidewalks on the west side of Glebe Road between 14th Street N. and 13th Street N. would be widened to 8 feet to create a “multi-use path,” according to a press release.
The state would also create a “pedestrian refuge island” by removing the leftmost southbound lane of Glebe Road at N. Carlin Springs Road and widening the median.
Plans also indicate two left-turn lanes could be added to N. Carlin Springs Road, which drew criticism from Chris Slatt, chair of Arlington’s Transportation Commission.
VDOT proposing to add double-left turn lanes, in an urban area, as part of SAFETY project. Time to burn it all down and start fresh over there. pic.twitter.com/yK8M4kzK9E
— Chris Slatt (@alongthepike) February 6, 2024
Other proposed changes include:
- Changing the N. Carlin Springs Road lane configuration in order to add a second left turn lane.
- Adding a dedicated southbound Glebe Road left turn lane and dedicated northbound right turn lane at N. Quincy Street, a bike lane on the southbound Glebe Road approach at N. Quincy Street and N. Henderson Street, and special transit signal heads for the southbound bus lane.
- Combining bus stops between 4th Street N. and N. Quebec Street into two new bus stops connected by a new crosswalk with rectangular rapid flashing beacons.
- Adding a dedicated southbound Glebe Road left turn lane at 7th Street S.
VDOT — which expects to complete its study of this stretch of roadway in the fall — is now taking public comment on the plans.
People have until Monday, Feb. 19 to provide a second round of feedback on the department’s plans for this portion of the roadway, which contains 32 intersections.
Arlington County will kick off the New Year with the next phase of engagement on its forthcoming plan to manage its deer population.
A study found two years ago that Arlington’s deer population exceeds healthy levels, with the county’s forested areas home to about 20 and 39 deer per square. About 1.5 years ago, the Dept. of Parks and Recreation began considering a management plan in response.
Today, the department is considering three ways to lower the population, including sharp-shooting, citizen hunting and sterilization. Another option, fencing off trees, would focus on tackling a purported effect of “overbrowsing,” when large deer populations eat too much of the forest understory.
Some naturalists welcomed the culling options presented. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington, which provides animal control services for the county, meanwhile, champions non-lethal options and has criticized the process so far as “one-sided.”
Early next year, the parks department will host a virtual information session to introduce a second round of community engagement on potential deer management strategies, according to a new timeline it published today (Monday).
Residents can also expect a new feedback form and have the chance to participate in more community meetings before DPR crafts draft recommendations, the timeline says.
These recommendations will be the subject of a third round of public engagement — including another feedback form — before DPR drafts and releases final recommendations.
At some future point yet to be determined, County Manager Mark Schwartz will take action on the final recommendations, per the timeline.
Although this work continues well into 2024, some local environmentalists say the county should have strengthened its discussion of deer management in a forthcoming county master plan governing stewardship of trees and natural resources.
“The role of high white-tailed deer numbers and invasive plants should be more clearly articulated in the environmental degradation of Arlington’s forested areas and included in the plan’s priorities,” Climate Change, Energy and Environment Commission Chair Joan McIntyre wrote in a letter to the Arlington County Board this fall.
“Reducing deer numbers and treating invasive plants are both critical to restoration of our natural areas,” she continued.
The Forestry and Natural Resources Commission expressed its concern that the plan did not treat overbrowsing specifically as a forestry management priority.
“Independent scientific research has ‘noted that tree regeneration failure is widespread and that without active deer management, ecological health of Arlington County’s natural areas will likely continue to degrade,'” writes commission chair Phil Klingelhofer.
The Planning Commission is set to review and vote on the final draft of the Forestry and Natural Resources plan tonight (Monday), teeing up the County Board for a vote on Dec. 16.
The Board authorized this month’s hearings in October. At the time, Board member Takis Karantonis noted he would spend the next two months talking about deer, among other topics.
“There is no question… we are out of balance, we have species that are abundant because we have killed or eliminated factors that balance their population,” he said at the time.
Of deer, the draft plan says “many” Arlingtonians note that expanding deer populations are having “harmful impacts.”
“General sentiment favors striking a balance between managing negative impacts of wildlife while also protecting habitats that benefit Arlington’s ecosystem,” the plan says.
It resolves to inform management with surveys on existing and emerging pests and “high-impact organisms.” By way of example, the plan highlights the 2021 deer count that determined Arlington County had unhealthy deer population levels.
Going forward, “such surveys will be critical to identifying threats early, informing management efforts and can tie into education campaigns,” the plan says.
In a bid to improve accountability, the Arlington County Fire Department is looking to put its mission and priorities in writing with its first-ever strategic plan.
The plan is designed to help the department identify its values and strengths and determine where to channel its resources over the next five years.
“The core values that someone wrote or prescribed in years past don’t necessarily reflect what [community members and fire personnel] believe in and feel represent them today,” ACFD Assistant Fire Chief Jason Jenkins told ARLnow. “This is our opportunity to rebrand our mission, reimagine our core values to again focus on our future.”
Although a strategic plan is not mandatory, Jenkins — who spent 26 years at Fairfax County Fire and Rescue before coming to Arlington — said he believes it would provide clarity where there is “a lot of uncertainty” around the department’s goals.
“And without a clear focus, or clarity around the organizational goals, then it leaves folks wonder wondering where are we going, and how do we plan to get there,” he said.
Jenkins also the strategic plan could also inform how firefighters, and other resources, are allocated from station to station. The fire department got a boost last year when the Arlington County Board greenlit the hiring of 40 more firefighters and instituted a Kelly Day, which cut the average workweek from 56 to 50 hours.
As ACFD begins to recover from several years of understaffing, which led to a troubling reliance on overtime, it is also having to evolve to respond to new public safety threats and more medical emergencies.
The strategic plan could ensure ACFD has “the right type apparatus in the right places as well as an effective number of specially trained firefighters on duty to mitigate any multitude of hazards,” Brian Lynch, president of the firefighters union, Local 2800, tells ARLnow.
“This is even more important now as Arlington continues to grow and threats, such as climate change, increase the risks we need to protect the community from,” he said.
Lynch commended Jenkins for his “energy” in helping spearhead the strategic plan.
“We are optimistic that by listening to the people who make the department work, as well as the people we serve, combined with the assistance of outside experts, will help guide the efforts to make a safer Arlington for all,” Lynch said.
Work on the strategic plan kicked off earlier this month with an in-person feedback session at the Long Bridge Aquatic Center.
About 20 community stakeholders, including county government representatives, civic association members and local business owners, filled out surveys about the department’s strengths and areas in need of improvement.
They also rated which programs — including fire code enforcement and prevention, fire suppression, and emergency medical services — they believe the department should prioritize.
The feedback will be published as part of a final draft of the strategic plan, which Jenkins says should be ready by Feb. 1, 2024.
The northern portion of Lacey Woods Park will be getting a facelift.
Arlington County will replace the lighted basketball court and multi-use field at the 14-acre park along N. George Mason Drive near Ballston, according to a project webpage.
The building housing both a picnic shelter and restrooms will be replaced with a new picnic shelter and structure for restrooms.
Arlington County is mulling two design concepts for this project. It is seeking public feedback on these concepts via an online survey open now through next Thursday, Oct. 26.
“Your feedback will help inform updates to the existing amenities, including a preferred layout for the restrooms and picnic shelter,” the survey says.
In the first concept, the bathrooms and picnic shelter both border the new court and the restroom entrance is off to the side.
In the second concept, the bathroom entrance faces the court and the picnic shelter is behind the bathrooms.
The county will also update site furnishings and make improvements for circulation and accessibility for people with disabilities. There will be landscaping, drainage and stormwater management upgrades.
This project is set to cost a little more than $2 million and was approved as part of the 2019-28 Capital Improvement Plan. Some $388,000 comes from short-term financing and another $1.6 million from bonds.
“Capital maintenance projects address facilities that have exceeded their lifespan and are in need of renovation,” the survey says. “Renovations to the existing playground and the addition of new amenities are not within the scope of this project.”
A picnic shelter in the southern half of the site was replaced in 2014.
The county is currently estimating that construction on this project would start in the second quarter of 2025 and wrap up in the last quarter of the year.
Arlington County is looking to make safety upgrades to an intersection between Rosslyn and Courthouse that has seen four pedestrian-involved crashes in four years.
The intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Rhodes Street has long been seen as dicey, according to complaints from cyclists and commuters and previous ARLnow coverage. Resident complaints, plus a review of crash data, have prompted the county to make changes now.
The $2.8 million project would see updated signal equipment, sidewalks and pedestrian ramps and upgrades to reduce conflicts between cyclists and buses. The county is in the design stage of the project and wants community feedback on possible changes. An online survey is open now through Sunday, Oct. 22.
The intersection saw 28 total crashes between 2016 and 2020, including 22 resulting in property damage and four involving pedestrians, Dept. of Environmental Services spokesperson Claudia Pors told ARLnow. These numbers fast tracked the intersection for improvements as part of Vision Zero, the county’s goal to end serious and fatal crashes by 2030,
“[The intersection] was flagged as a pedestrian crash Hot Spot because it had more than 3 pedestrian crashes,” Pors said.
Pedestrians are especially vulnerable to crashes here “due to higher vehicle speeds during turning movements when pedestrians have the right of way in the crosswalks,” according to the county.
The intersection has seen several crashes over the years. A spate of three crashes occurred in 2010, including one involving a pedestrian. Another dramatic crash, including an SUV that flipped on its side, occurred in 2017.
Originally, the county planned to build a “bus stop island” at the northeast corner of the intersection to reduce the number of close calls between cyclists and buses. This particular bus stop ranks in the top 10% of transit stops in Arlington, exceeding 50 users per day, according to the county.
After reviewing the crash data and hearing from road users, however, county staff determined it made more sense to overhaul the entire intersection.
The survey asks respondents to identify whether they are residents or commuters and to specify their usual mode of transportation through the intersection. Participants are then invited to rate their sense of safety while navigating the area and to pinpoint potential improvements on an interactive map.
Some people who have already commented have suggested removing the right-turn lane onto Wilson Blvd and install a concrete median to separate cyclists and vehicles. Other ideas include relocating the bus stop to ease congestion and implementing traffic-calming measures.
The survey results will inform a conceptual design set for publication this winter for a second round of public engagement.
A cavernous space inside the recently-refurbished county headquarters in Courthouse could one day be filled with public art.
Arlington County has commissioned acclaimed artist Kipp Kobayashi, known for his art displays in hospitals, airports and government buildings, to suspend a public art project in the lobby of the Bozman Government Center at 2100 Clarendon Blvd.
Kobayashi is turning to Arlington residents for inspiration before he gets started. He is seeking public input via a survey to learn about the different routes residents take to get to some of their favorite places in Arlington.
“Please tell us your stories, memories, and experiences of Arlington County by sharing a special route that you currently take or have taken through Arlington County,” the survey says. “The route should be to a place that you find especially meaningful. Examples are a park, place of worship, restaurant, friend’s house, bike trail, bench, etc.”
Feedback received through Sept. 30 will help inform his designs, according to the county.
“With a background in urban design, Kobayashi’s public art method involves extensive field observation and personal interactions to identify the individual elements that together form the identity of a place,” a press release said.
Kobayashi and county staff will also be at the Arlington County Fair this week during indoor hours for people to share their experiences in Arlington directly with the artist.
The artwork’s design, fabrication, and installation have a set budget of $200,000, county spokesman Ryan Hudson said.
The funding comes from the county’s Public Art Trust & Agency account, which is earmarked exclusively for the Courthouse area, Hudson added. The trust relies on contributions from developers rather than resident tax dollars.
According to his website, Kobayashi’s art stems from his experiences growing up as an Asian American, “leading to a lifelong interest in deconstructing preconceived notions of who and what we are to understand better unique patterns that present a more nuanced interpretation of identity and cultural belonging.”
Some of Kobayashi’s recent displays include hundreds of hand-folded paper planes, called “Collective Transitions,” at Meacham Airport in Fort Worth, Texas, and “hundreds of custom-made fishing flies swirling together in a central grouping,” called “Emergence,” in Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington.
Kobayashi was selected by a committee that met several times over the course of a year to define goals for the project, review artist submissions and select an artist.
The committee will also recommend the final artwork design.
Arlington County is looking to tweak how its athletic fields are used and reserved.
Through Sept. 8, residents will have the chance to participate in a survey which county staff plan to use to develop policy that will “ensure more equitable access for recreation.”
The study is part of the Public Spaces Master Plan which calls for the county to solicit feedback from residents every five years on how frequently and at what times of day people use the fields.
In the initial survey, residents highlighted that there was not enough time and space dedicated to unscheduled casual “drop-in” or “community use” of athletic fields for community activities and requested better access to lighted fields — currently 36 out of 96 fields have lights — on weeknights and weekends.
The issue of access to athletic fields for unplanned athletic and non-athletic activities has become increasingly contentious in recent years.
Before it was adopted in 2019, the Public Spaces Master Plan came under fire from opponents who argued the county had set aside more space for athletic fields than it needed, reducing the amount of available land for other facilities, such as parks and schools.
In 2021, the Aurora Highlands Civic Association wrote numerous letters to the Arlington County Board and circulated a petition pushing for “open access” to nearby diamond athletic fields during hours when there are no scheduled games “to relax, throw frisbees, sunbathe, or even write petitions.”
However, proponents claim demand for scheduled use of sports fields is growing and believe the county should invest to help solve this problem.
To resolve these issues, Jennifer Fioretti, deputy director of Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said county staff have proposed two solutions via the Athletic Field Availability Draft Framework.
First, staff have developed a formula that calculates the “utilization rate” for each field in the county. Fioretti said she believes this strategy will help the department better understand individual field use, thereby improving “operational efficiency.”
“We will use the data, for example, to inform the re-balancing of scheduled activities and to create opportunities for community use that may have not been available in the past,” she told ARLnow in an email.
Second, county staff propose reclassifying the six fields currently labeled as “Drop-In/Community Use” to a “Permit Takes Priority” status.
Fioretti said the six drop-in fields, which include Gunston 3, Barcroft 5, VA Highlands 2, Westover, TJ Lower Field and Rocky Run, can still be reserved, which causes confusion because “Community Use/Drop-In” implies there are no activities scheduled.
The idea, she noted, is to “further simplify our field designations” in order to “spread scheduled community time throughout the County.”
“By eliminating the Drop-In/Community Use designation we will be identifying community time and scheduled sport specific times at more locations throughout the entire county,” Fioretti said.
Of Arlington’s 96 athletic fields, 12 are currently “Permit-Only,” 78 are “Permit Takes Priority,” and 6 are “Drop-In/Community Use fields.”
By participating in the second survey, residents will have the opportunity to provide feedback about the proposal which Fioretti said will help county staff determine whether it is “on the right track” or whether its proposal needs to be modified.
Arlington is looking to operate buses more frequently and expand service with more off-peak and weekend service.
These are just some of the recommendations that could be implemented as part of an overhaul of the municipal bus service, called Arlington Transit, over the next decade. The changes are part of an update to Arlington’s Transit Strategic Plan, which it is required to have by state law and update every six years.
As part of the update, Arlington County will be redesigning service in North Arlington and enhancing service along Columbia Pike, in Pentagon City and Crystal City, and around the under-construction Shirlington Transit Center. The proposed changes also include closing down some underutilized routes, adding service to community destinations such as Long Bridge Park, and ensuring schedules use easy-to-remember time intervals.
This update comes as ridership continues to recover from being slashed in half by the pandemic.
From July 2022 to this March, the most recent ART Bus ridership report available, monthly ridership increased from 130,299 to 164,516. Today, the highest concentration of riders is taking the bus north-south between Columbia Pike or Shirlington and the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor or east-west along Langston Blvd.
Still, there are gaps in service and barriers to bus use that this update is intended to address. In preparation for the strategic plan update, the county says it heard from users that their biggest asks are reliability, frequency and efficiency, as well as a better user experience.
“People want more direct routes with fewer transfers, taking less time to make their trips… [as well as] a better user experience (clean buses, safe and accessible waiting areas, and high levels of customer service and transparency) overall,” the county said.
Right now, reliability can depend on which route users take. ART bus data from March, for instance, shows that on-time performance is higher from Rosslyn to East Falls Church and from Crystal City to Courthouse but lower from Columbia Pike to Rosslyn and Courthouse. The Columbia Pike routes, however, see four to six times the number of riders.
Well, I was wanting to go to the #VisionZero open house at Arlington Mill rec center, but as usual, the 45 @ART_Alert is a no-show *twice in a row* from N Barton St near Courthouse. Been standing here waiting for 40+ minutes. Ironic, yes? pic.twitter.com/o7Xb6ZX3OE
— Theo in Arlington 🏘️🚴💛 (@TheoForARL) April 26, 2023
The county tracked where bus service and demand are mismatched, plus researched popular places people congregate and want to go to — but currently cannot get to easily by bus. County staff specifically looked at places with higher concentrations of people without cars, seniors and people with disabilities or limited English proficiency, among other socioeconomic factors.
It found the following communities, circled in the graphic, could benefit from expanded service.
New routes serving these identified neighborhoods include a new ART 43 providing a “one-seat ride” between Clarendon, Courthouse, Rosslyn and Crystal City — a potential time and cost-saver compared to Metrorail — and a new ART 85, linking Shirlington, Long Branch Creek, Aurora Highlands, Crystal City and Potomac Yard.
“We’ve looked at the proposed route changes in detail and have a bunch of recommendations, both for routes that need improved frequencies, as well as for routes that are overly meandering, duplicative and should not be a priority in this constrained fiscal environment where both buses and bus drivers are at a premium,” SusMo said.
Changes might eventually be coming to the busy stretch of Glebe Road between Columbia Pike and I-66 in Ballston.
The Virginia Dept. of Transportation today kicked off the public engagement process for a study of the state-maintained stretch of arterial roadway.
The study, which will take about a year and a half, is part of a VDOT program to “develop comprehensive, innovative transportation solutions to relieve congestion bottlenecks and solve critical traffic and safety challenges throughout the commonwealth.”
A new public survey for the study is open through Thursday, July 27. It notes that Glebe Road is a “major north-south travel corridor for Arlington County, and the segments in the study area are in the County’s High Injury Network.”
Earlier this year ARLnow reported that an intersection in the study area, S. Glebe Road and 9th Street S., was on tap to get some safety upgrades — potentially to include a traffic signal — in response to community concerns, particularly among cyclists.
VDOT said on its survey page that the study will only result in proposals and will not automatically lead to construction.
“This STARS (Strategically Targeted Affordable Roadway Solutions) study… will consider and develop potential safety and operational improvements for all users in the study area and develop cost estimates for the preferred alternatives,” the department said.
“The study will not set construction dates for any of the alternatives,” continued VDOT. “The purpose of this study is to develop proposed improvements that localities can pursue for funding, and to consider including in their comprehensive plans.”
More, below, from a VDOT press release.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is seeking feedback on a STARS (Strategically Targeted Affordable Roadway Solutions) study assessing potential safety, multimodal and operational improvements for over two miles of Glebe Road (Route 120) between Columbia Pike (Route 244) and I-66. Glebe Road averages about 29,000 vehicles a day within the study limits.
VDOT invites residents and travelers to take an online survey regarding corridor priorities. This feedback will be used to help develop improvement alternatives that will be evaluated and presented during another opportunity for public comment scheduled this fall.
The survey, which has a translation tool for Spanish and many other languages, is available at virginiadot.org/GlebeSTARS through July 27. Comments can also be sent to [email protected] or to Mr. Bobby Mangalath, P.E., Virginia Department of Transportation, 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030.
The study is expected to be completed this winter. It does not set construction dates for any improvements but develops proposed improvements that localities can pursue for funding.
VDOT ensures nondiscrimination and equal employment in all programs and activities in accordance with Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If you need more information or special assistance for persons with disabilities or limited English proficiency, contact VDOT Civil Rights at 703-259-1775.
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) July 13, 2023
Hunting and sterilizing deer and fencing off parks are options Arlington County could pursue to cull its reportedly oversized, and hungry, deer population.
Over the last two years, consultants estimated Arlington has a herd of whitetail deer numbering 290 and, in some areas, the concentration exceeded “healthy” levels.
These large herds are overgrazing the local forest understory and eating away the habitat that sustains birds, insects and bats, according to consultants, the Dept. of Parks and Recreation and some local naturalists.
Now, the parks department is investigating ways to cull the deer. Interested residents can attend a forum on Tuesday, July 11 at the Lubber Run Community Center to learn about management options and share their thoughts.
Through Thursday, July 13, residents can take an online survey to share their thoughts on the four lethal and non-lethal methods on the table:
- professional sharpshooting
- surgical sterilization of female deer
- public archery hunting
- fenced parks
“We want to be good stewards of Arlington County we’re trying to do the best that we can and this assessment is part of it,” county Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas said in a recent video. “We’re hoping that, through this, we can decide how we can best proceed. This is just the beginning of what promises to be a conversation with the public.”
In the feedback form, Arlington County says sharpshooting, with professionals using sound-suppressed rifles and lead-free bullets, is safe for the public and “the most effective and fastest method for controlling overabundant deer.”
The practice meets euthanasia criteria set by national veterinarian groups. Meat from sharpshooting is donated.
Right behind sharpshooting, in terms of efficacy, could be sterilization. The county says experimental research has shown that, four years after surgical sterilization, deer populations may be reduced to almost half their original size.
Both these would require state permission. Arlington could instead change its own codes to expand archery hunting areas. If it took this course, vetted hunters, using modern compound bows or crossbows, would cull deer.
The county acknowledges the efficacy of archery “is unlikely to be at the level necessary for plant and forest regeneration” on its own and may need to be combined with sharpshooting or sterilization.
Or, Arlington could simply build fences around entire parks — a method that avoids death and sterilization but may be costly and ineffective, the county says.
Fencing “can be expensive to build and maintain, displaces deer into adjacent communities, limits vegetation regrowth to within fence boundaries, and requires vigilance in keeping gates closed and a plan to remove deer should they enter Arlington Parks,” per the form.
Survey respondents are asked how much they support or disagree with the four methods. The county asks which goals it should prioritize in choosing a method, such as forest health, minimized deer suffering and safety.
In the video, Abugattas emphasizes that doing nothing is not an option. An adult deer eats 5-7 pounds of vegetation in a day, or about one ton in a year. After their first year, an adult can produce two fawns every year for up to 20 years.