Press Club

A trio of Arlington intersections could soon be getting some new traffic signals and pedestrian safety improvements.

This Saturday, the Arlington County Board is set to review a $2.3 million contract to replace traffic signals that hang from wires to those attached to poles, or mast arms. The improvements also include wider sidewalks, accessible curb ramps and high-visibility crosswalks.

The work will be conducted at the following intersections, each in North Arlington:

The traffic signal replacements are part of a county program replacing outdated traffic signals to meet current federal and local standards.

“Signal upgrade projects implement new technologies such as accessible push button stations, CCTV for monitoring, video detection, and improved intersection lighting to improve safety, efficiency, and accessibility for all modes of travel,” according to a project webpage.

Mast-arm traffic signals on Langston Blvd (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Installing mast arm traffic signals on wide streets has been found to be a cost-effective way to reduce collisions, according to the Federal Highway Administration. One study of Virginia Department of Transportation data, however, found crashes decreased, but not by a statistically significant amount.

The FHWA also says span wire signals can have higher maintenance costs and are generally considered less aesthetically pleasing due to the overhead wires. But after these replacement projects occurred elsewhere in Arlington, some residents took to Nextdoor to mourn the loss of the wire-hung signals, which they said were not as bulky as the large poles that replaced them.

The three projects would join a half-dozen traffic light replacement projects already planned for this summer and fall.

Planned street signal replacements (via Arlington County)

The county is lumping in pedestrian safety and accessibility improvements with the replacements, per a county report.

Currently, the intersections lack curb ramps that are accessible to people with disabilities, while pedestrians have to contend with long crossings and narrow sidewalks, the county says.

Widening the sidewalks and adding accessible curb ramps and high-visibility crosswalks will create “safe, accessible, and user-friendly intersections,” the county says.

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Construction is wrapping up at the intersection of Langston Blvd (Route 29) and Glebe Road.

Last week, the traffic signals hanging from wires were swapped out for new mast-arm signals. This week, the contractor is expected to complete the remaining sections of sidewalk, curb ramps, and curb and gutter, according to the county’s project webpage.

These changes were part of a years-long project to add dedicated left turn lanes, make bus stop upgrades, take utilities underground and replace an old water main. The changes were intended to improve safety, access and travel times for motorists, pedestrians and transit riders at the intersection.

And now, the county says the project is almost done.

“Construction on the intersection improvements is nearing the finish line,” the project’s webpage said.

Work was anticipated to be completed by this coming spring, but progress is moving faster than expected.

“Spring ’22 was the expected completion date when we started construction, but work has been ahead of schedule and we now expect substantial completion in September,” Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet said.

The county said it will be releasing a schedule of the project’s final paving and the installation of the final pavement markings, both of which will likely occur at night this month (September).

The first phase of the project, including utility undergrounding, kicked off in 2017. The county has spent years obtaining easements from property owners along Glebe to allow the roadway expansion.

The County Board approved a $3.88 million contract for the remainder of the work in December 2019. Work started on this phase in May 2020, according to the project webpage.

This phase included the new exclusive left-turn lanes along N. Glebe Road “to ensure safer turning movements and reduce delays,” the county said. North-south traffic on Glebe had previously flowed only in one direction at a time, allowing turns without a dedicated turn signal but causing backups during rush hour.

The phase also included the mast-arm traffic signals with new phasing and timing, the upgraded water mains and stormwater infrastructure, enhanced crosswalks and bus stops, widened sidewalks and accessible curb ramps and commercial driveway aprons.

The need for upgrades to Langston Blvd and Glebe Road dates back to studies conducted in 2004.

“[The study] identified considerable traffic backups at the Lee Highway and Glebe Road intersection,” the county webpage said. “The backups resulted in traffic cutting through the neighborhood.”

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Parts of Arlington County have been experiencing power problems this morning.

Currently, more than 1,200 power customers are reported to be in the dark in the Virginia Square, Cherrydale and Ballston neighborhoods, according to an outage map from Dominion Energy.

Some complication have been reported from that outage, including tripped fire alarms, smoke from generators starting up, non-functioning traffic signals and a potential power surge in a building.

Several traffic light issues were reported earlier this morning, in Clarendon and Ballston. It’s unclear if those problems are related to the current power outage.

https://twitter.com/WTOPtraffic/status/1374341756666384392

Update at 11:05 a.m. — The outage is down to about 350 Dominion customers, per the power company’s website.

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(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Last night’s intense thunderstorms knocked out power to hundreds of homes across Arlington and darkened traffic signals at some key intersections.

The early morning storms packed torrential rain and strong winds that brought down tree branches, and frequent lightning and thunder that woke many up from their slumbers.

A Flash Flood Warning for Arlington was issued in the midst of the storms, and some local flooding was reported. Route 50 was closed at Glebe Road due to high standing water, and Four Mile Run rose 6.5 feet in 40 minutes, overtopping its north bank, according to the National Weather Service.

In Arlington, nearly 750 Dominion customers were still reported to be without power as of 7 a.m. The outages were scattered, with the larger clusters around Shirlington, Fairlington, Douglas Park and Cherrydale.

Among the intersections with traffic signals reported to be dark is the busy five-points intersection in Cherrydale.

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(Updated at 6:15 p.m.) Numerous traffic lights are reported to be dark in Arlington` amid severe storms in the area.

Traffic signals along N. Glebe Road, from just north of Ballston to the Old Dominion Drive intersection, were dark as of 5:45 p.m. In addition to the busy intersection of Lee Highway and N. Glebe Road, the signal at Lee Highway and N. George Mason Drive was also dark, prompting backups on westbound Lee (Route 29) from Cherrydale to the the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center.

Around the time of the lights going dark, firefighters were dispatched to the intersection of Lee Highway and N. Dinwiddie Street — near the KFC and Taco Bell — for a report of a blown electrical transformer.

As of 6:15 p.m., Dominion’s website reported 2,429 customers in Arlington without power, with the outages centered along Lee Highway

The National Weather Service has let the previous Severe Thunderstorm Warnings for Arlington expire as of 6 p.m., though thunderstorms and rain are still affecting the area.

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A portion of the Crystal City neighborhood is without power this morning, leading to dark traffic signals and dark office buildings.

As of 9 a.m., more than 1,300 Dominion customers were without electricity, all south of 23rd Street S., according to the power company’s website. However, traffic signals were reported dark as far north as 20th Street S. and S. Eads Street.

Arlington County Police are reminding drivers to “treat any uncontrolled intersections as a four way stop.”

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Morning Notes

A Look at Bryce Harper’s Rosslyn Apartment — “For much of the time that Harper was in a Nationals’ uniform, he rented a two-bedroom, 2,000 square-foot loft condo at the Wooster and Mercer Lofts, a luxury residential development from Abdo Development in Arlington.” [UrbanTurf]

Crash Takes Out Traffic Signal Near Fairlington — Per Alexandria Police yesterday: “Use caution in the 3600 block of King St, the Bradlee shopping center. A vehicle crash caused a traffic light outage. Treat uncontrolled intersections as 4-way stops. Be patient & take turns.” [Twitter]

Car Careens Over Wall in Arlington Mill — A car somehow rolled over a low wall and onto a sidewalk across from the Arlington Mill Community Center yesterday. The circumstances surrounding the crash are unclear. [Twitter]

Big Hole in Road Near Shirlington — A main road between the Shirlington and Fairlington neighborhoods was blocked for a period of time yesterday due to large hole in the road. The closure happened on 31st Street S., where a new sound wall is being constructed, during yesterday’s nightmarish evening commute. [Facebook]

Ballston Startup Gets Funding — MotoRefi, an auto refinance startup we profiled earlier this week, has “announced a $4.7 million seed raise led by Accomplice with participation from QED Investor sand Motley Fool Ventures. Ryan Moore, co-founder of Accomplice, will join MotoRefi’s board of directors.” [MotoRefi]

Service Cut to Metrobus Line — Metro is reducing service to Metrobus Route 2A (Dunn Loring-Ballston), after a ridership drop. Metro increased service to the line a few years ago and that net increase is now being eliminated. [Twitter]

Nearby: Companies Worried About HQ2 — “‘Recently a company was looking to put 600 jobs in this area, and they decided not to come here because they were concerned about getting the workers they need,’ [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority Chair Cathy] Lange said, not identifying the company. ‘Many of the companies are worried that their workers in Fairfax County are going to be hired by Amazon. And they are not going to be able to have their growth plans.'” [Washington Business Journal]

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Morning Notes

Rabid Raccoon in Tara-Leeway Heights — “On Wednesday, February 13, 2019, a raccoon was reported in the area of 1500 block of N. Greenbrier Street acting lethargic. The raccoon was captured and removed from the community. It was later found to be carrying rabies.” [Twitter, AWLA]

Crash Knocks Out Traffic Signals — Traffic signals at at least three intersections in the Clarendon area were rendered inoperable over the weekend due to electrical transformer damage following a single-vehicle crash at Wilson Boulevard and 10th Street N. Power to the signals was reported to have been restored Monday night. [Arlington County, Twitter]

Second Amazon Bill Advances in State Legislature — “On the same day that Amazon’s plan to move 25,000 workers into a distressed area of New York City was imploding, the Virginia General Assembly gave the online giant another in a series of welcome-to-the-commonwealth valentines.” [InsideNova]

Hitt’s Home for SaleNow-convicted fraudster Todd Hitt has listed his north Arlington home for sale for $1.75 million. However, the home’s back deck is currently the subject of a Board of Zoning Appeals case. [Washington Business Journal, Arlington County]

Booz Allen Staying in Crystal City — “Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. will remain in Crystal City, inking a lease extension and expansion for its space at 1550 Crystal Drive, building owner JBG Smith Properties announced Thursday. The lease, which commences in September, brings Booz Allen’s space at 1550 Crystal to 84,000 square feet, about 10,000 square feet more than it currently occupies.” [Washington Business Journal]

Take Our Reader Survey — Once a year, we ask readers to take a couple of minutes to weigh in on the future of ARLnow. This year, we’re asking about ideas for new emails, features, approaches and events. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. [SurveyMonkey]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

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The westbound lanes of Lee Highway near N. Oak Street in Rosslyn are now closed, after a traffic light collapsed and fell on the roadway.

County police have now set up a detour in the area and are advising drivers to follow posted signs around the section of the road.

The road was first closed around 10:30 a.m.

Photo via @ArlingtonVAPD

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Anyone walking to or from the Virginia Square Metro station may see this curious sight just across Fairfax Drive from the station entrance.

The patio of an under construction apartment building is seemingly being built around a streetlight and traffic signal pole.

So what’s going on here, asks an ARLnow.com reader?

The photo shows the Latitude Apartments on the 3600 block of Fairfax Drive, first approved by the County Board in 2013 and expected to open later this summer, according to its website. County officials say the pole will eventually be moved at the developer’s expense.

“The pole is going to be relocated as part of the private developer’s site plan,” said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “The developer’s contractor chose to move the pole later on during construction.”

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A two-vehicle crash toppled over a streetlight and an attached traffic signal in Pentagon City today.

The wreck happened around noon, at the intersection of Army Navy Drive and S. Hayes Street, near the Pentagon City mall.

The exact circumstances of the crash were unclear, but one of the vehicles, an SUV, suffered seemingly minor front end damage while the second vehicle, a sedan with an Uber sticker in the window, suffered heavier damage. The damage to the sedan included a windshield apparently smashed by the light pole.

No injuries were reported. One travel lane on both Hayes and Army Navy, as well as part of the sidewalk, was blocked while crews worked to turn off power to the damaged pole and clean up the damage.

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