Three years after studying a crash-prone stretch of Arlington Blvd, the Virginia Dept. of Transportation is moving forward with plans to make some improvements.
There will be a virtual meeting this Thursday on changes coming for a nearly mile-long stretch of Route 50 between Glebe Road and Fillmore Street. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2030, VDOT spokesman Mike Murphy tells ARLnow.
The changes, based on study recommendations made in 2020, include building a raised median along Arlington Blvd and adding eastbound and westbound dedicated left-turn lanes at Irving Street.
Difficulty making left turns and a lack of dedicated left-turn lanes were a top concern for surveyed members of the public, says VDOT. Other top concerns included “aggressive driving.”
Currently, this segment of Route 50 averages 58,000 vehicles a day and has a median that ends just east of the Glebe Road underpass. It also has a few tricky intersections where drivers can turn left, such as at Irving Street. During rush hour, drivers going straight can be seen jumping around those turning left to avoid waiting for them to turn.
Beyond adding left-turn lanes at Irving Street, VDOT also plans to:
- extend the eastbound and westbound left-turn lanes at Fillmore Street
- extend the eastbound service road to connect existing driveways between S. Old Glebe Road and Jackson Street
- extend the westbound service road to connect existing driveways between Irving Street and Jackson Street
- Reconstruct portions of the shared-use paths on both sides of Arlington Blvd
The state transportation department is also mulling new lighting between Irving and Fillmore streets, on-street parking between Garfield and Fenwick streets and bus stop improvements.
These recommendations came from VDOT’s 2020 Strategically Targeted Affordable Roadway Solutions study. This assessed safety and operational upgrades for this segment of Route 50, which VDOT says experiences congestion during rush hour and a high number of crashes.
Within four months of the release of recommendations, the Arlington County Board endorsed an application for $25 million in grant money to realize these upgrades.
In 2021, the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved $29 million in Smart Scale funding for this project, Murphy says.
But the plan did not sit well with members of the county’s Transportation Commission. Downvoting the application, they argued VDOT did not evaluate how high speeds contribute to crashes or consider how to lower speeds, such as by narrowing lanes. County staff, meanwhile, sought the commission’s approval retroactively.
In a column subsequently written for ARLnow, Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said the following:
VDOT’s decision to select a costly, construction-intensive capital project to solve the safety issues in this stretch means our community will be stuck with six to eight years of additional crashes, injuries and even fatalities when VDOT’s own study makes it clear that a the majority of the safety benefit of their preferred alternative could be implemented in the short-term, with temporary materials and a much lower cost.
Residents and road users can provide feedback through Thursday, Sept. 14.
On Oct. 19, 2021, an elderly driver hit the daughter of Tara-Leeway Heights resident Heather Keppler while riding her bike.
The impact of her body cracked the windshield and she fell to the ground. She was whisked to the hospital in an ambulance where — not wanting to disturb any potential broken bones — doctors cut off a favorite running shirt and took a full-body X-ray.
Doctors said her tailbone was either broken or bruised and additional scans would confirm which injury it was. Keppler said they opted not to know, as the recovery process was the same: sitting on a donut pillow and missing her exercise routines. This pause took a toll on her daughter, then a freshman training for a regional running race.
Keppler decided to get a lawyer when one for the 86-year-old man involved called to see if she had one. The mother says in retrospect — after her experience ended in dropped charges — she is lucky she hired legal help.
“I don’t know how I would’ve found out [what] was going on,” she said.
Since June 2020, Arlington police officers have been shepherding through the legal system less-serious traffic misdemeanors: speeding, driving without a license, and so on. Before, the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney had a prosecutor outside Courtroom 3C — where those cases are adjudicated — to enter plea bargains.
This arrangement was imperfect, according to Arlington’s top prosecutor, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, who just won the Democratic primary race for her seat against challenger Josh Katcher.
The assigned prosecutor often did not have “any prior knowledge of the case” and did not share pre-court-date discovery with defendants, she wrote in a 2020 memo to County Manager Mark Schwartz. This was one reason she removed prosecutors from “3C.”
After hearing from a state agency that trains prosecutors and the Virginia State Bar Ethics Counsel, it became clear her staff could not meet their obligations to share all exculpating or incriminating evidence in these cases, she argued.
Dehghani-Tafti attributed this largely to an uptick in available footage from cameras that police wear and have in their cars. Sharing all evidence would require prosecutors to review, process and disclose footage from some 40,000 cases — a tall order given current staffing levels.
“We did not come to this decision lightly, but rather after a thorough analysis of several factors,” she wrote to the Arlington County Police Department in a 2020 memo.
Three years later, she tells ARLnow that her office has kept the promises in that memo.
“We have gotten involved in every case in which our law enforcement partners have asked us to get involved, as was promised in the memo,” she said.
Keppler, however, suspects that the lack of prosecutorial presence in traffic court could explain how her daughter never got her day in court. She supported Dehghani-Tafti in her original, successful 2019 bid but this experience led her to flip for Katcher.
After not hearing anything about her daughter’s case for some time, Keppler began to get worried.
Her lawyer found that subpoenas ordering the Kepplers and their assigned police officer to court on Nov. 18, 2021 were written but never issued.
“Because it was never issued, we never showed up to court,” she said. “Because no one was there, they dismissed the case.”
Like Keppler, local personal injury lawyer Jeff Jankovich says a prosecutor outside 3C could have helped the Kepplers. This person could have checked for the subpoenas and asked the judge to move the hearing date so everyone could make it.
Although Dehghani-Tafti’s memo says prosecutors were unfamiliar with the traffic cases on the docket that day, Jankovich recalls days when there were extremely experienced prosecutors who “did a pretty thorough job” of evaluating each case.
“If there were aggravating facts — an accident where someone was injured, or someone had significant prior record, even if it was minor speeding but the third, fourth or fifth offense — they were on top of that and it affected how they approached case,” he said.
The Arlington County Board has approved a $2.8 million contract to upgrade traffic signals and streetscapes at three major intersections.
During its meeting on Saturday, the Board accepted plans to update Washington Blvd at N. Glebe Road in the Ballston area, Washington Blvd at N. Patrick Henry Drive in Westover, and S. Glebe Road at S. Eads Street near Crystal City.
The contract for the project stands at about $2.4 million with a contingency of nearly $375,000.
The county currently has a traffic signal infrastructure upgrades program in progress, with a goal of replacing all outdated traffic lights and signals, as explained on the project webpage.
For the three latest intersections, outdated traffic lights will be replaced and pedestrian safety improvements will be installed, the staff report said.
The project webpage notes that traffic signals at many Arlington intersections have “exceeded their intended service life” and that new traffic lights will “meet current Federal and County standards and specifications.”
So far there’s no word yet on when the intersection construction projects will begin. Updates will be provided via email lists, a construction letter, the project’s webpage and NextDoor for interested residents, according to the county.
A driver struck a mother pushing her baby in a stroller in Ballston yesterday morning, police and a witness say.
The crash happened around 9:15 a.m. Wednesday at the intersection of N. Park Drive and N. Carlin Springs Road.
The driver remained on scene while the baby was taken via ambulance to a local hospital “for injuries considered non-life threatening,” said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage.
“The investigation determined the pedestrian, who was pushing a child in a stroller, was crossing the street when a motorist turned and struck the stroller,” said Savage.
The driver was cited for “failure to yield the right of way,” she added.
In a Twitter thread, resident Mark Blacknell said he was on his way to chaperone a field trip for one of his kids when he saw the aftermath of the crash.
“When I saw that people in cars were still driving within inches of this mother on the street, impatient to get on their way, I stepped in to direct some traffic to down a side street, away from her,” he said. “I wasn’t the first to do that. A much older woman had, but drivers were simply rolling at her until she got out of the way. Not with me.”
He left after police arrived and onlookers helped the mother onto the sidewalk but said “her cries, those I won’t forget for a long long time.”
He told ARLnow that yesterday afternoon he saw signs of an investigation, including spray paint marks on the road where the stroller stopped. The front grill emblem from the Toyota that hit them was still in the street.
In his series of tweets, he called on Arlington County Board members to put more pressure on County Manager Mark Schwartz to prioritize pedestrian safety.
“The fix, thus far? Two little yellow signs that say ‘Cross traffic does not stop,'” he wrote. “If a mother cannot push her baby across the street in safety, all of the arts funding, tourism development, stormwater mitigation and that the rest of that is meaningless.”
“This particular intersection isn’t Arlington’s first or last transportation safety challenge,” he said. “But it’s pretty emblematic of where we are.”
The second year of Vision Zero — Arlington County’s plan to to reach its goal of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030 — is coming to a close this month. As a result, the county is asking for anonymous feedback on how Vision Zero is changing transportation safety.
Over the last two years, the county has analyzed data, installed quick safety treatments, embarked on pilots and investigated serious crashes.
“We track and investigate all critical (fatal or severe) crashes throughout the year — which lead to immediate engineering response where possible,” Arlington County says.
(Updated at 12:20 p.m.) A troubled intersection near Lubber Run Community Center clocked another vehicle crash last week.
The collision at N. George Mason Drive and N. Park Drive last Tuesday happened as neighbors await the installation of street markings and, eventually, signage, alerting drivers to a lower speed limit of 20 mph in the area.
“A Porsche SUV gunned it through a busy intersection and collided with another SUV,” said Phillip Berenbroick, who saw the crash. “[It] happened right as kids and parents are rushing over to Barrett Elementary [School] for 9 a.m. school start.”
And that wasn’t all. While first responders were still on scene, an Audi SUV headed from the Arlington Forest neighborhood toward Ballston on Park Drive sped through the intersection and was pulled over by police, Berenbroick said. He noted that Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons stopping traffic and allowing pedestrians to cross N. Park Drive were flashing.
“It’s super dangerous for pedestrians when cars traveling eastbound on Park Drive out of Arlington Forest try to cross through the intersection and turn northbound on George Mason,” he said. “ACPD pulled the car over and let the driver off with a warning. It was a little surprising since the accident that police and EMTs were responding to was a result of the same type of dangerous driving.”
The collision reignited one neighbor’s push for a traffic signal there, particularly given the presence of Barrett Elementary one block away. Drivers tend to go fast on the four-lane expanse of N. George Mason Drive, leaving few windows for people on N. Park Drive trying to cross or turn left, including those going to and coming from the popular Lubber Run Community Center.
Arlington has a county-wide policy setting a permanent 20 mph speed limit on neighborhood streets within 600 feet of a school. Arlington County expects markings alerting drivers will cost $150,000 and will be added over the next 2-3 years.
Another crash and N. Park and N. George Mason, this morning, this time witnessed by kids walking to school and a child was in the car that was struck. Still debating a light @ArlingtonVA or waiting for kids to get injured? @ARLnowDOTcom pic.twitter.com/LKc4fn6BzX
— David (@Dhartogs) March 29, 2023
Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons, which give pedestrians are more “protected” window to cross the road, were installed at the N. Park Drive intersection in late 2020 as part of a transportation study related to the community center project.
Currently, the speed limit on N. George Mason Drive in the area is 30 mph, reduced to 25 mph when a light near the community center is flashing. Later this spring, speeds on the road will drop another 5 mph — to 20 mph — when lights are flashing, in response to a new county-wide policy.
As part of the updated school zone policy, the speed limit on parts of Park Drive near Barrett will be reduced to 20 mph at all times.
Also this spring, the intersection is expected to get new “SLOW SCHOOL XING” markings after it is repaved, according to Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors.
“The Water Sewer Streets crew is putting together the schedule for what streets are getting repaved this season, so the timing of when the N. George Mason Drive and Park Drive [intersection gets] paved will depend on them,” said Pors.
In all, there have been 23 crashes at George Mason sand Park since 2017, of which nine occurred in the two years the Lubber Run Community Center has been open, according to data from Arlington County Police Department. Last week’s crash does not register because it does not reporting criteria outlined in state code.
More signs preventing right turns at red lights are going up around Arlington County to reduce crashes.
They were added to long stretches of major arterial streets, including Columbia Pike and Wilson Blvd. The county has concurrently reprogrammed walk signals to give pedestrians a head start crossing the street.
“This is a win for pedestrian safety benefit,” said Chris Slatt, a member of Sustainable Mobility for Arlington, which has advocated for more of no-turn-on-red signs in areas with many pedestrians. “You would want to be safe to walk and not have to worry about driving through crosswalk.”
Some drivers have anecdotally reported congestion and longer idling times to ARLnow.
“Seems like these signs cause a lot of cars to sit and idle at intersections longer than they used to,” notes one tipster. “They also generally gum up traffic.”
County documents note there have been safety benefits seen in areas with high pedestrian volumes. Additionally, a focus group of elderly adults appreciated the red light restrictions.
The county’s view is that any reasonable trade-off is worth it.
“Although traffic may slightly increase at times due these safety interventions, the trade-off is a safer environment for our most vulnerable users — pedestrians and bicyclists,” Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien said.
During Vision Zero’s second year, per a report, the county has been adding no turn on red signs on:
- Columbia Pike from the county line to Washington Blvd
- Fairfax Drive from N. Glebe Road to N. Kirkwood Dr
- Clarendon Blvd from N. Highland Street to Ft. Myer Drive and Wilson Blvd
- Wilson Blvd from N. Glebe Road to Fort Myer Drive
Year 2 of Arlington’s Vision Zero plan wraps up this spring.
The county says it has also grown the number of signalized intersections with a 3-7 second head start for pedestrians from 31 to 77 during Year 2. Studies show this change can reduce pedestrian-vehicle collisions by up to 60%.
Priority intersections for these changes include those with many pedestrians and bicyclists, restricted sight distance and a history of turn-related crashes, according to a “Vision Zero toolkit” of traffic safety treatments.
Arlington joins other states and municipalities, including D.C., phasing out the right-on-red at busy intersections. A number of studies have shown right on red decreases safety and restrictions improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
"Washington, D.C., will end most right-on-red turns by 2025. Already, the state of Hawaii has prohibited them on a tourist-dense stretch of road in Honolulu. The city of Berkeley in California is considering banning right on red at all intersections." https://t.co/zF0etmTtTr
— The War on Cars (@TheWarOnCars) March 10, 2023
Right on red was legalized 50 years ago to prevent idling and save gas during an oil embargo proclaimed by oil-exporting Arab countries, according to the county. The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 required states to allow right turns on red to receive certain federal funds.
“Unfortunately, the country has been experiencing the trade-offs of right on red turns ever since,” the county said in the Vision Zero toolkit.
Safety signage and markings are coming this spring to a long-troubled intersection near Lubber Run Community Center.
The intersection of N. Park Drive and N. George Mason Drive in the Arlington Forest neighborhood will be getting updated signage and street markings reading “SLOW SCHOOL XING” within the next few months, a county official has confirmed to ARLnow.
“Marking should be installed this spring, depending on the weather,” Dept. of Environmental Services (DES) spokesperson Claudia Pors wrote in an email.
The county is also aiming to get a traffic signal installed there, said Pors, but it would have to be funded in the next Capital Improvement Plan. There’s not yet a timeline for when that could happen and when a signal might be installed.
This is all in addition to the Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons that were installed there about two years ago.
The N. Park Drive and N. George Mason Drive intersection has long concerned neighbors due to the high rate of crashes there.
In October, residents told ARLnow that speeding drivers and the four-lane expanse made the intersection particularly dangerous. It’s also tricky for drivers on N. Park Drive — including those going to and coming from the Lubber Run Community Center — trying to cross or turn left on George Mason.
That’s in addition to the presence of Barrett Elementary School and hundreds of students one block away.
In the fall, neighbors provided testimony and photos to ARLnow that showed cars jumping curbs, vehicles ending up in the woods, and a near-miss between a bus and a motorcycle at the intersection.
DES said at the time that since the intersection had not been identified as part of its Vision Zero High-Injury Network corridor or Hot Spot program, it wasn’t eligible for any further safety upgrades beyond the flashing beacons. DES did promise to investigate further the possibility of adding more, though.
Data collected by the county since then has confirmed the concerns of neighbors and led to the addition of these new features at N. Park Drive and N. George Mason Drive.
“Crash analysis revealed there were four visible injury angle crashes within 18 months (April 2021 – Oct 2022) at this intersection, which escalated the importance of safety improvements,” Pors said.
The intent was always to review “the safety and operations of this intersection post completion of the Lubber Run Community Center,” she also noted.
The news of the updated signage, markings, and, potentially, a traffic signal was included in a recent edition of the Arlington Forest Civic Association newsletter, a reader shared with ARLnow.
“That’s huge for the neighborhood. I was surprised they didn’t put one in when they built the new community center,” the reader said.
Hat tip to Henry Grey
Lower speeds near schools could soon become countywide policy in Arlington.
On Saturday, the Arlington County Board is set to consider an ordinance to lower speed limits to 20 miles per hour on streets within 600 feet of a school property or pedestrian crossing in the vicinity of the school. This would expand on slow zones around 13 schools instituted last year.
The county says in a report that the proposed slow zones respond to positive community feedback from the first round of school zones and are part of its efforts to eliminate traffic-related serious injuries and deaths by 2030, also known as “Vision Zero.”
The ordinance comes as Arlington County appears to have ended 2022 with fewer severe injury crashes than 2021 — when the County Board approved a Vision Zero plan — but the same number of fatal crashes.
In 2022, there were 44 severe and four fatal crashes, including two fatal pedestrian-involved crashes, per county data available through Nov. 23, 2022. The year before, there were 61 severe and four fatal crashes, none of which involved a pedestrian.
If approved, the Dept. of Environmental Services will lower the speed limit on 36 road segments starting next month, according to spokesman Peter Golkin.
“We expect signs to start posting the new speed limit in February-March,” he said. “We will follow up with additional pavement markings in the spring once weather permits.”
When complete, drivers will notice treatments such as high visibility crossings and school zone signage within the school zone, as well as appropriate speed limits on the school’s beaconed arterial roadways, per a December Vision Zero newsletter.
The new, lowered speed limit of 20 mph, applicable at all times of day, will be in effect and enforceable “as soon as the new speed limit signs are posted,” Golkin said.
To remind drivers of the change, the county will send public announcements during February and March through county email lists, civic associations, APS channels and social media, he said, noting that “news coverage like ARLnow’s will also be a great help.”
In addition, he said, the signs themselves will be a notification.
“Drivers should always be cognizant of the speed limit when driving,” the DES spokesman said. “They also have a bright neon yellow SCHOOL symbol on top of them, which should generate extra attention.”
The Arlington County Board last year took another step to reduce speeds, approving the installation of moveable speed cameras in school and work zones. In response to a rash of critical crashes, including a fatal pedestrian fatally struck near Nottingham Elementary School in October, Board members put more pressure on staff to respond more quickly.
Around where the pedestrian was struck on Little Falls Road, Arlington County police issued 10 traffic ticket in one hour during a one-day enforcement effort last month. Also in mid-December, some “quick-build” improvements were installed along the road, between John Marshall Drive & N. Kensington Street, per the December Vision Zero newsletter, below.
The improvements at John Marshall Drive include:
- Addition of a high visibility crosswalk on the south crosswalk
- Tactical curb extensions to sharpen/slow down turning vehicle turns and reduce crossing distances
- Additional signage
Improvements at N. Lexington Street include:
- Bus stop/sharrow markings
- High visibility crosswalks
- A tactical curb extension to sharpen/slow down turning vehicle turns and reduce crossing distances.
Improvements at N. Kensington Street (north side) include:
- High visibility crosswalks
- Tactical curb extensions to sharpen/slow down turning vehicle turns and reduce crossing distances
- Enhanced signage at the crossing over Little Falls Road
- Changing the yield to a stop sign (south side)
These improvements are currently in progress and will ultimately encourage slower vehicle speeds, and improved pedestrian and transit maneuvers.
Additionally, DES is conducting an all-way stop evaluation and is collecting footage of the Little Falls Rd and John Marshall Dr intersection to monitor operations between all road users. These evaluations will be considered as DES plans for permanent intersection improvements.
Arlington is proposing to lower speed limits near schools across the county to 20 mph as the county’s second year of Vision Zero enters the rear-view mirror.
This Saturday, the Arlington County Board is set to hear a proposal to expand these slow zones to all schools, after many people said they felt safer walking, biking and driving in 13 school zones where the speed limit has already dropped to 20 mph.
If the Board approves the changes, school zones will all get permanent signs with the new speed limits. The county says this is cheaper and more broadly applicable than flashing beacons, which will only be used on arterial streets within 600 feet of schools during arrival and dismissal times.
This change follows the approval earlier this year of moveable speed cameras to be installed in school and work zones, as well as calls from the Arlington County Board for a quicker staff response to critical crashes, after a driver fatally struck a pedestrian in an intersection near Nottingham Elementary School.
Schools have figured into other notable crashes, including a fatal crash involving a motorcyclist and a school bus in front of Drew Elementary in 2021 and a crash involving a drunk driver who killed a pedestrian near Thomas Jefferson Middle School this summer. In a less serious crash this fall, a driver struck an adolescent cyclist near Kenmore Middle School.
Lowering speeds is one action the county has taken over the last year and a half to work toward its goal of eliminating traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries by 2030, a plan known as Vision Zero.
“There are no corridors on county-owned roads that have a speed limit higher than 30 miles per hour, which is a big improvement. We’re very excited to say that,” Arlington Vision Zero coordinator Christine Sherman Baker said in a meeting last week.
In addition to lower speeds, the county has set up temporary school walking routes and roundabouts, completed 13 quick-build projects and made improvements to six critical crash sites and 14 crash “hot spots.” Staff are working on procuring speed cameras for school and work zones and red light cameras for six more intersections, which could be installed in 2023.
Amid the flurry of work, preliminary data from the first nine months of 2022 indicate crashes are down overall, according to a Vision Zero report released last month. As of Aug. 30, there were 1,313 crashes in Arlington, of which two were fatal and 34 were severe. (We’ve since reported on two additional fatal crashes.)
Pedestrian-involved crashes and crashes in intersections are both slightly lower, while bike crash figures are consistent with previous years. There has yet to be a crash in a work zone.
“Alcohol and speed prove to be some of our biggest challenges on our roadways,” Baker said in the meeting.
But some people say the county needs to be clearer in communicating if and how its work is reducing crashes as well as the dangers of driving.
A proposed left-turn lane off of N. Glebe Road in Ballston could be the smallest, yet most scrutinized traffic change in 10 years.
As part of the planned redevelopment of the Ballston Macy’s, Insight Property Group proposes to add a left-turn option at the intersection of 7th Street N. and N. Glebe Road. It will be for drivers going southbound on Glebe who want to turn onto a proposed private drive abutting the planned grocery store, which will be located at the base of Insight’s proposed 16-story, 555-unit apartment building.
“It was the most thoroughly vetted transportation scenario in the time that I’ve been with Arlington County,” transportation planner Dennis Sellin, who has worked with the county for 10 years, told the Planning Commission last night (Monday).
During the meeting, the Planning Commission gave a green light to the redevelopment, which will go before the Arlington County Board for approval later this month.
After the Transportation Commission voted to defer the project solely on the basis of the left turn, Planning Commission members supported a condition for the project that county staff work with Insight and the Virginia Department of Transportation to come up with more pedestrian-oriented options for the intersection.
“I do not think it’s reasonable to hold up the project for this, given that there’s apparently continued good faith work on the intersection to improve its pedestrian-friendliness,” Commissioner Jim Lantelme said. “I want to make clear that the Planning Commission… expects that any option possible to make this intersection more pedestrian-friendly will be pursued.”
Sellin said a half-dozen staffers, including two top transportation officials, have thoroughly vetted the left-turn lane. They published a 64-page memo justifying the turn lane and will study how the grocery store changes traffic before adding any pedestrian mitigation measures.
“There’s a recommendation to not allow any right turns on red at any of the lights in the intersection,” he said. “That’s a movement we’ll take under further consideration. Our primary concern is safety, our secondary concern is operations.”
The left-turn lane is a non-negotiable for the grocer, who has otherwise been “insanely flexible” as the project has changed throughout the public process, according to Insight’s Managing Principal Trent Smith.
“We’ve shrunk their store, changed their ramps, taken away their parking… we changed their loading, we’ve done eight or nine things that took all sorts of reworking and they’ve stuck with us and have been great, reasonable partners throughout,” Smith said.
Insight’s attorney, Andrew Painter, says the unnamed grocer required the left turn based on “decades of experience in urban configurations.” He added that for a decade, the grocer has desired to be in Ballston, which already has a Harris Teeter nearby on N. Glebe Road, a quarter-mile away.
Some Planning Commissioners noted their regret that the project does not do more to provide on-site affordable housing.
“This space here, in the heart of Arlington, in Ballston, where there’s access to transit, and now a grocery store, we have nothing,” Commissioner Devanshi Patel said.
If you plan on driving on I-66 during peak hours next month, make sure there are at least two other people in the car with you to avoid paying a toll.
I-66 is shifting from HOV-2 to HOV-3 in early December, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recently announced. Starting Dec. 5, only those with traveling with three or more people will be eligible to avoid the tolls, which apply inside the Beltway during peak travel times and directions.
Single riders or those traveling with just two passengers will now have to pay a toll, at a price based on traffic volume — known as “dynamic tolling.”
The inside the Beltway I-66 tolling takes place on non-holiday weekdays from 3-7 p.m. westbound and 5:30-9:30 a.m. eastbound.
VDOT also notes that in order to use the lanes during these rush hours, drivers need to have an E-ZPass transponder. The state transportation agency said in a press release that the new requirements are “consistent with HOV requirements on the other express lanes in Northern Virginia.”
The I-66 tolling inside of the Beltway started five years ago, accompanied by a g ood amount of griping about the high toll prices. Previously, the lanes could only be used by high occupancy vehicles during peak times, with no options for paying a toll.
Construction is now complete on the 22-mile section of Express Lanes outside of the Beltway that runs from Fairfax County into Prince William County, after about six years of work. The eastbound lanes are opening this weekend with the westbound lanes opening by the end of the month, both a few weeks ahead of schedule.
More from the press release:
Motorists can choose to use the 66 Express Lanes, which are adjacent to general purpose lanes on I-66, by paying a toll. Toll prices are dynamic, and fluctuate depending on traffic volumes and speed in order to manage demand for the lanes and keep traffic flowing. Eligible High Occupancy Vehicles (HOVs) can use the 66 Express Lanes toll-free but must have an E-ZPass Flex set to the “HOV On” mode.
Currently, vehicles must have two or more occupants to qualify as HOV on I-66. Starting Monday, Dec. 5, vehicles will need to have three or more occupants to qualify as HOV on I-66 and travel the express lanes without paying a toll. This change from HOV-2+ to HOV-3+ will apply across the entire I-66 corridor including the 22.5-miles of 66 Express Lanes located outside the Beltway, as well as the nine miles of 66 Express Lanes located inside the Beltway between I-495 and Route 29 in Rosslyn, which operate on weekdays during peak periods in peak commute directions. This HOV-3+ requirement is consistent with HOV requirements on the other express lanes in Northern Virginia.
This change from HOV-2+ to HOV-3+ also will take effect on the stretch of I-66 west of the express lanes between Haymarket and Gainesville where there will continue to be a traditional HOV lane that operates during peak travel periods.