Arlington, VA

Rosslyn’s Dark Star Park is growing and recently swallowed a nearby slip lane.

The park is notable for the somewhat strange concrete orbs and poles, designed to cast perfectly aligned shadows every August 1. The expansion of the park was planned as part of the Core of Rosslyn study, a project aimed at making Rosslyn’s street network more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly.

The first stage of the expansion is the closure of a slip lane between Fort Myer Drive and N. Lynn Street. The lane was closed last week and will now be used as park space, furnished with tables, chairs, and artwork.

According to the project website, the county government is hopeful that the community will use the new open space as a daily activity spot.

The next stage of the project will involve the expansion of Dark Star Park’s green space and sidewalks into the unutilized street space, but that expansion is still in the early design stages.

Funding for the second stage of the project is expected to be determined as part of the next Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) budget update.

Images via Arlington County

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(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) A meeting is planned for Wednesday, July 10 in Arlington to provide an update on the I-66 widening project.

Work is underway to add a third travel lane to eastbound I-66 between the Dulles Connector Road and Fairfax Drive, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) website.

The meeting, scheduled from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd), will discuss a planned noise wall replacement, among other topics:

Work will begin in the coming months to add and replace noise walls in many locations along the project corridor as well as build a new ramp connection between two existing ramps at Route 7 to allow direct access from eastbound I-66 to the West Falls Church Metro Station. The open house will include a presentation and opportunity for attendees to view plans and talk with project team staff.

VDOT had previously announced plans to replace deteriorating sound walls along I-66 in Arlington as part of the widening project. A report in January noted that at least three segments of the wall were in a state of disrepair.

Photo (1) courtesy Del. Patrick Hope/Twitter, (2) via VDOT

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(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) Scooters are all the rage in Arlington now thanks to a newly-extended pilot program, but there are some places they can’t take you.

Geofencing is the limiting of where the scooters can ride or park. Certain areas are set as fenced off by Arlington County government as part of the Shared Mobility Devices (SMD) pilot, according to county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet.

“For now, the County is using geofencing to discourage users from ending their trip and parking these devices in certain areas,” Balliet said. “Based on agency input, the County has requested that SMD companies prohibit parking of their devices at federal lands such as the Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery, National Park Service lands, and NOVA Parks.”

But enforcement of the geofencing is left to the companies running the scooters.

“SMD companies are handling the parking prohibition in a couple of ways, including charging a fine, suspending accounts for multiple infractions, as well as prohibiting riding through geofenced areas,” Balliet said. “We will soon be providing the companies a map to ensure each is using the same parcel data that accurately reflects the areas where parking is prohibited.”

Geofencing can result in scooters slowing down below a certain speed cap, stopping altogether inside certain boundaries, or not allowing the user to end their ride and park in certain areas, depending on the company’s policy.

But while geofencing is designed to keep scooters inside authorized zones, it may be a contributor to the mysterious spate of abandoned scooters littering certain trails in Arlington. One tipster told ARLnow that the geofences near the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial near Rosslyn forced him to abandon his scooter into a pile of other scooters at the border of the invisible barrier.

Another hot spot for abandoned scooters: along the Mt. Vernon Trail near Roosevelt Bridge and Gravelly Point.

Meanwhile, across the river, one government official is advocating for scooters to be allowed on one particular piece of federal land. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) sent a letter today asking U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund to allow scooters on the Capitol grounds, where they are currently prohibited.

In her letter, Norton describes scooters as an “affordable, environmentally friendly and efficient mode of transportation relied upon by increasing numbers of Hill staffers, D.C. residents and visitors to our nation’s capital.”

Photo via Bird/Twitter

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Proposed changes could help transform a major street in the Pentagon City and Crystal City area into a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly corridor, though it might make traffic a little more congested.

The Army Navy Drive Complete Street project would provide a physically-separated, two-way protected bicycle lane along the south side of Army Navy Drive from S. Joyce Street to 12th Street S. Changes would also make pedestrian crossings shorter and safer, with options to build dedicated transit lanes in the future.

According to the project website:

The project will rebuild Army Navy Drive within the existing right-of-way as a multimodal complete street featuring enhanced bicycle, transit, environmental and pedestrian facilities. The goal of the project is to improve the local connections between the Pentagon and the commercial, residential and retail services in Pentagon City and Crystal City.

The tradeoff for keeping all of this within the right of way is reduced motor vehicle lanes, with slowing traffic through the area billed as a feature rather than a detriment. For most of the route, traffic in each direction is at least two lanes wide, though east of S. Eads Street the plans call for it to narrow from two lanes to one in each direction.

At an open house yesterday (Tuesday) at the Aurora Hills Branch Library (735 18th Street S.), most of those in attendance were local cyclists expressing enthusiasm for the project.

“This is an unspeakably huge improvement for cycling,” said Chris Slatt, chair of the Transportation Commission. “This is a critical piece for connecting bicycle infrastructure.”

Cyclists at the meeting also took the opportunity to note that the improvements planned here were still a stark contrast to plans to realign Columbia Pike near the Air Force Memorial. Cycling advocates at the open house said the Pike plans would turn the nearby intersection of S. Joyce Street and Columbia Pike, which feeds into Army Navy Drive and is already not ideal for bicycling, into a “death trap.”

Photo (3) via Google Maps, project map via Arlington County Department of Environmental Services

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Arlington County is holding an open house Thursday night to discuss a road safety project in North Arlington.

The project is set to re-stripe portions of residential Lorcom Lane and Military Road as “complete streets” with the goal of “reducing conflicts between people driving and people biking through enhanced pavement marking and signage designs.”

Per the county:

Help us improve safety on N Lorcom Lane and N Military Road!

This repaving and remarking project is located on N Lorcom Lane (from Lee Highway to Military Road) and on N Military Road (from Vacation Lane to Lorcom Lane).

Join us anytime between 6:00-7:30 pm to learn about the project and share feedback on design concepts.

The open house is being held at Cherrydale Branch Library (2190 N. Military Road).

Map and image via Google Maps

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The Arlington County Board needs a little more time to see how it likes e-scooters and e-bikes.

At a County Board meeting yesterday (Tuesday), the Board voted to extend the e-scooter and e-bike pilot project through Dec. 31. to allow for continued public comment and additional time for analysis.

More than 300,000 trips have been taken on e-scooters and e-bikes since the pilot launched last October, according to a press release, with 21 reported injuries during scooter-related incidents. A total of 307,243 miles have been traveled through April, with the average trip length at little over 1 mile.

The extension will allow county staff to collect data for warmer months, showing year-round usage numbers.

Meanwhile, the County Board is weighing how to regulate the devices, after legislation signed by Gov. Ralph Northam in March authorized local governments to do so. The legislation also authorizes scooter use on sidewalks unless otherwise prohibited, though riding on the sidewalk is currently prohibited under the terms of Arlington’s pilot program.

“Great transportation options are an important feature of life in Arlington County,” County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said in the press release. “On a day-to-day basis, we are learning a lot about what’s working and what isn’t working with dockless scooters and bikes. Before this Board considers how to permanently regulate these devices in Arlington, we need a complete analysis from staff of information from operators, staff experience, adopted plans and policies, and feedback from our community.”

Seven companies have participated in the pilot program, each paying an $8,000 fee per mode of transit to assist with the cost of program administration. Scooters are capped at 10 miles-per-hour while e-bikes are capped at 20 miles-per-hour.

According to the press release, most trips have been in the Rosslyn-Ballston and Route 1 corridors, though some ambitious riders have taken the scooters out to Columbia Pike and other sites outside of the main transit corridors.

The county has received over 600 emails about the pilot so far, with complaints centering on use of the scooters on sidewalks, scooter parking that blocks pedestrian or vehicle traffic, erratic behavior and riders under 18-years old. Feedback can be submitted via email to [email protected] or by filling out an online form.

“Through June 30, the County is conducting a formal public feedback process for the demonstration project,” the press release notes. “Those who live, work and visit in Arlington are invited to complete the online feedback form to help the County gauge interest, issues and concerns around dockless e-bikes and e-scooters. All feedback is welcome, even if you have never used shared mobility devices in Arlington.”

In October, the analysis of the pilot and a recommendation is scheduled to be presented to the County Board. Ordinance changes are scheduled for November, with potential adoption in December.

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Morning Notes

Last Week of School — The 2018-2019 school year is concluding this week for Arlington Public Schools. Today is the last day of school for high schools, while Friday is the last day of school for middle and elementary schools. [Arlington Public Schools]

Park Service Advances Boathouse Plan — “Plans to establish a community boathouse on the Potomac River in Arlington just passed a major milestone. The National Park Service completed its Environmental Assessment (EA) with a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), which sets up the project to move forward.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

State of the County Address — “Christian Dorsey began his State of the County address by thanking the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the Arlington business community for their partnership ‘on specific issues from the transient occupancy tax, to dedicated funding for the Metro, to helping us put our best foot forward in the competition for  Amazon’s HQ2.'” [Press Release]

Arlington Public Safety Awards — “Following the State of the County address, awards were presented to honor Arlington County’s public safety personnel…  Stories of their heroic actions include two firefighters rescuing a person trapped inside a vehicle that was fully submerged in water, a detective dismantling a large, local cocaine trafficking organization with limited investigative leads, and a police officer saving two unresponsive passengers in an overturned, burning vehicle on the roadway.” [Press Release]

Fraud Alert from Arlington Police — “The Arlington County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office are warning the public about a telephone scam that uses the threat of arrest to extort money from potential victims.” [Arlington County]

Metro Studying Second Rosslyn Metro Station — “After decades of discussion, Metro kicked off a study this week of a new, second station at Rosslyn and other changes that could overhaul the way trains on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines run throughout the system.” [WTOP]

ACPD: No Plans for ‘Mass Deportation’ — “The Arlington County Police Department called the plan ‘political’ and said they have no intention on working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to fulfill [President] Trump’s mass deportation plan. The Fairfax County Police Department said it doesn’t participate with ICE on civil enforcement either.” [Fox 5]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

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VDOT is planning a community meeting to discuss changes that might be coming to the “Shirlington Circle” interchange of I-395.

The somewhat labyrinthine interchange has been the scene of several notable crashes over the past few years. VDOT has been studying ways to improve it over the past few years.

The meeting is planned from 7-9 p.m. next Wednesday, June 12, at Drew Model School (3500 23rd Street S.). The transportation agency says it will reveal options for reducing congestion and crashes while soliciting public comments.

More from VDOT:

Join the Virginia Department of Transportation on Wednesday, June 12 to learn about and give input on alternatives identified by a study assessing safety and operational improvements at the I-395 Shirlington interchange (Exit 6), as well as at the following:

  • The ramp from South Glebe Road (Route 120) to southbound I-395
  • The intersection of South Shirlington Road and South Arlington Mill Drive
  • The intersection of Gunston Road and Martha Custis Drive

The study has collected data on traffic volumes and vehicle movements, and identified safety and operational issues. Learn more about the study’s identified alternatives, which aim to reduce congestion and crashes as well as boost the interchange’s overall performance. The study is being financed with federal funds and is expected to be finalized in fall 2019.

Residents are invited to stop by Drew Model Elementary School, 3500 23rd Street South, Arlington, VA 22206 between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. to view displays and learn more about the study. A presentation will begin at 7:30 p.m. VDOT staff will be on hand to answer questions.

Give comments at the meeting, or e-mail or mail them by June 24, 2019 to Ms. Olivia Daniszewski, EIT, Virginia Department of Transportation, 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030.

Image via VDOT

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Within the next decade, a new transit group wants to make the bus the go-to transit option in the D.C. area

Earlier this year, the Washington Area Bus Transformation Project — which is backed by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority — released a draft strategic plan with a variety of short and long-term goals and strategies for improving the D.C. region’s bus network.

“The national capital region is adding 40,000-60,000 jobs and households each year,” the group said in its strategic plan. “But its transportation system is struggling to keep pace, leading to some of the longest commutes and worst traffic congestion in the nation.”

Potential ways to improve D.C. area buses and thus help alleviate traffic issues were broken into six categories, ranging in complexity and potential cost.

  • Ease of use: make simpler, consistent maps, naming conventions, and pricing. Another recommendation would be free transfers between Metrorail service and local bus lines.
  • Prioritizing buses on roads: potentially with bus-only lanes and traffic signal priority, though regional coordination will be needed.
  • Frequent, reliable, convenient service: overhaul existing routes to create a more efficient system and provide flexible, on-demand transit services for areas not well served by conventional buses.
  • Balance regional and local bus systems: develop a 10-year plan to allocate services between bus systems and applicable routes. The plan also includes a recommendation to “revise the cost local jurisdictions pay WMATA for local service to better match the actual cost to provide service.”
  • Streamline back-office functions: most of the recommendations in this category are behind-the-scenes improvements, like consolidating support functions and developing regional standards for bus data collection and analysis.
  • Centralizing regional bus networks: form a regional coalition of jurisdictional representatives with authority to implement strategy recommendations.

The bus system has a long way to go if it wants to turn its image around. Since 2012, bus ridership has fallen 13 percent across the region. The project will also require cooperation from the region’s nine bus service providers.

Much of the project also depends on local jurisdictions to implement strategies like restricting parking to facilitate better bus transit. This is why representatives from Arlington Transit and several Arlington County departments are in the group’s technical team and strategy advisory panel.

Meanwhile, most of the technical team and all of the leadership team are WMATA employees.

So far there are no cost estimates for the plan’s recommendations. Allison Davis, a member of the project team, said the price tag will come later in the process.

The project started in September. The group is currently in the middle of a public outreach campaign to sell the public on the idea and gather feedback. At an open house yesterday at George Mason University’s Arlington campus, the room was covered with boards for collecting thoughts on the project and the direction it should take. A survey is also available online.

The plan goes to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and the WMATA board this summer for review, with a roadmap planned for development in the fall.

“We’re trying to look at this from a customer perspective,” Davis said. “This [plan] is a tool we have to make better [transit] choices.”

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Three safety and beautification projects are coming to western Arlington streets.

This Saturday the County Board is scheduled to vote on $2.8 million in construction contracts for Neighborhood Conservation projects. The three projects are all at the western edge of Arlington, near Falls Church.

The project at Patrick Henry Drive near Westover Apartments will add dedicated bike lanes from Washington Boulevard to 16th Street N.

The other two projects — 2nd Street South at S. Kensington Street and N. Quintana Street — will add new sidewalks. The N. Quintana Street project will also add streetlights.

The projects are all planned to:

  • Improve pedestrian connectivity
  • Provide disability accessible routes
  • Rehabilitate existing roadways
  • Improve drainage

The projects are 32 percent more expensive ($883,379) than when they were first proposed in 2017, which staff attributed to inflation in construction costs and higher construction standards enacted by the county since then.

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated at 9:30 a.m.) Arlington County is considering a series of transportation improvements, including a fix to the complicated West and South Glebe Road intersection.

At Saturday’s County Board meeting the Board scheduled to vote on the approval of a series of grant requests for up to six projects with a total funding of up to $5.4 million.

The most expensive of the projects would be cleaning up the somewhat crash-prone Glebe Road intersection for $3 million in grant funding. W. Glebe Road, S. Glebe Road and S. Four Mile Run Drive all feed into the same intersection. By adjusting the geometry and the lane configuration, the county hopes to reduce instances of crashes.

Staff also note in the proposal that adjusting traffic signal timing and turn movements on S. Four Mile Run Drive could alleviate congestion on northbound I-395 by reducing backups on the ramp to S. Glebe Road.

The grant requests also include a series of transit improvements. The report notes that motorists frequently violate the Potomac Yard Transitway travel restrictions in Crystal City. The planned fix would add red markings to the lanes to denote the entry points to the transitway.

Other improvements include reliability upgrades for the 22F and 16Y Metrobus lines, serving Pentagon-Shirlingt0n-Fairlington and Columbia Pike-Court House-Farragut Square, respectively.

The 7Y Metrobus route would also gain additional noon-to-midnight bus service starting in December.

Also included among the grant requests is a funding request for $211,962 to extend the Commuter Store operations at the Pentagon for another 12 months. The store sells transit passes and provides commuter assistance, serving approximately 1,800 customers per month according to the staff report. Current funding for operations is set to expire on March 31, 2020.

Photos via Google Maps

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