Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

HQ2 Business Boom Strains County — “A full year after Amazon.com Inc. announced that it would set up shop in Arlington, there’s little doubt the company has drawn the sort of surge in business and development interest that local leaders promised as they pursued HQ2 — but all of that activity has also put a strain on the local government as it prepares for the tech giant’s arrival.” [Washington Business Journal]

Tour of Amazon’s Temporary Crystal City Office — “Amazon almost has 200 employees working in leased space in @ArlingtonVA, with more on the way.” [WJLA, Twitter]

‘National Landing’ Name Falls Flat — “It’s been one year since the HQ2 announcement, and with it the coordinated airdrop of the name, ‘National Landing,’ on an unsuspecting and bewildered population… So has National Landing stuck? Not really, at least among the common people, according to the folks I interviewed.” [Washington Business Journal]

Amazon Adjacent Real Estate Skyrockets — “The median home price in the 22202 ZIP code, which encompasses all of HQ2, was $815,000 in October. That’s about a 51% year-to-date increase or a $275,000 difference, according to data provided by MarketStats by ShowingTime, based on listing activity from Bright MLS.” [Washington Business Journal, WTOP]

Housing Affordability Increasing? — “With mortgage rates at a three-year low and a healthy job market, housing affordability rose to its highest level in three years in the third quarter of 2019… for the Washington area, high incomes helped to offset the pricey cost of housing, with the resulting regional opportunity index higher than the national average.” [InsideNova]

County Pleased With Water Main Break Response — “How well did Arlington County in Virginia think it handled the water main break that triggered a boil water advisory for more than 100,000 customers in the county and parts of Northwest D.C.? Pretty well, it seems.” [WTOP]

New American Legion Bridge Coming — “Commuters heading to and from Maryland on the Beltway may see some relief from the constant traffic woes. The governors of Virginia and Maryland announced an agreement Tuesday morning that would see the construction of a new American Legion Bridge.” [Tysons Reporter]

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The Virginia Dept. of Transportation is studying possible upgrades to Route 50 between Glebe Road and Fillmore Street.

The 0.7 mile stretch, which is notably crash prone and difficult for drivers making left turns and pedestrians trying to cross the street, is a candidate for what VDOT has dubbed “Strategically Targeted Affordable Roadway Solutions.” Possible upgrades range from new turn lanes to pedestrian enhancements to — perhaps — even roundabouts.

VDOT is holding a public information session about the possible changes on Thursday (Nov. 14) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road).

More from VDOT:

The concepts being studied will be based on public input and may include improving turn lanes, traffic signal timing and operations, and access management for properties and streets along the corridor. Other concepts being studied may also include pedestrian, bicycle and transit enhancements, turn restrictions and “Innovative Intersections” such as roundabouts and interchanges. Stop by between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. to view displays and learn more about the project. A presentation will begin at 7 p.m. Project staff will be available to answer your questions.

“This stretch of Route 50 has long backups and delays during weekday peak commute times and several high crash locations due to the high number of access and conflict points,” VDOT said on a webpage for the study. “Route 50 averages 62,000 vehicles per day within the study limits.”

An online survey for the project asks, among other things, which multimodal facilities are needed along the Route 50 corridor. The multiple-choice options include sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian signals, shared-use bicycle lanes, bus shelters and a park and ride lot.

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(Updated 11/3) A ten-year plan for the future of transportation in Rosslyn has been finalized after county officials spent two years of gathering public feedback.

Major projects in the final proposed plan include incrementally converting Fort Myer Drive to a two-way street, removing the Fort Myer Drive tunnel, widening sidewalks and adding protected bike lanes.

In 2015, the Arlington County Board adopted the Rosslyn Sector Plan, which included a vision for what the neighborhood’s street networks could look like by 2030. Later in 2017, the Core of Rosslyn study was introduced as an effort from the County Board to analyze the feasibility and potential impacts of the Sector Plan’s proposed changes.

“With the understanding of all of the future developments coming to the area, we wanted to make sure private developments would not be affected by this plan,” county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet told ARLnow.

After two years working on the study, county staff have finalized their “Preferred Alternative Plan,” which outlines several substantial projects to be built by 2030.

Per the study’s website, these projects include:

  • Removal of the Fort Myer Drive tunnel under Wilson Blvd to improve pedestrian crossing options and access to Metro, and to help reduce vehicle speeds in the Rosslyn urban core.
  • Incremental conversion of Fort Myer Drive to a two-way street once the tunnel is closed.
  • Enhancing the bicycle network within the Rosslyn core by including continuous, protected bicycle and scooter lanes on Fort Myer Drive, N. Lynn Street, N. Nash Street, and Wilson Boulevard.
  • Enhancing the pedestrian experience through the removal of slip lanes, improvements to 18 existing or new crosswalks, and inclusion of wider sidewalks.
  • Reconfiguration and signalization of the intersection of westbound Route 50 and N. Meade Street “to allow for northbound traffic flow on Fort Myer Drive and to improve pedestrian and bicycle access.”

Funding for the projects will be determined when the County Manager Mark Schwartz updates Arlington’s Capital Improvement Plan in May, Balliet said. County Board adoption of the plan is expected later in the summer.

County staff will continue to engage with the community on each project and each new project will have its own webpage, according to Balliet.

The study itself cost about $1 million, Balliet said.

One project outlined in the “Alternative Plan” is already underway: the first stage of the Dark Star Park (1655 N. Fort Myer Drive) slip lane closure and park expansion occurred in July, funded through county operating funds and a partnership with the Rosslyn Business Improvement District.

Photo (top) via Arlington County, (below) via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Windy Day on Tap — After a windy night, more gusty winds are expected today. The gusts are expected to reach up to 40 miles per hour locally. [Twitter]

Lions Club Seeks County Lot for Xmas Tree Sale — “Christmas is coming early for the South Arlington Lions Club. Arlington County Board members on Oct. 19 are expected to allow, for the second year in a row, the service organization to use county-government property on South Four Mile Run Drive for its annual Christmas-tree sale.” [InsideNova]

Local Affordable Housing Group Expanding — “A leading affordable housing nonprofit in Arlington County is expanding its operations into Montgomery County, another sign of a growing regional focus on preserving or producing homes that lower-earning residents can afford.” [Washington Post, Press Release]

Earthquake Drill Today — “Participate in the world’s largest earthquake drill [today] at 10:17 a.m… Go to the lowest floor of the building, drop to your hands/knees, cover your head w/your arm, and hold on to shelter.” [Twitter]

VDOT Studying Changes to Route 50 West of Arlington — “The Virginia Department of Transportation is holding a public information meeting Monday, Oct. 21 on a study of potential safety and operational improvements for three miles of Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) between Jaguar Trail and Wilson Boulevard.” [VDOT]

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A pair of roads on the southern end of Crystal City opened to two-way traffic earlier today.

The new traffic pattern comes after several months of construction to facilitate the change. It’s the third phase in a multi-year process of opening former one-way streets in Crystal City to two-way traffic, through construction and and roadway restriping.

As we reported in 2011:

The first phase of the project will add a southbound lane to the portion of Crystal Drive between 12th Street and 15th Street, just north of the Crystal City water park. It will also convert a one-way section of S. Clark Street between 12th and 15th Streets to a two-way road. Construction on this phase of the project is expected to begin in the spring of 2012 and wrap up in winter 2012.

A second phase is expected to begin construction in fall 2012. That phase will add a southbound lane to the one-way portion of Crystal Drive between 23rd Street and 27th Street. Changes will also be made to 27th Street, which runs between the Courtyard by Marriott and the Hyatt Regency hotels.

“The Crystal Drive Two-Way Conversion project will begin to establish the street network needed to support future development and transit improvements planned by the Crystal City Sector Plan and Crystal City Multimodal Study,” Arlington County said on the project website. “The intent of the project is to improve the navigability of Crystal City by converting Crystal Drive and the surrounding street network from a one-way to a two-way directional roadway.”

In addition to converting traffic lanes, the project will also add new traffic signals, street trees, ADA-compatible intersection upgrades and a new southbound bicycle lane.

The vision of “future development and transit improvements planned by the Crystal City Sector Plan” mentioned in 2011 seems to be coming to fruition, with a new slate of major redevelopment projects announced this week; the removal of Route 1 overpasses being discussed; and the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway expected to expand to Pentagon City in the near future.

More on today’s changes, from Arlington County’s website:

On Friday, Oct. 4, after the morning rush hour, Crystal Drive between 26th and 27th Streets South will be changed from one-way northbound to two-way traffic. 27th Street between Crystal Drive and South Clark Street also will be changed to two-way operations.

This section of Crystal Drive will have one travel lane in each direction. 27th Street will have two eastbound lanes to access Crystal Drive and Potomac Avenue, and one westbound lane providing direct access to the Hyatt and Route 1.

Police and the County’s construction team will be on-site throughout Friday to monitor the switch and help direct traffic. If possible, avoid this area during the changeover on mid-day Friday, and be prepared for the new traffic pattern when using these streets in the future.

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Our reporting yesterday about plans to eliminate Route 1 overpasses in Crystal City and replace them with more urban-style, at-grade intersections was greeted with some skepticism.

Though the idea of making Route 1 — also known as Richmond Highway — more of an “urban boulevard” as Amazon moves in may seem appealing at first glance, the prospect of crossing the busy commuter route to get to and from the Crystal City Metro Station, as opposed to just walking underneath as one can currently on 18th Street, elicited some strong opinions.

There is, as some have suggested, another option, though it would be considerably more expensive: send Route 1 underground instead and build something pedestrian-oriented on top.

As seen in the illustration above, the original 2010 Crystal City Sector Plan actually presented a vision of Route 1 below grade, with roundabouts and some green space on top, at least at one intersection. It’s not an outdated concept — sending highways below ground and putting parks on top is a noted, recent urban design trend.

And it doesn’t need to be a park. Perhaps a pedestrian promenade surrounded by retail, restaurants and entertainment options — like the popular Third Street in Santa Monica — would work as the area grows. It could extend all the way from 12th Street to after 23rd Street, becoming a hub rather than a hindrance between the Crystal City and Pentagon City neighborhoods.

Undoubtedly, such a project would be expensive. And it would be disruptive in the short term. But would it be worth it, in your opinion?

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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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