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by Alex Koma May 18, 2018 at 2:45 pm 0

State transportation officials want to hear from you about how to best improve the I-395 interchange at exit 6 near Shirlington.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is in the midst of studying safety and operational improvements to the area, known as Shirlington Circle, and they’re convening a public meeting on the project this Monday (May 21). The gathering is set for 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Fairlington Community Center (3308 S. Stafford Street), and VDOT staff plan to give a presentation on potential improvement options at 7 p.m.

VDOT is also eyeing changes to several other roadways in the area, including:

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

VDOT is examining ways to “reduce congestion, crashes, and boost the interchange’s overall performance,” according to a press release.

The agency plans to wrap up the public comment period for the Shirlington improvements on May 31, then study a few alternatives in more detail starting this summer. VDOT plans to issue a report on a “preferred alternative” by this fall.

Anyone looking to comment on the project can do so at the meeting, send comments by e-mail, or even mail them to Olivia Daniszewski, Virginia Department of Transportation, 4975 Alliance Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030, by May 31.

by Alex Koma May 16, 2018 at 9:55 am 0

Some long-awaited improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians on S. Walter Reed Drive in Shirlington could soon move forward.

Arlington County has been hoping for years to add a series of new features to the road as it runs between S. Arlington Mill Drive to S. Four Mile Run Drive, and the County Board is poised to award a roughly $1.8 million contract for the construction this weekend.

County planners are looking to improve access to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail and the Four Mile Run Trail along the road, and the county is aiming to add new crosswalks and curb ramps, ADA-compliant bus stops, upgraded traffic and pedestrian signals and additional street lighting in the area.

The plans also call for a slight widening and resurfacing of S. Walter Reed Drive, and the elimination of a westbound turn lane on Arlington Mill Drive to improve the crossing for walkers and cyclists. County officials started testing the latter change last summer, briefly prompting a few traffic back-ups in the area. According to a report by county staff, transportation planners managed to resolve those problems by tweaking the timing of traffic signals around the end of 2017.

The Shirlington Civic Association is supportive of the project. Its president said in a letter that the association hopes, among other things, that the project will improve access to the western end of the Shirlington dog park.

The county is hoping to start construction sometime this spring or summer, pending the Board’s approval of the contract. The Board is set to vote to vote on the matter on Saturday (May 19), as part of its “consent agenda,” which is generally reserved for noncontroversial items that are approved all at once.

The total cost of all phases of the project, including the current contract, is listed as $2.8 million.

by Alex Koma May 1, 2018 at 12:45 pm 0

Transportation planners are inviting Arlingtonians to look three decades into the region’s future at a meeting tomorrow night.

The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board is hosting a public forum focusing on its “Visualize 2045” initiative at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (May 2) at the Arlington Central Library.

The organization — which includes representatives of 22 local governments around the D.C. region and a variety of other federal, state and local transportation officials — is convening a series of town halls on its long-range plans for the area over the coming weeks.

The group wants feedback on seven broad goals for the region:

  • Bring jobs and housing closing together
  • Expand bus rapid transit regionwide
  • Move more people on Metrorail
  • Provide more telecommuting and other options for commuting
  • Expand express highway network
  • Improve walk and bike access to transit
  • Complete the “National Capital Trail

While officials are already working on some of these goals, others are deemed more aspirational and need funding to become a reality. But Transportation Planning Board officials hope to get public feedback on all of them to shape the development of policies to support these benchmarks.

Anyone who can’t make it to the meeting but still wants to submit comments on the plan can do so on the group’s website through May 31.

Photo via National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 23, 2018 at 3:45 pm 0

The Arlington County Board has approved a site plan that would bring 97 affordable housing units and two rows of townhouses to Buckingham.

The “100 percent affordable” multi-family building and townhouses will replace the former local Red Cross headquarters.

The approved development comes despite complaints from nearby residents about the proposal. The new development’s density, potentially increased traffic, and “the desecration of the tree canopy” were all cited as dealbreakers for some locals, though supporters asserted that the building was vacant, the affordable housing is “badly needed” and complaints were overblown.

A partial rezoning of the site was approved alongside the site plan at Saturday’s County Board meeting (April 21). There are currently two single family homes on the site, in addition to the former headquarters and an existing playground.

The townhouses will be built in the first phase of the project, with construction on the multi-family building, which is required to “achieve Earthcraft Gold or LEED v4 Homes and Multifamily Midrise Gold certification,” following in a second phase.

The developer, Wesley Housing Development Corporation, agreed to preserve the on-site apartments, known historically as the Windsor Apartments but now called the Whitefield Commons, which the county says were built in 1943. Unit incomes will average 80 percent of the average median income, and the building will average 60 percent of that figure.

Whitefield Commons’ interior will be reconfigured to add five units, bringing the total units inside that complex to 68. The multi-family building will have 97 units, and the townhouses will have 19.

There will be 187 parking spaces between the developments — 45 at Whitefield Commons, 88 at the multi-family building, and 42 for the townhouses. The townhouses have the highest parking ratio per unit, at 2.26 spots per unit plus four visitor spots.

Wesley Housing Development Corporation will be required to “encourage transportation alternatives.”

That will be done via a transportation management plan, which includes a provision to give “each new tenant in the multi-family building… a choice of a SmartTrip card preloaded with a $65 balance or a bikeshare or car share membership,” according to a county project website.

A Google Maps estimate shows that the site is approximately a 22 minute walk to the Ballston Metro station. The 3.95 acre parcel is bordered by N. Thomas and N. Trenton streets, 2nd Road N., and Arlington Boulevard.

Plans estimate that 60 trees will be removed, three of which are dead or dying and another 17 of which are located on top of or near an existing storm pipe.

An estimated 132 tree credits will be granted, according to the site plan. One credit is given for each planted shade tree or large evergreen tree, or for every three deciduous, ornamental, or small evergreen trees.

Map via Google Maps

by ARLnow.com March 26, 2018 at 8:30 am 0

Overnight House Fire in Rock Spring — The Arlington County Fire Department battled a blaze in the basement of a home in the Rock Spring neighborhood early this morning. One occupant of the home was brought to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation. [Twitter]

ACFD Battles Falls Church Fire — Arlington and Fairfax County firefighters battled a two-alarm house fire in Falls Church early Sunday morning. The home’s occupant was able to get out but was transported to the hospital. The house, which had “hazardous hoarding conditions” inside, it believed to be a total loss. [City of Falls Church, Falls Church News-Press]

Warner Blasts ‘Dark Underbelly of Social Media’ — Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) went on NBC’s Meet the Press over the weekend and addressed the topic of Facebook’s privacy issues and alleged Russian election interference. “I think the whole industry has been reluctant to accept the fact that we’re seeing the dark underbelly of social media, and how it can be manipulated,” Warner said, adding: “frankly, Mr. Zuckerberg needs to come and testify.” [YouTube]

Arlington on ‘Healthiest Communities’ Rankings — Arlington County ranked No. 31 on U.S. News and World Report’s new Healthiest Communities rankings. Neighboring Falls Church ranked No. 1 while the City of Fairfax ranked No. 6 and Loudoun County ranked No. 10. [WTOPU.S. News]

County Recognizes Businesses for Transportation Programs — “The Arlington County Board honored 19 local businesses and properties for their dedication to providing sustainable transportation to employees and tenants, as part of the Champions program. The program… motivates businesses, multi-family residential communities, commercial properties and schools to recognize the impact they can make on reducing traffic congestion in Arlington County.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

by ARLnow.com March 1, 2018 at 2:15 pm 0

It’s a question that some have been asking themselves as Arlington has advanced to be among the most likely destinations for Amazon’s second headquarters.

Would the proposed Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar system have helped Arlington’s chances had it been built?

The Arlington County Board voted to cancel the project in 2014 after rising cost estimates and questions about its advantages over buses led to widespread opposition and voter discontent.

Had it been built, the streetcar would have run from Crystal City — which is seen as a strong contender among D.C. area locales — to Columbia Pike and the Skyline area of Fairfax County.

ARLnow.com talked to several insiders to get their take on the hypothetical question.

Several we spoke to, who work in economic development and on transportation issues, said that the streetcar would have been an attractive amenity in the eyes of Amazon. It would have provided a vital, high-frequency link from offices in Crystal City to workforce housing along Columbia Pike, they said.

Also cited as evidence: Amazon’s own support of streetcar system in Seattle.

However, another insider, who works in the works in the commercial real estate industry, doubts that the streetcar would have made much of a difference.

For one, the would-be streetcar is being replaced with enhanced bus service on the Pike and along the Potomac Yard-Crystal City corridor. Also, Crystal City already has one of the highest scores for transportation accessibility among HQ2 contenders, thanks to the frequent bus service, Metro’s Yellow and Blue lines, VRE, commuter buses, the Mt. Vernon Trail and walkability to Reagan National Airport.

In other words, said the insider, the streetcar might have been icing on the cake, but it is unlikely to have moved the needle much on Amazon’s decision. Plus, it is possible that Arlington would have had to contend with some of the streetcar problems currently being experienced by D.C.

Amazon is expected to make its decision later this year. Arlington and Northern Virginia, one insider speculated, is likely to at least be among the top five contenders, and at least one betting market agrees, giving the region the highest odds among the company’s top 20.

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 22, 2018 at 4:30 pm 0

A Crystal City to Reagan National Airport pedestrian connection is feasible, according to a study conducted by the Crystal City Business Improvement District.

The study, released today (Thursday), determined that the connection would allow most Crystal City residents and employees to walk to the airport within approximately 15 minutes. The connection would link the airport’s terminal B/C parking garage with a JBG Smith private office building complex on Crystal Drive near 20th Street S.

Construction is estimated to cost approximately $38 million, with annual maintenance fees of $100,000. Various possible pedestrian connection configurations, including both open air and enclosed setups, were illustrated in the study. One configuration envisions the pedestrian bridge as a park-like destination, akin to New York City’s High Line.

The majority of airport arrivals are via either private car or taxi. Only 12 percent of arrivals are via Metro, according to the study.

by ARLnow.com January 29, 2018 at 9:15 am 0

ARLnow’s Eighth Birthday — Today is the eighth anniversary of the founding of ARLnow.com. Here is our first post ever.

Sexual Harassment FOIA Folo — In a follow-up to our FOIA request seeking any records of sexual harassment or assault allegations against senior Arlington officials since 2000 — no such records were found — we asked about any such cases, against any county employee, that were handled by the County Attorney’s office over the past decade. The response from the county’s FOIA officer: “There are no records responsive to your request because no such cases exist.” The last publicly reported case was that against an Arlington police officer in 2007.

Vihstadt Launches Re-election Bid — Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt made it official last night: he is running for re-election. Vihstadt, who is running as an independent, has picked up at least one Democratic challenger so far. However, he again has the backing of a number of prominent Democrats, including fellow Board member Libby Garvey, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos and Treasurer Carla de la Pava. [InsideNova]

County Accepts Millions in Grant Funds — “The Arlington County Board today accepted $17.85 million in grant funding from three transportation entities that will be used for transit, bridge renovation and transportation capital projects in the County.” Among the projects is a new west entrance for the Ballston Metro station. [Arlington County]

County Board Accepts Immigration Donation — “The Arlington County Board today accepted a resident’s anonymous donation for a Citizenship Scholarship to help Arlingtonians pay the $725 federal application fee charged to those seeking to become U.S. citizens.” [Arlington County]

Man Convicted of 7-Eleven Robberies — A man arrested last year for a string of robberies has been convicted by a federal jury of three armed robberies and an armed carjacking. Among the crimes were two armed robberies of 7-Eleven stores in Arlington. [Alexandria News]

Arlington Lauded for Solar Program — The U.S. Department of Energy has named Arlington County a “SolSmart” community “for making it faster, easier and more affordable for Arlington homes and businesses to go solar.” [Twitter, Arlington County]

Flickr photo by John Sonderman

by Chris Teale January 24, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

Arlington County is set to receive more than $17 million in grant funding from state agencies for various transportation and transit projects.

The Arlington County Board will vote on Saturday (January 27) on whether to accept the funds, totaling $17.8 million, from the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

Of that, the county is set to receive $15 million from DPRT, just over $870,000 from NVTC and almost $2 million from VDOT. The money is to fund transit, bridge renovations and other transportation projects.

DPRT funds come from its Smart Scale program, a statewide funding program where jurisdictions apply for a limited amount of grant funding. NVTC’s funding is through its program to administer revenue made from the I-66 tolls. The VDOT funding is from a revenue sharing program the county regularly applies for.

The county was awarded money for the following projects, by the following bodies:

  • Ballston Metro station west entrance – $10 million (DPRT)
  • Purchase of Mobile Commuter Store – $500,000 (DPRT)
  • Purchase of eight 40-foot buses – $4 million (DPRT)
  • Installation and accessibility improvements of bus stops along the ART route to Marymount University – $500,000 (DPRT)
  • Bus stop consolidation and accessibility improvements – $462,000 (NVTC)
  • Multimodal real-time transportation information screens – $250,000 (NVTC)
  • ART bus rehabilitation for ART 55 peak service expansion – $160,000 (NVTC)
  • Shirlington Road Bridge – $935,000 (VDOT)
  • Pershing Drive – $1,050,000 (VDOT)

In a report, county staff recommended the Board accept the funds.

by Chris Teale September 26, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

Drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians alike should start seeing changes soon to the busy and confusing “Five Points Intersection” in Cherrydale.

Crews are currently digging up areas of the intersection of Lee Highway, Military Road, Old Dominion Drive, N. Quincy Street and N. Quebec Street.

They will upgrade traffic signals, add bike lanes, improve crosswalks and transit stops, widen sidewalks and add new ADA-accessible curb ramps. The intersection also will get new concrete curbs and gutters, sidewalks, driveways, asphalt pavement and street lighting.

Already, several medians around the intersection have been widened, while work is underway to dig up the corner of Lee Highway and Military Road.

During construction, those in the area can expect the following work hours and construction impacts, per a county press release:

  • Work hours will be 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday (9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday in the project area along N. Quincy Street).
  • Construction crews typically will close one travel lane adjacent to the work area with drums/cones while maintaining one lane of traffic in each direction.
  • All businesses located within the project area will remain open.
  • Sidewalk detours and temporary crosswalks will be used to maintain pedestrian access throughout the project area.
  • Several bus stops will be temporarily relocated during construction. Notices will be posted in advance on bus stop flags, and will say where temporary bus stops will be located.

“Improving this busy intersection at the Lee Highway/Old Dominion Drive and N. Quincy Street/Military Road — a major transportation crossing for pedestrians, bikers, transit users and motorists — is part of the County’s larger effort to make the Cherrydale neighborhood safer and more accessible for all modes of travel,” said the county’s Director of Transportation Dennis Leach in a statement.

The work is expected to be completed next summer. County staff spent several years studying ways to improve safety for pedestrians and help simplify some dangerously complicated traffic patterns.

by ARLnow.com September 11, 2017 at 9:30 am 0

Sixteenth 9/11 Anniversary — A flag was unfurled at the Pentagon this morning as the nation marked the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford were among those expected to attend a ceremony at the Pentagon, honoring the 184 people killed in the attack there. Arlington County also hosted its own remembrance ceremony and is posting recollections from Sept. 11, 2001 on social media. [ABC News, Twitter, Twitter]

Another Police-Impersonation Phone Scam — Local residents are again getting calls from a scammer claiming to be a law enforcement officer, demanding a fine be paid over the phone. As a reminder, police never call on the phone to collect fines. [Twitter]

Arlington 9/11 5K Recap — The 2017 Arlington Police, Fire and Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K was held in Pentagon City on Saturday evening amid perfect September weather. Among those on hand to address the crowd were Police Chief Jay Farr, County Board Chair Jay Fisette and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore. Spotted among the runners: former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who was wearing a Navy t-shirt and was all smiles after the race as the occasional group of fellow runners asked to take a photo with him. [Facebook, Chronotrack]

Park Service May Revamp MVT Boardwalk — As part of a larger improvement project for Theodore Roosevelt Island and the TR Bridge, the National Park Service is considering rehabilitating the nearby, aging boardwalk bridge along the Mount Vernon Trail, which carries bike and pedestrian traffic. [The Wash Cycle]

County Holds Transportation ‘Pop Up’ Event — “Arlington Transportation Partners, the County’s business-to-business transportation outreach organization, held its very first ‘Our Shared Street’ Pop Up festival recently at Arlington Mill Community Center. The late August gathering brought together residents of Columbia Pike with local businesses to highlight Arlingtonians’ many transportation options.” [Arlington County]

GW Parkway Crash — Earlier this morning, northbound traffic on the George Washington Memorial Parkway was temporarily blocked near the TR Bridge following a multi-vehicle crash. [Washington Post]

by Chris Teale August 3, 2017 at 10:15 am 0

Millennials in Arlington appear most concerned about adding more transit options, removing on-street parking and finding new locations for public meetings, at least according to a county-run online forum.

The findings come from the county’s Engage Arlington website, which launched a millennial-focused forum about county issues earlier this summer.

The forum is part of a wider push by the county to get more millennials involved in local government and civic life. Arlington was named the best city for millennials in the U.S. by the website Niche, with the millennial generation making up between 30-40 percent of the county’s population of just over 220,000.

The most popular suggestion on the forum — as determined by a Reddit-style up-voting system —  is to expand transit options in North Arlington, which has nine “likes.”

I’d love to embrace “Millennialism” and be car-free, but the inconsistency in transit options in parts of North Arlington is difficult — there is minimal bus service and a lack of bikeshare stations, even near Marymount University. Adding bikeshare locations along the northern portion of Glebe Road from Lee Highway up to Chain Bridge would be helpful in continuing to connect this area with other parts of the County!

Just below that is a proposal to remove on-street parking, to encourage more walking and biking in neighborhoods.

Along the major corridors we should remove subsidized on-street parking, to encourage walk-able and bike-able neighborhoods. Many of these on-street parking spots reduce visibility at cross walks and cause dooring and blocking situations for bike lanes, increasing danger and reducing foot traffic. Remove a few strategic parking spaces along the pike and Roslyn [sic] Ballston corridor and use that space to widen the sidewalks or add bike lanes.

Following that, two suggestions are tied for third with seven likes: requests to change the locations of public meetings to “places millennials frequent,” as opposed to always at community centers or schools, and to find a “transit solution” for Columbia Pike after the canceled streetcar project. (The Pike’s “Premium Transit Network” is set to launch next summer.)

A request to “figure out how to bring reasonably priced housing to Arlington” was among those with six up-votes.

A full list of suggestions and the number of likes they received, in parentheses, is below.

  • Expanding transit options (9)
  • Remove on-street parking (8)
  • Different public meeting locations (7)
  • A transit solution for Columbia Pike (7)
  • Reasonably priced housing market (6)
  • More multi-use properties (6)
  • Replacing the parking lot next to Whole Foods in Clarendon with a multi-story parking garage (6)
  • Affordable child care options (5)
  • More public art along Columbia Pike (5)
  • More programs for renters who want to be more energy efficient (4)
  • Programming for those aged 20-50 at county buildings (4)
  • Dedicated bike lane on Washington Blvd (4)
  • Engaging the county’s LGBTQ population (3)
  • Better advertisement of the county’s performing arts groups (2)
  • Expanding Arlington Alerts to include community news (2)
  • More transparent policing (2)
  • A dog park for Crystal City (2)
  • Bike paths on westbound Arlington Blvd (2)
  • A bridge on the Bluemont Trail at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Drive (1)
  • Add sidewalks to encourage more walking (1)
  • Reclaim some community centers to use as elementary schools (-1)

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

by Chris Teale May 18, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

Representatives from the county and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority came together this morning to celebrate the Crystal City Multimodal Center‘s completion.

The center on 18th Street S. between S. Eads and S. Clark streets — next to the Crystal City Metro station — now has more bus shelters for use by local and regional buses, wider sidewalks, improved lighting, bike lanes and a kiss and ride zone where shuttle buses can also load and unload.

Funding for the $3.4 million project came a $1.5 million grant from NVTA, a grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, a developer contribution and money from the Crystal City tax increment financing area.

“With these infrastructure improvements, Arlington is making it easier and safer for people travelling to and through Crystal City — whether they are arriving by bus, Metro, on foot or by car,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said. “It’s the latest example of how the county continues to invest in Crystal City and continues to build on the community’s vision of enhanced access and connectivity.”

NVTA funds projects across four counties and five cities in Northern Virginia, and officials said improvements such as those in Crystal City help the entire region. NVTA board chair Martin Nohe gave the example that a stopped train in Arlington at 7 a.m. can cause parking problems in Woodbridge at 8 a.m., and the center will help ease congestion worries.

“The people of truly every Northern Virginia jurisdiction are benefitting not just from this project, but every other project throughout Arlington,” Nohe said.

Fisette said that such projects and an emphasis on transit helped Arlington be recently named the best city for millennials. Without planning and the community’s input combined with bodies willing to help with financing, projects like these could never come to fruition, he said.

“We can’t do it all ourselves,” Fisette said. “We have to partner to make things like this happen…That’s what makes a community good. You can’t do the last part [delivering a project] without the first part [money], and you can’t do the first part without the community and the vision.”

by Chris Teale April 24, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

The busy and confusing “Five Points Intersection” in Cherrydale is set for an overhaul after the County Board awarded a construction contract Saturday.

Board members unanimously awarded a contract worth just under $1.7 million to A&M Concrete Corporation to improve the streetscape at the intersection of Lee Highway, Military Road, Old Dominion Drive, N. Quincy Street and N. Quebec Street.

The revamped intersection will include upgraded traffic signals, new bike lanes, improvements to crosswalks and transit stops, widened sidewalks and new ADA-accessible curb ramps. It also includes construction of new concrete curbs and gutters, sidewalks, driveways, asphalt pavement and street lighting.

In 2013, the Cherrydale Citizens Association expressed opposition to proposed changes, arguing some aspects created more danger for motorists.

But after some tweaks, the association’s fears appear to have been taken into account. The association’s newsletter expressed hope that the changes would make things better for all road users.

County staff has been exploring improvements at the intersection for several years to improve safety for pedestrians and help simplify some dangerously complicated traffic patterns.

A&M’s original bid of $1.4 million for the contact was the lowest of four submitted. A contingency of $280,000 has been added to take into account any cost overruns.

by ARLnow.com March 22, 2017 at 9:10 am 0

Sofar Sounds music performance by Chris Scholar in Crystal City 3/21/17

Metro PD Searching for Sexual Battery Suspect — Metro Transit Police are trying to identify a man who may have touched another rider inappropriately on an Orange Line train near the Clarendon station last week. [NBC Washington]

Local Tax Relief for Seniors — Last year 929 Arlington residents took advantage of the county’s real estate tax relief program for seniors, together saving $4.1 million in taxes. [Falls Church News-Press]

County Honors Transportation ‘Champions’ — “The Arlington County Board today honored 22 businesses as Platinum Level Champions for their commitment to operating and enhancing sustainable transportation programs for employees and tenants.” [Arlington County]

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