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VDOT Looks for Innovative Transportation Ideas at Hackathon

The Virginia Department of Transportation is looking to “developers, planners, futurists, big data lovers and problem solvers” to help address the state’s biggest transportation questions.

Today (July 17) and tomorrow, participants in VDOT’s second SmarterRoads Hackathon and Idea Jam Series will gather at startup incubator 1776’s Crystal City campus. They will use VDOT’s open data sets and SmarterRoads portal to develop projects.

Last year’s event, held in Virginia Beach, produced a mobile app capable of providing real-time traffic signal information and a system to optimize road pavement schedules, among other concepts.

Winners receive cash prizes up to $1,000 and some successful entrants will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas at a future workshop.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine will deliver a speech tomorrow afternoon, before the event wraps up with an awards ceremony at 4 p.m.

File photo

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S. Eads Street Construction Set to Snarl Traffic Near Pentagon Parking

Construction around one of the Pentagon’s parking lots kicking off this week could produce some big headaches for drivers and bus riders alike.

Starting this morning (Monday), work will shut down the west side of S. Eads Street from Army Navy Drive to where it nears the Pentagon’s south parking lot at S. Rotary Road.

That will shift both northbound and southbound traffic to the east side of the street. In the mornings, from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., that will cut off access to I-395’s northbound HOV lanes and Army Navy Drive from S. Rotary Road. Crews will post a detour and drivers should follow signs. In the same time period, access to northbound S. Eads Street from the right lane of S. Rotary Road will be reserved for anyone heading for I-395’s southbound HOV lanes.

Construction will include “median reconfiguration, road widening, pavement and drainage work,” according to VDOT, prompting some major traffic snarls.

“As current traffic volume along Eads Street is near capacity during peak periods, we expect significant traffic congestion and delays along Eads Street,” VDOT wrote in an advisory. “Periodic nighttime/weekend closures may also take place to complete the construction activities.”

VDOT is recommending that drivers looking to reach the I-395 HOV lanes during the construction to use the ramps near the Pentagon’s north parking lots at Boundary Channel Drive instead.

Arlington Transit is also warning bus riders looking to reach the Pentagon to expect “significant delays for ART buses entering and exiting” the facility’s lots. ART plans to issue service advisories as needed.

VDOT says work will shift to the east side of S. Eads Street sometime this fall, then last for an additional two months. The construction is included as part of the broader project focused on the I-395 express lanes.

Photo via VDOT

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Construction Kicks Off on Eastbound I-66 Widening, New Lane to Open in 2020

Construction kicked off this morning (Thursday) on a persistently congested section of eastbound I-66 with a ceremonial groundbreaking on Fairfax Drive.

The estimated $125 million project will add a lane to stretch approximately four miles inside the Beltway — from the Dulles Connector Road to Fairfax Drive — while mostly maintaining the existing right of way.

VDOT plans to complete construction of the lane in fall 2020. There will be night time lane closures along the project route throughout the summer to accommodate construction, according to information presented at a June 5 community meeting.

Night time closures will continue on a more limited basis through summer 2019. By the end of this summer, VDOT plans to begin primarily conducting work during the day without lane closures.

The findings of a noise analysis in the fall will potentially allow VDOT to incorporate approved noise walls into final construction plans.

Two other projects are slated to be completed by October 2021 as part of the widening initiative. First, a new ramp will be built to establish direct access to the West Falls Church Metro station from the highway. Second, a pedestrian bridge will be constructed over Lee Highway on the W&OD Trail. Currently, the trail crosses Lee Highway at its intersection with Fairfax Drive.

These plans have not gone uncontested — Preservation Arlington included the inside the Beltway portion of the highway on its 2017 list of “endangered historic places” and some East Falls Church residents have expressed concerns about the pedestrian bridge, for example.

Shannon Valentine, Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation, noted in her keynote address at the groundbreaking that I-66 is often considered one of the worst highways in America. Efforts such as this project, dynamically priced tolls on I-66 and an increase in travel options aim to change that.

“As we move forward, smart, targeted investments like the eastbound widening today are steps… [toward] building a transportation platform that supports and enhances our workforce, jobs, business investment and growth,” Valentine said.

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Lost Stuffed Bunny Still Searching for Home, With Some Help from County Officials

Arlington officials remain on the hunt for the owner of a plush bunny left behind at the Taste of Arlington two weeks ago — and they’ve turned to social media to spread the word.

The county’s Department of Environmental Services asked its nearly 4,000 Twitter followers to help locate the stuffed animal’s rightful owner on May 21 after finding it amidst compost, recycling and trash, but the floppy-eared toy remained unclaimed as of this morning (Friday).

With its future in limbo, the bunny continues to be determined and optimistic, at least according to a photo narration provided by DES.

On May 24, the bunny embarked on a search at the county’s GIS Mapping Center, donning, of course, required safety equipment. Since then, the bunny has explored Arlington’s transportation center, taken a ride on a street sweeping vehicle and shown its support for the Washington Capitals.

The lost toy has garnered support from community members and the Northern Virginia district of the Virginia Department of Transportation. One Fredericksburg resident with the Twitter handle @NickZ even designed a “missing bunny” poster to advance search efforts.

https://twitter.com/nickz/status/1002058433191989250

As it tells the bunny’s story, DES has also publicized county services such as street sweeping and free paper shredding.

Although the bunny has yet to find its home, DES is not ready to give up. Just this morning, the Solid Waste Bureau’s Earth Products Yard hosted the toy on its latest clue-searching expedition before taking a break at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

“The bunny sadly remains unclaimed,” DES spokeswoman Katie O’Brien told ARLnow. It did, however, spend some time searching for clues at the Earth Products Yard while “taking special caution to avoid the shredder.”

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VDOT Seeking Feedback on Shirlington Circle Improvements

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.

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Morning Notes

I-66 Toll Tweaks Coming — The Virginia Department of Transportation will tweak the algorithm it uses to calculate tolls in the I-66 express lanes, which possibly could lead to lower tolls, although VDOT doesn’t guarantee lower tolls in the long run. The high tolls caused outrage among drivers when they were first instated in December and drew national attention, although transportation officials contend they work as intended with deterring single-passenger vehicle trips. [WTOP]

Three Questions with Del. Lopez — Del. Alfonso Lopez offers some short responses to questions about his accomplishments and challenges facing Arlington. [Arlington Magazine]

Substance Use Town Hall — Arlington County will hold a town hall on substance use tonight at Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road) from 7-9 p.m. Panelists including police, school and human services officials, and the discussion will be moderated by Kimberly Suiters from ABC 7. A resource fair will immediately precede and follow the town hall. [Arlington County]

New Monument for the Old Guard — “A special ceremony [took] place in Arlington, Virginia Tuesday to honor more than 230 years of service by the Third U.S. Infantry Regiment, also known as The Old Guard. Soldiers, veterans and leaders from across the Army will gather for the unveiling of The Old Guard Monument at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.” [Fox 5]

Streetlight Demonstration Tonight — County staff will hold an LED streetlight field demonstration bus tour tonight for residents to see and learn more about the products under consideration in the Streetlight Management Plan. The bus leaves at 8 p.m. from the Arlington Career Center (816 S. Walter Reed Drive). Registration is required. [Arlington County]

Traffic Enforcement Time Adjusted — According to an updated press release sent this morning, the all modal traffic enforcement scheduled for tomorrow at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street will now be from 1-2:30 p.m.

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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I-66 Bridge Rehab Work Starting Up, Lane Closures Scheduled

Rehabilitation work on the I-66 bridge between the Rosslyn tunnel and D.C. has begun, according to the Virginia Dept. of Transportation.

Crews began setting out concrete barriers and pavement markings overnight on Wednesday, and will continue to do so through tonight (Thursday).

Lane closures on eastbound I-66 will be scheduled Monday-Friday from 9:30 p.m.-5 a.m., while westbound I-66 closures will be scheduled from 10 p.m.-5 a.m. on the same days.

VDOT expects traffic impacts to be minimal throughout the construction, which is expected to be completed by the summer of 2019.

For the next day or two, VDOT will periodically close the ramp from the southbound GW Parkway to the Roosevelt Bridge and westbound Route 50. The closures will take place between midnight and 5 a.m. to “allow for the installation of concrete barriers under the I-66 bridge,” according to the National Park Service.

The $5.7 million construction project will resurface the bridge’s deck, repair piers and abutments, and repave I-66 approaching the bridge.

According to VDOT, the bridge averages 54,000 vehicles a day eastbound and 44,000 westbound.

Photo courtesy VDOT

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Improvements Planned for Seven Corners Bridge

Improvements are planned for a one-way bridge linking eastbound Route 50 to Wilson Boulevard in Seven Corners.

The bridge is blocks away from Arlington’s western border with Fairfax County.

A new concrete bridge deck, steel beams, and concrete end walls have been proposed for the bridge, which was built in 1958, as well as upgraded bridge railings.

A new sidewalk would be installed along the opposite side of the bridge’s existing sidewalk, which would be rehabbed.

A public information meeting with project displays and a presentation by Virginia Dept. of Transportation staff is planned for Tuesday (April 3) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Sleepy Hollow Elementary School (3333 Sleepy Hollow Road, Falls Church).

Public comments can be given at the meeting. Project financing comes from state and federal infrastructure funds.

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Arlington Public Schools Opening Two Hours Late on Thursday

(Updated at 10 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools’ classes and offices will open two hours late tomorrow (March 22) as the county cleans up from the winter storm that left at least four inches of snow in the area today.

The delay comes after the Virginia Department of Transportation warned of overnight refreezing of melting water.

From APS spokesperson Darryl Johnson:

All APS schools and offices will open two hours late on Thursday, March 22. The Extended Day program will also open two hours late and morning field trips are canceled. Essential employees and food service workers should report to work at their regularly scheduled time. All other employees should report to work two hours past their usual start time. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics.

Also Thursday, Metrobuses and Arlington Transit buses will start the morning with limited service. From WMATA:

Metrobus will begin Thursday, March 22, on a light snow plan with snow detours in effect on a route-by-route basis where hilly terrain or narrow streets may be problematic for buses.

MetroAccess paratransit service for riders with disabilities will be restored on Thursday. Customers may experience delays and service impacts due to road conditions.

Metrorail will open tomorrow at 5 a.m. with normal weekday service on all rail lines.

File photo

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VDOT: Beware of Refreeze Overnight

Meltwater from the wet spring snow that fell today may refreeze overnight, leading to treacherous conditions Thursday morning.

That’s the message from VDOT, which issued the following press release this evening.

As snow tapers off across northern Virginia and temperatures hover at or below freezing, the Virginia Department of Transportation asks drivers to be aware of potential icy conditions overnight and through tomorrow.

Crews will continue working overnight to clear roads, providing a passable path in neighborhoods as well as retreating all roads for refreeze. VDOT asks drivers to use extreme caution or delay overnight trips if possible, to ensure crews are able to work safely and efficiently.

Drivers are asked to continue to monitor weather and to use extreme caution if driving. Low temperatures over the next several days will mean potential for continued refreeze, slick spots and varying road conditions.

Drivers are reminded:

  • Stay tuned to weather conditions (see latest from National Weather Service).
  • If existing conditions refreeze and roads become icy, delay trips for safety, or allow plenty of extra time and reduce speeds significantly.
  • Assume any “wet” pavement could be slick. Even previously treated roads become slick quickly with low pavement and air temperatures.
  • Take it slow on bridges, ramps, overpasses, and other known trouble spots.
  • Ensure gas tanks and wiper fluid tanks are full and completely clean off vehicles before traveling.
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County Government, Facilities Closed as Snow Gets Underway

(Updated at 8:05 a.m.) Those waking up expecting a winter wonderland were instead greeted by icy but mostly snowless roads and sidewalks this morning.

Still, local governments, agencies and schools are taking no chances as snow starts to ramp up in the metro area.

Arlington County government offices, courts, community centers and other facilities are closed today and the county is urging residents to “stay off the roads as the snowstorm enters the area.”

Schools are also closed and all parks and rec programs and activities are cancelled. Trash and recycling collection has been bumped back a day.

Trash & Recycling collection for today, March 21, 2018, has been cancelled. Service will resume tomorrow with the collection schedule shifting by 24 hours. Wednesday collection will occur Thursday, Thursday collection will occur Friday, Friday collection will occur Saturday.

The federal government is closed today, the Office of Personnel Management announced. Along with federal agencies, Joint Base Myer Henderson-Hall is also closed. Emergency and telework-ready employees must follow their agency’s procedures, OPM said.

VRE and MARC service is cancelled, most Amtrak service is cancelled, and Metrobus and Metrorail is operating on a modified service schedule. Arlington Transit buses, meanwhile, are also operating on a reduced schedule.

“Expect snow today 8AM-8PM. Metrobus avoiding hills & narrow streets. ART will provide limited service as conditions permit,” ART said via email.

VDOT is urging drivers to “avoid being caught in hazardous conditions such as limited visibility and slick or snow-covered roads, as well as to allow crews plenty of room to work safely.”

For those who must drive, HOV restrictions have been lifted on local highways.

High occupancy vehicle (HOV) restrictions are lifted on I-66 (inside and outside the Beltway) and on I-395 (from Edsall Road to D.C.) for the morning and afternoon rush hours today. Because HOV restrictions are lifted, tolls on the 66 Express Lanes inside the Beltway will also be suspended today. Please also be aware that shoulder lanes on I-66 and I-495 may be closed through the day to allow crews room to treat.

Even before the bulk of the snow arrives, issues are being reported on the roads. As of 7:10 a.m., firefighters were responding to a report of two vehicles that spun out and off the road along the GW Parkway near Roosevelt Bridge.

More weather updates via Twitter:

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Winter Storm Watch Issued As County Prepares for Snow

(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) A Winter Storm Watch has been issued for the D.C. area as Arlington County crews prepare for several inches of snow.

The storm is expected to start as rain tomorrow, the first day of spring, before transitioning to snow. The National Weather Service noted on its Twitter page that there is “lots of uncertainty” in terms of the type of precipitation.

More from NWS:

…WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM LATE TUESDAY NIGHT THROUGH WEDNESDAY EVENING…

* WHAT…Heavy wet snow possible, with a total wet snow accumulation of 5 inches or more.

* WHERE…Metropolitan Baltimore and Washington areas, as well as the northern and central Shenandoah Valley.

* WHEN…From late Tuesday night through Wednesday evening.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…Plan on difficult travel conditions. Significant reductions in visibility are possible.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

A Winter Storm Watch means there is potential for significant snow, sleet or ice accumulations that may impact travel. Continue to monitor the latest forecasts.

Via Twitter, the Virginia Department of Transportation said crews will not be pretreating the roads because of the expected rain on Tuesday. An Arlington Department of Environmental Services representative confirmed that the county will not be pretreating for the same reasons, but added that trucks are “ready to treat arterials and any trouble spots should they appear overnight.”

More from VDOT:

The first day of Spring in northern Virginia is forecast to bring snow and sleet and Virginia Department of Transportation crews will be ready. The National Weather Service has already issued a Winter Weather Advisory and Winter Storm Watch for the area. Drivers should continue to monitor the weather and be prepared to stay off the roads if the timing and intensity of this storm impacts rush hours.

Overnight Monday, plow trucks will be staged and ready to treat roads with salt and sand at the beginning of the storm. After two inches have fallen, crews will be able to begin to push snow and/or continuously treat affected areas.

Drivers are asked to:

  • Stay closely tuned to weather forecasts (see National Weather Service) throughout the day Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • Consider adjusting trips around the forecast for safety.
  • Assume any “wet” pavement to be slick. Bridges, ramps, overpasses and lower-volume roads may get slippery first, and even previously treated roads will become slick quickly with the low pavement temperatures.
  • Ensure gas and wiper fluid tanks are full, and have a good emergency kit. Here’s how: www.ready.gov/car.
  • Be aware that low temperatures will mean continued potential for refreeze and slick road conditions.

Via social media:

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VDOT: Wintry Mix May Impact Wednesday Morning Commute

A wintry precipitation mix is expected to hit the region this evening (March 6) and continue into tomorrow morning, which Virginia Department of Transportation officials say could impact the morning commute.

Crews are treating the roads and are preparing for any necessary snow removal, though a tweet from the Capital Weather Gang notes that it is unlikely that much will stick. It’s more likely that there will be a buildup of slush.

VDOT has the following tips for the anticipated precipitation:

  • Stay closely tuned to weather forecasts (see National Weather Service) overnight and through the day tomorrow.
  • Consider teleworking or adjusting trips around the forecast. If roads are slick, delay trips for safety.
  • Bridges, ramps, overpasses and lower-volume roads may become slick quickly with low pavement temperatures.
  • Ensure gas and wiper fluid tanks are full, and have a good emergency kit. Here’s how: www.ready.gov/car.
  • Be aware that low temperatures will mean continued potential for refreeze and slick road conditions.

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Video: I-66 Drivers Have Found a Way to Avoid Tolling

The contentious I-66 toll rollout only began about three months ago, but it appears that some non-HOV commuters have already found a way around the tolls.

Videos sent to ARLnow.com from a Rosslyn resident show commuters idling along the I-66 shoulder. It’s unclear whether or not the drivers are waiting for the toll to lower or if they are waiting for the tolling period to end all together. The evening tolling period is from 3-7 p.m., and our tipster tells us that this happens frequently just before 7 p.m.

A spokeswoman for Virginia State Police, which is responsible for enforcement on the highway, told ARLnow.com that “this has been an ongoing issue on Interstate 395” as well.

“State police take this issue very seriously and continue to enforce the law, but we are limited due to an ongoing shortage of troopers,” said the spokeswoman. Emergency calls take priority over tolling enforcement, she added.

Virginia law states that drivers cannot stop on the highway except in case of an emergency, accident, or mechanical breakdown.

Tolls as high as $40-50 have been reported on I-66 inside the Beltway since the HOT lane launch, despite initial predictions  of tolls closer to the $7-9 range.

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Officials: Prepare for Falling Debris and Power Outages During Wind Storm

High winds are expected to wallop the Washington region tonight through Saturday and officials are asking the public to take precautions.

Wind gusts as strong as 60-70 miles per hour are possible from Friday from 4 a.m. through midnight, forecasters say. Wind gusts over 30 miles per hour are expected generally from tonight into Sunday.

The Virginia Department of Transportation issued its own advisory, warning that roadways could be dangerous and that road closures could be possible due to downed trees and power lines or other road debris. Crews will begin working overnight to fix any infrastructure damage, the agency said.

VDOT issued a warning to drivers, and a reminder to:

  • Check road closures before you travel, and look at potential alternate routes.
  • Reduce your speeds and assume there may be a road obstruction ahead.
  • Move over for responders with blue, red, and amber lights, including VDOT and utility crews.
  • Always use your headlights, remember wipers on, lights on is the law.
  • Ensure gas tanks are full, and have a good emergency kit. Here’s how: www.ready.gov/car.

AAA Mid-Atlantic issued its own warning, including a reminder to treat non-working traffic signals as a four-way stop.

“Motorists who venture out during the Nor’easter should brace themselves for driving into tempestuous side winds, which would buffet them off course and off the road, and into blustery head winds and turbulent tail winds,” AAA said. “Drive defensively or stay off the roads until the mercurial storm passes over.”

More advisories from the agencies via social media:

https://twitter.com/VaDOTNOVA/status/969252081319202816

https://twitter.com/ReadyArlington/status/969322520582205440

File photo

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