(Updated at 11 a.m.) The Arlington County Board is set vote this Saturday, March 20 on a nearly $1 million project to improve the intersection at N. Pershing Drive and Washington Blvd.
The busy intersection in Lyon Park lacks accessible curb ramps and has narrow sidewalks, long crossings and outdated bus stops, per the county manager’s report, creating a harrowing experience for many pedestrians and cyclists.
The requested $987,270 for the newest project will improve safety and accessibility at the Pershing and Washington intersection by expanding sidewalks and updating curb ramps to better comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the county says. It also shortens crossings.
Designs were completed last summer.
If approved, construction is expected to start early this summer according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesperson Eric Balliet.
More details about the timeline will come after the county’s approval and a contractor is onboard, Balliet notes in an email to ARLnow. The project is being funded by grants from the Virginia Department of Transportation, Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, as well as funds from the county’s Capital Projects Fund.
Ardent Company is being recommended as the construction company by county staff, after the firm came in as the lowest bidder out of six.
Photo via Arlington County
(Updated at noon) The new W&OD Trail bridge over Lee Highway in East Falls Church is now open.
VDOT announced the opening of the $6 million bridge Friday morning, touting “a safer, faster crossing over busy Route 29.” Previously, trail users would have to wait to cross Lee Highway at a crowded intersection, next to ramps to and from I-66 and Washington Blvd.
The trail is used by cyclists and pedestrians for both commuting and recreation. About 1,500 people travel on the W&OD near new bridge each weekday, while more than 2,000 use it on weekends.
The project prompted trail detours over its nearly two years of construction. It was funded — along with upgrades to I-66 ramps, repairs to overpasses, sound wall replacements, and a new Custis Trail roundabout — as part of the larger I-66 eastbound widening project.
Some finishing touches on the bridge and the nearby intersection will be completed through this summer, VDOT said. As of noon, however, the bridge was officially open.
More from a press release, below.
The new Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail Bridge over Route 29 (Lee Highway) in Arlington will open this afternoon, Friday, March 12, announced the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). This new bridge will provide bicyclists and pedestrians with a safer, faster crossing over busy Route 29 adjacent to I-66. The new bridge was built as part of VDOT’s I-66 Eastbound Widening Project.
“This new W&OD Trail bridge is another step forward in VDOT’s commitment to expanding multimodal transportation options in the I-66 corridor and across the region,” said Bill Cuttler, P.E., VDOT Northern Virginia District Construction Engineer. “The new bridge will benefit a range of trail users, from people walking and bicycling to the nearby East Falls Church Metrorail Station to the dedicated bicycle commuters who use the trail year-round to reach destinations across Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.”
The new crossing separates trail users from motorists at the signalized intersection of Route 29 and Fairfax Drive. The new bridge will enhance safety for both trail users and motorists and improve operations at nearby intersections on Route 29.
VDOT is in the process of designing changes to Route 1 as it travels through Crystal City.
The changes include turning Route 1 from more of a highway to an urban boulevard of sorts, with the heavily-traveled commuter route brought down to grade in places where it’s currently elevated.
That means removing the imposing overpasses that, on one hand, physically separate portions of Crystal City — but on the other hand provide a relatively safe path for pedestrians and cyclists to get from one side to the other.
Under the VDOT plan, there would be more intersections mixing vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
Though the urban boulevard idea is supported by the National Landing Business Improvement District and major local property owner JBG Smith, VDOT’s initial design of it, with 9 vehicle travel lanes and no bike infrastructure, has managed to pick up united opposition from the BID, JBG, neighborhood groups and other local activists.
Last year we published a poll asking about the idea of bringing Route 1 underground instead, an expensive proposition but one supported by local civic associations. Just over 75% of respondents preferred that idea to an at-grade urban boulevard.
The BID and some neighbors would like to see the urban boulevard concept implemented, but in a more pedestrian-friendly manner with fewer vehicle travel lanes. VDOT and some other locals, however, are concerned that would cause more cut-through traffic on local roads.
Today we’re asking: assuming that an underground Route 1 is infeasible, what about just keeping the overpasses largely as is? Is that preferable to the alternatives? Or should VDOT stick to some form of the urban boulevard idea, perhaps refining its initial concept plan?
County Getting Paid for Glass Recycling — “Arlington’s glass recycling drop-off program continues to shatter expectations–surpassing 5 million pounds (2,500 tons) collected since its debut in 2019. And the effort is officially paying off. The County now receives $15 per ton for glass collected as the result of a new hauling and commodity contract with a Pennsylvania recycler.” [Arlington County]
VDOT’s Route 1 Proposal Bombs — “As a new vision for Crystal City’s portion of U.S. Route 1 comes into focus, local businesses, neighbors and the area’s dominant landlord are all becoming increasingly concerned… Renderings unveiled in a Virginia Department of Transportation meeting Wednesday night have united the National Landing Business Improvement District, JBG Smith Properties and some neighborhood activists in opposition over fears that the designs are still too car-centric.” [Washington Business Journal, Twitter]
Police Warn of Ongoing Scams — “The Arlington County Police Department is sharing information on common scams circulating in Arlington County and ways you can spot, avoid, and report them. The public should be particularly cautious of anyone calling, emailing, or interacting with them and requesting payment in the form of gift cards as this is often a red flag for fraud.” [ACPD]
Driver of Stolen Car Escapes — “At approximately 2:15 a.m. on March 3, a patrol officer observed a stolen vehicle traveling on S. Carlin Springs Road. Before a traffic stop could be initiated, the driver accelerated the vehicle and made evasive turns before pulling over and fleeing the scene on foot. A perimeter was established and officers, with aerial support from the Fairfax County Police Helicopter Division, conducted a search for the driver with negative results.” [ACPD]
New Race Planned Next Weekend — “Join Arlington For Justice and Black Parents of Arlington for the 1st Run For Her Life (Women’s Only) 5k WALK and YOGA Event… March 13, 2021 at 2 p.m.” [Facebook]
Distance Learning Only for APS — “Due to inclement weather… Level 1, in-person learning support, Level 2 Career & Technical Education students and staff supporting these programs will temporarily revert to distance learning.” [Arlington Public Schools]
County Government Open — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, & facilities are OPEN Friday, 02-19-2021. Courts will open at 10AM. All facilities will follow normal operating hours.” [Twitter]
Be Careful Out There — “Northern Virginia crews continue to clear and treat roads overnight, for both some additional wintry precipitation as well as refreeze from low temperatures. Drivers are asked to continue to limit travel if possible, or to use extreme caution and be aware of the potential for slick pavement, even where surfaces appear clear or were previously treated.” [VDOT]
Doses May Be Delayed — “Virginia is seeing delays in this week’s vaccine shipments due to severe winter weather in the Mid-Atlantic region and across the country. The Virginia Department of Health says the state will likely see a delay in the delivery of approximately 106,800 doses, due to distribution channels in the Midwest and elsewhere that are currently shut down.” [InsideNova]
Architectural Review of HQ2 Phase 2 — ” It very intentionally does not look like anything else in Pentagon City or Crystal City, or anywhere else in the region. The style, a populist, jazzy take on high-tech modernism, isn’t aimed at architecture critics, but at the public, which shows remarkable forbearance to the predations of large corporations so long as they have a reputation for being innovative and forward thinking.” [Washington Post]
County Board Members Endorse Candidate — “Alexandria City Council member Elizabeth Bennett-Parker has picked up the endorsement of two Arlington County Board members in her quest for the 45th District House of Delegates seat. Board members Libby Garvey and Katie Cristol endorsed the candidacy.” [InsideNova]
New Spanish Publication on the Pike — “As part of its increased business support efforts, the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) has launched a new publication dedicated to supporting the area’s Hispanic business community. The publication, Boletín, is a small booklet of resources and information specific to those Spanish speaking businesses serving Columbia Pike’s residents.” [CPRO]
Arlington Man Arrested for Armed Robberies — “An Arlington man was arrested last night and is facing charges in connection with a series of recent armed robberies. Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau determined that in three of the four robberies, the suspect approached the victim, displayed a firearm and took their personal property. In the other case, the suspect took a victim’s purse by force.” [Fairfax County Police Department]
(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) Authorities are urging Arlington residents and others in the D.C. area to stay home today amid an extended bout of freezing rain.
Sidewalks and many roads are reported to be very slick. The ice is expected to build as the day goes on.
County and VDOT crews are out spreading salt, but even treated surfaces can become icy as rain falls amid sub-freezing surface temperatures. At least two bridges in the Courthouse area were closed due to slick conditions.
“Due to icy conditions the 10th Street bridge and Courthouse Rd bridge of Route 50 have been closed,” an Arlington Alert said at 9:30 a.m.
The earlier Winter Weather Advisory was upgraded to an Ice Storm Warning as of 2 p.m. Saturday. As of 3 p.m., the National Weather Service reported more than a tenth of an inch of ice accumulation in Arlington.
More from NWS:
156 PM EST SAT FEB 13 2021
…ICE STORM WARNING IN EFFECT UNTIL 7 AM EST SUNDAY…
* WHAT…TWO TO THREE TENTHS OF AN INCH OF SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN CAUSING SIGNIFICANT ICING IMPACTS.
* WHERE…THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, AND PORTIONS OF CENTRAL MARYLAND AND NORTHERN VIRGINIA.
* WHEN…UNTIL 7 AM EST SUNDAY.
* IMPACTS…DIFFICULT TRAVEL CONDITIONS.
* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…ROADWAYS ARE BECOMING VERY ICY AND DANGEROUS. AVOID ALL UNNECESSARY TRAVEL.
TRAVEL IS STRONGLY DISCOURAGED. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL, KEEP AN EXTRA FLASHLIGHT, FOOD AND WATER IN YOUR VEHICLE IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY. PREPARE FOR POSSIBLE POWER OUTAGES.
WHEN VENTURING OUTSIDE, WATCH YOUR FIRST FEW STEPS TAKEN ON STEPS, SIDEWALKS, AND DRIVEWAYS, WHICH COULD BE ICY AND SLIPPERY, INCREASING YOUR RISK OF A FALL AND INJURY.
Ice Storm Warnings have been expanded northwest to include Washington DC and surrounding areas. Expecting any wet and/or untreated surfaces to quickly become icy this evening as sun goes down. #DCwx #MDwx #VAwx #WVwx pic.twitter.com/UoMZaBG8yt
— NWS Baltimore-Washington (@NWS_BaltWash) February 13, 2021
In an email earlier this morning, VDOT said those who absolutely must travel should “use extreme caution.”
Significant icing is anticipated with the next wave of inclement weather. With prolonged freezing rain and low pavement temperatures expected through the day Saturday, VDOT strongly advises against nonessential travel. Those who must drive should closely monitor weather and road conditions, and use extreme caution. Even on treated roads, slick pavement will be possible. […]
Crews have positioned materials and equipment, and will apply treatment such as sand and salt as needed to icy patches and trouble spots to improve traction. Tree crews are ready to trim and remove branches weighed down or broken by ice, and to support utility companies on potential downed or entangled lines.
Numerous crashes have been reported around Arlington since this morning, including on treated roads. Virginia State Police say the VSP division that serves Arlington and other parts of Northern Virginia has responded to 83 crashes and 29 disabled vehicles as of 4 p.m.
“Virginia State Police continues to discourage Virginians from driving through Sunday (Feb. 14) due to extremely icy and treacherous conditions across much of Central, Southeastern and Northern Virginia,” a spokeswoman said via email.
More from social media:
3:35 pm: Seeing reports of some snow, even into the city lately. Mostly freezing rain and sleet locally but a bit of everything out there. Can see that nicely on high-resolution weather models. pic.twitter.com/NuIt2ubqtQ
— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) February 13, 2021
Under an ice storm warning & the number of crashes in the area is increasing. Here are 2. One on I-395N express lanes under the SB Rt 1 ramp & a multi-vehicle crash on Beltway's OL just past Van Dorn. @WTOPtraffic @WTOP @ARLnowDOTcom @VaDOTNOVA @VSPPIO #vatraffic #traffic pic.twitter.com/UBECUBEPSj
— Dave Statter (@STATter911) February 13, 2021
— Steffi_S (@taquicoco) February 13, 2021
Crews continue to salt arterial and collector streets plus known problem areas. Rain in a wintry mix can lessen effectiveness so drive only if necessary. Use extreme caution approaching bridges and hills. #ArlWX https://t.co/J0yJcIDINc pic.twitter.com/Xot2X6wl56
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) February 13, 2021
— Russell Imrie (@tweedyBard) February 13, 2021
Despite temperatures expected to reach 50 degrees today, Arlington is mere hours from the start of a winter storm with snowfall that may exceed that of last weekend.
A Winter Storm Warning has been issued for Arlington and surrounding communities, with forecasters calling for 3-6 inches of accumulation. The warning is in effect from 3 a.m.-noon on Super Bowl Sunday.
Periods of heavy snow are expected Sunday morning, making travel treacherous, but warming temperatures should allow those with plans for the big game to get around with few issues later in the afternoon.
Snow crews are getting ready to do battle with the elements once again
“VDOT Northern Virginia crews are ready for a quick-hitting winter storm expected to impact the district early Sunday,” VDOT said today. “Today, crews are pre-treating bridges, ramps, overpasses and other trouble spots throughout Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties, to help prevent ice and snow from bonding to the pavement at the onset of the storm.”
“Residents are asked to monitor forecasts, plan ahead to avoid nonessential travel during the storm, and be aware of the potential for slick spots overnight Sunday.” the transportation agency noted.
The City of Falls Church, meanwhile, is activating its snow emergency routes at 9 p.m. tonight (Saturday).
More from the National Weather Service:
…WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 3 AM TO NOON EST SUNDAY…
* WHAT…HEAVY SNOW EXPECTED. TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 3 TO 6 INCHES.
* WHERE…THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, AND PORTIONS OF CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN MARYLAND AND NORTHERN VIRGINIA.
* WHEN…FROM 3 AM TO NOON EST SUNDAY.
* IMPACTS…TRAVEL COULD BE VERY DIFFICULT.
* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…SNOW IS EXPECTED TO BEGIN BETWEEN 3 AM AND 5 AM, AND MAY BRIEFLY MIX WITH RAIN AT FIRST. THE HEAVIEST SNOW IS EXPECTED BETWEEN 6 AM AND 10 AM, WHEN VISIBILITY MAY BE REDUCED TO A QUARTER MILE AND SNOWFALL RATES COULD REACH ONE INCH PER HOUR.
IF YOU MUST TRAVEL, KEEP AN EXTRA FLASHLIGHT, FOOD, AND WATER IN YOUR VEHICLE IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY.
WHEN VENTURING OUTSIDE, WATCH YOUR FIRST FEW STEPS TAKEN ON STEPS, SIDEWALKS, AND DRIVEWAYS, WHICH COULD BE ICY AND SLIPPERY, INCREASING YOUR RISK OF A FALL AND INJURY.
Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories have been posted for much of the area for tonight through Noon Sunday for 3-6 inches of snow (warning area in pink) and 2-3 inches (advisory area in purple). #DCwx #MDwx #VAwx #WVwx pic.twitter.com/b5vWaY25g3
— NWS Baltimore-Washington (@NWS_BaltWash) February 6, 2021
As Arlington County prepares to build a new pedestrian and bike bridge in Shirlington — two decades in the making — some continue to express concerns about safety.
Late last week, the county brought advanced concept designs to the community for a new pedestrian and bike span between the Shirlington and Green Valley neighborhoods, and for maintenance to the existing bridge, which has only a narrow pedestrian sidewalk.
While incorporating previous public feedback into the design, questions still cropped up about safety and convenience, particularly regarding the crosswalks across busy S. Arlington Mill Drive and Shirlington Road, which provide access to the W&OD and Four Mile Run trails. Both are heavily-traveled by cyclists.
The first part of the project will be to improve and update the existing bridge. The bridge is in need of routine maintenance and resurfacing, and this project provides a chance for other needed renovations, the county says.
Based on public feedback, staff said they will widen the sidewalk to about 7 feet from a previous 3-5 feet. They will also coordinate the design aesthetic with the renovations to Jennie Dean Park, while adding new guardrails.
However, despite some urging it, the county won’t be removing the slip lane from the I-395 ramp. While admitting that it’s not bike or pedestrian-friendly, county officials say there isn’t much that can be done at present.
The lane is owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Adding a crosswalk there would also increase risk for an incident due to traffic taking the right turn with speed, while the lane it could lead to traffic backing-up on the I-395 ramp.
“We, at the county, are very much interested in [removing the lane],” said Jason Widstrom, Arlington County Transportation Capital Program Manager. “Unfortunately… it is not within our authority to remove it.”
Construction for these renovations should begin in the late summer or early fall of this year and be completed prior to the end of the year.
Then, at the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022, construction will begin on a prefabricated, 15-foot pedestrian and bike bridge located 20 feet to the west of the existing bridge. It will parallel the existing bridge, will be multi-use, and have “enhanced pedestrian treatments.”
Additionally, improvements are being made to those crosswalks at Arlington Mill Drive and near the Four Mile Run Trail.
Based on feedback, the county is widening pedestrian ramps and the refuge median, redesigning curbs and the crossing to allow for better sightlines, and adding new rapid flashing beacons to improve visibility of the crosswalk. There’s also thought of trimming trees to further help sightlines.
Crosswalk safety, particularly near the Four Mile Trail, has long been a concern for residents.
“County staff is well aware of the history of the crosswalk and the troubles of trying to cross at this location,” says Widstrom.
Funding for these projects are coming from a state grant and will cost just over $1 million.
County officials said they would like to do a longer term study about adding a bridge that goes over Shirlington Road and thus separates vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
That study remains “down the road,” however, and costs to add that bridge could exceed $8 million.
In the meantime, said Widstrom, “we are trying to make the situation a bit better.”
Photo (1) via Google Maps, (2) via Arlington County
(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Arlington is preparing for what could be the most snow the county and the region has seen in more than two years.
The region is likely to see at least 4-8 inches, with snow starting to fall Sunday morning, according to Capital Weather Gang. This afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch for the region.
WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM LATE SATURDAY NIGHT THROUGH LATE SUNDAY NIGHT…
* WHAT…HEAVY SNOW POSSIBLE. POTENTIAL FOR 5 OR MORE INCHES OF SNOW.
* WHERE… THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, AND PORTIONS OF CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN MARYLAND, CENTRAL AND NORTHERN VIRGINIA, AND THE EASTERN PANHANDLE OF WEST VIRGINIA.
* WHEN…FROM LATE SATURDAY NIGHT THROUGH LATE SUNDAY NIGHT.
* IMPACTS…TRAVEL COULD BE VERY DIFFICULT.
MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS FOR UPDATES ON THIS SITUATION.
State and county agencies have already started preparing the roads for the wintery weather.
Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services tells ARLnow that they began pre-treating streets with brine — a salt and water mixture — yesterday.
That pre-treatment process is continuing today. Full deployment of the county’s snow plow teams will start early Sunday, a DES spokesperson says, with 92 drivers and 46 trucks equipped with salt spreaders and plows.
There will be staggered shifts the operations center due to COVID-19 protocols.
DES is asking residents to re-familiarize themselves with snow removal processes, which includes plowing only after snow depth hits at least two inches. In addition, they are requesting residents who park on narrow roads to put vehicles elsewhere so that plows can make their way through.
In fact, they are making a competition out of it and are asking folks to post pictures of their creative parking skills.
Prize package includes OFFICIAL Arlington County ice cream scoop and reusable straw. (County employees ineligible for prize package but should move cars off narrow streets just the same.) #ArlWX https://t.co/ZQe0rY9r6h pic.twitter.com/Jisl2SDR8a
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) January 29, 2021
A number of major Arlington roads are maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, including Lee Highway, Arlington Blvd, Glebe Road, and others.
VDOT spokesperson Ellen Kamilakis tells ARLnow that residents should be seeing brine tankers out right now. The current cold and clear conditions are perfect for spraying brine.
“The goal is for it to evaporate and leave the salt residue, those white brine lines,” she says. “Today is perfect to be doing it. People are going to be seeing them everywhere.”
She cautions that they often work in pairs, a tanker and a trailing vehicle, and move slowly. The crews make a lot of U-turns, she says, so drivers should avoid getting between them.
Kamilakis says that there are about 130 trucks deployed right now covering Arlington County and the interstates that cut through the county.
With the region having not seen snowfall like what is being predicted in a while, she says that residents may “not have their snow legs yet” and have forgotten what it’s like to drive in the snow.
Kamilakis cautions folks to monitor the forecast, drive carefully and slowly, and brake earlier. If VDOT puts out the call to stay off the roads, to do so.
“If we’re asking you to stay off the roads, it’s serious enough for us to ask that,” she said.
Another thing Arlington residents should take note of: the county’s snow removal ordinance, which requires that sidewalks be shoveled within 24 hours of the end of a snow event with six inches or less of accumulation, or 36 hours for storms that drop more than six inches.
As development activity in Crystal City and Pentagon City continues, VDOT and Arlington County are looking for ways to improve the pedestrian and transit experience along Route 1, also known as Richmond Highway. The study directly responds to the increased demand for transportation resulting from the construction of Amazon’s HQ2.
VDOT’s study will examine the feasibility of an at-grade boulevard, with the current overpasses removed, comparing it to the current elevated route and the changes prescribed in the Crystal City Sector Plan, according to a presentation from December.
Following online public engagement in the fall and a virtual public meeting, Livability 22202, which represents the Arlington Ridge, Aurora Highlands and Crystal City civic associations, published a series of alternatives to an at-grade boulevard — including taking part of Route 1 below-grade.
The group suggests going underground for at least the 18th Street S. and 23rd Street S. intersections, creating patterns similar to those in Washington, D.C., where through-traffic is below-grade and local traffic uses at-grade streets — like Connecticut Avenue NW through Dupont Circle.
For a more extensive below-grade roadway, the group suggests trenched express routes from 23rd Street S. to 15th Street S., flanked by at-grade roads. The underground portion would eventually transition into the 12th Street overpass.
“This concept would solve side-street traffic issues, create far-safer pedestrian crossings, create a brand-new open space in what is now wasteland, and open up myriad redevelopment opportunities,” the group said in its response. An even more extensive “big dig” is also proposed, though the group acknowledges is may be “infeasible.”
Dropping Route 1 to grade and creating more signalized intersections would make pedestrians and cyclists less safe unless significant measures are put in, Liveability 22202 predicted. They suggested lower speeds, bike tunnels, signalized right turns and pedestrian-led crossings.
The group also envisions an at-grade boulevard as a “linear park” with retail, wide sidewalks and an abundance of trees.
If VDOT keeps Route 1 elevated, Livability urged VDOT to consider something like a viaduct. Such a bridge would allow the space below to be activated with open spaces or retail.
In a letter, the presidents of the three civic association said “a study of Route 1 in this area is long overdue,” but until VDOT conducts a broad stakeholder review of multiple alternatives, “we endorse the Crystal City Sector Plan as the best alternative.”
The 2010 sector plan keeps the grade separations at 12th, 15th and 18th streets, reconfigures the 15th Street intersection and takes traffic below-grade at 26th Street S., under a newly-created National Circle, as pictured below.
The County Board approved a test of surge-price parking in Arlington on Tuesday, after discussing the potential impacts on people with lower incomes.
The $5.4 million project is funded by VDOT, and the funds are expected to cover everything from developing to installing the needed parking software and hardware. Drivers will find this new type of parking on the streets in the Rosslyn-Ballston and Crystal City-Pentagon City corridors.
The program, also known as “performance parking,” was pulled from the Saturday meeting over concerns about how this would impact people with lower incomes, parking planner Stephen Crim said during the Tuesday recessed meeting.
“I don’t have all the answers to all those concerns,” Crim said. “The grant we are asking you to approve would pay for us to do the design and planning work that allows us to consider how people with low incomes, or racial minorities, need to be considered, and map out any mitigations that are necessary.”
The Board’s first equity consideration should be who has cars, Crim said. The program will mostly affect those who own one or more cars — namely, Arlingtonians with relatively higher incomes and households headed by white people, he said.
Rather than charging everybody the same price, this program could give drivers more chances to save money if they need to, by parking on less-popular streets at lower rates than currently offered, he said.
“Rates may go up on some blocks, but it may go down or stay the same on other blocks,” he said.
The higher prices on busier streets encourage turnover, which would also benefit this same group, he said.
“Those who are disadvantaged often lack money, but they also have time pressures that privileged individuals do not have,” Crim said. “We see performance parking as an opportunity to give benefit to time-pressed drivers of all backgrounds.”
After Crim spoke, County Board members told him they were comfortable moving forward.
“I’m so glad we’re doing a pilot,” Board Chair Libby Garvey said. “It is a complicated tool that can be used for good or ill, and we want to use it for good.”
The issue drew one public speaker concerned about equity. Alexandra Guendert said the new prices will be unpredictable, making it hard for people to budget trips.
“To think that $5.4 million to essentially create a system to get the rich better access to parking is disheartening,” she said.
The prices will not be as prone to hourly fluctuation as prices for Uber and Lyft, Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt, who supports the pilot, said during the public hearing.
“People are able to know before they go what that parking may cost, depending on where they find it,” he said.
With the County Board’s blessing, the next step will be to engage the public and start developing a system that detects how full parking spaces are, Crim said. After the system is installed, it will start collecting data to fill out a database, which will be used to analyze occupancy and ultimately determine future prices.
Eventually, the County will be able to publish real-time information on spot availability.
Work on the new system along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and Crystal City-Pentagon City corridor is expected to start kick off during the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
A successful pilot could motivate other municipalities to follow suit, VDOT told the County in 2018. If people ultimately do not like it, the County could turn off the pricing function of the system but still collect data, which would be valuable for drivers and the Board, noted Crim.
“Parking is important to many people, but we frequently don’t have as much data about parking as we do about other matters, such as traffic volume, speed, transit ridership, so on,” he said.