Arlington, VA

The Virginia Department of Transportation is asking residents to take a short survey that will shape a study of potential improvements to Route 1 between 12th and 23rd Streets S. in Crystal City.

As development activity in Crystal City and Pentagon City continues, VDOT and Arlington County are looking for ways to improve the safety, accessibility and effectiveness of a variety of transportation modes on Route 1 the area. In particular, the study responds to the increased demand for transportation resulting from the construction of Amazon’s HQ2.

“As this area’s commercial and residential densities continue to increase, transportation plans will need to address the wide-ranging needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, motorists, and other users while maximizing the safety, convenience, and sustainability of the system for decades to come,” according to a news release from the VDOT.

The survey asks respondents to explain how they use Route 1 (also known as Richmond Highway), rank improvements by priority, and identify areas with congestion or safety problems. It is available through Nov. 15.

Officials say the study will help identify safety improvements for pedestrians, bicyclists, those using micro-mobility modes such as electric bicycles and scooters, and those taking transit or driving. The study will also examine ways to make transit more accessible, reliable and convenient, as well as options for protecting the environment.

The team leading the study plans to form a task force from representatives of civic associations, Arlington County advisory groups and the National Landing Business Improvement District, the news release said. The task force is anticipated to have five meetings.

More from the press release:

After collecting and analyzing the initial survey data, VDOT is planning a virtual public meeting this winter to share preliminary survey results and latest study information. Draft recommendations for the study will be presented to the public for feedback in spring 2021, and the final study is expected to be complete in summer 2021.

Please note that this study does not include construction funding, but will develop proposed future improvements that VDOT and other agencies will consider and may pursue for funding.

The study was announced a week after the National Landing BID released a report, “Reimagining Route 1,” which envisioned the car-centric highway as a slower, greener, pedestrian-friendly boulevard lined with retail and restaurants.

VDOT is studying the Route 1 overpasses over 12th, 15th and 18th streets, which some have called to be eliminated in favor of more urban intersections at grade.

“Route 1 was originally designed to accommodate the auto-centric development trends of the mid-20th century, when the primary objective was to move cars through the area as quickly as possible,” the BID said in a press release. “The resulting elevated highway, super blocks, and oversized intersections divided the community for decades, inhibiting not only connectivity and access, but also the area’s ability to come together as a singular downtown district.”

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The Arlington Transportation Commission voted 8-2 at its meeting last week to not recommend that the County Board submit a funding application for proposed changes to Route 50.

The project would, among other changes, widen the roadway to add dedicated turn lanes.

The application requests $25.1 million from the Virginia Department of Transportation‘s (VDOT) SMART SCALE funding program to make improvements to Route 50, also known as Arlington Blvd, where it runs between Glebe Road and Fillmore Street.

This stretch of road, according to VDOT, had 247 crashes on it with 61 total injuries between 2014 and 2018.

“This segment of Route 50 experiences congestion in the morning and evening peak periods and a high number of crashes,” VDOT said in an April presentation. “Route 50 averages 62,000 vehicles a day within the study limits.”

Potential changes would come from recommendations made in a yearlong VDOT study of this area. These include adding new left-turn lanes and expanding current ones, as well as installing raised medians in certain high crash areas.

Constructing a new service road where Route 50 runs eastbound between Glebe and N. Jackson Street, and reconstructing a shared-use path in the section, were also recommended by VDOT.

The commission did pass a motion to recommend the County Board direct the County Manager to lay plans for a Route 50 corridor study between Roosevelt Bridge and Fairfax County.

Members voting against VDOT’s recommendation cited issues with the department’s study — including what they said was a limited scope, a failure to consider how changes would impact speed in this section of road, and a failure to account for more cars driving this road — as reasons for their vote.

Commissioner Darren Buck, the most outspoken critic of VDOT’s recommendations during the meeting, said the fact that VDOT’s study only looked at the area between Glebe and Fillmore and not Route 50 as a whole was among his greatest concerns about supporting the plan.

“I do not want to apply to fund this fundamentally flawed project to fill pressing local needs when a more comprehensive study of the corridor is pushed off indefinitely,” Buck said. “I do not think [the state should be] sinking $25 million into a spot improvement that basically determines how the rest of the corridor is going to look when we still haven’t addressed that long-standing open community question of how the rest of the corridor should look and operate.”

Commissioner Margarita Brose, as one of two commissioners voting for recommending the funding application, said the already high number of crashes in the section outweighed concerns over the project’s cost and a widening of the roadway.

“The safety concerns really weigh heavily on me,” Brose said. “I understand it’s a lot of money for a short period but we’ve seen the statistics on the number of cars that go through there and the crashes.”

VDOT said the study’s recommendations were primarily focused on improving the road’s safety.

“The safety aspect is one of the key things that led us to try and find a solution or a way to reduce those crashed,” VDOT said. “That’s one of the key motivating things that got us to start the study and to come up with the alternatives that we reviewed.”

Still, commission members questioned the actual safety added by VDOT’s recommendations.

“We are adding lanes for cars and making the highway more divided so that cars will go faster,” Commissioner Taylor Reich said. “As a result of this, I am unconvinced this project will improve safety, especially for pedestrians.”

VDOT said its plan leaves three through lanes in each direction on Route 50, which is similar to its current state. The road widening, she said, is to allow room for new left turn lanes.

If the County Board approves a SMART SCALE funding application, there is no guarantee the project would receive the money. VDOT describes SMART SCALE funding as highly competitive.

Images via Arlington County

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Members of civic associations for Crystal City, Aurora Highlands and Arlington Ridge are developing a proposal for changes to Route 1

The associations, convening as “Livability 22202” in a Zoom meeting last night, focused on how to improve Route 1 in Crystal City, specifically where it goes over 12th Street S. and 18th Street S.

Proposed changes ranged from building storefronts or markets in the area underneath the overpasses, creating more open space where thick sandstone-colored walls now hold up the highway, and putting Route 1 underground to allow for development on top of it.

The discussion comes after the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) hired a contractor to conduct a feasibility study of removing the overpasses and lowering the highway to ground level.

Darren Buck — an Aurora Highlands resident, professional transportation planner, and member of the Arlington Transportation Commission — presented the possible changes, saying they were ideas meant to set a line of thinking. Factors like cost, construction time and general practicality are yet to be fully considered.

“These really are kind of unconstrained by a lot of reality,” Buck said. “They’re really trying to get to what could we do that would address some of… the identified things that we are concerned about with the at-grade proposal and start to toss around alternatives.”

Ultimately, Livability 22202 will make “community-based recommendations for an innovative new vision for Route 1 and its cross streets between 12th Street S. and 23rd Street S.,” a slide in the meeting said.

If the highway was at-grade, it could be turned into an “urban boulevard” running through Crystal City, according to VDOT.

This would fall in line with the transportation portion of Virginia’s HQ2 deal with Amazon, which lists “improvements to Route 1 through Crystal City and Pentagon City” as a project the government would fund.

According to a 2018 Virginia Economic Development Partnership presentation, this project could cost around $250 million.

Livability 22202 said dropping Route 1, also known as Richmond Highway, to ground level would force pedestrians walking between east and west Crystal City to cross the busy commuter artery.

“We want a pedestrian-friendly, walking-friendly neighborhood,” Michael Dowell of Livability 20222 said. “Having Route 1 be an impediment to achieving that is a really big worry.”

Pedestrians can currently cross under the overpasses, which many do to access the Crystal City Metro station on the east side.

Another Livability 22202 meeting on the topic will be held on September 30.

Images via Google Maps

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A portion of the Custis Trail will be detoured next week for construction of a roundabout.

The roundabout is being installed on the south side of the pedestrian underpass beneath I-66, which is currently a somewhat dangerous T-intersection. The project is part of VDOT’s larger I-66 widening project.

For two weeks, from Monday, Aug. 24 to Sunday, Sept. 6, those heading to and from the W&OD Trail on the Custis Trail will be detoured around Bon Air Park, via Wilson Boulevard and N. Lexington Street.

More from VDOT:

The Custis Trail will close in Arlington’s Bon Air Park between the Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail and the I-66 underpass for up to two weeks for construction to create a roundabout to enhance safety for trail users. The closure is planned from Monday, August 24, through Sunday, September 6. Detour signs will be posted to direct pedestrians, cyclists, and other trail users around the closure. This work is being done as a component of the Transform 66 Inside the Beltway Eastbound Widening Project.

A posted detour will route users around the closure using the W&OD Trail, Wilson Boulevard, N. Lexington Street, and N. 9th Road to reach the bike/pedestrian bridge over I-66. Delineators will be placed temporarily on a short span of Wilson Boulevard to separate cyclists from vehicle traffic and provide a wider bike lane to allow cyclists to travel in both directions for about 500 feet. The sidewalk on the north side of Wilson Boulevard will also be available for trail users.

A roundabout is being constructed on the south side of the Custis Trail I-66 underpass to improve safety and sightlines for pedestrians, cyclists, and other users of the Custis Trail and Bon Air Park. The Custis Trail remains closed under I-66 for safety reasons while an additional travel lane is added overhead. The trail is expected to fully reopen in late October 2020.

The I-66 Eastbound Widening Project will add a travel lane along four miles of eastbound I-66 and install approximately 12,000 linear feet of new and replacement noise barriers. The project also includes constructing a new direct access ramp from eastbound I-66 to the West Falls Church Metro Station at the Route 7 interchange, and a new W&OD Trail bridge over Lee Highway (Route 29).

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N. Glebe Road is expected to close for nine straight days next year for a bridge rehabilitation project.

In a recently-posed video presentation, VDOT provided an update on its planned Pimmit Run bridge project. The presentation details the plan to replace the deteriorating bridge deck and steel supporting beams with large, prefabricated components.

Sections of the bridge deck and support beams will be constructed off-site and trucked in, then placed with a crane. That will allow crews to replace the entire top of the bridge much faster than with conventional construction techniques, which would require a sequential series of lane closures.

The downside is that the bridge — and thus N. Glebe Road, just up from Chain Bridge — will need to be closed to traffic entirely for an estimated nine days next year.

The project is set to kick off next spring and wrap up in the fall of 2021. Its projected cost of $9.5 million will come from state and federal funds.

The bridge was built in 1973, serves 13,000 vehicles per day, and is suffering from corroding concrete and steel supports. The project will replace the entire bridge deck and support beams, while also repairing the concrete bridge piers in and around Pimmit Run, near where it flows into the Potomac.

The rehabilitated bridge will have new rails and barriers, as well as a widened pedestrian path.

During the project, traffic heading to and from Chain Bridge will be detoured via McLean and N. Chain Bridge Road. A closure of N. Glebe Road just up from the bridge last week, due to water main work, resulted only in minor traffic impacts — albeit during a pandemic during which many people are working from home.

VDOT is asking for anyone with feedback on the project to email [email protected] by Aug. 7.

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Morning Notes

McDonald’s Rebuild Decision Delayed — “Action on a proposal to rebuild the existing McDonald’s fast-food restaurant in the 4800 block of Lee Highway has been put off for another two months. Arlington County officials and the applicant had sparred over the plan, which also would include a revamped traffic-circulation design.” [InsideNova]

Bollards Deter Dangerous I-395 Driving — VDOT has installed new bollards to prevent drivers from cutting across northbound I-395 to access the HOV bridge. The barriers appears to be doing the trick, succeeding where orange barrels previously failed. [Twitter]

Crystal City Farmers Market Moving — “Arlington County Board members on July 18 approved the temporary relocation of the once-a-week Crystal City Farmers’ Market, so services could continue to be provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. The traditional spot of the market – the 2000-2100 block of Crystal Drive – does not have enough room to space out vendors.” [InsideNova]

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Arlington and the Virginia Department of Transportation are looking at how to improve the situation along the notably crash prone stretch of Route 50 (Arlington Blvd) between Glebe Road and Fillmore Street.

Between 2014 and 2018, VDOT said there were 247 total crashes with 61 crashes resulting in injuries, a few severe but none resulting in fatalities. Most of these crashes were concentrated around intersections.

“This segment of Route 50 experiences congestion in the morning and evening peak periods and a high number of crashes,” VDOT noted. “Route 50 averages 62,000 vehicles a day within the study limits.”

In an online presentation, VDOT proposed three alternatives with a variety of sub-options to cut down on conflict points — places where vehicles intersect. Two of the options would add new raised medians to Route 50, and each of them had sub-options that would limit left turns or turn Irving Street or Fillmore Street into one-way streets.

The three primary alternatives are:

  • Wide Raised Median Separating EB and WB Route 50: the widened, raised medium would reduce conflict points at intersections without signals and at trail crossings. The only four-way intersections would be at Irving Street and Fillmore Street, where there are traffic lights. This alternative also includes left-turn lanes along Route 50 at Irving Street. The increased separation between eastbound and westbound travel lanes, and the additional turn lanes, would require the widening of Route 50.
  • Narrow Raised Median Separating EB and WB Route 50: the narrower median accomplishes the same reduction in conflict points as the first alternative, but would also not include left-turn lanes at Irving Street, meaning there would be reduced widening requirements. Left-turns at Irving would be prohibited and the third lane would likely see more use. But while this plan would improve the situation at Irving Street, VDOT warned that it would not reduce conflicts at Fillmore Street and could create higher traffic volumes and delays there.
  • No Left Turn at Unsignalized Intersections: the final alternative would add no median, but extensive signage prohibiting left turns along the street at all intersections without a signal. The widening impact would be low or non-existent, but VDOT warned that enforcing the new restrictions would be more difficult.

The sub-options to the first alternative include prohibiting any turning onto Irving Street and no left-turns at Fillmore Street, or flipping those so there are no left-turns onto Irving Street and no turning at all onto Fillmore Street.

Traffic signal improvements are also proposed.

VDOT data presented at the meeting said that two of the sub-options within the first alternative — which includes a wider raised median —  would have the highest chance of improving safety conditions, resulting in a total 69% reduction in conflict points, while the other two options reduce conflict points by 63%.

The first alternative is also the most costly, however, at an estimated $14-18 million budget. The second alternative, the narrow median, is cheaper at $12-14 million, while the third alternative is cheapest at $5-7 million.

“Cost estimates will be prepared for alternatives under consideration,” a VDOT official said in the video. “Improvements identified as part of the story have not yet been funded and there’s no timeline for construction”

Other potential additions to Route 50 would be new service roads along either side of the highway. One would be on the south side of Route 50 would extend past S. Old Glebe Road, which would eliminate five residential driveways onto the main lanes. The other would be on the north side of Route 50, extending an existing road west of Irving Street.

Comments on the project can be submitted online until Friday, May 29. Recommendations are scheduled to be finalized and posted online this summer, with Arlington County submitting a SMART SCALE funding application in August.

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(Updated at 3 p.m.) A portion of Old Dominion Drive is closed after a large free fell and landed on a passing car.

The incident happened around 1:30 p.m. just east of the intersection of Old Dominion Drive and N. Thomas Street, near Dorothy Hamm Middle School and The Horizons Apartments.

The tree fell on a car heading eastbound on Old Dominion Drive, crushing most of the frontend. The driver, who suffered minor cuts and some chest pain, told ARLnow that he did not notice the tree falling until it was too late.

“It was very shocking,” said the driver, Michael. “If I did not have my seatbelt on, we would not be talking right now.”

As of 2 p.m. the road was still closed in both directions, as VDOT crews with chainsaws, a front loader and dump trucks were working to clear the large tree from the roadway. Police are also on scene, helping to direct traffic.

Elsewhere in Arlington, there have been numerous reports of downed trees, branches and wires amid today’s gusty winds.

A tree that fell this morning near the intersection of 23rd Street S. and S. Dinwiddie Street, near Wakefield High School, closed the road and knocked out power to the neighborhood. As of 2 p.m. Dominion’s website reported 124 customers in the area were still without power, with no estimated restoration time.

A Wind Advisory remains in effect until 6 p.m.

Map via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Man Arrested After Door Incident at DCA — “A passenger on a flight operated by Frontier Airlines was taken into custody at Reagan National Airport Saturday, after allegedly using the emergency slide to exit the airplane, officials said.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Metrobus Rides Are Free, For Now — “To help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, Metrobus riders will be required to board using the rear doors and will not have to tap their fare cards, according to a letter sent to employees Sunday.
The change, which begins Tuesday, means rides essentially are free.” [Washington Post]

Don’t Flush Wipes Down the Toilet — From Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey: “Do NOT put wipes, paper towels etc in the toilet! They severely damage water treatment.” [Twitter, CNN]

County Trying to Help Small Businesses — “To mitigate some of the challenges and hardships experienced by small businesses as a result of COVID-19 related closures and modifications, Arlington County is finding new ways to reach out to business owners with counsel, resources and other options.” [Arlington County]

County Offers Help with Utility Bills — “If you are struggling to pay a County utility bill (water/sewer/refuse) at this time, please call the DES Customer Contact Center at 703-228-5000, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. You may be eligible for special payment arrangements without accrual of additional late fees.” [Twitter]

Coronavirus Fraud Task Force Formed — “In response to the increased threat of fraud presented by the coronavirus, federal and Virginia state law enforcement leaders announced today the formation of the Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force.” [Press Release]

Marymount Mulls Commencement Alternatives — “This Wednesday, Marymount University announced to students, faculty and staff that the online-only class period that started this week will be extended through the end of the spring semester, including final exams. It was also decided that the traditional commencement ceremonies scheduled for May 2020 would be canceled.” [Press Release]

Overnight Lane Closures in Rosslyn — “N Lynn St, SB Lee Hwy and the ramps to and from I-66 in Rosslyn will see overnight work requiring lane closures or full closures Mon night 3/23 – Thu night 3/26 in relation to the Lynn St Esplanade project.” [VDOT, Twitter]

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A portion of the W&OD Trail is being put back onto a temporary pavement trail and off sidestreets as VDOT continues work on a new trail bridge.

The new detour will take trail users, who previously had to travel on nearby streets, on a 200-foot temporary pavement path adjacent to the new bridge under construction.

The bridge will separate trail users from traffic at the intersection of Lee Highway and Fairfax Drive in the East Falls Church aera, with the aim of enhancing safety for both trail users and motorists.

“This section of the W&OD Trail serves approximately 1,500 trail users on weekdays and over 2,000 on weekends,” VDOT said on its website. “On weekdays, the W&OD Trail is a significant commuter route, carrying a steady flow of cyclists in both directions, tying together much of the region’s trail network. On weekends, the trail is a prime recreational resource for thousands of cyclists, runners, walkers, and more.”

A press release noted that the new configuration will mostly remain in place until the project is completed, though the previous detour onto side streets could come up again during some phases of construction.

Meanwhile, work continues on the bridge with an expected opening this fall. New abutments and bridge beams have been installed, VDOT said, with crews currently working on installing steel onto the deck. Concrete pours are expected to finish by late April.

“W&OD Trail bridge construction is part of the Transform 66 Inside the Beltway Eastbound Widening Project, which is adding a travel lane along four miles of eastbound I-66 and installing approximately 12,000 linear feet of new and replacement noise barriers,” VDOT said. “The project also includes constructing a new direct access ramp from eastbound I-66 to the West Falls Church Metro Station at the Route 7 Interchange, which is scheduled to begin in spring 2020.”

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The main lanes of I-395 may be a bit busier on weekends for the next couple of months.

VDOT is planning to shut down the I-395 Express Lanes from Edsall Road to the D.C. line, starting this weekend, for a construction project. The shutdown will start around 11 p.m. on Fridays until early Monday morning, and is set to take place over the course of at least 10 consecutive weekends.

The closures will help with road work at Shirlington Circle, in Arlington, and the ramps to and from Seminary Road in Alexandria.

More from a VDOT press release:

The I-395 Express Lanes from near Edsall Road to the D.C. line are scheduled to close for at least ten consecutive weekends, beginning this weekend, March 6-8. These weekend closures are planned to begin at 11 p.m. Friday nights until 4 a.m. Monday mornings, and are needed for crews to complete hydro-demolition and bridge deck overlay placement at Express Lanes entrances and exits at Shirlington Circle and Seminary Road, as well as drainage, utility work and other construction activities. Closures will not occur over Easter weekend, April 10-12.

Travelers should plan ahead and allow extra travel time or take alternate routes. Work is weather dependent and may be rescheduled in the event of inclement weather.

File photo

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