New York City. Portland. San Francisco. Seattle. And now Arlington.
Arlington County just joined the highest level “Walk Friendly Communities.” After previously becoming one of 15 U.S. communities to reach the program’s gold level, Arlington is now one of five at the platinum level.
More from a county press release:
According to WFC, the designation reflects Arlington’s success “in transit-oriented planning, remarkable promotion and outreach, and educational offerings for staff and residents.” It’s the first time the County has achieved platinum-level status from WFC after receiving a gold-level rating in 2010 and once again in 2015.
“Being recognized with a platinum rating by Walk Friendly Communities highlights Arlington’s ongoing commitment to increasing walkability throughout our neighborhoods,” said Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol. “We are committed, through many infrastructure projects and County-wide initiatives, to continuing to make walking a viable, enjoyable and safe way for both residents and visitors to get around Arlington.”
Arlington has 527 miles of sidewalks, more than 50 miles of paved, multi-use trails and 14.5 miles of hiking/natural trails. The County’s acclaimed multimodal Master Transportation Plan makes its Pedestrian Element a key feature in integrating growth around public transit lines, with special emphasis on sidewalks and multi-use trails.
Among its transportation outreach services, the County’s WalkArlington program offers abundant resources and events to encourage foot travel as a sustainable, healthy way to commute around and explore Arlington. One such effort is the more than two dozen highly detailed Walkabout map tours developed for discovering Arlington’s mix of neighborhoods as well as their unique features and histories.
In addition, an all-volunteer Pedestrian Advisory Committee helps County leadership and transportation planners visualize and achieve a more walkable Arlington through policy and infrastructure changes–from the busiest urban corridors to charming residential greenways.
An examination of the continued challenges faced by pedestrians is among the key components of Vision Zero, the County’s major transportation safety initiative to ensure that everyone traveling across Arlington arrives safely to their destination. In the first year of Vision Zero, almost 240 crosswalks were updated to display high visibility markings while speed limit zones around 13 schools were reduced to 20 miles per hour to protect walkers.
Four people died in crashes in 2021, the first year of Vision Zero. None of the fatal crashes involved a bicyclist or pedestrian.
While apples-to-apples comparisons are difficult given changes in driving and commuting patterns during the pandemic, Arlington has seen a decline in crashes — including those involving pedestrians and cyclists — from pre-pandemic levels.
The Walk Friendly Communities program is run out of the University of North Carolina and recognizes places that have “shown a commitment to improving and sustaining walkability and pedestrian safety through comprehensive programs, plans, and policies.”
“Managed by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC), the program distinguishes communities leading the way in walkability and seeks to share their stories to inspire other communities to move toward their own innovative solutions,” the program website notes.
For the Blues Festival, Arlington County police are set to close off parts of S. Walter Reed Drive and two other roads for the day. For the 5K, the police will close a substantial stretch of Army Navy Drive, as well as parts of S. Joyce Street in the morning, according to a traffic alert from the county.
S. Walter Reed Drive is scheduled to be closed 9th Street S. to Columbia Pike, while 9th Street S. will close from S. Highland Street to Walter Reed Drive and 9th Road S. will closed from S. Garfield Street to Walter Reed. The roads are expected to be closed between approximately 7 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.
The Blues Festival is set to return fully in-person after three years, as we previously reported. The festival is scheduled to take place between 1-8:30 p.m.
Contemporary Americana roots and soul singer Shemekia Copeland is set to headline the festival, followed by other blues, R&B and funk performers such as Eric Scott, Robbin Kapsalis & Vintage #18, Shakin’ Woods and Anthony “Swamp Dog” Clark, according to the event’s website.
Interactive art exhibits and activities, a children play area and artisan vendors are expected during the festival as well.
Other than the music festival on Saturday, other events are planned over the weekend to celebrate the Blues Festival’s 25th anniversary, according to the event’s website.
Live music shows are scheduled at different locations, such as the Columbia Pike Farmers Market and local restaurants, on Friday and Sunday. A heritage walk celebrating Black history is also scheduled on Sunday. And the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse is hosting a free screening of The Blues Brothers on Sunday afternoon.
For the 5K, Army Navy Drive is set to be closed between S. Joyce Street and 25th Street S. from 7:30-11 a.m. S. Joyce Street is set to be closed from 15th Street S. to Army Navy Drive between 6-11 a.m.
The event is a fundraiser to support the nonprofit ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. Participants are to meet at the Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row) courtyard at 1101 S. Joyce Street.
Another Malfunctioning Walk Signal — Just over a week after this, another reported crosswalk signal issue: “Instead of telling you when it’s safe to cross the street, the walk signs in Crystal City, VA are just repeating ‘CHANGE PASSWORD’. Something’s gone terribly wrong here.” [Twitter]
School Board Meeting Was Mostly Maskless — “For those playing the ‘how many Arlington School Board members will go mask-free at the first board meeting after requirements were lifted?’ home game, the winners were those who had put their money on four out of five. Board members David Priddy, Cristina Diaz-Torres, Reid Goldstein and chairman Barbara Kanninen were maskless at the March 10 meeting, as was Superintendent Francisco Durán. School Board member Mary Kadera kept her mask affixed.” [Sun Gazette]
Survey Work on GW Parkway — ” A $161 million ‘complete rehabilitation‘ of the northern section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway is being planned… Through Friday, March 18, there will be single-lane closures along the northern section of the George Washington Memorial Parkway for bridge surveys. Drivers should proceed with caution in these areas and consider using alternate routes, according to an NPS alert.” [WUSA 9]
Arlington Doc Helping Refugees — “An Arlington doctor is not only battling the pandemic in Northern Virginia, but he also travels across international borders to help those in need. The current refugee crisis that began with Afghans in 2021, now includes Ukrainians facing a similar fate of displacement and an uncertain future. For three years before COVID-19 spread across the globe, Dr. Ali Karim helped build wells in Nigeria, aided orphans and women in Kabul, Afghanistan and filmed a documentary about his solo journey.” [WJLA]
Days Inn Redevelopment Update — “The plans to replace the Days Inn at 2201 Arlington Boulevard with 262 multi-family units and around 3,000 square feet of retail were filed with Arlington County last week. The eight-story project will also have surface and underground parking. STUDIOS Architecture designed the building.” [Urban Turf]
Social Sports Return to Crystal City — “Sand Volleyball is BACK in National Landing starting this May with a few fun new additions – Bocce and Corn Hole!” [Twitter]
Yes, It’s Getting Windier — “Our analysis of wind data shows that the strongest gusts have become more frequent recently. Last year featured more big wind gusts than any recent year, a trend that has continued into this year. Wind advisories, issued by the National Weather Service when gusts are expected to top 45 mph, have also been on the increase since the mid-2000s.” [Capital Weather Gang]
It’s Tuesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 66 and low of 40. Sunrise at 7:21 am and sunset at 7:17 pm. [Weather.gov]
A busy street in the East Falls Church neighborhood is slated to get safer crossings for pedestrians and cyclists.
Arlington County has selected N. Sycamore Street between Langston Blvd and 19th Street N. — near the East Falls Church Metro station and not far from the W&OD Trail — as site of a new Complete Streets project. This segment “presents intersection crossing challenges for bicyclists and pedestrians,” according to the project webpage.
The intersection of N. Sycamore Street and Washington Blvd, within the project’s boundaries, was the site of a fatal crash last Wednesday. Prior to the crash, the street segment has seen one serious collision between 2013 and this summer: one with severe injuries in 2019, according to Arlington County crash data.
The webpage for the project went live two weeks ago, says Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Kathryn O’Brien. County staff will soon solicit public feedback that will be used to develop a concept plan.
“Existing Conditions Feedback will kick off later in November,” O’Brien said. “This feedback, along with other data and planning guidance, will help staff formulate a concept design. Once staff have developed a community-informed concept, that concept will be shared for additional public feedback.”
Funding for changes to N. Sycamore Street, first identified as having a need for safety upgrades in 2011, was included in the 2022-24 Capital Improvements Plan adopted this summer. It’s been a long road to get the project on the schedule, however.
Staff developed preliminary plans in 2015 and, in 2016, twice applied unsuccessfully for transportation grants for the 2018 fiscal year, O’Brien said.
“This project was deferred as part of the FY 2021 CIP, due to revenue constraints because of COVID,” she said.
Since 2011, staff have studied the street twice and have some hypothetical designs on hand as a result.
In 2015, the county received a grant to study ways to improve pedestrian and cycling access to the East Falls Church Metro station, once a popular station to ride to that is still recovering from the pandemic-era hit to commuting. A new $2 million, 92-spot bike facility to accommodate cyclists made its debut in August 2020.
Four years later, the county received a grant to study a gap in the W&OD Trail, where trail users are routed through Benjamin Banneker Park and residential streets.
Improved crossings at 19th Street N. could be an interim solution to the gap, according to the project page.
Although this transportation project’s scope is bound by 19th Street N. and Langston Blvd, eventually, the county envisions improved bicycle amenities further up and down N. Sycamore Street.
“The 2019 adopted Bicycle Element of the Master Transportation Plan recommends N. Sycamore Street as an enhanced bicycle facility between Williamsburg Blvd and the East Falls Church line,” the project page says.
The project is funded with a mix of Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, local and state funding, plus bond funds.
Hat tip to Stephen Repetski
A newly-reopened segment of the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail in Falls Church boasts a feature that could be replicated in Arlington: separate paths for cyclists and those on foot.
Regional parks authority NOVA Parks widened just over one mile of the trail through the Little City in order to accommodate separate tracks. The organization celebrated the completion of the five-year, $3.7 million project this morning.
The parks authority says something similar should be done along the Arlington segment, which has seen an increased number of pedestrians, leisure riders and commuters competing for the same narrow asphalt strip.
“Our focus was getting Falls Church completed, since we had all the funds and city approval lined up for that,” NOVA Parks Director Paul Gilbert said. “The next step will be to see when we can get the Arlington section done — when we have design work done and we can talk to civic groups.”
Two years ago, the organization signaled its intent to widen the two-mile stretch between N. Roosevelt Street and N. Carlin Springs Road and incorporate separated trails. Work is contingent, however, on when a $5.6 million grant from the Northern Virginia Transit Authority becomes available.
That likely won’t happen until 2024, but having the Falls Church segment done helps the process in Arlington, he says.
“It’s not a theoretical,” he said. “Everyone can experience it, see it, understand how it works.”
Among those trying it out was local cycling advocate Gillian Burgess, who hit the trails this past weekend, ahead of the official opening today.
Beautiful weekend to enjoy a bike ride…
On a lovely, car free trail…
That is WIDE and SEPARATES PEOPLE WALKING & BIKING!!!
— Boo-from-home Gillian (@BikeGillian) September 6, 2021
She says she wants to see similar mode-separated trails for the entire length of the W&OD in Arlington, as well as the Mt. Vernon Trail, the Bluemont Trail and parts of the Custis and Four Mile Run trails.
Gilbert says widening large sections of the Arlington W&OD Trail is “feasible, desirable and necessary.”
Here Comes the Next Cicada Generation — “Cicada nymphs have started hatching during the past week. They’re the offspring from our recent cicada swarm, and they’ll rain down from above for the next few weeks, with numbers totaling in the billions… wearing a hat in the woods is a good idea for the next few weeks. Just in case you walk under a tiny, divebombing nymph.” [Capital Weather Gang]
Rent Rising in Arlington — “It was upended during the worst of the COVID crisis, but the Arlington apartment-rental market continues roaring back to life, according to a data analysis by Apartment List. With an average rental rate of $1,962 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,375 for a two-bedroom unit, Arlington’s month-over-month rental rate in August grew 3.6 percent from July, compared to a 2.6-percent increase nationally, ranking the county 22nd among the nation’s 100 largest urban areas.” [Sun Gazette]
Unusual Robbery in Crystal City — ” At approximately 11:26 p.m. on July 29, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery by force. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim observed an undisclosed amount of cash on the ground and collected it in an attempt to return it to its owner. The unknown male suspect approached the victim and attempted to take the money from his hands. The victim began to walk in the opposite direction and entered a nearby business, where Suspect One followed him and was joined by two other male suspects. Suspect One successfully took the money from the victim’s hands and all three suspects fled from the business in a vehicle.” [ACPD]
County Covid Testing Location Closing — “The #COVID19 mobile testing unit at Lee Community Center is officially retiring today, after administering nearly 15,000 tests throughout the pandemic. If you need a test, visit one of our three locations, open daily from 11 AM – 7 PM.” [Twitter]
Community Pantomime Performances — “As it prepares to resume in-person performances at its Crystal City venue, Synetic Theater will be headed into the community with a series of free public performances of the family-focused ‘The Miraculous Magical Balloon.'” [Sun Gazette]
Long-Distance 9/11 Walk Kicks Off — From the Arlington County Fire Department: “We were honored to host the kickoff for [the Tunnel to Towers Never Forget] Walk. The over 500 mile walk for CEO Frank Siller is meant to honor the heroism of first responders who lost their lives on 9/11.” [Twitter, Yahoo News, Twitter]
Reminder: Vote in This Week’s Arlies — Have a favorite real estate agent for selling your home? A favorite home renovation company? Let us know by the time voting closes at noon tomorrow. [ARLnow]
A mobility advocacy group is asking the county to build a three-year plan for funding projects that make non-car transit faster, more desirable and safer.
And the group, Sustainable Mobility, is trying to capitalize on signs that people are interested in bicycling and walking more coming out of the pandemic.
“We have to seize that opportunity before everybody gets into their cars again,” said Chris Slatt, the group’s president, who is also chair of the Transportation Commission and an opinion columnist on ARLnow. “This is an inflection point. Arlington has let too many opportunities pass during COVID-19 — we never achieved open streets, when people demanded more space to walk, sit and eat — we need them to do better now.”
Its recommendations respond to a draft document outlining the large projects that Arlington County intends to embark on over the next three years. This plan, called the Capital Improvement Plan, is winding its way through review processes and is set to be approved by the County Board in July.
Volunteers from Sustainable Mobility, or SusMo, combed through the transportation projects and identified a handful to nix, postpone or kick to developers for funding and implementation, which they say could free up about $17 million that could fund 20 projects or programs.
- Funding Vision Zero
- Speeding up transit
- Building safe routes to every school
- Building out the bike network for all ages and abilities
- Expanding and connecting the trail network
“None of what’s in our plan is really our idea,” Slatt said. “It is all things that are in sector plans, projects that… the county already has [identified], projects that were identified in the bicycle element of the Master Transportation Plan, or just ways to fund priorities that Arlington says they already have.”
- Changing the signals to reduce the time buses spend at intersections
- Completing the Arlington Blvd Trail
- Conducting a feasibility study of dedicated transit and high-occupancy vehicle lanes on Columbia Pike
- All-door bus boarding and off-vehicle fare collection, to speed up buses
- A trail on the west side of Carlin Springs road, with a connection to the W&OD Trail, to provide a safer route to Kenmore Middle School
- Protected bike lanes on S. George Mason Drive between Route 7 and Route 50, providing a safe connection to Wakefield High School
- Additional capital funding for other Safe Routes to School projects
- Protected bike lanes on a portion of N. Highland Street in Clarendon
- A two-way protected bike lane on Fairfax Drive between Ballston and Clarendon
- Other “neighborhood bikeways”
Some projects are already in the County Manager’s draft Capital Improvement Program proposal, including a feasibility study for a trail underpass under Shirlington Road near the Weenie Beenie, and a new trail along the Arlington National Cemetery wall between Columbia Pike and Memorial Avenue.
Proposed HQ2 ‘Helix’ Tower Is Too Tall — “Amazon.com Inc. may need to lop off the tip of its proposed drill-bit-like structure, the Helix, at its PenPlace development to ensure the safety of flights coming into and out of Reagan National Airport. Engineers working for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority determined the 15-story building is roughly 13 feet taller than the maximum allowable height for structures that close to the airport.” [Washington Business Journal, WJLA]
Homeless Population Down This Year — “The number of individuals counted as homeless across Arlington [this year] was down 14 percent from 2020 and declined by 26 percent since 2017, according to new figures from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). A total of 171 individuals were counted as homeless – either in shelters or living on the street – in the annual ‘Point in Time’ survey.” [Sun Gazette]
Update on Arlington Policing Practices — “Our Police Department has created an internal workgroup to review current policies and ensure they are aligned with best practices. Although excessive use of force has never been tolerated and our officers have been providing emergency medical treatment for years, additional language was added to our Use of Force policy to formalize current practices.” [Arlington County]
Arlington Man Has Big TikTok Following — “Tri Phan of Arlington, Virginia, has amassed 1.5 million followers since he began posting workout and healthy cooking videos in November. The 23-year-old, who is working on his master’s degree in data and business analytics at American University, often does two versions of his content, one in English and one in Vietnamese; about 60 percent of his followers are Vietnamese, he says.” [Associated Press]
Vets to Hike to Arlington from Connecticut — “On Tuesday, June 1, Will Reese will set out on “Ruck to Remember (R2R) – a 380-mile trek from Avon, CT, to Arlington, VA, to raise awareness and funds for APK Charities. Reese, who launched R2R in 2019, this time will be joined by hundreds of active and retired Military from all around the world who will all don “ruck-sacks” – military backpacks – for the 7-day march, which will culminate on Tuesday, June 8.” [We-ha.com]
Soon: No Tour Bus Parking at AF Memorial — “The removal of motorcoach parking at the entrance to the Air Force Memorial will present mobility issues, she said. “‘It will ultimately limit the number of people visiting the memorial,’ added [Guild of Professional Tour Guides] colleague Maribeth Oakes. Walking from the main cemetery entrance to the Air Force Memorial is a round trip of three miles and the trams, which cost $15 for adults, can fill up before the group of 58 could board. The guild would like a southern expansion with short-term parking for motorcoaches.” [Falls Church News-Press]
The County Board is set to consider a set of projects that would upgrade sidewalks and improve a small park.
Of the four, three focus on pedestrian improvements with an eye toward walkability for Arlington Public Schools students in the Bluemont, Columbia Heights and Fairlington neighborhoods. The fourth would fund improvements to 11th Street Park in Clarendon.
These upgrades, at a cost of roughly $2 million in total, were given a thumbs up last December by Arlington’s Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee. This group identifies needed improvements such as sidewalks, street beautification, street lights and parks and recommends them to the County Board.
At the intersection of 6th Street N. and N. Edison Street in Bluemont, the committee proposes to widen some corners and build out the sidewalks as well as upgrade landscaping and accessible ramps.
“It’ll be very visible to cars that people are crossing,” project representative Nick Pastore said during the December meeting. “That will help slow the rate of speed of cars going around those corners.”
Drivers take these residential roads “at a pretty decent speed” to avoid N. George Mason Drive between N. Carlin Springs Road and Wilson Blvd, he said.
At the intersection of 12th Street S. and S. Scott Street in Columbia Heights, nearu Columbia Pike, NCAC is requesting $500,000 to conduct a feasibility study for improving the intersection by extending the street corners, and making improvements to the crosswalks, landscaping and accessible ramps.
“This improved crossing will help students walking from nearby S. Courthouse Road to Hoffman-Boston [Elementary School] safely cross a busy road,” said Kristin Haldeman, director of multimodal transportation planning for Arlington Public School, in a letter to the county.
She added that the extra curb space “will provide more room for students in the area who attend Gunston Middle School and Wakefield High School to wait for their bus at the intersection.”
Columbia Heights Civic Association member Sarah McKinley welcomed the project for the neighborhood of apartment buildings and condos, saying the committee has been criticized over the years for mostly benefitting single-family neighborhoods.
“Here’s an example of an NC project that can benefit both types of neighborhoods,” she said.
In Fairlington, the committee proposes a sidewalk, curb, and gutter along the north side of S. Abingdon Street between 31st Street S. and 31st Road S. — near the STEM Preschool and the former Fire Station 7.
Fairlington representative Ed Hilz said these changes would improve walking paths for students getting to Abingdon Elementary School.
“Currently, there’s a staircase that is not very convenient to negotiate for children,” he said.
“I think this park is heavily used so all these upgrades will be a tremendous benefit for the community,” project representative Alyssa Cannon said.
Money for the projects will come from the 2016 and 2018 Community Conservation bonds.
Images via Google Maps
(Updated 4:30 p.m.) For National Walking Day on Wednesday, April 7, locals are being encouraged to explore Arlington on foot.
Among the new options for doing so: a virtual scavenger hunt.
“Join us on a virtual hunt for hidden gems in your own neighborhood that you may not have known existed,” the county-run WalkArlington program said on its website.
The initiative from WalkArlington and Arlington Transportation Partners is virtual this year due to the coronavirus. Instead, the organizers have assembled resources for local residents, workers and visitors to take self-guided walking tours through any of the county’s 10 urban villages on National Walking Day — or any day, for that matter
“Walking in Arlington is inspiring, full of surprises, peaceful — like finding a gem,” WalkArlington said in a video, below.
Walkers can use an interactive map to find these gems, which include nature escapes, historical sites, local businesses and public art.
Participants will need to register to access the map. Those who register by Friday (March 26) will receive a free item in the mail, according to the registration page.
Photos via WalkArlington/YouTube
Snow Removal Ordinance in Effect — “A recent weather event has concluded and deposited snow/ice accumulations of less than 6 inches. Arlington’s sidewalk snow removal ordinance requires residents and businesses to clear adjacent public sidewalks of snow and ice by 1:00 PM on Wednesday, February 3.” [Arlington County]
More Back-to-School Dates Expected Soon — “We look forward to welcoming Level 2 Career & Technical Education students to the Arlington Career Center for hybrid/in-person instruction starting [today]. We continue to assess additional student return dates… The next group to return will be Level 2, PreK through second grade and countywide elementary special education students. Return dates for this group will be communicated at the Feb. 18 School Board meeting.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Arlington Rent Declines Slowing — “Arlington’s COVID- and shutdown-caused drop in apartment rents appears to be hitting bottom for now, according to new data from Apartment List, but the county’s rental market is still significantly more affordable than before the pandemic. For the year ending in January, rents in Arlington were down 14 percent from a year before… the drop from December to January was just 0.5 percent, lower than in preceding months.” [InsideNova]
Arlington Ranks No. 14 in ‘Walk-Friendly’ List — “About 30 years ago, Arlington took the lead in suburban redevelopment in Virginia, creating walkable urban areas around the metro system. Now that momentum has pushed Arlington (and its most walkable neighborhoods of Clarendon-Courthouse, Ballston-Virginia Square, and Lyon Village) into the top walkable cities — something we can expect to continue when Amazon moves in.” [MSN]
Hope’s Prison Oversight Bill Dies — From Del. Patrick Hope (D): “This is not the end — only the beginning. Every agency in Va must be transparent and accountable to the public which they serve. We will regroup and come back next session with a bill that prioritizes [Virginia Dept. of Corrections] oversight.” [Twitter]
Case of the Stray Hockey Sticks — A shipment of hockey sticks destined for the Washington Capitals practice facility in Ballston, to be used by new Caps acquisition Zdeno Chara, was apparently mis-delivered to a random New Jersey man’s home. [ESPN, Barstool Sports]
Bezos Relinquishing CEO Role at Amazon — “Jeff Bezos said Tuesday that he will step down as chief executive of Amazon, leaving the helm of the company he founded 27 years ago. Bezos will transition to the role of executive chair in the third quarter of this year, which starts July 1, the company said. Andy Jassy, the chief executive of Amazon Web Services, will take over as CEO of Amazon.” The company yesterday revealed designs for the second phase of its Arlington HQ2. [NBC News]