Arlington, VA

(Updated at 10:05 a.m.) Arlington County police were able to defuse a tense situation in which a driver pulled over for a traffic stop allegedly had a gun pointed at officers.

The incident happened Friday afternoon along Washington Blvd at I-395.

“At approximately 3:11 p.m. on April 30, officers conducted a traffic stop after observing the driver operating erratically, shifting lanes and [braking] repeatedly before stopping abruptly on the shoulder of the roadway,” said an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “Upon approaching the vehicle, the officer observed a firearm on the driver’s lap which was halfway out of the holster and facing towards him.”

“The officer gave the driver commands and took possession of the firearm,” the crime report continues. “The driver had a suspended license and the vehicle was displaying improper tags.”

The crime report does not indicate whether the gun was intentionally pointed at police.

A 26-year-old Alexandria man was arrested and charged with Brandishing a Firearm and Assault on Law Enforcement Officer, according to ACPD. Traffic tickets were also issued for Suspended License, Improper Registration, Failure to Maintain Lane, Following too Closely and Failure to Wear Seatbelt, police said.

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A 19-year-old Arlington man has died after a crash earlier this month.

The crash happened around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 17. Police say Eduardo Mendez-Aranda was driving a pickup truck westbound on Washington Blvd, in the direction of Clarendon, when a tractor trailer slowed down just before the Route 50 overpass.

Mendez-Aranda rear-ended the tractor trailer and was pinned in the vehicle. Firefighters extricated him from the pickup and rushed him to a local hospital with critical injuries; he succumbed to those injuries yesterday, ten days after the crash.

Arlington County police are investigating the now-fatal crash.

“This crash remains under investigation and anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact Detective L. Lugasi at 703-228-4054 or [email protected],” ACPD said in a press release this afternoon. “To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).”

Image via Google Maps

The YMCA has filed some early concept plans with Arlington County sketching its vision for replacing its Virginia Square facility with two structures — a new gym and an apartment building.

This project at 3400 and 3422 13th Street N. represents the last of three developments concentrated within a seven-acre site along Washington Blvd, from N. Lincoln Street to Kirkwood Road.

The first two have been approved: a 270-unit apartment building, “The Kirkwood,” for the southeast corner, where Kirkwood Road and Washington Blvd intersect, and an affordable housing project on the site of American Legion Post 139.

The Y’s proposal is not only the last — at 4.39 acres, it is also the biggest.

According to the planning documents, the YMCA proposes a three-story tall facility with a swimming pool and tennis and pickleball courts, nearly 52,000 square feet of recreation space, and 325 parking spaces across a two-level garage. The apartment building would be seven stories tall and have 374 units, with 330 spots across two levels of parking.

The proposed project is about five blocks from the Virginia Square Metro station — a nine minute walk, according to Google Maps.

Members of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association have a number of concerns with the project, according to a letter from President Maurya Meiers to the county.

The YMCA development is “the largest project in the mix, will have the most impact on the surrounding community, [and] it most directly and conspicuously abuts the largest number of community residences,” she said.

In the letter, Meiers said the project is too massive, one story too tall and provides too little public green space. She asserted that the project will significantly increase traffic, which they predict will hurt the character of the community, and exacerbate an existing street parking shortage.

“The plan presents two massive, boring structures that encroach and overshadow the neighborhoods around them,” Meiers said. “This was not at all what was presented in the [General Land Use Plan], not at all what we expected, and not at all what we want.”

(A General Land Use Plan, or GLUP, is Arlington’s primary policy document guiding development in specific parts of the county.)

Meiers added that the planners should have explored the option of placing residences above the YMCA facility. Most importantly, she added, they should have considered placing townhouses next to single-family homes, an option that was “totally ignored, even though it would provide the most respectful and effective transition.”

Neither the Y’s legal representation nor the architect were immediately available for comment.

Meiers also said questions remain about the Ball Family Burial Grounds, the gravesite of the family that is the namesake for Ballston. The gravesite has murky ownership and is in need of research and repair, according to a staff report.

“We will be looking forward to see how this project can be leveraged to improve conditions on the grounds,” Meiers said.

The county’s planning division has asked for community input on changes to the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan in light of these three projects, on the outskirts of the neighborhood, as well as several others in the Clarendon area.

Photos via Arlington County

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(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.

Concerns about the intersection were first brought up in May 2018. Four other nearby intersections along N. Pershing Drive were approved for “Complete Streets” pedestrian safety upgrades last year.

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.

Ardent has worked with the county on numerous projects, including the Green Valley Town Square project, the Ballston Metro station’s bus bays, and pedestrian improvements in Crystal City.

Photo via Arlington County

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Arlington County is looking to overhaul the reversible lanes and the triangle-shaped intersection at Washington Blvd and 13th Street N., near Clarendon.

Washington Blvd would be widened to create a four-lane road between Clarendon Circle and N. Kirkwood Road, while 13th Street N. would be realigned to form a “T” intersection with Washington Blvd, according to a county staff report.

“The project will improve pedestrian safety and accessibility along Washington Boulevard and 13th Street North to provide a safe, and practical pedestrian route,” staff said.

The County Board is slated to hear proposed changes to the traffic patterns and pedestrian infrastructure at this intersection — which staff call a “porkchop” — during its regular meeting on Saturday.

As a part of the project, utilities would be moved underground, and revamped sidewalks, Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramps, and other streetscape elements will be constructed to match improvements at Clarendon Circle.

The county’s Washington Blvd plans, made in conjunction with the Clarendon Circle work and the redevelopment of the nearby Red Top Cab properties, were delayed by more than a year.

“[The project] required coordination with Dominion Power on the utility undergrounding part of the project and staff work to improve the plans for walking pathways during construction, to make it safer for people walking around the construction area,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet tells ARLnow. “Both of these items have been worked on for over a year, and needed to be completed before we issued the construction contract for bid in December.”

Arlington County has selected Sagres Construction — which bid just over $2.5 million, to which the county is adding $500,000 for contingency — as the contractor.

Taking the utilities underground means the project will take about 18 months, a timeline that, according to the county, concerned some stakeholders.

Still, “there is a general understanding of the technical difficulties associated with the undergrounding of utilities along Washington Boulevard” and “members of the community have expressed full support for the project,” staff said in the report.

This project is a part of the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan. In the intervening years, Arlington County said it has acquired three lots at Washington Boulevard and N. Johnson Street needed to make the intersection a “T.”

These changes are moving forward amid a county-led review of the Clarendon Sector Plan to accommodate a handful of major redevelopment projects. One such project is to update the St. Charles Church campus, which also includes changes to the walking and biking experience along Fairfax Drive between Clarendon Circle and Kirkwood Road.

Images via Google Maps

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Arlington County firefighters are battling a small fire in a garden apartment building in the Westover area.

The fire was reported in the basement of the Fisher House apartment building at 5705 Washington Blvd. Initial reports suggest the fire started in the laundry room and was extinguished by firefighters, but not before producing heavy smoke and prompting a second alarm response.

Firefighters are now working to remove smoke and to ensure that the fire is completely extinguished. Washington Blvd is currently blocked by the emergency response.

So far there is no report of injuries.

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Update at 3:15 p.m. — The road has reopened, Arlington County says.

Earlier: Washington Blvd is closed at N. Quantico Street due to a reported gas leak.

Firefighters and police are on scene of the leak, which was large enough to prompt first responders to block traffic in both directions. The location of the closure is east of East Falls Church and west of Westover.

Drivers are being detoured onto local streets, though traffic volume remains relatively light in Arlington due to the pandemic.

A Washington Gas crew is said to be en route. No word yet on when the road will reopen.

Map via Google Maps

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A bus station on Washington Blvd is temporarily closing for improvements to an intersection a couple blocks north of the Virginia Square Metro station.

The intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Nelson Street is considered a “hot spot” of crashes, according to an Arlington County project webpage. It’s located on the northeast corner of Quincy Park, one block from Washington-Liberty High School, and several blocks from intersections that have seen a number of notable crashes involving pedestrians.

“Three pedestrian crashes occurred at this location in the three-year analysis timeframe,” staff said in a webpage for the project. “Traffic speeds are generally higher than the posted speed limit. Auto and pedestrian volumes at this location are also relatively high for the facility type.”

The County plans to install rectangular rapid flashing beacons for pedestrians and to make additional crossing and curb improvements to make the intersection more accessible. The changes will also make the sidewalk wider on the northern side of Washington Blvd.

A county staff presentation from December suggests construction will take place over the course of this spring and summer. WMATA says the bus stop at the intersection will be discontinued starting today (Monday) and passengers should board or exit at N. Quincy Street and N. Lincoln Street a block west and east respectively.

Other parts of Washington Blvd have also gone through changes to make the street safer, including the nearby intersection of N. Utah Street.

Map via Google Maps

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(Updated at 10:10 a.m.) The reconfiguration of Clarendon’s worst intersection is one step closer to finishing as crews begin paving.

Working began repaving the roads that together form the notoriously dangerous “Clarendon Circle” — a.k.a. the intersection of Wilson, Clarendon, and Washington Blvds — this past weekend.

The paving work will continue for the rest of this week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is expected to close some traffic lanes and cause temporary detours, the county’s Department of Environmental Services warns on its webpage for the project.

“Increased traffic congestion is expected, and drivers are encouraged to seek alternate routes and avoid Clarendon Circle during this work if possible,” DES said on its website.

On Monday, for instance, through traffic on Wilson Blvd was blocked and redirected to Washington Blvd. On Tuesday, steam and a burning rubber smell clouded the intersection as crews directed traffic around a cluster of paving equipment.

Work on the project is expected to wrap up by Veterans Day, this coming Monday.

The county has long aimed to redesign the intersection to be safer for pedestrians and cyclists and less confusing for motorists, with a goal of reducing crashes. The project design selected will realign Wilson and Washington Blvd, shorten crosswalks, and widen sidewalks.

Construction kicked off last year after the Arlington County Board awarded a $2.5 million contract to Ardent Construction Company.

Since then, the county has made several changes to the tricky nexus of roads, including cutting off N. Irving Street and banning left turns onto Wilson from Washington — though many drivers at least initially ignored the ban.

Image 1-5 via Arlington County

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Arlington switched over to a more “rational” street naming system in 1934, but documents from the transition give some insight into the names that were lost.

Many of the casualties were founding fathers and other Revolutionary War-related vocabulary words.

American and French revolutionary leader Marquis de Lafayette had his road stripped and incorporated into 8th Street N.

Several of the streets in what is now the Crystal City area were renamed. S. Joyce Street was once Hamilton Street, named after the ten-dollar founding father without a fatherAlexander Hamilton.

Other streets throughout the area, like S. Kent Street, were previously named after George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, but don’t be too sad for those two founding fathers: they both still have streets named after them in other parts of Arlington.

A few streets were named after Native Americans. N. Hancock Street in Lyon Village was once Pocahontas Avenue. 25th Street N. in Donaldson Run was Algonquin Way, either a reference to the Algonquin tribe from the Great Lakes area or an alternate spelling of Algonquian, a Native American language associated with Virginia’s Powhatan tribe. Moccasin Trail, renamed to 24th Street N. and 22nd Street N., was once called Indian Trail.

Arlington Ridge Road has gone through a series of name changes over the years. N. Arlington Ridge Road, in once-seedy Rosslyn, had previously been called Oil Plant Road, or Oil Road, though no further information on an actual oil plant could be found.

Photo via Arlington County

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A cyclist was struck and injured along an on-ramp in the Lyon Park neighborhood this afternoon.

First responders were dispatched to a scene just after 3 p.m. today (Wednesday) for a report of a cyclist struck by a vehicle on the ramp to and from from eastbound Washington Blvd and westbound Arlington Blvd. The cyclist was in a crosswalk when he was struck by the driver, said Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Lt. Michael Sheeran.

The victim was transported via ambulance to George Washington University Hospital with traumatic but non-life-threatening injuries, Sheeran said.

The ramp was closed for about 45 minutes, leading to backups on both Arlington and Washington boulevards, but has since reopened.

No word yet on whether the driver will face any charges.

Map via Google Maps. Ashley Hopko, Vernon Miles and Airey contributed to this report.

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