(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) A handful of main roads in Arlington may be getting speed limit reductions.
At its meeting this Saturday, the Arlington County Board is slated to vote to advertise a potential reduction in the speed limit on four arterial streets, per a staff report.
The reductions would target road segments with high volumes of pedestrians walking to and from transit stations, schools, apartment buildings and commercial areas, the county says. Among them:
- Washington Blvd from Arlington Blvd (Route 50) to N. Pershing Drive (35 to 30 mph)
- S. Joyce Street from Columbia Pike to Army Navy Drive (35 to 30 mph)
- Columbia Pike from S. Dinwiddie Street to the Fairfax County line (35 to 30 mph)
- Lorcom Lane from Cherry Hill Road to Military Road (30 to 25 mph)
The segments also have more serious and fatal crashes than other roads, the report said.
The selected segment of Washington Blvd, south of Clarendon, sees lots of foot traffic due to the public transit stops on both sides of the road connected by controlled and uncontrolled marked crosswalks, according to the county.
The corridor had 39 crashes in a 5-year period, and is one of the roads in Arlington’s Vision Zero High Injury Network, which accounts for 78% of all serious or fatal crashes. North of Arlington Blvd, the speed limit on Washington Blvd is already 30 mph.
S. Joyce Street, in the Pentagon City area, also has “steady” pedestrian activity due to a transit stop. The county says more people will walk, cycle and scoot along the road — which passes near the Air Force Memorial — once Columbia Pike is realigned to expand Arlington National Cemetery.
Lower speeds here “are essential” for lowering the risk of severe collisions, since the lane widths are limited and have no shoulders, per the report. To improve walkability on this stretch of S. Joyce, the county widened sidewalks and installed new lighting in 2013.
The Dept. of Environmental Services also recommends lowering speeds on the segment of Columbia Pike from S. Dinwiddie Street to the Fairfax County line to account for increased walking and transit use associated with new transit stations. Columbia Pike, with 85 crashes in a five-year period, of which six involved pedestrians, is also part of what has been designated the “High Injury Network.”
Continuing east on Columbia Pike, the speed limit is currently 30 mph.
Meanwhile, a high volume of people walk and cycle across Lorcom Lane to go to and from Dorothy Hamm Middle School, per the report. The school also has foot traffic outside school hours and on weekends, for events such as the Cherrydale Farmers Market, which started last year, despite complaints from some neighbors.
This road saw 18 crashes in six years, and of those, speeding contributed to three crashes.
The county considered, but decided not to lower speeds on segments of S. Walter Reed Drive, S. Four Mile Run Drive and Wilson Blvd from N. Glebe Road to the Fairfax County line — where the limit is currently 30 mph.
- Fairfax Drive from Arlington Boulevard to N. Barton Street (30 mph to 25 mph)
- 5th Road S. from S. Carlin Springs Road to the Fairfax County line (35 mph to 25 mph)
(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) After being shuttered for more than two years, Stray Cat Bar & Grill in Westover has finally reopened.
The neighborhood staple at 5866 Washington Blvd started serving again last week for the first time since shutting down on March 15, 2020. That was the day after Arlington County declared a local emergency as Covid started to spread locally.
The reopening after 28 months comes with a name tweak, some interior renovations, and an updated menu.
“We wanted to bring the Cat back awhile ago, but the restaurant industry was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Austin Garcia, owner/operator of the restaurant, tells ARLnow. “So, when we did, we really wanted it to knock it out of the park.”
It seems like the right time to reopen as the community appears to be much more comfortable dining indoors, Garcia said.
The Stray Cat Cafe first opened in Westover in 2005 as a sibling restaurant of Lost Dog Cafe, which has Arlington locations on Columbia Pike and in Westover. While the menus of the two restaurants differ, both have the same mission of “helping homeless dogs and cats find forever homes.”
The restaurants support the locally-based non-profit Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation.
When Stray Cat heeded the county’s request to close down dining rooms in March 2020, Garcia said ownership never anticipated it would be more than two years before the restaurant reopened.
But a number of things didn’t work in their favor, including staffing shortages, not being well set up to do take-out and delivery, and the physical layout of the space.
“It’s a really narrow spot. Even when Virginia lifted some regulations to start to allow dine-in, bar seating still wasn’t allowed. Bar seating was, and still is, a big part of the Cat,” he says.
Ownership realized that to reopen, some renovations were in order. That meant knocking out the double-doored vestibule at the front of the restaurant to add more booths. Garcia says the construction has opened the space and has made it feel “much less crowded,” as well as providing space to eventually host live music
Ownership also made the decision to tweak the name and logo, switching from “The Stray Cat Cafe” to “Stray Cat Bar & Grill.”
This change is to better reflect the updated interior and menu, which will focus on “an elevated yet still casual dining experience” that will feature “gourmet comfort foods.” That includes quesadillas, nachos, salads, soups, and burgers.
Garcia says he heard from the community that many missed the Stray Cat’s burgers. So, they’ve decided to lean into that by “elevating that burger experience” along with giving the dishes “whimsical cat-themed names” like “Cat Scratch Fever” and “The Sphinx.” Also new at the restaurant are craft cocktails, something that Garcia says was missing in Westover.
What hasn’t changed at the Stray Cat, though, is the mission to help pets find homes.
“Our dedication to the animal rescue is still our, our top priority and part of who we are in this small family,” Garcia says.
This past weekend was essentially a soft opening to work out any kinks. All went well, Garcia reports. For the moment, Stray Cat is only open for dinner except on Saturdays (when open all day) and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. The hope is to gradually extend hours.
After more than two years closed, Garcia says Stray Cat Bar & Grill is ready to serve the community.
“I’m ready to see us get busy again.”
The Arlington Festival of Arts is coming back to Clarendon later this month
The annual free, outdoor arts festival is returning to Washington Blvd on April 23 and 24 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will cover several blocks, with an entrance at the intersection of N. Highland Street and Washington Blvd.
The festival was canceled in 2020 due to Covid concerns and the 2021 version was pushed to September. So, this year marks the festival’s return to spring for the first time since 2019.
There are set to be over a hundred local and national artists selling their wares at the show. All artists were “hand-selected by [an] independent panel of expert judges,” a press release notes.
“Whether your passions run to sparkling jewels and one-of-a-kind paintings, masterfully crafted glasswork, or an art deco sculpture, you are sure to find it during the free, two-day event,” the press release says.
There will also be a “juried, first-class outdoor art gallery,” for attendees to peruse.
Pets on a leash are welcome, festival organizers say, adding that “ample” parking will be available in Clarendon.
While the Arlington County Police Department has not yet announced any no road closures, it probably can be expected that parts of Washington Blvd will be closed during event hours. Typically, local authorities urge drivers to avoid the area around the closures and take public transit to the event.
A number of annual Arlington events are marking their return this spring and summer after several years of scaling down or cancelling such events due to Covid. That includes last month’s DC Tattoo Expo in Pentagon City, May’s Ballston Quarterfest Crawl, and the yearly “Arlington Reads” series, which is back to being in-person through the spring and summer.
Shots were fired early this morning near an entrance to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
The gunfire was reported around 2:30 a.m. at Washington Blvd and S. Walter Reed Drive. That’s near the Hatfield gate to Fort Myer, some apartment buildings, ramps to and from Route 50, and the Sequoia Plaza complex, which houses Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools offices.
Arlington County police were called to the scene by a caller who reported hearing gunshots and a car speeding off.
“Upon arrival, officers met with the reporting party who advised that approximately 20 minutes prior, he heard several gunshots and the sound of a vehicle fleeing the scene,” said ACPD. “Officers canvassed the area and recovered evidence confirming shots had been fired. At this time, no injuries or property damage have been reported. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.”
(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.
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
(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
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 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
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.
#finalupdate fire in laundry room of apartment building. Fire is extinguished, no injuries reported to occupants or firefighters. Smoke smell will remain for some time, residents with questions should contact building management company for guidance.
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) August 19, 2020
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