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New Round of ‘Clarendon Circle’ Construction Prompts Additional Traffic Changes Starting Today

A new round of construction is kicking off at one of Clarendon’s trickiest intersections, and that means more lane closures and traffic changes.

Starting today (Wednesday), workers plan to start major sidewalk expansions at the “Clarendon Circle” intersection, or the area where Clarendon, Washington and Wilson boulevards meet.

The county expects the widening work to last through April, with the ultimate goal of having the new sidewalks ready “in time to allow businesses to have outdoor seating during the spring and summer months.” Much of the construction centers on the intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Irving Street, the home of both O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub and The Liberty Tavern.

County officials signed off on the $2.5 million Clarendon Circle overhaul this summer, in a bid to make the intersection a bit easier to navigate for pedestrians and cyclists, in particular. In addition to the sidewalk expansions, the project will include the installation of new bike lanes, the widening of Washington Boulevard to four lanes — while nixing the current reversible lanes — and the addition of upgraded traffic signals.

The construction first started prompting major traffic changes in the area early this month, and now the county is warning of additional changes. Those include a prohibition on left turns in the following areas:

  • Northbound Wilson Boulevard to N. Irving Street
  • Northbound Wilson Boulevard to westbound Washington Boulevard
  • Southbound Wilson Boulevard to eastbound Washington Boulevard
  • Westbound Washington Boulevard to southbound Wilson Boulevard

Some portions of the sidewalk will also be closed on both the Washington Blvd and Wilson Blvd sides of N. Irving Street. The left turn from eastbound Washington Boulevard to Clarendon Boulevard also remains off-limits, and will likely be shut down through this summer.

The county is hoping to have all of the work wrapped up by sometime in 2020, weather permitting.

The project is designed to move in conjunction with the county’s plans to do away with the reversible lanes on Washington Boulevard and create a “T” intersection with 13th Street N. That construction is projected to kick off sometime this winter, after the county cleared the way for the redevelopment of the nearby Red Top Cab properties.

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Planners Plot Out Changes Aimed at Reducing Crashes at Memorial Circle

Transportation officials are proposing a host of safety improvements for Memorial Circle, a confusing confluence of roads connecting Arlington National Cemetery to the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

The circle has long been the site of all manner of dangerous crashes, particularly those involving cyclists and pedestrians looking to access the nearby Mt. Vernon Trail or cross into D.C. But the National Park Service has drawn up a series of changes for the roads in the area designed to address the issue, including traffic pattern changes to transform the circle into something more like a traditional roundabout.

“The project area is at a major convergence of regional roadways and modes that interact through a complex series of roadway merges (on-ramps), weaves, diverges (off-ramps), and intersections, resulting in traffic congestion and crashes,” NPS planners wrote in a November environmental assessment. “The proposed action would change the way area users access and circulate through the area by car, bicycle, or foot.”

Officials estimate that the area saw approximately 600 crashes between 2006 and 2012. Lawmakers previously secured some safety improvements for the G.W. Parkway and the circle to try to address the issue. The new NPS proposal would address not only the circle itself, but also the roads approaching the area from both the north and south: S. Arlington Blvd and Washington Blvd.

Perhaps the most substantial change park officials are proposing would be cutting back on one lane of traffic in the circle, in order to “allow the circle to function more like a modern roundabout,” the NPS wrote. That means that drivers in the circle would have the right of way, and anyone entering the circle would need to yield to them.

The NPS also plans to split up an island on the east side of the circle, near where it meets the Memorial Bridge, allowing two westbound lanes coming from the bridge to “bypass the circle and head north onto S. Arlington Boulevard” and one lane of traffic to proceed and enter the circle.

For roads north of the circle, officials are proposing some improved signage at the various intersections, including “fluorescent yellow advance pedestrian crossing warning signs” at some and “rapid flashing beacon” signs at others.

But they’re also envisioning more dramatic improvements, like reducing Washington Blvd down to one lane, and removing both the “existing southern exit ramp connecting S. Arlington Blvd and S. Washington Blvd” and “the existing far left exit lane of S. Arlington Blvd.”

As S. Arlington Blvd exits the circle, the NPS also envisions reducing the road from three lanes down to two leading up to the crosswalk. The existing far left lane leading onto a ramp to S. Washington Blvd is slated to be removed, as is the exit ramp itself.

The NPS is planning similar pedestrian sign improvements for intersections south of the circle, as well as other lane reductions.

One major change would be the construction of a new concrete island where Washington Blvd enters the circle to its south, allowing two lanes of the road to bypass the circle and reach the Memorial Bridge, and one lane to enter the circle. That would require a slightly widening of the road in the area, the NPS wrote.

The plans also call for Washington Blvd to be reduced from four lanes to three south of the circle “in order to simplify merging patterns,” while the G.W. Parkway would be widened “to add an acceleration lane allowing traffic from Arlington Blvd to enter the parkway in its own dedicated lane before merging onto the two-lane parkway.”

Additionally, the NPS envisions relocating two bike and pedestrians crossings south of the circle. One, located as a trail crossing Washington Blvd, “would be relocated closer to the Circle, to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to cross where vehicle speeds are slower and where drivers are anticipating conflicts.” The other, designed to help people cross the parkway to the southeast of the circle, would be moved slightly further north of the parkway.

The NPS traffic analysis of these proposed changes suggest they’d generate “an overall improvement” in congestion on the roads, in addition to substantial safety upgrades.

People in the bicycling community are pretty skeptical of the latter assertion, however.

The NPS is accepting comments on the plans through Dec. 29.

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Construction Starts on ‘Clarendon Circle’ Intersection, Prompting Traffic Changes and Detours

Crews have broken ground on the first phase of the “Clarendon Circle” project, bringing improvements to one of the county’s trickiest intersections for pedestrians and cyclists but creating some temporary traffic changes.

The County Board approved in June the contract for the overhaul of the “Clarendon Circle” — the area where Clarendon, Washington and Wilson boulevards all meet, just past the Metro station.

The first phase of the project involves concrete work along eastbound Washington Blvd — west of Wilson Blvd and Fairfax Drive — along with removal of the existing curb and gutter in the area.

Ardent Construction Company began in September Clarendon Circle’s reconstruction, which is anticipated to last one year, according to the county.

Signs will provide detour directions. Drivers and pedestrians have the following options to Clarendon Blvd from Washington Blvd:

  • Turn right on southbound N. Kirkwood Road, which turns into 10th Street N. Then turn left on Wilson Blvd and continue straight.
  • Stay on Washington Blvd, crossing Wilson and Clarendon boulevards, and then turn left on N. Highland Street. Then turn right.

Additionally, left turns will be restricted on eastbound Washington Blvd along with the left turn from eastbound Washington Blvd to Clarendon Blvd through next summer.

Traffic disruptions with lane and sidewalk closures during the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. work hours on Mondays through Fridays are expected, the county said, adding that no weekend work is scheduled.

The planned improvements address planners’ desired changes to the intersection, like shortening the distances pedestrians have to walk across roads. The work will also include long-anticipated installation of additional bike lanes, the widening of Washington Blvd and the addition of upgraded traffic signals.

The project will also add a “green streets” element to N. Irving Street, next to the Silver Diner, which planners have said will help better manage stormwater.

Additional plans for the project include installing new Carlyle streetlights, adding curb extensions at the Liberty Tavern corner and planting more trees.

Maps via Arlington County

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After Pedestrian Struck in Westover Crosswalk, Neighbors Agitate for Safety Improvements

A woman was struck by a car and suffered serious injuries as she crossed the street in Westover earlier this month, convincing neighbors of the urgent need for safety improvements in the area.

County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow that a pedestrian was in the middle of a crosswalk along the 5900 block of Washington Boulevard around 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 10, when a vehicle ran into her. The area is home popular businesses like the Westover Beer Garden and the Italian Store.

Savage says the woman was “transported to an area hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries.” Police also issued a warning summons to the driver “for failure to yield the pedestrian right-of-way,” but otherwise didn’t pursue criminal charges.

Stephanie Gordon, who lives right behind the scene of the incident on N. Lancaster Street, says she remembers seeing the immediate aftermath of the crash. She subsequently learned that the woman who was struck is one of her neighbors: Virginia Fairbrother, a 30-year Westover resident.

Fortunately, Gordon says she’s since heard that Fairbrother has been released from the hospital and is recovering from her injuries. But the crash only underscores her conviction that the Westover area desperately needs some traffic and pedestrian safety changes.

“Westover is a bit of a valley, so cars can pick up speed either way as they’re driving,” Gordon said. “I feel bad for both drivers and pedestrians, because I don’t think drivers, even if they want to stop, are aware of a crosswalk there. A lot of times cars just speed through and won’t even see you.”

Gordon says her father, another Westover resident, brought some of these concerns to the county more than a year ago, but the neighborhood still hasn’t seen many changes.

She’d much rather see more reflective crosswalks installed on Washington Boulevard, or perhaps improvements to the “dinky little signs” marking the pedestrian crossings. The county is currently planning on some improvements as the road runs between Westover and East Falls Church, including some new bike lanes, additional pedestrian crossings and clearer markings for existing crossings. Transportation officials have spent the past year collecting traffic data on the area, with plans to implement those in the coming months.

Gordon would also be in favor of the county dropping the speed limit to 25 miles per hour down from the current 30, and hopes that this latest crash will spur Arlington officials to examine that possibility in particular.

“My neighbors and I have been saying for a while that it was just a matter of time before someone was hit by a car crossing Washington Blvd,” Gordon said. “It’s just crazy that it’s so fast, when people are frequently walking across the street.”

Photo via Google Maps

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County Set to Officially Open New Washington Blvd Bike Trail Today

(Updated at 12:22 a.m.) Arlington County is set to celebrate the opening of a new section of the Washington Blvd Bike Trail today (Nov. 30).

The event will take place from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. along the new bike trail on the east side of Towers Park (801 S. Scott Street). Capital Bikeshare bikes will be available for attendees to try out the trail after remarks from the speakers.

Construction on the trail began in January. Work zipped along over the last few months to complete it before the end of fall.

The new 10-foot-wide trail runs between Towers Park and 2nd Street S. in Penrose, to provide more seamless access for cyclists and pedestrians to a previously constructed trail between Arlington Blvd and Walter Reed Drive.

This story has been updated

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Morning Notes

GMU Arlington Building Renamed — “Founders Hall, one of two major academic buildings on George Mason University’s Arlington Campus, was officially renamed Van Metre Hall after Mason’s Board of Visitors approved the change at its Oct. 10 meeting. The board’s action recognizes the generosity of the Van Metre Companies, a major regional builder that donated 37 acres in Ashburn, Virginia, to the George Mason University Foundation.” [George Mason University]

Overturned Vehicle on Washington Blvd — Near the tail end of yesterday morning’s rush hour a vehicle flipped on its roof along Washington Blvd, between Route 50 and Clarendon. The westbound lanes of Washington Blvd were blocked for a period of time. One person suffered minor injuries. [Twitter]

County Ranks High for Resident Satisfaction — “According to Arlington’s recent Community Satisfaction Survey, 88 percent of residents surveyed are satisfied with the overall quality of County services, 38 percentage points above the national average… Arlington also rated significantly above the national average for overall quality of life — 86 percent compared with 75 percent.” [Arlington County]

Local Credit Union Merger — “Arlington Community Federal Credit Union (ACFCU) announced today the merger of ACFCU with the Queen of Peace Arlington Federal Credit Union (QPAFCU). The combined asset size is $325 million, with nearly 22,500 members.” The Queen of Peace Arlington FCU is located in a church in the northeast corner of the Nauck neighborhood, near the back entrance to Army Navy Country Club. [CUInsight]

Venture-Funded Company Moving to Rosslyn — “FELA, the financial education and literacy company, today announced its rebrand to LifeCents. The name LifeCents is also the company’s health and wellness app that inspires and empowers people to improve their financial health and well-being… The team will move to Rosslyn, VA, at the beginning of next year to accommodate its continued growth.” [BusinessWire via Potomac Tech Wire]

Arlington Has Nightlife Advantage Over Tysons — Despite worries about competition from Tysons among local economic development boosters, the Fairfax County community doesn’t yet have Arlington’s nighttime vibrancy. Said one Tysons bar owner: “A lot of people leave here. They’re done with their job at 6:30 or 7 p.m. and they go home. They don’t come back. If they want to go out, they go to Arlington.” [Tysons Reporter]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Arlington National Cemetery Expansion Plans Moving Ahead

(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Plans for a roughly 70-acre expansion of Arlington National Cemetery are now moving ahead, in a bid to help the burial ground manage demand through the 2050s.

The cemetery and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a new environmental assessment Friday (Aug. 17) of the planned expansion to the cemetery’s south, recommending that the effort go forward after years of study.

In all, the expansion would not only create room for up to 60,000 additional interments, freeing up room in the rapidly swelling cemetery, but also prompt a major traffic realignment around heavily trafficked roadways like Washington Blvd and Columbia Pike.

“This is a critical milestone in progress and the important steps our nation is taking to extend the life of Arlington National Cemetery well into the future,” Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries, wrote in a statement.

The cemetery plans to use several parcels of land surrounding the Air Force Memorial for the expansion, eventually incorporating the memorial into the cemetery. The land includes the former Navy annex site, and several other acres of land controlled by the county near S. Joyce Street and Washington Blvd — including some that the county once planned to use for a streetcar maintenance facility for the scuttled Columbia Pike project.

The county had also hoped to negotiate a land swap with the Army to make the expansion happen, but those plans fell apart last year. The Army now plans to buy the land from the county instead.

The expansion will also result in a host of changes to roads in the area, many of which the county has long planned, including:

  • the closure and removal of Southgate Road
  • the construction of a new access road for traffic to/from Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall
  • the realignment of Columbia Pike
  • modifying the Route 27 (Washington Blvd) interchange at Columbia Pike

The cemetery plans to hold a public meeting on Wednesday (Aug. 22) to discuss the expansion. It will be held at the Sheraton Pentagon City hotel (900 S. Orme Street) from 5-8 p.m.

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Washington Blvd Bike Trail Work Moves Ahead, Late Fall Opening Planned

Work is speeding ahead on a new bike trail running alongside Washington Blvd as it meets I-395, with construction set to wrap up this fall.

The county has spent close to a year constructing a new 10-foot-wide trail as the road runs between Towers Park (801 S. Scott Street) and 2nd Street S. in Penrose, in a bid to provide more seamless access for cyclists and pedestrians to a previously constructed trail between Arlington Blvd and Walter Reed Drive.

Over the course of the last month, the county says workers have finished “two sections of retaining wall” and the “installation of the abutments for the bridge over the Doctor’s Run stream,” as well as the construction of some storm drains.

Now, work will shift onto property owned by the U.S. Navy at 701 S. Courthouse Road, just near Towers Park, as workers install the trail’s stone and asphalt base.

The county hopes to have work wrapped up by sometime in the “late fall.” In the meantime, some construction will continue along Washington Blvd. More details from the county’s website:

  • Work hours are Monday through Friday, 9 am to 3 pm.
  • Night work is expected throughout the project and will take place between 10 pm and 5 am (these hours will occasionally be extended).
  • Partial lane closures will be in place at night, reducing traffic on Washington Boulevard to one lane in the southbound direction. There will be no impacts to northbound traffic.
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Plans to Redevelop American Legion Post into Affordable Housing Complex Take Shape

Plans to redevelop the American Legion post in Virginia Square into a seven-story affordable housing complex are inching forward.

The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing has drawn up a preliminary proposal for the property at 3445 Washington Blvd, advancing plans to purchase the site and someday build 161 multifamily homes there. APAH would also include about 8,000-square-feet on the bottom floor of the building to let American Legion Post 139 stay on the property, which it’s called home for decades.

The proposal, which was submitted to the county last month according to the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, also calls for an underground parking garage at the site, and a new alley to access the building off Washington Blvd.

County planners started preparing in earnest for big changes in the area starting last year, approving a handful of zoning changes to clear the way for changes at the properties along Washington Blvd.

The adjacent YMCA of Metropolitan Washington is planning to build a new, 100,000-square-foot facility on its property at 3422 13th Street N., while another developer hopes to build a six-story apartment building at the intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Kirkwood Road.

The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association plans to discuss the American Legion proposal in more detail at its monthly meeting tonight, at 900 N. Taylor Street starting at 7 p.m.

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BREAKING: Police Searching for Stabbing Suspect in Westover

(Updated at 9:05 a.m.) Arlington County Police are actively searching for a stabbing suspect in the Westover area.

Initial reports suggest that a woman stabbed a man in the shoulder in an apartment building on the 5700 block of Washington Blvd. His injuries are not reported to be life-threatening.

As of 8:45 a.m. Friday, Washington Blvd was closed between Patrick Henry Drive and N. Kenilworth Street due to the emergency response.

The suspect was described over police radio as a white female with red hair, between 5’5″ and 5’8″ and 130 lbs. She was wearing gray sweatpants and a sweatshirt at the time. Officers and a K-9 unit are canvassing the area looking for her.

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Downed Pole Closes Lanes of Washington Blvd During Rush Hour

A light pole toppled over on a busy road near Clarendon this afternoon (Thursday), prompting lane closures and traffic delays.

The pole fell to the ground around 5:45 p.m. on Washington Blvd at the intersection with 10th Street N. At least one vehicle was damaged — a sedan with visible damage to its front that was driven up onto the median. Two other vehicles were stopped nearby with no obvious visible damage. All three were being driven when the streetlight fell.

No serious injuries were reported. It’s unclear what caused the pole to fall.

Emergency vehicles blocked one travel lane in each direction on Washington Blvd, causing traffic backups in the area.

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Overhaul of Tricky ‘Clarendon Circle’ Intersection Could Start This Fall

Arlington could soon kick off work on improvements at one of the county’s trickiest intersections for pedestrians and cyclists.

The County Board is set to approve a $2.5 million contract for the overhaul of the “Clarendon Circle” — the area where Clarendon, Washington and Wilson Boulevards all meet, just past the Metro station.

Planners have hoped for years now to add improvements to the intersection, like shortening the distances pedestrians have to walk across roads. The work will also include the installation of additional bike lanes, the widening of Washington Boulevard to four lanes — while nixing the current reversible lanes — and the addition of upgraded traffic signals.

Plans also call for adding a “green streets” element to better manage stormwater on N. Irving Street, next to the Silver Diner.

The Board is scheduled to vote on the construction contract at its Saturday, June 16 meeting as part of its consent agenda, which is typically reserved for non-controversial items. Should Board members approve the deal, the county estimates that work could begin this fall and wrap up in the winter of 2020.

The Clarendon Circle project is designed to move in conjunction with the county’s plans to do away with the reversible lanes on Washington Boulevard and create a “T” intersection with 13th Street N. That construction is projected to kick off in the winter of 2019, after the Board voted on May 22 to let the redevelopment of the nearby Red Top Cab properties move ahead.

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Lyon Park Water Main Break to Snarl Evening Rush Hour Traffic

A water main break at the intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Pershing Drive in Lyon Park is taking longer to repair than first expected.

An 8-inch water main burst along Washington Blvd this morning, causing hundreds of water customers in Lyon Park to either lose water service or experience low water pressure.

Traffic is being diverted around the work scene, causing slow traffic. Shortly before 3 p.m., Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services said via social media that repairs would continue into the evening, after initial estimates were that work would wrap up by 4 p.m.

“Traffic will remain slow,” DES said. “Thanks for continued patience.”

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Power Outages in Arlington Tick Up Past 10,000

(Update at 10:50 a.m.) More than 10,000 Dominion customers are currently without power in Arlington, according to the company’s website.

Numerous reports of downed trees, branches and power lines around the county have been rolling in over the past few hours as today’s “high impact” wind storm continues to roar across the D.C. region.

As of as of 10:45 a.m., Dominion was reporting 11,409 customers without electricity in Arlington. Parts of the county affected include large portions of residential North Arlington neighborhoods, as seen on the map about.

Among a growing list of road closures around the county due to downed trees, police are blocking the 6000 block of Washington Blvd, just west of Westover, for a large tree across the road. Another significant road closure is N. Harrison Street between 26th Street N. and Lee Highway.

The fire department has kept busy, calling for staff to volunteer to work a double shift into the afternoon and making frequent trips to buildings where power outages have resulted in stuck elevators.

The Arlington County Police Department is advising residents to steer well clear of downed power lines and trees and to “remain aware of your surroundings and secure your belongings” today. The National Weather Service says the strongest wind gusts are expected through noon, though damaging winds are expected to continue into Friday night.

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Morning Poll: What Do You Think About That ‘F–k the NRA’ House?

Opinions seem to be divided about the house in Arlington’s Highland Park neighborhood with the chalk message declaring “F–k the NRA.”

On one hand, many people — even those who are not fans of the National Rifle Association and pro-gun policies — object to writing a large profanity on the front of a house along a busy road. There are children in the neighborhood who walk by this house, those who object to it say.

On the other hand, the resident who wrote the message is exercising his or her right to free speech and addressing an important topic. When guns are being used to kill children in schools, supporters say, the “F-word” should be the least of people’s concerns.

What do you think?

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