Yes, if you drive through Bluemont via Wilson Blvd during rush hour, your commute has lengthened since Arlington County reconfigured the road. But not by much.
According to a county traffic study, rush hour travel times have increased by only 3 to 15 seconds in each direction. Much of that can be attributed to buses stopping to pick up and drop off passengers, blocking what’s now the only through lane, county staff told residents at a community meeting Thursday night.
Last year, Wilson Blvd was repaved and restriped between the Safeway and Bon Air Park, so that instead of four lanes of traffic, it is now has two lanes of traffic (one in each direction), a turn lane and two bike lanes. Immediately after the changes, some residents said they loved the change, while others complained about a supposed traffic nightmare that they said added 20-40 minutes to their commute.
The lane restriping was largely billed as a safety improvement. Some of the numbers cited by country staff suggest a statistical mixed bag.
The number of vehicle crashes along the reconfigured section of roadway increased slightly, from 3 in the 9 months before the project to 4 in the 9 months after. The number of trips by bicyclists using the stretch of roadway over a 12 hour period increased from 14 to 72, but the number of pedestrians walking along Wilson decreased from 56 to 41 during the same period, according to the presentation given by county staff.
The presentation listed the following “pros” and “cons” of the project.
- Improved bicycle safety
- New buffer for existing sidewalks
- Less potential for speeding
- Less backup due to left turning vehicles
- More delay on side streets accessing Wilson Blvd
- More vehicular delay due to local bus activity
In its assessment, county staff says the project was a success. The county is now considering options for similar work along Wilson Blvd west of Manchester Street, between the Dominion Hills and Boulevard Manor neighborhoods. That and improvements to the narrow sidewalks along Wilson Blvd have been proposed and may be considered during the county’s upcoming Capital Improvement Plan process.
“There is currently no funding for a long-term project, however, we’ll continue to look for opportunities to extend the demonstration study,” said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “We consider the study to be successful overall and have seen substantial improvements to pedestrian and bicycle safety.”
Update at 5:15 p.m. — The road has reopened with lane closures.
Wilson Blvd is temporarily closed between N. Oakland and Pollard streets in the Ballston area due to a vehicle crash.
The two-vehicle, T-bone collision happened just after 4:30 p.m. No serious injuries were reported, though an ambulance did respond to the scene.
It’s unclear what led to the collision, which occurred mid-block.
Wilson Blvd is closed between Rosslyn and Courthouse due to a water main break.
The closure is between N. Quinn and Rhodes streets, in front of the Colonial Village Shopping Center. Traffic is being diverted onto N. Quinn Street.
As of 3:15 p.m., water was still flowing from 2-3 areas where the roadway had buckled and cracked from the pressure of the burst water main.
The closure is expected to remain in effect throughout the evening rush hour, according to Arlington County. Drivers are being encouraged to seek alternate routes.
(Updated at 6:20 p.m.) It’s slow going for drivers and bicyclists on the stretch of Wilson Blvd between N. Wayne and N. Adams Street in Courthouse, as two construction projects are underway.
Wilson Blvd is currently down to one lane, with cars navigating through traffic cones, due to construction on the new Hyatt Place hotel and a county project to install fiber optic cables below the street, said county spokeswoman Jessica Baxter.
Driving down the stretch of Wilson puts the cars half on the bicycle lane, while crews access underground wiring for fiber optic cable installation. The utility project is set to finish in the “early part of next week,” Baxter said.
Once the utility work is finished, the left lane and parking lane on Wilson Blvd will reopen to vehicles, she said.
However, the righthand parking lane and possibly one travel lane of Wilson Blvd between N. Wayne and N. Adams Street will remain blocked off until the end of September for hotel construction, Baxter said, and lanes may also be closed periodically after that.
“Each periodic closure will require the issuance of a right-of-way use permit from the Department of Environmental Services, and that closure will only be for the timeframe requested on such permit,” she said.
The new Hyatt Place in Courthouse, the hotel brand’s first in Arlington, is on schedule for an August 2016 opening, according to Jim Villars, a spokesman with Schupp Company, the hotel’s developer. Contrary to information from the county, Villars said the hotel construction project will not require the closure of a travel lane on Wilson Blvd.
The topping out of the eight floor structure is expected to be complete before the end of the month, Villars said. At that point, all eight floors above grade and the two floors below grade for underground parking will have been built.
After sealing the structure, crews will start constructing the hotel’s interior, he said.
Once finished, the Courthouse Hyatt Place will 161 rooms, two restaurants and a bar. The hotel will also be the first hotel with gold LEED certification in Arlington and the first Hyatt Place to receive gold LEED certification, according to Villars.
The company is currently looking for a tenant to fill one of the restaurant spaces, which is almost 1,300 square feet, he said. The hotel is replacing a low-rise commercial building that was formerly home to Wilson Tavern.
Rolls By U, a new sushi restaurant coming to the Colonial Village Shopping Center on Wilson Blvd, is hoping to open its doors mid-September.
There is no target date for the new restaurant, according to one of its employees. Rolls By U announced the mid-September opening on its Facebook page on Aug. 26.
The sushi restaurant’s slogan is “where you create,” implying that it may be a make-your-own sushi concept. On social media, the restaurant says it will offer “organic, healthy, and flavorful sushi for your senses and your soul.”
Brown paper still covers the window, but construction crews could be seen inside this afternoon.
A woman told police that a man had walked by her on the sidewalk while masturbating, on the 1800 block of Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.
The alleged indecent exposure happened just before noon, in broad daylight.
The man continued walking and police were not able to locate him after the crime was reported.
“The suspect is described as a Hispanic male in his twenties, approximately 5’2″ tall and 160 lbs,” according to the daily Arlington County Police crime report. “He was wearing a orange and black baseball hat, black t-shirt and shorts, with neon green ear phones.”
The Olive Oil Boom, a new store specializing in oils and vinegars, recently opened in Courthouse.
Located at 2016 Wilson Blvd, the store offers a variety of balsamic vinegars, olive oils and red wine vinegars, which customers can taste before purchasing. It aims to help Arlington residents lead healthy lifestyles by switching butter with olive oil, said owner Judith Westfall.
Various varieties of specialty olive oils from around the world, including oils infused with spices or fused with citrus flavors, line the walls while the balsamic vinegars and traditional olive oils sit on two center tables. Customers can also peruse through Westfall’s homemade recipe books for different savory or sweet recipes that use olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The store provides free copies of the recipes for shoppers to take home.
The idea is to create a community store, where Arlington residents can gather and share different recipes while chatting with each other, Westfall said.
“It’s become really popular. We have a lot of fun talking to people and suggesting things,” Westfall said.
Customers have already shared their ideas with her, she said. One customer recommended that she use the aged pure Vermont maple balsamic on bacon and bake it in the oven, a recipe Westfall plans to try.
The store has been open for approximately three weeks, Westfall said, and she is already seeing customers return. One of her goals with the store is to help educate about the healthy uses of olive oil, which fits with the health-conscious population of Arlington, she said.
So far popular flavors include the Tuscan herb olive oil and traditional balsamic vinegar, but Westfall has also noticed that Arlington residents like the spice-infused olive oils, include the chipotle and fused Baklouti green chili flavors. She plans to also add cayenne pepper-infused and harissa-infused flavors “because it’s all about what the community really likes,” Westfall said.
Westfall and her husband, Lynn, also experiment with different flavors in order to create new ones, she said. “So we have fun coming up with new combinations, new pairings.”
For those new to using olive oil, Westfall recommends starting with the basic extra virgin olive oil flavors, rather than the more exotic infusions. Westfall suggests customers replace butter or canola oil with butter-flavored olive oil.
“Any time you can substitute olive oil for canola oil or butter or anything of that matter you are adding antioxidants to your diet,” she said. “And it tastes so much better. Once you’ve tasted a good olive oil and used it, I don’t think you want to go back to your other oils.”
In addition to its core products, The Olive Oil Boom — the name reflects Westfall’s former career in the petroleum industry in Texas — also offers wine, cheeses, breads and various gourmet items.
It may seem pretty specialized, but The Olive Oil Boom isn’t the only retailer in Arlington with a primary focus on olive oils and vinegars. Ah Love Oil & Vinegar, in Shirlington Village, is celebrating its fourth anniversary this weekend.
Another big battle is brewing in Bluemont and this one is not about bocce.
Wilson Blvd was recently repaved and restriped between the Safeway and Bon Air Park, so that instead of four lanes of traffic, it is now has two lanes of traffic, a turn lane and two bike lanes. The change seems to have brought about two separate realities.
To hear one group of residents tell it, traffic is flowing as normal but families can finally walk down the narrow sidewalks along Wilson Blvd without the fear of imminent vehicle-induced death.
To hear the other group tell it, the loss of a lane in each direction is causing a traffic nightmare that’s adding 20-40 minutes to Wilson Blvd commutes during the morning and evening rush hours. Their tales of woe are relatively consistent.
“I had the displeasure of commuting westbound on Wilson Blvd Thursday [May 28] at 6 p.m.,” driver Alexi Bustillo told ARLnow.com via email. “It took me 20 minutes from Glebe and Wilson to Manchester and Wilson (1 mile distance).”
“Morning traffic backs up from the light by Bon Air Park up the hill… with dangerous merging,” said Josh Laughner, via Twitter. It’s “dangerous [because you can’t] see traffic stopped at bottom of [the] hill. At night it’s pretty bad where the merging starts by Pupatella. I never had any backups morning/night when it was two lanes all the way through.”
“The message boards of [the Boulevard Manor and Dominion Hills neighborhoods, to the west of the restriping] are full of the comments,” a tipster said. “Many complaints about trip times during morning and evening rush hours taking 20-40 minutes on the stretch between George Mason and Manchester.”
ARLnow.com visited the stretch during a morning and evening rush hour this week and didn’t observe any abnormally heavy traffic. Supporters of the restriping say, essentially, that it’s the answer to their pedestrian prayers and they don’t know what the critics are talking about.
“We are so grateful to Arlington County for these improvements!” said Ed Fendley, co-chair of the Bluemont Civic Association Sidewalk Safety Task Force. “The restriped roadway is working great. Traffic is flowing really well. Fewer drivers are speeding. When I’m driving, it is now easier for me to turn left onto Wilson because I can use the center turn lane to stage my turn.”
“It feels so much safer to walk and bicycle,” Fendley continued. “For the time ever, my kids and I bicycled on Wilson Boulevard to go to La Union restaurant. The road is now safer and more accessible for everyone — just as we had hoped.”
“I just want to say that for the first time in the 23 years I’ve lived on Kensington Street, my family and I have been able to comfortably walk down Wilson Boulevard,” said Chris Healey, Fendley’s co-chair. “I can’t express how great it is to be able to walk to Safeway and the many great neighborhood restaurants and shops without worrying about being clipped by a passing car or bus. This is a giant step toward Bluemont becoming a true community. We look forward to phase two and we are confident that the momentum from the success of this project will take us there sooner rather than later.”
(Phase II of the project, which will take place should the county be satisfied with the flow of traffic and pedestrians on the reconfigured roadway, will include wider sidewalks and other improvements.)
“For the first time in two decades, kids can walk or bike safely to Ashlawn school and the pools on Wilson Blvd,” said Tom Carter, a 21-year Dominion Hills resident. “The walkable, bikeable stretch of Wilson should be extended from Seven Corners to Clarendon. Families should be able to walk and bike through the heart of Arlington.”
School Boundary ‘Refinements’ Approved, Parents Peeved — The Arlington School Board on Thursday approved a series of small “refinements” to elementary school boundaries in North Arlington by a 3-1 vote. The changes will impact a few dozen current McKinley and Tuckahoe elementary students over the next two school years, transferring those students to other nearby schools. Several parents whose kids are affected have contacted ARLnow.com, calling the process and subsequent decision “short sighted,” “pointless” and “a sham.” [Arlington Public Schools, InsideNova]
Big, Tire-Eating Pothole on Wilson Blvd — An Arlington resident says he got a flat tire after driving over a monster pothole in the left-hand lane of westbound Wilson Blvd at N. Patrick Henry Drive. Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services responded to the man’s tweet, saying repair crews have been notified. [Twitter]
ACPD Assists with Bust of Diner Owner — The owner of a popular Baltimore diner has been arrested in a cocaine sting that Arlington County police helped to arrange. Prosecutors say Anthony Vasiliades, owner of the Sip & Bite diner, which was featured on the TV show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” tried to buy $50,000 worth of cocaine from an undercover Arlington detective. [Baltimore Sun]
Casting Call for Arlington Cyclists — More than 50 people have signed up for a casting call for a promotional campaign that will highlight “everyday Arlington citizens who use a bicycle as means of commuting and/or recreation.” The casting call for the county-sponsored campaign, which will feature six short documentary films, ends today. [Modacity, Twitter]
County Planning Effort Launches — The Arlington County and School Boards have jointly appointed a 24-member “Facilities Study Committee” that is tasked with building “a consensus framework regarding the community’s future funding and facility needs.” The launch of the committee comes as Arlington Public Schools faces push back from residents as it tries to find county-owned land on which to build badly-needed new schools. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Brendan
Wilson Boulevard west of George Mason Drive will go from a four-lane road to two through lanes with a center turn lane this spring, and it’s a plan many residents who live nearby are happy with.
The plan will result in increased travel times for the stretch of Wilson that will be affected, from N. Manchester to N. Frederick Street. In addition to the lane reduction, the reconfiguration will also add bike lanes on either side of the road, which will serve a dual purpose as a buffer between the sidewalks and motor vehicles.
“Wilson Blvd is unacceptable and we all deserve better,” Chris Healey, the co-chair of the Bluemont Civic Association sidewalk safety task force, told the attendees. “That’s what we’re here to try and accomplish.”
The road restriping will occur in the spring, when that stretch of road is up in Arlington’s repaving schedule. The reconfiguration doesn’t make an impact on the county budget, but it also won’t help the state of the sidewalks, which residents and staff agreed are too narrow and too dangerous.
What will one day become Phase II of the reconfiguration will include sidewalk widening and other improvements, but Arlington Bureau Chief for Transportation and Operations Engineering Larry Marcus told ARLnow.com that those improvements are currently unfunded and have no timeline for construction.
“This isn’t a total solution, but it’s a step in the right direction,” Marcus said. “Phase II is why we’re here, to hear from people and to look over the winter and what needs to improve.”
Arlington Department of Environmental Services engineers predict that travel time will increase on the road, but only between five and 20 seconds between N. Manchester and Edison Streets each way during rush hour. The greatest concern about the change for some residents was turning off onto the cross streets. Staff predicts that those maneuvers will take as much as 35 seconds longer on some cross streets.
One resident who said he lived on N. Manchester Street, which is where the lane reduction will begin, said it will only make his street more dangerous.
“My opinion is you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he said. “You’re adding a choke point to [Manchester] which is already a cut-through. My biggest concern is already having to worry about my kids because I’ve got cars screaming back and forth between 50 and Wilson. We’re putting higher-density living spaces on Wilson Blvd and we’re trying to increase businesses in Wilson Blvd, and we’re operating on the assumption that none of those people are going to drive, which is ridiculous.
Gillian Burgess, the chair of the county’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, attended the meeting and said she was still concerned about the bike lanes, since they will have no protection from cars, and since buses will be expected to pull into them when they pick up and drop off passengers.
“The entire Wilson Blvd corridor is a huge gap in the current bicycle network,” she said. “We appreciate that that’s being recognized. As we go forward, we appreciate that there will be more bicycling accommodations, but we really need to make sure that they’re safe.”
Ed Fendley, the other co-chair on the sidewalk task force, said after all of the residents were able to talk to staff individually, the reaction was generally positive.
“The report-outs from the tables highlighted that the great majority of the comments received were in the form of positive support and constructive suggestions for improvements,” he told ARLnow.com.
From this Thursday, Nov. 6, to Nov. 24, officers will be assigned to special safety details at the intersections of Wilson Blvd and Lee Highway with N. Lynn Street.
The Wilson-Lynn intersection has been a source of major headaches during rush hours thanks to the ongoing construction along N. Lynn Street with the Central Place project. The backups have led to some drivers not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks, and the ACPD is responding with the new enforcement campaign.
The Lynn Street and Lee Highway intersection, nicknamed the “Intersection of Doom,” has for years been a dangerous place for pedestrians and bicyclists because of vehicles exiting from I-66 to the Key Bridge intermingling with users of the Custis and Mount Vernon trails.
Police say they plan to ticket pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers who violate traffic and jaywalking laws.
“Officers will ticket motorists who violate traffic laws or do not yield for pedestrians in crosswalks,” according to a police press release. “In addition, pedestrians will be cited for jaywalking. Public Service Aides will hand out safety information to drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists who commute through these busy intersections.”
The enforcement campaign will begin from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. and noon to 1:00 p.m. on Thursday and continue on weekdays until the Nov. 24, the Monday before Thanksgiving. The pedestrian safety campaign, part of the region’s Street Smart campaign, is designed to inform motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians that 25 percent of traffic deaths in the D.C. region are bikers and walkers, nearly 90 deaths per year.
The change has been advocated by the Bluemont Civic Association (BCA) for years, and the neighborhood’s representatives have posited that the lane reduction, coupled with sidewalk expansion, will make the corridor more walkable without increasing traffic congestion.
The project, which Arlington County says is in design phase with reconfiguration set for spring 2015, will reduce westbound and eastbound traffic to one lane each, while adding a center lane for left turns and bike lanes on either side of the street. The plan also calls for consolidating bus stops in this stretch to reduce possible congestion.
Currently, there are no funded plans to expand the sidewalks.
County staff is holding a general community meeting on Nov. 20, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., at Arlington Traditional School (855 N. Edison Street), to discuss the plans. The county also plans for a “robust community notification process throughout the corridor,” before the restriping and repaving work begins.
The plans to reduce the lanes on Wilson Blvd was initially recommended by the BCA’s Sidewalk Safety Task Force and supported by the BCA in October 2012. Arlington decided to incorporate the plans when it made its restriping and repaving calendar for this year.
“We are grateful that Arlington County is listening to us and working to make our ‘Main Street’ a safer and more pleasant place for all residents and visitors,” BCA President John Lau said in a press release. “Working together, the efforts of neighborhood residents and county officials have led us to this long-awaited first step for improving our neighborhood and an important Arlington corridor.”
While the county approved the requested changes to Wilson Blvd’s lane configuration, the BCA’s requests to have the power lines — with poles located on Wilson Blvd’s sidewalks — moved underground was deemed prohibitively expensive by the county. The BCA is also hoping that the improvements be extended for all of Wilson Blvd west of N. Glebe Road, something county staff said it will continue to explore.
“This is a demonstration project that will be monitored further by the County to determine whether a complete streets project — currently unfunded — is viable along the entire section of Wilson Boulevard, west of North Glebe Road,” the project website reads. “If successful, staff will continue to work with the community to develop this future potential project.”
The plan, when it was being discussed last June, received some concern for businesses located along the corridor. The sidewalk task force reported businesses were “extremely concerned” that reducing the number of lanes would “gum up traffic to the point where they would lose business.”
The BCA cited the stretch of Washington Blvd west of N. Glebe Road, which goes from four lanes to two and has higher peak traffic volume, as an example of why the Wilson Blvd proposal won’t significantly worsen traffic.
Images via Arlington County
Lucky Pot opened last Thursday with its storefront on the Wilson Blvd side of the building, across the street from the Colonial Village condominiums. It’s owner Zhong Lin’s first restaurant after working in Chinese restaurants for more than 20 years, he said.
“I always liked to cook,” Lin said with a smile. “My friends were always very happy to come over to eat.”
In the first week of business, he’s sent out 12,000 menus to try to draw attention to his business, the second to open in the building, after a nail salon a few doors down.
The restaurant delivers and encourages online ordering (with a $15 minimum and $1 delivery charge). Lin said the Thai dishes, like Pad Thai and curry shrimp, are the most popular things on the menu, but he doesn’t have a specialty. “Everything’s good,” he said.
Lucky Pot opens at 11:00 a.m. Monday-Saturday and closes at 10:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. It’s open from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Sundays.
Traffic is a nightmarish in Rosslyn tonight (Friday) — at least for those heading through the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Lynn Street.
Due to lane closures from utility work and the on-going Central Place construction project, Lynn Street — which is often traffic-clogged even without construction — is down to one lane just before 19th Street. That led to major backups on Lynn Street, which led to backups on Wilson Blvd due to cars repeatedly “blocking the bock” in the intersection.
There was at least one minor accident at the intersection, reports of drivers getting in fights and frequent sounds of horns blaring.
At one point, a Arlington County police officer showed up and parked in the intersection, stopping traffic from blocking the box. However, the officer left after less than 15 minutes, allowing the bad driver behavior to continue unabated. Police were dispatched again to the intersection a half hour later, after receiving “multiple calls” from citizens.
Though especially bad tonight, the traffic problems in the intersection are frequent. Central Place construction has had Lynn Street traffic down to two lanes during most rush hours the past couple of weeks, leading to frequent backups and flared tempers.
Three people were hurt in a rollover accident in Bluemont Monday night.
The two-vehicle crash happened around 10:00 p.m., at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Drive.
According to a witness, an elderly man in a Chevy Impala on Wilson Blvd ran a red light, broadsiding an SUV that was heading north on George Mason. The SUV flipped on its side and came to rest next to a street sign.
The SUV’s three occupants were able to get out of the vehicle on their own, we’re told.
Two children were taken to the hospital, according to the witness. Their injuries were reported to be minor.
The adult male driver was shaken but did not require medical treatment. He was driving the children home from a basketball practice at Kenmore Middle School, we’re told.
A passenger in the Impala was also taken to the hospital with apparently minor injuries, the witness said. The driver was evaluated by paramedics. Charges were “likely,” a police officer on the scene said.
A third vehicle was nearly involved in the accident. We’re told a convertible — whose driver was also returning from the basketball practice — was driving next to but just behind the SUV. The driver slammed on the brakes at the last second and managed to barely avoid the wreck.