The Arlington County Board over the weekend voted to endorse the goals of a Virginia Dept. of Transportation plan to widen part of I-66, but it also had a few questions.
The Board unanimously backed a resolution that outlines “areas of support and ongoing concern with [VDOT’s] environmental assessment,” according to a press release.
Under VDOT’s “Transform 66” plan, an extra lane would be built within the existing eastbound right-of-way from the Dulles Connector Road to the Fairfax Drive exit in Ballston. The lane would stretch about four miles.
The plan would also include the replacement and construction of noise walls along the interstate, a new pedestrian bridge on the W&OD Trail at Lee Highway in East Falls Church and a realignment of the Custis Trail at Bon Air Park.
Earlier this year, the Board endorsed VDOT’s plan to add tolls to I-66 inside the Beltway during peak travel times.
Not everyone who lives in Arlington supports the project as proposed, however. Some East Falls Church residents have recently criticized the part of the proposal that would build a new pedestrian and cyclist bridge on the W&OD trail at Lee Highway. (Bicycling advocates, meanwhile, are organizing to support the bridge plan.)
In its resolution, the Board asked transit officials to “ensure a robust community process will be incorporated into the design process to achieve a context sensitive solution for the W&OD Trail changes.”
The Board also called for more cooperation on other areas of concern such as impacts on right of way, increased traffic at local intersections, noise mitigation and possible effects on stormwater infrastructure.
“Arlington supports the broad goals of this plan, including the focus on moving more people versus vehicles through the corridor. We are also committed to ensure that VDOT mitigates any impacts on our residents and neighborhoods that may result from the mandated eastbound widening,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “VDOT has been responsive to our concerns as the project has taken shape, and we anticipate working closely with them to monitor the project as it moves forward.”
According to VDOT’s estimates, workers could break ground on the project in “mid 2018” and finish by “mid 2020.”
More from the press release:
In its resolution, the Board says it will work to ensure that the Commonwealth monitors and mitigates the project’s impacts on Arlington streets and on cultural or natural resources.
VDOT released the Environmental Assessment for the eastbound widening of I-66 from the Dulles Connector to Fairfax Drive in November. Based on a review of the technical documentation and public testimony, the Board resolution calls for VDOT to continue working cooperatively with the County on addressing the following:
- Impacts on right of way and other resources – VDOT anticipates that the eastbound widening will occur primarily toward the inner portion of the I-66 roadway, but temporary or permanent property easements or acquisitions will be needed along the easternmost portion of the project.
- Traffic analysis and impacts to Arlington streets – The Environmental Assessment identified several intersections in Arlington that will experience increased congestion as a result of the widening. Staff is concerned that the traffic analysis used for the Environmental Assessment does not include any multimodal travel, which is a primary goal of the Transform 66 project and the studies supporting it.
- Impacts to the regional trail network – VDOT has proposed realigning the Custis Trail at Bon Air Park and grade-separating the crossing of the W&OD Trail at Lee Highway. The Board resolution endorses these improvements and asks that VDOT ensure a robust community process will be incorporated into the design process to achieve a context sensitive solution for the W&OD Trail changes.
- Noise mitigation – VDOT will solicit input from property owners and renters who would benefit from noise mitigation as to the desirability of the installation of noise barriers along I-66. County staff will work with VDOT to ensure messaging to the public on the noise barrier selection process is communicated as comprehensively as possible. The Board also encouraged VDOT to work with WMATA, FTA and others to explore options for additional noise mitigation related to Silver Line and new generation of rail cars.
- Stormwater Management Infrastructure – In response to public testimony, the Board reinforced the important responsibility that VDOT has to ensure that existing and future stormwater infrastructure by adequately designed and maintained.
(Updated at 10:31 a.m.) A proposal to build a new pedestrian and cyclist bridge in East Falls Church has prompted complaints from some nearby residents.
The Virginia Dept. of Transportation has proposed building a new bridge over Lee Highway near the W&OD trail as part of its “Transform 66” interstate widening and tolling project.
If built, VDOT says the bridge would improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. The trail currently crosses Lee Highway at the busy intersection with Fairfax Drive.
But the idea deserves more thought, according to the East Falls Church Civic Association. Residents voiced concern in a letter the group sent to local officials last week.
“This VDOT project, if not paused, will create problems for holistic future pedestrian and cyclist transit development in the area, as well as create negative impacts on the surrounding neighborhood in a way that a more thoughtful design would not,” the letter reads. “Pause this project so the neighborhood and the surrounding areas can fully consider the problems we are trying to address (both present and future).”
East Falls Church Civic Association president Kelly Alexis said locals first heard of the plan in October. Since then, Alexis said she’s received emails from more than two dozen East Falls Church residents, many opposing the idea.
The problem, Alexis explained, revolves around a lack of input from the community. Though VDOT has held a series of public meetings, she said the agency hasn’t adequately weighed the concerns of the people who live nearby the proposed site of the bridge.
Earlier this month, the association met with VDOT officials to discuss the plan and identified a number of concerns. Among them are questions about whether the bridge would disrupt design aspects of the 2011 East Falls Church Area Plan or “lock-in” the alignment of the W&OD trail, which residents say forces cyclists and pedestrians onto neighborhood streets near the East Falls Church Metro station.
The plan also needs more study regarding improving pedestrian access and safety along Lee Highway on the I-66 overpass and at the Fairfax Drive and Washington Blvd intersections, residents said at the meeting.
The association has suggested several alternatives to building the bridge, such as a trail realignment under Lee Highway or rerouting the trail across Fairfax Drive at the same intersection.
“It’s not a bad plan, it’s just the wrong plan,” Alexis said. “We recognize we’re in a transportation hub, but we want to work together to create a better solution.”
Gillian Burgess, chair of Arlington County’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, said she shares some of the neighborhood’s concerns. Still, a bridge is sorely needed to “allow people on two feet or two wheels to use the trail without worrying whether that red car is really going to stop at the light,” she said.
“The neighborhood does have legitimate concerns about the de facto routing of the trail through their neighborhood,” Burgess added. “But there’s no need to delay building this much-needed improvement to this important piece of our transportation network.”
The Arlington County Board is expected to further discuss the I-66 widening plan and the pedestrian bridge at its meeting tomorrow (Saturday).
A Virginia Dept. of Transportation plan to widen part of I-66 could soon get the partial blessing of the Arlington County Board.
Under VDOT’s “Transform 66” plan, an extra lane would be built within the existing eastbound right-of-way from the Dulles Connector Road to the Fairfax Drive exit in Ballston. The lane would stretch about four miles.
VDOT is also planning to improve two local trails, according to a presentation on the proposed project. The planned improvements include a new pedestrian bridge on the W&OD Trail at Lee Highway in East Falls Church and a realignment of the Custis Trail at Bon Air Park.
Additionally, the project would include the replacement and construction of noise walls along the interstate’s eastbound and westbound lanes.
If all goes according to plan, workers would begin construction on the project in “mid 2018” and finish by “mid 2020.”
The Board is scheduled to vote on whether to “endorse the goals” of VDOT’s widening project during its general meeting this Saturday, Jan. 28.
According to the county:
In the proposed resolution, the Board also says it will pursue goals of ensuring that the Commonwealth monitors and mitigates the impacts on Arlington streets, noise impacts, and impacts on cultural or natural resources. The proposed resolution also calls for VDOT to work collaboratively with all the affected jurisdictions to ensure that the final design of possible noise barriers do not unduly or negatively impact cultural or natural resources and that VDOT will not pursue more widening of I-66 inside the Beltway until after a meaningful evaluation of peak period tolling, conversion to HOT-3, tolling in both directions during peak periods, and implementation of multimodal components.
Arlington has already endorsed VDOT’s plan to add tolls to I-66 inside the Beltway during peak travel times.
The suspect in this morning’s incident was wearing a gray sweatshirt and a clown “skull” mask, according to a police lookout. It was initially reported that the suspect was wielding an axe; later it was reported that it was actually a skateboard.
Multiple kids reported seeing the “clown.” Police are now searching for the suspect around the park and up and down the trail.
Most elementary and middle school students in Arlington do not have school today due to parent-teacher conferences.
Update at 11:40 a.m. — Another witness told officers that the suspect was a teenager with red hair, whom she saw take off the mask and run off with two other teen boys, according to police radio traffic.
The robbery happened around 4:20 p.m. Friday, on the trail near the East Falls Church Metro station.
Police say the woman yelled for help, scaring off the suspects. The pair — a juvenile male and female — were later arrested on a bus and charged with armed robbery and gun charges.
From an ACPD crime report:
ARMED ROBBERY, 160909040, 6600 block of N. 19th Road. At approximately 4:22 p.m. on September 9, officers responded to the report of a robbery. When on scene, it was determined that a female victim was walking on the W&OD trail and was approached by two masked subjects who demanded her property at gunpoint. The victim began to yell for help, causing the subjects to flee. A witness observed the subjects get on to a bus where they were later apprehended by officers. The male juvenile subject was charged with armed robbery, conspiracy, and use of a firearm while committing a felony. The female juvenile subject was charged with armed robbery and conspiracy. Both were transported to the juvenile detention facility.
County Board Chair Libby Garvey will join other cyclists for the third annual Kennan Garvey Memorial Ride, dedicated to her late husband.
It will take place on Saturday, August 6 from 7 a.m.-4 p.m.
The full 100 mile-long ride, described by organizers as a “Sizzling Suburban Century,” begins at the Phoenix Bikes shop on Four Mile Run Drive. It goes out to Purcellville in Loudoun County and back along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.
The ride is open to cyclists of all ages and skill levels with shorter course options available:
- 15-mile course: Ride from Phoenix Bikes to Falls Church (turnaround at rest stop located at Bikenetic Full Service Bicycle Shop)
- 30-mile course: Ride from Phoenix Bikes to Reston and back (turnaround at rest stop located at Sunrise Valley Elementary School)
- 60-mile course: Ride from Phoenix Bikes to Leesburg and back (turnaround at rest stop located at Douglass School)
- 90-mile course: Ride from Phoenix Bikes to Purcellville and back (turnaround at trail’s end, stopping at rest stop at Veloville USA Bike and Coffee Shop)
- 100-mile/century course: Ride from Phoenix Bikes to Purcellville and back (as above), starting east on Four Mile Run Trail around Arlington Loop to W&OD trail
The entry fee is $25 and there is also a $500 fundraising goal for each rider. Riders and volunteers will receive a free shirt and boxed lunch and riders who exceed the $500 fundraising goal will receive an incentive prize.
As of today, $1,115 has been raised towards the event’s fundraising goal of $20,000.
Prior to his death, Kennan Garvey, a cycling aficionado, had planned to volunteer for Phoenix Bikes, a non-profit that serves as a community bike shop and an education program. This year, it was named the “Best Nonprofit” by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.
“[Phoenix Bikes] is a group which teaches kids how to repair bikes and was one of the organizations Kennan was planning to devote time to in his upcoming retirement,” said Libby Garvey. “As many of you know, Kennan was an avid cyclist and always did most of the maintenance on his bikes himself. He loved working with kids and passing on his knowledge in so many areas. He would have taken great satisfaction in teaching kids to be self-reliant operators of his favorite environmentally-friendly vehicle,”
Photo courtesy Libby Garvey
The robbery occurred near the East Falls Church Metro station.
From an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
ARMED ROBBERY, 160415027, 6600 block of N. 19th Road. At approximately 1:10 p.m. on April 15, a female was walking eastbound on the W&OD trail. She was approached from behind by two suspects who brandished a firearm and demanded her personal belongings. The suspects fled eastbound on W&OD trail with her cellphone and an undisclosed amount of cash. Suspects are described as a black male and female in their late teens, approximately 5’5″-5’8″ tall with a thin build. They were wearing dark clothing.
Also in the latest ACPD crime report: a pair of armed robberies, in the Pentagon City area and along Lee Highway. Both robberies were reported to police well after the fact.
LATE ROBBERY, 160416020, 600 block of S. 15th Street. At approximately 2:45 p.m. on April 12, as a male victim was walking down the street he was approached by a male suspect who requested to use his cellphone. The victim complied and the suspect began walking away from the victim with his cellphone. The victim followed the subject in an attempt to regain his cellphone at which point two additional male suspects approached the victim. Two of the suspects brandished handguns and robbed the victim of his personal belongings. The first suspect is described as a black male, approximately 5’8″ tall and weighed approximately 160 lbs. He was wearing a red shirt , gold chain, and black pants. The second suspect is described as a black male, approximately 5’10” tall and weighed 180 lbs. He was wearing a denim jacket, dark jeans, and a black skull cap.
LATE ROBBERY, 160416070, 5000 block of N. Lee Highway. At approximately 10:20 p.m. on April 16, a male suspect at the corner of N. Edison Street and Lee Highway was approached from behind by an unknown male subject. The male suspect allegedly pointed a gun to his back and demanded his personal belongings. The suspect fled the area on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash from the victim. The suspect was described as a black male wearing a dark colored winter hat, gray shirt, and gray pants.
Just after midnight this morning, ACPD officers were allegedly assaulted by a pair of drunk suspects outside the 7-Eleven store on Washington Blvd in Lyon Park.
Both suspects are from Woodbridge, as is a third suspect who was charged with drunk in public and obstruction of justice.
ASSAULT ON POLICE OFFICER, 160418001, 2700 block of N. Washington Boulevard. At approximately 12:02 a.m. on April 18, officers were dispatched to a 7/11 in reference to multiple disorderly subjects. The investigation revealed that a male suspect exited the store with alcohol that had not been properly paid for. During the course of the investigation the subject became combative towards the responding officers, striking them numerous times. Jonathan Lopez, 23, of Woodbridge VA, was charged with assault on police officer, felony petit larceny, disorderly conduct, and drunk in public. He is being held without bond. Angie Roque, 22, of Woodbridge VA, was charged with drunk in public and obstruction of justice. Warrants were obtained for Vianka Membreno, 23, of Woodbridge VA, for assault on police, disorderly conduct, and drunk in public.
The incident happened around 1:30 p.m., out in the open in broad daylight, with a number of people around using the park and the trail at the time. It happened near the train car, just a short distance from Ashlawn Elementary School.
A pregnant woman who was walking by called police after the man started talking to her while in the act. The man was subsequently arrested and jailed without bond.
From the Arlington County Police crime report:
OBSCENE SEXUAL DISPLAY, 160308032, 600 block of N. Manchester Street. At approximately 1:30 p.m. on March 8, a female victim was walking on the bike trail and observed a male subject masturbating. Darrell Devon Bullard, 42, of no fixed address, was arrested and charged with obscene sexual display. He is being held on no bond.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held for a new addition to Glencarlyn Park, along Columbia Pike and the W&OD Trail, over the weekend.
The new park space, near the Arlington Mill Community Center, includes a “learning loop” for beginning bicyclists, a bike repair station, a bike water bottle filler, a sand play area and a rain garden.
Construction of the park amenities was estimated at $400,000 when it was approved a year ago.
The incident was reported around 11:30 a.m. in Benjamin Banneker Park, near East Falls Church, according to Arlington County Police.
Police say “an unknown male subject was seen standing naked in the bushes” along the W&OD trail. A man walking his dog saw the man and called police.
The suspect is described as “a Hispanic or Middle-Eastern male, with dark hair and a slim-build.” There were no additional reports of the man being seen by other trail users.
“It appears to be an isolated incident at this point,” said Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The temperature in Arlington around 11:30 Saturday morning was a chilly 55 degrees.
Police do not believe this incident is connected to any other previously-reported crime along the trail. Earlier this year a man tried to sexually assault a woman on the trail in Glencarlyn Park, and a few years ago a string of indecent exposure incidents along the trail prompted police to issue warnings to trail users.
The Arlington County Police Department is looking for a man suspected of trying to sexually assault a woman on the W&OD trail last weekend.
The victim was running on the Glencarlyn Park area of the W&OD trail when the suspect allegedly grabbed her from behind and threw her to the ground. The suspect tried to cover her mouth with his hand, but she was able to scream, causing the suspect to flee, police say.
The woman worked with a sketch artist to provide a sketch of the suspect. He is described as “a dark skinned Hispanic male between 20-30 years old, approximately 5’6″ tall, weighing 140 pounds,” according to police. At the time, he was wearing long, baggy gray shorts and was not wearing a shirt.
Anyone with information can contact Detective K. Bercovicz [email protected] or 703-228-4235. Those wishing to stay anonymous can call the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866-411-TIPS (8477).
The attempted sexual assault on the W&OD trail was the first of two such incidents in Arlington that weekend. A woman was also grabbed and thrown to the ground while she walked home near the intersection of N. Thomas Street and N. Pershing Street in Buckingham. A sketch has not been released for the suspect.
Last week police released a sketch of a suspect in another sexual assault incident near Courthouse.
Arlington County Police are looking into whether pair of sexual assaults over the weekend are linked to a sexual assault in Courthouse last month.
Over the weekend, two women, both in their late 20s to early 30s, were grabbed from behind and tossed to the ground. The crime and the suspect descriptions in both cases are similar to that of the assault in Courthouse on July 24, said Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
“We’re not saying it’s the same guy at this point, but there are some similarities in terms of the attack and the suspect description,” Sternbeck said.
The first attack happened at 8:45 p.m. on Friday. A woman was running alone on the W&OD trail when a man grabbed her from behind and threw her to the ground, according to a police report. The woman screamed causing the man to flee.
“The suspect is described as a Hispanic male in his twenties, approximately 5’6″ tall and 140 lbs. He was wearing long gray shorts, a belt, and no shirt at the time of the incident,” according to a police report.
On Saturday, at 11:26 p.m., a 25 year-old woman was walking near the intersection of N. Thomas Street and N. Pershing Street in Buckingham when a man grabbed her from behind and threw her to the ground. The man allegedly touched the woman inappropriately, and she bit one of his fingers and he fled, the police report said.
“The suspect is described as a Hispanic male, between 5’0″-5’3″ tall, with black hair and a mustache. He was wearing a gray t-shirt and jeans at the time of the incident,” according to police.
County Board member Libby Garvey and other cyclists will brave the heat on Saturday, riding up to 100 miles as part of the second Annual Kennan Garvey Memorial Ride.
The cyclists will bike on the W&OD Trail from Arlington to Purcellville and back, a 90-mile trek. For riders wanting to do a true century, they can continue to cycle to Roosevelt Memorial Bridge after returning to Arlington.
Cyclists can also shorten the ride by turning around in Reston at the 15-mile mark to make it a 30-mile ride, or in Leesburg, Virginia, at the 30-mile mark to make it a 60-mile ride.
It’s an easy ride, making it a great ride for a family, Garvey said.
“This ride is the perfect way to remember Kennan and to continue the good influence he had on so many people during his life,” Garvey said.
Garvey, herself, is planning to ride out to Purcellville, but is not planning to turn around and head back to Arlington. She and her husband previously rode to Purcellville on a tandem bike, she said.
The ride is also known as the Sizzling Suburban Century because of August’s heat, Garvey said, while promoting the event at County Board meetings. National Weather Service is predicting a high of 91 degrees on Saturday.
Garvey started the bike ride last year in honor of her husband, Kennan, who died of a heart attack in 2008. He was 56 years old.
“The ride means a lot to me and Kennan’s family and friends,” Garvey said. “Kennan commuted by bike to his job at EPA since the early ’80’s. He loved cycling, loved to help people and loved to get young people interested in bicycles.”
The ride has an entry fee of $25, and participants are encouraged to raise $500 for the Kennan Garvey Memorial Fund. All participants will get a boxed lunch and t-shirt as part of the ride. Those who meet the fundraising goal of $500 will also receive a Phoenix Bikes jersey.
The ride benefits Phoenix Bikes’ Capital Campaign, with proceeds going toward helping the nonprofit fund a new building, now possibly in the area of Columbia Pike. The shop had previously looked at a spot at Walter Reed Drive and W&OD Trail, but that faced some community opposition.
Kennan had wanted to volunteer with Phoenix Bikes after retiring.
“Phoenix Bikes is a wonderful little organization,” Garvey said. ” They just do incredible things. And once they get a building, they’ll be able to take off.”
Photo courtesy of Libby Garvey
In a somewhat unexpected move, the County Board has voted 4-1 against the creation of a connector path from the Washington and Old Dominion trail to N. Carlin Springs Road.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan and her staff had recommended the Board approve the connection, which would link N. Carlin Springs Road with the W&OD rail trail.
The proposed connector would have been an eight-foot-wide, 220-foot-long trail that could be used by pedestrians and cyclists to reach the W&OD from N. Carlin Springs Road. The county was seeking the permit as part of a partnership with Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority.
The path is currently what County Board member Jay Fisette called a “cow path,” meaning it is a dirt path stomped down by trail users going to and from Carlin Springs Road.
However, Fisette, who is an avid cyclist, said that paving the path would be unnecessary and encourage cyclists to cross Carlin Springs Road, he said is more dangerous than using an already-established path that’s not too far away.
“I’m going to argue, unless you tell me I’m missing something, that this proposed connector is essentially unnecessary to be paved,” Fisette said.
People can still use the path as a walking path, Fisette said, but he did not see the need to pave it for cyclists.
Board members were not the only Arlington residents against by the potential paved trail. Residents attended the meeting to speak out against paving the path due to environmental concerns.
Buckingham Community Civic Association President Bernie Berne told the Board that paving the proposed path would harm the plant life that existed in the meadow where the pavement would go.
The county had placed chains around the meadow where the footpath was created to block residents from cutting across it and harming the native plants as well as to prevent the county from mowing it too often. If the county had approved the trail, it would have been undoing the county’s efforts to restore the meadow, Berne said.
“The proposed connector trail is a waste of county money,” Berne said.
Instead, the county could use the money to place signs to encourage people away from the meadow and to the existing path, Board Vice Chairman Walter Tejada said.
Tejada, a self-described bicycle fanatic, also failed to see the reason to pave the path because it was so close to the already established connection from Four Mile Run.
“If we are looking for access for both the east and west side of Carlin Springs, we already have it,” Tejada said, calling the proposed path “redundant.”
The distance between the already-established connection from Four Mile Run under Carlin Springs Road and the proposed trail is a short distance, especially for someone on a bike, Tejada said. Cyclists can easily go a little longer to use the established connection.
“If it’s a matter of convenience, I don’t buy it,” Tejada said. “Because it’s just a matter of going around and you are already there.”
Via Twitter, however, former Arlington County Commuter Services Bureau Chief Chris Hamilton criticized the decision, suggesting that the County Board gave in too easily to a few vocal opponents.
Board votes against W&OD Trail Connector, saves "Meadow" http://t.co/JvccbqTQU6 Elected leaders must back up their DOTs and resist NIMBYS!
— Chris Hamilton (@ChrisRHamilton) June 17, 2015
On Saturday, the Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on an agreement with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to construct a bike park on the northern side of Columbia Pike near Arlington Mill Community Center. Dominion Power, which has an easement for its power lines, is also party to the agreement.
“The focus of the project is to install a bike park with a learning loop for beginning riders,” the county’s staff report states. “The park improvements will include site furnishings, sand play area, water bottle filler, bike repair station, plaza space and a paved bicycle path.”
The park was approved back in 2009 as part of the Neighborhood Conservation program. The project has “been on hold” as the county’s Department of Environmental Services realigned the trail to improve pedestrian safety and to accommodate streetscape improvements.
Staff has already solicited bids for the project. Once the County Board approves the licensing agreement, a separate proposal with the chosen bid is expected to go before the Board in the fall.
Photo via Google Maps