With the help of a federal grant, the County is overhauling the bridge that carries Carlin Springs Rd over George Mason Drive. They've settled on a lane configuration and have moved on to aesthetic treatments. Now is your chance to express your aesthetic preferences in an online survey. The survey is pretty quick and covers facade materials, street light placement, and more. The survey will be available until July 11th, 2012.

Take the Carlin Springs Road Bridge Design Survey

If you're especially interested, there is also a public meeting scheduled to cover the aesthetic options. It will be held Tuesday, June 26th, 2012
7:00 PM at the Lubber Run Center Room 104.

A public meeting has been scheduled for the Columbia Pike Multimodal Project. Come one, come all to review, evaluate and provide feedback on the County's plans for 3.5 miles of Columbia Pike from South Jefferson Street to South Joyce Street. Highlights include:
  • Wider sidewalks
  • Additional Left-hand turn lanes
  • Improved bus stops
  • Bike accommodations and facilities
  • Additional landscaping and greenery
  • Undergrounding of overhead utilities

The meeting will be held at the Walter Reed Community Centerat 2909 S 16th St on Monday, March 26th 2012 from
For additional information visit the Project Website or review my previous post on the project.

UPDATE 2/15/12:The County Board has advertised a $.02 tax rate increase - I have updated the calculator to reflect that.

Last night the County Manager presented her proposed Fiscal Year 2013 County budget at a County Board work session. The proposed budget represents a 2.1 percent increase from the FY 2012 Adopted Budget; excluding the increased transfer of funds to Arlington Public Schools, the county side of the budget increases only 1.6 percent over last year.

The proposed budget calls for a property tax increase of half a cent per $100 of assessed value, but the manager recommended advertising a potential increase of 1.5 cents to give the County Board some leeway to tweak the budget. (The County Board can adopt a tax rate anywhere at or below the advertised tax rate).

For those wondering what this might mean for your property tax bill, I've put together this handy calculator.

Last night was another meeting of the Columbia Pike Implementation Team, the small stakeholder team that has been giving feedback as the Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements Project works its way toward completion. For those who are just now hearing about this, here's the scoop.


The County is looking to rebuild Columbia Pike and in doing so, make it as much a "Complete Street" as possible - that is, a street that balances the needs of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Previously, there had been a group called the "Columbia Pike Street Space Task Force" which created a set of recommendations for what an ideal Columbia Pike would look like. This current project is working to implement as many of them as possible given the current constraints we have to work with (primarily, Right-of-Way constraints). The handouts from last night's meeting aren't on the website yet, but the design isn't hugely different from that shown at the last meeting if you want to follow along with that PDF.

Like most County projects, the study group consists of some planning consultants (in this case, Kimley-Horn) who do all the math, the mapping, the traffic data collection, etc and a small group of "stakeholders" who give feedback on their work. In this case, that group is the Columbia Pike Implementation Team - it has citizen representatives from the nearby Civic Associations, County transportation staff, local business and property owners, members of Arlington advisory commissions like the Planning Commission, etc. The thinking, I believe, is that you can get more work done efficiently with a smaller group of people. If you'd like to be part of that small group of people, you can sign up to be notified at the project's website. Once the study gets farther along, they will hold full-on Public Hearings which will be much more widely advertised (at last night's meeting they were asking for input on whether the first Public Hearing should be before or after the holidays).

The Basic Plan

The current near-term design calls for standardizing the Pike (as much as possible) to a 56' curb-to-curb width consisting of 1.5' of gutter on each side, an 11' outer travel lane on each side, a 10' inner travel lane on each side and a middle area that would either be a left turn lane (where appropriate) or a tree-filled median where turn lanes are unnecesary.

Behind the curb, the usable amount of space for sidewalks, landscaping, etc. varies widely and the final plans for what the "behind the curb" area should look like are still in flux - particularly what style of landscaping is most appropriate to the various areas - a continuous strip of grass / tree boxes / other?

On some portions of the Pike, the current Right-of-Way does not allow for the 56' cross-section, for instance the Four Mile Run bridge and the stretch of Columbia Pike near the Navy Annex. For the most part, the current plans stick within the existing Right-of-Way though it currently calls for some Right-of-Way acquisitions in a couple of select spots.

Benefits for Pedestrians

The plan as currently designed will result in wider sidewalks almost everywhere on the Pike, shorter crossing distances at most crosswalks, additional signalized crossings as a result of several proposed new traffic lights and pedestrian refuges at many crossings. The additional landscaping/trees should also help isolate pedestrians from traffic to some degree.

Benefits for Bicyclists

While the plan does not currently include any bike lanes, it is designed to tie-in with the Columbia Pike Bike Boulevards project and will include a 10' clear width shared-use sidewalk/sidepath on the north side of the Pike extending from the western terminus of the bike boulevards down to Jefferson Street and from the eastern terminus of the bike boulevards up to Joyce Street.

Benefits for Drivers

The current plan will add several left turn lanes that do not currently exist on the Pike, helping to alleviate the "Pike Slalom" where drivers often have to repeatedly switch out of the right lane avoid stopped buses and out of the left lane to avoid stopped left-turning vehicles. The plan also proposes several additional traffic signals to aid in those left turns, adds some additional on-street parking, re-aligns Four Mile Run Dr (minor) with Buchanan Street consolidating two Pike intersections into one and rehabilitates the road surface and substructure finally banishing the horrid rutting and pothole problems that plague many portions of the Pike.

Areas of Disagreement

There seem to be two main areas of feedback / disagreement so far in the process:

The first is in regard to bicycle facilities. While the bike boulevards and sidepath are generally an upgrade over the existing conditions, there has been discontent voiced from the cyclist community that dedicated bicycle facilities like a cycle track would go much further to eliminate bike/pedestrian conflicts. While not part of this project, the multimodal group is coordinating and (literally) "paving the way" for the Streetcar and the addition of the Streetcar tracks to the curb lane will eventually make biking directly on the Pike a non-starter due to the inherent incompatibility of streetcar tracks and bicycle tires. Whether the sidepath and bike boulevards are "enough" to properly support biking in the corridor is definitely one of the lingering questions and sources of contention with the current plan.

The second revolves around the tree-lined medians. In early versions of the plan there were many more of these and they restricted access into and out of many of the Pike driveways and a couple of side streets, but based on feedback from the team (primarily the President of the Penrose Civic Association) these have been pared back in the most recent version. There was some discussion last night about the tradeoffs that the medians represent. On the positive side, their existence serves to: 1. narrow the visual appearance of the road which encourages drivers to slow down closer to the speed limit, 2. contribute quite a bit to the environment - air quality, shade, water filtration, etc. and 3. blocking access to some of those left turns would help alleviate congestion on the Pike and prevent potential collisions in the so-called "chicken lanes" that currently exist on the Pike (those are the areas where the middle lane allows left turns from both eastbound and westbound traffic). On the negative side, restricting turn access for those driveways is a daily inconvenience for the residents of those apartment buildings and the customers of those businesses. So far, the opinions seem to be stacked on the side of those wishing to maintain driveway access at the expense of the medians.

Next Steps / How Can I Get Involved?

While last night's meeting materials aren't up yet on the project website yet, I expect them to be there soon; all of the previous meeting presentations are posted. Once they are up you can review them at your leisure and submit comments using the form on the project website. If you'd like to be informed of any future meetings, there is also a form on the website to sign-up for notifications. The design is not finished, it's not even at 50%. If you want to help shape the Pike for the next several decades, this is your chance. Want even wider sidewalks? Better bike facilities? Wider travel lanes? More medians? Fewer medians? Make your opinions heard!

Keep in mind that these plans are the near-term plans. As redevelopment occurs, additional right-of-way can be acquired to more fully "Complete the Street" providing additional facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

Technically, the "N. Lynn Street Esplanade and Lee Highway/Custis Trail Safety Improvements Project" meeting...cause that really rolls of the tongue. This post will detail my understanding of the project based on the presentation at the meeting - I am not speaking directly for the County, VDOT, or anyone else.

The project is really two projects rolled together to reduce construction costs - it was originally the Lynn St Esplanade project whose goal was to improve Rosslyn's connection to the Potomac River through improvements on Lynn St; this project is funded through the community benefit money contributed out of the Westview Development site plan process. A 2nd project to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety in the Rosslyn Circle area was rolled in when a federal grant was received to implement those safety improvements. These improvements focus on the Custis Trail and the various intersections it crosses in Rosslyn.

The main features proposed in the project:
  • Street Trees added to Lynn St between 19th St and Westbound Lee Highway
  • Lynn St Bike Lane extended across the I-66 bridge.
  • "Luminous Bodies" art feature in the area of the Lynn St bridge over I-66
  • Reconfiguration of the slip lane from Lynn St to Eastbound I-66 to improve pedestrian visibility
  • Widening the Custis Trail from its current ~10' width to 16' wide from Oak street to Lynn St and some widening just east of Lynn St as Right-of-way permits.
  • Adding a 6' planting buffer between the Custis Trail and Westbound Lee Highway
  • Removing one lane of Westbound Lee Highway between Lynn and Oak to make space for the planting buffer and wider trail.
  • Curb Extension at Lynn St / Custis intersection to shorten crossing distance for peds & bikes.
  • Removing some of the jersey barrier / fencing that obscures visibility between the I-66 off ramp and the Custis when approaching Lynn St.
Turn out was pretty light at the meeting and the vast majority of the attendees appeared to be regular cyclists. Throughout the presentation, attendees were quite supportive of the project overall, but repeatedly brought up concerns that the project doesn't do enough to improve safety at the troublesome Custis / Lynn St intersection. The project manager was quite frank that the project was a compromise and that they are doing what they can. He said they extensively modeled many different lane configurations and movement options for the I-66 off ramp, but everything they looked at resulted in extensive backups of traffic onto I-66 which is a big no-no as far as VDOT is concerned and is quite troubling for the County as well. They specifically mentioned that they explored the "no right on red" idea for the off-ramp and it was a no go from a traffic standpoint. When asked about the proposed tunnel for the Custis that would go underneath these intersections, he said that the improvements were being made such that they would not preclude that tunnel being built as part of a future project, but even if it is built some folks will opt for the surface route so best to make what safety improvements can be made. He went on to say that from an engineering standpoint, the tunnel is feasible, but would require the cooperation of NPS which has been extremely uncooperative in this entire project (which is why the project basically stops dead at the NPS property line) and would also require the acquisition or other accommodation of some private land which had been involved in a property dispute / lawsuit until very recently.

Currently the plans are at the 50% mark, they have not been finalized and VDOT has not given its final approval. VDOT is especially concerned and hesitant about the lane removal on Lee Highway and would like to gauge public support of that portion of the project specifically before giving final OK. Plans should be completed this coming Summer with final VDOT approval next Fall and construction beginning in 2013. If you have an opinion on this project, for or against, or have specific questions, PLEASE contact the project manager.