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Thread: VDOT Route 1 Study - Bringing 15th and 18th Streets to grade in Crystal City

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    Default VDOT Route 1 Study - Bringing 15th and 18th Streets to grade in Crystal City

    Good evening. VDOT is conducting a survey of the merits of bringing 15th and 18th Streets down to grade in Crystal City so an "urban boulevard" can be constructed. The underpass at 18th Street would become a four-way intersection and peds and cyclists would cross Route 1 in a crosswalk rather than the current underpass. As you might imagine, this proposal is generally unpopular among the area residents.

    Take a look at the materials on the VDOT project page. https://www.virginiadot.org/projects...on_meeting.asp

    The deadline for comments is 12 July 2021

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    Giving this a bump. To help you formulate your thoughts, here are some of my comments. Feel free to crib.

    Provided below are my comments regarding the VDOT proposal to drop Route 1 to grade in a small portion of Route 1 in Arlington. For a host of reasons, this proposal is incomplete. It seems to have been framed to result in a recommendation to eliminate two overpasses with no real examination of alternatives, both modest and bold. The constraints on the study are disturbing as this is a once in a generation opportunity to materially improve Route 1 and the transportation system in zip code 22202. Unlike other plans which have been developed (such as the Crystal City Sector Plan) with great input from all stakeholders, this study began with a limited scope. As a result, it would be premature to seek a decision before addressing the issues discussed here.

    Although one of the intents of this study was to unify the neighborhoods on both side of Route 1, this project will actually exacerbate that divide. The study isn’t proposing any additional east-west connections across Route 1, so the east-west porosity of Route 1 won’t change. In fact, because crossing Route 1 will be more difficult the proposed strategy is likely to strengthen the divide. If approved and constructed, the additional development along the two sides of the roadway will create different structural barriers.

    It is disturbing that the scope of this study didn’t address Route 1 in Arlington holistically. Instead, ignoring everything south of 20th Street merely defers the consideration of Route 1 needs for at least a generation and will result in any benefits from the northern portion being only temporary. That the entirety of Route 1 is being ignored suggests both a lack of vision (or expediency) in scoping the project as well as a failure to engage the interested parties in developing the scope. The fact that the study scope was not subject to community input placed the validity of the subsequent study at risk. The more appropriate charge to VDOT would have been, “How can Route 1 in Arlington be improved to provide greater business and community benefits.”

    This part of Arlington has roadway alignments that would not likely be selected if the areas inside zip code 22202 were being envisioned today. The historic alignments of the earlier uses of Eads (for a trolley instead of motor vehicles) do not serve the community particularly well. As a result of the development processes that got Arlington to this point, we would be remiss in not considering the impacts of our decisions to only those streets immediately adjacent to the proposed project. For example, what will be the choices of the motorists travelling north on Rt 1 as they approach the Arlington line. Will they turn off onto Potomac Ave and Crystal Drive or somehow end up in the neighborhoods to the west? What will Arlington need to do to proactively address those additional stressors on the other street networks?

    The study failed to consider a wide range of options, instead looking at only three – the do-nothing alternative, lowering Route 1 to grade, and the Crystal City Sector Plan elevated roadway with interior ramps. This abbreviated identification of alternatives compromised the study and eliminated the potential study (and subsequent construction) will actually achieve the project goals and satisfy the study objectives.

    While the drafts and earlier presentations have discussed the impact of through traffic, this study did not appear to approach the consideration of that through traffic holistically. For motorists who choose to drive along Route 1 through Arlington, that decision should be considered in light of the logical alternatives to Route 1 – I-395 and the GWMP. When the traffic conditions are altered on Rt 1, motorists will consider those parallel routes.

    As the signal timing for the new intersections will need to accommodate both the existing traffic and the added requirement for safe pedestrian and cyclist crossings, it would be reasonable to conduct a test of the altered timing at 20th Street. VDOT and Arlington County should change the signal timing now to simulate the additional crossings and observe the impacts on thru traffic.

    The VDOT reticence on lowering the speed limit seems to be ill-considered. Currently, the posted speed limit on Route 1 is 45 mph (or 55 mph) for southbound traffic almost to 18th. That is because the first regulatory speed sign is located just north of 18th Street, so motorists would likely rely on the posted 45 mph speed on SR 110 or posted 55 mph limit on I-395. If there is concern about queuing from a slower speed limit on Route 1, this should be modeled. Additionally, the VDOT study didn’t seem to address how speed limits would be enforced, possibly through the inclusion of locations where safe enforcement might be conducted. The efficacy and impacts of changing the speed limits (to lower than 30 mph) should be tested now with the installation of regulatory signs which actually define the speed limits at the point where they begin on Route 1. Speed characterization studies might be conducted to see the effect on motorists when the correct speed limit locations are posted.

    The suggestion that retail stores will operate along Route 1 merits critical reflection. Because such development is presented as one of the justifications for this project, access to the retail facilities must be described and studied, this should include impacts to Route 1 traffic, pick up and drop off (PUDO), and the impacts to traffic on parallel roads. The parallel roads will likely experience significant addition traffic as the VDOT study has been silent on direct Route 1 access. This should be considered in both the discussions and models.

    The elevated roadway should be considered independently of the desire to create an “urban boulevard”. Motorists driving on the currently elevated Route 1 likely don’t see themselves on an elevated roadway and are not inconvenienced by the roadway slopes that were created during the construction of the 12th, 15th, and 18th Street overpasses. The buildings that occupy the space over Clark/Bell between 15th and 18th show how development and roadways can use the same space (through some transfer of the air-rights over roadways). If that approach was extended to Route 1, there might be buildings with hotels and shops that have street frontage on two separate building elevations. Such an approach might preserve the safe crossings for people that walk and cycle at 15th and 18th Streets while achieving the urban boulevard potential. Maintaining the existing underpasses may present opportunities for some “high-line” linear park with views along the Route 1 roadway over 15th and 18th Streets.

    Strategies to mitigate the loss of the safe Route 1 crossing locations for people walking and cycling at 15th and 18th Streets merit additional consideration before development decisions are made. The VDOT study added the potential for bridges or tunnels permitting pedestrians and cyclists to safely cross Route 1 (essentially what exists now at 18th Street). The concept of a tunnel is complicated by the proximity of the WMATA metro tunnels along 18th Street although the existing terrain may support it around 20th Street.

    A pedestrian overpass would impact both the development concepts as well as the streetscape. Because any Route 1 overpass would have to be constructed to span the traffic below, it would be large. A comparable crossing might be observed with the Route 50 ramp at Seven Corners which has two, 300 foot-long ramps for a 150 foot-long bridge (total of about 750 feet). For pedestrians with limited mobility, this might prove a burden and might ultimately result in pedestrians choosing to cross at-grade, minimizing the value of such an overpass. Without including detailed discussion on the concept and the location, merely including an overpass as a mitigation option only serves as a distraction. Given the sequencing of this project (meaning the consideration of the roadway is well ahead of the identified mitigation strategies), the report should state that it is draft and non-actionable until detailed discussions of TDM and bridges/tunnels for people who walk or bicycle.

    Given the alternative of a 750 foot walk to cross a 150 foot wide roadway, many pedestrians are likely to risk crossing at grade. Having the motor vehicle travel up a grade would be best for all roadway users. Again, such a concept might be examined as part of a broad concept brainstorming to identify promising ideas.

    While the concept presented by development advocates has been to convert Route 1 to an “urban boulevard”, there has been little development of concepts to actually understand what that would entail.

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    Turns out there is a character limit on the forum. Here is the rest

    Urban boulevards include numerous cross streets as well as the streetside amenities highlighted by the advocates. They also seem to be destinations rather than thoroughfares.
    • Unlike Michigan Ave in Chicago (which had been posited as an example of an urban boulevard), the superblocks that are along Route 1 in Arlington have far fewer intersections. That reduces the traffic calming provided by short blocks and traffic signals and reduces the locations where people walking and cycling can safely cross. For example, along Michigan Avenue (similar roadways in the District of Columbia that have been advanced as exemplars have the rectilinear layout and short blocks as well) north of the Chicago River to Lake Shore Drive, there are 14 blocks in about 4,100 feet. Along the south portion of Michigan Avenue from the river to Roosevelt, there are 16 blocks in about 7,600 feet. Contrast that with Route 1 in Arlington, where in the 3,700 feet between 23rd Street and the SR 110 – I-395 split there are only four blocks. It isn’t better south of 23rd where the 4,500 feet to Four Mile Run only has three blocks. Such distances create a dilemma, where the motorists are provided the opportunity to drive quickly and there are few reasons they would need to slow down. Placing at grade crosswalks along Route 1 might actually place people walking and cycling in the unenviable role of traffic calming devices.
    • Without consideration of the implementation of Transportation Demand Management and other strategies to reduce the through traffic on Route 1, a significant amount of the traffic will merely use Route 1 as a thoroughfare and not as a destination. While the concept of an aggressive TDM program is intriguing, the VDOT assumption is that Arlington County would be successful in leading the implementation of such a TDM effort seems to ignore the fact the motorists driving along Route 1 that would be targets of such a TDM program likely do not live or work in Arlington. As such, Arlington probably doesn’t have the “reach” to conduct such a program. With respect to reducing the through traffic on Route 1, the abbreviated scope of the study appeared to eliminate any consideration of reducing the traffic on South Glebe (SR 120) (South Glebe EB at Route 1 has three left turn lanes permitting turns from Glebe onto Route 1 NB) moving from I-395 to Route 1. It is notable that the VDOT study didn’t present any traffic counts south of 23rd Street, even though those might have been useful at understanding the traffic sources.

    Recognizing that there has been no identification of discussion of breaking the “superblocks” of Route 1 (such as the block bounded by 18th, Eads, Route 1, and 20th), the permeability of Route 1 for east-west movement will not be changed (meaning no new locations), just slowed. If the safe and quick crossings at 15th and 18th were eliminated, some motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists might use other at-grade crossing points. This would potentially impact the performance of those intersections, which might be presently ineffective at carrying the traffic load (for example, the intersection of 23rd and Rt 1 and the short block back to Eads which currently provides inadequate queuing distance).

    AND MORE - in response to a neighborhood listserv

    I suppose the biggest failing of the idea is that it didn’t appear to have been preceded with a brainstorming session. There weren’t any bold, visionary ideas to consider (such as the approve sector plan’s traffic circle at the airport access road or possibly dropping Rt 1 down under 23rd like Dupont Circle). While we might have asked for a study that would make Rt 1 more of an asset, that would have needed to consider all of Rt 1. Essentially, this Rt 1 study is looking at only two streets, 15th and 18th, about 1,600 feet of the 8,500 feet of Rt 1 in Arlington (from the County Line to I-395) The rest is not in this study! A community survey highlighted the overwhelming community preference for crossing Rt 1 at 15th and 18th, frequently citing safety as the reason. The VDOT study suggested that a bridge (or tunnel) for people walking or cycling might mitigate the safety concerns of at-grade crosswalks, but those are included without any actual study or cost estimates. If you ask “what type of bridge?”, think of the pedestrian bridge on Rt 50 just east of Seven Corners. To cross 150 feet of Rt 50, the people using that bridge have to walk up 300 feet of ramp, cross the bridge, and down another 300 feet. Where would such a bridge actually be installed? Places like Chicago’s Michigan Avenue were offered as examples of an urban boulevard. Alas, there is little that is similar. Chicago has regular blocks, with 14 blocks in the 4,100 feet of Michigan Avenue north of the Chicago River. In the 2,600 feet of Rt 1 between 12th and 20th, we have one block now and VDOT proposes it become three. Chicago has intersections with signals every 300-400 feet that provide traffic calming. It isn’t clear that Michigan Avenue is used by people driving through Chicago as much as to Chicago. It is a destination not a path! Much of the traffic on Rt 1 is just trying to get through Arlington. Arlington has, for historical reasons, superblocks along Rt 1, which is the reason it doesn’t intersect with 19th St, 17th St, etc.… (you get the point). A goal of many projects to eliminate the barriers that are created by elevated roadways is increased permeability across the roadway by the creation of more crossing points. Not here, no new streets will be created. We will continue to use 18th and 15th to go east-west but it will be slower and less safe for everybody (including motorists). When was the last time you saw 18th closed because of a collision? Contrast that with 23rd. Which way do we want to go? I think there is the potential to enhance Rt 1 with a street design that might cause someone to want to walk there but we don’t have to give up the safe crossings. How about looking to the red building at 18th and Clark for inspiration? It extends over Bell. What would happen if a similar building were built with an elevation opening on the sidewalk at Rt 1 with entrances and shops, with the side facing Crystal City also having street facing entrances a floor lower? Those using Rt 1 would see an urban boulevard and not even notice they were a floor higher. I think the scope fo the VDOT study is too restrictive (let’s look at all of Route 1 in Arlington) and the options were constrained for expediency. Neither is a recipe for good design. Let’s fix Rt 1 but do it right!

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    These are the Pedestrian Advisory Committee comments.

    RE: Comments on the VDOT recommendation presented at the June 16, 2021 VDOT Rte 1 Public Meeting

    Thank you for your presentation of proposed VDOT recommendations during the public meeting on June 16. At your invitation, I am submitting my comments as the PAC representative on the VDOT Task Force.

    Several times over the past year I have asked the same question: How will you make walking on 18th across an at-grade Route 1 safer than our current walk under Route 1, while maintaining throughput traffic on Route 1, and keeping Route 1 traffic off our parallel side streets? The apparent answer, according to your presentation on June 16, is you don’t know - yet. The VDOT recommendation is for a 7-lane at-grade intersection at Route 1 and 15th Street South and a 6-lane at-grade intersection at Route 1 and 18th Street South. You admit that it is unsafe and that it will require significant further mitigation, including adding a new multimodal transit station by the Crystal City Metro stop, developing and implementing a “comprehensive and effective” TDM strategy that reduces future traffic volumes 20% to 30% below existing (2019) volumes,” and studying the feasibility and provision of “a separate pedestrian crossing over or under Route 1 at 18th Street…”

    Recommending an at-grade crossing that is more dangerous than the current connection is against basic Vision Zero principles and the Master Transportation Plan of Arlington County. An at-grade intersection with 30mph traffic and six or seven lanes is not safe. Please rethink your proposal for at-grade intersections on Route 1 and plan the entire Arlington section of Route One holistically. Implement your “comprehensive and effective” TDM plan now to ensure traffic does not divert to our local streets.

    I was disappointed in the VDOT presentation of the sensitivity analysis, project costs chart, and comparison of options using the Measures of Effectiveness. Some specific comments on these follow:
    • Sensitivity analysis: Change in Average Daily Traffic Volume and AM Peak Traffic Volumes for 2025 – no-build vs. at-grade (VDOT presentation slides 42 & 43): The colors on the maps appear to show a greater impact on local traffic than the numbers and percentages; no PM analysis was presented; and no data were provided for the CCSP proposal. I hope the data and charts are verified and missing charts are prepared for the final report.
    • Measures of Effectiveness: The cited measures of effectiveness are not defined anywhere, and their application to the comparison of options does not appear to be either evidence-based or data driven. I hope that your final report will include definitions, provide numerical values for each Measure, and show how each Measure was calculated and scored. Are they all weighted equally?
    • Project Costs: The estimated project costs for the at-grade proposal does not include costs for these mitigating projects that VDOT finds are necessary: the new multimodal transit station (because transit will need to be moved from 18th Street), the TDM program (because the at-grade proposal significantly increases divergent traffic onto local streets), or the proposed pedestrian passage across Route 1 at 18th Street (because the at-grade proposal is more dangerous – note that cyclists will also need safe passage). The at-grade costs also do not include the cost of increased crash fatalities, severe injuries, and property damage likely with the more dangerous at-grade intersections. I hope these missing costs are included in your final analysis and report.
    • The Livability 22202 Route 1 Working Group offered a hybrid proposal: bringing Route 1 down to grade at 15th, but leaving it elevated at 18th. Although VDOT initially noted that this option was technically feasible, it was not included in the final analysis. Knowing its impact on traffic, its comparative cost, and how it scores with the Measures of Effectiveness would provide invaluable information for the project and support its overall objectivity.

    I continue to support the detailed comments I submitted to VDOT on March 15 as the PAC representative. I look forward to seeing and commenting on the draft final report for the project, which I hope will address the concerns raised in my comments and offer a realistic proposal to keep all of us, especially the most vulnerable among us, truly safe.

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    Livability 22202 also prepared a statement mirroring many of the same issues

    https://livability22202.org/route-1-working-group/

    VDOT Feasibility Report is Incomplete and Unsatisfactory
    After 10 months of study and public meetings, VDOT released its feasibility report on Route 1 at the final Public Information Meeting June 16. No surprise: the recommendation is to bring Route 1 down to grade. The Livability Working Group released a press release on June 27. We also sent letters to the Arlington County Board, VDOT, and our Virginia legislators. Subsequently on July 2, a representative group from the Working Group walked back and forth across Route 1 with County Board member Takis Karantonis to show what the concerns are from the perspective of those of us who live here. He was engaged and interested in our position and concerns. As we walked, we crossed Route 1 at 23rd as well as 20th so there were opportunities to provide the full Route 1 experience. We discussed the need for the underpasses to allow pedestrians, cyclists, and even motor vehicles to easily cross Route 1.
    Read the full text of the press release below:
    .....

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    Bringing this back to the top. VDOT has released their draft study and you can submit comments.

    The draft final report for the VDOT Route 1 Multimodal Improvements Feasibility Study is now out. Read about it and find all the links here:
    https://www.virginiadot.org/projects...ents_study.asp

    There is a lot not to like in the study, but to whet your whistle here is an extract from the Bike Level of Traffic Stress discussion:

    To better understand the perceived comfort for bicyclists around the Route 1 study area, cross-streets were assessed with a methodology called BLTS. Given that bicycles are not allowed along Route 1, cross streets were analyzed for their segments that were within one block from Route 1. Refer to Appendix C, Existing Conditions Summary Report, for more information about the methodology used.

    VDOT seems to be breaking the news here that bikes are not permitted on Route 1 in Crystal City. I'd hazard a guess that they took the reality that virtually nobody rides on Rt 1 as a prohibition. My view is that is just a prudent survival strategy by cyclists.

    They use a Level of Stress look up table https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/sites....-v2-June-1.pdf that suggests crossing Rt 1 at 23rd Street is not max stress (it got a 3 with 4 as most stressful). They are suggesting that crossing Rt 1 at 20th and 23rd is no more stressful than a westbound crossing at 15th St

    Other materials (including appendices) are at https://www.virginiadot.org/projects...ents_study.asp

    Please take a look and share your thoughts with VDOT. Operators are standing by.

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    those are very coherent and well considered comments. based on my experience with vdot, they will proceed with doing what they want, and when motorists complain about the lower speed limit after they project is complete they'll do a quick study that finds it necessary to raise the limit based on the 85th percentile speed. the fact that they can pick a preferred option with pedestrian and cyclist safety noted as something to think about later pretty much says it all.

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    A bit of additional detail. VDOT responded to me today that the elevated portion of Route 1 in Crystal City is considered a limited access highway. They said they were looking for the citation for that position. I don't have much faith they will find anything of substance, maybe just a sticky note on a drawing.

    Maybe that was a VDOT strategy to avoid the need for sidewalks and bike facilities.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dbb View Post
    A bit of additional detail. VDOT responded to me today that the elevated portion of Route 1 in Crystal City is considered a limited access highway. They said they were looking for the citation for that position. I don't have much faith they will find anything of substance, maybe just a sticky note on a drawing.
    Given that Rte 1 and Rte 110 are essentially the same road. Does Rte 110 also have a bike prohibition? If not, at what point traveling south on 110 would a cyclist suddenly be riding illegally? I am certain there is no signage.

    All this is more or less moot currently, since - as Dana points out - virtually no one would ever ride a bike on these roads anyway.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve O View Post
    Given that Rte 1 and Rte 110 are essentially the same road. Does Rte 110 also have a bike prohibition? If not, at what point traveling south on 110 would a cyclist suddenly be riding illegally? I am certain there is no signage.

    All this is more or less moot currently, since - as Dana points out - virtually no one would ever ride a bike on these roads anyway.
    Funny you should mention Rt 110. I have been trying on figuring out where 110 ends and Rt 1 begins as the speed limit changes from 45 to 35 (Arlington Code). Right now the first 35 mph sign is just north of 18th St, about 1/4 of the way down Rt 1.

    They are looking for the info to locate that point. Too much fun.

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