The first weekend in November (the 3rd and 4th), VDOT will be temporarily closing a small section of Columbia Pike that runs underneath the Washington Blvd bridge so that a portion of that bridge can be safely demolished (weather permitting). The closure will begin late Friday night and normal traffic flow will return by 4:30am Monday morning. During this time, a number of detours will be in effect. Columbia Pike traffic will be routed up temporary ramps to a temporary at-grade intersection with Washington Blvd with a temporary stop light. In addition traffic heading North/West on Washington Blvd (toward Clarendon) that is trying to go Westbound on Columbia Pike will be detoured up to the Second Street exit and shunted through the Penrose neighborhood down South Courthouse Road.

Columbia Pike Detour:

Green arrows indicate the detour for Columbia Pike and Blue arrows indicate existing movements that will remain open during this work.

N/W-bound Washington Blvd to W-bound Columbia Pike Detour:

VDOT says that all modes will be accommodated through the detour (cars, bikes and pedestrians. Access to Columbia Pike through South Queen Street will be closed during the weekend, all traffic in and out of the Arlington View will have to be via South Quinn Street.

For more information on the Route 27/244 Interchange Project that is rebuilding the Washington Blvd bridge over Columbia Pike, see the project webpage.


Their has been significant activity in the County permitting system relating to the long dormant Columbia Place project, including new building permit applications and approval progress on others. One of the first projects approved under the Columbia Pike Form Based Code back in 2009, Columbia Place ran afoul of the financial crisis and did not begin construction. There is no word on when construction might begin, but the activity certainly bodes well for movement on the project.

The project consists of 2,960 square feet of retail, 14 residential condo units and 8 townhouses on the empty parcel of land behind the Columbia Pike Rite Aid. The project will begin the construction of the missing segment of 11th St between Walter Reed Drive and Edgewood Street; at the completion of this project, 11th St will be one way eastbound. When and if the Rite Aid building redevelops under the Form Based Code, that project will provide additional land to finish the street resulting in a final 2-way cross section with parking on both side. The building heights vary from 5 stories at the corner of Walter Reed and 11th St down to 3.5 stories as the project approaches the surrounding neighborhood.

As with most Form Based Code projects, Columbia Place will result in significant streetscape improvements including 13ft sidewalks on Walter Reed, 19ft sidewalks on Edgewood and 14ft sidewalks on the new 11th St all with street trees. Any utilities along the edge of the project will be undergrounded and on-street parking will be added on Walter Reed Drive.


This is part II in a series on improving bikeplanner.org by updating the underlying OpenStreetMaps mapping data. See Part I for the background.

Adding Trails to Bikeplanner.org via OpenStreetMaps
Step 1 - Find a place that needs changing

For this tutorial, I'll add the trail through Rock Springs park which connects the broken piece of George Mason Drive between Yorktown Blvd and Little Falls Rd. As you can see in this bikeplanner.org screenshot - no trail:

Step 2 - Start the Editor

Same as our previous tutorial, open up OpenStreetMap.org and find the spot in question. Then we go to the edit dropdown and choose an editor - I recommend "Potlatch 2". You'll then have to setup an account - though you can login using many different accounts you may already have like a Google account or Yahoo account.

Step 3 - Draw the Trail
Go up to where the trail connects to the rest of the bike network (in this case, I'm starting from Little Falls Rd). Don't be afraid to zoom way in, it makes it easier to follow the aerial photography. Click on the road/trail that you're starting from and then either select an existing point where the intersection is, or if there isn't one add one by shift-clicking on the line to add it.

If potlatch hasn't already entered draw mode (connecting your mouse cursor to your select point by a red dotted line) then shift-click on your node and it will start to do so as shown in the following shot:

Now just keep clicking along the trail adding points to help it follow the contours as best you can. Don't worry if you need to pan around a bit, the tool is smart enough that if you click and drag to pan it doesn't put a point down. Don't worry too much if you have trouble following the exact contours of the trail, the most important thing is that it exist and that it connect the starting point and ending point of the trail so that bikeplanner.org can route on it!

When you get to the end, make sure your final point connects onto the next trail or road. The editor will show you nearby points on the road as you hover near it or change to a pen icon with a + next to it to indicate that it will add a new point on the existing road/trail.

Once you've made this final connection hit enter to exit drawing mode.

Step 4 - Set the Trail Properties

Now we need to tell it that the line we just drew was a trail and not a road, powerline or other random thing you can add to OpenStreetMaps. Click the large dropdown on the left, select Paths and then the appropriate option. In this case I'm selecting "footpath" as this particular trail is extremely narrow. For something like the Custis, Mount Vernon or Bluemont Juction Trail I would select "cycle path". Now add the name (if it has one) and set the pedestrian and cycle access options. I chose "allowed" for each. You should also set the surface to "paved" or "unpaved" accordingly. (especially if it's unpaved!!!) Now hit save and add an explanation.

Step 5 - Add Additional Connections

Often trails have many entrances and exits. Take the time to add them if possible. When I first looked at the OpenStreetMap data the Bluemont Junction Trail was there but was only connected at each end. Bikeplanner.org had no idea you could access it or use it to cross the various neighborhood streets that flank it. The Rock Spring Park Trail has two additional entrances right across from eachother. You can follow the same steps as above to add these additional portions of the trail. (don't forget to save!)

Step 6 - Wait

As before, bikeplanner.org updates their map data every two weeks so it may take a while before you see your changes reflected there. Now you're done!


In case you missed the announcement, there's a new tool for planning bike trips: bikeplanner.org

Unlike Google Maps, bikeplanner.org uses map data from OpenStreetMaps which is essentially the Wikipedia of map data. Anyone can go in and add or update information on the map. According to developer OpenPlans, bikeplanner.org refreshes their map data every two weeks.

If bikeplanner.org isn't giving you the results you expect, it is likely due to deficiencies in the underlying map data. Editing OpenStreetMaps data isn't hard (and it can be kind of addictive) here's a tutorial on how to get started.

Before I start, a few caveats: I'm not affiliated with bikeplanner.org, OpenPlans, MobilityLab or really anyone involved with bikeplanner.org. The information I'm presenting has been pieced together from OpenStreetMap tutorials and this link outlining the OpenStreetMap data that OpenTripPlanner (which powers bikeplanner.org) pays attention to.

Adding Bike Lanes to Bikeplanner.org via OpenStreetMaps
Step 1 - Find a place that needs changing

For this tutorial, I'll add the missing the on-street bike lanes on South Arlington Mill Drive between South Walter Reed Drive and the entrance to the Windgate development. You can see that bikeplanner.org doesn't know about them by the lack of a green line on Arlington Mill Dr.

Step 2 - Start the Editor

So we open up OpenStreetMap.org and find the spot in question. Then we go to the edit dropdown and choose an editor - I recommend "Potlatch 2". You'll then have to setup an account - though you can login using many different accounts you may already have like a Google account or Yahoo account.

Step 3 - Make Your Changes

So now click on the road, in this case South Arlington Mill Drive and you'll see it highlight.

In this case, too much of the road is highlighted. If we set the bike lane options as-is, OpenStreetMaps will think there are bike lanes down the whole length of the road which is sadly not the case. So we need to "split" the road into segments. Often there will already be a point to split on as it will be an existing intersection. In this case, the entrance to the Windgate is not currently added to OpenStreetMaps as a road so we'll need to add the point. To do so, hold down shift and click on the spot on the road where you want to add the point. You'll see a new red dot added.

With that dot selected, click the scissors icon in the bottom right to "split" the road at that point. Now when you re-select the road only the part of the on one side of that point will be selected. Depending on what you're doing, you may need to do this at the other end as well.

Now with just the segment you desire selected, go to the cycling tab of the road segment and set the options for "Bicycles Permitted" and "bike lanes". In this case, I chose "Designated" for "Bicycles Permitted" option and "On-road Bike Lanes" for the "bike lanes" option. Finally, hit the "Save" button in the top left and describe the sort of changes you're making and you're done editing!

Step 4 - Wait

Within two weeks your update should appear on Bikeplanner.org

Doing More

You can also add trail connections, mark designated bike routes, mark roads that should be avoided by cyclists, mark bike lanes that only appear on one side or the other and many other pieces of data that bikeplanner.org uses. If people find this tutorial useful I'll definitely do one on adding trail connections. If you want to dive in yourself, the most vital link is this one which outlines how OpenTripPlanner uses OpenStreetMaps data for routing purposes. You should also spend some quality time in the rest of the OpenStreetMaps Wiki.


The following is a guest post by friend-of-the-blog and Columbia Pike advocate John Snyder.

Some folks seem to think that the way to preserve affordable housing on the Pike is to make it an undesirable place to live, so rents stay low. They worry that building the planned streetcar route on Columbia Pike will cause the loss of affordable housing. But their solution—to undermine the quality of life on the Pike—won’t preserve affordable housing. On the contrary, the streetcar system will be necessary to preserve affordable housing on the Pike.

Availability of high quality transit is not the only factor affecting the affordability of housing in Arlington. Over half of Arlington’s 6418 committed affordable units (3325) are in the Metro corridors, so good transit does not prevent affordable housing preservation. Nor does poor transit guarantee low rents. There are plenty of expensive places to live that have poor transit options. Note the hundreds of affordable apartments that are about to be re-developed in the Beauregard area of Alexandria, an area not served by Metro. Inflicting poor transit and traffic gridlock on the Pike neighborhoods will not preserve affordable housing.

For example, the former Concord Village Apartments (at Four Mile Run Drive and Walter Reed Drive) were converted into condos a few years ago, even though they are not on a Metro or streetcar line, and do not have bus service as good as that on the Pike. It was, and still is, very car dependent. Parking was, and still is, a big problem. Yet over 500 units of affordable housing were lost.

Other factors, like age of the buildings or internal business needs, affect a property owner’s decision whether to re-develop, or simply to raise the rent. Any property on the Pike in Arlington is within five miles of the job centers of DC, the Pentagon and Crystal City and thus can command higher rents than a similar building farther out. Even with the horrible traffic that will result from not building the streetcar line, an Arlington Pike resident will have to endure less of it than a Fairfax or Prince William resident, just by the Pike’s close-in location. Rents will go up. You just can’t hurt our neighborhoods enough to overcome their location advantage. Housing policy, not lack of transit, is necessary to preserve affordable housing.

The land use policy adopted decades ago on the Metro corridors—not the Metro itself--has been the primary anti-affordable housing driver in those areas. That policy allows high density development, encouraging re-development of land where affordable apartments once stood. Metro or not, zoning that allows larger buildings will encourage destruction of existing smaller buildings. The land use policy on the Pike is different, and is being reviewed with the specific goal of maintaining affordable housing. Additional density is being considered only as an incentive to preserve affordable units, but that density cannot be added (another 6000 apartments) without high capacity, high quality transit. Conventional buses are at maximum rush hour capacity now. Larger, articulated buses can only keep up with growing transit demand for 10 years, even if these 6000 additional apartments are never built.

Without the streetcar, the Pike neighborhoods simply can’t handle the density. The county’s best affordable housing preservation tool—bonus density—can’t be used. Without the streetcar, affordable housing on the Pike will be destroyed.