What is Realize Rosslyn?

Realize Rosslyn is a major planning effort currently underway to update the Rosslyn Sector Plan. For over a year, the County has been holding meetings, studying travel patterns, examining viewsheds and gathering feedback from all sorts of people who live, work or play in and around Rosslyn.

The current phase of the project has produced a draft policy framework which the team is currently gathering feedback on. This framework lays out the overall policy that will shape the final Sector Plan. The team has done some great work and the vision for Rosslyn is really coming together.

The Missing Piece

Despite all of the great work in the Realize Rosslyn Draft Framework, there is one item that is conspicuously missing. Ask anyone who bike commutes in Arlington for a list of things they would like to see fixed in Rosslyn, and one item jumps out above all others. When I was gathering feedback in the Washington Area Bike Forum, it rose quickly to the top and is nicely summed up by Robert Cannon in the pictured post. Fix the Intersection of Doom.

The infamous intersection being discussed is Lee Highway and N Lynn Street at the North end of Rosslyn just before Key Bridge. Pedestrians and cyclists connecting from the Mount Vernon Trail to the Custis Trail or from the Custis Trail wanting to cross Key Bridge have to go through this intersection. Passing through the same space is two lanes of traffic trying to exit I-66 and turn right onto Lynn Street in order to be able to cross Key Bridge. Both groups have a green light at largely the same time. Cyclists and pedestrians get a "leading interval" where the walk sign has turned, but the light is not yet green for cars, but without a "no turn on red" sign for the cars, even this period of time is not sancrosanct for the cyclists and pedestrians.

The "doominess" of this intersection is not just anecdotal. According to Arlington County Police statistics, from 2009 to 2013, it was the #1 site for bicycle and pedestrian collisions. In 2011, there were three cyclists injured in a single week (1, 2 and 3).

Potential Solutions

Make no mistake, this intersection is challenging to fix. Arlington County, VDOT, the National Park Service and private individuals all own land right around this intersection. Any construction work in the area has the potential to significantly snarl bike, ped and auto traffic. There are viewsheds that people would like to protect, sensitive habitats, mature trees, and significant grades to be contended with. That said, a solution needs to be found - the status quo is cleary unsafe.

The N. Lynn Street Esplanade and Lee Highway/Custis Trail Safety Improvements project is supposed to help the intersection, but it is not a long-term fix. It will improve sight lines, shorten crossing distances and provide some additional space for bikes and peds at this spot, but it will not fix the root issue - a large crowd of bikes, peds and cars all have a green light at the same time. In addition, it is LONG delayed. The last time their was a public meeting, construction was slated to begin in 2013. The current schedule has it beginning in 2015.

The Rosslyn Circle Study examined ways to relocate the trail so as to avoid these intersections. The Rosslyn Esplanade Study examined the potential for tunneling under Lynn Street. Local blogger Steve Offut proposed re-locating the I-66 off ramp. Many folks think the proposal for an air rights development rights over I-66 provides a great opportunity to fix the issue.

Whatever fix is decided on, what Realize Rosslyn needs to recognize is that their is a problem. It is great that the plan calls for new trails and cycle tracks, it is great that the plan calls for new parks and wider sidewalks, but the plan must also recognize that our current trail is unsafe and include a policy to implement a real, long-term fix.

Speak up

There is an Open House scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday March 12th from 6pm to 9pm at the Rosslyn BID offices. Please go and tell them that any plan for Rosslyn for the next 20 years must address trail safety. The County Board will be voting on a "request to advertise" the Policy Framework at the Board Meeting on Tuesday March 18th meeting which begins at 6:45pm at the County Board Room in Courthouse. Please consider coming out and letting the Board know that this is an unacceptable oversight in the plans for Rosslyn. If you can't make it to a meeting, you can also send your thoughts to the County Board, the County Manager and the Principal Planner for the Realize Rosslyn Effort.


Comment by John Pickett

I am a bike commuter who shares Bob Cannon's assessment of the Circle of Doom in Rosslyn. I have been nearly hit many times crossing the I-66 ramp in the 2 1/2 years I have worked on North Lynn Street. "It's complicated" is simply inadequate. Too often I have seen ambulances cart bicycle and pedestrian commuters away from this intersection. Does someone have to die before we stop planning and start doing?
Ironically I cannot attend the Rosslyn BID meeting because I am attending a meeting on fixing Sherwood Hall Lane in Fairfax County. My wife was run over by a car in broad daylight on that street. She missed 3 months of work and was in physical therapy for months afterward.
Bad street design doesn't cause accidents. It causes injury and suffering and sometimes death. Pedestrians and cyclists aren't anonymous things. They are our wives, our husbands, our kids, our parents and our friends.

Comment by Gerald F

What are the stats on number of bike-ped crashes at this intersection over the last few years? How does this compare with other intersections having a high number of bikes and peds? This info can substantiate the need to expedite the process for making the intersection safer.

I'm surprised there is no mentioned of making a bike/ped signal. Give the drivers a red arrow while bikes/peds have a green signal. No turn on red should be added. This may be the most realistic solution, especially in the near-term.

Gerald F
Comment by Chris

Gerald, like I said in the article "According to Arlington County Police statistics, from 2009 to 2013, it was the #1 site for bicycle and pedestrian collisions."

I've been told by Arlington DES staff that VDOT refuses to approve a No Turn on Red because they feel it would back traffic from the ramp up onto I-66.