One year ago, Little Pimmit Run overflowed its banks and flooded residents' homes. The following month it again crept into yards but did not quite reach homes. Fortunately the county already had a flood plain study under way and was thus able to obtain an updated analysis of the problem from its consultants. At a neighborhood meeting in late November 2001, the consultants and county staff presented their data and laid out a planning process for addressing the problem. First, the consultants would develop a set of options for presentation and discussion at another neighborhood meeting to be held in the spring of 2002. Second, a design would be selected and necessary approvals obtained. Thirdly, construction might get under way by the summer of 2002.
Since then, several delays have stretched out this timetable, but the county recently obtained a draft set of proposed corrective measures from its consultant. Replacing the culvert at Old Dominion Drive with a larger capacity channel appears to be the most urgent and important action identified. The consultant's findings will now be refined into a more integrated set of alternative solutions for review and comment by affected residents. The Rock Spring Civic Association has been asked to organize a meeting of the neighbors who live along the stream, so that the consultant can present preliminary options and the county may receive residents' comments before finalizing a plan of action. A date in mid-November will soon be chosen, and a flyer will be distributed inviting interested residents to this meeting. For more information, call Carl Cunningham, 703/237-8950.
Jamestown Elementary School Construction of the planned renovations and additions at Jamestown School is expected to begin early next year. Building permits have been submitted, and the project will go out for bid before the end of this year. Following School Board selection of a contractor, construction is expected to start in late January. The Building Level Planning Committee-composed of Jamestown neighbors, parents, faculty, staff, and RSCA members-has reviewed and commented on the project design as it was developed. The next meeting of the committee is scheduled for Oct. 28 at 6:30 pm in the school library.
Construction staging will be in the existing parking lot and will entail new traffic patterns and parking locations as building proceeds, so watch for them and be cautious. The estimated completion date is May 2004.
When construction begins, look for a sign at the school listing the names and phones numbers of the general manager and the construction manager, who will be on site. Call them with specific questions or concerns about the construction process. In the meantime, for design information, contact architect Paul Falkenbury, Samaha Associates, 703/691-3311. Or call Jacqueline Escobar, Design and Construction Services, Arlington Public Schools, 703/228-6603.
Williamsburg Middle School Construction on Williamsburg Middle School began last June to update the library and cafeteria and add six classrooms. The first phase of construction is almost completed. It is a small addition to the library, with a sweeping curved wall of windows overlooking Harrison Street. Because this was built on top of the existing cafeteria, the cafeteria has also been updated along with a soundproof classroom for special education. Students, who had been using the auxiliary gym since June, began using the new cafeteria on October 4-ahead of schedule! The library was moved to one of the trailers, and it is anticipated to be moved back to the new Media Center after the first of the year-a great treat for students returning from the holidays.
The second area of construction, on the south side of the building, is a one-story addition connecting the south ends of the two existing wings. It will contain a total of six classrooms. The contractor has continued working on this addition with little distraction to classes and minimal effect on an adjacent field used for recess activities.
A wonderful space is being created through the combined efforts of the 7th grade science students, Williamsburg science and art teachers, and the PTA. This space will be in the enclosed courtyard that is being formed by the addition connecting the two existing wings. Through fundraising efforts, money has been provided to develop a courtyard ecosystem as a linked series of outdoor classrooms. This effort will be ongoing.
The contractor used the lower parking lot as a staging area for supplies and equipment, but that part of the construction is completed, and the parking lot has been reopened.
N. Rock Spring / Little Falls Road. The Arlington County Department of Public Works has announced that it will install three speed cushions on N. Rock Spring Road (between Old Dominion Drive and N. Little Falls Road) during the month of October 2002. These speed cushions are intended to reduce the excessive speed that vehicles use when traveling this block. The county has determined that the majority of cars using this street speed more than 15 to 25 miles per hour OVER the posted speed limit of 25 mph.
Next year, the county also will alter the intersection at Little Falls Road and Rock Spring Road in a further effort to reduce the excessive traffic speeds. The alterations will include a slight increase in the size of Rock Spring Park, with the result that Little Falls Road will become slightly narrower as it approaches Rock Spring Road. This change will require vehicles to slow down and to signal their intended turn (a left onto Little Falls Road or a right onto Rock Spring Road) as they come down the hill on Little Falls Road.
The county also plans to construct a raised crosswalk across Rock Spring Road where it meets with the cul-de-sac at N. Dickerson Street.
N. Albemarle Street. The Arlington County Board approved the preliminary Neighborhood Traffic Calming Committee (NTCC) plan for traffic calming on N. Albemarle Street in May 2001. The county used a contractor to perform the required design and survey work based on the preliminary plans. The county reviewed the consultant's plans and requested some minor changes. These changes will be reviewed at a meeting with the neighborhood working group representatives scheduled for October 16, 2002. During this meeting county representatives will explain the changes that were made to the preliminary plans and will be available to answer questions.
The county is still expected to begin construction on the Albemarle traffic calming improvements this year. County representatives understand neighborhood concerns about the school construction occurring at Jamestown in conjunction with the traffic calming construction. The county does not expect overlap between the two projects. County staff will also make sure safety measures are in place throughout the construction.
Albemarle Street was one of the first NTCC-approved projects. County staff has found that unless the only calming measure is speed humps, the time frame from initiation to completion of traffic calming plans ranges from two to three years. For more information, contact Susan Finotti, 703/228-3735.
Other traffic issues. Work continues on addressing pedestrian and other traffic issues in our neighborhood. If you'd like to get involved, call Mike Zimmerman, 703/533-0146.
The RSCA Old Dominion Drive Study Group was established five years ago to assist the county in considering possible changes to Old Dominion Drive. The work of the Study Group is complete. The county hopes to finish engineering work for the comprehensive sidewalk, roadway, and curb and gutter plan in the next few months and then acquire the necessary easements. Construction is expected to begin in the second half of 2003.
For more information, call planner Rich Viola, Arlington County Department of Public Works, at 703/228-3699.
On Monday evening, June 17, 40 concerned Rock Spring neighbors met with Arlington County officials a t the intersection of Yorktown Blvd. and N. Harrison Street to voice their concern over the frequency of accidents there. Paul Michl, Rock Spring Civic Association president, and Mary Cottrell, RSCA representative to the Arlington Civic Federation and a neighborhood resident, were in attendance. A flyer passed out in the immediate area had alerted neighbors to the evening's meeting. Previously, several neighbors had written the county voicing their concerns about the danger to both cars and pedestrians-especially students walking to and from Williamsburg MS and Yorktown HS. Even though the neighbors were all concerned about the problem, there were more than several opinions about what the solution should be.
The county has been keeping detailed records of the accidents there over the past few years and the direction traveled by the vehicles involved. Already in the long-term plans, Yorktown to the west of the intersection will become two lanes with bike lanes, as it is east of the intersection. Meanwhile, the county agreed to increase the presence of police patrolling for speeding vehicles as well as to post more signage to make drivers aware of the coming intersection and the cross street (Harrison) stop signs. Already, the county has added a "Hill 25 MPH" sign at the top of the Yorktown hill traveling east toward Harrison Street. Additional signs are posted closer to the intersection stating the fines for not yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalks.
Among the suggestions made by neighbors were making the intersection a four-way stop-not possible as long as Yorktown is more than two lanes and also difficult for traffic to stop coming down that hill; installing a stoplight-involves a wait of 9 months from request to installation; making signage clear that it is a two-way stop, NOT a four-way stop, as the intersection of Harrison and Little Falls Road currently is.
Although the changes put in place so far have been minimal, the neighbors hope they will help lower the incidence of collisions at this location.
On May 29, the Arlington Civic Federation cosponsored "Care to Prepare," a program on emergency preparedness, with the Arlington County Police Department, Arlington's Emergency Management, Arlington Public Schools, and the Arlington Red Cross. Attended by representatives from civic associations and other organizations across the county, the meeting was held to educate, strengthen, and secure our community, neighborhood by neighborhood.
As shocking as it was, the September 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon was essentially a local emergency, requiring intense emergency fire, rescue, and medical treatment only in the area around the Pentagon. The emotional trauma certainly affected all of us and continues to have made an impact on our lives. "Care to Prepare" addressed the needs that became evident in the days following September 11:
First, the need for better communication with Arlington's citizens in time of emergency; and
Second, the need to educate Arlington's citizens to face and survive future emergencies.
This county emergency management plan assigns responsibility during a disaster and coordinates with the Council of Governments regional plan. Employers in the county need to have a disaster plan and make known the location of emergency equipment and supplies. The manner of response will depend on what the emergency is. The two basic choices in a serious emergency similar to 9/11 will be either shelter in place or evacuate.
The Arlington Public Schools already has in place plans to act in a responsive and proactive way, depending on the nature of the emergency facing them. The day the Pentagon was hit, the county school buildings were locked down and students were kept safely inside. That day showed the necessity of the emergency forms each student has on file and the need for school-based emergency management plans. In case of emergency-whether weather, accident, or terrorist-the school system's website or Channel 30 will post information for parents and families.
The newly created Public Preparedness Planning Group under the County Manager is developing a mission and structure for a countywide committee to address the public's emergency preparedness. As part of the national plan for community preparedness, the Police Department has developed a model, one that is certainly not new, but one that has a new focus with an old name-Neighborhood Watch-to facilitate communication in neighborhoods. The new strategy for Neighborhood Watch is based on a partnership between Community Policing and civic associations to educate and prepare neighbors to work together. This new application of the old concept recognizes that in time of countywide emergency, the difference between just managing to survive and being prepared will fall to each citizen. The new Neighborhood Watch is based on the concept that small neighborhoods or blocks can meet together to plan in advance and/or to be instructed by the police or local emergency personnel as to how to be ready and the measures they may take, depending on the nature of the emergency.
Each of us may wonder what we as individual citizens can do. First, know that we are each responsible for our own safety. Each family should have a disaster plan, a survival kit, as well as an evacuation plan and kit. A meeting place outside the house (in case of fire) or outside the area (in case of evacuation when family is separated) should be known by all members of the household. We should each be aware of the basic actions needed to remain safe in various emergencies, and we should all have battery-operated radios so that we can listen for advice from emergency managers. We know that in a tornado, we should go to an interior room, lower level of house. In a chemical or biological accident, we need to listen for instructions from emergency personnel because the responses are different. They MAY tell you to stay in room on upper level of house, after sealing windows and doors or you might need to evacuate. If you stay and shelter in place, a 3-to-7 day supply of food and water (a gallon/person/day) should be available in the room as well as other supplies to ensure health and safety. The battery-operated radio is essential for communication. A flashlight and extra batteries are a must as well!
Now that we as individual families know the need for a plan, we should meet with our neighbors and have an emergency expert educate us. We are all traumatized by the thought of a widespread emergency, but these small neighborhood watch groups are just as necessary when blizzards hit and we have neighbors who are unable to get out for food or medicines. We might also consider Red Cross first aid and/or CPR training. Being aware of our neighborhood, our neighbors, and everyone's needs and limitations, we can all be better prepared.