Money to Waste?

The County should stop its actions and rationally consider the serious feedback from the citizens. Instead, the transportation director is talking down to residents and ignoring the entire neighborhood.  There were times in the past when his staff did not even want to talk with citizens. Please click here to see how the County project manager has told the citizens that she can not talk to them.  It seems that it was far more important for the County Staff to create illusion of inclusion, then to pay attention to justified concerns, such as one presented by the transportation expert.

So the poorly designed project goes forward. We all watch with a sense of disbelief. Why would the County waste this much money for fixing a non-issue with Meade St intersection which has no reported accidents? Why are our safety concerns falling on the deaf ears? The precious resources could be used more wisely than building circular driveways.

It is not just Meade Street, and Ridge Road. We are now hearing from other neighborhoods. Please click here to see story from Chain Bridge Area or read the newspaper article. Money is being spent where it is not needed or asked for.

In the meantime, Arlington County is carrying a debt. How will they pay the debt service if the revenues decrease and costs go up.? What will happen to the county’s credit rating if Congress continues on its present path?

On top of this, the County manager states that there are future budget pressures:

  • “Beyond FY 2012, the County faces a combination of internal and external budget pressures. While the County is experiencing the beginnings of an economic recovery, we are not immune to broader economic issues. In addition, past budget decisions, particularly the opening of new facilities, have an impact on future years’ budgets.” (For a full document, please click here.)

In July the county had to plug a budget gap which will widen in 2013.

  • “It is a good thing that Arlington has the reserves available to get us through FY 2012,” said County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman. “This is, however, a temporary solution. We expect the federal government to make far deeper cuts in FY 2013, cuts that may seriously affect programs that create affordable housing, house the homeless, provide training for the unemployed and more. We are starting now to make contingency plans with our non-profit partners for FY 2013.” (See more details here)

Now add to that the decrease in home values and the concomitant decrease in tax income. It all begins to add up. It is not hard to foresee an increase in real estate taxes in the near future.

Dear County Leaders – we are simply your neighbors. We have our own worries. We worry about our jobs, our future income, home repairs and maintenance, our kids,  our 401ks, social security….paying more taxes is simply not in the budget.

We are watching a poorly conceived design going forward and money being wasted, and we remain in the sense of utter disbelief.

Start Change – Start Listening

“Our experience here is people get really upset about change,” said Arlington Director of Transportation Dennis Leach. “They don’t like change…..”.  For a full media article about the Ridge/23rd/Meade St, please click here.
————————————————————————————–
Arlington transportation director has lost touch with the residents. 

We work hard.  We pay our taxes.  We worry about keeping our jobs in this up and down economy.  We are keeping down our spending.  We know about change and can accept change that makes sense. We like principles that enhance collaboration  and not behavior that creates illusion of inclusion.

The changes we see the transportation department making with this project are on a much larger scale than they need to be.  It’s something that local citizen association did not request. All what was requested was that County deals with one corner and give the kids some safe space. The county came in with an elaborate plan. They clearly were marching to their own drummer. (Please click here to see another full media article on this issue).

 Isn’t Arlington County worried about the economy?  Do they have that much money to spend? Does the Director have to spend this money to keep a large staff occupied? 

Residents are not paying taxes for these kinds of projects.  We want our money to be used properly and not a projects that have flawed design.  We want that set aside developer’s funds given to the citizens be used properly, too. Not to double people’s front yards and create circular driveways while putting residents and pedestrians at risk, and fixing non issueThink about your families. We would want our tax money to be used wisely and help solve real neighborhood problems.  The Arlington County is connected to Washington DC and thus should be worrying about its own credit rating.  Congress doesn’t look like it is going to start making sense any time soon.

We need this money for our schools, our poor, our libraries, our roads….not on projects that go way beyond what people want.  Arlington needs to do smart long-term investments.

When several neighborhoods are concerned about the same issues, it doesn’t mean they don’t like change, it means the County is not listening.  You can not have the successful collaboration and active listening where participants don’t feel and see that happening in front of their own eyes.  The County does not get to grade its record, but citizens who were involved in the project design.

And there are more neighborhoods that are becoming indignant including East Falls Church and Columbia Pike.  There is a pattern that is being repeated. Neighborhoods don’t appreciate the local government that believes its citizens are not capable of understanding transportation issues.  Many of us are professionals and some have worked in the transportation business for years

Mr. Leach, we like change and would like to see some changes in your transportation department.  Let’s begin with listening. It is never too late to demonstrate it.

Updates: Ongoing Construction

The County’s transportation Department is continuing with project implementation despite citizen’s concerns that the project has serious design flaws that can can impose safety risks esp. for the Meade St intersection where there were no accidents reported in the last four years per County Manager.  For more information about why safety slip lanes should be preserved at Meade St, please click here.  The  safety slip lanes are not mythically dangerous per some bureaucratic policy and many common sense people agree with this, such as 70%+ residents of Arlington participating in on-line poll.

This is terrible design.  A computer model may indicate that, “The volume of traffic turning from Arlington Ridge Road to Meade Street is low enough for a 90-degree intersection to clear it without causing traffic problems on Arlington Ridge Road,” but anyone who has actually driven on Ridge Road during rush hour knows that this is non-sense (see picture above). Ridge Road carries an enormous volume of rush hour traffic; true enough, not as many vehicles may take the slip-lane exit at Meade St, but any vehicle that slows down enough to negotiate the proposed 90-degree turn will require a near stop, which in turn will stop traffic on Ridge Road. This will turn a chronic bottleneck into a chronic nightmare.

At this point, there were no works reported on the key South Meade St intersection. We hope that the County will realize serious concerns that exist for this project, and channel funds into confirmed safety improvement projects that are addressing real citizen problems across the County.

Media Continues to Closely Follow The Issue

The media is continuing to monitor the story coming from our area.  The Washington Examiner has published another good article linking the situation that we are experiencing in our area with many other similar projects that the County is doing across the board.  We have written on this blog about several of them, including Chain Bridge Area and Columbia Pike.  As journalist have noticed, The Arlington County’s efforts has residents in several neighborhoods up in arms at a government they said does whatever it wants without consideration for citizens.
 
“I think there was a time when ‘the Arlington way’ meant good governance,” Terry Dean from Chain Bridge area said.  “Arlington way” now means my way or highway.” Please see the similar stories shared in our area about Arlington Way, County’s collaborative practices, refusals to talk to residents and creation of the illusion of inclusion. Citizens are worried because safety concerns are ignored by the County Transportation Department that has demonstrated many issues with its engineering designs in the past.  For more details please click here to learn more about technical details as they relate to the flaws in the current design or expert’s opinion about this project.
 
 
For the full story, please read more at the Washington Examiner: http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/virginia/2011/08/residents-miffed-over-arlington-road-work
 

Illusion of Inclusion

The following post is taken and slightly adjusted based on the general posting by unknown commentator at other blog(s).

The so-called “Arlington Way” is/ has become a self-congratulatory form of civic myth, by which the “Illusion of Inclusion” is trotted out to make residents feel like the County Government is interested in/listening to what they say.  In reality, when masks are removed, this  feels as My Way or Highway, which has been experienced by a number of residents either in our area, Chain Bridge,  Columbia Pike etc. (If you want to see more details around flawed design of Ridge/Meade Intersection, please click here)

In contrast to the supposed wonder of the “Arlington Way”, the reality is overbearing and heavy-handed approach, often arbitrary decision-making, ignoring the input of communities and neighborhoods, and a too common attitude of arrogance that boils down to the upper levels in the County, assuming that they know better than everyone.  Certain individuals and offices are wonderful but the overall tone is off-base.

Transportation Dept. Ignores Citizens: Construction Starts

The County started the work on the 23rd/Ridge intersection today.  There was no reported construction on Meade street  safety slip lane at this point in time.  The County seems to be using D&F Construction, Inc. as their primary contractor. Neighbors spotted workers in the area, and mainly noticed only one County Staff member, who avoided any interactions with citizens.

Please click here to see how the County is putting families at risk, while spending dollars on the project design that was not called by anyone (click here to read interview with Civic Association President ) except County’s staff.  After strong pressure from citizens, the County has finally admitted that there are no accidents reported at Meade St intersection. Moreover, the majority of people with common sense agrees with concerned citizens that slip lane is not dangerous just by its existance.

The flower bed and bus area will be removed in this operation, too. The works on this project is heavily opposed by the majority of citizens in the area due to safety reasons.  It seems that the County has the similar record of ignoring citizen’s concerns like in case of River St. project.

Citizens are simply calling for the County to hold actions and starts principled collaborative process.

County is Getting Ready to Rail-Road Citizens

Despite the overwhelming objections of citizens in the area along with many commuters, the County is moving construction trucks to the intersection.  It is sad that the collaboration for the County seem to be the one-way process.  Concerned Citizens are not focusing on winning or loosing, but creating solutions that increase safety, use resources wisely, and fix real neighborhood issues.  Some neighbors are showing protest by marking off their property.

The County contractor’s trucks (D&F Construction, Inc. ) were seen this morning on 23rd street, as well as no parking signs.  Why rush?

 

Why is County chosing to ignore majority of citizens? Why avoid sincere collaboration that increases safety for all? Why not follow good principles? Why fixing non-issue, i.e. intersection with no reported accidents? Why prefer solutions that the professional  & licensed engineer mark as terrible and unsafe? We know that County’s engineers are not really “right”, esp. when they follow bureaucratic instructions and misinterpreted policies.

Same Story?

The Arlington County Transportation Department seems to be engaged in the patterns of similar actions across the County that involve ignoring neighborhoods and communities by use of bureaucratic spin, gerrymandering affected areas and providing platitudes about alleged safety issues. Please click here to learn more about the ways in which this department envisions “collaboration”.

It is one action to talk over the phone with one or two people, who seem to support County’s position and then claim that on your record as collaboration…and quite different from engaging in a sincere principled dialogue with all affected citizens.

It seems that our fellow citizens from the Chain Bridge Community have experienced the same dose of famous “Arlington Way” in dealing with the County like citizens in our area. This is the type of project where County puts safety at stake, and where safety concerns fall on deaf ears.

  • Per people in this Chain Bridge Community, the Arlington County effectively disenfranchised 180 residents of Chain Bridge Forest and hundreds more in Chesterbrook Woods who have no other or limited means to get to or from their homes except by the intersection of River Street and Glebe Rd. Arlington County also justified this extreme action in the name of safety. The Arlington County proposal, however, does nothing to address speeding hundreds of yards away from the entrance on River Street where it has been documented.  In order for the solution to be acceptable to the community, broader participation by residents rather than Arlington County’s gerrymandered “area of impact” will be necessary.

Please click here to see a full Chain Bridge Community’s letter to VDOT.

Citizens in our area will remember those who approved Ridge Rd  flawed project, that is fixing non-issues, including removal of the safety slip lane, and bus stop area. (please click here for more details)

70%+ of Respondents Agrees with Concerned Neighbors

By COB on August 5th, the on-line poll implemented by the Arlington Blog shows that over 70% of respondents either thinks that slip lanes are not a safety hazard or that some slip lanes should be removed but that the other are safe and useful. It is interesting to note that the absolute majority of votes classifies slip lanes as not a safety hazard under any circumstances.  

Bottom line, an overwhelming majority of people do not consider slip lanes as an “automatic” safety hazard.  We don’t think that the County policy on slip lanes is an “automatic” one –  it is just that the County transportation staff is clearly intentionally misinterpreting policy in order to “invent” any reasons for this unsafe and wasterful project to go forward. This department has been performing at its historical lows in terms of collaboration with citizens (please click here for more details).

This view is also shared by the engineering expert with over 40 years of experience and practice in major urban areas including DC, LA and Chicago, who thinks that the current design is terrible and unsafe.

In addition, the almost unanimous majority of all people living in the affected area thinks that elimination of Meade St safety slip lane is not only a wasteful project, but that it actually decreases safety for both pedestrians and drivers.

Please check out that even the Arlington County implies that they will be implementing unsafe project – please click here.

For more information on why Meade St slip lane should be preserved, please check out here.

Washington Examiner Article

Back in late July 2011, The Washington Examiner did a story about the County project and its flaws.  Examiner notes that “Neighbors feel left out as Arlington zooms forward with street project” focusing on the clear lack of collaboration and absence of the “Arlington Way” in the way the project has been implemented by the County.

“It’s something we did not request. All we requested was they deal with one corner and give the kids some safe space. The county came in with an elaborate plan. They clearly were marching to their own drummer,” said president of the Arlington Ridge Civic Association.

Why impose unwanted, unsafe and unnecessary project on the community? Why waste taxpayers’ money on expanding private driveways?