Category Archives: Virginia

wh02

I-495, Capital Beltway in Northern Virginia opened 50 years ago today

On April 2, 1964, Administrator Rex Whitton participates in the dedication of I-495, the Capital Beltway from U.S. 1 to the Shirley Highway-the last segment in Virginia. Photo by FHWA

It was on this day fifty years ago that the Capital Beltway was completed in Northern Virginia. I suppose many commuters would have found it opening a day earlier more apropos as the road seems more a burden than anything else and the SPEED LIMIT 55 signs to be a mockery. Back in 1964, most of Virginia’s 22 miles of Beltway was only 2 lanes wide each way. Now, with the HO/T (high occupancy/toll), EZ-Pass Express Lanes, it is 6 lanes each way between Springfield and Tysons.

Inside the Beltway wouldn’t be coined until 1969 (by Mike Causey, then of The Post, now with Federal News Radio), but the highway formed a big wall literally and figuratively in Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria. There currently are only 23 automobile crossings of I-495 in Northern Virginia and 15 of them have full interchanges with the road, while another has a partial interchange with lanes. Another one, Live Oak Road, is not a through route. The are also 3 Metro rail crossings (Orange, Blue and Yellow lines) and 2 Virginia Railway Express rail lines penetrate it as well. There are a few pedestrian/bicycle trails too, but overall it is tough to get from one side of the Beltway to the other. A “bridge to nowhere” was built between Van Dorn Street and Telegraph Road, but it never became connected to anything and was torn down in the early 21st century.

The Beltway divides the sprawling newer suburbs with the more established and often denser populated pre-World War II areas like Arlington and Alexandria, whose residents don’t even necessarily think of the Beltway much. Tysons Corner, once a crossroads of two country roads grew into the 11th largest business district with two large shopping malls and a growing skyline most of which is just outside the Beltway. In fact when USA Today left Rosslyn for its own campus, I recall then publisher Tom Curley making it a point to mention in an interview that they’d be outside the Beltway. It really abuts the Beltway by the way or at least it did before they sold off their land with the softball field and path. I digress.

Back in ’64, the Virginia portion of the Beltway was signed only as Interstate 495 as Interstate 95 was then routed along the Henry G. Shirley Highway into Washington, D.C. over the 14th Street Bridge and planned to cut through Northeast D.C. and Takoma Park then onto points north. That didn’t happen and in 1977, the eastern-most portion of the Beltway in Virginia was changed to I-95. That proved to be confusing, so I-495 multiplexed back on the I-95 portion of the Beltway around 1989.

The original Beltway exit numbering began in Alexandria with Exit 1 at US 1 (note US 1 is also Exit 1 in several locations throughout the East, including just over the 14th Street Bridge on I-395) and increased sequentially clockwise until finishing off at Exit 38 for I-295 just east of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Around 2001, the exit number was changed in Virginia for the first time (it had changed in Maryland after I-95 was moved to the southern and eastern portions of the Beltway) to be a counter-clockwise continuation of the Maryland numbering scheme that began east of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge all the way to the Springfield interchange (Exit 57) where I-95′s mileage-based exit numbering took over, the there is a jump from 57 to 172.

The entire Beltway opened in August 1964, so I’ll have more to say then.

FURTHER READING

Capital Beltwaydcroads.net

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protractor_measuring_snow_northern_virginia

Winter 2013-2014 post-mortem

You know, I think what everybody wants to read about right now is the never-ending winter we just had, right?

My original intention was to post this concurrent with the spring equinox, but the looming threat of a Nor’Easter had me re-evaluating whether it made sense. Sure enough, we got more winter precipitation this week. It’s becoming a pattern:

This winter, BeltwayLand experienced an unprecedented amount of measurable snow storms. For a while there, it was not that different than the winters I remember growing up. Then it snowed two more times, closing everything in each occurrence. Than it snowed on Tuesday.

This post is also a mea culpa of sorts – at the beginning of the year, I changed jobs and entered the world of federal contracting. Gone were my four weeks of vacation and in was OPM deciding when I could work.

I’m sorry I jinxed us all.

For me, I lost almost a week of work which meant either taking leave or taking a hit. Due to vacation time at my previous job, federal holidays I now get to celebrate and all the FOUR OPM closures, I have not worked 10 work days in a row since the week of Thanksgiving.

Here is a recap of this year’s snow and what I measured:

12.08.2013 – I always celebrate the first snowfall with grilling | Football in the snow is the best football (ehh, they stunk up the joint that day, too bad). Then Fairfax, Loudoun

12.10.2013 – Alexandria, Va. December 10, 2013 snow fall total at 10 a.m. | Tysons, Va. December 10, 2013 snow fall total at 10 a.m. – THE PROTRACTOR IN SNOW STORM!

PROTRACTOR IN SNOW!

01.03.2014 – No measurement, but some sledding the day after
Arlington snow

01.22.2014 – 2 7/8 inches in Alexandria | 6 inches in the Town of Vienna

02.05.2014 – Enough snow for a two hour delay

02.13.2014 – Alexandria, Va. Pitchers and Catchers Day Storm snowfall total at 8 a.m. – 8.5 inches! | Burke, Va. Pitchers and Catchers Day Storm snowfall total at 9:18 a.m. – 12 inches!

Pitchers & Catchers Day storm snow man

02.25.2014 – It snowed during the day, but didn’t stick around

03.04.2014 – Alexandria, Va. final snowfall total for March 3, 2014: 5 inches

03.17.2014 – ErinSnowBraugh! SnowPatricksDay storm dumps over 7 inches of snow on Alexandria, Va.

Capital Weather Gang’s recap is up too: The long, white 2013-2014 winter: Bringing snowy back to the D.C. region (season statistics)The Post

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE

Massanutten Ski slopes view

I went skiing twice during official winter and thrice during meteorological winter. My ski trips in December were the first time I ever made it out in that month, so I’ve got 4 months of the year. I also skied in the Commonwealth of Virginia for the first time at Masanutten. Should the cold return in April, the temptation to go then and clinch a fifth month will be strong. For regional ski resorts, it was a robust season. If Whitetail remains open until next Sunday, they’ll hit 117 days for the season and has already broken a record.

Ski Roundtop also had a strong year:

PRIME SLEDDING YEAR

Remember last year’s weird slush storms in March? State of NOVA blogger Tom Jackman summed it up well:

Safe to say, the childrens were not robbed of a prime sledding year this winter.
sledding-cropped
In Alexandria, we had more sledding days than the previous 4 years combined! Throw in a day of ski camp and ice skating lessons and we embraced this winter and therin lies the lesson.

Don’t fight winter, USE IT.

Now bring on baseball, cherry blossoms and dining al fresco!

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@Metro_Nomad’s valiant effort to visit every Metro station falls five short

Looking out of a Metro rear car
On Saturday, Steve Ander @Metro_Nomad , a Northern Virginia resident, set out to visit every station on the Metro system, defined as such:

The carefully crafted itinerary will keep him riding until he has stopped — and exited for a photo — at each of the 86 stations in the system.

WTOP live-blogged, from which the quote above came from, the whole journey.

Metro_Nomad was unsuccessful by a mere five stations:

That’s quite a journey nonetheless. The current Metro rail system is over 103 miles long with 86 stations. It can probably be done with a little luck and on a Friday when the system is open from 5 a.m. until 2 a.m. the next morning. That is until the Silver Line opens. We hope.

I like living in an area where the subway system is too big to clinch in day.

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Places I went in 2013

Standard rules apply — I spent the night, ate a meal at a local establishment or went on an adventure in that location:

Alexandria, Va.
Arlington, Va.
Ashburn, Va.
Burke, Va.
Centreville, Va.
Chantilly, Va.
Clifton, Va.
Fairfax, Va.
Falls Church, Va.
Great Falls, Va.
Mount Vernon, Va.
Mclean, Va.
Purcellville, Va.
Shenandoah National Park, Va.
Sterling, Va.
Vienna, Va.
Nassau, Bahamas
Freeport, Bahamas
Washington, D.C.
Newark, Del.
Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Port Canaveral, Fla.
Baltimore, Md.
Colesville, Md.
Comus, Md.
Perryville, Md.
Poolesville, Md.
Avalon, N.J.
Stone Harbor, N.J.
Dillsburg, Pa.
Harrisburg, Pa.
Hershey, Pa.
Mercersburg, Pa.
Oakdale, Pa.
Pittsburgh, Pa.
Reedsville, Pa.
Robinson, Pa.
Davis, W.Va.

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