Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

The bridge work is nearly done. And come early March no one can say our car-dominated community doesn’t invest in bicyclists and pedestrians.

The state-funded W&OD Trail bridge, under construction since 2019 to span Lee Highway at the Arlington-Falls Church border, is nearing completion only three-four months behind schedule.

Longer and more imposing than one might envision on a bicycle path, the bridge supervised by the Virginia Transportation Department is conceived as “separating trail users from motorists at the signalized intersection of Lee Highway and Fairfax Drive.”

It is aimed at enhancing safety for 1,500 trail users and commuters on weekdays and more than 2,000 recreators on weekends, as noted by Eric Balliet, a transportation spokesman for Arlington County, which was a nominal partner. “By separating cyclists and drivers, the bridge also helps improve operations at nearby intersections on Lee Highway.”

Who footed the bill? The $6 million price tag is part of the state’s larger I-66 Eastbound Widening project, a multimodal effort to expand travel options, notes Justin McNaull, a senior program manager for contractor ATCS, on behalf of VDOT.

The structure called simply the W&OD Trail Bridge is under-budget, he adds, though delays were caused by the use of non-standard railing posts and panels. Still left to show is the landscaping (watch for a tree glen of Ginkgo, Northern Red Oak, Loblolly Pine, American Holly, Green Hawthorn, Downey Serviceberry and Eastern Red Cedar).

Another coordinating partner, NOVA Parks, is preparing signage to explain the nearby vestige from our region’s railroad days, the Benjamin Elliott coal trestle. (A sign commemorating the East Falls Church rail station is already up.) The regional nonprofit “is working to eliminate at-grade crossings of streets along the W&OD Trail,” said board member Michael Nardolilli.

“Avoiding dangerous conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians/bicyclists is money well spent. Community input led to the sleek design of the bridge, which will include LED lights that NOVA Parks will maintain.”

Phil Duncan, council member for the other nominal partner, Falls Church City, was impressed with the speed of the project’s conception and completion. “Its design is pleasingly simple, uncluttered, and sort of looks from the ground like the Disneyland monorail ought to be running on it,” he said. “And although the Falls Church City line is a little further down S. Washington St., the bridge will come to be known as the unofficial line of demarcation between the City and Arlington.”


An impressive profile of early 1970s county leader Joe Wholey was published last month by the nonprofit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, which Wholey helped found in 1989.

The profile titled “Living a Life of Purpose and Vision” marked the 50th anniversary of Wholey’s successful run for the county board (my friends campaigned for him during his earlier run in 1968).

The Pentagon “whiz kid” was active in Arlingtonians for a Better County and instrumental in planning the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor at a time when Arlington was actually losing population to suburbs further out.


Vaccine incentives: Anyone skeptical of the need or safety of the Covid vaccines might consider vaccinepledge.org.

Arlington resident Lucas Jennings, who creates software to combat fraud for Capital One, created the website at which anyone can sign on to “support the health and wellbeing of the public” and commit to necessary precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

That means taking the medicine. More than 165 have signed. “We’re also working to compile and share information, including interviews with experts explaining the importance of vaccination,” Jennings says, “as well as how to sign up in your state.”