Route 50 Improvements Take Artistic Direction

By Jamie Stockwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 20, 2005

Upgrades to the heavily traveled Arlington County intersections of Route 50 at Courthouse Road and 10th Street are not scheduled to begin for another two years, but plans are already underway to solicit community support for a design that would include original artwork.

Plans for the art and other decorative features were to be introduced at a public meeting last night. County officials hope the process will inject a bit of Arlington's personality and appeal into the project.

"There's an effort to really look at the length of Arlington Boulevard [Route 50] and ways to make it more distinctive so that it's not just this generic pass-through," said Jennifer Riddell, a curator for the county's Public Art Project, which finances various initiatives throughout the county. "This will give the area an identity."

Riddell said Seattle-based artist Vicki Scuri, an environmental designer who has worked on similar projects around the country, has been commissioned to enhance the retaining walls, lighting, the 10th Street and Courthouse Road overpass and surrounding landscape. Her task is to create original work that reveals the county's character, Riddell said.

"She can do any type of image, something that really speaks to the community," Riddell said. "So instead of getting very standardized walls, we'll have something much more personal that speaks to Arlington."

Construction at the two-part interchange is not slated to begin until early 2008. Improvements include a separate lane for traffic merging onto Route 50. As it is, the intersections can be confusing for motorists, said Calvin Britt, a consulting manager at the Virginia Department of Transportation. A bike lane and trail that run parallel to the road can be especially difficult to navigate and will be improved, officials said.

The project's overriding goal is to make the thoroughfare safer for everyone -- drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, officials said. Britt said his office will work closely with Riddell and her team so that the area's aesthetics are also improved.

Scuri, who has worked on many traffic projects, will enhance the concrete and paved roadways with lighting, trees and surface textures, Riddell said.

Allen Muchnick, a cyclist who commutes by bike every day from Arlington to the District, said he welcomes new projects that improve conditions for bicyclists and other trail users.

"I'm glad the county wants to do this," he said. "I use my bike for all of my transportation, as do lots of other people who live in Arlington . . . And the way it is now is pretty bad for bikers and riders."

The meeting scheduled for last night was to be the county's first on the proposed artwork and other aesthetic improvements. To prepare for the meeting, Scuri visited the site and talked with residents about their ideas, Riddell said.

Other public meetings will be held, with approval of a plan anticipated no later than February 2007, a year before construction begins, officials said.

"This is still in the very early stages, but we want to include the public on every step," Riddell said. "This is a pretty major infrastructure project in the community, and so she wants feedback."

Scuri's renderings and proposals for the project can be found online athttp://www.arlingtonarts.org.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company