Arlington County is putting Wilson Boulevard on a road diet. The stretch of Wilson west of the Ballston Metro that serves as the Bluemont neighborhood’s de facto main street will shrink from four lanes to three plus bike lanes.

Diagram of Wilson Boulevard today (left) and with proposed changes (right). Image from Arlington County.

Though Bluemont is mostly residential, there are businesses up and down Wilson. Right now, however, that stretch isn’t all that welcoming to pedestrians or cyclists. Many of the sidewalks are too narrow, and utility poles even block many spots. Meanwhile, drivers either zoom by or get backed up by people turning.

Instead of four lanes with two in each direction, there will be one each way with a center turn lane. The road will also get six-foot wide bike lanes and either consolidate or move bus stops where passenger waiting areas are currently very close to passing traffic.

The Bluemont Civic Association supported the project as part of its Neighborhood Conservation Plan, where neighborhoods collaborate with the county to plan projects. In this case, that means better infrastructure for non-drivers and smoother traffic flow.

Planners and residents alike are confident that the road can handle fewer lanes. While Arlington’s population has grown, traffic on Wilson has stayed steady for years. Even at peak times, Wilson is less busy than nearby Washington Boulevard, which only has two lanes.

The sidewalks will still be narrow, and a later project may widen them. For now, the prospect of calmer traffic should help.

Narrow sidewalks on Wilson Boulevard. Photo from the Bluemont Civic Association.

After this phase of construction is complete, Arlington officials will keep an eye on traffic along Wilson and decide whether to tighten the belt on stretches farther west toward the county line.

Canaan Merchant was born and raised in Powhatan, Virginia and attended George Mason University where he studied English. He became interested in urban design and transportation issues when listening to a presentation by Jeff Speck while attending GMU. He lives in Reston.