Starting Saturday, paper weekly bus passes will no longer be accepted on ART and all other regional bus systems. Instead, riders will now only be able to use their SmarTrip card as their seven-day bus pass.
The SmarTrip weekly bus pass will cost $15, the same as the paper passes.
Riders will now be able to use their pass during whichever seven-day period they choose. The SmarTrip card will support the purchase of up to two weekly passes at a time.
SmarTrip cards are available for purchase at Metro sales offices. The county’s Mobile Commuter Store will be selling SmarTrip cards near the corner of Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive this coming Saturday, from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
See more information about the change here.
The Fairfax Republican who is threatening to quash a bill identified as one of Arlington’s top legislative priorities in Richmond has proposed several amendments to this year’s state budget bill that are sure to give Arlington officials reason to worry.
Del. Tim Hugo, the chair of the Virginia House Republican Caucus, is threatening to table a bill that would renew Arlington’s half-percent hotel tax surcharge, unless Arlington officials head to Richmond to explain the county’s controversial lawsuit against High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395. So far, it does not appear that any members of the county board will be taking Hugo up on his offer.
But Hugo’s HOT lanes antagonism doesn’t stop there. He’s also proposing three Arlington-related amendments to the state budget bill, HB 1500. The amendments would deny state funding to the Columbia Pike streetcar project, require an audit of Arlington roads maintained with state funds, and would potentially cut off millions in state transportation funds to the region in the event that the HOT lanes project is canceled due to opposition from an individual jurisdiction (i.e. Arlington).
Would those amendments actually make it into the budget bill?
“It’s possible,” said Ben Tribbett, who runs the Not Larry Sabato Virginia politics blog, noting Hugo’s senior position as Republican Caucus chair. We have not been able to reach Del. Hugo for comment.
See the text of the amendments after the jump.
Photo via timhugo.com
The westbound lanes of Lee Highway (Old Dominion Drive) have been shut down near North Vermont Street due to an outside gas leak.
The fire department is on the scene of the leak. No word on when the lanes will reopen.
A new amendment to the Zoning Ordinance will make it illegal for “a firm, corporation, owner, agent or occupant” to cause or “knowingly” permit signs to be placed in the public right of way. Before the amendment, only individuals could be punished, and only if they were spotted physically placing the sign.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended the amendment to help rein in rogue companies that place signs on weekends or in the middle of the night, when county zoning inspectors are not on the job.
The amendment will not change which signs are prohibited — certain signs, like temporary non-commercial and real estate-related directional signs and political signs during election season, will remain exempt — but it will instead enhance the county’s ability to enforce the ordinance, Donnellan said.
Initially, several board members objected to the possibility that under the amendment, community groups could be held criminally responsible for signs about pot luck dinners, blood drives and the like. They were assured, however, that county staff works with such groups to make sure their signs comply with the law. The biggest commercial violators, staff suggested, would be the primary target of the new enforcement powers.
During consideration of the amendment, County Board Chair Chris Zimmerman expressed frustration with the sign ordinance itself.
“Arlington’s approach to signage overall has been focused in the wrong places,” Zimmerman said. “We are overly restrictive in some areas where I don’t think we should be, and we don’t regulate in some areas where I think we should.”
The board awarded a $651,000 contract to install an emergency vehicle preemption system along the entire Arlington stretch of Lee Highway. The system will allow emergency vehicles to get an automatic green light at approaching intersections, thus reducing travel times and enhancing safety.
“Emergency vehicle preemption technology is critical to saving lives by giving responders safe, speedy passage through intersections and cutting precious minutes off the time it takes to get patients to life-saving care at a hospital,” Arlington Fire Chief James Schwartz said in a statement.
The board also awarded a $4.7 million contract to install six miles of fiber optic line. The line will run from Rosslyn to Ballston, down Glebe Road and along the eastern end of Columbia Pike. It’s part of a larger, $20 million project to upgrade the county’s communication and traffic management systems.
The fiber line will connect 54 county traffic signals and will allow for the installation of additional traffic monitoring cameras and motorist information signs.
“Arlington’s dense urban corridors require a modern system that offers greater efficiency and flexibility for monitoring traffic, operating signals, and providing real time driver information,” said William O’Connor, Director of Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services. “Expanding and enhancing the system will help ensure that the Arlington streets operate as seamlessly and safely as possible both day-to-day and during emergency situations.”
The fiber line will replace an aging copper line as well as lines leased from Comcast.
“Built in the early 1980s, the County’s current communications network lacks the speed and capacity to meet present and future demands, and is nearing the end of its useful life,” the county noted in a press release. “It consists of outdated and increasingly unreliable twisted pair (copper) cables and a leased private network.”
Chesapeake Electrical Systems has been chosen as the contractor on both projects, which are expected to take six to eight months to complete. The work is being paid for with a combination of federal and local funds.
Flickr pool photo by Chris Rief
Ballston’s 1.68 acre Mosaic Park will get a $6.6 million upgrade, paid for by the company behind the nearby Founders Square development.
On Saturday the county board approved a transfer of development rights from the park to the new development, adjacent to Ballston Common Mall.
As a result, Founders Square will now be taller and denser than before. A 15-story office building will become a 20-story office building, a 198-unit residential building will become a 257-unit residential building, and a 164-unit residential building will become a 183-unit hotel.
In exchange, the Shooshan Company, which is developing Founders Square at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and North Randolph Street, will pay $6.6 million for improvements to Mosaic Park, which is now a mostly empty field with some playground equipment.
“Our action today will help realize a long term County goal to provide a high-quality neighborhood park in Ballston,” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said in a statement. “By trading density from the park to Founders Square, the County has secured more than $6 million from the developer that will be used for improvements to Mosaic Park that will benefit the community.”
New Library Catalog System Coming Mid-February — Arlington Public Libraries will be rolling out a new online catalog system that includes a feature that sends you a text message when a book you had on hold becomes available. The system should launch mid-February. [Library Blog]
Penrose Square Ramps Up Marketing — The new Penrose Square apartments on Columbia Pike have a slick new web site. The site markets the apartments as “urban apartment homes” in a “LEED-influenced” building.” Residents are expected to start moving in in May. [Pike Wire]
Arlington Receives Homeless Prevention Grant – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $1.28 million in grant funding to Arlington for homeless assistance programs. The county is looking for a potential location for a permanent homeless shelter to replace its current emergency winter shelter in Courthouse. [Sun Gazette]
New Va. Dem Chair Moran Blasts Transportation Plan — New Virginia Democratic party chair Brian Moran is critical of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) plan to borrow billions to spend on transportation projects. “It’s frankly money we do not have,” he said on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show. “Arlington is a wonderful place to live and work,” Moran added, after co-host Tom Sherwood jokingly suggested that the governor “obliterate Arlington and make a big interchange.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99