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by ARLnow.com — January 24, 2013 at 5:20 pm 646 20 Comments

Repairs to a 30" water main (photo via Arlington DES) Repairs to a 30" water main (photo via Arlington DES)

Repairs to a large 30-inch water main will continue into the weekend, causing continued low water pressure in a number of Arlington neighborhoods.

A leak was discovered in a 30-inch water main near the intersection of Arlington Boulevard and N. Irving Street last Wednesday. The leak necessitated the replacement of a portion of the water main.

Installation of the last section of pipe started this afternoon. According to Arlington County Dept. of Environmental Services (DES) spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman, the repairs are expected to wrap up this weekend, “barring unforeseen circumstances.”

While the 30-inch main remains out of service, residents of Alcova Heights, Arlington Heights, Barcroft, Buckingham, Douglas Park, Lyon Park, Penrose and other neighborhoods may experience low water pressure during peak use hours.

“County crews are systematically working to adjust valves to reduce the area of low pressure impact while repairs are underway,” DES said in an email. “The potential will continue for customers to experience low water pressure during the morning (6-9 a.m.) and evening (5-9 p.m.) peak hours until the repairs are complete.”

“We ask our customers to help reduce peak demand by minimizing water usage when possible (Example: running dishwashers and washing machines during off-peak hours and only when full, and showering at different times),” DES said.

While repairs on the main continue, the cold temperatures are causing more problems for Arlington’s water infrastructure.

Just this morning, DES crews responded to reported water main leaks at 26th Street S. and S. Clark Street in Crystal City, and at S. Orme Street and Columbia Pike, near the Sheraton National Hotel.

“With extremely low temperatures forecast this week, we may see additional leaks further reducing pressure in the system,” DES said. “If you see a leak, or have other water concerns, contact the Water Emergency hotline at 703-228-6555.”

Photos via Arlington County Dept. of Environmental Services

by ARLnow.com — January 24, 2013 at 3:30 pm 2,871 76 Comments

Illustrations of capital improvements proposed by Metro

A long-range strategic plan for Metro, released today, includes the possibility of two new stations in Arlington, a new tunnel from Rosslyn to Georgetown, and a new streetcar bridge from Arlington to D.C.

The “next generation” plan, dubbed “Momentum,” would expand the Metro system to “help ensure the long-term competitiveness of the National Capital Region and keep pace with demand from expected population growth,” according to WMATA.

The plan calls for the following to be completed by 2025:

  • Upgrade of Metro’s electrical system to allow the system to operate 100% 8-car trains. (Cost: $2 billion)
  • New connection from the Orange/Silver Line to the Blue Line, bypassing Rosslyn station. Alternatively, the plan calls for a new Rosslyn Metro station. (Cost: $1 billion)

The plan calls for the following to be completed by 2040:

  • New Pentagon Metro station that would allow Orange/Silver Line trains to reach D.C. via the Yellow Line bridge. (Cost: $600 million)
  • Orange/Silver Line “express track” from West Falls Church to a second Rosslyn Metro station. (Cost: $2.3 billion)
  • Extending the Orange Line to Centreville and Bowie, and the Blue Line to Potomac Mills. (Cost: $6.8 billion)
  • New Yellow Line alignment from Pentagon to Thomas Circle via tunnel under 10th Street. (Cost: $2.7 billion)
  • New Blue Line tunnel from Rosslyn to Georgetown, new tunnel from Georgetown to Thomas Circle via M Street. (Cost: $3.3 billion)
  • MARC commuter rail extension from Union Station to Crystal City. (Cost: TBD)
  • Connection between Columbia Pike/Crystal City streetcar and D.C., across the Potomac. (Cost: $200 million)

WMATA, which is funded by contributions from the federal government and D.C. area localities like Arlington, says it would need an addition $500 million in funding per year to accomplish its 2025 goals, and an additional $740 million per year for the 2040 projects. That’s on top of the $1 billion per year it needs just to maintain the existing system.

Without the pricey improvements, Metro officials say the system will soon run out of ridership capacity.

“Our customers know that many trains, stations and buses are already crowded and we need to begin planning now to prevent that from worsening and prepare for more riders,” Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles said in a statement. “As the jurisdictions plan various expansion projects, we also need to make sure that we have a seamless, multimodal, transit network and Metro is in a unique position to serve as the transit planner for the national capital region.”

The Washington Post has additional details about the Metro Momentum plan, including D.C. improvements to Metrorail and regional improvements to Metrobus.

by ARLnow.com — January 24, 2013 at 2:00 pm 837 33 Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column by published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

GOP county board candidate Mark KellyIf you like two hour debates on the placement of chairs for outdoor cafe seating, then get ready, because the Arlington County Board will conduct its first regular business meeting of the year this Saturday. While this month’s Board’s agenda itself may not produce big fireworks, there is one sub-plot that many of us will be watching.

Last January, Libby Garvey was not Chris Zimmerman’s choice to replace Barbara Favola on the Board. Melissa Bondi was. Now we may know why.

In December, Garvey rocked the boat by making public her concerns about the newly formed consulting arrangement between Zimmerman and AECOM East Canada. The company stands to benefit from work on the proposed Columbia Pike trolley.

When Garvey raised the issue in light of the vote to move forward under the Public-Private Transportation Act (PPTA), the other three Board Members quickly rallied to Zimmerman’s defense. However, they seemed more upset that Garvey aired the matter in public than the very real concern over any appearance of impropriety from the Zimmerman arrangement.

For his part, Zimmerman checked with the County Attorney who maintains there is no way for him to manipulate PPTA guidelines to benefit his new employer.

On its face, Zimmerman’s consulting contract is to only do work for the company in Canada, and none of us should begrudge our “part-time” Board Members having a day job. In fact, some rightly contend more Board Members with regular day jobs would bring much-needed perspective to the debate on Arlington issues. At the very least, people with day jobs might not carry on debates ‘til the wee hours of the morning.

That said, it is right for Garvey to question Zimmerman’s impartiality on issues that could impact his new employer. The arrangement, at the least, seems a little cozy and conveniently timed to the Board’s pressing forward on the trolley project. What should concern Arlingtonians is that only one Member of the Board appears to believe this contract should be subject to additional public scrutiny.

At the New Year’s Day meeting, Garvey continued the back and forth by using her time to call for a new community dialogue on the trolley. Zimmerman, the trolley’s chief backer for at least a decade, indicated that the decision had already been made and the Board would move forward.

Then last week, the new multi-partisan Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit launched. The group may give Arlingtonians a real platform to put pressure on the Board to revisit the issue in spite of Mr. Zimmerman’s pronouncement that the decision was final. (In the interest of full disclosure, while I was not asked to be an original member of this group, I am joining it.)

We can watch the meeting Saturday to see how the next scene in the Garvey-Zimmerman drama plays out. If nothing else, watch to learn a little more about how our local government works.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by ARLnow.com — January 24, 2013 at 1:00 pm 5,139 44 Comments

(Updated on 1/25/13) A cyclist’s effort to recover his stolen bike backfired last week. The man was punched in the face and had the new bike he was riding at the time stolen.

The incident took place on a Thursday morning, near the Whole Foods store in Clarendon. From this week’s Arlington County crime report:

ROBBERY, 01/17/13, 2700 block of N. Wilson Boulevard. At 10:26 am on January 17, a victim identified his stolen bicycle on the front rack of a bus. The victim placed his current bike in front of his stolen one on the rack and boarded the bus. The victim rode the bus one stop, got off, and then removed both bicycles from the bus rack. While doing this, the victim was confronted by a subject. The subject punched the victim in the face and then proceeded to steal the victim’s new bicycle. The victim was able to take pictures of the suspect. The suspect is described as a 35 year old black male, 6’0” tall and 180 lbs. At the time of the incident, the subject was wearing black pants, a dark jacket, a dark skullcap, and light Nike shoes.

Also in this week’s crime report, a victim was punched and threatened by a pair of robbers.

ROBBERY, 01/20/13, 4200 block of N. 2nd Street. At 12:08 am on January 20, a victim was sitting in an area between two apartment buildings when two unknown subjects began to walk towards him. As the subjects walked by the victim, suspect one punched the victim in the face. The victim fell to the ground, but got back up to his feet. Suspect two then grabbed the victim and took him to the ground. Both subjects continued to punch and kick the victim. One of the subjects then pulled out a folding knife and threatened to kill the victim if he did not give them money. The victim stated that his belongings were in his backpack that had fallen to the ground. As the subjects walked over to the victim’s backpack, the victim fled the scene. The subjects took the victim’s backpack and fled southwest by foot. Suspect one is described as a Hispanic male, approximately 5’10” tall and 160 lbs. He was wearing a black jacket and black pants during the incident. Subject two is described as a Hispanic male, approximately 5’7” and 170 lbs. He was wearing a light colored jacket and dark pants. Both subjects are described as being in their early to mid 20’s.

The rest of the crime report, after the jump.

(more…)

by Katie Pyzyk — January 24, 2013 at 11:45 am 1,028 55 Comments

Video camera mounted at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Courthouse Road(Updated at 12:00 p.m.) Red light running decreased in Arlington at intersections with cameras, according to a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The study focused on the cameras installed in 2010 at four heavily traveled Arlington intersections — southbound Fort Myer Drive at westbound Lee Highway, northbound N. Lynn Street at eastbound Lee Highway, northbound N. Glebe Road at Fairfax Drive and westbound Washington Blvd at Lee Highway. The public was informed of the camera installation and violators were given warnings for 30 days. After the grace period, violators caught on camera received a $50 citation.

Researchers at the IIHS (which is located in Arlington) taped traffic during the warning period, one month after ticketing began and again one year later. They found that one year after ticketing began there was a marked decrease in drivers running red lights. Violations occurring at least 0.5 seconds after the light turned red were 39 percent less likely, those occurring at least 1 second after were 48 percent less likely and there was an 86 percent drop in violations occurring at least 1.5 seconds after the light changed.

“This study provides fresh evidence that automated enforcement can get drivers to modify their behavior,” says Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at IIHS and the study’s lead author. “What these numbers show is that those violations most likely to lead to a crash are reduced the most. The longer the light has been red when a violator enters an intersection, the more likely the driver is to encounter a vehicle traveling in another direction or a pedestrian.”

Traffic was also taped at four other intersections — westbound Lee Highway at Kirkwood Road, northbound N. Glebe Road at Washington Blvd, westbound Arlington Blvd at Manchester Street and eastbound Columbia Pike at S. George Mason Drive — to see if there was any spillover effect from the cameras. While there were some decreases in violations observed in areas close to cameras, they were not always deemed statistically significant.

In 2011, the first full year the four red light cameras were in operation, they brought in nearly $460,000 in revenue. That number halved in 2012, coming in at about $224,000. The camera at Southbound Fort Myer Drive and Lee Highway brought in the most revenue, with a two year total of nearly $304,000.

In April, the county plans to activate seven additional traffic cameras at five intersections shown to have high rates of violations. There will be two at Columbia Pike and Glebe Road monitoring Eastbound and Westbound Columbia Pike, two at S. 23rd Street and Jefferson Davis Highway monitoring Northbound and Southbound Jefferson Davis Highway, one at Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive monitoring Eastbound Columbia Pike, one at Lee Highway and George Mason Drive monitoring Westbound Lee Highway and one at Washington Blvd and Glebe Road monitoring Northbound Glebe Road. The standard one month warning period will apply, and violators will be ticketed after that time.

by Katie Pyzyk — January 24, 2013 at 10:30 am 956 14 Comments

Ashlawn Elementary School addition site planCounty staff members are recommending adding amendments to the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance that would affect parking at public pools and at elementary and middle schools.

At its meeting on Saturday (January 26), the County Board is being asked to provide authorization for staff to advertise public hearings regarding the proposed amendments. The changes include revising parking standards for elementary and middle schools, permitting off-site vehicle parking at community swimming pools and allowing the County Board to modify parking standards.

The issue first arose during the public review process for the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School and the new school to be built on the Williamsburg campus. Arlington Public Schools felt that using the existing Zoning Ordinance for parking requirements would result in an excessive amount of parking. For instance, the addition to Ashlawn would require 228 parking spaces under the ordinance, when APS says it only needs about 100.

“That is way more than we need and it means we would lose open space and ball fields,” said John Chadwick, Director of Design and Construction for APS. “If we do that and we lose open space, ball fields and green space, that sort of counters what everyone is trying to do in Arlington.”

Another concern is that the ordinance requires all of the parking spaces to be on site. One of the proposed amendments would allow for off-site parking on the street or in other lots, like the lots of private swimming pools, which are typically open during the summer but closed during most of the school year. County staff offered the example of Ashlawn’s ongoing shared parking agreement with the Dominion Hills Pool.

Residents who live close to the affected schools haven’t all been supportive of the measure considering it would force more cars into neighborhood streets.

“We are having some push back from neighbors, but very few of our schools provide the number of spaces currently required under this ordinance,” Chadwick said.

The ordinance is not retroactive, so schools already in existence would not have to suddenly rework their parking situation; only new schools, such as at Williamsburg, or school expansions, such as Ashlawn, need to comply.

The changes would also alter the definition of “design capacity.” The new parking proposal suggests allotting one teacher parking spot for every 7.5 students, and one visitor spot for every 40 students.

“We’re very much in favor of the plan and the change and we’ve worked with them [the county] all the way. We really need to get this change approved so we can move forward with the Ashlawn campus and Williamsburg site,” Chadwick said. “This is all good from our point of view. I know it’s a bit complicated, but it actually makes sense.”

Renderings of the future Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health & Fitness FacilitySimilar parking issues have been identified with the county’s planned aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park. That prompted County Manager Barbara Donnellan to ask staff to examine not only regulations covering school parking, but county recreational facilities as well. As with the schools, parking demand at the aquatics center site was deemed lower than the existing requirements in the Zoning Ordinance.

While some of the amendments deal specifically with parking either at schools or recreational facilities, there are also general provisions covering both categories. County staff recommends that one of the general principles should be to base parking requirements on average daily use and not peak facility uses. Additionally, it recommends sites be examined individually to determine parking needs instead of forcing all facilities to conform to the same regulations. Such a recommendation would be fulfilled by the proposed amendment allowing the County Board to grant special parking exceptions, which it currently cannot do.

The public hearing with the Planning Commission is scheduled for February 11 and the one with the County Board is scheduled for February 23.

by Katie Pyzyk — January 24, 2013 at 9:45 am 693 24 Comments

Snowy branches

Metro Closing Several Pentagon Escalators — Metro will begin its third major escalator replacement at the Pentagon station on February 4. Three of the six “southside escalators” at the station entrance will be shut down for replacement with new, more reliable units. Customers will still be able to use the three other escalators on the north side. [WMATA]

Proposal to Extend Voting Hours Fails — The proposal by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) to extend voting times in Virginia has failed in committee. The measure would have pushed poll closing time from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. [Sun Gazette]

Claremont Elementary School Earns Health Award — The Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) and Sodexo presented Claremont Elementary School with the Healthy Schools Award for being one of five schools having the most participants in the MCM-organized Healthy Kids Fun Run in October. The Claremont P.E. department received $1,000 and each student received a healthy snack pack from Sodexo. [Arlington Public Schools]

Emergency Winter Shelter Open — Because of the extreme cold, the county’s Emergency Winter Shelter, which is usually only open at night, will be open all day today. If you see someone in Arlington needing shelter from the cold, call 703-228-7395.

by Katie Pyzyk — January 24, 2013 at 8:15 am 1,099 29 Comments

Slippery morning commute in Pentagon City(Updated at 8:50 a.m.) Snow and cold weather are causing slick conditions on the roads and making a mess of the morning commute.

In addition to accidents, police scanner traffic indicates dozens of drivers skidding and nearly spinning out on the slippery roads. There are also numerous reports of vehicles getting stuck, particularly in hilly areas. Police report some drivers not paying attention closely enough and running into other vehicles, or even running over flares that are marking existing traffic problems. Drivers are reminded to slow down and use extra caution.

All Arlington Public Schools will open two hours late and the Extended Day program will open two hours late. Morning field trips are canceled. All APS administrative offices and the pools will open on time.

The Office of Personnel Management confirms that federal agencies are open, but employees have the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework. Arlington County government is opening on time, but workers have the option for unscheduled leave or telework, with supervisor approval.

The following closures and schedule alterations are in effect for the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation:

  • All Preschool programs are cancelled.
  • All senior centers will open at noon, but lunch programs and transportation service at Walter Reed, Langston-Brown and Arlington Mill at Fairlington are cancelled.
  • All Enjoy Arlington classes and nature center programs scheduled to start prior to 11:59 am are cancelled in all buildings. All Enjoy Arlington classes and nature center programs with scheduled start time of noon or later will proceed as scheduled.
  • All joint use facilities Drew, Carver, Gunston, Langston, and Thomas Jefferson Community Center will open at 10:00 a.m. Barcroft, Lee, Madison, Dawson Terrace, Lubber Run, Fairlington and Walter Reed center hours and programs will proceed as scheduled.

The Department of Environmental Services reports that crews are currently working to treat all primary (red) and secondary (blue) roads on the snow map, and expect to move into the neighborhoods later in the day. DES offers the following tips:

  • Do not drive unless necessary so roads will be open for emergency and snow removal vehicles.
  • Help your neighbors clean the sidewalk on the same side of the street as parked cars to increase pedestrian safety.
  • Keep snow cleared from fire hydrants, storm drains and downspouts on your home.

The National Weather Service’s Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect until 9:00 a.m.

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