61°Scattered Clouds

by ARLnow.com — February 25, 2013 at 6:25 pm 3,283 23 Comments

The aftermath of an SUV that drove off the side of the Memorial Bridge (photo courtesy Mark P.) The aftermath of an SUV that drove off the side of the Memorial Bridge (photo courtesy Mark P.)

Last night, around 10:00 p.m., an SUV somehow crashed through a barrier on the south side of the Memorial Bridge and landed in the Potomac River.

The driver, the SUV’s lone occupant, escaped the watery wreck and was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Charges are now pending against the driver, according to U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Brooks.

If you’ve ever feared making a wrong turn and driving off the side of a bridge, AAA Mid-Atlantic has some potentially helpful tips for you. From a press release:

Although they are considered worst-case scenarios, such crashes rarely happen, safety officials and experts say.  But that’s of little consolation to local drivers when their vehicle suddenly goes deep six or becomes a leaking boat. What you do and how you react within moments of the crash into the abyss will determine whether you live or die in a watery grave, the auto club advises. “Add darkness and near freezing water, and your chances of escape have greatly diminished,” safety experts warns.

“Although less than one-half of one percent of all automobile crashes involves a vehicle being submerged under water, it is still a very frightening situation to motorists and their terrified passengers, especially young children and the elderly,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Previous research shows that between 400 to 600 persons lose their lives each year in the United States, as their vehicles plummet into a canal, river, or a ditch for that matter.”

Annually, almost ten percent of all drowning deaths in the United States can be attributed to being submerged in a car. If children are in the car, the driver or the adult should focus on getting the children out safely first and keeping them from panicking during the petrifying ordeal. In most crashes of this nature, the heaviest end of the deep-sixed vehicle – usually the end with the engine – will begin sinking first, pulling the car down at an angle, notes Popular Mechanic.  That is, unless the water is 15 feet or deeper. In that case, the vehicle may land on its roof, compounding the dangers and risks for the occupants.

Although most vehicles will float for three or four minutes before they start sinking due to the surprising buoyancy of the vehicle in deep water and depending upon on the airtightness of the vehicles, time is still of the essence, advises AAA Mid-Atlantic. The overarching concern is getting to dry land as quickly as possible. Your safety and the lives of your passengers depend upon that.

So, the first key to surviving such a mishap is remaining calm, according to safety experts. Underscoring this, the National Safety Commission puts it this way: “The first and most important thing to remember, if your vehicle is submerged, is to remain CALM – easier said than done-but it’s the most important thing you can do to stay alive.” However, the experts tend to vary on their tips. For example, the brothers Magliozzi, Tom and Ray, of NPR’s “Car Talk” say: “The correct way to get out of a sinking car is to float in the cabin until water is within about 2 inches of the roof. At that time pressure in and outside the car will be equal and it will be easy to open the door and swim out.”

For safety’s sake and to avoid confusion, first responders and the National Safety Commission offer the following tips when your vehicle plunges into the fathoms below:

  • Don’t panic. Once your car hits the water it will not sink immediately (You will have at least one or two minutes before the car begins to sink, safety experts say).
  • If possible, jump out while car is on surface.
  • If your car is still floating, roll down the window and unbuckle your seat belt to escape.
  • If your car is submerged, safety experts suggest remaining buckled up while you break the driver or passenger’s side window to escape.
  • Allow the pressure of the water to equalize inside the sodden vehicle before attempting to open the doors or windows. Water weighs 62.4 lbs. per cubic foot.
  • Move toward rear of vehicle where the air bubble is forming.
  • Water pressure against the water-logged doors will make opening the doors very difficult until the pressure inside of the vehicle and outside of the vehicle are equal.
  • Open your windows to allow yourself and your passengers to escape (Contrary to popular opinion, the “power windows won’t stop working within seconds after impact.” The power can stay on as along as 10 minutes).

The nightmarish crash from the Memorial Bridge is a reminder to motorists of the importance of carrying and keeping a sharp tool, such as a Philips screwdriver or a spring-loaded center punch, in their glove compartment or in the cabin of their vehicle. The tool is a life-saver. Here’s why: it allows you to break the tempered glass to extricate yourself and your passengers from the sinking vehicle. Other salient tips include:

  • If the windows are blocked, try to push the windshield or rear window out with your feet or shoulder.
  • Rescue the children or passengers who need assistance to help them to escape. If children are in the sinking or submerged car, unbuckle their seatbelts and or child passenger seat, starting with the oldest child first.
  • Safeguard the kids. Push the children out of the vehicle ahead of you.
  • Always keep a window-breaking tool in your vehicle in an easily accessible location, safety experts suggest.
  • Remove heavy clothing before attempting to swim to safety.
  • Swim to the surface as safely and quickly as possible (swim in the direction of the current if you’re in deep water).
  • Push off for quick rise to the surface.
  • If you can’t swim try to float. Use your body’s natural buoyancy to float. Make sure to raise your head to breathe.
  • Call for medical attention as quickly as possible.

Ironically, just last week crews from the Federal Highway Administration reportedly began an “extensive inspection of the deck of the iconic 80-year-old Arlington Memorial Bridge, a process that is expected to continue through March 5. In September the 2,163 feet long bridge underwent a two month long renovation, costing $788,375, to repair and replace its entire driving surface.

Photos courtesy Mark P.

by ARLnow.com — February 25, 2013 at 4:05 pm 877 27 Comments

Athletic field at Long Bridge Park

Fees could soon be going up on bocce players, race runners and adult sports competitors in Arlington.

Along with advertising a property tax increase, the Arlington County Board on Saturday voted to advertise new parks and police fees. Among them:

  • New $100 per team adult sports league surcharge, to go to county’s Field Fund
  • New $10/hour bocce court rental fee
  • Tennis rental fee increase from $5 to $10/hour
  • Baseball and multi-use field rental fee increase of $5/hour. New rates range from $35 to $130/hour
  • Trail event permit fee increase from $50 to $150 (impacts trail races)
  • Police special event per-officer special event fee increase from $50 to $60/hour (impacts road races, etc.)
  • Enjoy Arlington non-resident fee increase from $10 to $20/class

If included in the final FY 2014 budget, the county expects the parks fee increases to generate an additional $158,188 in revenue, and the police fee increase to generate an additional $110,000.

by ARLnow.com — February 25, 2013 at 3:05 pm 1,728 45 Comments

County Manager Barbara Donnellan presents her FY 2014 budget on Feb. 20, 2013The Arlington County Board voted over the weekend to advertise a higher property tax rate than that proposed by County Manager Barbara Donnellan in her proposed FY 2014 budget.

By advertising the $1.021 rate, the Board will have the flexibility of raising the tax rate up to 102.1 cents per $100 in assessed real estate value. The Board can still, as it usually does, select a lower rate than advertised when it adopts its final budget in April.

Donnellan proposed a $1.003 rate – a 3.2 cent rate increase that would cost the average Arlington homeowner an additional $262 per year. The advertised $1.021 rate — a 5 cent increase from the current 97.1 cent rate — would cost the average homeowner an extra $356 per year (nearly $30 per month, a 5.3 percent increase) over the current tax rate.

The four Board members present for Saturday’s meeting — Chris Zimmerman was home sick with the flu — split the difference between two different rate proposals.

Jay Fisette and Mary Hynes proposed to advertise a $1.011 rate, an increase of 4 cents, citing concerns about taxpayers who might be impacted by the upcoming federal budget sequester.

“I want to send a message… that if others are being called to tighten their belts, that we will exert the same discipline,” Fisette said. He called Donnellan’s proposed 3.2 cent tax rate increase and spending cuts “a really reasonable balance.”

Libby Garvey and Board Chairman Walter Tejada argued for a 6 cent increase, citing uncertainty about how the sequester might affect county finances and the finances of those served by the social safety net.

“I don’t think 4 cents will be enough,” Tejada said. “Sequestration is hanging over our heads. We have to make decisions now and anticipate and prepare. I want to be as responsible as we can for all taxpayers… including the most vulnerable in our community.”

In the end, the Board voted for a compromise 5 cent advertised rate.

“In this climate of economic uncertainty, it is important that the Board maintain some flexibility in setting the tax rate for Fiscal Year 2014,” Tejada said in a statement. “In the coming weeks, we will engage intensively with our community on how best to balance necessary service cuts with a reasonable tax rate increase. “

The Board also voted to decrease solid waste rates and fees and certain permitting and park fees. After being adopted in April, the final rates and fees set by the Board will go into effect on July 1, 2013, the start of the county’s 2014 fiscal year.

by ARLnow.com — February 25, 2013 at 1:30 pm 12 Comments

The Wakefield Warriors boys basketball team will advance to the Virginia AAA tournament, despite a heart-breaking loss in the Northern Region finals.

Wakefield squandered a 22-point lead against Woodson and ended up losing 75-70. The loss followed a 68-58 win against Robinson on Friday night in the semifinals. (Photos from that game, above.)

By making it to the regional finals, the Warriors received a berth in the Virginia High School League state tournament. Wakefield will now face Mountain View at the Siegel Center in Richmond at 5:30 p.m. this coming Thursday, Feb. 28, according to the Wakefield High School Athletics Facebook page.

Wakefield isn’t the only Arlington high school making a tournament run. Bishop O’Connell defeated Paul VI on Sunday to advance to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference finals. DJO will face St. John’s at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday at American University’s Bender Arena.

Photos courtesy Rob Laybourn

by ARLnow.com — February 25, 2013 at 12:05 pm 525 18 Comments

New apartment building proposed for former Crystal City Post Office site (rendering courtesy Kettler)The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a new 11-story, 198-unit apartment building, to be built on the old Crystal City Post Office site.

The Board voted 4-0 to approve the building, at 1720 S. Eads Street. Developer Kettler has promised to reserve 16 of the apartments — 8 percent of all units — as dedicated affordable housing for the next 30 years, and will design the building to LEED Silver sustainability specifications. Sustainable features include a landscaped roof and electric vehicle recharging stations in the 176-space parking garage.

“This project, one of the first approved under the Crystal City [Sector] plan, fulfills the community’s wishes to see homes — including affordable units — built on this site, within walking distance of Metro and other public transit,” County Board Chairman Walter Tejada said in a statement. “I believe it will serve as a catalyst for redeveloping Crystal City into the more walkable, vibrant neighborhood that the community envisions.”

1720 S. Eads Street rooftop poolOther community benefits pledged by the developer include improved sidewalks and curbs around the building, an upgraded traffic signal at the intersection of S. Eads and 18th Street, muti-space parking meters, and a $272,273 contribution for public open space improvement in Crystal City.

The Board was able to iron out issues with the building’s proposed rooftop deck and pool that caused it to be deferred from December’s County Board meeting.

Renderings via Arlington County and Kettler

by ARLnow.com — February 25, 2013 at 11:15 am 64 Comments

Rendering of a streetcar along Columbia PikeThough it was formed last month, the pro-streetcar group Arlington Streetcar Now formally announced its formation at Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting.

The counterpoint to the anti-streetcar group Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, Arlington Streetcar Now says the proposed Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar systems will be a boon for residents and businesses along those respective corridors.

From a press release:

A pro-streetcar group, Arlington Streetcar Now, announced its formation at the Arlington County Board meeting on Saturday, February 23. Longtime Arlington resident and civic activist John Snyder made the announcement and presented the Board with a list of principles the group will promote in support of the proposed streetcar system that would link Fairfax County and Alexandra through Columbia Pike and Crystal City.

Arlington Streetcar Now is a growing group of Arlington residents and other strong supporters of the streetcar system. Calling the redevelopment plans for South Arlington “an exciting vision for the future,” Snyder called the streetcar system “the best way to achieve that vision.” Arlington’s vision for Columbia Pike and Crystal City depends on a qualitative upgrade and an increase in transit capacity which cannot be achieved merely by enhancing existing bus service.

Arlington Streetcar Now has been formed, Snyder said, to help “explain how a modern streetcar operates, how it is integral to growth of a locally-oriented business district, to affordable housing preservation on the Pike, and to environmental stewardship.”

Mary Margaret Whipple, former Arlington County Board member and state senator, pointed out that opposition today is similar to resistance to the installation of the Metrorail system in Arlington. “They made similar claims then – that it cost too much, that we should use buses instead, that kind of thing. It doesn’t matter how sensible or popular a transit proposal is,” said Whipple. “There are always going to be a few people who make it their mission to oppose it.” Today, Arlington’s investment in the rail system is widely regarded as a principal factor propelling Arlington from a community in economic decline in the 1970s to one of the most desirable locations in the region to live and work.

Local businesses have come out in strong support of this system and the vision for growth and sustainability it represents. Chamber of Commerce member David DeCamp, also a founding member of Arlington Streetcar Now, strongly agrees with the group’s mission. “The investment in the Streetcar will induce mixed-use development and pay us back with growing annual revenues as new buildings are developed – in much the same way that development along Arlington’s Metro corridors has produced a virtuous circle of growing tax receipts that keep a lid on our tax rates and contribute enormously to the quality of life in Arlington.”

by ARLnow.com — February 25, 2013 at 10:15 am 2,975 32 Comments

View of Georgetown and Northwest D.C. from a Rosslyn office building

SUV Runs Off Memorial Bridge – An SUV drove off the Memorial Bridge and plunged into the Potomac around 10:00 last night. The driver was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to police. A bridge barrier was damaged and the bridge was closed by police until the early morning hours. [WJLA, Washington Post]

‘Ballston Southern Gateway’ Plan Approved – The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved an addendum to its North Quincy Street Plan, which is designed “to transform the southern gateway of Ballston from an automobile-oriented area into a more pedestrian-friendly, great urban place.” The plan calls for higher residential and commercial buildings in the area around the Harris Teeters and the Mercedes Benz dealership. [Arlington County]

Supreme Court to Consider DNA Practice that Helped ACPD – The U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider the constitutionality of a DNA practice that helped Arlington County Police link former Marine Jorge Torrez, accused of raping an Arlington woman and leaving her for dead, with the murder of two girls in Illinois. The high court will consider whether taking a DNA sample from someone arrested for a serious crime — before they’re convicted — is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. [Los Angeles Times]

Board: We Can’t Sway Cemetery Expansion – Responding to the concerns of tree lovers over the weekend, members of the Arlington County Board said they have little power to sway the Army’s decision to expand Arlington National Cemetery. As originally planned, the expansion would cut down nearly 900 trees from an old growth forest on the cemetery grounds. The Army Corps of Engineers is currently re-evaluating its plan after complaints from tree advocates. [Sun Gazette]

Transpo Plan a ‘Big Win’ for McDonnell – Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) scored a big win with the passage of a compromise version of his transportation funding plan, according to Politico. But anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist decried the various tax increases in the bill, which could cost the average Virginia family between $10 and $15 per month. “The Democrats in the legislature mugged him good,” Norquist said of McDonnell. [PoliticoWashington Post]

Photos: Demolition of Old Arlington Courthouse – On its blog, the library looks back at the demolition of the old Arlington County Courthouse building on Feb. 23, 1997. [Arlington Public Library]

Photo courtesy @mowdymichelle

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