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Arlington’s Air Gets ‘F’ Grade for Smog

by ARLnow.com | April 24, 2013 at 4:10 pm | 533 views | No Comments

Air pollution charts via stateoftheair.orgThe state of Arlington’s air is not very good, according to the American Lung Association.

The organization released its annual State of the Air report today and Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax and the District of Columbia earned an “F” grade for ozone pollution — also known as smog. The D.C. area as a whole ranked as the 9th most-polluted city in the nation for smog, up from 13th last year and 14th in 2011.

Arlington received a “B” grade for 24-hour particle pollution, meanwhile, which is better than the District’s “C” grade.

The report suggests that the D.C. area has improved in terms of particle pollution in recent years.

“The air in Washington, DC is certainly cleaner than when we started the ‘State of the Air’ report 14 years ago,” said Kimberly Williams, Advocacy and Communications Manager for the American Lung Association, in a press release. “Even though the area experienced increases in unhealthy days of high ozone, the air quality is still better compared to a decade ago. But the work is not done, and we must set stronger health standards for pollutants and cleanup sources of pollution in the D.C. area to protect the health of our citizens.”

The full press release, after the jump.

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Chick-fil-A to Host Medieval Mother-Son Date Night

by ARLnow.com | April 24, 2013 at 3:00 pm | 2,161 views | No Comments

Chick-fil-A "Date Knight" logoWant to go on a medieval-themed date with your mom to the Ballston Common Mall food court?

If so, Chick-fil-A has just the event for you.

Chick-fil-A’s Ballston mall and Crystal City locations, along with the chain’s 49 other D.C. area restaurants, are hosting a “Date Knight” for mothers and sons from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, May 6.

“During this special medieval-themed evening, moms and their sons are encouraged to spend some time together while they enjoy dinner, great conversation and several special activities,” the company said in a press release. “Every Mother-Son pair will also receive a place mat with fun questions and topics to get the conversation started, and a take-home booklet that provides ideas for future dates and questions that both moms and their sons can ask each other.”

The “special activities” are free, but diners still have to pay for the food.

“One of Chick-fil-A’s goals is to promote community connections and enrich the lives of everyone we come in contact with,” Erik Amick, a Chick-fil-A franchise operator, said in a statement. “We understand the importance of mother-son relationships and want to encourage area moms to come to Chick-fil-A, enjoy their son’s company over a meal and have fun!”

Interested customers can make “Date Knight” reservations online. Currently, the Ballston Chick-fil-A has 53 reservations available, while Crystal City has 49 reservations remaining.

County Optimistic About Federal Funds for Streetcar Despite Cost Concerns

by ARLnow.com | April 24, 2013 at 1:55 pm | 1,263 views | No Comments

Columbia Pike streetcar renderingArlington County officials are pressing forward with plans for a Columbia Pike streetcar system, despite the federal government’s initial rejection of the county’s funding request due to projected cost overruns.

Officials explained last night, at a County Board meeting, that the Federal Transit Administration rejected its request for $75 million in grant funding because the total project cost was estimated to exceed the $250 million — the cap for projects to receive funding under the FTA’s Small Starts program.

Though pegged by the county at $245.9 million, a contractor hired by the FTA estimated the project cost to instead be between $255.9 and $402.4 million, including contingencies, and thus ineligible for a Small Starts grant. The contractor said $310.1 million was “a most likely cost.”

County officials said the contractor’s report and a subsequent in-person meeting with senior FTA staff lead them to believe the project is still likely to receive federal funding.

“They made it very clear that their action wasn’t based on the merits of the project,” Arlington County Transportation Director Dennis Leach told the Board. “It was really that technical factor that they felt our cost estimate was likely to be somewhat higher.”

Arlington will actually be eligible to receive more than the initially-requested $75 million in federal funding if it applies under the FTA’s New Starts program. Unlike Small Starts, New Starts doesn’t have a cap on total project cost.

Rendering of a streetcar along Columbia Pike“If the county were to choose to reapply as a New Start, the project could qualify for more federal funding,” said Stephen Del Giudice, Arlington County Transit Bureau Chief. ”We have a high likelihood of success in addressing the goals of the project.”

“What’s clear at this point is that changes to the evaluation criteria will most likely have a positive impact on FTA’s future rating of our project,” echoed Brian Stout, the county’s federal liaison. ”We’ll continue… to work with our partners at FTA to identify federal opportunities for them to support the Columbia Pike streetcar project.”

Even before the report on the FTA’s rationale for its decision, County Board Chair Walter Tejada said the county was not abandoning plans for the streetcar.

“Moving forward with a modern streetcar is our stated policy, and that’s what we’re committed to doing,” Tejada said. “We can repeat it many times, but nothing’s going to change.”

Tejada’s vote of confidence for the project came after Libby Garvey, the lone streetcar critic on the five-member County Board, gave a PowerPoint highlighting problems with other streetcar systems around the country. News reports cited by Garvey include:

“I have not made up the articles, I have not made up the facts,” Garvey said. “These facts are facts. They’re inconvenient, but true.”

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Crime Report: Short Trip to Jail for Robbery Suspect

by ARLnow.com | April 24, 2013 at 11:45 am | 3,422 views | No Comments

Arlington County police carA 19-year-old man allegedly chased, assaulted and attempted to rob a victim on the 1400 block of N. Courthouse Road in Courthouse.

The incident took place in broad daylight, at 12:35 p.m. yesterday (April 23), on the same block as Arlington County Police headquarters and the Arlington County jail.

From this week’s Arlington County crime report:

ATTEMPTED ROBBERY, 04/23/13, 1400 block of N. Courthouse Road. At 12:35 pm on April 23, a subject asked a victim for money. The victim stated that he did not have any money and walked away. The suspect then chased the victim and struck him several times in the face. Diavonte Dejean Barlow, 19, of Alexandria, VA was arrested and charged with attempted robbery and assault and battery.

The rest of the crime report, after the jump.

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Board Votes to Extend Food Truck Parking Time

by ARLnow.com | April 24, 2013 at 10:40 am | No Comments

Seoul Food truck serves up Korean cuisine (File photo)The Arlington County Board last night voted to extend the one-hour parking limit for food trucks by another hour.

Food trucks will now be able to serve customers on local streets for up to two hours. They will not, however, be able to stay longer than the time allocated by the meter zone they’re parked in.

The previous one-hour limit had led to complaints and even legal challenges from food truck owners who argued that an hour doesn’t give them enough time to serve hungry customers in busy parts of the county where parking is at a premium.

“The extension of the vending time better reflects typical lunch hours and more closely aligns with the metered parking zones in Arlington,” the county said in a press release. “More than 90 percent of metered parking spaces within Arlington’s metro station areas are regulated for two or more hours.”

In voting unanimously for the change, Board members said food trucks are increasingly integral part of the community.

“Street vending has become a growing part of the retail scene in Arlington,” said County Board Chair Walter Tejada. “These changes, by giving vendors flexibility and ensuring consistent enforcement, provide balance and clarity for all of Arlington’s businesses that serve customers.”

Doug Maheu, Arlington County Director of the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington and owner of the Doug Food Dude food truck, said in a statement that food truck owners are largely pleased with the change, but would have liked even more time to vend.

Although the members of Metropolitan Washington Food Truck Association would not consider these amendments perfect, we do understand that they are a work in progress. We look forward to participating in future conversations with Arlington County as well as other stake holders on crafting equitable vending regulations. We applaud the Arlington County Board for moving forward to make Arlington a thriving diverse business community.

Maheu said food truck owners will continue to ask for four hour “block permits” that would allow even more vending time. As for the possibility of an influx of food trucks from D.C. to Arlington, should the District enact strict food truck regulations that have been proposed by Mayor Vincent Gray, Maheu said he’s not overly concerned.

“I believe that the market will take care of competition as it always done,” he said.

Maheu said he’s aware of 3 or 4 D.C. food trucks that have applied for permits to serve customers in Arlington, but added that he didn’t believe those applications were made in response to D.C.’s proposed regulations.

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | April 24, 2013 at 9:15 am | 2,017 views | No Comments

On board the 16y bus to Barcroft (photo by Ddimick)

Bluemont to Vote on Safeway Development — Members of the Bluemont Civic Association will vote tonight on a proposed mix-use development on the current Safeway site. The development includes a new Safeway store and a 160-unit apartment complex. Many residents have expressed concerns about the height of the development, but Bluemont resident Ryan Arnold writes that “the character of a neighborhood is not defined by the height of its buildings, but by the spirit of its people.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Arlington Runner Raises Money for Boston Victims — Frank Fumich, a local runner, ran a 19 hour 38 minute triple marathon along the Mt. Vernon Trail over the weekend in order to raise money for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. Fumich raised more than $33,000 with the 78.6 mile run. [Washington Post]

Bill Thomas Awards Presented — The annual Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Awards were presented at last night’s County Board meeting. This year’s winners are Steve Young, a “well-known figure for invasive plant removal at Long Branch Park,” and the Friend of the Gulf Branch Nature Center, a group that has fought the center’s closure and raised money for its operation. [Arlington County]

Chamber to Debut Business Blog — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce “is set to start an Internet blog” written by and about local business. The Sun Gazette reports: “All comments in response to specific articles will be moderated for content, so the Chamber blog does not spiral into the chaos of some online-news sites where anonymous cranks spew venom to little discernible purpose.” [Sun Gazette]

Katherine Heigl Tweets in Support of Moran — Actress Katherine Heigl has used her star power on Twitter to help promote a bill proposed by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). The bill would ban the use of gas chambers to euthanize shelter animals. “Please, please, please support Congressman Moran’s resolution,” the acress tweeted. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Ddimick

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