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Elementary PTA Decries APS Waffling on New Middle School

by ARLnow.com | June 25, 2014 at 11:15 am | 2,525 views | No Comments

Arlington County school busesSome north Arlington elementary school parents are asking the County Board to spur the Arlington School Board to action on a new middle school.

The Jamestown Elementary PTA wrote to County Board Chair Jay Fisette on Monday, asking him to work with the School Board on a middle school construction plan as part of the County Board’s 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan.

The PTA is peeved that APS waffled in its recently-passed CIP, punting a decision on the location for a new middle school to December and only including planning funds instead of construction funds. It comes at a time when the county’s student population — especially on the elementary level — is burgeoning, thanks to more young families moving to or staying in Arlington to raise their kids.

If a new middle school is not built soon, current kindergarteners could enter middle school in 2020 at a time when Arlington middle schools are over capacity by more than 1,000 students, with most of the overcrowding focused in north Arlington, the PTA said.

“The proposed CIP can only be regarded as an APS plan knowingly to overcrowd Williamsburg and other middle schools in north Arlington and degrade the learning environment for thousands of the county’s middle school students,” Jamestown PTA president Thomas Jensen wrote.

The School Board has eyed both the Wilson School site in Rosslyn and the building that currently houses the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program as possible locations for a new 1,300 seat middle school. Both proposals have met community criticism.

The Wilson School and H-B Woodlawn options are still on the table, according to a school spokesman, and the School Board says it will make a decision no later than Dec. 31. But the PTA wants more decisive action and planning.

“Lack of unanimity about use of the Wilson site is not an adequate reason to allow Williamsburg and other middle schools to become even more overcrowded,” Jensen wrote.

The full letter, after the jump.

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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | June 25, 2014 at 9:00 am | 1,523 views | No Comments

Sunset Paddle (Flickr pool photo by David Bender)

Board Members Spar Over Streetcar PR Funds — Of the $7-8 million contract with Parsons Transportation Group to serve as project manager of Arlington’s streetcar system, up to $650,000 will be spent on “public-education efforts during the first year of the contract.” That isn’t sitting well with Board member and streetcar critic Libby Garvey. “We should not be wasting $650,000 on PR,” she is quoted as saying. [InsideNova]

DJ Pleads Guilty to Assaulting Women — DJ Joey Flash, who counts A-Town Bar and Grill in Ballston among his former clients, has pleaded guilty to charges of rape and sexual battery. The nightlife fixture, whose real name is Joseph Rivera, admitted to bringing highly intoxicated women back from bars, having sex with them while they were unconscious, and filming the encounters. [Washington Post]

Capital Bikeshare Runs Out of Membership Keys — Anyone wanting to sign up for Capital Bikeshare will have to wait until the second week of July. CaBi says it has run out of membership keys “due to issues with our supplier, and heavier than anticipated member sign ups.” [DCist]

Animal Hospital Coming to Shirlington — Two veterinarians will be opening a new facility, Shirlington Animal Hospital, this fall at 2770 S. Arlington Mill Drive. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]

Sinclair Hoping to Close on WJLA Sale Soon — Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is buying Rosslyn-based TV station WJLA (ABC 7), is hoping to close on the sale by July 27. The company is selling TV stations in Harrisburg, Pa. and Charleson, S.C. to facilitate FCC approval of the acquisition of WJLA and six other Allbritton Communications stations. [Arkansas Business]

Flickr pool photo by David Bender

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | June 20, 2014 at 9:45 am | 1,260 views | No Comments

Yorktown High School graduation 2014 (Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann)

Board to Consider Sign for Rosslyn Skyscraper — The Arlington County Board next month will consider lifting a prohibition on rooftop signs on two new Rosslyn office towers. The action would potentially allow the JBG Cos. to begin work on its Central Place office tower, which is expected to be anchored by the Corporate Executive Board. [Washington Business Journal]

Fisette Asks for Alternative Streetcar Funding Plan — Federal funding is currently expected to pay for half of Arlington’s $287 million share of the Columbia Pike streetcar system’s costs. But federal funding is not guaranteed and, at last night’s Capital Improvement Plan work session, County Board Chair Jay Fisette asked Arlington Director of Transportation Dennis Leach to work on an alternate streetcar funding plan that does not use federal dollars or county funds from residential taxpayers. [Mobility Lab]

Green Party Endorses Vihstadt Again — The Arlington Green Party, which endorsed independent County Board candidate John Vihstadt in this spring’s special election, has announced that it will endorse him again in November’s general election. [InsideNova]

UberX Lowers Fares — Two weeks after Virginia started cracking down on ridesharing services, UberX — the service where regular people drive you around in their personal cars — has lowered its fares in the D.C. area by 25 percent. The new fares are significantly lower than comparable cab fares, the company says. [InTheCapital]

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

Board Reverses Non-Resident Surcharge Hike for Sports Programs

by Morgan Fecto | June 18, 2014 at 6:15 pm | 1,269 views | No Comments

County Board member Libby Garvey._Garvey croppedThe Arlington County Board voted Tuesday to reverse an increase in the non-resident surcharge for participants of county-subsidized competitive gymnastics and swim teams.

The Board’s FY 2015 budget called for its non-resident surcharge to increase 50 percent. That would have significantly raised annual fees for three clubs: Arlington Aerials, the Arlington Tigers and the Arlington Aquatics Club.

Vocal protests from the teams and impassioned speeches from the youth team members at Tuesday’s Board meeting led the Board to reverse course and even reject a compromise endorsed by county staff. The Board rejected their April decision by a 3-1 vote, and also rejected County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s revised recommendation to reduce the fee increase to 30 percent.

Libby Garvey cast the lone opposing vote, saying that she supported Donnellan’s compromise, while Walter Tejada abstained. Those voting in favor of eliminating the surcharge increase said they weren’t comfortable with the lack of county dialogue with the teams prior to approval of the increase.

The surcharge will now remain at the current rate of roughly 20 percent more for out-of-county participants.

Arlington County Sports Commission Chair Craig EsherickWhile team members and parents applauded the Board’s decision, Board members questioned whether the county government should be supporting competitive teams in the first place. County staff told the Board that team fees aren’t sufficient to pay for county costs after all facility costs are factored in.

The gymnastics programs utilize the Barcroft Sports and Fitness Center, which is billed by the county as “home to Arlington’s largest gymnastics training center.”

According to Susan Kalish of Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation, the overall cost to operate the Arlington Aerials and Arlington Tigers is $473,201, with $221,600 in revenue from the 69 non-resident gymnasts and  $256,250 from the 100 resident gymnasts. Total revenue, at $477,850, slightly exceeds team operating costs, but doesn’t account for the $633,000 in annual facility operating costs at Barcroft.

“The whole issue of us sponsoring elite teams for folks that don’t live in Arlington… does make me really uncomfortable,” Garvey said. “I have to serve Arlington.”

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No Streetcar Referendum, Says County Board Majority

by ARLnow.com | June 18, 2014 at 10:45 am | 2,696 views | No Comments

County Board 2014 budget hearingThere will be no voter referendum on Arlington’s streetcar system, said a majority of Arlington County Board members in a coordinated PR blitz Tuesday afternoon.

County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada all read statements at Tuesday’s County Board meeting, stating opposition to a referendum on the streetcar and giving reasons why they support the $585 million project.

The Board members said they oppose using general obligation bonds to build the streetcar lines on Columbia Pike and in Crystal City. Rather, they expect to fund the streetcar with a mix of federal and state funds and with transportation-designated local business tax revenue.

“After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that I do not support a referendum on streetcar,” Fisette said in his statement. “Under Virginia law… a referendum question must be tied to a vote on General Obligation bonds — and it is my commitment that we will use zero homeowner-financed general obligation bonds to build the streetcar.”

Rendering of a streetcar along Columbia Pike“I will walk away from the project rather than violate that pledge,” Fisette continued.

(About $71 million of the expense will be shared with Fairfax County, since the Pike streetcar will extend to Skyline.)

Fisette also ruled out waiting for Virginia General Assembly authorization to hold an advisory referendum.

“The time has come to act, to move forward without delay to build a streetcar system,” Fisette said.

Hynes, meanwhile, refuted arguments that the streetcar will take money away from other community needs, like schools. She and Tejada cited a study that suggests the streetcar will generate $735 million in new take revenue, thanks to added development along the streetcar line, over a 30 year period.

Tejada said he only supported the Columbia Pike streetcar after the county put plans in place to retain 6,200 units of affordable housing along the Pike while adding 14,000 new residences.

“There are better ways than a referendum to address concerns people have about this project,” said Tejada.

The coordinated statements from Fisette, Hynes and Tejada were accompanied by pro-streetcar materials generated by county staff. Among them were a press release (below, after the jump) and a series of 30-second video commercials explaining reasons why the county is building the streetcar, including:

“The County needs to do a better job of communicating the clear benefits of the modern streetcar, and we will do better,” Fisette said in his statement. “I would ask Arlington residents to study and learn about the issue — to go beyond the sound bites and give the matter the full consideration that this community always gives important issues.”

Apparently no one communicated anything about the referendum statements to Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt. Garvey and Vihstadt, who oppose the streetcar and advocate instead for enhanced bus service, both expressed surprise at the statements.

“Reasonable people… can differ about whether to hold a referendum, and whether the streetcar itself is worthwhile,” said Vihstadt, who then spoke of his reelection in the fall. “Fortunately there are other ways that the voters are able to express themselves on this issue, including elections in which candidates stand for office. There will be another such opportunity in November and the people look forward to it.”

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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | June 18, 2014 at 9:15 am | 1,160 views | No Comments

Rooftop view of Crystal City (photo courtesy @rydaka)

Politico to Stay in Rosslyn — The Capitol Hill publication Politico has been looking for new office space, but will keep its home at 1100 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn after all, according to an internal memo. Politico’s owner, Allbritton Communications, said last year that it plans to use proceeds from the sale of its Rosslyn-based TV station WJLA (ABC 7) to fund an expansion of Politico. [Fishbowl DC]

Woodstock Park Improvements Approved — The Arlington County Board has unanimously approved a $644,127 contract to construct improvements to Woodstock Park, including a new basketball court and playground. [Arlington County]

Ray’s, Heavy Seas Makes Burger List — Two Arlington eateries are among the D.C. area’s ten hottest places for burgers, according to online food publication Eater. Rosslyn’s relatively new Heavy Seas Alehouse is No. 5 while Ray’s to the Third, also in Rosslyn, is No. 7. [Eater]

A Very Arlington Tweet — Was it the “Arlington-est tweet ever” when Bike Arlington tweeted today that “it’s flip-flop commuting weather?” [Twitter]

Photo courtesy @rydaka

A-Town Faces Grilling on Permit Renewal

by ARLnow.com | June 17, 2014 at 4:30 pm | 7,218 views | No Comments

A-Town Bar and Grill logoUpdate at 12:00 a.m. — Following a half hour of public comments both for and against A-Town, and some tongue lashings from Board members, the Arlington County Board voted Tuesday night to renew A-Town’s live entertainment permit for three months, as recommended by county staff..

Earlier: A-Town Bar and Grill is facing scrutiny over noise and crime as it seeks to renew its live entertainment permit tonight (Tuesday).

The restaurant, located at 4100 N. Fairfax Drive in Ballston, has been drawing the ire of neighbors who complain about loud, drunken patrons. It’s also the subject of an investigation by Arlington County police and the Virginia Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), over a violent episode at an employee-only party on Feb. 12.

“The Arlington Police Department considers A-Town to be the most troublesome establishment in Ballston,” according to a report by county staff.

The Arlington County Board will decide tonight whether to  renew A-Town’s live entertainment and dancing permit. County staff is recommending that it be renewed for three months, with additional restrictions on the establishment’s outdoor cafe area.

A-Town Bar and GrillNoise, especially from the outdoor patio but also from those leaving the establishment, is a primary concern of residents of nearby condominiums.

“Late night disturbances make it an unpleasant community experience and thus directly impact the value of all our homes,” said Roger Lindberg, president of the condominium association for the nearby Berkeley building, in December. “Late night outdoor partying even on weekends, is not a reasonable expectation of any homeowner.”

To help combat that, A-Town has voluntarily agreed to close the patio at 9:00 p.m. on Sundays, 10:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Previously, the restaurant had only agreed to close the outdoor bar early — at 10:00 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Those provisions will be overwritten by the new patio closing times.

County staff noted that noise complaints to the police department declined from 25 between August and November, 2013, to nine between January and April, 2014. However, staff opined that “the long unusually cold winter (when the outdoor patio was not used and patrons refrained from lingering outside the establishment) may be at least partially responsible for a decline in noise-related calls.”

Non-noise police calls to A-Town declined by one — from 25 to 24 — during the same period. The 24 non-noise calls from January to April included four calls for fights, one for an assault, and one for a stabbing (the Feb. 12 incident). Separately, there were eight arrests for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) from January to April where the suspect reported coming from A-Town, according to county staff.

County staff says that A-Town should remain on thin ice even should the live entertainment permit be renewed.

“Staff recommends a three month County Board review in order to monitor progress with these issues, and if there is no substantial reduction in the number of police calls or reduction in the evidence of over serving patrons, staff is not likely to recommend renewal of the use permit for live entertainment and dancing,” the staff report says.

A-Town is facing possible disciplinary action from Virginia ABC pending the outcome of the Feb. 12 malicious wounding case. After the incident an ABC agent “issued an administrative charge to A-Town stating that ‘[t]he Licensee has failed to take reasonable measures to prevent the licensed premises… from becoming a place where patrons of the establishment commit criminal violations… and such violations lead to arrests that are so frequent and serious as to be reasonably deemed… a continuing threat to public safety.’”

The disciplinary action could range from a fine to suspension or revocation of its beer, wine and liquor license.

UPDATED: County Board Approves Major Rosslyn Development

by ARLnow.com | June 13, 2014 at 5:50 pm | 3,529 views | No Comments

(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) The Arlington County Board unanimously approved a major redevelopment in Rosslyn at its meeting Saturday morning.

The Board voted 5-0 in favor of a proposal by Monday Properties to tear down two aging 1960s-era office buildings, at 1401 Wilson Blvd and 1400 Key Blvd, and replace them with a new office tower, a new residential building, and public gardens.

Also set to be demolished is the buildings’ parking garage, in which Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward met a source dubbed “Deep Throat,” who passed on information that helped exposed the Watergate scandal. The scandal helped to topple the presidency of Richard Nixon in 1974. Monday plans to build a “commemorative monument regarding the Watergate scandal” as a community benefit of the project.

The 24-story office building planned for the site will include 513,004 square feet of office space and 11,131 square feet of ground floor retail. The 28-story residential building, located above what is now a Gold’s Gym, will contain 274 multi-family dwellings and a 44,409 square foot grocery store.

Together, the buildings will share 816 vehicle parking spots and 161 bicycle parking spots in a six-level, below-grade parking garage.

In addition to the buildings, Monday’s plans include a publicly accessible plaza with landscaped gardens, water features, outdoor dining and seating, a bocce court, “interactive play features” and a pedestrian connection from the corner of 18th Street and N. Oak Street to N. Nash Street.

Other community benefits offered by Monday Properties include:

  • $7.8 million cash contribution to the county’s affordable housing fund, to be used for affordable housing in Rosslyn (no dedicated affordable housing will be offered in the residential building)
  • $5.7 million for transportation improvements
  • $3.1 million for Rosslyn-area park improvements
  • $1.1 million for a transportation demand management program
  • $1.1 million for reconstruction of the N. Nash Street skywalk
  • $750,000 for public art
  • $50,000 for a new Capital Bikeshare station in Rosslyn
  • Streetscape improvements
  • Bicycle lane improvements
  • Removal of the N. Nash Street slip lane
  • Installation of multi-space parking meters
  • LEED Platinum sustainability certification for the office building
  • LEED Silver sustainability certification for the residential building

“This redevelopment is a key part of our efforts to transform Rosslyn into a world-class downtown,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement following the vote. “It will bring a much-needed full-service grocery store, a beautiful public space with interactive play features, and 274 residential units to the heart of Rosslyn.”

“This redevelopment epitomizes Monday Properties’ commitment to creating a sustainable and dynamic 24-hour business and residential community in Rosslyn,” Monday Properties co-president Tim Helmig said in the statement. “We believe that our plan for the block will be the catalyst for economic development and job growth. It could generate the critical mass that will attract businesses and the talented people who want to live within walking distance from their jobs.”

There’s no official word yet on a timeframe for the demolition and construction, but one source told ARLnow.com that it may be about three years before demolition could start due to lease provisions with existing office tenants.

W&OD Trestle Could Get Historic Designation

by Ethan Rothstein | June 13, 2014 at 11:00 am | 702 views | No Comments

Workers tear down part of The W&OD trestle in East Falls Church(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) The remaining section of the coal trestle from the old Washington & Old Dominion Railroad in East Falls Church could be given a historic district designation by Arlington County.

The trestle was partly on the property controlled by the NOVA Parks (formerly the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority), and partly on 6873 Lee Highway, a plot of land owned by Robert Shreve Fuel Company, which demolished its section of the trestle last week to make room for a storage facility.

The County Board is scheduled to vote on whether to advertise public hearings on the trestle’s historic designation this coming Tuesday.

The staff report for the agenda item reveals that county staff “learned of the demolition as it was taking place the morning of June 5,” but discovered that Shreve Fuel did not require permits to conduction the work.

The county’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) determined that the trestle was suitable for historic designation because it met four criteria:

  • The property has character, interest, or value as part of the development, heritage, or cultural characteristics of the county, state, or nation;
  • The property has a distinctive location, or singular physical characteristics that make it an established or familiar visual feature;
  • The property is a particularly fine or unique example of a utilitarian structure representing a period or style in the commercial, industrial, or agricultural development of the county, with a high level of historic integrity or architectural significance; and
  • The property is suitable for preservation or restoration.

The demolition took place following a May 21, 2014 meeting in which the HALRB voted in favor of a historic designation for the trestle.

Shreve Fuel agreed to give NOVA Parks the segment of track from the old railroad that was on top of the trestle for future “interpretation.” According to NOVA Parks Executive Director Paul Gilbert, about 75 percent of the trestle still stands and is on NOVA Parks land.

“Benjamin Elliott’s Coal Trestle retains sufficient historic, cultural, and physical integrity to be designated as a local historic district by Arlington County,” the staff report states. “Benjamin Elliott’s Coal Trestle was built in 1926 in the East Falls Church neighborhood. The utilitarian structure reflects the former industrial and commercial landscape that existed in the neighborhood. Such small-scale commercial coal trestles were instrumental in the processing of coal for local delivery to residences and businesses. This coal trestle is a visual reminder of a critical early-20th century energy infrastructure that fueled the electrification and development of Arlington County and the region. There are no other coal trestles extant within the County.”

Firefighters on Current Staffing Level: ‘Dangerously Inadequate’

by Ethan Rothstein | May 29, 2014 at 5:05 pm | 5,545 views | No Comments

House fire across from Yorktown High School(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) Arlington County firefighters are asking the county government to fund two additional firefighter positions to service the county’s growing population.

This morning, the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association (the IAFF Local 2800) issued a long, detailed statement on the need to staff Tower 104, which serves the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, and Rescue 109, which serves Pentagon City and Columbia Pike, with four firefighters, as opposed to their current three-person staffs.

“Tower 104 and Rescue 109, with an ever-rising response area population, massive increase in high-rise square footage, terrorism threat, and other changing factors, require adequate staffing to safely and effectively carry out our assignments,” the Local 2800 writes. “The current staffing of three firefighters is woefully and dangerously inadequate.”

Rescue 109 was one of the first responders to the house fire in Nauck on March 15 that claimed two lives, and the firefighter who was injured fighting the blaze was on the three-person truck. He has not yet returned to duty, according to the Local 2800.

Tower 104 is a large fire truck with a ladder and “bucket” that puts firefighters into position, while Rescue 109 is a truck with no ladder that transports firefighters to emergency scenes, but comes equipped with tools for responding to car accidents and building collapses, according to Arlington County Fire Chief James Schwartz. Both trucks are staffed with firefighter/EMTs.

Schwartz said he has been advocating for four-person units for years, but he said budget constraints have prevented Tower 104 and Rescue 109 from joining the rest of the county’s fleet with four-person staffs.

“It’s been a longstanding position of mine and it has been advocated by the department for some time,” Schwartz told ARLnow.com this afternoon. “Obviously, the Board has to make policy decisions. I think they, too, would like to get to four-person staffing in each of the units. Sometimes the budget guidance is limiting in that regard.”

Schwartz said four-person staffing is not as simple as just hiring two more firefighters. Each additional firefighter on a truck is the equivalent of four full-time positions, to account for three eight-hour shifts a day and covering for vacation and sick leave.

“In order to achieve the safe staffing levels that we’re after, it would require us to hire eight new positions,” he said. “That’s not an insignificant budget issue. It’s doable, and I think the Board is supportive of this effort.”

Arlington County fire truck

Schwartz said years ago, only about half of Arlington’s fire trucks were manned by four-person crews, but the last time the county added staff to bring fire trucks up to four-person teams was in 2004.

Four-person trucks are not just the ideal position for the union, Schwartz said, but it’s also the national standard as dictated by the National Fire Protection Association and several other advocacy groups. Despite the fact that Tower 104 and Rescue 109 are assigned to some of the county’s most densely populated areas, the decision to leave specifically those two units undermanned was done after careful risk analysis.

“Almost every unit in the department is quite busy and has a level of responsibility that is not greater or lesser than any other unit in the system,” he said. “We have 14 suppression units in service every day. Twelve have four-person staffing, and those were selected based on judgments we make that have a lot to do with call activity, the kind of calls that units run. I have to make judgments based on the resources I’ve been allocated.”

Schwartz said the County Board gave County Manager Barbara Donnellan direction to “review all public safety staffing and to make a recommendation for FY 2016,” at a budget meeting last month. To the Local 2800, FY 2016 is already too late.

“It has been shown that increased staffing reduces firefighter injuries, thus reducing the amount of money paid by Arlington taxpayers to care for and backfill with overtime employees,” the union writes. “Tower 104 and Rescue109 are limited in being able to safely, quickly, and effectively perform… critical functions while understaffed with three firefighters… This is dangerous and unacceptable.”

File photos

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | May 15, 2014 at 8:45 am | 1,672 views | No Comments

Children playing at Rocky Run Park

Shuttleworth Drops Out of Congressional Race — Arlington resident Bruce Shuttleworth has dropped out of the still-crowded race for Congress. There are now 7 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to replace Rep. Jim Moran. Of those, 6 are from Alexandria and only Del. Patrick Hope is from Arlington. [Blue Virginia]

Garvey Phones It In, Literally — Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey, who was injured on Friday in a bicycle accident, voted and participated in Tuesday’s County Board meeting via phone. It’s the first time that has been done in Arlington — Virginia law only recently changed to allow board members to participate in meetings via phone in certain circumstances. [InsideNova]

Clarendon Church Turns 105 — The Church at Clarendon (1210 N. Highland Street) will celebrate its 105th anniversary on Sunday. The church will hold a special anniversary worship service at 11:00 a.m. Originally formed as Clarendon Baptist Church in 1909, the church has seen many changes in its 105 years. One recent change was the new sanctuary that was completed in 2012, as part of a controversial deal that added an 8-story affordable apartment complex above the church.

High Streetcar Ridership Projected — While critics bash the combined $585 million estimated cost of the Crystal City and Columbia Pike streetcar lines, streetcar proponents are calling attention to ridership projections. With 37,100 daily riders by 2035, the combined streetcar system is projected to serve more riders than MARC, VRE and the light rail systems in Baltimore, San Jose, New Orleans, Minneapolis, Charlotte, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Houston, Seattle and Norfolk. [Greater Greater Washington]

Truck Day at the Library on Saturday – Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) is again inviting children “to get up-close and personal with a menagerie of trucks and buses” in the library parking lot. Truck Day will take place from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. There will also be transportation-related crafts inside the library auditorium. The library is warning nearby residents to expect to hear some noise from the trucks and the kids during the event. [Arlington Public Library]

Arlington Could Move to Year-Round Yard Waste Collection

by Ethan Rothstein | May 14, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 1,315 views | No Comments

arlington-va-logoThe Arlington County Board is considering introducing year-round yard waste collection to the county.

The Board on Tuesday passed a request to advertise a plan to have the county begin conducting year-round yard waste collection starting July 1. Each household’s annual Solid Waste Rate would increase by $13.28 per year, bringing the total to $307.04 annually, to pay for the change.

As part of the change, the county will give each household a new cart for the yard waste. The carts are expected to be rolled out in August or September.

“Residents will be able to place their grass, leaves or small brush — known as organics — in the new containers and then place it curbside for collection alongside their refuse and household recycling carts,” the county said in its press release. “The new carts will be green in color to help distinguish their function and will be accompanied by composting educational material from the County.”

The county expects the change to year-round yard waste to save about 9,000 tons of waste that will now be composted, increasing the county’s recycling rate by 13 percent. The Board first indicated it was considering this shift when it surveyed residents about composting last summer.

“Recycling yard waste year-round is an important program that promises to make a difference for our environment,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “Eliminating organics from the waste stream will move us toward setting and achieving a zero waste goal for future generations.”

‘Intersection of Doom’ Safety Improvements Coming

by Ethan Rothstein | May 14, 2014 at 10:00 am | 2,548 views | No Comments

Intersection of Doom(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) A week after another cyclist was hit at the intersection of Lee Highway, N. Lynn Street at the Custis Trail, the Arlington County Board approved adding $75,000 to a contract to engineer improvements to the intersection.

The planned improvements to the area, which includes the trail’s intersection with Fort Myer Drive, include removing a travel lane from Lee Highway and extending the curb at the intersection’s corners. It also calls for upgraded traffic signals, on-street bike lanes, signs and landscape areas and a “Corridor of Light” public art feature.

The most troublesome part of the intersection. where numerous car-on-bike accidents have occurred, has been where two lanes of traffic from I-66 turn right on N. Lynn Street toward the Key Bridge. That traffic comes in conflict with pedestrians and cyclists on the trail, who get the green light at about the same time.

The improvements are designed to give cyclists less time in traffic as a result of the extended curbs, as well as greater visibility and a safer “queueing” area. In addition, the start of the Custis Trail would be widened to allow for greater cyclist and pedestrian flow.

The Board voted yesterday to amend its contract with Toole Design Group, which is designing the updates to the intersection, to include additional design of underground features and water main relocation. The project is expected to be 90 percent complete with design by this summer with construction beginning next spring and completing by summer 2016.

Once the project reaches 90 percent design, Arlington Department of Environmental Services says it will schedule a public meeting to present the intersection’s final design to the community.

Intersection of Lee Highway and Lynn StreetAccording to DES, the design of the improvements were funded by a federal grant, and the construction is being paid for by the JBG Companies, which is developing the Central Place office and residential skyscrapers two blocks away. If approved, the contract amendment will bring the total cost of the design to almost $1.2 million. The construction is currently estimated to cost $5 million.

The intersection was cited as needing a redesign in the Realize Rosslyn public outreach process, and some have suggested a pedestrian tunnel or flyover. According to DES, there are no other plans for improvements to this intersection, but the construction doesn’t preclude any changes in the future.

“There’s been a lot of attention at ways we can improve this intersection,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said at yesterday’s meeting. “The Realize Rosslyn process is underway, and we did [talk about] incorporating some focus into potentially systemic changes to the intersection.”

In addition to the trail improvements, Arlington announced yesterday it purchased a plot of land adjacent to the intersection, at 1101 Lee Highway, to preserve green and recreational space for the area. The land might also some day be used for a realignment of the bike trail, to improve safety.

The county paid $2.4 million to a private landowner and is considering constructing an “ancillary boathouse” to pair with a proposed boathouse along the Potomac River that the National Parks Service is considering.

“Over the years, community members have voiced strong support for a boathouse in the County along the Potomac River,” the county wrote in its press release, “to create public access, establish a home for high school rowing programs and to offer educational opportunities related to life along the Potomac.”

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | May 14, 2014 at 9:15 am | 2,256 views | No Comments

Rosslyn skyline

La Tagliatella Expansion Plans on Hold — La Tagliatella, the Europe-based Italian restaurant chain that opened in Clarendon only to receive a scathing review from Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema, is putting its U.S. expansion plans on hold. That includes the chain’s planned Shirlington location, in the former Extra Virgin space. The Clarendon location will remain open for the time being. [Washington Business Journal]

Remembering Arlington’s ‘Little Saigon’ — The timing of two separate events helped to transform the Clarendon neighborhood into a cluster of Vietnamese stores and restaurants known as “Little Saigon” in the 1970s and 80s. One event was the Vietnam War and the Communist takeover of Vietnam, which drove tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees to the United States. The other was the construction of Metro, which drove away mom and pop businesses from Clarendon and forced landlords to lower their rents and seek new tenants. [Falls Church News-Press]

Raises for Top County Officials — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday quietly approved raises between 3.2 and 3.5 percent for top officials like County Manager Barbara Donnellan and County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac. The raises are retroactive to Jan. 1. Rank-and-file county employees are receiving a 3.5 percent raise this year. [Washington Post]

Cost of Pike, Crystal City Streetcars Estimated at $585 Million

by ARLnow.com | May 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm | 2,857 views | No Comments

Streetcar CIP slides Streetcar CIP slides

(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) The combined cost of the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar systems is now estimated at $585 million.

Presenting an overview of her proposed FY 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan to the Arlington County Board this afternoon, County Manager Barbara Donnellan and her staff said that the cost of the streetcar systems had risen $190 million from the 2013 CIP due to changes in the size of the streetcar vehicles, higher engineering and start-up costs, higher inflation and a larger project contingency.

The CIP projects that the Crystal City streetcar will begin operating in the spring of 2020 at a capital cost of $227 million. The Columbia Pike streetcar is projected to begin operating in the spring of 2021 at a capital cost of $358 million, $71 million of which would be pegged to the Fairfax County portion of the line.

“This is a large capital investment for Arlington, but we have not shied away from large capital investments ever,” Donnellan said. “These are generational projects. Every generation is asked to make decisions that will ultimately benefit generations that follow. Building high-capacity rail in South Arlington will be a transformational investment for our community.”

Nearly 75 percent of the financing for the Columbia Pike streetcar is projected to come from federal and state sources. Most of the funding for the Crystal City streetcar will come from dedicated county transportation funding or bonds, with a portion coming from the state but no funds coming from the federal government. The CIP does not anticipate issuing general obligation bonds for either streetcar system — without which the county would need state legislative approval in order to conduct a referendum on the streetcar systems.

The $585 million price tag is the latest projected cost increase for the controversial Columbia Pike project. Initially pegged as a $161 million project in 2007, that number jumped to around $250 million in 2011. Last spring, the Federal Transportation Administration rejected a county grant application for funding because it estimated the project’s cost between $255.9 million and $402.4 million. At the time, a contractor estimated said $310 million was “a most likely cost” for the streetcar.

Arlington County’s latest transit ridership projection suggests that ridership along the Columbia Pike and Pentagon City-Crystal City corridors will double, to nearly 60,000 daily transit trips, by 2035. Most of those trips will be on a streetcar, the county said. The Columbia Pike line alone is projected to increase real estate values by $3.2 to $4.4 billion and generate between $455 and $895 million in additional tax revenues for Arlington and Fairfax counties over a 30-year period.

The total CIP for the next 10 years calls for $2.7 billion in investment, more than half of which is dedicated to transportation projects, including the streetcar. Donnellan’s proposed CIP now will now be considered by the Board, which will conduct work sessions and hold a public hearing on June 10 before a planned adoption on July 19.

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