The Arlington County Board has unanimously approved a new $1.09 billion budget that, as expected, raises real estate taxes by 3.5 cents.
The Board raised taxes slightly above the 3.2 cent increase recommended by County Manager Barbara Donnellan, citing the need to eliminate proposed cuts to the police and fire departments and the county’s child care office, and the need to increase funding to safety net programs and Arlington Public Schools.
Arlington’s tax rate will now increase to $1.006 per $100 of assessed value.
“The overall tax and fee burden for the average Arlington homeowner will increase 4.1% — or about $23 a month,” according to a county press release (below, after the jump). “The adopted tax rate is lower than the advertised rate of $1.021 per $100 of assessed value. (It is also lower than the proposed rates for all other Northern Virginia jurisdictions, which range from $1.038 to $1.33.)”
Additional funding for the budget came thanks to an improved financial outlook, which in turn boosts tax revenues.
“This allowed the Board to restore many proposed service reductions, while only increasing the tax rate three-tenths of a cent above what was included in the proposed budget,” the county said.
Arlington Funeral Home at 3901 N. Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square was demolished last June in anticipation of the construction of a new mixed use development. For now, the site instead serves as a temporary surface parking lot.
The County Board approved the development’s site plan at its meeting on January 21, 2012. The idea is to build a 10-story building with three levels of underground parking. The development would contain office space, ground floor retail and a black box theater.
Per the site plan, the developer may use the land as a surface parking lot for a period of three years, which would end in January 2015. After that, the developer does have the option to ask the county for an extension on the site plan if a building permit has not yet been applied for and approved. That would keep the parking lot there for an amount of time agreed upon in the extension.
The site sat empty for months, but in the past couple of weeks workers from Mercedes-Benz of Arlington (585 N. Glebe Road) have been spotted dropping off dozens of vehicles in the 85 space Virginia Square parking lot. An employee at the dealership confirmed that the business is leasing parking space from the developer.
This location is reportedly one of several lots Mercedes-Benz of Arlington uses for such purposes. Apparently, strong sales have prompted an increase in the volume of cars the dealership keeps on hand, and it doesn’t have enough space to keep all the vehicles on its own lot. The employee said leasing parking space is not an ideal situation in the long-term and Mercedes continues to be on the lookout for spaces suitable for permanent expansion.
As part of the agreement for a parking lot, the developer is required to abide by a number of conditions laid out in the approved site plan. For example, the property must be kept in good condition, hedges must be installed as screening from headlights and no new driveways may be added.
So far there’s no definite word on how long the parking lot will remain before construction begins on the new development. County staff confirms, however, that the developer has applied for two permits — one for shoring and sheeting, and one for building.
Arlington’s food trucks may have an easier time adhering to the law if the County Board adopts changes to an ordinance this weekend. The parking issues that have been plaguing food truck vendors and resulted in legal battles in recent months will come up at Saturday’s board meeting.
Proposed ordinance changes include extending the amount of time food trucks can park in one space from one hour to two hours. Currently, food trucks must move after one hour, but the ordinance wording is vague and doesn’t specify how far the vehicle must move, causing problems with enforcement. That’s another issue board members will examine on Saturday.
Food truck vendors have argued that the 60 minute rule hurts business because they were often forced to move in the middle of a lunch rush, or else face a citation. County staff appears to agree, based on the following excerpt from the staff report:
This time limitation is challenging for vendors and customers when typical lunch hours are between 12:00 noon and 2:00 p.m. A vendor is not able to adequately serve customers and patrons are unable to purchase lunch if their hours don’t correspond. Further, the overwhelming majority (approximately 90 percent) of parking meters within the Metro Station Areas are for at least two (2) hours.
Under the proposed ordinance amendments, the two hour limit would only cover time when vendors are actively selling to customers, not food prep time or clean up time. After a vendor’s time expires, sales would be required to stop and the vehicle would need to be moved to another marked parking space. If the parking area does not have metered spaces, the vehicle would need to be moved at least 25 feet.
Last month, a representative for the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington told ARLnow.com that the organization supports the county’s proposed ordinance changes.
Due to the way the street moves drivers onto, off of and around I-395, it’s considered “inhospitable” for pedestrians and cyclists. A plan has been in the works for years to create a separate track for cyclists and to reconfigure the street to improve travel between the Pentagon, Pentagon City and Crystal City.
According to the county staff report, the project would reconfigure 3,300 feet of Army Navy Drive from S. Joyce Street to 12th Street. It would provide shorter and safer pedestrian crossings, improve pedestrian space and construct a separate two-way bicycle track. The redesign is also intended to make room for the future streetcar line.
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2006, Arlington County was granted Public Lands Highway Funds to make trail improvements. In FY 2012, the county was awarded a grant by the Federal Highway Administration to transform Army Navy Drive into a Complete Street. Designing the project is expected use the $706,000 of grants, and the County Board will vote on whether or not to accept and appropriate the funding for the project. It will then require additional funding for construction.
“This project aligns with the goals of Arlington County’s Complete Streets program to expand safe travel options for all modes of transportation along our roadways,” said the county staff report. “The proposed cycle track will be one of the first in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
County staff did not report any issues with the plan and recommends the County Board approve it on Saturday.
The site is being built in phases, according to county spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith. The first components of the project — some interior portions of the website — should be launched in “the next couple of months.” If all goes well, the rest of the project is expected to be complete — homepage and all — by the end of the year.
The new county website will built on an enterprise version of WordPress, an open source content management system utilized by tens of millions of websites, including ARLnow.com. By building on WordPress, instead of the current proprietary code, the county should be able to reduce the cost of development and upkeep, and make it easier for employees to update web pages.
Arlington County is also trying to improve the navigation of the site.
“We’re trying to make it more resident-focused, as opposed to county hierarchy-focused,” Smith said. “We’re pretty excited. I think it’s going to be a positive change.”
County staff have proposed making the code that’s custom-developed for its new website open source — in other words, freely available for other developers to copy and tinker with. The County Board is set consider a measure that would allow open source publishing at its meeting this Saturday.
“As new functionality and features are developed by County staff, in the spirit of the open-source community and open government, staff desires to release code developed by County teams under an open-source license, so that others may use and/or improve the code,” staff wrote in a report to the Board.
County staff says developing open source code would come with the following benefits.
1) Open and transparent government
2) Enhances the County’s attractiveness as a workplace; benefits recruitment of programmers who believe in open-source
3) The possibility of even more enhancements being available for County use. Arlington’s changes may inspire others to contribute as well.
4) Lower maintenance needed for code, if County contributions are accepted into the main distribution. If Arlington’s modifications are not shared, the County will have to ensure that any updates made by others and which County staff want to incorporate do not interfere with Arlington’s customizations.
“Website code is a large part of the open-source community because websites are so versatile and have become so easy to set up,” staff wrote. “County staff has found many open-source bits of code that will help the County’s website meet the County’s customers’ needs, and in some cases, staff can easily customize the code for an even better fit. Since the County is benefitting from someone else’s open-source code, staff members want to reciprocate and release County modifications back to the open-source community.”
Although it might sound like a security risk, Smith says allowing the public to view the county’s website code shouldn’t open the site up to illicit activity.
“It shouldn’t present any security risks,” she said. “There are many, many government sites running on open source code.”
The Arlington County Board is set to vote on modified version of County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommended budget that includes a 3.5 cent tax hike while eliminating proposed cuts to the police and fire departments.
Donnellan had proposed a 3.2 cent real estate tax increase. The Board gave itself extra budget wiggle room by advertising a 5 cent increase in February. At a Fiscal Year 2014 budget markup work session Tuesday afternoon, the Board tentatively settled on a tax rate in-between the two, but closer to that proposed by Donnellan. The extra 0.3 cents will bring nearly $1 million in additional tax revenue.
The Board will vote on a final budget and tax rate at its meeting on Saturday.
The marked-up budget removes Donnellan’s proposal to slash community policing and reduce fire department fill-in staffing. As promised by County Board Chair Walter Tejada, it also restores funding for the county’s child care office.
Other additions to the budget, as reported to ARLnow.com, include $400,000 for permanent supportive housing, $660,000 for human services case managers and community nursing.
The Board also made some preliminary decisions about what to do with $11 million in “close out” funds left over from the FY 2013 budget. Among other measures, the Board will consider directing $3 million to the Affordable Housing Investment Fund and $2 million to a land acquisition fund for the parks department, along with additional funding for numerous community non-profit organizations.
Audrey Clement is running for Arlington County Board under the Arlington Green Party banner, for the fourth time since 2011.
Clement, a long-time Arlington resident and IT consultant, will face off against incumbent Democrat Jay Fisette in November. The Arlington Green Party is urging a vote for Clement to “end one-party rule in Arlington.”
“Arlington needs new leadership,” the party said in a press release. “Jay Fisette says he is for sustainability, but the tax hikes County Board plans to impose on county residents to fund boondoggles like the Pike trolley and heated bus stops are unsustainable.”
Clement was nominated at the Greens’ April 3 meeting. She is running on a platform that includes:
- Adopt a referendum sponsored by the Arlington Green Party to create a Housing Authority to provide more affordable housing at less cost.
- No more tax rate increases. Repave streets. Fund schools and libraries, not wasteful projects, like million dollar bus stops on Columbia Pike.
- Use commercial real estate tax to fund ART buses not the $250 million Pike trolley.
- Fund school construction to ease overcrowding.
- Open Arlington public libraries 7 days a week.
- Retrofit public buildings with renewable energy.
- Reduce waste. Increase recycling in apartments and businesses.
- Ban single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam in retail stores and food outlets to reduce litter.
- Provide free residential energy audits.
Clement received 12.9 percent of the vote in November 2012. Green Party candidate John Reeder received 32 percent of the vote when he ran against Fisette in 2009.
The Arlington County Republican Committee has set May 12 as the filing deadline for potential County Board candidates.
(Updated at 8:35 p.m.) The Arlington School Board will present its proposed budget to the Arlington County Board tonight. The joint meeting comes as the School Board has requested an additional $3.1 million in tax funding from the County Board.
The School Board’s proposed budget calls for $524.5 million in expenditures, roughly $4 million more than Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy’s proposed budget. The board’s budget keeps most elements of Murphy’s budget in tact — including merit-based pay raises for teachers, no increase in class sizes and funding to buy more school buses — but scales back some proposed cuts.
Cuts to teen parenting staffing, elementary reading teachers, high school gifted teachers, Standards of Learning teachers and minor construction/major maintenance have been reduced collectively by $2.3 million. The budget also adds a $600,000 reserve, and $1.1 million to account for an increase in projected school enrollment.
Murphy’s budget expected enrollment to increase from 22,613 students this school year to 23,586 students for the 2013-2014 school year. The latest spring projection puts 23,725 students in Arlington classrooms for the next school year.
All told, the increase in enrollment will require $11.1 million for additional staffing, materials, furniture and relocatable classrooms, according to the School Board’s budget presentation, set to be delivered tonight. The new trailer classrooms alone will cost $2 million.
The School Board is asking the County Board for a dedicated 0.5 cent real estate tax increase to help pay for the reduction in cuts and the added enrollment. The tax hike would be expected to bring in an additional $3.1 million. The rest of the $4 million is expected to come from one-time funding and additional state funding.
Arlington Public Schools are expected to face additional budget pressures in the next several years, as enrollment continues to grow and as new schools and school additions are built. An addition to Ashlawn Elementary is expected to be complete in time for the 2014-2105 school year, while a new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus is expected to be complete in time for 2015-2016.
Those new additions and schools will come with additional administrative and operational costs. This comes at a time of weakness for property values in Arlington — the main driver of revenue for the county and the school system. During a meeting with reporters in February, Dr. Murphy said future budgets “could be challenging.”
While teachers for the new Williamsburg elementary will be largely pulled from overcapacity schools, administrative and materials costs for the school are slated to be included in next year’s budget process.
“If all things stay the same, we’re very concerned for FY 2015,” Murphy said.
The joint School Board/County Board work session will take place at 7:00 p.m. tonight (April 9) in rooms 101/103/105 of the Syphax/Sequoia building at 2110 Washington Blvd. The public is encouraged to attend.
Residents will get a chance to weigh in on the School Board’s budget at a public hearing on Thursday, April 18.
The recommendation, one of numerous spending cuts in County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed budget, was met with controversy. Hundreds of parents and residents signed a petition against the elimination of Arlington Child Care Office, which would have turned inspections over to the state and resulted in more lax oversight.
The county issued the following press release about the Board’s decision tonight.
Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada today said that the County will continue its inspections of childcare centers and family childcare homes and will continue to train providers. County Manager Barbara Donnellan had recommended in her Proposed Fiscal Year 2014 Budget that the County eliminate childcare inspections and provider training.
“The Board is committed to maintaining Arlington’s inspections of childcare facilities and training for providers,” Tejada said. “Although most localities in Virginia rely on the State alone to conduct inspections of childcare facilities, Arlington has, for more than 40 years, provided an extra layer of inspections and training for providers – and the Board is committed to continuing both of those elements.”
Tejada made his statement at the start of a Board public work session on the Department of Human Services’ proposed FY 2014 Budget. In her Proposed FY 2014 Budget, had recommended that the County rely on the state to inspect childcare centers and family childcare homes, and cut provider training, as part of her effort to cut costs across departments. The proposed cuts to inspection services had raised concerns within the community about the safety of Arlington’s childcare facilities.
The measure would have saved about $250,000 per year. The County Board will approve a final Fiscal Year 2014 budget on April 20.
At a Wednesday night townhall meeting, residents joined the County Board in a sometimes heated discussion about bringing streetcars to Crystal City and Columbia Pike. Two opposing local organizations are also sounding off on the issue.
Following the townhall, John Snyder, president of the pro-streetcar group Arlington Streetcar Now, issued the following statement:
“Arlingtonians strongly support moving forward with the streetcar which neighborhoods and
businesses have been working to bring about for a decade. The streetcar represents a next-generation transit solution that will increase capacity, improve ridership, and spark new investment that will enhance and revitalize our community.
“Arlingtonians acknowledge the foresight of those who supported Metro over the naysayers, and know that this generation has a similar choice to make. Tonight Arlingtonians demonstrated that they know the streetcar is an extraordinary opportunity to support an transportation investment in our future that will pay dividends for South Arlington neighborhoods and the well being of the county as a whole.”
Peter Rousselot, spokesman for Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, issued a statement presenting an opposing viewpoint:
“We continue to be deeply concerned about the unwillingness of the County Board to fairly consider transit options for Columbia Pike, other than the fixed-rail streetcar. There is much evidence that rational and viable alternatives exist.
“Unfortunately, as the County Board has done on other occasions, it used most of the Town Hall merely to restate the same claims in favor of the streetcar proposal without allowing a full discussion of other options. As we have said, there is at least one highly attractive alternative – modern bus rapid transit (BRT) – which:
- Produces virtually the same increase in transit capacity,
- Would have the same positive impact on commercial development,
- Would have far less adverse impact on small business,
- Is far less expensive,
- And thus would preserve more scarce financial resources to support affordable housing and many other priorities.”
(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) Four members of the Arlington County Board, along with county staff, made their best cases for streetcars in Crystal City and along Columbia Pike Wednesday night, to a largely skeptical audience that peppered them with questions about why the streetcar would be superior to buses.
The streetcar townhall meeting at Kenmore Middle School attracted a near-capacity crowd of up to 500 people, according to one county staff estimate. Based on the relative volume of applause at various points, the crowd seemed to be almost 2:1 against the streetcar.
The Board, like the audience, was divided. On one side was Chris Zimmerman, Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes, and Walter Tejada, who said the streetcar “encourages people to get out of their cars, and encourages developers to invest,” while also increasing ridership capacity.
“Streetcars are at the center of the vision for the Route 1 and Columbia Pike corridors,” Tejada said. “Buses alone cannot provide the transit capacity and capability that we need to transform these areas. By themselves, buses cannot serve the projected ridership.”
Sitting at the end of the County Board table on stage was Libby Garvey, who garnered applause as she led the charge against the streetcar and in favor of an enhanced bus system. Garvey said she was concerned about the streetcar’s price tag ($250 million for the Columbia Pike line alone) and about disruptions to small business during construction.
“I believe Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) will get as much development as a streetcar, maybe even more,” Garvey said. “You can get the same benefit for a lot less money, which means that there’s a lot of money left over to actually help small businesses. My biggest concern is [the construction process]… no matter what we do, people will not be able to get to those small businesses, and they can’t survive.”
Those points were countered by county staff, who that said studies have shown that fixed rail attracts more investment, that BRT without dedicated lanes (like it would be on the Pike) does not attract development, and that the rail construction process will take place in small sections that will only take about a month to complete. Staff also said that a survey of Pike residents indicates that nearly 20 percent of respondents would ride a streetcar but not a bus.
Garvey was skeptical, calling into question some of the studies done that supported the streetcar option over BRT.
“The statistics that are cited, it’s really fact of fiction,” she said.
Perhaps the biggest round of applause of the evening came during the nearly 90 minute question and answer session, when a resident asked about having a referendum on the streetcar.
“If this is such a good idea, why don’t you allow the county to vote on it?” one man asked. Wild applause, and a chant of “Vote! Vote! Vote!” ensued.
Most speakers at the 3 hour, 45 minute public budget hearing addressed the $9.3 million in proposed cuts to social programs, environmental initiatives, the arts and other county services — though some came to encourage additional cuts, namely to the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar.
The top issue at the meeting by speaker count was County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed cut of the county’s Child Care Office. Some 16 speakers, wearing yellow in solidarity, asked the County Board to reconsider the $250,000 budget cut, which would deregulate small home-based child care operations and return the regulation of larger child care businesses to the state.
“These extra services and higher standards helped us feel comfortable about using an in-home daycare provider in Arlington,” said Michelle Sagatov, a full-time working mom with two kids. “The state does not have the same standards.”
Lauren Harris, the owner of Little Ambassadors Academy in Arlington, said she opposes the Child Care Office’s closure, even though reverting to state regulations could allow her to have a higher and more profitable child-to-employee ratio.
Affordable housing was another hot topic, with about 9 speakers urging the County Board to invest more in affordable housing. Donnellan’s proposed budget, which is currently under consideration by the Board, calls for a total of $32.3 million to go to affordable housing — or 4.9 percent of the County’s general fund budget (excluding schools).
Tim Wise, of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, countered that the county spends enough on “the so-called affordable housing special interest.”
Wise and about a half dozen other speakers also called for the Board to cancel the $250 million Columbia Pike streetcar project.
“As an Arlington county resident, I appreciate our services and our relatively low taxes compared to D.C. and Maryland and even Fairfax,” said Lee Schalk, who works at the National Taxpayers Unions “But with our current budget gap… we must pump the brakes on this quarter of a billion dollar streetcar project. Instead of throwing away our tax dollars on an inefficient form of public transportation, based on questionable assumptions… the local government should work to keep spending and taxes in check.”
Schalk called the streetcar a ”boondoggle” and said he was “not amused by the $1 million bus stop” on Columbia Pike.
At least one speaker urged the County Board to press on with the Columbia Pike streetcar project.
Election Officials Seek Funding for Scanners — County election officials hope the County Board approves funding for bar code scanners that could speed up voter check-in at the polls. The scanners would read the codes on voters’ drivers’ licenses and voting cards, which would more quickly bring up residents’ information. A final County Board decision might not happen until the end of the fiscal year. [Sun Gazette]
Local Woman to Appear on Jeopardy! — Arlington resident Mary Jo Shoop will compete tonight on America’s popular quiz show, Jeopardy! During her time taping the show, Shoop was able to meet and get photos with host Alex Trebek. The episode will air tonight (Friday) at 7:30 p.m. on ABC 7 (WJLA).
APS Requests $0.005 Tax Rate Increase — (Updated at 10:00 a.m.) — Thursday night’s School Board meeting began with the announcement that the schools have asked the county for a one-half of one cent increase in the tax rate, which adds up to about $3 million. The funds would cover shortfalls in the proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget of $520 million. APS Board Chair Emma Violand-Sanchez said the spring 2013 enrollment figures were higher than expected, prompting the need for more county money. [Arlington Mercury]
School Board Appoints Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations — John Chadwick was named the new Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations at last night’s (March 21) School Board meeting. He has served as the interim assistant superintendent since Feb. 1, and has served as the APS Director of Design and Construction since 2011. “John is a calm and reassuring leader as he has worked to collaborate with staff and the community on initiatives such as our recently-adopted ten-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). He has also been an adept manager for all of our recent capital improvement projects, including the construction at Yorktown and Wakefield and the planning of a new elementary school to be built on the Williamsburg site and the addition at Ashlawn,” said APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy. “John’s leadership over the past two years for our ‘More Seats for More Students’ deliberations, as well as his support for the work of our new Multimodal Transportation Committee and our many other collaborative efforts with the Arlington County Government have been a tremendous asset to APS.”
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
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.
Next Wednesday evening, March 27, our County Board will tell us how they plan to move the Columbia Pike streetcar plan forward. The Board is refusing to allow for a full vetting of opposing views, and it remains to be seen if they will take unscripted questions. If you can get the microphone, here are some things you should question:
1) Will there be a dedicated lane for the trolley?
The answer, of course, is no. So, if a trolley breaks down during rush hour it will block traffic and cannot simply be moved onto a side street. Conversely, if a car breaks down in the trolley lane, the trolley cannot move around it.
2) Will buses still run on Columbia Pike?
Yes. The trolley will not replace buses altogether. In fact, if you want to go directly to the Pentagon, a bus will likely be your better choice. And, during rush hour, trolleys will likely be slowed by buses in front of them.
3) Are trolleys safe?
This is an open question. There are reports of these vehicles being knocked 25 feet off its rails by a vehicle the size of a small SUV.
4) Why did the county quickly move to consider a public-private partnership approach?
Most likely to avoid a public vote on a bond. The Board has indicated zero willingness to put this $250 million (a low estimate) project before the voters in any way, shape, or form. Under the public-private partnership model, the Board can allow private entities to put together the financing and avoid a public vote on a bond altogether. In exchange, Arlington would contribute a hefty down payment and sign a long-term contract to pay for the rest.
5) Why did the County Board never debate the merits of using bigger buses that have multiple entry doors and the ability to have curb level entry?
These buses could be done at approximately one-fifth the cost. In fact, if you look at the 2012 study on this very question, the buses would cost $193.2 million less up front, and $2.19 million less per year less for an ongoing annual subsidy. The same study estimates that just four percent more people would ride the trolley versus the bus. If you do a quick estimate, that means each additional rider costs the taxpayers about $175,000 up front, and $2,000 more per year.
There are many other questions that could be asked, from the likelihood of cost overruns, to the impact on existing businesses on the Pike, to playing hide the ball on a recent FOIA request, to bicycle safety, to the impact of Alexandria’s decision to scrap its light rail plans.
Even if the Board does not intend to take public input, those with an interest in the outcome should come to Kenmore Middle School and make their presence known.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
Now that a prototype has been built, and now that Arlington will be replacing WMATA as the project manager, the Columbia Pike Super Stop project should proceed in a much quicker, smoother and more cost-efficient manner, county officials said Tuesday.
The project will ultimately construct a network of 24 enhanced “Super Stop” bus stops along Columbia Pike, featuring real-time bus arrival screens, lighting, heating and a modern design. Arlington County officials briefed the County Board on the status of the project at its meeting yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, following a minor public outcry about the over $1 million construction cost of the first stop.
(The county funded just over $200,000 of the construction budget, with the rest coming from state and federal sources.)
“This is perhaps the first of its type in the Commonwealth,” Arlington County Director of Transportation Dennis Leach said of the newly-completed Super Stop, at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive. “In any new endeavor, you end up paying more in soft costs for the prototype. When you actually get the efficiency is… when you refine it and go out replicate the facilities.”
“This was a project that was a partnership between Arlington and WMATA,” he said. “Moving forward we are going to make a shift where these are going to be Arlington-managed construction projects. We hope to dramatically reduce the construction time, and we have already fine tuned the design… to make it easier to construct in the future.”
County Board member Chris Zimmerman said WMATA’s ability to run construction projects has been reduced over the past few years.
“Its capacity having been greatly diminished undoubtedly affected their ability to deal with a small project like this one,” he said.
Zimmerman said he believes the project is on track. Crews are expected to begin work this spring on a “Barton West” Super Stop near Penrose Square, followed by work on new stops at Columbus and Dinwiddie Streets later this summer.
“I’m a lot more confident going forward that we’ll be able to deliver these things on a reasonable basis in terms of time, budget and schedule,” he said.
Libby Garvey, a critic of the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar system (which will utilize the new stops, when built), asked a few tough questions about the project. She said she was still awaiting a breakdown of the costs of the project, and was skeptical that the open-air design would serve riders in bad weather.
“I did see the stop and it’s pretty, but I was struck by the fact that if it’s pouring rain i’m going to get wet, and if it’s cold the wind is going to be blowing on me,” she said. “It doesn’t seem to be much of a shelter.”
Zimmerman suggested there might be room for refining the design to provide more shelter in the rain, but said he was otherwise pleased with the distinctive design — which, he reminded the room, was chosen during a public process, with extensive input from residents.
“I personally think they’re extremely attractive,” he said. “Part of making people confident and comfortable using transit is creating places that they feel like they want to be, even in the dark.”