Kaine Coming to Arlington — Former Virginia governor and current U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine (D) will be in Arlington this afternoon. Kaine is scheduled to have an economic discussion with local Latino business and community leaders at 4:00 p.m. The closed event is taking place at The Salsa Room (2619 Columbia Pike).
Cancer Charity Event This Weekend — The second annual Erica Paul Fabulous event will be held at the Clarendon Ballroom (3185 Wilson Blvd) on Saturday. The fundraiser runs from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. and benefits the Chris4Life Colon Cancer Foundation. The ‘Fabulous’ event also celebrates the life of Erica Paul, who died last year, at the age of 29, from metastatic colon cancer. [Clarendon Nights]
Ham Operators to Have a ‘Field Day’ — Arlington County will host its annual “Field Day” exercise for amateur radio operators this weekend. The exercise, held at Minor Hill Park (3400 N. Powhatan Street), is described as part of a nationwide event “during which thousands of Hams across the United States and Canada will operate portable radios and antennas to contact each other, simulating emergency conditions.” [Arlington County]
HOT Lanes Suit Costs County Transportation Funds –Virginia is contributing more than $16.5 million to Arlington’s road maintenance and construction budget for fiscal year 2013, which starts on July 1. But that figure is $100,000 less than it otherwise could have been. The Commonwealth Transportation Board has stripped $100,000 from Arlington’s allocation as retribution for the county’s costly lawsuit against the proposed I-395 HOT lanes project. The money will be used to help pay the legal bills of a former state transportation official who was sued by Arlington as part of its fight against the project. [Sun Gazette]
Lawmakers Punishing Arlington for HOT Lanes Suit — Arlington may have succeeded in blocking a state-backed plan to build High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395 last year, but the lawsuit the county filed against the HOT lanes project is coming back to haunt it in Richmond. State lawmakers have proposed budget amendments that would reduce Arlington’s share of road maintenance funds by $100,000 — a form of punishment for the county’s legal tactics. [Washington Times]
Wardian Wins D.C. Marathon — Arlington’s Michael Wardian won the SunTrust Rock ‘n’ Roll USA Marathon in the District on Saturday, completing the race with a time of 2 hours, 26 minutes and 35 seconds. The 37-year-old father of two had previously won the race’s predecessor, the National Marathon, five times. [Competitor]
Sliced Shopper Demands Wi-Fi – A woman has penned an open letter to the Clarendon Trader Joe’s insisting that the store install free public Wi-Fi internet service. The letter writer says the store’s lack of Wi-Fi led her to accidentally slice her finger while cutting avocados at home. [Patch]
Signature Production Connects with Younger Audience — A production at Shirlington’s Signature Theater is accomplishing the difficult feat of connecting with a younger theater-going audience while at the same time shining a critical light on their generation. “Really Really,” by 26-year-old playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo, examines “the self-absorbed mindsets often exhibited by the twentysomething members of ‘Generation Me.’” The show runs through March 25. [Variety]
The “I-66 Multimodal Study,” as its called, began in July 2011. Study organizers held public meetings in December 2011, are scheduled to hold additional public meetings in April, and are expected to wrap up in May with a final report.
“This study will identify a range of multimodal and corridor management solutions (operational, transit, bike, pedestrian, and highway) that can be implemented to reduce highway and transit congestion and improve overall mobility within the I-66 corridor, between I-495 and the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge,” VDOT says on its web site.
Currently, I-66 is HOV 2+ in the peak direction during peak hours, with no other restrictions on the reverse peak direction or during off-peak hours. With the exception of the recently “spot improvements,” I-66 consists of two travel lanes in each direction.
Among the theoretical options the study is considering for I-66, as outlined at a recent public meeting:
- A. No new I-66 lanes. Peak direction to be bus/HOV 3+ only during peak hours. Reverse peak direction to be bus/HOV 2+ only during peak hours. No off-peak restrictions.
- B. Convert I-66 into an electronically tolled bus/HOV/high occupancy toll (HOT) highway. Single occupancy vehicles and HOV-2 vehicles would be tolled in both directions, 24/7. Buses and HOV 3+ vehicles would not be tolled. Optionally, a third travel lane may be added to I-66 in each direction.
- C1. Lane added in each direction on I-66. Peak direction to be bus/HOV 3+ only during peak hours. One reverse peak lane to be bus/HOV 2+ only during peak hours. No off-peak restrictions.
- C2. Lane added in each direction on I-66. Peak direction to be bus/HOV 3+ only during peak hours. All reverse peak lanes to be bus/HOV 2+ only during peak hours. No off-peak restrictions.
Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance has released a statement blaming Arlington for the loss of transit improvement funds that would have been generated by the HOT lanes. A key factor in scrapping the HOT lanes project was Arlington County’s lawsuit against the state. The county questioned turning over the project to a foreign company, said the project was poorly designed and said the plan could cause more traffic congestion.
NVTA says Arlington, not other communities which supported the HOT lanes proposal, should have to pay for future transit improvements. The group suggests dipping into the $60 million earmarked for Arlington highways and transit in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Six-Year Improvement Plan. NTVA also put forth the idea of stripping funds from the county’s proposed streetcar line, which would run along Columbia Pike and Crystal Drive.
Arlington County withdrew its lawsuit in February, days after VDOT announced it would no longer pursue HOT lanes on the Arlington and Alexandria portions of I-395.
HOT Lanes Firm May Walk – One of the two companies that was tapped to built High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-95/395 may walk away from the project if the federal environmental review lasts more than 12 months. The CEO of Melbourne-based Transurban told a newspaper that long delays, including delays caused by Arlington County’s lawsuit challenging the project, has prompted him to think about cutting his losses. [The Australian]
County to Designate ‘Essential’ Historic Properties — Arlington County is scheduled to designate 23 new “essential” historic properties, including garden apartment complexes, old shopping centers and the Arlington Cinema ‘n’ Drafthouse. The designation will do little by itself to protect buildings from development, however. [Sun Gazette]
HOT Lanes Lawsuit Bill Reaches $2 Million — The county emerged victorious in February when VDOT abandoned its plan to build High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395. But the legal battle has proven costly. The lawsuit Arlington filed against the project has cost county taxpayers nearly $2 million. [Sun Gazette]
East Falls Church Dissent Goes Both Ways — Sometimes it can be hard to please everybody in Arlington. Charlie Clark reports that there were three different camps at Saturday’s County Board meeting with respect to the board’s vote on the East Falls Church development plan. One group wanted more development than was called for, another vocal group wanted less development, and the people who drafted the plan thought it struck a good balance. [Falls Church News-Press]
Spout Run Bald Eagle Killed –Remember the nesting bald eagles we reported on two months ago? Some jerk shot and ultimately killed the mother eagle with an arrow, according to Patch. (Scroll to the end of the article)
Editor’s Note: Patch has retracted part of the above article. (See comments)
A bill that would have renewed Arlington’s 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge failed in the Virginia House of Delegates yesterday. The bill, which was approved by the state Senate, did not get the necessary two-thirds vote to pass.
An earlier House version of the bill failed to get out of committee after it was blocked by Del. Tim Hugo. The Fairfax County Republican cited Arlington’s lawsuit against high occupancy toll lanes on I-395 as his reason for blocking the bill.
We’re awaiting word from the county on how they plan to make up for the loss of nearly $1 million in revenue. Arlington funds its Convention and Visitors Service largely through the revenue generated by the surcharge, which will expire at the end of the year.
Update at 5:15 p.m. — “I’m disappointed that it failed to pass,” said Arlington’s Del. Bob Brink (D), on the phone from Richmond. “[The surcharge] is beneficial to Arlington’s business community as they try to compete against the District and Maryland for tourism and tourism dollars.”
Zimmerman Responds to HOT Lanes Criticism – County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman is responding to attacks by Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity and the Washington Post’s editorial board regarding Arlington’s lawsuit against HOT lanes on I-395. Zimmerman accuses Herrity and the Post of “distort[ing] both the reasons for the county’s litigation in the high-occupancy-toll (HOT) lanes case and its effects.” [Washington Post]
Bishop O’Connell Fight Continues – A group of residents is appealing the Arlington County zoning office’s decision to allow Bishop O’Connell High School to build a new athletic field. Separately, the county board will hear testimony next month about whether the school should be allowed to install stadium lighting around the new field. [TBD]
Artisphere Name Contest Coming to a Close — The deadline for suggesting names for Artisphere’s new restaurant is noon today. Have an idea? Use this form to submit it.
Surfing Legend Comes to Clarendon — Surfing legend turned author and inspirational speaker Shaun Tomson will be making an appearance at the South Moon Under store (2700 Clarendon Blvd) in Clarendon tonight. The South African will be introducing his new children’s storybook iPhone app and signing his best-selling book Surfer’s Code — 12 Lesson for Riding Through Life, starting at 6:00 p.m.
Photo courtesy Jack Garratt
This time, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is taking a few pointed shots at the county for its lawsuit against High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395.
Forget the fact that the county has agreed to withdraw the lawsuit and the state has, for now, decided not to move forward with the I-395 portion of the HOT lanes project. In a statement, Cuccinelli piled on and called the lawsuit “dirty,” “legal thuggery” and “wildly unfounded.”
Cuccinelli also lobbed a sports metaphor at the board.
“When that pitcher throws multiple bean balls in a game, it is downright dirty, and the crowd wants the umpire to take action,” Cuccinelli said. “The Arlington County board has thrown several bean balls aimed at [government] officials, but they are hitting northern Virginia commuters, too.”
To be fair, Arlington officials haven’t always had the nicest things to say about Cuccinelli, either.
Happy Valentine’s Day — To celebrate, Caribou Coffee is offering a buy one, get one free coupon. [Shirlington Village Blogspot]
Fairfax Supervisor Slams Arlington on HOT Lanes — The animus for Arlington continues over at the Washington Post. In an opinion piece published online, Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity says the Arlington County Board has “thumbed their noses at every motorist sitting in traffic on our region’s congested highways” by using “gutter-style tactics” to block HOT lanes and other projects. A pro-Arlington Letter to the Editor, however, says that “The Post needs to stop blaming Arlington County for congestion on I-395.”
Library Changes This Week — Arlington Public Libraries are transitioning to a new catalog system this week. As a result, a number of library programs and resources won’t be available for the next several days. [Library Blog]
House Bill Could Cost Arlington Schools $700K — The budget bill passed by the House of Delegates calls for steep cuts to education. Arlington would lose $681,534 under the bill. Fairfax County would fare worse, losing some $5.9 million. The state Senate’s budget bill, however, does not contain such cuts. [Washington Examiner]
Arlington Approves Pike Affordable Housing Project — The Arlington County Board approved a plan to build a 121-unit affordable housing complex near the western end of Columbia Pike. The apartments will be located next to the currently under-construction Arlington Mill Community Center. [Pike Wire]
Flickr pool photo by Michael T. Ruhl
Congressman Dated Pentagon City Mall Employee — Disgraced former Congressman Christopher Lee (R-NY) had “a relationship” with a young woman who “worked at an upscale Pentagon City department store,” according to the New York Post. GOP leadership reportedly ordered Lee to “curtail his randy DC antics” after word got out he was dating the “young salesclerk.” There is a Macy’s and a Nordstrom department store at Pentagon City mall. [New York Post]
Post Editorial Slams Arlington, Again – Three days after declaring that Arlington Public Schools should investigate the explosive claims of a former middle school teacher, the Washington Post’s editorial board is on Arlington’s case again. The Post says Arlington won “a battle over HOT lanes but may lose a war.” By effectively killing the I-395 HOT lanes project and blocking the widening of I-66, Arlington’s “NIMBYism” is “frustrating the county’s populous and fast-growing neighbors” while “undercut[ting] its own economic interests.” [Washington Post]
Another Day Added to Wine Walk – Crystal City is adding another day to its inaugural “1K Wine Walk.” The indoor wine-tasting “race” will now be held on Feb. 26 & 27. Buy tickets for the event here.
I-395 HOT Lanes Could Be Reconsidered — Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton tells Potomac Local that should High Occupancy Toll lanes on the Beltway and I-95 prove successful, HOT lanes could still be added to I-395. On Tuesday Arlington County announced they were withdrawing their lawsuit against a planned HOT lanes project on I-395, following an announcement from VDOT that they would no longer pursue HOT lanes between Arlington and Alexandria. [Potomac Local]
DCA Baggage Handler Gets Trapped in Cargo Hold — A baggage handler at Reagan National Airport became trapped in the cargo hold of a plane after another baggage handler closed the cargo door without realizing someone was still inside. The trapped employee had to yell and pound on the ceiling to get the attention of the plane’s co-pilot. [TBD]
Webb Won’t Run for Reelection — Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) said yesterday that he will not run for reelection in 2012. The senator’s announcement opens up the race to Democratic hopefuls and should improve the chances of former Senator George Allen, who will likely win the Republican nomination. Former governor Tim Kaine is now expected to seek the Democratic nomination. Del. David Englin, who represents part of Arlington, is also said to be considering a run. [Politico]
Flickr pool photo by Jason OX4
Arlington County announced tonight that it will be withdrawing its controversial lawsuit against the proposed High Occupancy Toll lane project on I-395. VDOT revealed last week that it’s no longer pursuing HOT lanes on the Arlington and Alexandria portions of I-395, at least partially due to Arlington’s suit.
The county issued the following press release about its decision to halt legal action against the HOT lanes plan.
The Arlington County Board today announced that it will withdraw its lawsuit on the proposed I-95/395 High-Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes project. The County Board has directed the County Attorney to seek a suspension of court proceedings so that necessary filings to dismiss the case can be prepared.
“With the announcement last week by Secretary Connaughton, it is clear that the County’s objectives have been achieved and the lawsuit can be terminated,” said Arlington County Board Chairman Christopher Zimmerman.
On February 3, the state proposed a new I-95 HOT lanes project that will undergo required environmental review, and will preserve I-395 as a transit and HOV corridor. “Arlington County filed suit because we saw the potential for irreparable harm to residents of Arlington and others throughout Northern Virginia, and because the issuance of a ‘Categorical Exclusion’ by the Federal Highway Administration left us with no alternative but filing suit,” commented Zimmerman.
The new I-95 project effectively nullifies the Categorical Exclusion that was the basis for the County’s legal challenge. The Commonwealth has stated that it will conduct a thorough Environmental Assessment (EA) of impacts to the environment, public health, and transportation, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Such an assessment will provide to the I-95 project the level of analysis that Arlington sought for the I-95/395 project, and will allow for greater opportunities for public participation.
In addition, the specific aspects of the initially proposed project that would have adversely impacted transportation in Arlington directly – notably in the Pentagon-Pentagon City-Crystal City area, and at Shirlington – have been eliminated from the new project.
Critical transportation corridor
Arlington continues to work with our regional counterparts to improve transportation options throughout region. Mobility in Northern Virginia is vitally dependent on the existing HOV lanes, which currently moves far more people per lane-hour than any other roadway in the region. It is important that the new I-95 HOT lanes project be carefully designed to ensure that there is no degradation of transit capacity in the corridor.
“We applaud the Commonwealth for agreeing to do an Environmental Assessment on the new project, said Chairman Zimmerman “It is crucial that the impacts of the implementation details of this new I-95 project be carefully evaluated and appropriately mitigated before turning the facility over to a private company for decades. ”
In case you missed it from Friday (we did), County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman was a guest on TBD’s NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt program.
The topic of conversation was the failed plan to build HOT lanes on I-395, and Arlington’s lawsuit against the plan. Joining Zimmerman were two big critics of Arlington’s lawsuit: Bob Chase of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance and Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity.
Chase and Herrity took turns bashing Arlington’s HOT lanes lawsuit. At one point, Herrity mocked what he described as “claims of racism from probably one of the whitest and richest counties in the area.”
(Zimmerman disputed that the lawsuit claimed racism — instead, he said the case focused on “environmental justice” provisions in the law.)
Things got a bit heated about six minutes into the video above, when Zimmerman and Chase started arguing about details of the suit.
“Bob, Bob, you’re just not telling the truth now… now you’re just making stuff up,” an exasperated Zimmerman said to address one of Chase’s allegations.
“You didn’t see anybody rushing to trial with this thing,” Zimmerman concluded. “We think we had a pretty strong case, I suspect the other side thinks we had a pretty strong case.”
TBD has more about the discussion here.
Post Editorial: Investigate Williamsburg Principal’s Claims — In an editorial, the Washington Post says that Arlington Public Schools should investigate claims made by former Williamsburg Middle School principal Kathy Francis, who resigned last week. Francis sent a long email to parents accusing superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy of unprofessional and discriminatory conduct. School board members say they have “full confidence in Dr. Murphy’s leadership.” [Washington Post]
Chamber Worries About HOT Lanes Loss — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce thinks that the demise of the I-395 HOT lanes project could hurt Arlington while benefiting Fairfax County. Arlington County sued state and federal officials over the HOT lanes proposal, which helped lead to VDOT’s decision last week to kill the project. [Washington Examiner]
Parking Restricted on Some Neighborhood Streets — Arlington authorities have begun restricting parking to only one side of some narrow neighborhood streets. Fire trucks and garbage trucks have had difficulty navigating certain streets, which prompted the new restrictions. Many neighbors, however, are upset with the loss of parking spaces. [TBD]
Lawmakers Reveal Gifts Received Last Year — From trips to Turkey to Redskins tickets, Arlington’s state legislative delegation received thousands of dollars worth of (perfectly legal) gifts in 2010. The gifts were detailed in recent public filings. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99