State Change Could Cost Arlington Millions — A proposed change in the way Virginia determines how much localities are reimbursed for road maintenance could cost Arlington $9.2 million per year if approved. [Sun Gazette]
Bikeshare Expansion Approved, Sort Of — The Arlington County Board voted on Saturday to use $1.2 million in state funds to build about 30 new Capital Bikeshare stations along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. Installation of the stations (and nearly 200 new bikes) is expected to wrap up in the summer of 2012. The action isn’t official yet, though. Due to an administrative error, the Board will have to reconsider the item at their Tuesday evening meeting. [Arlington County]
Board Talks Libraries at Meeting — Facing public comments in favor of restoring pre-recession hours at Arlington Public Library branches, the County Board on Saturday reiterated their support for the library. At the same time, members said that they must balance other budget priorities before restoring hours. [Sun Gazette]
Remembering Queen City — Former residents of an African-American enclave in Arlington known as Queen City recently recounted their experiences living there. Queen City was leveled in the mid-1940s t0 make way for the transportation infrastructure necessary for the new Pentagon complex. Many displaced residents settled in the Arlington View or Green Valley neighborhoods. [Patch]
Happy Birthday, Mr. President — Last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting included a special birthday tribute to President Barack Obama, who turns 50 today. ACDC members sang a rendition of “happy birthday” and then chowed down on slices of birthday cake.
Suspect Eludes Cops, Helicopter — A man suspected of an unspecified crime in another jurisdiction fled from Arlington police just after 10:00 last night. The man took off on foot during a traffic stop on the 1700 block of N. Quebec Street, just north of W-L High School. Police set up a perimeter, called in K-9 units and requested assistance from the U.S. Park Police Eagle 1 helicopter, in an effort to find the man. The search was called off around 11:30, but all was not lost — police were able to nab the three other suspects in the vehicle.
Stolen iPhone Dealers Busted in Pentagon City — Two cellular phone kiosks in the Pentagon City mall have been busted by Metro Transit Police for allegedly selling stolen iPhones. The illegality was discovered while police were investigating “the theft of a large number of electronics equipment from Metro riders in early 2010.” [Washington Examiner]
Arlington’s Low Transportation Costs — Rent and real estate costs in Arlington may be high, but the average cost of transportation is relatively low. According to a new study, transportation (car and transit expenses combined) costs Arlington residents about $975 per month. The regional average is $1,246. “Transportation costs in Arlington County are significantly lower than the regional average due to high levels of transit connectivity and job access,” the report says. [Center for Neighborhood Technology, DCist]
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.
The agency says construction on the new bridge will begin this summer and will wrap up in fall 2012 — a bit later than originally anticipated. The entire 100-foot-long bridge deck will be replaced with pre-cast concrete panels, and will be 27 feet wider than the existing bridge. The extra width will be used to install a 10-foot wide sidewalk, a 17-foot wide shared-use path and a new northbound turn lane. There will also be new traffic signals, “decorative wrought-iron picket fencing” and LED lighting.
On Thursday, June 2, at 7:00 p.m., VDOT will hold a ‘pardon our dust’ meeting for community members at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road).
The agency says traffic impacts for Glebe Road drivers should be minimal, with virtually no impacts during the day and lane closures at night. There will, however, be “intermittent detours” on Route 50 beginning in August. Traffic will be diverted to George Mason Drive and Washington Boulevard during the detours, which will be announced in advanced.
The Glebe Road bridge over Route 50 carries about 35,000 vehicles a day, according to VDOT. There have been several reported incidents of concrete chunks falling from the bridge over the past two years.
Arlington Independent Media’s Voice Box current affairs program will take on transportation issues tonight with guests Gabe Klein, the former director of DDOT, and Robert Thompson, also known as “Dr. Gridlock,” the Washington Post’s traffic guru.
Klein and Thompson will discuss “transportation issues in and around the D.C. metro area” and will answer viewer questions. The program will air live on Comcast channel 69 and Verizon FiOS chanel 38, starting at 7:30 p.m.
The public is invited to attend the taping. AIM asks that audience members arrive by 7:15 p.m. at their studios at 2701-C Wilson Boulevard.
If you can’t catch it live, Voice Box will re-air Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday at 10:00 p.m.
Two years after concrete began falling from the “structurally deficient” Glebe Road/Route 50 bridge, VDOT expects to advertise its plan to replace the crumbling overpass next week.
The bridge has raised concerns recently as chunks of concrete began falling anew. On Friday, rush hour traffic was snarled when a chunk of concrete fell from the bridge onto a westbound lane of Route 50 around 4:30 p.m. Police shut down the bridge and one lane of Glebe Road for more than an hour as a result.
The falling concrete actually left a hole in the roadway from which one could look down and see the highway below, according to Arlington County Director of Transportation Dennis Leach. Over the weekend, VDOT patched up the part of the bridge from which the concrete fell.
VDOT will be installing a protective shield “as soon as possible” to make sure more debris doesn’t fall on Route 50, according to agency spokeswoman Jennifer McCord. The shield will either be a protective netting or some sort of wooden structure, she said.
McCord says VDOT expects to advertise a long-delayed plan to replace the bridge next week. The agency will expedite the bidding process so that work on the new bridge can begin as soon as this summer and be complete by August 2012, officials said.
The $6 million project will completely replace the bridge deck while widening it by 27 feet. The increased width will allow for a 17-foot shared use path on one side, a 10-foot sidewalk on the other and five travel lanes in between, including a new northbound turn lane. The bridge will feature “wrought-iron picket fencing, gateway pillars and decorative LED lighting,” according to McCord.
The Fairfax Republican who is threatening to quash a bill identified as one of Arlington’s top legislative priorities in Richmond has proposed several amendments to this year’s state budget bill that are sure to give Arlington officials reason to worry.
Del. Tim Hugo, the chair of the Virginia House Republican Caucus, is threatening to table a bill that would renew Arlington’s half-percent hotel tax surcharge, unless Arlington officials head to Richmond to explain the county’s controversial lawsuit against High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395. So far, it does not appear that any members of the county board will be taking Hugo up on his offer.
But Hugo’s HOT lanes antagonism doesn’t stop there. He’s also proposing three Arlington-related amendments to the state budget bill, HB 1500. The amendments would deny state funding to the Columbia Pike streetcar project, require an audit of Arlington roads maintained with state funds, and would potentially cut off millions in state transportation funds to the region in the event that the HOT lanes project is canceled due to opposition from an individual jurisdiction (i.e. Arlington).
Would those amendments actually make it into the budget bill?
“It’s possible,” said Ben Tribbett, who runs the Not Larry Sabato Virginia politics blog, noting Hugo’s senior position as Republican Caucus chair. We have not been able to reach Del. Hugo for comment.
See the text of the amendments after the jump.
Photo via timhugo.com
New Library Catalog System Coming Mid-February — Arlington Public Libraries will be rolling out a new online catalog system that includes a feature that sends you a text message when a book you had on hold becomes available. The system should launch mid-February. [Library Blog]
Penrose Square Ramps Up Marketing — The new Penrose Square apartments on Columbia Pike have a slick new web site. The site markets the apartments as “urban apartment homes” in a “LEED-influenced” building.” Residents are expected to start moving in in May. [Pike Wire]
Arlington Receives Homeless Prevention Grant – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $1.28 million in grant funding to Arlington for homeless assistance programs. The county is looking for a potential location for a permanent homeless shelter to replace its current emergency winter shelter in Courthouse. [Sun Gazette]
New Va. Dem Chair Moran Blasts Transportation Plan — New Virginia Democratic party chair Brian Moran is critical of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) plan to borrow billions to spend on transportation projects. “It’s frankly money we do not have,” he said on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show. “Arlington is a wonderful place to live and work,” Moran added, after co-host Tom Sherwood jokingly suggested that the governor “obliterate Arlington and make a big interchange.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
According to a new study, auto commuters in Washington and Chicago spend about 70 hours — nearly three whole days — of extra time in the car thanks to traffic. We beat out the famously congested Los Angeles area, where commuters only spend 63 extra hours in the car each year.
Washington also ranked #1 for “fuel wasted per peak auto commuter” and #2 for “commuter stress” and “cost of delay per peak hour auto commuter” (at $1,555 per year).
In the wake of the study’s release, the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, a group that supports additional spending on highway capacity and other transportation projects, issued a snarky press release “congratulating” the region for the distinction.
“Persistence pays off!” the Alliance proclaimed. “Years of state fiscal neglect and local opposition to planner’s priorities have finally moved the Commonwealth’s economic engine, Northern Virginia, to the top of the congestion-delay heap.”
The news comes less than two weeks after Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) announced plans to roll out billions in additional transportation spending.
Researchers with the Texas Transportation Institute, which conducted the study, came up with a number of general strategies to help alleviate traffic congestion, including:
- “Get as much use as possible out of the transportation system we have.”
- “Add roadway and public transportation capacity in the places where it is needed most.”
- “Change our patterns, employing ideas like ridesharing and flexible work times to avoid traditional ‘rush hours.’”
- “Provide more choices, such as alternate routes, telecommuting and toll lanes for faster and more reliable trips.”
- “Diversify land development patterns, to make walking, biking and mass transit more practical.”
- “Adopt realistic expectations, recognizing for instance that large urban areas are going to be congested, but they don’t have to stay that way all day long.”
Arlington Tourism Declines — Tourism revenues in Arlington County, Virginia’s top tourist destination, declined by $276 million between 2008 and 2009, according to data released in December. Arlington is currently seeking state approval to renew a hotel tax surcharge that funds its tourism promotion efforts, but county officials acknowledge that Arlington’s tourism draw is primarily its proximity to the District. [Washington Examiner]
McDonnell To Propose Transportation Spending Splurge – Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell wants to borrow $3 billion over the next three years to pay for transportation projects in the state. [Washington Post]
Arlington Lawyer Gets Year in Prison — A local lawyer convicted of defrauding the parents of special needs children has been handed a one year sentence by an Arlington County judge. [Washington Post]
Mexican Food Search Reveals Uncle Julio’s — After three years of searching for some decent Mexican food in Arlington, a couple has finally discovered Uncle Julio’s Rio Grande Cafe in Ballston. [Patch]
Flickr pool photo by Paul Derby
At a meeting of Northern Virginia elected officials and transportation planners yesterday, McDonnell announced that VDOT will advertise some $1.1 billion in new construction and maintenance projects during the first six months of fiscal year 2011.
The spending will create 33,900 jobs and generate $2.83 billion in total economic activity, according to the governor’s office.
McDonnell says his administration has been working to unclog a backlog of projects in VDOT’s pipeline. The governor noted that now is the time to invest in new infrastructure, since financing costs are at near-record lows.
One question that remains is how McDonnell plans on funding the slew of new transportation projects. He has pledged not to impose new taxes.
Arlington County board member Chris Zimmerman has been appointed to a special task force of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board.
The task force will try to find a way to prioritize the backlog of “unfunded transportation needs” around the DC area.
“I think it is fair to say that there has been frustration… that, despite its name, TPB is in many ways a passive player in actual planning on a regional basis,” Zimmerman told us in an email. “This, I think, is an effort to find a way toward more effective, and realistic, planning for the future of the National Capital Region. I am certainly hopeful that it may help move us in the right direction.”