In Virginia alone, nearly 72,000 DoD employees are affected by furloughs, which require one unpaid day off per week for 11 weeks. The state is expected to be particularly hard hit by the cuts due to the Pentagon being housed in Arlington.
It’s too early to definitively claim furloughs will ease traffic congestion, but AAA believes fewer people on the road could lead to less gridlock and fewer accidents. In fact, the organization suggests commutes could resemble those of July and August, when the region experiences its lowest traffic volume and rate of accidents.
“For all other workers, the morning and evening commutes to the daily grind could look like it does on any of the ten federal holidays in the Washington metro area or on Fridays, when federal workers use their flex-time schedules or compressed work weeks (AWS) to take time off,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs.
AAA predicts Metrorail and Metrobus ridership may be affected as well. According to WMATA, nearly half of peak period commuters are federal employees and 35 Metrorail stations serve federal facilities, including the Pentagon in Arlington.
Rep. Jim Moran (D) took to Twitter earlier today to express his displeasure with the furloughs. He also sent the following statement to ARLnow.com:
“Due to sequestration, today marked the first of 11 furlough days for 650,000 DOD civilian employees. This 20 percent pay cut is the unfortunate and shameful result of Congress’ failure to work together to find an appropriate way to reduce the federal debt and deficit. I voted against the Budget Control Act that set up sequestration not only because it focused solely on cutting discretionary spending at the expense of increased revenues, but I feared that the Supercommittee could not find compromise. Congress must make tough choices, but we cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal workers.”
Update at 4:45 p.m. — Firefighters report that the gas has been shut off. Police are attempting to open up a lane of traffic through the intersection.
Earlier: A gas line break may snarl the drive home for some Crystal City commuters.
The four-way intersection of Long Bridge Drive, Crystal Drive, Clark Street and 12th Street S. is currently closed to traffic while Washington Gas crews try to shut the gas off. Police and firefighters are on the scene, and streets leading to the intersection have been closed to through traffic.
“Expect major residual delays and avoid this area if possible, as repairs are expected to last several hours,” the county said in an Arlington Alert email.
The leak is in a large 8-inch gas line and there’s a strong odor of natural gas in the area around it. The break is causing gas to loudly bubble up through standing rainwater in the middle of the intersection.
Road construction crews were seen working on the intersection and on parts of Long Bridge Drive earlier this morning.
As anticipated, Pines of Florence has closed in Virginia Square. The owners of a new restaurant going in at 3811 N. Fairfax Drive have wasted no time in preparing to transform the space.
Tim Ma and Joey Hernandez, known for Maple Ave Restaurant in Vienna, are bringing Water and Wall to Arlington. Ma said Pines of Florence moved out the last couple days of June and the Water and Wall folks brought in designers and engineers right away on July 1.
The concept will be similar to that of Maple Ave, which the chef alternately calls “eclectic American” or “creative American.” Ma said he’s classically French trained and another chef at Maple Ave is Burmese trained. Their different cooking strengths will allow for simple fare such as a chicken sandwich, and more inventive dishes featuring rabbit or sweetbreads.
“The food encompasses a large amount of cuisines. We’re able to put things like a soft shell crab with a Burmese curry, alongside something like a rabbit roulade — which is something you’d associate as very French,” said Ma. “Essentially that’s what American food is now, just a mish mash of all types of cuisines.”
No menu has been devised yet for Water and Wall, but the chefs are testing ideas at Maple Ave Restaurant.
“Maple Ave evolved as the kitchen evolved, and I expect kind of the same thing to happen here,” Ma said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do items that we’re not able to do at Maple Ave given the limited space. That will take shape as we figure out the kitchen here.”
Ma and Hernandez had originally wanted Maple Ave to be in Arlington but it wasn’t a good fit when they were looking to launch four years ago. Now they feel ready to make the leap from a restaurant of about 10 tables to one of about 25 to 30.
“The economics and scale of that [Vienna] restaurant made more sense for a true mom and pop, which is what me and Joey are,” said Ma. “As we grew at Maple Ave it made sense that we wanted to return to where we were originally looking.”
Ma said he and Hernandez like mix of business and residential spaces in Virginia Square, as well as the overall vibe.
“We kind of like how Virginia Square is a little more quiet. It’s not the hustle of Clarendon or Ballston, it’s a little more relaxed. Yes, we’ve become more destination dining, but we’re already destination dining in Vienna,” Ma said. “We’re happy with that. We’re not in the crowd and the competition of Clarendon. There’s really, really good restaurants there, there’s so many choices now. Hopefully we provide another option here and perhaps fill a niche that doesn’t exist yet in Virginia Square.”
The crew behind Water and Wall hopes to open the restaurant by November 1. Ma acknowledged that such a goal may or may not be met, but he’s patient. He noted that it took four years to get to the point where a second restaurant became a reality, and said extra time just allows for a better opportunity to get things right.
“If the permitting process takes longer, it takes longer. That’s just the way it’s going to have to go down,” Ma said. “The magnitude, the scale of things is different from what we’re used to so we want to make sure we get things done right. Arlington is a different city than Vienna and we want to make sure we cross all the ‘t’s’ and dot all the ‘i’s’.”
Despite striving for perfection, Ma admits that mistakes are also a part of the process.
“We’ve taught ourselves so many things. There were so many mistakes we made, and I’m sure we’ll make here. We’ll make all new mistakes, the same quantity of mistakes, but they’ll just be completely different,” he said. “Hopefully we’re here for a while and learn from those mistakes.”
Although the interior has been cleared of the furniture from Pines of Florence, major renovations have not begun on the restaurant space. Ma said he has a mix of excitement and nervousness about launch the project he and Hernandez have been working on for more than a year.
“I’m just really excited to see how Arlington receives us,” he said. “We’re really stoked about this.”
Towers Park, at 801 S. Scott Street near Columbia Pike, is in line for a $1.3 million facelift, complete with a new basketball court, new tennis courts and practice courts and a state-of-the-art lighting upgrade.
The County Board is expected to approve the construction contract for the project at its meeting this coming Saturday, when the item is on Board’s consent agenda, which is intended for non-controversial items. Once the contract is signed, county staff estimates the construction will take seven months.
The lighted facility, which features four tennis courts, two practice courts, a basketball court and a sizable dog park, has severe heaving and deep cracking throughout the court surfaces and it is served by obsolete lighting fixtures,” the staff report states when justifying the need for the improvements.
In addition to the court surface improvements, new “dark sky” lighting — intended to reduce light pollution — will be installed at the courts. Also planned are stormwater drainage improvements, new accessible paths, parking space stripings, an improved picnic shelter and other site furnishings.
The design originally called for the two practice tennis courts to be relocated and four trees to be removed, but, after the county’s parks staff met with the Penrose Civic Association and the Arlington Tennis Association, the practice courts were moved back to their current location in the plan.
The courts — both basketball and tennis — are popular spots for league play and drop-in games, so while construction is going on, athletes looking for a game will have to go elsewhere before the opening of the new facility, likely in the spring of 2014.
Site plan image via Arlington County
The County Board may decide to decrease speed limits on a number of roads throughout Arlington, including the main thoroughfares from Rosslyn to Clarendon. Board members are scheduled to take up the issue at their meeting on Saturday (July 13).
The Department of Environmental Services conducted studies to examine the viability of changing speed limits on several streets. Information was gathered regarding factors such as vehicle speeds, collisions, traffic volumes, pedestrian and bicyclist activity and development patterns. Studies were performed in the following areas: N. Meade Street from Arlington Blvd to Marshall Drive (formerly Jackson Avenue), Clarendon Blvd from Washington Blvd to N. Oak Street, Wilson Blvd from Route 110 to Washington Blvd, and N. Sycamore Street from Washington Blvd to 17th Street N. and N. Roosevelt Street from 17th Street N. to the county line.
The studies indicated that speed limits along N. Meade Street, Clarendon Blvd and Wilson Blvd could be decreased from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour. The N. Sycamore Street/N. Roosevelt Street studies indicated the speed limit could be lowered from 35 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour.
Arlington’s Master Transportation Plan includes a policy to design streets with lower vehicle speeds without impeding or diverting traffic. Part of that involves adopting a 25 mile per hour speed limit in the county’s “downtown” areas where pedestrian traffic is high, such as along Wilson Blvd and Clarendon Blvd.
The Board also has been asked to authorize the correction of speed limit discrepancies along parts of I-395 and I-66. According to VDOT records, the speed in the regular lanes of I-395 from Alexandria to D.C. is 55 miles per hour. The county code, however, was recently discovered to list a portion of the segment as 35 miles per hour, and that the entire segment is 55 miles per hour. There is a similar discrepancy between county code and VDOT records regarding the HOV lanes. Additionally, the county code does not include speed limits for I-66, but VDOT lists the limits at 45 miles per hour and 55 miles per hour, depending on the section in question.
County staff members recommend Board approval for the speed limit discrepancy corrections and for decreasing the speeds along the four stretches of county roads.
The cost of installing new speed limit signs to reflect the changes is estimated to be $5,000. Funds are available in the Fiscal Year 2014 Department of Environmental Services Transportation Engineering and Operations operating budget.
The two stations, at Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive and at N. George Mason Drive and Pershing Drive, are part of a 33-station expansion of the Capital Bikeshare program Arlington County plans for 2013.
According to Capital Bikeshare’s website, new stations have opened at S. George Mason Drive and Four Mile Run, S. George Mason Drive and 13th Street S., Columbia Pike and S. Orme Street, S. Stafford Street and 34th Street S. and N. Pershing Drive and Wayne Street in just the last 30 days.
As of four days ago, BikeArlington’s map pegs the number of open Bikeshare stations in Arlington at 60, with 19 still in the planning or construction phases.
The Bikeshare station on Columbia Pike will be adjacent to the Rite Aid pharmacy, near the $1 million Super Stop bus stop, and will have 12 docks for bicycles. The station on N. George Mason Drive will be on the property of the Arlington Oaks condominiums — the Board is also voting to acquire a public easement from the Arlington Oaks property owner — and will have 13 docks for bikes.
The item is expected to be passed on the Board’s consent agenda on Saturday.
The county pulled all three of its electric-natural gas hybrid buses from service after one of them suffered an apparent brake failure and rolled backward down N. Barton Street, directly into a car.
A statement from ART reads: “These three buses were thoroughly tested at the Altoona Bus Testing and Research Center before delivery to ART. Braking performance of all three buses was recently retested in varying conditions – and proved excellent… The knowledge acquired from recent testing and data has been applied in a retraining program for ART operators, to insure that safety, mechanical and operational aspects meet our expectations for service quality.”
The hybrids are manufactured by DesignLine and first appeared on Arlington streets last September.
Fairfax May Be ‘Big Winner’ From Streetcar — The Columbia Pike streetcar may be an economic boon to Fairfax County. Fairfax is planning to use its portion of the future streetcar system to lure office tenants to the Skyline and Baileys Crossroads areas. Already, promise of the streetcar might be helping to sway the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to move to Skyline from Ballston. [Sun Gazette]
Office Absorption Down as Sequester Takes Hold — The D.C. region, particularly Northern Virginia, is shedding office tenants. The region typically “absorbs” about 900,000 square feet of office space per quarter, but posted a negative 100,000 square foot absorption figure between April and June. Tenant downsizing and federal job losses and budget cuts are being blamed for the poor absorption figures. [Globe St]
Brink Unopposed in Upcoming Election — Arlington’s Del. Bob Brink (D) is running unopposed for reelection in November, after the Libertarian candidate he was set to face dropped out of the race. Del. Patrick Hope, Del. Alfonso Lopez and Del. Rob Krupicka, all Democrats, area facing a Libertarian, an Independent Green and and independent candidate, respectively. So far, no Republican challengers have been announced. [Sun Gazette]
Library Seeking LEGO Artists — Arlington Public Library is seeking LEGO builders ages 18 and under to help design and build LEGO structures for display at a library. [Arlington Public Library]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann