Press Club
Traffic on I-395 looking south as the sun sets (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Memorial Day holiday weekend is almost here and with it comes the kickoff to the unofficial summer travel season.

AAA expects 39.2 million people will travel 50 miles or more this weekend, an increase of 8.3% over 2021. Most — nearly 35 million — will travel by car. Another 3 million will travel by air, a 25% increase from last year, the automobile association predicts.

Overall, that’s still down from the pre-pandemic 2019 figures of 42.8 million overall travelers, including 3.22 million air travelers.

When we asked ARLnow readers about their upcoming travel plans last month, 27% said they had no plans at the time to spend 2+ nights away from home this summer, while 60% said they were planning between one and three trips.

Of course, this Memorial Day weekend comes amid yet another Covid wave that, while less deadly than past waves, still means plenty of disruption to plans and apprehension about visiting vulnerable loved ones. Then there are those sky-high gas prices — a national average of $4.60 per gallon, per AAA.

With all that in mind, today we’re asking readers: are you planning to travel this weekend? And we’ll be comparing the results to a similar poll in 2013 when just shy of 35% said yes (at the time, the federal government sequester was blamed for dampening D.C. area residents’ enthusiasm for holiday travel).

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Morning Notes

“End Road Work” sign in Ballston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Welcome to Our Summer Interns — Two interns have joined ARLnow for the summer. Mavis Chan of the University of Missouri will focus on local news reporting while Pia Kramer, graduate of Virginia Tech and Arlington’s Washington-Liberty High School, will focus on audience engagement.

Passengers Spend Hours on Planes at DCA — “Thais Austin wanted to get home to the District after a weekend visit with family in Jacksonville, Fla. Instead, she said, she and other passengers were stuck on the Reagan National Airport taxiway for three hours Sunday night, unable to exit their plane… Hundreds of passengers on at least a half-dozen other flights reported similar delays after thunderstorms downed trees, flooded roads and left thousands without power in the Washington region.” [Washington Post]

Armed Robbery in Crystal City — “At approximately 10:02 p.m. on May 23, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined the three victims were walking on the sidewalk when they were approached from behind by the unknown suspects. Suspect One brandished a firearm and demanded the victim’s property, including their clothing. During the incident, Suspect One struck the victims with the firearm, causing injury. The suspects then fled into a parking garage with the stolen property which included cash, clothing and electronics.” [ACPD]

Signature Season Salutes Sondheim — “Signature Theatre announces its 33rd season today, which highlights the organization’s long-time relationship with the legendary Stephen Sondheim. Signature has produced 31 Sondheim productions in its 32 season history – more than any other theater in North America. The 33rd season will feature three more.” [Signature Theatre]

Michigan Election Fraud Has Arlington Link — A man at the center of a scandal over allegedly fraudulent petition signatures in the Michigan governor’s race was previously convicted of a similar crime in Arlington following an unsuccessful attempt to change the county’s form of government. [TPM]

Student Killed in Fight Near Fairlington — “A teenager from Alexandria City High School was killed during a ‘large fight’ at the Bradlee Shopping Center McDonald’s, police say. According to scanner traffic, the incident started around 12:21 p.m. with a call about a brawl happening at the McDonald’s at 3646 King Street. Police said one person was stabbed and critically injured, then pronounced dead at the hospital.” [ALXnow]

It’s Wednesday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 65 and low of 57. Sunrise at 5:50 am and sunset at 8:24 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Townhomes in the Green Valley neighborhood (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) The Arlington branch of the NAACP has come out in support of the county’s Missing Middle Housing Study draft framework.

The proposal calls for allowing small-scale multifamily housing in the residential areas of Arlington currently zoned only for single-family homes. The new “missing middle” homes — ranging from townhomes to 8-plexes, depending on the lot size — would be limited to the same physical size and footprint currently allowed for single-family homes.

The NAACP said in a letter to the Arlington County Board that such an action “is a first step in a series of necessary actions to reverse the damage done to Black and Brown residents by governmental and nongovernmental acts designed to segregate and disempower.”

“The recommendations successfully balance the needs of existing single-family home residents by keeping design standards the same while opening previously closed single-family home neighborhoods to diverse residents by allowing townhouses and buildings with 2-8 units in R-5 to R-20 zones,” said the letter, which was sent to the Board on Monday. “This change will begin to rebalance Arlington’s land-use policies with the makeup of its population; 70% of Arlington’s residential land reserved for single-family homes will potentially provide desperately needed housing to many more residents.”

Graphic used by the local NAACP in an email supporting ‘missing middle’ housing (via Arlington NAACP)

The proposal has faced criticism on local listservs and social networks, with some residents expressing concern about parking, traffic, school crowding and other issues that could potentially arise from higher-density housing. A Change.org petition entitled “Arlingtonians Opposed to Upzoning” has received more than 800 online signatures.

The group Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, which is leading the opposition to the proposal, wrote last week that “the county is declaring war on single-family areas of Arlington,” adding that the proposed changes would be “politically and legally impossible to unwind, even if it falls short of stated goals or produces negative results.”

Additional criticism has been aimed at the relatively short window for public comment, which is currently set to close on Friday. Three-quarters of respondents to a recent ARLnow poll said the window should be extended to allow more time for residents to weigh in.

The County Board is currently expected to take action on the proposal later this year.

The NAACP says the proposal, if enacted, “will not repair the harm done to communities of color in Arlington in the last hundred years,” but argued that it would open up more housing opportunities to lower- and middle-income residents.

“The proposed Missing Middle framework is an important first step to addressing the legacy of racial discrimination and segregation in the housing market,” the group wrote.

The local NAACP has been particularly influential in Arlington in recent years, notching victories in its calls to rename Lee Highway and remove Arlington House from the county seal and logo.

The full letter is below.

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A particularly sharp bend in the GW Parkway near Key Bridge has claimed another vehicular victim

An SUV overturned in the southbound lanes around 1:15 p.m., blocking all lanes and causing a backup that still extends as far north as the Windy Run bridge as of 2 p.m. The driver was able to get out on their own after the crash and was evaluated for injuries by Arlington medics.

Reported as a single-vehicle crash, it happened amid rainy weather in a part of the Parkway that has seen numerous crashes in both directions. It appears that this afternoon’s crash damaged temporary concrete barriers set up in front of the permanent wooden barriers that had been damaged by a previous crash.

Arlington firefighters and U.S. Park Police both responded to the scene. Continued southbound delays are expected until crews can complete the clean up process.

Update at 2:55 p.m. — The earlier closure has been lifted and delays have dissipated. 

Map via Google Maps

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Covid cases in Arlington as of 5/24/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) After a two-and-a-half month, barely-interrupted march upward, Arlington’s average daily Covid case count has eased a bit over the past three days.

After reaching a seven-day moving average of 198 daily cases on Saturday, this morning the same metric was down to 193. At the same time, however, the county’s test positivity rate is continuing to rise, reaching 14.9% today, the highest point since late January, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.

Covid test positivity rate in Arlington as of 5/24/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Testing numbers suggest that the dip in the average case count may be attributable, at least in part, to a lower volume of tests reported in recent days.

Arlington is currently reporting five weekly Covid hospital admissions per 100,000 residents, according to CDC data. That number has been slowly rising over the past few weeks. Should it rise above 10, Arlington would enter what the CDC classifies as a “High” Community Level of Covid infections. It entered the CDC’s “Medium” level last month.

In a Covid update yesterday, Arlington County said it “encourages caution due to [the] rise in Covid-19 cases.”

“Arlington County and the region continue to experience a rise in COVID-19 cases,” the email said. “Use layered prevention strategies to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy – and to keep up the progress we’ve made in fighting the pandemic.”

The county said residents should keep up to date with vaccinations and socialize outside, when possible, among other suggestions. Additionally, the county said today that community centers and libraries will be giving away free rapid tests this week.

 

Data modeling from the University of Virginia suggests that the current statewide rise in cases will continue into the summer, when it will finally peak. The modeling, released Friday, also predicts lower hospitalization counts compared to prior Covid surges due to higher vaccination rates.

Arlington’s rise in cases for this latest Covid wave was earlier than that of the state as a whole, which raises the possibility that cases here may peak earlier in the summer than the rest of the Commonwealth.

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Members of Congress from Virginia are pushing the federal government to help fund proposed changes to Route 1.

The changes, while still being hashed out by VDOT and local officials, would lower elevated portions of Route 1 through Crystal City to grade, turning it into a lower-speed “urban boulevard.” VDOT is also mulling at least one pedestrian bridge or tunnel at 18th Street S., near the Metro station, to improve safety.

With the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 on track to open in Pentagon City in 2023, state and local officials see a need to turn the area — collectively known as National Landing — into a more cohesive downtown and economic center. Key to that vision is revamping Route 1, also known as Richmond Highway, which effectively separates Pentagon City from Crystal City.

At last check, cost estimates for the project were around $200 million.

Northern Virginia’s congressional delegation would like to see the feds foot much of the bill, through funding from the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill.

In a joint letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, the lawmakers say argue that the Route 1 project meets all criteria for funding through the infrastructure bill.

“This grant request will allow Virginia to convert the Route 1 corridor in Arlington into a multimodal urban boulevard that prioritizes pedestrian safety in a walkable environment,” the wrote. “VDOT is developing multimodal solutions for Route 1 to meet National Landing’s transportation needs with the coming of Amazon and other related developments.”

The letter was signed by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), along with Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.), and Robert Wittman (R-Va.).

“The Commonwealth’s commitment to Amazon is to improve safety, accessibility, and the pedestrian experience crossing Route 1,” the lawmakers wrote. “Investment in National Landing will produce significant, measurable benefits to the economy, health, and safety of local citizens… This project satisfies all the merit criteria outlined in the federal grant opportunity, especially the priorities of providing economic, state of good repair, environmental, and equity benefits.

The letter also argues for the project’s fiscal benefits, including reducing bridge maintenance costs and providing acres of additional land for development.

“The transformation of Route 1 to an urban boulevard includes the removal of three bridge structures from the VDOT inventory, which will reduce long term maintenance costs,” the letter said. “Modifications to the I-395 interchange will remove a structurally deficient bridge and avoid future replacement or rehabilitation costs, while also extending the urban boulevard to the north which will contribute to lower speeds.”

“[The project] increases the accessibility to job centers through the proposed access improvements, which will benefit residents of all income levels,” the letter continues. “The project will create approximately 6.5 acres of excess right-of-way resulting in high value developable land.”

Another hoped-for benefit: fewer cars and better safety features.

“It will reduce the need for single-occupancy vehicle trips in favor of environmentally friendly options such as enhanced transit service, walkability, biking routes,” said the letter. “The project also includes multiple innovative solutions, such as a progressive design-build strategy and a pilot safety project to implement near-miss crash technology in National Landing.”

The completion of VDOT’s Phase 2 study of the proposed changes is currently expected to wrap up in early 2023. While the project has general support from the county and the business community, some residents have expressed concerns about whether taking away overpasses in favor of at-grade crossings actually makes things more dangerous for pedestrians.

Much of the congressional delegation, led by Kaine, also wrote a letter to Buttigieg supporting funding for an I-64 connector to ease congestion between Richmond and Hampton Roads.

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Morning Notes

Rainy day in Ballston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

‘Midsummer’ Starts Next Month — “Synetic Theater, the home of American Physical Theater and movement-based storytelling, announces the return of its acclaimed adaptation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed and choreographed by company co-founders Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili. The production runs June 30 through July 24.” [Synetic Theater]

Local Donut Shop Expanding — “The owners of a Ballston doughnut shop and cafe are building out a commercial kitchen in Tysons to support a growing wholesale business and its own planned expansion… Charles Kachadoorian, a Good Company co-owner, said the shop has outgrown its capacity at 672 N. Glebe Road in Ballston, from which it produces sweets for its cafe, for other coffee shops to sell retail, and for its own catering business. It plans to expand across all of those avenues, Kachadoorian said, including with a new shop in Crystal City in the shorter term and one in D.C. in 2024.” [Washington Business Journal]

GOP Concern Over ‘Missing Middle’ — “Several Arlington Republicans have expressed your concerns about the County’s proposal to upzone single-family residential plots in neighborhoods across the county. We are passing along information from Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF), should you decide you want to make your voice heard on this issue.” [Arlington GOP]

Planetarium Supporters Look to Future — “Boosters of the Arlington school system’s planetarium are hopeful that new budget funding will enable the facility – shuttered since before the pandemic – to reopen with a permanent teacher attached to it by fall. School Board members in early May overruled Superintendent Francisco Durán and dropped in nearly $150,000 to support the David M. Brown Planetarium for the coming school year. Durán had proposed keeping the facility closed for another year.” [Sun Gazette]

Rosslyn Walk Planned — “When you’re out and about, do you find yourself contemplating how sidewalks, land use, and street connectivity influence your experience and enjoyment of public spaces? If so, make sure to RSVP to WalkArlington’s upcoming “Walk and Learn” focused on street design in Rosslyn on Wednesday, May, 25 from 5:30 – 6:45pm.” [GGWash]

W-L Boys Win District Soccer Tourney — “With the Washington-Liberty Generals hosting the championship match of the Liberty District boys soccer tournament, head coach Jimmy Carrasquillo expressed some pre-game concerns. The top-seeded Generals (15-0-1) entertained the third-seeded Yorktown Patriots in an all-Arlington clash, and Carrasquillo knew the rematch would be much tougher than his team’s 4-0 regular-season victory over its neighborhood rival.” [Sun Gazette]

Some Cicada Stragglers Spotted — “Have you ever been late to a party? I mean really late, so late that by the time you arrived, the party was over and the guests were long gone? If so, then you have something in common with the periodical cicadas that have been popping up in the last few weeks from Maryland to Tennessee. They’re a year late to the raucous party billions of their fellow Brood X cicadas threw last summer.” [Washington Post]

It’s Tuesday — Rain in the morning, ending in the afternoon. High of 65 and low of 56. Sunrise at 5:50 am and sunset at 8:23 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Arlington police car (file photo)

An Arlington man is facing charges after allegedly shoving and threatening a county parking aide.

The incident happened Thursday afternoon along S. Lowell Street in the Green Valley neighborhood.

“At approximately 3:52 p.m. on May 19, police were dispatched to a report of an assault,” said an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect’s vehicle was in the process of being towed when he confronted the Public Safety Aide (PSA). During the confrontation, the suspect allegedly threatened the PSA before physically pushing him. Responding officers took the suspect into custody without incident.”

The 20-year-old suspect was charged with Assault and Battery and released on an unsecured bond, police said.

Earlier Thursday, yet another series of auto crimes was reported, this time in the Ashton Heights neighborhood. Officers found nine vehicles with windows smashed along the 800 block of N. Lincoln Street, according to the crime report.

“At approximately 8:34 a.m. on May 19, police were dispatched to the report of a destruction of property,” said ACPD. “Upon arrival, it was determined that between 11:00 p.m. on May 18 and 6:00 a.m. on May 19, the unknown suspect(s) smashed the windows to nine vehicles and stolen items of value from two of the involved vehicles. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.”

Dozens of vehicle thefts, break-ins and other such crimes have been reported across Arlington over the past few weeks.

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Update at 6:05 p.m. — The number of outages in Arlington is now down to just 67, according to Dominion.

Earlier: More than 2,000 Dominion customers are still without power after two strong storms knocked down trees and power lines Sunday.

As of 9:45 a.m. the utility company reported 2,084 customers in the dark, down from 8,295 outages immediately following the second of yesterday’s storms.

The outages are scattered across the county but mostly in south Arlington. Among the largest of the remaining outages are in the Aurora Highlands and Columbia Forest neighborhoods.

Dominion’s power outage map currently lists the estimated restoration time as between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. tonight.

The utility company has been struggling to restore power due to widespread damage from the storms. Currently Dominion is reporting  8,992 outages across Northern Virginia, including 2,832 in Fairfax County and 3,873 in Alexandria.

The downed trees and power lines are affecting bus service in Columbia Forest.

“Due to downed power lines, the ART Route 75 will not be servicing stops on S. Frederick Street until further notice,” Arlington Transit said in an alert earlier this morning. “Passengers can board on George Mason Drive.”

The outages are also affecting library service in Aurora Highlands.

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Morning Notes

Rosslyn at lunchtime (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

County Board’s APS Covid Concern — “Is the Arlington school system inadvertently encouraging parents to not report COVID-like symptoms among students? That’s the concern of a number of County Board members, who say the current testing requirements make it more likely parents will stay mum rather than go to the hassle of getting their children checked out.” [Sun Gazette]

Big Vehicle Fire Shuts Down Route 50 — From Dave Statter on Saturday night: “Some fuzzy traffic-cam video showing a vehicle fire that has all lanes of Route 50 eastbound shut prior to Pershing. @ArlingtonVaFD & @ArlingtonVaPD handling.” [Twitter]

Police Upping Seat Belt Enforcement — “The high-visibility national seat belt campaign, Click It or Ticket, which coincides with the Memorial Day holiday, runs from May 23 through June 6, 2022, and works towards reducing the number of fatalities that occur when drivers and passengers fail to buckle up.” [ACPD]

‘Salt Line’ Makes WaPo Dining Guide — “Well-shucked oysters, fluffy Parker House rolls, a comfortable room staged with nautical mementos: Just about everything that helps pack ’em in at the Salt Line in Navy Yard can be found at its young spinoff in Ballston. Really, the only ingredient missing from the original is a water view, although if you squint from a table inside, you can imagine boats and waves beyond the already-popular outdoor patio.” [Washington Post]

Worries About the Local Water Supply — “A train crash, a power plant discharge, an underwater pipeline rupture — or an act of terrorism — could cripple the drinking water supply of the nation’s capital. And there’s no Plan B. D.C. and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs are dependent on the Potomac River as the main — or sole — source of drinking water.” [WTOP]

Annual Street Sweeping Starting Soon — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “Another round of Arlington street sweeping starts next month. Last year, 9,178 lane miles were cleaned for smoother rides and a healthier Chesapeake watershed.” [Twitter]

Beyer Banned from Russia — From Rep. Don Beyer: “A new Kremlin list of people banned from traveling to Russia just dropped; I am less interested than they might think in traveling to a country that is indiscriminately bombing Ukrainian civilians.” [Twitter]

APS Graduations at Constitution Hall — “Arlington Public Schools plans on having graduation ceremonies for its three main high schools back in their traditional spot – D.A.R. Constitution Hall – for the first time since 2019.” [Sun Gazette]

Lane Closures for Building Demolition — From the City of Falls Church: “From Sun 5/22 thru Thu 5/26, select lanes will be closed 9PM to 5:30AM while the building on the corner of Broad St. and Washington St. is demolished.” [Twitter]

It’s Monday — Partly sunny, with a high near 73 and a slight chance of showers later in the afternoon. [Weather.gov]

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Update at 10 a.m. — More than 2,000 Dominion customers are still without power in Arlington.

Update at 11 p.m. — The number of Dominion customers still in the dark is down modestly, to 7,378. A company spokeswoman said “the storms left a lot damage” and “crews will work thru the night as quickly & safely as possible.” More than 20,000 customers are without power throughout Northern Virginia.

Meanwhile, a transformer explosion was recently reported in the Barcroft neighborhood, likely complicating restoration efforts.

Update at 8:40 p.m. — There are 8,295 Dominion customers without power in Arlington, according to the utility company. Outages have been reported in the East Falls Church, Madison Manor, Columbia Forest, Claremont, Douglas Park, Green Valley, Long Branch Creek and Aurora Highlands neighborhoods, among others.

Update at 7:25 p.m. — A Flood Warning has been issued as well.

718 PM EDT Sun May 22 2022

…FLOOD WARNING IN EFFECT UNTIL 115 AM EDT MONDAY…

* WHAT…Flooding caused by excessive rainfall is expected.

* WHERE…Portions of DC, central Maryland and northern Virginia, including the following counties: District of Columbia. In central Maryland, Montgomery and Prince Georges. In northern Virginia, Arlington, City of Alexandria, City of Fairfax, City of Falls Church, and Fairfax.

* WHEN…Until 115 AM EDT.

* IMPACTS…Flooding of rivers, creeks, streams, and other low-lying and flood-prone locations is imminent or occurring.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…

– At 716 PM EDT, Doppler radar indicated heavy rain due to thunderstorms. Flooding is expected to begin shortly in the warned area. Between 0.5 and 1 inch of rain has fallen.
– Additional rainfall amounts of 0.5 to 1.5 inches are possible in the warned area.
– Some locations that will experience flooding include… Arlington… Alexandria… Bethesda… Reston… Annandale… Springfield… College Park… Fairfax… Langley Park… Beltsville… Vienna… Falls Church… Huntington… Coral Hills… Bladensburg… Mantua… Pimmit Hills… Mclean… Rosslyn… American Legion Bridge…

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

Turn around, don’t drown when encountering flooded roads. Most flood deaths occur in vehicles.

Update at 7:10 p.m. — Get ready for round two. Arlington is under another Severe Thunderstorm Warning, this time until 8 p.m.

From the National Weather Service:

BULLETIN – IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED
Severe Thunderstorm Warning
National Weather Service Baltimore MD/Washington DC
704 PM EDT Sun May 22 2022

The National Weather Service in Sterling Virginia has issued a

* Severe Thunderstorm Warning…

* Until 800 PM EDT.

* At 703 PM EDT, severe thunderstorms were located along a line extending from near Damascus to 13 miles north of Mineral, moving east at 30 mph.

HAZARD…60 mph wind gusts.

SOURCE…Measured gust to 58 mph at Dulles Airport.

IMPACT…Damaging winds will cause some trees and large branches to fall. This could injure those outdoors, as well as damage homes and vehicles. Roadways may become blocked by downed trees. Localized power outages are possible. Unsecured light objects may become projectiles.

* Locations impacted include… Arlington, Alexandria, Stafford, Columbia, Germantown, Centreville, Dale City, Rockville, Bethesda, Gaithersburg, Reston, Leesburg, Annandale, Olney, Springfield, College Park, Fredericksburg, South Riding, Fort Washington and Herndon.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

For your protection move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a building.

The earlier storm packed hail, strong winds and flooding downpours in parts of Arlington.

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