Arlington, VA

(Updated at 6:30 p.m.) When medic Ryan Denelsbeck heard the call come in, for a person struck by a train at the Courthouse Metro station, he assumed the worst.

But yesterday evening, Denelsbeck and Arlington County Fire Department were able to rescue the woman who fell under a Silver Line Metrorail car — and she’s expected to survive.

“We normally expect the worst for a person vs. train scenario,” Denelsbeck said.

He said he was surprised to find the woman in relatively good condition, for someone who had reportedly been hit by a Metro train. While Denelsbeck worked on trying to calm her down and assess her injuries, others members of the fire department were trying to figure out how to extricate her.

Denelsbeck said when he sees the images of the rescue, like the video below, it takes him back to laying down on the side of the Metro platform trying to talk her through it.

The woman had suffered a medical emergency and fallen in an 18-inch gap between the train and the platform, as the train was arriving. The space, according to Captain Kevin Troiano, was a very tricky area for the firefighters to reach. Adding to the difficulty: the woman was disoriented and confused about how she had wound up there, and Troiano said medics had to explain her situation as best they could without causing her to panic.

Battalion Chief Matt Herbert said the main difficulties were the confined space and concerns about the electrified third rail. She wasn’t close to the rail, but Herbert said the rail electrifies all of the “feet” on the bottom of the train.

“The bottom of a Metro car is a very dangerous place,” Herbert said.

There was also the evening rush hour crowd inside the Metro station to deal with. Denelsbeck said one of their initial challenges was dealing with the crowd pressed in around them, but the police were able to keep people back and the station was evacuated to help clear the escalators.

Herbert said they called up the fire officer at WMATA and were able to get power shut down to the trackbed at the station. Once they had assurances that no other trains would be coming through, firefighters were able to get her out of the gap and get her to a hospital. The fire department said it’s unclear whether her injuries were caused by the train or from her fall.

As of today (Friday), officials said she’s in stable condition.

“We got into this job to help people,” Troiano said. “An outcome like this makes that all better.”

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The Arlington County Board is set to vote this weekend on a new Memorandum of Agreement with Arlington National Cemetery, ahead of work on a new cemetery expansion project that will bring major changes to the eastern end of Columbia Pike.

The project, which has taken shape over the past four years, would add 70 acres to the southern portion of the cemetery, including 37 acres of additional burial space, intended to help the nation’s most hallowed ground continue burials through at least 2050. The expansion will add another 60,000 burial plots, by converting the former Navy Annex site, as well as current portions of Southgate Road and Columbia Pike, into cemetery space.

The Southern Expansion Project will result in a realignment of Columbia Pike, bringing it south of its current loop toward Southgate Road and reconfiguring both the intersection with S. Joyce Street and the ramp to Washington Blvd. While the reconfiguration may be an improvement for cars and buses, bicycle advocates have worried that the elimination of Southgate Road may make cycling more dangerous on the stretch.

Portions of the land being added to the cemetery are owned by Arlington County. Originally the military proposed a land swap, giving Arlington a chunk of federal land south of Columbia Pike to use for county facilities, but the land swap was called off in 2017. Instead, the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act lets the Army purchase Arlington’s land for fair value, and compel the sale if necessary.

The land south of the Pike will now be used to house a cemetery maintenance and operations facility, and a parking garage that will serve visitors to the cemetery and the Air Force Memorial, which will become part of the cemetery.

More from an Air Force Magazine article this past summer:

The plan would turn the Air Force Memorial into the centerpiece of a new southern entrance to the facility, potentially bringing thousands more people to the memorial each year.

The change will alter the landscape, traffic flow, and even the way people experience the memorial, which today is accessible 24 hours a day, but under the new plan, it would be contained within the cemetery’s perimeter and only accessible during daylight hours. The memorial entrance would have a multilevel parking facility and an anticipated five-fold increase in visitors, said Maj. Gen. James A. Jacobson, commander of the Air Force District of Washington.

“This will further enshrine the Air Force Memorial as the history and heroism location for our service,” he said. “Tying it in with the cemetery does what it can’t do standing alone.”

Last March, a House Appropriations subcommittee was told that the Army was hoping to break ground on the first phase of the project in 2020, with a second phase starting in 2022 and work completing in 2025. Nearly $300 million of the project cost has already been appropriated.

The Memorandum of Agreement among the cemetery, the county and other stakeholders, under consideration by the County Board this weekend, outlines proposed “mitigation of cultural resources” as part of the project. The agreement calls for repair and reuse of the cemetery’s blue granite Boundary Wall, in the project site; a new historic marker commemorating Freedman’s Village, a village of freed slaves that was built during the Civil War on current cemetery grounds; and some alterations to the grounds around the Air Force Memorial.

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Arlington’s state senators aren’t alone in pushing for gun control in Richmond this legislative session — their counterparts in the House of Delegates have also proposed a number of bills on the topic.

Other bills being reviewed by Arlington’s delegates this session range from a local civil rights fight to the recognition of some Arlington cemeteries as historic places.

The all-Democrat group of delegates have been empowered by a new Democratic majority in the state legislature. Many of the gun control measures proposed in the House of Delegates and the State Senate have already faced substantial pushback, particularly from a crowded gun rights rally on Monday that drew national headlines, though a number of bills have passed at least one of the chambers.

Below are some of the bills that have been proposed by each of Arlington’s delegates.

Del. Mark Levine

Among bills introduced by Del. Mark Levine is HB 180, which would eliminate the requirement that the race of spouses be included in the marriage record filed with the state. Levine is also sponsoring HB 301, which would decriminalize simple possession of marijuana. Both bills were referred to committees, and HB 180 was recommended by a subcommittee on Tuesday.

The requirement of couples to list their race on marriage licenses is an obscure holdover from Jim Crow laws that’s gotten some pushback over the years, including a lawsuit in September by a local lawyer that ended with a judge ruling the law was unconstitutional.

Levine also introduced several gun control measures as well, including restriction of firearm ammunition, prohibitions on ownership after certain criminal convictions, and a prohibition on the sale or transport of weapons defined in the bill as “assault firearms.”

Del. Patrick Hope

Hope is also the sponsor of the House version of Favola’s bill that would eliminate the death penalty for cases involving a severe mental illness. Hope’s HB 1284 would eliminate the use of isolated confinement in state correctional facilities and juvenile correctional facilities. One bill, HB 1120, would also dramatically increase the tax on tobacco products, from the current 30 cents per pack to $1.80 per pack.

Hope’s gun control legislation, HB 1080, would prohibit school boards from authorizing or designating any person to possess a firearm on school property other than those expressly authorized by state law.

Also of note is Hope’s bill, HB 712, which would allow anyone required to post ordinances, resolutions, notices or advertisements in newspapers to publish instead in an online publication. The requirement for governments to only post notices in print newspapers is a standing rule backed by organizations like the Virginia Press Association. The requirement has gotten some pushback in recent years by local jurisdictions like Vienna, which argue that the law is costly and unfair to areas without print newspapers.

Del. Rip Sullivan

Among Rip Sullivan’s proposed legislation is HB 213, which would add out-of-state student IDs to the list of acceptable forms of voter identification, and HB 379, which adds three cemeteries in Arlington (Calloway Cemetery, Lomax Cemetery, and Mount Salvation Cemetery) to the list of organizations that may receive funds from the Department of Historic Resources.

Sullivan’s gun control legislation includes HB 674, which would allow law enforcement to remove firearms from someone they deem poses a substantial risk, HB 458, which would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor for a fugitive to purchase, possess or transport a firearm, and HB 459, which would prohibit anyone convicted of assault and battery as part of a hate crime from possessing or transporting a firearm.

Del. Alfonso Lopez

Legislation from Lopez includes HB 1184, which opens up options for distributing generated solar energy by individuals and localities, and HB 219, which would automatically register individuals at the Department of Motor Vehicles who are applying for or replacing their driver’s license.

Lopez’s gun control legislation includes HB 264, which would remove the option for concealed handgun permit applicants to demonstrate competence electronically, and HB 260, which increases the allowed length of time for a background check from the end of the next business day to within five business days.

Crossover for legislation — when bills that pass one house are considered by the other — is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 11, and the last day to act on remaining bills is March 5. Gov. Ralph Northam can sign or veto legislation until April 6, and the new laws will take effect July 1.

Photo courtesy former Del. Bob Brink

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(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) The name “National Landing” is becoming official.

The Board of Directors of the Crystal City Business Improvement District voted yesterday to change the organization’s name to the National Landing Business Improvement District. The new name will now be voted on by the BID’s general membership and the Arlington County Board.

The name change follows the September approval of the BID’s boundary expansion to serve portions of the Pentagon City and Potomac Yard neighborhoods.

Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, president and executive director of the to-be-renamed BID, emphasized in a statement (below) that National Landing is an umbrella term and that the names of the individual neighborhoods are not changing.

We are pleased to report that on January 23 our Board of Directors approved a resolution to change our organizational name to the National Landing Business Improvement District. The Board opted for the new name in recognition of the BID’s upcoming geographic expansion and as a reflection of the increasingly interconnected character of the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard communities. This resolution marks the culmination of a robust public process in which the BID sought and received broad support from area residents and local civic organizations.

Pending approval by the Arlington County Board and a formal vote by the BID’s full members at our Annual Meeting this spring, the National Landing name will be utilized as an umbrella term for Virginia’s most vibrant and largest walkable downtown. It will not replace the existing neighborhood names of Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard, which each maintain their own unique identities and distinct characteristics.

The BID is also seeking to change the term those in economic development and commercial real estate use to refer to the area — from the “Jefferson Davis Corridor,” after the former name of Route 1, to National Landing. Gabriel said the Confederate president’s name “did not represent a desirable monicker for the area.”

In an phone interview with ARLnow this morning, Gabriel acknowledged that the initial rollout of the National Landing name — when Amazon arbitrarily announced that HQ2 was coming to “National Landing” before members of the public had heard of the name — was “not ideal.” She noted, however, that the name was actually created by Arlington and Alexandria officials as part of the local governments’ joint effort to woo Amazon and the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus.

The BID, meanwhile, has been working to change its name since before Amazon’s announcement.

“We’ve been thinking about finding a collective name for our downtown since 2018, even before the arrival of Amazon and the expansion of the BID,” Gabriel said. “With the expansion of the BID we’ve had a renewed effort to have a public conversation about the name.”

“Since the name has come out, we’ve done extensive public outreach. We put out 18,000 flyers, 16,000 of which were mailed to all of the households in the 22202 zip code,” she noted. Other outreach included “numerous open houses about the vision for the neighborhood, as well as focus groups and open office hours.”

There were other possible names floated, we’re told, but none garnered more public support than National Landing. Among the alternative names considered were “Future Cities,” “Lower Arlington” and “Penn-Crystal.”

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Nearly 5,000 Dominion customers in Arlington are currently without power as a result of a large outage.

The outage is affecting parts of the Virginia Square, Ballston, Bluemont, Arlington Forest and Glencarlyn neighborhoods, according to a Dominion map. As of 10:40 a.m. Dominion reported 4,798 customers without power in Arlington, and a few hundred more across the border in Fairfax County.

In addition to affecting homes and businesses, numerous traffic signals are said to be dark.

Initial reports suggest the outage was caused by a vehicle that crashed into a utility pole. Dominion is currently estimating restoration of power between 1-4 p.m.

Update at 11:05 a.m. — The number of affected customers is down to 770, according to Dominion.

Update at 12:35 p.m. — The outages are down to 51 in Arlington. An Arlington County Police spokeswoman provided the following information about the crash that might have led to the outage: “At approximately 8:32 a.m., police were dispatched to a single-vehicle crash at N. Carlin Springs Road at N. Kensington Street. Upon arrival, it was determined that a utility van struck a telephone pole. Two occupants from the van were transported to area hospitals with non-life threatening injuries. Dominion Energy was contacted to repair the pole. The investigation into the crash is ongoing.”

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Morning Notes

Demolition Starts at HQ2 Site — “Roughly a dozen demolition workers from construction firm ACECO were on site in yellow vests and hard hats, along with a couple of excavators, one of which sat on a mound of bricks as it tore down the southeast side of the single-story building.” [Washington Business Journal]

Apartments are Hot Near HQ2 — “The development patterns that are taking place in Crystal City make it a more live-work-play area versus being an office-dominated submarket that has an underground mall… That area is evolving with new product coming online and Amazon making its presence in the region. All of those things have helped generate demand for multifamily housing.” [Bisnow]

New Pool House for Army Navy CC — “Arlington County Board members on Jan. 25 are expected to approve procedural matters that will pave the way for Army Navy Country Club to renovate its swimming areas and construct a new poolhouse.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Eateries Absent from Top 20 List — The new 2020 Washingtonian 100 Very Best Restaurants list does not include any Arlington spots in the top 20. [Washingtonian]

County Pitches in to Route 7 BRT Study — “The Arlington government will toss in just under $40,000 in support of the next phase of a plan to develop high-quality bus service in the Route 7 corridor. Arlington will allocate $39,200 as its share in covering the $560,000 cost of a ‘mobility analysis,’ the fourth phase of the study.” [InsideNova]

Four Mile Run Biz Celebrates 25th — Family-owned car repair business Auto Stop Arlington is celebrating its 25th anniversary this weekend with an event that will include a food truck, beer and wine tastings, and kids activities. [Facebook]

RIP Jim Lehrer — The longtime host of the PBS Newshour, which is produced in the Shirlington area, has died at the age of 85. [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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(Updated at 6:40 p.m.) Arlington County firefighters are on scene at the Courthouse Metro station after a person was struck by a train.

Initial reports suggest that a woman was struck, was either under or next to one of the trains, and is still alive. Metro Transit Police say it appears that she suffered a medical emergency, fell off the platform and was struck.

Her injuries were described as non-life-threatening, according to the Arlington County Fire Department.

Riders should expect significant evening rush hour delays on the Orange and Silver lines. All rail traffic was stopped prior to the station, which was cleared of riders during the emergency response.

Police were told to expect significant crowding at Orange and Silver line stations.

As of 5:45 p.m., the victim had been removed from the trackbed and was being transported via ambulance to a local trauma center. Single-tracking past the Courthouse station was expected to begin soon.

As of 6:30 p.m. trains were continuing to single-track but were starting to stop at the Courthouse station again, according to Metro.

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The Arlington County Board is set to vote this weekend on a $1.4 million construction contract for improvements to N. Pershing Drive.

The project calls for “Complete Streets” safety upgrades at four intersections — three in Lyon Park, near the Lyon Park Community Center, and one in Ashton Heights.

“The project will install curb extensions, bus stop improvements, ADA compliant sidewalks and curb ramps, high-visibility crosswalks and a signal upgrade at the intersection of North Fillmore Street,” a county staff report says. “The project also proposes a bioretention system at the intersection of North Pershing Drive and North Oakland Street. Bioretention is one of the County’s tools to mitigate the water quality impacts from existing development.”

The work is intended to improve safety for all users of the moderately section of busy road, between Washington Blvd and N. Glebe Road.

“Pershing Drive is categorized as an urban minor arterial and serves thousands of automobile trips each day,” the county said on its website. “Pershing Drive also supports bus service (ART & WMATA) and many bicyclists and pedestrians.”

“Pershing Drive is currently marked by many challenging intersections with long crossing distances, non ADA-compliant curb ramps and missing crosswalks,” the website adds. “The Pershing Drive right-of-way is variable and very narrow… meaning little space is available for accommodating multimodal improvements.”

County staff note that the project will not include any flood mitigation efforts:

County staff have reviewed the project location from the perspective of flood risk and found that the project area does not currently experience significant flooding. This area is not identified as a priority location for installing storm infrastructure to reduce the likelihood of flooding, and as a result, storm sewer upgrades are not included in this project.

The four intersections set for construction in late 2020, after the contract is approved, are:

  • Pershing and N. Fillmore Street
  • Pershing and N. Garfield Street
  • Pershing and N. Highland Street
  • Pershing and N. Oakland Street

Arlington County has been working to obtain easements from property owners to facilitate the upgraded sidewalks and other project features. That work is now complete, though the county was not able to obtain easements for upgrades at N. Oxford Street, which was to be the fifth intersection but was subsequently removed from the project.

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A plan to redevelop the Key Bridge Marriott is moving forward, but some Arlington officials have lingering concerns about parking and impervious space at the site.

At a Transportation Commission meeting earlier this month, project representatives laid out plans to demolish a portion of the existing 582-room hotel and redevelop the 1401 Lee Highway site with two residential buildings and a smaller, renovated hotel space.

The remodeled hotel would include 449 rooms, bordered by a 150-unit condominium building to the east and a 300-unit apartment building to the west above an existing parking structure. A representative said the redevelopment would include a “slew of interior changes” to the hotel.

Part of the plan involves the addition of a new bike path connecting to the Key Bridge, near where improvements were made to the Custis Trail last year. While there was widespread praise for the new bicycle connection, some on the Transportation Commission had reservations about the project. Chair Chris Slatt said he still wanted to see a Bikeshare station added and wanted to see a lower parking ratio on the site, partially to allow for less impervious surface area.

“There’s work that can be done on circulation areas of the site to make them less impervious,” Slatt said. “It really feels like there’s a lot of pavement [and] a lot of sidewalk. I look down at this plan view and I expect to see a lot more of those tree circles than I do.”

The project is also being discussed by the Site Plan Review Committee at a meeting next Thursday, Jan. 30. It will go back to the Transportation Commission for a vote after that, before going to the full Planning Commission and ultimately the Arlington County Board for approval.

Image via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Pentagon City Redevelopment on Pause — “Brookfield Properties has suspended plans to launch a major redevelopment of the Transportation Security Administration’s headquarters in Pentagon City once the federal agency moves to its new home in Springfield in mid- to late 2020… it’s a reflection of the new reality that Amazon’s HQ2 has created in the neighborhood.” [Washington Business Journal]

Vote on Add’l Speeding Fine This Weekend — “Currently, a ticket for going 10 mph over the speed limit in a residential zone is about $80. The additional fine would bring that ticket to $280. ‘People drive like maniacs around here. It’s about time they got some punishment,’ Arlington resident Jack Feegel said.” [NBC 4]

Arlington Resident Helps Return Lost Dog — “A lost dog was reunited with its owner thanks to a passing motorist, who noticed something unusual on their way to work, and a fellow driver farther along the road. Dashcam footage shows the unnamed motorist, from Arlington, Virginia, driving to their workplace in Silver Spring, Maryland, on January 13.” [Daily Mail]

ACFD Responds to Calls in Maryland — It’s rare for the Arlington County Fire Department to respond as mutual aid to an incident in Maryland, but it happened Wednesday morning, with several units dispatched to Prince George’s County. [Twitter, Twitter]

Arlington Tourism Tax May Be Made Permanent — “The Arlington County government looks ready to get a major present from the new Democratic majority in the General Assembly. The state Senate has passed and sent to the House of Delegates a measure that removes the sunset provision on Arlington’s authority to impose a 0.25-percent surcharge on hotel taxes to support tourism promotion.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: No Streetcar in Georgetown — “Plans to extend the DC Streetcar to Georgetown have been effectively scrapped. The District Department of Transportation is halting all work on the project ‘for the foreseeable future,’ according to documents submitted to the D.C. Council.” [WTOP]

Flickr pool photo by Rex Block

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(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) With a new Democratic majority, Arlington’s state Senators have doubled down on earlier efforts to pass gun control reform and make progress on other issues — like marijuana decriminalization — that made limited progress under a Republican majority.

Some of these proposals have already faced substantial pushback, particularly from a crowded gun rights rally on Monday that drew national headlines. Democrats notched a gun control victory today, however, with the state Senate narrowly passing a “red flag” gun law that allows guns to be taken away by those judged as dangerous to themselves or others.

Nestled among the high profile issues are other items of interest for Arlingtonians, like the ability to require labor agreements as part of the zoning approval process.

Sen. Barbara Favola

Among the bills introduced by Favola in the 2019-2020 legislative session are SB 116, which would say that defendants in a capital case who have a severe mental illness are not eligible for the death penalty, and SB 179, which adds gender, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation to the state’s hate crime definition. SB 116 was moved to the Judiciary committee and SB 179 was referred to the Finance and Appropriations committee.

Favola is one of the chief co-signers of SB 35, which authorizes localities to prohibit the possession or carrying of firearms, ammunition, or components thereof to government buildings, public parks, or any public right of way being used for an event. The bill was passed in the state Senate on Jan. 16.

Sen. Adam Ebbin

According to Henry Watkins, communications director for Ebbin, the bills he has proposed are:

SB 868 — Prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Also includes additional protections for veterans and pregnant persons.

SB 2 — Reduces penalty for possession of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil penalty.

SB 852 — Institutes a tax on e-cigarettes at 39% of the wholesale price. Also raises the Virginia cigarette tax to $1.80 per pack and the tax on other tobacco products to 39% wholesale.

SB 11 — Imposes a five-cent fee on throw-away bags to reduce litter and waste.

SB 838 — Makes construction contractors liable for their subcontractors if the subcontractor does not pay their employees, and allows employees to sue employers for nonpayment of wages.

Ebbin has also proposed SB 839, which would allow localities to require project labor agreements and worker protections on high-density development projects that go through a special exception zoning process. While approving an incentive package for Amazon’s HQ2, Arlington County Board members lamented not being able to require such labor provisions.

Board member Katie Cristol lobbied for the bill in Richmond on Monday.

Sen. Janet Howell

Like many other Democratic Senators from Northern Virginia, Howell introduced gun control legislation during the current session. SB 75 would make it a Class 3 misdemeanor to leave a loaded, unsecured firearm “in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any person under the age of 18.” The current law makes it illegal for under the age of 14.

Other bills introduced by Howell include SB 111, which allows people to vote absentee without needing to list a reason why they can’t vote in person. SB 111 was passed in the Senate on Monday.

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