The Dept. of Justice has filed a civil action that would seize nine acres of county land on the eastern end of Columbia Pike by eminent domain, in order to expand Arlington National Cemetery.
The suit appears to be part of the long-standing plan to expand the cemetery around the Air Force Memorial, and includes no indication of resistance from the county. Arlington endorsed the federal proposal in April, which realigns and upgrades a portion of Columbia Pike in exchange for the county-owned land next to the cemetery.
As of Tuesday morning neither the Justice Department nor the county responded to requests for comment by ARLnow.
The action was announced Monday, with the DOJ touting it as a win for both military veterans and local residents.
“When completed, the Arlington National Cemetery Southern Expansion Project will provide for approximately 60,000 additional burial sites, including an above ground columbarium,” said a press release. “The expansion will extend the timeline for Arlington National Cemetery to continue as an active military cemetery.”
“The expansion project will benefit Arlington County and its residents by, among other things, burying overhead power lines and incorporating the Air Force Memorial and surrounding vacant land into Arlington National Cemetery,” the press release continues. “The project will transform Columbia Pike from South Oak Street to Washington Boulevard by re-aligning and widening it. The project includes streetscape zones with trees on both sides of Columbia Pike, adding a new dedicated bike path, and widening pedestrian walkways. The project also provides for the construction of a new South Nash Street.”
The full press release is below.
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.
(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Plans for a roughly 70-acre expansion of Arlington National Cemetery are now moving ahead, in a bid to help the burial ground manage demand through the 2050s.
The cemetery and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a new environmental assessment Friday (Aug. 17) of the planned expansion to the cemetery’s south, recommending that the effort go forward after years of study.
In all, the expansion would not only create room for up to 60,000 additional interments, freeing up room in the rapidly swelling cemetery, but also prompt a major traffic realignment around heavily trafficked roadways like Washington Blvd and Columbia Pike.
“This is a critical milestone in progress and the important steps our nation is taking to extend the life of Arlington National Cemetery well into the future,” Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries, wrote in a statement.
The cemetery plans to use several parcels of land surrounding the Air Force Memorial for the expansion, eventually incorporating the memorial into the cemetery. The land includes the former Navy annex site, and several other acres of land controlled by the county near S. Joyce Street and Washington Blvd — including some that the county once planned to use for a streetcar maintenance facility for the scuttled Columbia Pike project.
The expansion will also result in a host of changes to roads in the area, many of which the county has long planned, including:
- the closure and removal of Southgate Road
- the construction of a new access road for traffic to/from Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall
- the realignment of Columbia Pike
- modifying the Route 27 (Washington Blvd) interchange at Columbia Pike
The cemetery plans to hold a public meeting on Wednesday (Aug. 22) to discuss the expansion. It will be held at the Sheraton Pentagon City hotel (900 S. Orme Street) from 5-8 p.m.
From The West Wing to The Pelican Brief, Arlington has been home to a number of film scenes over the years.
The county’s tourism promotion agency, StayArlington, listed several notable locations in a recent blog post, and ARLnow hit the pavement to find some of the more famous sites.
Few political junkies have forgotten the famous attempted assassination scene in The West Wing, which was filmed in Rosslyn’s Freedom Park.
Other memorable sites include scenes from Charlie Wilson’s War, which was filmed at Rosslyn’s The Weslie Condominiums, from The Next Karate Kid and Flags of Our Fathers, both of which shot scenes at the Marine Corps War Memorial, according to StayArlington.
The Ballston Common Mall — now Ballston Quarter — parking garage is said to have been the set for a scene in The Pelican Brief. The Russell Crowe thriller State of Play, meanwhile, included scenes at the Rosslyn Metro station and the Americana Hotel in Crystal City.
Any other famous scenes we missed on our tour? Let us know in the comments.
The 20th Armed Forces Cycling Classic will take place in Arlington this weekend, and one of its former champions is set to get back in the saddle.
“After being a professional for 10-plus years, I began to have heart arrhythmias…I had major complications,” Keough wrote in an email.
Keough will be cycling with Team Skyline, run by the acclaimed bicyclist Ryan DeWald. DeWald, like Keough, suffers from another chronic medical condition: Type 1 diabetes. Both were diagnosed in 2014 and took time away.
“I got thin. I got sick. I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” DeWald said. “I missed one weekend of racing then I got back on my bike, I got on insulin, I re-sorted out how to race my bike on insulin. I worked with some of the best doctors in the world.”
When DeWald re-entered the cycling realm after his brief hiatus, he made an immediate impact. In 2015, he was ranked third nationally as a Category One rider, out of 1,475 cyclists.
Despite that impressive statistic, DeWald remembers when everybody told him to stop biking. He refused to take their advice.
“I had nothing to lose so I just kept racing the bike. Now, I’m turning more into an inspirational athlete with dynamic speaking skills,” DeWald said.
He hopes to eventually transfer out of bike racing and take on more leadership roles.
DeWald started the foundation, Winning the Race with Diabetes, to help people manage Type 1 diabetes while also engaging in athletic lifestyles. In addition to running Team Skyline, he runs a team bike shop in Reading, Penn.
While DeWald was getting back on his bike, Keough underwent cardiac ablation surgery. The procedure caused him to go into cardiac arrest.
“I was told by the best sports cardiologists in the world that I could never be an athlete again and that I should live a sedentary life,” Keough wrote.
Yet, Keough persisted. He takes medication to keep his heart rate low and has a sprinter plate on his chest.
“I’m back racing on my own terms and trying not to let my health issues dictate how I live my life,” Keough wrote.
“I think he’s taking his life into his own hands every time he sprints…I think he’s a few steps away from winning a big one,” DeWald said of his teammate. And after years apart, the men rekindled their friendship via social media this past winter.
“He was telling me about what happened to him, he asked me about my condition and we started comparing notes,” DeWald said.
Shortly thereafter, Keough joined DeWald’s team. Team Skyline rides about 15,000 miles per year and races 50-60 events annually.
This weekend’s race will not be Keough’s first since leaving retirement. However, he remains surprised by his recent success.
“I didn’t really plan on making a comeback. But, after racing Speed Week this spring and finishing fifth at Athens Twilight and fourth overall, I realized I could still be a factor at the top level of the sport I love,” Keough wrote.
Skyline is hopeful for this weekend. Keough’s youngest brother, Luke Keough, will also be participating this weekend, on a different team.
“Obviously, as a former winner, the goal is to get back to the top step. But, more importantly, it’s to have a blast,” Keough wrote.
“We’re going to try to win,” DeWald said. “Jake has just got to beat his brother [in the race]. How hard can it be to beat your younger brother?”
The Armed Forces Cycling Classic consists of two days of races: the Clarendon Cup on Saturday, in Clarendon, and the Crystal Cup and non-competitive Challenge Ride on Sunday, in Crystal City. The pro-am races, along with corresponding kids races and the Challenge Ride, are open to spectators.
Arlington will again be alive with the sound of thousands of pedaling cyclists, as the Armed Forces Cycling Classic returns in June.
Previously known as the Air Force Association Cycling Classic, the event will celebrate its 20th anniversary when it takes place on June 10 and 11.
Presented by The Boeing Company, the event benefits members of the U.S. armed forces.
“For two decades, the Cycling Classic has paid tribute to the men and women in uniform who serve courageously to protect America at home and around the world,” said Boeing chairman, president and CEO Dennis Muilenburg in a statement. “Throughout our 100-year history, Boeing has a proud tradition of partnering with the U.S. military, and we’re honored to support this year’s event, which benefits active-duty and retired veterans and their families.”
The weekend begins with the Clarendon Cup, in the heart of Clarendon. The following day, the Challenge Ride offers a closed course to cycling enthusiasts of all abilities in and around the Pentagon, Crystal City and the Air Force Memorial.
The race for the Crystal Cup follows on Sunday in Crystal City, pitting professional and amateur racers from around the world in a series of races. Free races for children aged 9 and under also will be held both days, in addition to the lifestyle and sponsor expo.
“We’re proud to celebrate our involvement with the Armed Forces Cycling Classic,” said Angela Fox, president and CEO of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, in a statement. “Over the past decade, we’ve watched both the professional races and community Challenge Rides grow while providing an exciting and transformative experience for participants and spectators alike.”
Photo via Armed Forces Cycling Classic
Senators Tour Proposed Cemetery Expansion — The Army gave a group of U.S. senators a tour of a proposed expansion area for Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. The expansion, around the Air Force Memorial, would create space for 40,000 to 60,000 gravesites while requiring a realignment of Columbia Pike. Military officials are hoping to open the expansion by 2023 but a land swap with Arlington County and Virginia has still not been completed. [Stars and Stripes]
Arlington Man Killed in D.C. — An Arlington resident, 31-year-old Antwan Jones, was shot to death Tuesday afternoon while sitting in an BMW in Southeast D.C. A second man was injured in the shooting. [Washington Post]
History of Fairlington — Eighteen years ago yesterday Fairlington was added to the National Register of Historic Places. George Washington once owned land in the neighborhood, in the southwest corner of Arlington. It was also home to Civil War fortifications and a horse farm before being cleared to make way for 3,449 units of government housing for defense workers during World War II. [Facebook]
Midwestern Gothic Trailer — Signature Theater has released a cinematic trailer for its new “world premiere thriller with a musical twist,” Midwestern Gothic. The production runs through April 30. [YouTube]
HireEd Conference Coming to GMU — Sponsored — Graham Holdings Chair Donald Graham will be the keynote speaker at an event that will bring together entrepreneurs, business leaders, educators and nonprofits to discuss strategies to place students and graduates in jobs at all levels and solutions for businesses recruiting talent. It’s taking place Wednesday, April 5, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at George Mason University Founders Hall, 3351 Fairfax Drive. Registration is free for students and $25 for general admission. [Arlington Economic Development]
Photo courtesy Fred Cochard
Arlington National Cemetery will brief Arlington residents next week on its plan to expand around the Air Force Memorial and realign the eastern end of Columbia Pike.
The “scoping meeting” is being held at the Sheraton hotel at 900 S. Orme Street from 5-9 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27.
The cemetery, which recently embarked on another expansion project, says it needs “additional space that is contiguous with the existing cemetery in order to maintain future operations beyond 2037.” It is planning a land swap with Arlington County and VDOT that will create burial space on either side of the Air Force Memorial, including on the former Navy Annex site.
“The cemetery has been working with the owners and operators of the adjacent road network, Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Transportation, to pursue a roadway realignment and land exchange agreement that will also support the short- and long-term multimodal transportation system for the Commonwealth of Virginia and Arlington County,” the cemetery said in a press release.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working on an environmental assessment ahead of the project.
“The Environmental Assessment will evaluate the proposal to increase the cemetery’s contiguous acreage, realign roadways, and maximize burial space by utilizing an area adjacent to the existing cemetery (formerly known as the Navy Annex site) located south of the existing cemetery,” said the press release.
The Corps of Engineers has set up a web page to provide information about the project. The event next week will allow residents “to learn more about and provide comments on the proposed project.”
A new 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center is also planned in conjunction with the project.
A driver suffered critical injuries in a crash on Columbia Pike next to the Air Force Memorial Sunday night.
The single-vehicle crash happened just before 5:45 p.m. A driver apparently lost control and slammed into the corner of a large concrete wall next to the entrance to the memorial.
The driver was found unconscious and was initially reported to be pinned inside the car, but was freed by firefighters, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Lt. Shawn Pendo.
The victim was transported to George Washington University Hospital with life-threatening injuries, Pendo said. There was no update on his or her condition as of Monday afternoon.
Columbia Pike was closed in both directions Sunday evening while police investigated the crash.
The United States Air Force celebrated its 66th birthday Friday at the Air Force Memorial near the Pentagon.
The celebration included a concert by the United States Air Force Band and the Singing Sergeants, as well as a ceremonial demonstration by the Air Force Honor Guard.
The Air Force was created Sept. 18, 1947, as a result of the National Security Act. The youngest branch of military, it had previously been a division of the United States Army.
Photos courtesy of Rob Laybourn