APS Named Best School System in Va. — Arlington Public Schools is the best public school system in Virginia, according to a new set of state-by-state rankings. APS received an A+ rating for academics, diversity and teachers, and an A rating for health and safety. [Business Insider]
DES Scrambles to Deal With Water Main Breaks — Staff from Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services had their hands full again over the holiday weekend, dealing with numerous water main breaks in various parts of the county. “A number of Arlington residents experienced low pressure/no water issues” as a result of the breaks, DES said. At least one significant break, along Wilson Blvd in the Bluemont neighborhood, is still being repaired as of Tuesday morning. [Facebook, Twitter]
Marymount Grad Helps Save Family — A Marymount University graduate, now a law enforcement officer in North Carolina, helped to rescue a family from a house fire last month. [The Pilot]
Bill Could Allow Instant Runoff Elections — A bill proposed by Del. Patrick Hope, currently under consideration in the Virginia General Assembly, would allow the Arlington County Board to mandate instant-runoff voting in local races. [InsideNova]
Nearby: Old Town Church Now a Basilica — “The Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship declared St. Mary Church in Alexandria a minor basilica, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge announced to parishioners during Mass [on] Jan. 14.” [Arlington Catholic Herald, Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Immigrants Afraid to Report Crimes — President Donald Trump’s hawkishness on immigration enforcement has apparently led to a drop in crimes reported in some of the country’s largest immigrant communities, including in Arlington. Per a new report: “In Arlington, Virginia, domestic-assault reports in one Hispanic neighborhood dropped more than eighty-five per cent in the first eight months after Trump’s Inauguration, compared with the same period the previous year.” [New Yorker]
Lawmakers React to Immigration Decision — Local lawmakers are speaking out against a Trump administration decision to end temporary protected status for some 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants. “Donald Trump’s open hostility to immigrants runs against the values and history of this country,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), while Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) called the decision “heartless.” [Rep. Don Beyer, Twitter]
Ramp Near Pentagon Closing at Night — The ramp from eastbound Route 27 to northbound Route 110, near the Pentagon, will be closed each night through Friday for bridge deck work, according to VDOT. “Traffic will be detoured via Route 27, George Washington Memorial Parkway and I-395 back to northbound Route 110,” the agency said. [Twitter]
InsideNova Sold — The parent company of the Arlington Sun Gazette has sold its InsideNova website along with two other local weekly newspapers, while retaining the Sun Gazette papers. Sun Gazette articles will reportedly still be published on InsideNova. [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington’s Top 10 Press Releases of 2017 — Arlington County has posted an article ranking the 10 most popular press releases of 2017 on its website. The article concludes that “2017 was a good year in Arlington County, laying the foundation for great years to come.” [Arlington County]
Nearby: Plans for Boozy Taco Bell — A Taco Bell “Cantina” that “mixes the traditional Taco Bell fare with new shareable menu items and alcoholic beverages including twisted freezes, beer and wine” is coming to Old Town Alexandria. [Washington Business Journal]
More Fog Photos — The fog covering parts of the region this morning made for some great photos, particularly among those who trained their lenses on the half-covered Washington monument. [Twitter, Twitter, Twitter]
A Mediterranean and pizza restaurant with locations in Alexandria, Springfield and Sterling will replace the former Tazza Kitchen in the Arlington Ridge Shopping Center.
Signs at the storefront at 2931 S. Glebe Road, near the county’s border with Alexandria, show Delia’s Mediterranean Grill & Brick Oven Pizza will move in soon. Tazza Kitchen closed last year in the space next door to the sweetfrog frozen yogurt store.
And permitting applications filed with the county show it is looking to remove a half wall in the dining area and bring in new cooking equipment.
Delia’s serves Mediterranean-inspired food, and has a full bar with cocktails, wine and craft beer, as well as catering services based in Falls Church. It describes its Springfield and Sterling locations as family-style restaurants, which offer a “more casual experience.”
Hat-tip to Thomas N.
Several lanes of King Street are blocked near Arlington’s Fairlington neighborhood due to a crash involving an Alexandria DASH bus.
At least three vehicles, including the bus, appear to have been involved in the crash, at the intersection of King Street and Menokin Drive, between I-395 and the Bradlee Shopping Center.
So far, there is no word on injuries, although numerous ambulances and fire trucks from Alexandria and Arlington responded to the scene following the crash.
🚨Service Alert: Accident at King St. and Menokin Dr. AT5 East/Westbound cannot service Bradlee Shopping Center. There will be AT5 access behind Bradlee on Braddock Rd side. AT9 will be detoured so expect slight delays.
— DASH Bus (@DASHBus) December 5, 2017
Ballston May Be Next ‘Hot’ Neighborhood — Thanks to new development, the renovation of Ballston Common Mall, and the efforts of the Ballston Business Improvement District and others, Ballston is being mentioned as the region’s “next hottest neighborhood.” [Washington Post]
Wegmans Coming to Alexandria — A Wegmans grocery store is finally set to open within a reasonably short drive of at least some parts of Arlington. Per WBJ, the Rochester, NY-based chain will open an 84,000-square-foot store at Hoffman Town Center in Alexandria, not far from where the National Science Foundation recently moved. [Washington Business Journal]
Decal Deadline is Today — Today is the deadline to display the new 2017-2018 Arlington County vehicle decal. “Beginning November 16, you will be at risk of receiving a parking ticket if your decal is not displayed on your windshield,” says the county. [Arlington County]
‘News Dude’ Finds Human Seat — NBC 4’s Adam Tuss was able to catch up with the man who wore a seat costume in Virginia Tech and Ford’s unusual “driverless” car experiment in Arlington. The researcher said he was “pretty stressed out” after Tuss ran up to him at an intersection and asked what he was doing dressed as a car seat in a van. [NBC Washington, Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Eric
Arlington County and the City of Alexandria will be working together on further upgrades to their respective 911 systems.
The Arlington County Board is set to approve a Memorandum of Understanding at its meeting on Saturday (October 21), paving the way for cooperation with the Alexandria City Council and interoperability between the two 911 systems.
Last year Arlington added text-to-911 capability, 5.5 years after first announcing, during a visit from the then-FCC chairman, that it was working to give residents the ability to send text messages to 911. Other “Next Generation 911” capabilities are still in the works.
In a report on the MOU, county staff said the two jurisdictions working together will help “improve operational standards and increase public safety in the region,” as part of a regional goal to improve the efficiency of handling emergency calls.
“Towards that end, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria have proposed an MOU for the planning, design, procurement, installation, configuration, operation and lifecycle management of a new shared NG 9-1-1 system to support these goals of interoperability and improve efficiency of call processing and public safety emergency response,” staff wrote. “Arlington County and the City of Alexandria have both planned for and allocated funding to improve their 9-1-1 call processing systems.”
The MOU will help create an integrated system for both jurisdictions, meaning they can process both emergency and non-emergency calls from either jurisdiction’s primary and backup 9-1-1 center.
Both will also be able to answer each other’s telephone calls when the other cannot do so, such as during a system failure or an evacuation.
The county will be the “fiduciary agent” for the scheme, meaning it handles all the finances. Alexandria will provide an inter-jurisdictional transfer of money to fund its side of the project.
The Arlington County Board will vote Saturday on a seven-year lease for an ART Bus maintenance facility in Fairfax County.
Currently, British transportation company National Express leases the space and has a contract to maintain ART buses at 6100-A and 6104 Farrington Ave., in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. The space has a 10,000-square-foot building and a 32,833-square-foot parking area.
National Express’ contract with the county and its lease on the property both expire on June 30, 2018.
Under this plan, the county would control the facility for bus maintenance to, staff said, “promote more competition for the ART operations and maintenance contract, leading to more advantageous pricing for the county.”
The County Board voted last December to buy a maintenance site in Springfield for $4.65 million. But staff said that it will take at least five years to acquire the site and build it out, so this lease helps fill in the “gap years” until it is ready.
This new lease would begin on July 1, 2018, and expire on June 30, 2025. The initial base rent would be just under $180,000 a year, with an annual increase of 3 percent, which staff says would ultimately save the county money.
“The County’s new lease agreement cost of $178,345.80 for Fiscal Year 2019 is $16,483.32, which is 8.6% less than the amount National Express Transit would have paid,” the staff report says. “In the new ART operations contract, the payment to the contractor will be reduced accordingly.”
Metro Station Closures Promoted Big Lines at DCA — Shutting down the National Airport and Crystal City Metro stations caused long lines for shuttles and cabs and very pricy Uber and Lyft rides for travelers trying to leave the airport this past weekend. [Washington Post]
Chase Starts in Arlington, Ends in Alexandria — Arlington County Police spotted a stolen car heading southbound on I-395 yesterday afternoon and initiated a traffic stop. The driver, however, refused to stop and instead fled down the King Street exit. Virginia State Police gave chase down King Street and Braddock Road near Fairlington — Arlington units stayed behind per department policy — and eventually the car was stopped and two people arrested in Alexandria. [Twitter, Twitter]
Va. Square Land Use Changes Considered — The Arlington County Board will hear public comment on and vote on whether to advertised proposed land use changes to several parcels of land near the intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Kirkwood Road in Virginia Square. Citing traffic and building height concerns, some residents have objected to the possibility of a six-story apartment building on part of the site. [InsideNova]
E-CARE Event Stats — Updated at 1:25 p.m. — Arlington County’s biannual E-CARE recycling and disposal event this past weekend collected 55,875 pounds of household hazardous materials, 30,000 pounds of used electronics, 700 compact fluorescent bulbs and 30 cubic yards of scrap metal, while setting a record hourly rate, according the county. [Twitter]
Bad Behavior at Elementary School — Yesterday during afternoon school dismissal, police were called to Campbell Elementary on S. Carlin Springs Road for a report of a driver in the parent pickup line who was “cursing at teachers.” [Twitter]
Nearby: Alexandria to Promote Metro Improvement — “The City of Alexandria is launching the ‘Back 2 Blue’ campaign to raise awareness about the improved rush-hour service times on Metrorail and encourage residents and customers to ride the Blue Line. Service on Metrorail’s Blue Line has improved significantly, with rush-hour wait times of just eight minutes. [City of Alexandria]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
NAFTA Talks in Arlington — A round of talks among the U.S., Canada and Mexico about updating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is taking place in Arlington. “The Trump administration,” according to reports, “has presented a series of hard-line proposals that partners Canada and Mexico say will be tough to accept.” [CNBC]
Arlington Co. Makes New Acquisitions — Rosslyn-based tech company Higher Logic, which describes itself as “an industry leader in cloud-based community platforms,” has acquired a pair of marketing automation software companies, Informz and Real Magnet. Higher Logic now has over 340 employees and 2,600 customers, the company says. [Real Magnet]
Nearby: Alexandria Considering Nixing Water Park — The City of Alexandria is considering not renewing the lease of the Great Waves Waterpark along Cameron Run. Also, of particular concern to Arlington and other local jurisdictions, it is reportedly considering pulling out of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Elmer Umberto Lopez-Velasquez, 39, raped a 23-year-old woman near mile marker 44 in Arlington County on July 3, 2012, according to Arlington County Police.
He was sentenced to 50 years with 18 suspended for the charge of rape and five years for the charge of strangulation. The two sentences will run concurrently.
He brandished a knife and dragged the victim off the trail and sexually assaulted her. After the assault, the suspect fled the scene and the victim took herself to Virginia Hospital Center and the police were called.
Investigators discovered his connection to the sexual assault after an attack at a Columbia Pike motel in 2016.
On January 12, 2016, a woman was involved in escort-related activity at a motel when two men she did not know entered the motel room and raped her, stole her personal items and fled. The men were caught by plain-clothes police officers nearby, and DNA evidence linked Lopez-Velasquez with the unsolved 2012 rape.
Lopez-Velasquez previously pled guilty in the January 2016 case and received a 10-year sentence.
More from an Arlington County Police Department press release:
Elmer Umberto Lopez-Velasquez, 39, of Alexandria, VA was sentenced on Wednesday, September 13, 2017, in the Arlington County Circuit Court to thirty-two years in prison for his role in a rape on a shared-use trail in 2012. Judge Daniel Fiore sentenced the defendant to fifty years with eighteen suspended for the charge of Rape and five years for the charge of Strangulation. The two sentences will run concurrently.
Theophani K. Stamos, Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney and M. Jay Farr, Arlington County’s Chief of Police made the announcement following the court appearance.
On January 12, 2016, a female victim was involved in escort-related activity at a motel in the 3000 block of Columbia Pike when two suspects unknown to the victim knocked on the door. Upon entering the motel room, the suspects sexually assaulted the victim while using the threat of a weapon to hold her against her will. The suspects stole the victim’s personal belongings before fleeing the room. The suspects were apprehended by police working a plain clothes detail in the area. DNA evidence recovered from this assault was submitted to the state lab for analysis and the results linked this case with an unsolved 2012 rape.
On July 3, 2012, a 23-year-old female victim was jogging on the Four Mile Run Trail near mile marker 44 when she was confronted by an unknown Hispanic male that she had passed minutes earlier. The suspect brandished a knife and drug the victim off the trail into taller vegetation where he sexually assaulted her. After the assault, the suspect fled the scene in an unknown direction and the victim transported herself to Virginia Hospital Center where police were called.
Elmer Umberto Lopez-Velasquez previously pled guilty in the January 2016 case and received a ten-year prison sentence.
Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Theophani K. Stamos said, “This case brought to justice a serial sexual predator…and it’s a powerful demonstration of how intrepid victims, dogged police efforts, and dedicated prosecutors make the difference and help secure our community”.
Arlington County Deputy Chief Daniel J. Murray, Commander of the Criminal Investigations Division said, “The residents of Arlington County are significantly safer now that a predator has been removed from our streets. These horrible offenses and attacks on our community will be relentlessly pursued by our detectives. The message to criminals and the families of the victims is clear – Arlington County will not waver in our commitment to investigate and prosecute violent crimes – no matter how much time has passed.”
This case was investigated by Special Victims Unit Detective G. Sloan and prosecuted by Assistant Commonwealth Attorneys’ Lindsay Brooker and Stephanie Siegel.
ACPD Sending Supplies to Houston — The Arlington County Police Department is sending relief supplies to Houston Police, “who have been tirelessly serving those affected by Hurricane Harvey,” the department announced yesterday in a tweet. [Twitter]
More on County Board Debate — At Tuesday night’s Arlington Civic Federation debate, the two independent candidates blasted the County Board for supposedly being too pro cozy with business interests. Charles McCullough “several times ripped the county government for extending millions of dollars in ‘payola and corporate welfare’ in an effort to win economic-development successes,” while Audrey Clement “portrayed Arlington leaders as sharing a matrimonial bed with the development community, rubber-stamping new projects to reap the tax revenue they generate.” [InsideNova]
Arlington Encouraging Vanpools — Arlington County, via its Arlington Transportation Partners program, is encouraging commuters to join a vanpool, touting savings of up to $10,000 a year compared to solo commuting. [Arlington Transportation Partners]
Arlington Free Clinic Women’s Health Program — Grants from the Susan G. Komen foundation are funding a women’s health program at the Arlington Free Clinic and in turn saving the lives of breast cancer patients who otherwise could not afford their healthcare costs. Among those who beat breast cancer with the clinic’s help is one of its employees, a mother of three who found a lump while attending a breast health event in 2003. [WJLA]
Nearby: Rabid Raccoon Found — A raccoon found in an Alexandria park has tested positive for rabies. [Patch]
Flickr pool photo by Vandiik
Commonwealth Joe Gets $2.5 Million — Local nitro cold brew coffee purveyor and Pentagon City cafe operator Commonwealth Joe has landed a $2.5 million round of funding. The Arlington-based firm says it plans to use the investment to expand its cold brew business, which includes distributing kegs of the sweet, smooth chilled coffee to offices. [Washington Business Journal]
Local Holocaust Survivor Reunited — An Arlington man was reunited with a Dutch couple that hid him and his sister, who are both Jewish, from the Nazis in 1945. The reunion took place at the U.S. Holocaust Museum and happened thanks to a high school project undertaken by the couple’s grandson. [NBC Washington]
Raise for Arlington County Board Members? — There is renewed discussion of a significant raise for Arlington County Board members, in recognition that their job, rather than being part time as originally envisioned, now involves full-time hours. There are even “whispers” that Board salaries could be nearly doubled, to reach six-figures, according to one report. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Tax Delinquency Rate Hits Historic Low — Arlington County’s 2017 tax delinquency rate has hit a record low of 0.226 percent, County Treasurer Carla de la Pava announced. That’s the lowest rate in Virginia and the lowest rate ever in Arlington, she said, touting it as “good for the county” and “good for taxpayers.” The news led Del. Patrick Hope to declare de la Pava the “best treasurer in the Commonwealth.” [Twitter, Twitter]
Remembering the Ballston Mall’s Past — First known as Parkington, then Ballston Common Mall, and soon (next year) to be reopened as Ballston Quarter, following extensive renovations, Ballston’s shopping mall has a long history that dates back to the early 1950s. [WETA]
Nearby: Legislation on Confederate Monument — State Sen. Adam Ebbin says he will introduce legislation “to give Alexandria the authority to relocate the Confederate statue in Old Town” Alexandria. “It is past time that we address the impact that lionizing the Confederacy has had on the character of our Commonwealth,” Ebbin said. [Twitter, Twitter]
Charlottesville Solidarity Rally Held — Arlington County Board vice chair Katie Cristol was among those who spoke at a “Rally of Solidarity for Charlottesville” in Courthouse yesterday. The rally was intended to “actively condemn bigotry and racial hatred through a series of speeches, songs, actions, and a moment of silence.” [Facebook, WJLA]
Alexandria Considering New Names for Route 1 — An Alexandria group charged with considering new names for Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) is soliciting suggestions through an online form and two public hearings. [City of Alexandria]
Flashing Lights on I-66 — If you drove on I-66 this weekend and noticed flashing lights from equipment overhead, don’t worry: you’re not getting a ticket. Instead, VDOT is testing new toll equipment. Non-HOV drivers are expected to begin paying a toll to use I-66 inside the Beltway in December. [VDOT, NBC Washington]
Old Oak Tree Saved — A “mighty” oak tree that pre-dates the Civil War was saved from being removed during the construction of a new home thanks to a petition by neighbors and a developer willing to consider their concerns. The tree, at the corner of N. Nottingham and 27th streets, is 18 feet in circumference and one of Arlington’s 100 designated “champion” trees. [Washington Post]
WeWork Offering Free Space on Mondays — Coworking provider WeWork is offering free workspace at its D.C. and Northern Virginia locations — including its Arlington location in Crystal City — on Mondays as part of a new promotion dubbed “#SummerMondays.” The promotion runs through the end of September. An RSVP is required. [WeWork]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
The project to extend the Interstate 395 Express Lanes from Fairfax County through Alexandria and Arlington to the D.C. line celebrated its ground-breaking ceremony this morning.
The toll lanes will be extended for eight miles north from Turkeycock Run near Edsall Road to the vicinity of Eads Street in Arlington, near the Pentagon.
The Virginia Department of Transportation partnered with toll road manager Transurban and contractors AECOM Engineering Company and Lane Construction to deliver the project. Construction is now underway and scheduled for completion in fall 2019.
The project will add a third reversible HOT lane on I-395, accessible for free by vehicles with three or more occupants and an E-ZPass Flex transponder, or for a toll by all others.
The lanes will generate funding for other transportation options in the region. Using toll money, Transurban will pay $15 million each year to local jurisdictions to help them pay for improvements. Among other projects, the south parking lot at the Pentagon is set for an overhaul, as are several nearby bridges.
The ceremony, atop a Pentagon City parking garage, marked the official start of construction. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) was joined by Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne and elected officials from across the area, including Arlington County Board chair Jay Fisette and fellow Board member Libby Garvey.
Layne said such partnerships between state government, local agencies and federal stakeholders have been crucial to move the project along, heralded as the largest in the United States.
“We knew what the construction was going to be, but it took collaboration and trust to get this project underway,” Layne said.
McAuliffe hailed the project for solving a “major headache for so many commuters going into and out of the District, and going to and from our great Pentagon.”
He added that as Virginia’s population continues to grow — with people attracted by its low taxes, strong business environment and other amenities like breweries and wineries, McAuliffe said — projects to improve congestion on the Commonwealth’s roads are vital.
“This is finally going to be solved, and this is going to be a game-changer for residents of Northern Virginia,” McAuliffe said.
For its part, Transurban promised to be good partners throughout construction and beyond.
Jennifer Aument, Transurban’s group general manager for North America, said workers are committed to the safety of all road users during work, and urged drivers in the area to avoid distractions, wear their seatbelt and watch their speed around the construction zone.
Aument also said Transurban would be a “good neighbor” and work with nearby neighborhoods to minimize any other disruptions.
“Now, we’ll get to work,” she said.
Work has already got underway in the existing I-395 high-occupancy toll lanes. On Monday, August 7, VDOT announced full night-time closures of the lanes in both directions from the southbound HOV exit ramp near Boundary Channel Drive to the northbound exit ramp from the 95 Express Lanes near Edsall Road.
And weather-permitting, some southbound regular lanes of I-395 will be closed overnight this week between Duke Street and Edsall Road. VDOT advised drivers to travel safely and pay attention to signs posted on the road.
A car crashed into a side entrance of Target in Potomac Yard, just over the Arlington border in Alexandria.
The car came through a smaller door at the store at 3330 Jefferson Davis Highway at around 11:20 a.m. this morning. The driver and a passenger were extricated after a brief entrapment, according to scanner traffic. Both were transported to the hospital with minor injuries.
The crash left the front side of the car mangled, and set off an alarm in the store away from the main retail section. Customers continued to enter the store as normal, while police were out directing traffic around the scene but did not close any travel lanes in the parking lot.
Firefighters from the Arlington County Fire Department initially went to assist at the scene, but as of 11:45 a.m. had left. Police and fire units from Alexandria remained on scene.