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Changes coming to Boundary Channel Drive and I-395 interchange (image via VDOT)

Construction is starting next week to make Boundary Channel Drive and the I-395 interchange near Crystal City and the Pentagon safer.

The impact on locals should be “minimal,” Virginia Department of Transportation spokesperson Mike Murphy told ARLnow. While there could be lane closures, access to surrounding facilities will be kept open.

“Some day and overnight lane closures may be scheduled along I-395, Boundary Channel Drive, and Long Bridge Drive in the project area,” Murphy said. “Access to I-395 via Boundary Channel Drive, as well as access to Pentagon facilities and the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center will be maintained during construction.”

The long-planned $20 million project is set to reduce traffic lanes on Boundary Channel Drive to make room for paths and sidewalks, install roundabouts, reconfigure ramps, and add crosswalks.

The purpose of the renovations is to simplify traffic patterns and to make it safer for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

“We’ve long sought these improvements,” then-County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said at a Board meeting last year when voting to approve the project. “They will reconfigure the interchange that you see to make it work a lot better and safer for everyone.”

The VDOT-led project is expected to be completed about a year from now, in fall 2023.

Crews will begin with work on Boundary Channel Drive, where both directions will be reduced to one lane to allow for the construction of the new roundabouts, utility work, and pedestrian improvements.

Those improvements include a path along the south side of Boundary Channel Drive, complete with crosswalks, landscaping, and street lighting.

The new shared-use path, varying in width between ten and twelve feet, will start at the Long Bridge Aquatic Center parking lot entrance. It will then follow Long Bridge Drive northbound before connecting with westbound Boundary Channel Drive, per Murphy. The half-mile-long path will pass under I-395 and turn north at the soon-to-be-built western Boundary Channel Drive interchange roundabout.

The new path will ultimately connect with the existing one that parallels the southbound George Washington Memorial Parkway ramp to I-395 southbound.

This project has been in the works since at least 2014 and is estimated to cost $19.6 million. It’s being paid for by a combination of state, federal, regional, and county money.

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Forever Grateful Market (photo courtesy of Anthony Allen)

A new locally-focused antique and collectibles market is coming to Long Bridge Park next month.

Forever Grateful Market is set to take place on Saturday, September 3 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. outside of the now-year-old Long Bridge aquatic center in Crystal City. This will be the second time the market has been held there, with the first one taking place earlier in August.

Vendors confirmed include those selling art, automobilia, handcrafted items, sports cards, Hollywood memorabilia, and antique toys. More are likely to be added since vendors have until Sept. 2 to sign up.

Forever Grateful Market flyer (image via Forever Grateful Market)

The event’s organizers are local. Co-founder Anthony Allen is from Arlington, having grown up in Arlington Heights and attended Wakefield High School as well as Marymount University. In fact, Allen was part of the Wakefield High School basketball team that went to the state tournament in 2005.

He says he and the other co-founder, Tiffanie Cross, are both collectors themselves, with Allen collecting sports memorabilia. They saw a need for a market in Arlington that was “family-friendly and inclusive” for vendors and shoppers alike.

At the first market back on Aug. 13, Allen said, around 1,500 to 2,000 people attended and about 25 vendors were selling items.

“It was a huge turnout. We weren’t sure if that location [would attract] that many people,” said Allen. “But what we found out… was that we got a lot of people who were in traffic going to D.C. […] and saw a whole line of white tents.”

Allen expects that this month’s market will be even bigger with more attendees and vendors. This time around, Allen and Cross are hosting a back-to-school giveaway and a backpack collection drive, with the hopes of attendees donating 1,000 backpacks to elementary and middle schools in Arlington.

The two co-founders say they have come to an agreement with the county to host the Forever Grateful Market outside of the aquatic center on a regular basis going forward. There are currently four more markets scheduled for 2022 including October 1, either October 29 or 30, November 19, and December 17.

The ultimate goal is to open a “Forever Grateful Emporium,” said Allen, a dedicated brick-and-mortar space, potentially in Arlington, where they can host a market every day. They are already taking vendor applications for it.

For the moment, Allen is happy that the county is providing space in an easily-accessible location for the antique and collectible market, providing vendors and shoppers alike a place to sell and find unique items.

“We want to make sure that no one really feels left out. You can either join us as an attendee or join us as a vendor,” he said. “Either way, we’re going to make space for you.”

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A view of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics & Fitness Center (courtesy of Susan Kalish/Parks Department)

The Long Bridge Aquatics and Fitness Center closed early yesterday (Thursday) due to an electrical emergency.

“At approximately noon on Thursday, the incoming voltage to the building began spiking beyond what was safe for our equipment,” Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish tells ARLnow.

DPR closed the facility so that power could be shut down, and Dominion Energy responded yesterday afternoon to make repairs.

“The spiking stopped and contractors replaced or repaired damaged equipment,” she said. “We are happy to report the community could dive in once again by 8 a.m.”

Typically, the center opens at 5 a.m. on Friday for early risers to get in their morning swims and dives.

Members were notified of the closure “due to emergency maintenance” in an email time-stamped at 12:55 p.m., according to a copy shared with ARLnow.

This is the first reported emergency repair resulting in the temporary closure of the Long Bridge Aquatics and Fitness Center since it opened in August of last year.

The facility will next be closed on Sunday, April 17 for Easter Sunday.

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Morning Notes

Lunchtime in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Public Safety Watchdog Profiled — “Like a lot of people, Dave Statter got a bit bored when the pandemic hit and he was pretty much confined to his home. But unlike most of us, Statter lives high atop a Crystal City building overlooking I-395. Why binge Netflix when just outside the window is real-life drama, pathos, tragedy and comedy, all captured by the five video cameras Statter has trained on the traffic below?” [Washington Post]

Aquatics Center Struggling to Hire — “It’s been open for almost three-quarters of a year, but Arlington’s Long Bridge Park aquatics center is not immune for finding personnel that are plaguing the rest of the county government… The aquatics facility, which opened last summer after a lengthy and difficult birthing process, is still in need of a general manager and aquatics-program manager, and the 16 lifeguards on staff would require an infusion of eight to 10 more to bring it to a full complement.” [Sun Gazette]

APS May Add Some Instructional Time — “It’s a mystery: How does a school district that invariably has the highest (or close to it) per-student costs in the region also have the lowest amount of instructional time in a typical school year? Whatever the historical reasons for that anomaly, Arlington school officials are hoping to rectify the last half of that equation. Kind of.” [Sun Gazette]

Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Now at ANC — “A young sailor in the U.S. Navy who perished in Pearl Harbor has finally been laid to rest. U.S. Navy Seaman 1st Class Walter Stein, 20, of Cheyenne, Wyoming was buried Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery. Stein was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor while serving aboard the USS Oklahoma… Stein’s remains were not officially identified until April 16, 2021 — about 80 years after his death.” [Patch]

Donation to Local Housing Nonprofit — “Arlington Community Federal Credit Union announced a $10,000 grant to local nonprofit, Rebuilding Together- Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church (AFF). The grant was part of a national give back program award from national credit union credit card vendor PSCU to be given to a local nonprofit of Arlington Community FCU’s choice. Rebuilding Together- AFF is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that serves low-income homeowners and nonprofits.” [Press Release]

E-CARE Returning Next Month — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “Saturday, April 23, Earth Day weekend: E-CARE returns to Yorktown HS for fast, safe drop-off of household hazardous materials, old electronics, bikes and much more. Fun fact: Folks arriving by foot and bike get through even faster.” [Twitter]

Pair of Missing Persons — Arlington County police are looking for two missing people: a 16-year-old boy last seen in the Rosslyn area, and a 31-year-old woman last seen near the Arlington Ridge Shopping Center. [Twitter, Twitter]

It’s Wednesday — A chance of shower in the morning, then mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 58 and low of 36. Sunrise at 6:57 am and sunset at 7:31 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Fitness buffs, lap swimmers, curious residents and families with kids could be seen trickling into the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center this morning (Monday), on the opening day of the new facility.

A 12-year-old girl from Dorothy Hamm Middle School was the first to jump into the water, according to the Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish.

Later, when an ARLnow reporter visited the facility, a five-year-old boy could be heard wondering how tall the diving boards were, while a handful of adults worked out upstairs in an 8,000-square-foot fitness center. More families showed up later in the morning.

The county put $2 million in donations from Boeing toward opening the center at 475 Long Bridge Drive this summer. At one point, a July opening seemed possible, but delays pushed the date back to August.

Four years after the project was approved, the 92,000-square-foot swimming and recreation facility — the second of four phases to redevelop Long Bridge Park — is officially open. It boasts a pool for serious swimmers and one for recreational swimmers, with numerous community amenities, from spas to community rooms.

“We have a full certificate of occupancy, but there is still a punch list” of tasks to complete before the center is fully done, said Peter Lusk, the athletic and facilities services division chief for the county.

Kalish said the parks department will transfer many of its swimming programs to the center, which “will help the community a lot,” as pre-pandemic, swimming classes hosted at pools in Arlington Public Schools filled up quickly.

Parks department classes are due to restart in mid-September, “the first time in 17 months,” Lusk said.

Competitive swimmers, water polo players and synchronized swimmers can use a 79-degree pool that can be configured for either 25-yard laps or 50-meter ones, using moveable starting platforms. There’s also an area for spectators upstairs.

Some younger recreational swimmers will remain at local school pools, as parents expressed concerns about travel times to Long Bridge Park.

The Aquatics Center “will be the home of the Arlington Aquatic Club,” Kalish said, referencing the county-run competitive swim program that helped to train Olympic medalist Torri Huske. “Younger ones will swim in school pool closer to home.”

Recreational swimmers can use a family pool with a splash pad, a water slide, four 25-yard lap lanes, a lazy river and a spa. The pool is 83-84 degrees for tots, seniors, and those doing therapeutic water activities. The lap lanes can be used for water volleyball and basketball, which Kalish said the department is “hoping this will be a draw for millenials.”

Nearby, “wet” meeting rooms can be used classes and for birthday parties.

Kalish shared grand visions for bringing out the community, from hosting big swim meets and using a large screen for movie nights, renting out open spaces and turning part of the facility’s new parking lot into farmer’s markets and wine tastings.

Prices for passes range by age group, and reductions are available to income-eligible residents. Daily admission ranges from $5-9 per person or $25 for families, and an annual pass ranges from $350-630 per person or $1,750 for families.

Boeing, for whom one pool is named, is making about 5,000 daily passes available to active duty military families in the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore’s service area for free through a lottery system.

The project has been in the works for nearly a decade, attracting some controversy along the way.

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Morning Notes

Opening Date Set for Aquatics Center — The new Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center will open on Monday, Aug. 23, the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation announced yesterday. [Twitter]

Local Org Resettling Afghan Refugees — “Besides Lutheran Social Services, the [Arlington-based] Ethiopian Community Development Council, the International Rescue Committee, and Catholic Charities do a lot of work to resettle Afghan [Special Immigrant Visa] holders in this area. Christy McCaw of African Community Center DC  Metro, the ECDC’s resettlement branch, says her organization needs leads on apartments that will rent to newcomers without proof of income.” [Washingtonian]

Broken Water Main Causes Pressure Problems — From the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services yesterday: “A crew is stabilizing a broken water main that has caused pressure issues in the vicinity of Campbell Elementary School along S. Carlin Springs Road. Pressure should be returning to normal within the hour. Traffic diverted around work site. The break is on a 20-inch main. Greatest impact of pressure loss along Carlin Springs Rd from Rt 50 south to Columbia Pike and near the intersection of Wilson Blvd and George Mason.” [Twitter]

New W-L History Marker Under Consideration — “Four years after the installation of a marker celebrating the history of Washington-Lee High School was scotched by leaders of the county school system, a proposed revised marker – honoring the school now known as Washington-Liberty – is wending its way through the development process.” [Sun Gazette]

Next Community Convo with Police Chief — “Join Chief Penn and members of ACPD at the next Community Conversations with the Chief to share your thoughts on the future of policing in Arlington! Our next conversation will take place on Friday from 10 AM to 12 PM at Metro 29 Diner located at 4711 Lee Highway.” [Twitter]

Huske Signs Sponsorship Deal — “2020 U.S. Olympic medalist [and Arlington resident] Torri Huske announced that she’s signed a swimwear deal with TYR on Friday, making her the third high-profile swimmer set to begin their freshman year of college to do so. Huske, 18, will join Stanford University in the upcoming collegiate season. Terms of the deal have not been made public.” [SwimSwam]

Youth Baseball Team’s Championship Run — “Overcoming four tournament losses, the 9-under Arlington Storm Black managed to finish second in the Babe Ruth World Series. The Storm lost in the ultimate title game of the baseball tournament in Jensen Beach, Fla., by a 7-3 score, to Florence, Ala. The meeting was the fourth between the teams in the competition. About 90 minutes earlier that same day, Arlington had previously routed Florence, 11-1, to force a playback game between the two teams in the championship round.” [Sun Gazette]

Reminder: N. Glebe Road Closure — “All lanes of N. Glebe Road between Military Road and Chain Bridge Road, in the northern tip of Arlington, [are now] closed for construction… The nine-day closure is the culmination of the $10 million rehabilitation project for the nearly 50-year-old bridge over Pimmit Run, just before Chain Bridge. Between Friday, Aug. 13 and Monday, Aug. 23, crews will work to replace the entire bridge deck and its underlying beams.” [ARLnow]

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The new Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center “should open later in this month,” a county spokeswoman tells ARLnow.

The long-planned, $60 million center near Crystal City is preparing to make its debut as a destination for lap swimmers, casual pool users and fitness buffs alike. A formal announcement of its impending opening is imminent, we’re told.

“We will be announcing its opening date [this] week,” said Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. “Beginning in September, all of the County’s swim classes will be held at Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center.”

“While the pandemic may have impacted the timeline slightly (much like most construction projects over the past 18 months), the fact that this was a Design/Build agreement assured us that costs remained the same and did not escalate,” Kalish said of the slight delay in the opening — at one point it seemed possible it might open in July. The project was approved in 2017.

Kalish said a ribbon cutting ceremony will be held on Friday, Sept. 24, followed by an open house on Saturday, Sept. 25.

“To celebrate… we are coordinating a community-wide Opening Celebration,” she wrote. “More details on this event will be available in the next two weeks.”

A new website for the aquatics center was recently launched, inviting interested patrons to sign up for an email list.

“Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center is a 92,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art aquatics and fitness facility that serves the needs of health-conscious, fun-seeking and active individuals and families,” the website says. “The center is committed to the promise of fitness and fun for all who live, work and visit Arlington County.”

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The long-planned and long-debated Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center is set to open this summer, perhaps as early as July.

The $60 million facility, construction of which was approved in 2017, is located north of Crystal City and south of the 14th Street Bridge, offering monumental views across the Potomac. It features a 50-meter competition pool with diving towers, a whirlpool, a family pool with a splash pad, a water slide, water volleyball and basketball areas, and a lazy river — in addition to an 8,000-square-foot fitness center and rooms for for classes, parties and events.

A multi-million-dollar donation from Boeing will help cover the facility’s operating costs, and will also make admission free for local, active duty military families, in return for naming rights to the 50-meter pool and the park’s existing outdoor fields.

In the years-long discussion about the merits of the aquatics center, prior to it being built, there was some debate over how much of a local need it was filling, at a relatively high cost. Will it be something mostly used by Speedo-clad swimming enthusiasts, or will it be widely used by the community, particularly during cold weather months when recreation options are limited?

With the aquatics center close to opening, let’s revisit that question. Do you plan on checking out the facility at some point this year, after it opens?

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Arlington’s first free-standing aquatics center could open its doors in the next couple of months.

“The [Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center] will be opening this summer, but it’s too far out to give an exact month or day,” Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish tells ARLnow.

The approved Fiscal Year 2022 budget includes funding for the opening of the facility at 475 Long Bridge Drive, in Long Bridge Park, using $2 million of a nearly $10 million donation from Boeing, which has its D.C. area headquarters nearby. According to the budget, the center is slated to open in July.

As work draws to a close, project manager Erik Beach gave ARLnow a tour of the facility, which has a pool for competitive swimming and a family pool, a center with fitness equipment, and spaces for classes, parties and events.

“It’s a pretty incredible site,” he said.

Work began on the 92,000-square-foot swimming and recreation facility — the second of four phases to redevelop Long Bridge Park — three years ago. But the history of the controversial project goes back much farther.

Voters approved funding for the project in a 2012 bond referendum, but due to rising costs the recreation center was put on hold in 2014. Three years later, the County Board voted to award a construction contract and get started on the $60 million recreational center. The project broke ground in 2018.

One hallway “will have a timeline of the project’s development, since it had such a long, rich history, if you will,” Beach said.

The Boeing donation will not just cover operating costs. It will also make admission free for active duty military families in the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore’s service area. Families will have access to about 5,000 daily passes per year through a lottery system.

“We are grateful we can recognize the importance of our active-duty military families by providing them with a day of fun and fitness in our new, state-of-the-art facility,” Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said in a statement.

Jason Pak, the director of Boeing Global Engagement, said the company is proud to give members of the armed forces convenient access to the facility.

“The Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center will be critically important in not only providing support for the recovery and rehabilitation of service members but also promote general health and wellbeing for everyone in our community,” he said in a statement.

The community will have access to two pools. Competitive swimmers, water polo players and synchronized swimmers can use the 50-meter pool with diving towers, a whirlpool, and two moveable bulkheads (the starting platform for swimmers). Recreational swimmers can enjoy the family pool with a splash pad, a water slide, four 25-yard lap lanes, water volleyball and basketball areas and a lazy river.

On dry ground, the center has an 8,000-square-foot fitness center with cardio and fitness equipment, plus a studio for group classes. The facility also has three community rooms and two spaces for fitness classes, parties and gatherings.

The revamped Long Bridge Park includes more than 10 acres of new parkland for casual use, a new public art piece and outdoor space for festivals and special events.

“This is an area that can really exceed expectations,” Beach said.

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The indoor public pools at Washington-Liberty and Yorktown high schools reopened on Saturday.

Arlington Public Schools announced Friday afternoon that the pools would be reopening under the state’s Phase 3 guidelines. The Wakefield High School pool “will remain closed for a few more weeks” due to major maintenance work, APS said.

Those who want to use the pools are required to make a reservation for a 45-minute window.

More from an APS email to parents:

The two pools will open under the Virginia Forward Phase III guidelines, which include diminished capacity, physical distancing of 10 feet and the requirement of a health and temperature screening for all staff and patrons. We have posted many of the details on our website and will continue to do so over the next 24 hours. Use this link to learn more and stay informed.

Patrons will need to purchase admission and make a reservation for a 45-min swim or water exercise/jog session. You will need to set up an account on our Self-Service Portal. You will receive a separate email this evening inviting you to join the APS Aquatics Self-Service Portal. Follow the instructions on the email to set up your account. […]

The reservations will open at 8 a.m. on the previous day (On Friday at 8 a.m. you will be able to register for Saturday sessions). They will first go live tomorrow morning. Instruction on registering are available at Making a Reservation. This section also includes information about what to expect when you get to the pool, while you swim and after you are done. Patrons will be checked in, directed to the locker rooms to shower before swimming and out to the deck to a designated Blue or Red lanes. After you swim, you may choose to exit directly off the deck or enter the Unisex Room to change out of your swimming gear and shower. If you have any questions or need assistance navigating the portal or the registration page, please call 703-228-6264 or 703-228-6263. […]

Regretfully, The Wakefield pool will remain closed for a few more weeks. APS is performing major maintenance in the entire building ahead of the start of the school year. We recognize this is disappointing to our Wakefield patrons, but it is imperative that this work be completed. We anticipate opening around August 24. […]

The APS Aquatics team is excited to be back at the pools and ready to welcome you back.  Staff will be learning how to navigate this new way of serving you and the success of our re-opening depends greatly on your willingness to follow the guidelines and on your patience. Our primary concern remains your safety both in the water and in the building.

We very much look forward to seeing you on Saturday at Washington-Liberty and Yorktown Pools. It has been a long 4-months on dry land.

Arlington County does not have outdoor public pools, but is home to several private swim clubs. The county government itself does not currently operate any public pools, but that will change when the Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center opens. The opening of the aquatics center, however, has been delayed at least a year due to the pandemic and budget issues.

File photo

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Crews are now starting work on the walls for the long-awaited, long-debated Long Bridge Aquatics and Center near Crystal City.

Arlington County tweeted that the final beam was lifted into place last week for the controversial $60 million recreational center at 475 Long Bridge Drive. Officials say the next steps will be setting up walls and pouring pool foundations.

“The building’s structural steel work is nearing completion and concrete for the 50-meter pool is being formed and poured,” Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow.

The final design includes a 50-meter pool with diving towers, as well as a family pool and public fitness space — and $410,000 video screens.

Arlington officials have already budgeted for two full-time staffers to run the facility once it opens.

Kalish also confirmed that last year’s record-breaking rain did not interfere with the construction timetable — even if it did dampen the groundbreaking ceremony.

“Weather has not had any effect on the schedule,” she said. The wet weather reportedly delayed construction projects across the region.

The aquatics center is expected to open at the beginning of 2021, and officials hope it will serve everyone from middle schoolers to competitive swimmers who currently train at the high school pools.

Image (below) via Twitter/Arlington County

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