Arlington, VA

Update at 2:20 p.m. — Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy has directed Arlington National Cemetery to host the Wreaths Across America event this year, despite the worsening pandemic, per a tweet Tuesday afternoon. McCarthy said the event will be held safely, but it was not immediately clear how.

Update at 3:50 p.m. — President Trump now says that he reversed the decision to cancel the annual holiday wreath event this year.

Earlier: The annual holiday wreath-laying event at Arlington National Cemetery has been cancelled this year due to the pandemic.

“Due to the current COVID-19 situation across the nation and within the [National Capital Region], it is with great regret that ANC is cancelling Wreaths Across America,” the cemetery said in a tweet Monday night.

The average daily case rate hit a new all-time high in Arlington and across Virginia today. Nationwide, the number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 reached a new peak today.

The wreath event attracts tens of thousand of volunteers, who lay wreaths at the cemetery’s hundreds of thousands of graves a week or two before Christmas. More crowds of volunteers then help to “retire” the wreaths after the holiday.

In a press release, below, the cemetery’s Executive Director said that officials “did not make this decision lightly.”

Due to the current COVID-19 situation across the nation and within the National Capital Region, it is with great regret that Arlington National Cemetery is canceling Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery and the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home Cemetery on December 19, 2020.

Following a thorough analysis of the annual Wreaths Across America Wreaths-In event this year, and in close collaboration with the Joint Task Force, National Capital Region, we determined that we could not implement sufficient controls to mitigate the risks associated with hosting an event of this size under current and forecasted infection and transmission rates, while still conducting a respectful and honorable public event.

“We did not make this decision lightly. Despite the controls developed to disperse potential crowds in time and space, and required personal safety protocols, we determined that hosting any event of this scale risked compromising our ability to accomplish our core mission of laying veterans and their eligible family members to rest,” stated Karen Durham-Aguilera, Executive Director, Office of Army National Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery. “We reviewed various options to safely execute this long standing event and held numerous consultations with WAA leadership and local government and public health officials. We understand that although this is disappointing for so many, we could no longer envision a way to safely accommodate the large number of visitors we typically host during this event.”

ANC’s most sacred mission to lay our nation’s veterans and their family members to rest continues during this COVID-19 environment. In order to ensure that our primary mission takes place, and to protect our workforce and visitors, the cemetery is taking this proactive step to adhere to the guidance outlined by the CDC to prevent contracting or spreading respiratory illnesses like the flu or COVID-19.

“Our strong hope is to be able to resume hosting this great event next year in 2021,” said Charles “Ray” Alexander, Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery.  “While many of our families and visitors associate the wreath event with the holiday season, we thank all the thousands of volunteers who had planned to take this time to Honor, Remember, and Explore those who are laid to rest at our nation’s most hallowed ground. We invite everyone to virtually visit the cemetery through our multimedia platforms @ArlingtonNatl.”

Family pass holders and visitors are still welcome to visit the cemetery on their own schedules and place graveside tributes of privately purchased flowers or wreaths in accordance with our floral policy.

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Morning Notes

Crystal City Development Approved — “The Arlington County Board today approved JBG Smith’s plan to develop Crystal Gateway, a nine-story office building with ground-floor retail,  at 101 12th Street S. in Crystal City. Community benefits associated with the project include the developer conveying 54,500 sq. ft. of land for Gateway Park, which will connect Long Bridge Park to Crystal City.” [Arlington County]

Teacher Groups Banding Together — “Representatives from teacher associations in Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Arlington and Manassas Park will host a news conference Monday urging a return to virtual-only learning. In a statement Sunday evening, the Fairfax Education Association said it ‘stands with our colleagues from the Northern Virginia region to ask the Governor to return the Commonwealth to a full Phase II of the reopening plan and to recommend that our schools return to a fully virtual method of instruction.'” [InsideNova]

Feedback Sought for Police Chief Search — “The County Manager has launched a search for a new leader of the Arlington County Police Department. During the first phase of the search, the County is interested in hearing from the community. ‘We value the perspective of every resident and business,’ said County Manager Mark Schwartz… You can offer feedback through December 11.” [Arlington County]

Joint Chiefs Chair’s Wife Saves the Day — “When a bystander collapsed at the Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery Wednesday, a nurse was nearby and rushed to his aid. She happened to be the wife of the nation’s top military officer, Gen. Mark Milley.” [NBC News]

‘Click It or Ticket’ Starts Today — ” The Thanksgiving celebration is traditionally one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. As the holiday approaches, the Arlington County Police Department is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on a high visibility Click It or Ticket campaign.” [Arlington County]

State Sen. Pushing Pot Legalization — “We’re continuing to build a bipartisan coalition to #legalize responsible adult use of #marijuana in Virginia. I am working hard to ensure that ending the war on drugs is a top priority.” [@AdamEbbin/Twitter, Virginia Mercury]

N. Va. Delivered State for Biden — “Updated counts from the Virginia Department of Elections show that President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, defeated Trump by over 520,000 votes in Northern Virginia, defined as the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park… Across the rest of Virginia, Trump, a Republican, defeated Biden by about 70,000 votes, winning 50.2% to Biden’s 47.9%.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

It’s Veterans Day — Today is Veterans Day, and as a result of the holiday government offices are closed and metered parking is not being enforced. Per the county, Arlington is currently home to about 13,000 veterans. [Arlington County]

Trump Scheduled for Cemetery Visit –“To mark Veterans Day… President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump will visit Arlington National Cemetery. The President will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown [Soldier],” according to CBS News producer Sara Cook. [Twitter, Washington Examiner]

Man Exposes Himself a Block from Police HQ — “At approximately 12:05 p.m. on November 9, police were dispatched to the late report of an exposure. Upon arrival, it was determined that approximately an hour prior, the female victim was inside her parked vehicle when she observed the suspect expose himself. Arriving officers located the suspect and took him into custody without incident.” [ACPD]

From Record Warmth to Heavy Rain — Tuesday “set new daily record highs at the three major climate-observing locations in the Washington-Baltimore region. Washington reached 76 degrees, tying a record set in 1999.” Meanwhile, heavy rain is expected later today. [Capital Weather Gang]

County Updating Natural Resources Plan — “Arlington County is updating its Forestry and Natural Resources Plan to conserve, plant, and maintain wildlife there. Over the next year, the project team will be collecting comments from the public about the county’s conservation and maintenance. The county hosted its first public comment session on Tuesday.” [WDVM]

About Today — ARLnow will be publishing on a limited schedule today due to the holiday.

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A major project to add 70 acres to Arlington National Cemetery while reconfiguring the eastern end of Columbia Pike is inching forward.

The cemetery’s southern expansion project will add about 60,000 burial sites, across 37 acres of new burial plots and an above-ground columbarium, allowing the cemetery to continue military burials through the 2050s. It will also bring the Air Force Memorial within the cemetery grounds, and add a parking garage across Columbia Pike.

The federal government acquired county-owned land for the expansion via an eminent domain suit this summer. In exchange, the feds are paying for the reconfiguration of Columbia Pike and the creation of a new S. Nash Street in the tiny Foxcroft Heights neighborhood adjacent to the Air Force Memorial — a $60 million project.

“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 federal government said in June. “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.”

In all, the cemetery expansion and the road project are expected to cost $420 million, most of which has already been appropriated by Congress.

Separately, the federal government is also planning a visitor center for the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon, across from the expanded portion of the cemetery closer to the Pentagon, as well as a new trail along the cemetery border from Foxcroft Heights to Memorial Drive.

The National Capital Planning Commission discussed the cemetery expansion plan at a review meeting last week. A presentation that preceded the discussion included a number of renderings of the project, as seen above.

The commission largely approved of the plan, but asked the Army to “submit a revised design for the Air Force Memorial vehicular entrance gate to address the unwelcoming experience created by the 60-foot line of bollards and fencing.”

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The Arlington Cemetery Metro station is “deteriorating” and Metro’s plan to fix it next year will cause some changes for commuters.

The platform reconstruction work is currently scheduled to take place from mid-February to May. During that time, those bound for D.C. and Maryland from the Pentagon and stations to the south will be served only by Yellow Line trains and the Yellow Line bridge.

The Arlington Cemetery station project is one of several capital projects Metro has planned for next year. More from WMATA:

Metro will rebuild deteriorating outdoor platforms at Arlington Cemetery, Addison Road, and four Green Line stations north of Fort Totten next year, continuing its robust capital program to keep the system safe and reliable for the next generation of riders. To date, Metro’s Platform Improvement Project has completed full platform replacements at 10 stations — six on the Blue and Yellow lines and four on the Orange Line. Construction activity is currently underway at Reagan National Airport Station marking the project’s halfway point, leaving nine stations to be completed in 2021 and 2022.

Arlington Cemetery and Addison Road stations will be closed for approximately three months for full platform replacement and station renovation. Silver Line trains will pass through the Addison Road construction site without stopping using a single track. Yellow Line trains will provide all trans-Potomac service for stations Pentagon and south.

“Metro will partner and work closely with local jurisdictions and transportation agencies to develop alternative travel options, including free shuttle buses and other mitigation plans,” Metro said. “Specific travel alternatives and rail service details will be announced in the coming months, along with public outreach to ensure awareness of the project.”

The Arlington Cemetery project is the only announced 2021 project affecting service in Arlington.

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Morning Notes

Board Shelves Pike Housing Proposal — “Arlington County Board members on Oct. 17… [removed] from consideration a staff proposal to change rules governing affordable housing on Columbia Pike. Board members, who had weathered intense community skepticism of the proposal when it first was heard in June, had placed the proposal back on their October agenda, and had recommendations from both the Planning Commission and county manager to approve it. But when critics again suited up to do battle, board members threw in the towel.” [InsideNova]

Another Top Bond Rating for County — “For the 20th year in a row, all three credit ratings agencies have reaffirmed Arlington County’s debt ratings of Aaa/AAA/AAA — the highest possible rating. Arlington is one of just 48 counties in the United States, and one of nine in Virginia, to receive this designation.” [Arlington County]

Amazon Donates to Antiracism Effort — “Amazon.com Inc. has donated $100,000 to Arlington County’s antiracism initiative. The company, which is setting up a headquarters in the Northern Virginia county, made the donation Oct. 14 and the county board will vote on whether or not to accept the funds on Tuesday.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Sculpture at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery — “A new sculpture honoring military women and military working dogs was unveiled outside Arlington National Cemetery. The life-size bronze sculpture called ‘The Pledge’ is being placed at the Women In Military Service For America Memorial, located at Arlington National Cemetery’s entrance.” [WTOP, DCist]

Arlington Woman Featured as Face of COVID — “One of those laid off was Serenety Hanley, whose career in digital communications included a stint in the White House under President George W. Bush. The 45-year-old single mother was let go from a retail job in March and now makes a living by shopping for Instacart… Hanley said she still can barely make ends meet.” [Thomson Reuters Foundation]

Va. Ventilator Usage Declines — “The number of Virginians being treated on ventilators for COVID-19 fell to a new low Monday, and case levels also declined somewhat from recent trends. The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reported that just 81 patients were being treated statewide on ventilators, down from 95 the day before and the fewest since the association began publicly reporting COVID-19 data in early April.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

RBG Buried at Arlington National Cemetery — “The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was buried at Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday. A spokesperson for the Supreme Court confirmed that she was laid to rest and said it was a private service. She was set to be buried alongside her husband, Martin David Ginsburg, who was buried there in 2010.” [WJLA]

DCA Work May Cause Traffic Delays — “Beginning on or about Thursday, October 1, portions of the Terminal B/C Ticketing (upper-level) roadway will close for work related to Project Journey. At least two vehicular lanes will remain open as the construction areas periodically change.” [Press Release]

Police Investigating Lyon Park Attack — “As the parties exited the business, the dispute continued and became physical. The suspect waved a knife at Victim One, who then fell to the ground. The suspect kicked her, at which point a second victim attempted to intervene, but was struck with the knife by the suspect. The suspect then fled in a vehicle.” [Arlington County]

Cristol Joining New Equity Program — “Arlington County Board Member Katie Cristol has been named one of 14 Southern elected leaders who will form the inaugural class of E Pluribus Unum (UNUM) fellows. The program is designed to equip Southern leaders with resources that advance racial and economic equity within their communities.” [Arlington County]

Ballston Hosting Local Restaurant Week — “You’re invited to sip and savor your way through Ballston. Join our neighborhood’s Sip & Savor Restaurant Week. From October 1st through the 4th, support your favorite restaurants and eat local!” [Ballston BID]

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Since 1972, Arlington House — the recognizable Greek revival mansion atop the hill in Arlington National Cemetery — has been officially called “Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial.”

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is now planning to propose legislation that would remove the Confederate general’s name.

Beyer said today, as first reported by the Associated Press, that it’s time to drop Lee from the official name of the house, from which Arlington County gets its name, logo and seal. The general lived in the house, but its history goes beyond his time there, both before — it was built by George Washington’s adopted son around the turn of the 19th century — and after — when it was seized during the Civil War.

“The choice of Lee’s home for the site of a national military cemetery was intended to be a punitive measure against Lee, who himself said after the Civil War that he opposed erecting Confederate monuments,” Beyer said in a statement sent to ARLnow. “Given these considerations and requests from members of the community, including descendants of enslaved people in the area, I am working on legislation to remove the reference to Robert E. Lee from the official name of Arlington House.”

“Part of the reckoning with the history of racism and slavery in America and in our own community has been a reexamination of public symbols,” Beyer continued. “I absolutely support that process, including the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from the U.S. Capitol and taking other actions that make it clear we do not revere Confederate leaders or approve of the cause for which they fought.”

Beyer’s push to remove the name comes as Arlington County is in the midst of a series of proposed renamings, some brought about by the national racial reckoning that followed George Floyd’s killing at the hands of police.

A name change process has been launched for Lee Highway (Route 29), and new names have been proposed for Henry Clay Park and the S. Abingdon Street bridge over I-395 in Fairlington. Previously, Washington-Lee High School was renamed Washington-Liberty and Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) was renamed Richmond Highway.

The Arlington branch of the NAACP, meanwhile, called last month for Arlington’s logo and seal to be redesigned in order to remove Arlington House from each, calling it “divisive and racist” and “a symbol of a slave labor camp.”

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The East Falls Church and Arlington Cemetery Metro stations are scheduled to reopen this weekend, WMATA says.

The transit agency announced that its planned outdoor platform reconstruction work along the Orange Line is “well ahead of schedule,” allowing East Falls Church and other stations to return to service.

The East Falls Church station will reopen Sunday, according to WMATA. It closed in March, at the outset of the pandemic, along with the Clarendon and Virginia Square stations — which reopened in June.

The Arlington Cemetery station is also set to reopen on Sunday, as Metro works to return rail service to pre-pandemic levels.

Also available to East Falls Church commuters: a new bike parking facility at the station, which cost around $2 million and was originally slated to be completed in 2015. Cyclists need to register online before using the “Bike and Ride” facility.

More on the reopenings from a WMATA press release:

With the project to reconstruct outdoor platforms at four Orange Line stations west of Ballston proceeding well ahead of schedule, Metro today announced that East Falls Church will reopen this Sunday, August 23. The early reopening of East Falls Church will follow yesterday’s ahead-of-schedule reopening of West Falls Church and the five Silver Line stations in Virginia. Rail service has returned to near pre-pandemic levels, and Metrobus service will increase dramatically beginning Sunday, August 23.

Also today, Metro announced that Arlington Cemetery Station, closed since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will also reopen on Sunday, leaving only two of Metrorail’s 91 stations – Vienna and Dunn Loring – that will remain closed for a few additional weeks.

Dunn Loring and Vienna will open Tuesday, September 8, marking the first time all Metrorail stations have been open since March 19 when Metro initiated strategic station and entrance closures as part of its comprehensive response to the public health emergency.

Returning Orange Line customers may notice ongoing construction activity even after stations reopen, as Metro’s commitment is to restore service on the first day it is safe for customers, which is often weeks earlier than a project’s completion date.

East Falls Church Station customers will benefit from the station’s new secure Bike & Ride facility that offers secured bicycle parking at no charge. To access the facility, customers must use a registered SmarTrip card and must first complete the online Bike & Ride registration form, available here.

Photo courtesy Elvert Barnes

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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.

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Morning Notes

Special Election Voting Starts Today — “Arlington election officials have announced plans for two Saturday dates for in-person absentee voting in advance of the July 7 County Board special election. Saturday voting will be available on June 20 and July 4, augmenting the usual Monday-to-Friday early voting that will begin May 22.” [InsideNova]

Big Food Donation to Green Valley Church — “3,300 lasagna and vegetable meals donated by chef Jose Andres’ @WCKitchen were given to those in need at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Arlington [on] May 21.” [@ZoeyMaraistACH/Twitter]

Flags In at Ceremony Despite Pandemic — “The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment has continued their tradition of placing American flags at every grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day.” [NBC 4]

Arlingtonian Aims to Run Every Street — “Before the pandemic hit, I hadn’t taken a big vacation in years. Since I’m at a dramatically reduced salary from not working full-time and, like so many Arlingtonians, dealing with underlying stress and anxiety while still feeling incredibly thankful, I’ve decided to use this time to discover my own city by walking or running every street.” [Arlington Magazine]

Local Wages Were Rising at the End of 2019 — “The average weekly wage for those working in Arlington (wherever they may live) stood at $1,963 in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to data reported May 20 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s an increase of 4.7 percent from the same period a year before, well above the national growth rate of 3.5 percent (to $1,185).” [InsideNova]

Local Artist Creates Virus Sculptures — “The sculptures seem to be inspired by the latest breaking news headlines. A figure in a stark white face mask. A giant virus cell mutating into a tentacled sea creature that morphs back into a virus… The centerpiece was a spiky model of “a virus, with seven figures running away,” said [Hadrian] Mendoza, 46, a ceramic artist, sculptor and full-time art director at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington since 2017.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

Rain and Storms Today — “Waves of showers or storms are a good bet as the slow-moving upper level low pressure system finally decides to wander by. Round one will end in the morning to midday, but skies remain mostly cloudy. If we do see enough sunshine and heating, it’s not impossible some severe storms will develop nearby.” [Capital Weather Gang]

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