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An ART bus (via Arlington Transit Facebook)

(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Arlington Transit buses will return to full service after Labor Day weekend, the county-run transit agency says.

Rush-hour-only ART buses 53, 61, 62 and 74 will run again starting Tuesday, Sept. 7, after being out of service since March 2020 due to the pandemic. Once these buses resume operation, Arlington Transit will largely be back at full service. ART 72 will continue on a modified weekday schedule, however.

With construction ongoing around the Ballston Metro station, ART 53 and 62 bus stops will be relocated near the Metro elevator on Fairfax Drive.

While seating restrictions were lifted on Aug. 1, riders will still be required to wear masks as per a federal mask mandate for passengers on planes, trains and buses from the Transportation Security Administration, effective until January 2022.

Meanwhile, Metrobus is set to implement some changes after Sunday, Sept. 5, adding more buses and trains and extending Metrorail’s weekend hours.

Notably, bus 16Y from Columbia Pike to Farragut Square will resume operation, going both directions during weekday rush hours. The limited-stop service route, which once connected Columbia Pike stops to McPherson Square in D.C., was halted during the pandemic and was absent from when a number of routes were restored earlier this summer.

Buses 16A, 16C and 16E in Columbia Pike and 16G and 16H between Columbia Pike and Pentagon City will get service upgrades as well.

“Service will operate every 12 minutes or better from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily between Columbia Pike & South Joyce Street and Columbia Pike & South Dinwiddie Street at stops served by all routes,” WMATA said.

Bus 25B from the old Landmark Mall in Alexandria to Ballston will see some changes, with Alexandria working to overhaul its own DASH bus network. 25B will travel between Ballston, Southern Towers and Mark Center every day except Sunday, and between Ballston and Southern Towers on Sundays.

Metrorail trains will be available until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, an hour later than was previously offered. Trains will also start running earlier on Sundays, with riders able to board at 7 a.m. rather than 8 a.m.

More on the planned Metro changes from a press release, below.

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Commuters in Ballston now have access to new bus bays on Fairfax Drive, outside the entrance to the Ballston Metro station.

The refreshed bus bays feature “new bus shelters, sidewalks, and planters,” said Eric Balliet, a spokesman for Dept. of Environmental Services. He added that work along Fairfax Drive should be “substantially complete in August.”

These upgrades are part of a four-phase project to update the transit facilities and public areas surrounding the Metro station. Improvements to multimodal facilities along Fairfax Drive comprise the project’s first phase.

The county expects the project will be 100% complete next summer, he said. The goal of the project is to increase transit usage and safety, improve the facilities as well as access to them and circulation around them, and enhance their design and provide sustainable infrastructure.

With phase one nearing substantial completion, the county is embarking on the second phase. Access to bus bays and pedestrian paths along the east side of N. Stuart Street will be impacted during this phase, which is expected to last until spring 2022, the project webpage said.

“Access to businesses along east side of N. Stuart Street will be maintained throughout this phase,” the webpage noted.

Since Sunday, some ART and Metrobus service along N. Stuart Street and N. Stafford Street has been relocated to the new bus stops on Fairfax Drive and temporary ones on the west side of N. Stuart Street. On Monday, attendants could be seen helping commuters get to the right bus stop.

WMATA say it is still working to provide printed schedules for riders.

Phases three and four will focus on upgrades to two plazas, one on N. Stuart Street and one on Fairfax Drive, and each phase is expected to last three months. Once all four phases are complete, commuters will see a number of additional upgrades, such as additional bike parking, expanded public space along Fairfax Drive, a dedicated “kiss-and-ride” curb space and a dedicated shuttle bus curb space and bus shelter.

In addition, “landscaping and benches for the planter areas, bus stop flag poles and real-time bus information displays will be added toward the end of the project,” Balliet said.

The County Board approved the project in December 2019, and construction — expected to last 18 months — was slated to begin in the summer of 2020.

“The project experienced delays due to the need to relocate telecom and electric utilities lines,” Balliet said. “We now expect the entire project to be completed in summer 2022.”

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Morning Notes

New Rosslyn Food Hall Nears Opening — “American Real Estate Partners is nearly ready to take the wraps off Assembly, the food hall atop the Rosslyn Metro station, a project that’s been more than two years in the works and was thrown a curveball by the Covid-19 pandemic. Assembly at Rosslyn City Center, a 29,000-square-foot space spread over two levels at 1700 N. Moore St., is slated to open this week for a sneak peak for tenants and next week to the wider public.” [Washington Business Journal]

Northam Announcement in Arlington Today — “Gov. Northam will announce a ‘budget proposal for federal American Rescue Plan funding’ at the Arlington County offices in Sequoia Plaza on Wednesday afternoon, per a press release.” [Twitter]

Bonds Likely to Be on Ballot — “Arlington County Board members on July 20 formally requested the placement of four local-bond referendums on the Nov. 2 ballot, which if approved by voters – as seems likely – would lead to a further increase in the government’s debt-service payments… the following bonds will go to voters: $38.7 million for transportation and Metro. $23.01 million for schools. $17.035 million for community infrastructure. $6.8 million for local parks and recreation.” [Sun Gazette]

ART Buses Lifting Capacity Restrictions — “Starting August 1, rider capacity restrictions will be lifted on all ART buses. Seats inside the buses will no longer be blocked off.” [Twitter]

Ceremony Held for Urban Garden — “Project HUG revitalizes underused land at Virginia Highlands Park and illustrates how marginalized space in National Landing’s urban environment can be transformed into vibrant, sustainable, food producing ecosystems. This pilot project serves as a model of modern sustainable agricultural practices to demonstrate how community-driven farming can address food insecurity by leveraging partnerships across public, private, civic, and non-profit communities.” [Press Release]

Va. Unemployment System Struggling — “As the embattled Virginia Employment Commission has been scrambling to move through a massive backlog of unemployment claims, thousands more cases have been pouring in from jobless residents. Staff who review disputed claims have been leaving the agency, and the General Assembly’s watchdog has sounded alarms about measures being taken by the commission to hasten the process in response. Many unemployed Virginians say the commission’s unresponsive call center has stopped picking up the phone.” [Washington Post]

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Langston Blvd, formerly Lee Highway, at N. Veitch Street (via Google Maps)

The Arlington County Board took a step toward converting one lane of the newly renamed Langston Blvd into a bus- and HOV-only lane.

On Saturday, the Board accepted and appropriated a $710,000 grant from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to pay for the transit project, which will run through parts of Rosslyn. Last year, Arlington County applied for funding from the Commuter Choice program, which helps pay for transit upgrades using toll revenue from I-66 inside the Beltway.

“This is an area where we are continuing to work toward multi-modal,” said Board Chair Matt de Ferranti during the regular County Board meeting on Saturday. “On Lee Highway, soon to be Langston Blvd, we will have a bus-only lane so that more residents can move more quickly to work, through our community, and home as well.”

This grant will cover pavement treatment, restriping, and signage for the new bus lane. The lane will run eastbound from N. Veitch Street, near Courthouse, to N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn during peak morning hours.It will run westbound from N. Oak Street to N. Veitch Street during the evening peak period.

At other times, the lane will continue as a general-purpose travel lane.

This segment of Route 29 in Rosslyn “is very heavily congested and sharply degrades bus performance and reliability, which will be improved by the lane conversion,” a staff report said.

Pre-pandemic, that section of Lee Highway carried around 25 loaded buses per hour, according to the report.

The project could take two years to complete, according to Eric Balliet, a spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.

“The County Board’s acceptance and appropriation of the funds signals the start of the project,” he tells ARLnow. “The schedule included with the NVTC funding application was 26 months from project start to end of construction.”

The funding is less than the full $1 million that the county applied for, but staff are not earmarking more for it.

“We will work to deliver the project within this funding amount,” Balliet said.

The county mulled this project over before, even seeking funding — unsuccessfully — in 2019.

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If you see some fresh red paint on the pavement in Arlington, that’s a lane that has been designated for use by buses only.

County crews could be seen painting the new lane markers in Courthouse last week.

The new “bus only priority lanes and stops” are intended “to help improve transit safety, service and reliability,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Kathryn O’Brien tells ARLnow.

Seven red-painted portions of roadway are planned throughout the county, O’Brien said, including:

  • 27th Street S. and Potomac Avenue in Crystal City
  • 33rd Street S. and Crystal Drive in Crystal City
    S. Hayes Street and 12th Street S. in Pentagon City
  • Crystal Drive and 26th Street S. in Crystal City
  • 15th Street N. and N. Uhle Street in Courthouse
  • Clarendon Blvd and N. Uhle Street in Courthouse
  • Wilson Blvd and N. Uhle Street in Courthouse

“They should all be completed within the next week,” O’Brien said of the painting effort.

Photo courtesy Lisa C.

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(Updated at 9 a.m.) What was supposed to be snow is actually falling as sleet this morning, but the change in precipitation is not dampening the jubilation of local students, who now have the day off.

Arlington Public Schools announced shortly after 5 a.m. that it’s a snow day, even for remote learning.

“In-person and distance learning are canceled for all students today, Thursday, Feb. 18, due to inclement weather,” the school system said. “APS school buildings and offices will be closed… All in-person learning support programs, athletic activities, team practices, in-person technology support and other activities in schools and on school grounds are canceled.”

Via social media, APS explained that it was following the lead of the federal government, which is also closed today, and taking into account the forecast for more sleet and freezing rain as the day goes on.

According to the officials National Weather Service measurement at Reagan National Airport, 0.3 inches of snow has fallen so far this morning.

Across the county, most main roads are mostly slushy, thanks to the efforts of snow clearing crews. Many side roads have not been treated and are treacherous. Residents are being urged to stay home or exercise extreme caution if driving today.

“Yet, again, Virginia State Police is encouraging folks to hold off on traveling until conditions improve,” state police said last night.

A number of crashes have been reported this morning, including one that closed a portion of Carlin Springs Road at N. Galveston Street after a car reportedly spun off the roadway and crashed, injuring the driver.

Dominion Energy says it is prepared to respond to power outages in Northern Virginia, should freezing rain cause trees and branches to fall and power lines to be knocked out.

Arlington County government facilities, meanwhile, are closed, though the local government is still operating on a virtual basis. Arlington County’s trash and recycling service is not running today, and will instead be delayed a day and will resume Friday, with Thursday’s routes.

Buses, including ART and Metro buses, are operating on modified schedules.

As of 8:25 a.m., sleet was continuing to fall, with some freezing rain mixing in. The frozen precipitation is expected to continue through Friday morning.

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Morning Notes

Vaccine Registration Transfer Still in Progress — “We are aware that many Arlington residents who preregistered through the County system are unable to find themselves in the ‘Check the List’ feature. Data migration is continuing throughout the week and it may take several more days for your name to appear in the centralized system.” [Arlington County]

No Rolling Stops for Va. Cyclists Yet — “The Virginia Senate on Wednesday sidelined a proposal that would have allowed bicyclists to yield instead of halt at stop signs. Instead, lawmakers voted to commission a police study of the rule as enacted in other states. They also voted to require drivers to change lanes when passing bicyclists if three feet of distance isn’t possible and to allow two cyclists to ride side by side in a lane.” [Washington Post]

County Offering Emergency Training in Spanish — “To ensure a more equitable, culturally competent response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other emergencies, the Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management and Arlington CERT are launching their first-ever Spanish-language Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteer training.” [Arlington County]

First Non-Airline Lounge Coming to DCA — “A lot is changing at Reagan National Airport, and one of the new additions will be an American Express Centurion passenger lounge, the first non-airline passenger lounge at the airport. Reagan National will be the 16th U.S. airport to have a Centurion Lounge. The 11,500-square-foot lounge will open by the end of 2022.” [WTOP]

Gate 35X Replacement Opening Soon — “Airport officials have long planned to replace the 35X bussing system with a proper 14-gate concourse. So here’s some good news: looks like it will happen sooner rather than later. Airline Weekly reports that the American Airlines concourse will open three months earlier than anticipated. Turns out that the decline in air traffic during the pandemic helped accelerated construction work. It’s now slated to open as soon as April 20.” [Washingtonian]

GoTab Continues on Growth Path — “Industry-leading restaurant commerce platform GoTab has appointed sales and hospitality technology veteran John Martin as the company’s new Chief Revenue Officer. With over 30+ years of experience working with both brick-and-mortar restaurants and food technology systems, Martin has been a force in helping hyper growth startups with go-to-market strategy as well as helping CEOs develop approaches to accelerate sales and launch new products.” [Press Release]

Poems on ART Buses — “This year’s Moving Words Adult Competition 2021 Six winning poems were selected from 211 poems by this year’s judge, Arlington’s 2nd Poet Laureate Holly Karapetkova, who also has a poem on display. View the poems below and on Arlington’s ART buses from February through September 2021.” [Arlington Arts]

Beyer Gets Out-of-This-World Chairmanship — “Late last week, Democrats on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology elected Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) to serve as Chair of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics for the 117th Congress.” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Virtual Learning Day for In-Person Students — “Due to inclement weather, tomorrow, Tue, Feb. 2, Level 1 students receiving in-person learning support will temporarily revert to distance learning, and the return date for Level 2 Career & Technical Education students will be Feb. 3, depending on weather.” [Twitter]

Limited Service for ART Buses — “Tuesday, Feb. 2: Due to ongoing inclement weather, ART will operate *Limited* service on Tuesday, February 2. All routes will operate regular weekday schedules, but delays are possible and some routes will detour. Additional alerts will be sent if conditions should change during the day.” [Arlington Transit]

More Snow Today — “Snow showers of varying intensity could continue at times into Tuesday. Bursts of snow reduce visibility at times and re-coat roads. Temperatures at or below freezing mean untreated surfaces will remain slick. Additional accumulation in the immediate area should range from a coating to a couple inches through Tuesday.” [Capital Weather Gang]

Arlington GOP Pressing for School Openings — “Whether the prime consideration is public policy, pure politics or (most likely) a combination of the two, Arlington Republicans appear to see an opening in forcefully questioning the county school system’s lackadaisical back-to-class efforts. Keeping students out of classrooms for months on end is ‘destroying the lives of our children – it’s just failing them miserably,’ Arlington GOP chairman Andrew Loposser thundered.” [InsideNova]

Food Program Changes Hands —  “This month, the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) will transition ownership of its Plot Against Hunger program to the Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture (FOUA). Since its inception in 2007, over 600,000 pounds of fresh produce has been donated to AFAC through the Plot Against Hunger program.” [Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture]

More Capitol Rioters Who Stayed in Arlington — “Two more Kentucky residents have been charged federally in the U.S. Capitol riot that killed five people… According to the criminal complaint against Crase and Williams, the two drove to Washington with a third person, a witness not named in the complaint, and arrived at their hotel in Arlington, Virginia, just after midnight Jan. 6.” [Louisville Courier Journal]

Red Hot and Blue Pitmaster Dies — “Ernest McKnight, the pitmaster and executive chef who helped grow Red Hot & Blue from a Rosslyn, Virginia, barbecue joint to an international chain in the 90s, died of lung cancer January 17. He was 74.” [Eater]

New Metro Lost and Found Policy — “Starting March 1, DC Metro says the ONLY lost-and-found items it will help customers reclaim are wallets and electronics. Metro says the rest (see sampling in current list below) will be trashed or auctioned off.” [Twitter, WMATA]

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Morning Notes

NY Man Arrested for NYE Gunfire — “The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is investigating the discharge of a firearm which occurred in the Rosslyn area on the morning of January 1, 2021. At approximately 1:48 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a person with a gun in the 1500 block of Clarendon Boulevard… officers observed the suspect on the sidewalk holding a firearm as they arrived on scene. The suspect was compliant and taken into custody without incident.” [ACPD]

First Arlington Baby of 2021 — “What a way to ring in the #newyear! Welcome to the world, Mohamed! Our first [Virginia Hospital Center] #newborn of #2021 was born at 1:18 am this morning. Congratulations to the family, and thank you for letting us celebrate the new year with your bundle of joy!” [Twitter]

Parent Files Suit Against APS — “An Arlington Public Schools parent wants his daughter back in class so badly, he plans to file a lawsuit against the district. ‘We started the fundraising today, and we’ve already gotten a lot of great contributions from fellow parents,’ Russell Laird told Fox 5 Wednesday, referring to a GoFundMe campaign launched in an effort to raise $10,000 that would be used to sue Arlington Public Schools.” [Fox 5]

Nat’l Landing Touts Transpo Projects — “National Landing, the renamed neighborhood of Crystal City-Pentagon City-Potomac Yards in Arlington and Alexandria, will become the country’s most connected urban center sometime in the next decade, its business boosters say. Eight major transportation projects are underway in the area, with the aim of turning what is often seen as a busy pass-through into a truly urban neighborhood where residents, office workers and visitors have easy access to local and regional amenities as well as long-distance travel.” [Washington Post]

Local Nonprofit Sees Surge in Aid — “The financial assistance nonprofit Arlington Thrive is helping four times as many people as families are devastated by COVID-19. ‘I was never thinking this would happen in America. I was working hard. I was working three jobs. I lost all three jobs,’ one client, a cook, waiter and ride-share driver, told News4’s Pat Collins.” [NBC 4]

Bikeshare Station Work — “Pardon our dust! In Jan & Feb, some @bikeshare stations in Crystal City, Pentagon City, & Potomac Yard will be replaced, expanded, moved, or removed and may be OFFLINE for a few hours or days.” [Twitter]

Reminder: Bus Changes in Effect — “Riders on the Arlington, Virginia, bus system will once again have to pay fares and enter the bus through the front door starting on Sunday. Arlington County said that both practices were suspended by Arlington Transit (ART) last March, but fares can now be paid by either using the SmarTrip card, SmarTrip app or by exact change at the fare box, while plastic glass barriers have been installed to protect the drivers at the front of the bus.” [WTOP]

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Morning Notes

BBC Airs Segment on AFAC — The Arlington Food Assistance Center, which is seeing record food need and lines throughout the day, was profiled in a segment that aired on BBC World News this week. [Twitter]

Fares to Return on ART Buses — “ART buses will resume front door boarding and fare collection starting on Sunday, January 3, 2021. Riders will begin boarding buses through the front door and will pay their fare at the fare box using a SmarTrip card or exact change. The regular ART bus fare for a one-way trip is $2.00.” [Arlington Transit]

Teens Launch Hot Cocoa Company — “In July, Wakefield High School rising seniors Farah Bahr and Sithiya Reshmee (who goes by the nickname ‘Resh’) founded F&R Sweets, a line that includes chocolate-dipped strawberries, churro cheesecake (made with croissant dough, cream cheese filling and cinnamon sugar) and hot chocolate bombs… the bombs ($3-$10 each) grabbed my attention. They are bonbon-like orbs filled with mini marshmallows, Swiss Miss cocoa mix (regular, caramel or peppermint) and sometimes other add-ins.” [Arlington Magazine]

AWLA Treats Dog With Skin Condition — “On Sunday, we were very surprised when a brown-eyed dog with a severe skin infection and hair loss came through our doors. He desperately needs us, and together we can start him on the path to healing. Rufus was found all alone on the side of the road and was brought to AWLA for help.” [Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Patch]

Fort Myer Bowling Alley Back Open — “The [Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall] Bowling Center had a small grease fire last week that temporarily shut down operations. Today, the fire department and health inspections were completed and they were given approval to re-open at 2 p.m.” [Twitter]

Arlington is Soldier’s Resting Place, At Last — “An Army sergeant from Panama, Oklahoma who was killed during the Korean War has been identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency,” from the 55 boxes containing remains of American service members turned over by North Korea in 2018. “Rodgers will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, at a later date that has yet to be determined.” [Times Record]

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Arlington County has received a $710,000 grant to convert an outside lane of Lee Highway to bus- and HOV-only.

The lane will run eastbound from N. Veitch Street to N. Lynn Street during peak morning hours and westbound from N. Oak Street to N. Veitch Street during the evening peak period. During these times, roughly 25 loaded buses travel that stretch per hour, staff said in a report this January.

At other times, it will continue as a general-purpose travel lane.

The project is one of six “low-cost, low-risk” projects to receive a grant through the Commuter Choice program, which funds transit projects with toll revenue from I-66 inside the Beltway. On Wednesday, the Commonwealth Transportation Board authorized the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to award $3.5 million in grants, NVTC announced.

“We’re expanding the transportation network now using a conservative strategy focused on low-cost projects and longstanding assets to ensure access to convenient, safe and reliable choices whenever people are ready to commute,” NVTC Executive Director Kate Mattice said in a statement.

The scope and timeline of the program are limited this year after revenue plummeted due to COVID-19. Pre-pandemic, Commuter Choice on the I-66 corridor anticipated $25 million in grant funding for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Instead, tolled trips dropped by nearly 50%, the 2020 Commuter Choice report found.

“Given the lower revenues and increased competition for this round of I-66 Commuter Choice, we’re pleased that NVTC and the CTB selected this project for funding,” said Eric Balliet, a spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.

The funding, less than the full $1 million the County applied for, will be used to cover pavement treatment, restriping, and signage for the new bus lane.

“We anticipate fully implementing the project but have not yet had discussions about adjustments to the project scope based on the lower funding amount,” Balliet said.

The County Board will be need to accept and appropriate the funds and execute an agreement with NVTC, he said. Staff have up to two years to dedicate the money to the project, and up to five years to spend it.

The county mulled this project over before, even seeking funding — unsuccessfully — in 2019.

The county was also denied a request $10 million to help add a second entrance to the Ballston Metro station at N. Fairfax Drive and N. Vermont Street.

Other funded projects include three “existing, high-performing express bus services” and $1 million towards a second entrance to the McLean Metro station, the announcement said.

These projects minimize “the risk around the uncertainty of a return to pre-pandemic traffic volumes and (make) the best use of the minimal available toll revenues,” the announcement said.

Since the Commonwealth of Virginia and NVTC established the program in 2017, it has provided more than $60 million grant funding to 36 projects in Northern Virginia.

Photo via Google Maps

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