Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Parent Group Calls Out APS — From the Black Parents of Arlington: “In addition to tracking incidents of racism, APS needs to implement mandatory anti-racism and implicit bias training for all teachers and staff throughout the system on a regular basis. Moreover, APS must begin to track incidents of racial and ethnic hostility and make these findings public. The time is now. We will no longer wait. Arlington’s Black children deserve better.” [Facebook]

Pizzeria to Open Next Month in Clarendon — “A storied Connecticut pizza shop is making one of its biggest moves, opening a new location in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood next month. Colony Grill is gearing up to debut Oct. 13 with a 5,200-square-foot space, taking over at 2800 Clarendon Blvd. for the Gallery Clarendon art installation pop-up that shuttered in February. The restaurant offers seating for 170 guests in three different areas.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Potomac Bridge Moving Forward — “With the state budget in tatters and commuter levels at record lows, now might hardly seem the right moment for Virginia to embark upon a $1.9 billion rail project. However, the recent conclusion of the Long Bridge’s environmental impact study has cleared the way for the commonwealth to do just that.” [Virginia Mercury]

Eagle Scout Project at Fire Station 5 — “A special project is taking shape to honor the victims of September 11th.
A piece of steel from the World Trade Center was brought to the Arlington County Fire Department nearly ten years ago. Now, a local high school senior and aspiring Eagle Scout wants to transform the area into a place where people can gather.” [WUSA 9]

Arlington Man Jailed in Belarus — “A U.S. diplomat warns that her Belarusian American husband’s health is in ‘immediate danger’ following his late-July arrest by security forces of the authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Vitali Shkliarov, a political analyst and dual citizen who worked on the presidential campaigns of both Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, was detained while visiting his parents in his hometown of Gomel, Belarus, in the runup to the country’s Aug. 9 presidential elections.” [NPR]

County Reaffirms Fair Housing Commitment — “Arlington will continue to follow the federal government’s 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, despite the federal government’s July 2020 action to rescind that rule within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the County Board said in a resolution approved at its September 15 Recessed Meeting.” [Arlington County]

Local Historian Dies — “It is our sad duty to announce the passing of beloved historian Ed Bearss, one of the legends of the battlefield preservation movement and a long-time member of the American Battlefield Trust board.” [National Parks TravelerTwitter]

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Morning Notes

County Board to Consider Bridge Pact — “The Arlington and Alexandria governments are planning to formalize their long-shared responsibilities for maintenance of five bridges that span Four Mile Run between the two communities. The new agreement sets out the share of funding for future short-term and long-term rehabilitation of the five bridges – at West Glebe Road, Arlington Ridge Road, Shirlington Road, Route 1 and Potomac Avenue – as well as maintenance costs.” [InsideNova]

Meal Donation to Hospital — Per a spokeswoman: “At 12:45 p.m., roughly 1,500 meals from local restaurants will be delivered to Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington as part of a 9/11 Day and World Central Kitchen initiative to support first responders and frontline healthcare workers on the 19th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The local restaurants participating in the delivery to Virginia Hospital Center are Arepa Zone, La Ceiba and Bistro Bis.”

Board to Vote on ART Facility Contract — “The Arlington County government is moving forward with planning for reconstruction of its Arlington Transit (ART) operations and maintenance facility, located on Shirlington Road in the Four Mile Run/Green Valley area. County Board members have been asked to approve a contract of roughly $3.9 million for planning, design and construction-administration services for the $81 million project. Stantec Architecture is receiving the contract.” [InsideNova]

Local Bars Welcome NFL Season — “‘We’re delighted to have live sports back,’ said Dave Cahill, general manager of Ireland’s Four Courts in Arlington, Virginia. ‘We’re fortunate here at the Four Courts; we have three different rooms, and we have a large outdoor area. So we have 18 televisions inside and three TVs outside. Having three rooms, it’s going to allow us to spread people out all over the rooms, 6 feet apart and still enjoy the football,’ he said.” [WTOP]

GOP Senate Candidate Addresses Civ Fed — “His longshot candidacy notwithstanding, Daniel Gade received a polite reception from delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation. ‘I’m the sort of person who will always tell you the truth,’ the Republican U.S. Senate nominee said at the Sept. 8 event. His opponent, incumbent Democrat Mark Warner, was invited but did not attend the forum, convened online due to the public-health pandemic.” [InsideNova]

County Encourages Local Hotel Bookings — “For most of us with out-of-town family and friends, it’s been far too long since we’ve been able to get together. And with safety being everyone’s top priority, you may not be comfortable yet hosting guests in your Arlington house, condo or apartment. With plenty of space, great fall deals and packages, and an array of enhanced health and safety programs, Arlington’s 44 hotels can offer the ‘spare bedroom’ for your visitors this fall.” [Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

More APS Tech Issues Reported — Several people contacted ARLnow yesterday to report more technology issues involving remote learning. While Wakefield High School’s principal posted a possible fix on social media, APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said that any remaining problems were isolated: “At last check this morning, there were 25,273 APS-provided student devices active on our network. There are some issues at the secondary level, but we are working directly with those students to reset their devices.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Sept. 11 Commemoration Tomorrow — “Arlington County will commemorate the lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and express gratitude to all those who responded that day with a virtual event. To ensure everyone’s safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, the public will view the event online or on the County’s cable channels.” [Arlington County]

State Grant to Boost COVID Testing — “The Virginia Department of Health has provided the Department of Human Services with $320,287 to increase COVID-19 testing capacity. The grant award covers the period August 1, 2020 through December 30, 2020. Grant funds will support operations and logistics at testing sites.” [Arlington County]

Amazon Holding Virtual Career Day — “Amazon is looking to build on the success of last year’s Career Day events across six U.S. cities that hosted 17,000 job seekers with over 200,000 people who applied for jobs in the week leading up to the event. The new completely virtual event will open Amazon Career Day 2020 to everyone, regardless of their location. Some of the new employees will be placed at Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia, which is continuing to expand following its opening last year.” [Good Morning America, Amazon, WTOP]

Progress on DCA Expansion — “Project Journey is well on its way. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority this week offered an update on its two-pronged, roughly $650 million modernization program at Reagan National Airport. The final product will deliver a new north concourse, replacing the oft-maligned Gate 35X, and new security checkpoints. The former is expected to open in July 2021, and the latter by the fourth quarter of 2021.” [Washington Business Journal, NBC 4, InsideNova]

Wide Pedestrian Bridge Proposed — “The final EIS for Long Bridge recommended building 14′ wide pedestrian and bike bridge connecting Long Bridge, the MVT and East Potomac Park. Governor Northam committed to funding pre-COVID. This will be huge for regional trail connectivity.” [Twitter, Friends of the Mt. Vernon Trail]

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(Updated at 5 p.m.) Crossing Four Mile Run on Columbia Pike on foot or bike can be nerve-wracking, with scarcely any space separating pedestrians from the busy street. A new project set to get underway in a few months should make that crossing a little easier.

The Columbia Pike Four Mile Run Bridge Pedestrian Enhancements project will bump out the northern sidewalk along westbound traffic to 10 feet, double the current five feet. Vehicle travel lanes will, in turn, be slimmed down.

The project also will add lighting to the northern side of the bridge.

There is currently nothing except the curb separating pedestrians from vehicles, but the project will guardrails in spots to help improve safety.

“The sturdier guardrails will be installed at the approaches [but] not on the bridge itself,” said county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet. “The expanded sidewalk will remain 9″ tall to provide protection for pedestrians.”

Balliet said there’s no word yet on when the improvements will be completed.

“The project is currently in design,” he said. “Implementation of the bridge enhancements is expected this fall, but we don’t yet have a start or end date for the work.”

The project arose out of public feedback from the Columbia Pike west end project, in which local residents said the sidewalks were too narrow and the too poorly lit to feel safe traveling along the bridge at night.

Images via Arlington County

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N. Glebe Road is expected to close for nine straight days next year for a bridge rehabilitation project.

In a recently-posed video presentation, VDOT provided an update on its planned Pimmit Run bridge project. The presentation details the plan to replace the deteriorating bridge deck and steel supporting beams with large, prefabricated components.

Sections of the bridge deck and support beams will be constructed off-site and trucked in, then placed with a crane. That will allow crews to replace the entire top of the bridge much faster than with conventional construction techniques, which would require a sequential series of lane closures.

The downside is that the bridge — and thus N. Glebe Road, just up from Chain Bridge — will need to be closed to traffic entirely for an estimated nine days next year.

The project is set to kick off next spring and wrap up in the fall of 2021. Its projected cost of $9.5 million will come from state and federal funds.

The bridge was built in 1973, serves 13,000 vehicles per day, and is suffering from corroding concrete and steel supports. The project will replace the entire bridge deck and support beams, while also repairing the concrete bridge piers in and around Pimmit Run, near where it flows into the Potomac.

The rehabilitated bridge will have new rails and barriers, as well as a widened pedestrian path.

During the project, traffic heading to and from Chain Bridge will be detoured via McLean and N. Chain Bridge Road. A closure of N. Glebe Road just up from the bridge last week, due to water main work, resulted only in minor traffic impacts — albeit during a pandemic during which many people are working from home.

VDOT is asking for anyone with feedback on the project to email [email protected] by Aug. 7.

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Morning Notes

Dorsey Hasn’t Returned Union Donation — Arlington County Board and WMATA board member Christian Dorsey, “who promised three months ago to repay a $10,000 campaign donation that violated the board’s ethics policy, has not yet refunded the money and is likely to be replaced as Virginia’s representative on the regional board. Dorsey said Wednesday that he is working on a wire transfer to return the money to a transit union that routinely negotiates with Metro.” [Washington Post]

Beyer Slams Impeachment Trial — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) issued the following statement… ‘Today Senate Republicans ended their impeachment show trial. It will go down as one of the most craven events in American history.'” [Press Release]

County Board Race Fundraising Update — “The two Democrats vying for Arlington County Board entered 2020 with roughly the same amount of cash on hand, according to figures from the Virginia Department of Elections. Incumbent Libby Garvey had $16,823 in her campaign kitty as of Dec. 31, while challenger Chanda Choun had $16,155, according to data reported after the Jan. 15 filing deadline.” [InsideNova]

West Glebe Road Bridge Open House — “The deteriorating West Glebe Road Bridge, on the Arlington border near I-395, will be the topic of an open house next week. The bridge is currently closed to large vehicles weighing more than 5 tons due to structural deficiencies. It’s set for a major rehabilitation project, likely starting later this year.” [ALXnow]

Forum to Discuss Repealing Second Amendment — “Encore Learning will present a forum on ‘Repeal the Second Amendment: The Case for a Safer America’ on Monday, Feb. 10 at 3 p.m. at Central Library. The speaker, American University professor Allan Lichtman, will discuss his perspectives on gun safety and will argue for national legislation and the potential revision of the U.S. Constitution.” [InsideNova]

Dirt Closes Restaurants in Miami, Too — “On Thursday at 11 p.m., employees were told via a text message from DIRT Regional Director of Operations Aaron Licardo that both the Sunset Harbour and Brickell locations were closing for good. The two Miami spots closed on the heels of the Virginia location shuttering; that restaurant, located in Ballston, lasted less than a year. The message employees received claimed the company ‘found no other way to keep these locations open.'” [Miami Herald]

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The return of several bridges lost in last summer’s flooding will depend on the upcoming Arlington County budget, officials tell ARLnow.

Arlington homes, businesses, parks and some infrastructure suffered significant damage last year during the July 8 flash flooding. Among the casualties of the storm were seven bridges in parks throughout Arlington.

“There was one in Bon Air and Gulf Branch parks, and two in both Lubber Run and Glencarlyn parks,” Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said in an email.

A small pedestrian bridge at 38th and Chesterbrook, in the Old Glebe neighborhood, was also destroyed, but has since been replaced. Kalish said it was a simple wooden bridge and there was sufficient funding in the maintenance budget. None of the other destroyed bridges have been replaced.

While the six other bridges have been removed, Kalish said replacing them will be an item considered in the upcoming Capital Improvement Plan — a ten-year plan to address infrastructure issues. Discussion of the proposed CIP is scheduled to run from May to July following the adoption of the operating budget in April.

In addition to the bridges, the restrooms at Bon Air Park are also still closed, and will remain closed indefinitely, the county said in an update on Jan. 24. The update notes that following repairs “all of the [damaged] picnic shelters, volleyball courts and playgrounds are open.”

Staff photo by Ashley Hopko

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Arlington could finally make progress on a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Four Mile Run near Shirlington that’s been under discussion for nearly two decades, according to county staff.

Staff told the Transportation Commission at a Jan. 9 meeting that the current bridge, which carries two lanes of vehicular traffic in each direction on Shirlington Road, has inadequate bicycle-pedestrian facilities, with only a 3-5 foot sidewalk available.

Pedestrian access on Shirlington Road has been a thorn in the county’s side for years, with efforts made in the past to widen nearby sidewalks and make them more pedestrian-friendly — while the bridge bottleneck remained.

The bridge itself is still in good condition, staff said, so rather than reconstruct the bridge staff said a new bicycle and pedestrian-only bridge constructed 20 feet to the west would provide an alternative transit route without cutting into traffic on the Shirlington bridge.

The project, staff noted, has already been fully funded in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, but not plans have moved forward.

An open house for the pedestrian bridge project is scheduled for Feb. 11 from 6-8 p.m., in which nearby civic associations will be invited, though the location of the open house was not announced. Staff said renderings for the bridge will be available at the open house.

“We are starting to implement what came out of the Four Mile Run area plan,” staff said.

The Four Mile Run plan also considered a, underpass running beneath the bridge, negating the need for cyclists and other trail users to cross busy Shirlington Road, though that was not discussed at the Transportation Commission meeting. Arlington County is currently working on a $15.5 million renovation project for Jennie Dean Park, adjacent to the future bridge.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

County Board Approves Legislative Priorities — “The Arlington County Board today finalized its 2020 General Assembly Legislative Proposals… Arlington’s proposals include requests that the General Assembly renew without a sunset clause the .25 percent transient occupancy tax on hotel rooms that funds travel and tourism promotion in Arlington.” [Arlington County]

Groups Call for County-Owned Power Company — “Eighty years after the idea was first broached, several progressive groups are embarked on a likely uphill effort to have the Arlington government develop its own energy utility. The Arlington Green Party is the latest to sign on to the effort, which was proposed by Our Revolution Arlington.” [InsideNova]

New Operator for Shelter on the Pike — “Arlington has finalized new contracts for operation of the County’s two homeless shelters for single adults beginning in January 2020. A-SPAN will continue to operate the Homeless Services Center in the Courthouse Neighborhood, and New Hope Housing will take over from Volunteers of America – Chesapeake & Carolinas to operate the Residential Program Center on Columbia Pike.” [Arlington County]

Thousands Participate in Wreath Laying — “Despite the cold and the rain, thousands of volunteers came to make sure our country’s fallen heroes were honored with wreaths during the 2019 National Wreaths Across America Day at Arlington National Cemetery. There was no mistaking what this meant to families whose loved ones are buried at Arlington National. One of those families watching volunteers flood the cemetery told FOX 5 they couldn’t interview without crying.” [Fox 5]

Trump Campaign Strategizes at Local Hotel — “Over a 90-minute PowerPoint session at a hotel in Arlington, Va., on Thursday, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign manager Brad Parscale and other senior Trump campaign officials presented dozens of national political reporters their theory of how Trump can win again in 2020.” [Axios]

Nearby: Seven Corners Bridge Rehab Complete — “The rehabilitation of the one-way bridge linking the eastbound Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) service road to Wilson Boulevard (Route 613) is complete, improving safety for drivers and pedestrians and extending the overall life of the bridge.” [VDOT]

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The Arlington County Board is set to vote this weekend on a funding agreement that would advance the proposed Crystal City-National Airport pedestrian connector to a preliminary design phase.

The county plans to use up to $9.5 million in federal funds for an environmental impact study and preliminary design work.

The design work is expected to be complex: figuring out how to connect pedestrians along Crystal Drive, and potentially the VRE station, with the airport Metro station — across active train tracks, the GW Parkway and National Park Service land.

“The goal of the project is to create an intermodal connection, focusing on pedestrian access from the core of the Crystal City business district to DCA,” says a county staff report. “The funding agreement allows the County to use Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality federal funding, distributed through VDOT, to develop the required documents and level of design required for federally funded projects.”

“Although the terminals are less than 2,000 feet from Crystal Drive, current pedestrian access is a circuitous network of trails and road crossings that is difficult to traverse,” the report adds.

The project has been championed by the Crystal City Business Improvement District, which envisions a High Line-esque bridge, with park-like features. The primary goal, however, is to make it easy for people to get from Crystal City to the airport without a Metro or car trip — which is seen as an attractive amenity for office tenants and residents. The design work will determine whether a bridge or a tunnel is the best solution for that.

“This weekend’s Arlington County Board vote represents a key step towards advancing our vision for a bold new connection linking Virginia’s largest downtown and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport,” said Robert Mandle, Chief Operating Officer of the BID. “CC2DCA provides a unique opportunity to leverage existing transportation assets into a multi-modal hub, while also delivering a truly special and iconic piece of urban infrastructure.”

The state’s Commonwealth Transportation Board identified $9.5 million in federal funding in the wake of the Amazon HQ2 announcement. That’s on top of $500,000 in local funding previously allocated.

Once the funding is secured and this phase gets underway, the next phases for the Board to consider will be final design and construction. Last year a study by the BID estimated that construction would cost about $38 million, with annual maintenance fees of $100,000.

Map via Google Maps

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Delayed by about a year, the opening of the new Ballston pedestrian bridge finally happened this week.

The snazzy, lighted bridge over Wilson Blvd, connecting the second floor of the renovated Ballston Quarter mall with the office complex and Metro station across the street, officially opened on Monday, a mall spokesperson said.

In addition to providing a refuge from the weather, the bridge also affords a view of traffic below on Wilson Blvd — with benches in the middle for that very purpose.

“We are excited that the Ballston pedestrian bridge opened this week and the community is making great use of it as a connector between Ballston Quarter and our neighbor, Ballston Exchange,” the mall spokesperson said. “The bridge has already made Metro and retail access more convenient for our guests and is a beautiful symbol of community connection.”

(The new bridge connects the mall to the Metro station via another, older pedestrian bridge from Ballston Exchange.)

Tina Leone, the CEO of the Ballston Business Improvement District, said the bridge enhances the pedestrian experience in the neighborhood.

“To say we are thrilled with the reopening of the newly redesigned Ballston Pedestrian Bridge would be an understatement,” said Leone. “It makes navigating around the heart of our vibrant neighborhood so much more seamless. It truly bridges together our community, making us more connected and we’re already enjoying the enhanced walkability experience the bridge provides.”

Besides offering bird’s-eye views and a warm, dry walk to and from the mall, the bridge also figures prominently into the overall streetscape of Ballston, providing a decided visual upgrade from the dated, previous bridge, which was torn down in 2017.

“The new design is extraordinary and it serves as another proof point in solidifying Ballston as a best-in-class destination for locals and visitors alike,” Leone said.

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