The Arlington County Board on Saturday is set to consider a lease renewal for county government headquarters at 2100 Clarendon Blvd in Courthouse.
Under the proposed agreement with property owner Vornado, according to a staff report, rent on the 235,000 square foot facility would actually go down, at least initially, though it would then rise 2.5 percent per year through the end of the lease in October 2033.
Starting in 2033, the county would have the option of renewing in five-year increments through 2062. Arlington, however, is also considering building its own headquarters nearby, to open before the end of the 15-year lease term.
More from the staff report:
The rent under the proposed lease Amendment will be substantially below the rent under the existing terms of the Lease. The current total rent under the existing Lease is approximately $11.2 million per year ($47.71 per square foot). In October, 2018 (immediately before the Amendment’s rent schedule takes effect), staff estimates that the total rent under the Lease will be approximately $11,500,000 per year ($48.95 per square foot) (charges for common-area maintenance and taxes must be estimated because they vary). Significantly, once the new rent takes effect in November, 2018, the total rent under the Amendment will start, and be reduced to, $9,867,354 per year ($42 per square foot), a savings of over $1.6 million per year.
The 15-year term of the Amendment is sufficient to give the County time to plan for and build a new administrative building at Courthouse Plaza if the County decides to do so. Based on the length of the term extension, staff believes it is now necessary to refurbish the County’s leased premises. The refurbishment would be paid for, in part, by the tenant improvement allowance provided by Landlord, the free rent, and the commission rebate (total = approximately $35.9 million). The scope and cost of any refurbishment will be determined by the County after a space utilization study.
In addition to a multi-million dollar office refurbishment, paid for by landlord and leasing agent concessions, under the lease renewal Arlington would gain the right to add a daycare facility to the building and to place an emergency generator on top of 2300 Clarendon Blvd, to serve the county’s Emergency Communications Center there.
County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending the Board approve the lease renewal, given what the staff report describes as “fair and reasonable terms” offered by Vornado.
The Board is scheduled to consider a request to advertise hearings this weekend on an ordinance that would change county code “to prohibit or, under specific circumstances, register the presence of wild and exotic animals and snakes over four feet in length Arlington County.”
Though the county already has rules in place regarding owning pigs, fowl and certain kinds of venomous reptiles, it lacks regulations covering “wild or exotic” creatures. The county defines those animals as the following:
“Wild or exotic animal” means any live monkey (non-human primate), raccoon, skunk, wolf and wolf hybrids, coyote, squirrel, fox, leopard, panther, tiger, lion, bear, small wild cats including hybrids (i.e., bobcats, lynx and cracal), hedgehog, sugar glider, or any other warm-blooded animal, poisonous snake or reptile or tarantula that can normally be found in the wild state, or any other member of a crocodilian, including but not limited to alligators, crocodiles, caimans and gavials.
“These and other wild and exotic animals, along with snakes over four feet in length, can be difficult to handle and can exhibit unpredictable, aggressive behavior toward humans and other species,” a board report reads.
The report continues: “Prohibiting them in Arlington would 1) protect both residents and animals from harm and reduce the likelihood of mistreatment of such animals kept out of their native habitat; 2) support public safety professionals by removing potential threats when responding to a residence; and 3) align Arlington with neighboring jurisdictions [such as the District, Fairfax and Falls Church].”
Arlington residents who violate the proposed ban could face fines. Locals who currently own such animals would either have to register them with the county’s animal control agency or turn them over to accredited zoos or nonprofits.
The Animal Welfare League of Arlington and the Humane Society of America support the changes, Arlington County said in a press release. People who want to weigh in on the proposal can email the county or attend a public hearing tentatively set for March 18.
Photo via Flickr/ToddMoney
(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette will not seek re-election this year, capping two decades of service on the Board.
Fisette, who first took office in 1998, is currently the longest-serving Board member. In a phone interview today, he said he has been weighing for months whether to run for another term.
“It’s really a complete honor and a privilege” to serve on the Board, Fisette said. “I still love the place, I’m just ready for a new challenge… a new way of working on the progressive values that we’ve embraced and that I’ve championed here in Arlington, that are at some level threatened at this moment.”
Though he has not decided what exactly to do next, Fisette said it will not be in elected office.
Fisette said he is especially proud of the Board’s long-term vision for Arlington — a “broad commitment to policies regarding the long-term sustainability of the community,” like transportation, housing, land use and the environment.
That was possible, Fisette said, because he “had the luxury, during most of my time here,” to make decisions based on community and professional staff input, and based on what he felt was best for the county.
“I worked really hard to treat people with respect and be fair,” said Fisette. “I could vote my conscience and best judgment with very little [consideration for] political or short term expediency.”
Fisette added that he hopes his successor continues to “stretch and aspire” without becoming “too political at the expense of good policy,” while at the same time emphasizing community engagement and “building toward a consensus.”
So far no candidates have filed to run in the upcoming Democratic County Board caucus, according to the Sun Gazette. With Fisette’s announcement today, a number of Democrats are now expected to throw their hats in the ring for the May 11 and 13 caucus. Whoever wins will face perennial independent candidate Audrey Clement in November.
In an Arlington County press release today (below), Fisette said that as an openly gay man he likely would not have been embraced by many communities like he was in Arlington when he ran for Board in 1997. He was Virginia’s first openly gay elected official.
Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said today he has decided not to run for re-election to the Board this year.
“I just returned from a trip abroad, where I gave this a lot of thought,” Fisette said. “I have decided that it’s time to find a new platform and seek new ways of protecting and advancing some of the progressive values that are so important to me, values we have championed here in Arlington that are threatened by the current administration. I will not seek a sixth term on the County Board. Stay tuned.”
His nearly 20 years of service on the Board “have been an honor and a privilege,” Fisette said. “I have often said that I am not sure I would have run for office in many other places, yet Arlington always felt like a great fit for me. This community has such a strong tradition of policy-based good government where community involvement is encouraged and matters.”
Arlington, he said, “embraced me as a gay man long before such an endorsement could be presumed, long before it became the norm.” He has fought hard, Fisette said, to ensure Arlington has remained an inclusive and welcoming community.
Fisette, first elected to the Board in 1998, said he has found it “exhilarating to work with visionary Board members, some of the most talented professional staff anywhere, and a deeply civic-minded community to transform Arlington in a way that has made it one of our nation’s most dynamic, desirable places to live,” Fisette said.
“It has been gratifying to help create a vision and then work to actually bring that vision to life – we have proven that you can be both fiscally responsible and progressive. I hope that Arlington continues to aspire and inspire.”
Fisette cited his decades of work on long-term sustainability issues, including smart growth urban planning, strong environmental policies including adoption of the Community Energy Plan, a multi-layered transportation system that includes Metrorail, bus and Capital Bikeshare, and a robust local affordable housing program, as among the accomplishments of which he is most proud.
Fisette’s impact has stretched well beyond Arlington through extensive work in regional and statewide bodies, including leadership roles with the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments, Transportation Planning Board, Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, Virginia Municipal League and Virginia Housing Development Authority.
“I believe in the power of collaboration and regionalism to make a difference,” he said.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed this work and will continue to do so through December,” he said. “And then others will continue the important work of planning and serving our community. Part of the challenge, and the satisfaction that comes from this job, is that the work is never done – that our community can and will always get better.”
Fisette has lived in Arlington since 1983 and has owned a home in Ashton Heights, with his husband, Bob Rosen, since 1987. The couple will stay in Arlington, he said. “We love Arlington and it will always be our home.”
Airbnb Reg Changes Proposed — The Arlington County Board is considering more updates to its new Airbnb regulations. The Board on Saturday is expected to advertise two potential changes: first, eliminate the loophole that allowed Airbnb hosts to get out of paying hotel taxes if they host fewer than four guests at a time. Second, set a $60 annual fee for the permits required to be an Airbnb (or VRBO, HomeAway, etc.) host in Arlington. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
Letter: Short-Term Rentals Pose Risks — A pair of letter to the editor writers in the Sun Gazette argue that allowing Airbnb and other short-term rental services in Arlington involves major risks to safety and the potential for abuse of affordable housing. [InsideNova]
Meeting to Discuss Proposed VRE Fare Hike — A meeting will be held March 7 in Crystal City to discuss a proposed 3 percent fare hike for Virginia Railway Express. [WTOP]
FBR to Be Acquired — Rosslyn-based investment bank FBR is being acquired by Los Angeles-based B. Riley Financial Inc. for $160.1 million in cash and stock. FBR’s chairman and chief executive will become CEO of the combined company. [InvestmentNews, Washington Business Journal]
Wakefield B-Ball Teams Advance — The Wakefield Warriors boys and girls basketball teams have clinched state tournament berths. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Locals who want to put their kids in preschool or daycare programs might have to wait for months before an opening appears. At Early Steps Bilingual Preschool in Lyon Village, the wait list for the upcoming 2017-18 school year is between 20 and 30 names long. And that’s fairly average, according to the preschool’s director, Michelle Clark.
“I have many parents who come to me before they have given birth who put their children on the wait list,” she said. “When parents ask me what the probability is of getting in, I tell them it’s kind of a strange science.”
What’s the problem? For one, says Arlington County Board vice chair Katie Cristol, there’s just too many kids and not enough daycare facilities. Cristol, who won her seat in 2015 after running on a policy platform that included child care, has long spoken out about the lack of affordable options in the county.
“Arlington has a child care supply problem, resulting, at least in part, from high commercial rents and growth in demand,” Cristol said.
The number of kids in Arlington vastly exceeds local availability. As WTOP reported this month, children outnumbered daycare and preschool openings by a ratio of roughly three-to-one in 2015.
But the supply problem isn’t only frustrating parents. In Cristol’s view, not having enough child care options can hurt the county’s prospects attracting and retaining young workers who either have a family or want to start one soon.
“Limited childcare supply creates not only personal strain on individual families, but also a problem for Arlington’s long-term economic competitiveness,” she said. “Our highly-educated young workforce is a key selling point for new businesses and organizations to locate, or existing organizations to expand, here.
Another issue is the lack of space for providers. Tatjana Vichnevsky, who heads the Full Circle Montessori School, said she’d like the county to rework the regulations that surround opening a new child care center. Specifically, Vichnevsky said rules regarding parking and green space at a daycare need updating.
“If you’re in Arlington and you want to open a school, not only do you have the state standards, but there’s also another layer of regulations and bureaucracy,” she said. “Just finding the space is an absolute nightmare.”
Arlington’s child care ordinance, Chapter 52 of county code, was last updated in 1981 and was primarily written in the 60s. In 2013, then-County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s budget-cutting proposal to adopt Virginia’s child care regulations and eliminate three county regulators was met with widespread parent outrage. The proposal was eventually scrapped, but attempts to update Arlington’s child care regulations have also been problematic.
Last year, Arlington dropped a proposed update to its child care regulations after several County Board members, Cristol included, slammed the inclusion of certain controversial provisions. Cristol was also critical of adding to the regulatory burden of small daycare providers without a clear health or safety imperative.
Moving forward, Cristol said her goal will be to look for ways to “clear obstacles to, and support, the provision of more high-quality childcare in Arlington.”
She added that the county’s upcoming 2018 budget could be an opportunity to advance that priority.
“Strategies include more technical assistance to new providers as they locate and develop their small businesses, exploration of land use and zoning strategies to increase the number of commercial spaces available for rent by childcare providers and reduced regulatory burden while still protecting quality,” Cristol said.
Busy Weekend for ACFD — The Arlington County Fire Department responded to a couple of big fires over the weekend. Two firefighters were injured while battling an apartment fire on the 5500 block of Columbia Pike; a resident tells ARLnow.com that the fire started when a resident fell asleep while cooking. Also on Saturday, Arlington firefighters assisted on a mutual aid call to battle a raging inferno at a McLean mansion owned by the United Arab Emirates. [WUSA 9, Connection Newspapers]
Carpool Bartender Profiled — “In an era where craft cocktails, celebrity chefs and ‘artisanal’ everything dominate the D.C. dining scene, it’s hard to find a watering hole where comfort comes in the form of a bottle of Bud, a basket of onion rings and a bartender who knows your name. But at Carpool in Arlington, Virginia, that is exactly what’s on the menu — at least for a few more weeks.” [WTOP]
County Board Pay Raise Proposed — The Arlington County Board this weekend will consider a proposal to raise its own pay by 3.5 percent. That would bring the salary for the County Board chairman to $56,628 and the salary for County Board members to $51,480. [Arlington County]
School Board Pay Raise Bill — The Virginia General Assembly has approved a bill that would lift the state-imposed $25,000 salary cap on Arlington School Board members. If Gov. Terry McAuliffe signs the legislation, School Board members will be able to raise their pay in 2021. [InsideNova]
Police Impound Lot Changes — The Arlington County Police Department has updated its procedures for people retrieving vehicles from the impound lot in Shirlington. [Arlington County]
Remembering Steve Buttry — Journalist Steve Buttry has lost his battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 62. As Director of Community Engagement for TBD.com in 2010, Buttry had an outsized influence on ARLnow.com in its early days. He was a champion of local news and a tireless “advocate for and teacher of digital journalism and media innovation.” [The Buttry Diary]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Traffic Lights Dark in Rosslyn — Due to power outages, several traffic signals at busy intersections in Rosslyn were dark during the morning rush hour. Police were stretched for resources as they tried to direct traffic and deal with wind-related issues elsewhere in the county. [Twitter, Twitter]
Arlington’s Child Care Shortage — “In Arlington, Virginia, Erika Gibson, child care supervisor for the Arlington County Department of Human Services, said most of the county’s 50 licensed care centers have waiting lists for children under 2.” [WTOP]
Grocery Association Coming to Rosslyn — On the heels of food and beverage giant Nestle’s announcement that it is moving to Rosslyn, the Grocery Manufacturers Association has announced it is going to move from D.C. to Rosslyn, leasing 34,000 square feet at 1001 19th Street N. [Washington Business Journal]
New 2017 Commission Chairs — The Arlington County Board has approved the new 2017 chairs of more than a dozen county commissions and boards. [InsideNova]
Obit: Bill Hurd, Jr. — Arlington resident Bill Hurd, Jr. died Jan. 27 at the age of 66 after “aggressive battle with prostate cancer.” The last decade of Hurd’s life was eventful: his first wife died in 2010, shortly after they moved to her hometown in Minnesota. He became active in the community there and was elected mayor. A native of Northern Virginia and a fan of politics, sports, cigars, dogs and Texas Hold’em poker, Hurd later remarried and in 2015 moved back to Arlington. [Legacy]
The Arlington County Board says it does not support further county funding of the proposed Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola.
The project would have cost $80-90 million to build and another $3.25 million annually to operate, according to a study, the findings of which were released in November.
“Given our identified and pressing transportation needs, along with some ongoing concerns about the long-term value of the gondola, the Board is not in favor of any further funding of the gondola project,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a letter to the Gondola Study executive committee.
The full letter, which was released late this week on the county website, is below.
Dear Members of the Executive Committee,
On behalf of the Arlington County Board, I am writing to you regarding the Rosslyn-Georgetown Gondola study and to share our collective position on the project.
First, I want to thank you for giving Arlington County the opportunity to join you and other partners in exploring the potential opportunities for constructing and operating a gondola service in our region.
Board members, along with our staff, have reviewed the conclusions of the feasibility study for the proposed aerial gondola between Rosslyn and Georgetown. The study addressed many of the important components, including ridership demand, cost of installation, cost of operations, engineering, technical issues, and permitting requirements. An estimate of $80-$90 million was included in the study as the order of magnitude construction cost of the project.
Arlington already has a large number of transportation projects in the County’s Master Transportation Plan, including several in Rosslyn that will require substantial resources and attention over the next several years. The Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola is not a project included in our recently approved Capital Improvement Plan. Given our identified and pressing transportation needs, along with some ongoing concerns about the long-term value of the gondola, the Board is not in favor of any further funding of the gondola project.
Thank you again for your joint efforts in exploring this particular alternative transportation option. We look forward to our continued partnership on other regional transportation initiatives.
Jay Fisette, Chair
Changes for Former Department Store? — The future of the former Kann’s department store on Fairfax Drive, which later became a law school and then became part of George Mason University, is being discussed by GMU and county officials. An earlier plan to raze the aging building and construct a new one fell through. [InsideNova]
Mentors Honored at County Board — A pair of “Connect with Kids Champions” were honored for their mentorship work with Arlington youth at Tuesday’s County Board meeting. [Arlington County]
Va. Joining Immigration Lawsuit — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced yesterday that Virginia plans to join a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s controversial executive order on immigration. “You’ve made Virginia proud today,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) in response to the announcement. [Virginian-Pilot, Twitter]
House Hunters Home for Sale — A townhouse in Nauck that was previously featured on the HGTV show “House Hunters” is back on the market. The home at 2553 Kenmore Court, in the Shirlington Crescent community, is listed at $824,900. The couple featured on the show, TV news producers Allison and David Gracey, bought the home in 2010 for $672,781, records show. [Zillow]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The Arlington County Board over the weekend voted to endorse the goals of a Virginia Dept. of Transportation plan to widen part of I-66, but it also had a few questions.
The Board unanimously backed a resolution that outlines “areas of support and ongoing concern with [VDOT’s] environmental assessment,” according to a press release.
Under VDOT’s “Transform 66” plan, an extra lane would be built within the existing eastbound right-of-way from the Dulles Connector Road to the Fairfax Drive exit in Ballston. The lane would stretch about four miles.
The plan would also include the replacement and construction of noise walls along the interstate, a new pedestrian bridge on the W&OD Trail at Lee Highway in East Falls Church and a realignment of the Custis Trail at Bon Air Park.
Earlier this year, the Board endorsed VDOT’s plan to add tolls to I-66 inside the Beltway during peak travel times.
Not everyone who lives in Arlington supports the project as proposed, however. Some East Falls Church residents have recently criticized the part of the proposal that would build a new pedestrian and cyclist bridge on the W&OD trail at Lee Highway. (Bicycling advocates, meanwhile, are organizing to support the bridge plan.)
In its resolution, the Board asked transit officials to “ensure a robust community process will be incorporated into the design process to achieve a context sensitive solution for the W&OD Trail changes.”
The Board also called for more cooperation on other areas of concern such as impacts on right of way, increased traffic at local intersections, noise mitigation and possible effects on stormwater infrastructure.
“Arlington supports the broad goals of this plan, including the focus on moving more people versus vehicles through the corridor. We are also committed to ensure that VDOT mitigates any impacts on our residents and neighborhoods that may result from the mandated eastbound widening,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “VDOT has been responsive to our concerns as the project has taken shape, and we anticipate working closely with them to monitor the project as it moves forward.”
According to VDOT’s estimates, workers could break ground on the project in “mid 2018” and finish by “mid 2020.”
More from the press release:
In its resolution, the Board says it will work to ensure that the Commonwealth monitors and mitigates the project’s impacts on Arlington streets and on cultural or natural resources.
VDOT released the Environmental Assessment for the eastbound widening of I-66 from the Dulles Connector to Fairfax Drive in November. Based on a review of the technical documentation and public testimony, the Board resolution calls for VDOT to continue working cooperatively with the County on addressing the following:
- Impacts on right of way and other resources – VDOT anticipates that the eastbound widening will occur primarily toward the inner portion of the I-66 roadway, but temporary or permanent property easements or acquisitions will be needed along the easternmost portion of the project.
- Traffic analysis and impacts to Arlington streets – The Environmental Assessment identified several intersections in Arlington that will experience increased congestion as a result of the widening. Staff is concerned that the traffic analysis used for the Environmental Assessment does not include any multimodal travel, which is a primary goal of the Transform 66 project and the studies supporting it.
- Impacts to the regional trail network – VDOT has proposed realigning the Custis Trail at Bon Air Park and grade-separating the crossing of the W&OD Trail at Lee Highway. The Board resolution endorses these improvements and asks that VDOT ensure a robust community process will be incorporated into the design process to achieve a context sensitive solution for the W&OD Trail changes.
- Noise mitigation – VDOT will solicit input from property owners and renters who would benefit from noise mitigation as to the desirability of the installation of noise barriers along I-66. County staff will work with VDOT to ensure messaging to the public on the noise barrier selection process is communicated as comprehensively as possible. The Board also encouraged VDOT to work with WMATA, FTA and others to explore options for additional noise mitigation related to Silver Line and new generation of rail cars.
- Stormwater Management Infrastructure – In response to public testimony, the Board reinforced the important responsibility that VDOT has to ensure that existing and future stormwater infrastructure by adequately designed and maintained.
Va. Officials on Immigration Order — President Donald Trump’s executive order barring those from seven Muslim nations from entering the U.S. has caught the ire of Arlington’s Democratic congressional representatives and state officials. Sen. Tim Kaine said that he was “appalled by the cruelty” of the order, Kaine and Sen. Mark Warner have “demanded answers” from the Dept. of Homeland Security, Gov. Terry McAuliffe is “outraged and disappointed,” and Rep. Don Beyer joined four other local congressmen at Dulles International Airport to try to speak to Customs and Border Protection officials who were detaining a number of travelers.
County Board Changes Airbnb Regs — Renters will now no longer be barred by the county from renting their home on Airbnb and other online services. The Arlington County Board approved the change to their recent-passed ordinance unanimously at its Saturday meeting. [Arlington County]
Bill: No Food = No Liquor — A bill that has passed the Virginia state senate would prohibit restaurants from serving liquor while the kitchen is closed and no longer serving food. The bill clarifies a 1971 law that was intended to do the same but was “interpreted liberally by some.” [Style Weekly]
County Acquires Land for Fire Station Project — The Arlington County Board has approved the $800,000 purchase of a home on N. Culpeper Street for the construction of a new, expanded Fire Station No. 8. The property is the final acquisition necessary to build a temporary fire station for use while the new station is constructed. [Arlington County]
First Board Meeting With New Rule — Saturday will be the Arlington County Board’s first meeting with a new public participation rule. Whereas members of the public could previously request that any “consent agenda” item be pulled and discussed individually at the next Board meeting, the new rule requires at least one Board member to concur with the action. [InsideNova]
A Note on InsideNova Links — The desktop version of InsideNova’s website features popup ads and multiple autoplay videos with the audio on. It is not recommended for users in quiet environments or with older computers that may slow down or crash as a result of the videos and ads.
GW Gets Donation for Baseball Clubhouse — George Washington University has received an anonymous $2 million gift that will fund a new proposed clubhouse at Tucker Field in Arlington’s Barcroft Park. The clubhouse will feature “on-site locker facilities, indoor practice space with batting cages and pitching tunnels, meeting rooms and a sports medicine area.” [GW Sports]
Teen’s Hair Lit on Fire at Inauguration — A 17-year-old Arlington girl’s hair was lit on fire at an inauguration protest in D.C. It happened on Inauguration Day, near the National Archives, as the girl posed in front of protesters while wearing pro-Trump apparel. [Buzzfeed]
Clement, Roosevelt to Run for Office — Independent Audrey Clement has filed to run again for Arlington County Board this year. Meanwhile, 24-year-old Army veteran Adam Roosevelt, a Republican, is challenging Del. Alfonso Lopez (D). [InsideNova, InsideNova]
D.C. Area Snow Drought — Will we see any significant snowfall this winter? It’s looking increasingly bleak for snow lovers, with only a few flurries in the forecast during what should be our peak snow period. [Washington Post]
The Arlington County Board is considering giving its blessing to several easements needed for a long-awaited plan to revamp a tricky intersection in Clarendon.
If approved, the county will pay the Catholic Diocese of Arlington nearly $25,000 for permanent and temporary easements on a portion of church property along Washington Blvd, to be used for sidewalk, curb, gutter, utilities and drainage purposes.
The overall plan calls for improvements to “access and safety for those who walk, bike and drive.” The project’s goals include upgrades such as improved traffic signals and streetlights, wider center medians, shorter pedestrian crossings, bike lanes and curb extensions.
“Current travel across the intersection can be difficult due to its extreme width and the skewed alignment of its roadways,” according to a County webpage. “North Irving Street also enters the circle area in two offset locations, further complicating the traffic pattern.”
This wasn’t the only idea that Arlington County considered. Roundabouts, one-way street couplets and other alternative designs all were analyzed, but the County found those elements “would have negative impacts on all modes of transportation, especially for pedestrians.”
If all goes according to plan, the engineering design will be completed this spring, clearing the way for construction to begin next summer. Project completion is pegged for the summer of 2019.
A Virginia Dept. of Transportation plan to widen part of I-66 could soon get the partial blessing of the Arlington County Board.
Under VDOT’s “Transform 66” plan, an extra lane would be built within the existing eastbound right-of-way from the Dulles Connector Road to the Fairfax Drive exit in Ballston. The lane would stretch about four miles.
VDOT is also planning to improve two local trails, according to a presentation on the proposed project. The planned improvements include a new pedestrian bridge on the W&OD Trail at Lee Highway in East Falls Church and a realignment of the Custis Trail at Bon Air Park.
Additionally, the project would include the replacement and construction of noise walls along the interstate’s eastbound and westbound lanes.
If all goes according to plan, workers would begin construction on the project in “mid 2018” and finish by “mid 2020.”
The Board is scheduled to vote on whether to “endorse the goals” of VDOT’s widening project during its general meeting this Saturday, Jan. 28.
According to the county:
In the proposed resolution, the Board also says it will pursue goals of ensuring that the Commonwealth monitors and mitigates the impacts on Arlington streets, noise impacts, and impacts on cultural or natural resources. The proposed resolution also calls for VDOT to work collaboratively with all the affected jurisdictions to ensure that the final design of possible noise barriers do not unduly or negatively impact cultural or natural resources and that VDOT will not pursue more widening of I-66 inside the Beltway until after a meaningful evaluation of peak period tolling, conversion to HOT-3, tolling in both directions during peak periods, and implementation of multimodal components.
Arlington has already endorsed VDOT’s plan to add tolls to I-66 inside the Beltway during peak travel times.
The House of Delegates bill, HB 1960, was proposed by Del. Tim Hugo, a Prince William and Fairfax County Republican. It would modify Virginia’s existing towing law with a number of provisions that would only apply to Northern Virginia jurisdictions in the state’s “Planning District 8,” which includes Arlington.
Among the proposed Northern Virginia-specific changes:
- Raise the base towing fee to $150 and the maximum towing fee to $200.
- Prohibit Arlington’s new “real time authorization” requirement, which requires businesses to authorize each individual tow.
- Require that the chair of a local towing advisory board be a licensed towing operator. Currently, the chair of Arlington’s towing advisory committee is a local citizen.
An Arlington County fact sheet about the bill states that it “would unnecessarily restrict the ability of local governments to provide protections to vehicle owners in the taking of their property without their consent.”
“I would describe it as a very consumer unfriendly bill,” County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol told ARLnow.com. “It raises tow rates for the second year in a row with no fair market assessment to justify that.”
Cristol is encouraging residents to reach out to their local delegates and state senators to encourage them to work to defeat the bill.
“We think it’s a bad deal for our community and we hope people will let their state legislators know that they think so too,” she said.
On a statewide basis, the bill would require tow truck drivers to notify animal control when they tow a vehicle “that is occupied by an unattended companion animal.” It also establishes a $100 fine for towing operators that violate state towing regulations, to be paid to Virginia’s Literary Fund, and prohibits the appointment of anyone other than towing operators, law enforcement representatives and a single member of the general public to a towing advisory board.