Arlington, VA

When given a daunting task, like vacuuming up the leaves in front of every home in the county, one might be tempted to try to rush through it as quickly as possible.

But for one of Arlington County’s leaf vacuum crews, helping out residents and getting the job done right is the priority.

On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, a resident of the Rock Spring neighborhood near Yorktown High School posted on social media that a leaf collection crew was helping an elderly neighbor rake the leaves from her yard to the curb, where they could be vacuumed.

“Hats [off] to these guys,” she said, in a post that scored more than 100 likes on Twitter.

The resident, Kathie K., tells ARLnow that there’s even more to the story.

“I went to get coffee… as I was pulling out I noticed someone in a work uniform raking a pile of leaves on my street. He gave me a big wave as I drove by,” she recounts. “When I pulled back into my cul-de-sac he and the truck had made their way around the circle and were now at the end.”

The crew of two were now working in the yard of two older sisters who live together, going above and beyond even what was seen in the photo, Kathie said. They were raking and talking to one of the sisters, as well as a father and son who were out raking and had brought the crew some water.

“The leaf collector that gave me a big wave was in their yard raking leaves. Not just on the curb, he was all the way to her front door raking leaves to the street. She was helping, they were all chatting,” she continued. “I took a picture because the guys were just being kind. They changed my day and I’m sure everyone else who has seen the picture. I thought it was a nice way to start the holiday season.”

Peter Golkin, a spokesman for the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services, which handles leaf collection and other public works in the county, tells ARLnow that leaf collection crews are not required to help residents rake, but are often happy to help someone in need.

In this case, Golkin says driver Michael Hendricks, a permanent staffer in the Solid Waste Bureau and former Arlington Public Schools bus driver, and veteran seasonal crewperson Anthony Leftwich decided to help out — despite having a schedule to keep as they worked to wrap up the first leaf collection pass around the county by the end of the next day.

Hendricks “hopes someone would do the same for his own grandmother,” Golkin said.

With the second leaf collection pass now underway as of Monday, Hendricks offered some tips for residents.

“Try to keep cars away from the piles and don’t pile near cars to make it an easier reach for the vacuum hose,” he said. Also, Golkin noted, dry leaves can be a potential fire hazard when vehicles with hot catalytic converters park above them.

Leaf collection season is set to end on Dec. 18. That may seem like a relief to the crews, but Golkin said getting out into the residential neighborhoods and interacting with residents is usually a highlight of the season.

“The leaf crews especially enjoy sweeping through neighborhoods on Saturdays because kids are home from school and love watching the truck from a safe distance,” he said.

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Morning Notes

Hospital CEO Retiring Next Year — “Virginia Hospital Center President and CEO Jim Cole is stepping down after more than three decades with the organization. Cole, chief for 25 of his 35 years with the Arlington hospital, announced his retirement internally Monday. It’s set to take effect Sept. 1, 2020.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Crew Rescues Phone from Storm Drain — “So they got specialized shovels. And then the guy GOT INTO THE DRAIN and dig through the leaves, following the pinging and vibrating and found the phone! The phone was at 1% power when it came out. Still can’t believe it. Above and beyond. Kudos to Arlington County.” [Facebook/Arlington DES]

Bijan Ghaisar 911 Call Released — “Police in Arlington County, Virginia, have released part of a 911 call that set in motion a chase that ended when U.S. Park Police shot and killed Bijan Ghaisar in 2017… a caller tells Arlington County police that she is an Uber passenger whose ride-share was just involved in a crash, and the other driver, Ghaisar, has left the scene.” [WTOP, Fox 5]

It’s Giving Tuesday — Among the local nonprofits to consider donating to today, on Giving Tuesday, are: Doorways for Women and Families, Melwood, Arlington Thrive, Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Arlington Food Assistance CenterOffender Aid and Restoration, the Arlington-Alexandria Gay & Lesbian Alliance, and Culpepper Garden. [Twitter/@ARLnowDOTcom]

Del. Alfonso Lopez Named Co-Whip — “Majority Leader-elect Charniele Herring has appointed key leadership positions within the House Democratic Caucus. The whips and policy chairs will help guide the new Democratic majority through the 2020 legislative session.” [Press Release]

Ballston BID Holding ‘Cupcake Wars’ Event — “Join BallstonConnect Club and Cookology for a fun and interactive day of cupcake baking and decorating. Based on the popular Food Network show of the same name, guests will compete to create the most unique cupcake and take home the title of Cupcake Champion!” [Ballston BID]

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Arlington could be extending a protected bike lane in Crystal City, a block from Amazon’s future home.

The county posted on its website that intends to “rebuild 18th Street South between Fern and Eads Streets in order to continue the existing South Hayes Street protected bike lane further east.”

Designs on the website show the current unprotected bike lanes being converted to protected lanes without a loss of vehicle travel lanes. Additional pedestrian-safety upgrades are also planned.

A group of residents advocating for eliminating single occupant car commuting at Amazon’s future headquarters celebrated the news. On Twitter, the group thanked DES and wrote the planned infrastructure was “GOOD NEWS!”

https://twitter.com/CarFreeHQ2/status/1191824320194060288?s=20

“The project will improve the safety of the South Fern Street and 18th Street South intersection by removing the southbound right turn slip lane and building curb extensions on all four corners of the intersection to reduce pedestrian crossing distances,” said Department of Environmental Services (DES) spokesman Eric Balliet.

“It will also extend the existing protected bike lanes on South Hayes Street (west of the Fern St/18th St intersection) along 18th Street from South Fern to South Eads Street,” he added.

The project will include features for pedestrians, like high visibility crosswalks. Per the county website:

Additionally, the intersection of 18th Street South and South Fern Street will be rebuilt to decrease crossing distances and decrease the existing impervious area. This will improve pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle safety at the intersection.

The project will also add stormwater retention, replace a water main and upgrade the streetscape, helping improve the connection between the core of Pentagon City and Crystal City.

The work is part of the 18th Street S. Complete Streets project and is expected to cost the county $5.3 million, which will be paid for by funds earmarked in the Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2017-2026 and a Crystal City transportation infrastructure fund.

Near Amazon’s HQ2, cycling advocates have also successfully pushed for more protected bike lanes.

Arlington first added plastic bollards and moved out the parking area along S. Hayes Street in 2014 to physically protect cyclists from cars. Since then, DES has tested out more protected bike lanes, adding two in Ballston and Courthouse.

However, transit advocates have pushed for the county to pick up the pace, citing the dangers of cars blocking unprotected lanes which forces cyclists into dangerous, busy roads. In addition to cyclists, bike lanes are also used by e-scooter riders.

Balliet said the department expects construction on the 18th Street S. project to begin next fall.

Images via Arlington County & Google Maps 

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Last week’s major water main break near Chain Bridge is not done disrupting traffic.

Arlington County crews are planning to close N. Glebe Road again tonight, between Military Road and Chain Bridge Road, for more repairs. The work is intended to “restore full water system capacity and redundancy following the large water main emergency of last Friday,” according to a press release.

The closure is expected to start “no earlier than 7 p.m.” tonight (Wednesday). The road is expected to reopen by Thursday night’s rush hour “barring complications.”

More from the county:

Throughout the work, northbound traffic on Route 123 will only be able to turn left onto Chain Bridge. Traffic crossing Chain Bridge from the District will have to turn right onto Route 123.

Within a few hours of the Friday break, crews were able to isolate and stabilize the break and restore pressure to the County’s drinking water system. This week’s work is required to repair the 36-inch transmission main segment, which was installed in 1944.

The repairs are not expected to have any impact on customers’ water service.

Permanent roadway infrastructure repairs including guard rail replacement and drainage improvements will be conducted in the coming weeks. These repairs will be scheduled to minimize traffic impacts.

Glebe Road is a state route but Arlington County’s Department of Environmental Services has taken the lead in repairs in partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Meanwhile, the cold and changing temperatures have raised the specter of additional water main breaks. Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services is encouraging locals to call them if they suspect a water main break somewhere in the county.

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The county has kicked off its four-block traffic calming project along N. Stafford Street, north of Washington-Liberty High School.

The project, between Lee Highway and 15th Street N. in Cherrydale, is part of the county’s “Neighborhood Complete Streets” program.

A key feature of the project is the implementation of a “chicane,” or curved design, on the street. The Institute of Transportation Engineers suggests curving a street slows traffic by forcing drivers to “steer back and forth instead of traveling a straight path.”

The traffic calming is necessary because the current road design allows drivers to speed down it.

“The existing roadway is long and straight, has a lot of topography which creates a lot of slope, and these are characteristics of the road that allow vehicles to pick up speed,” said an Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services (DES) official at a recent meeting about the project.

The official noted that observed speeds on the road were not enough to justify “vertical” traffic calming measures like speed bumps, but did call for something “less obtrusive,” like the chicane.

The county is planning to remove remove three to five parking spaces to make room for the chicane changes.

The project includes other upgrades and changes.

Crews could be seen yesterday (Thursday) replacing the stop signs at the intersection of N. Stafford Street and Lee Highway. One worker noted the sign was “rusty and outdated,” and the replacement sign would have “better reflectivity so drivers know to stop.”

Workers will also soon be installing a new curb ramp at the intersection of 19th Street N. and N. Stafford Street, plus a new all-way stop at the intersection of 17th Street N. and N. Stafford Street, according to DES spokesman Eric Balliet.

The traffic-calming project is intended to:

  • Slow vehicle speeds
  • Reduce/eliminate crashes
  • Meet engineering best practices
  • Provide a better pedestrian experience

Arlington officials picked N. Stafford Street for the project after asking for public nomination of dangerous streets across the county. According to the project page, it was the “top ranked street from the first round of [Complete Streets] applications.”

In a public survey by DES, 41% of responders said they would feel “safer” with the proposed changes on N. Stafford Street, while 11% said they would feel “much safer.”

A spokeswoman for the Arlington County Police Department said police have not recorded any crash at the intersection of N. Stafford Street between Lee Highway in the last four years.

The N. Stafford Street improvements are being considered a pilot project. County staff will observe and measure conditions on the street for at least one year, per the project website.

The project will cost an estimated $20,000 for striping, signage, and concrete work. Funding was allocated in the county’s FY 2019-28 Capital Improvement Plan.

Photos via Arlington County

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Arlington is hosting three events next week focused on flood mitigation and safety efforts.

The free events — which were planned in conjunction with the county’s new Flood Resilient Arlington program — come in the aftermath of July’s flash floods, which caused nearly $6 million in damage to county-owned property alone. Among the aims: to answer questions and provide tools for homes and businesses to minimize future flood damages.

“Recent localized flooding from intense short periods of rainfall now challenge parts of our stormwater system due to issues of capacity and limited overland relief,” the county wrote on its webpage dedicated to flooding information and the new resilience events. “Arlington is working toward flooding resilience through defining balance between private and public responsibility; scaling levels of flood protection and mitigation; and needs based investment.”

Two of the events are workshops for homeowners and business owners, addressing questions about who was eligible for flood insurance, what damages the policies cover and what kind of damage the county covers.

The first workshop will be held on Thursday, October 24, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) and the second will be on Saturday, October 26 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at George Mason University (3351 Fairfax Drive).

“The goal of the workshops is for homeowners and business owners to learn how to reduce their risk of flooding by hearing from experts in design, hazard mitigation and insurance,” said Peter Golkin, spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.

A third workshop called “How to Navigate Disaster in Business” will be held for business owners responding to a range of crises, including flooding as well as active shooters or fires. That event is scheduled on Wednesday, October 23, 2019 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Arlington Economic Development (1100 N. Glebe Road).

“There will be more to come following these initial sessions,” added Golkin.

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Arlington County has made progress in repairing infrastructure damaged in the July 8 flash flood emergency.

Last week Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services reopened a portion of the Four Mile Run Trail that runs under Wilson Blvd. The underpass was partially washed out by the force of the raging flood waters.

Crews “completed the work to repair the bike trail underpass by replacing the curb that was undermined by the stream and placing new concrete slab on the sidewalk surface,” DES spokeswoman Jessica Baxter tells ARLnow. “We also painted the curb on the outer perimeter towards the stream. Overall, it took about two weeks to complete.”

Arlington reported around $6 million in damage to county infrastructure from the flooding. Baxter said DES has completely most of its repairs, though some work remains to be done.

“In terms of repairs, we have substantially completed our tasks — we have minor items to address, such as catch basin repairs,” she said.

A number of footbridges were swept away by floodwaters. At least one, near 38th Street N. in the Old Glebe neighborhood, was recently replaced. Arlington’s parks department is currently evaluating the replacement of others.

“As of Oct. 2, County contractors have removed bridges that were destroyed by the storm, including the bridges at 38th St. N. and N. Chesterfield Street, Bon Air, Glencarlyn and Gulf Branch. Lubber Run will follow,” parks spokeswoman Susan Kalish said. “All bridges and fords damaged in the storm are being assessed for safety and next steps.”

Photo (1) courtesy Dennis Dimick, (3) courtesy @btj/Twitter

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Up to 100 homes and business in the Arlington Forest neighborhood will be without water service Friday night into Saturday.

Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services says a valve replacement is needed and the portion of the neighborhood east of Lubber Run is expected to lose water service around 7 p.m. Friday as a result.

Water is expected to start flowing again around 9 a.m. Saturday, DES said.

File photo

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Next week, county officials will present details and ask for feedback on a long-awaited project to restore a pond along the W&OD Trail.

On Tuesday, October 1, Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services will present a draft plan for digging the Swallow Pond in Glencarlyn Park deeper, and restoring some of the wild habitat in and around the pond.

People interested in learning more about the designs can attend the meeting at the Long Branch Nature Center (625 S. Carlin Springs Road) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Officials are also welcoming feedback from community members.

“The project goal is to restore the pond to the original depth by removing sediment, add a sediment collection forebay to allow easier maintenance and sediment removal, maximize water quality benefits, and restore habitat,” the county wrote on the project webpage.

Officials hope that clearing sediment means clearer water will flow from the pond to Four Mile Run — making this project one of several the county is hoping can cut down on pollution and clouding downstream in the Chesapeake Bay.

Sparrow Pond was man made in 2001 and has been slowly filling up with sediment ever since.

Sparrow Pond in 2018 after years of sediment build up, filling in the manmade waterway (Image via Arlington County)

Sediment was first cleared out of the pond 2007, per a county presentation. The pond was due for another clean-up in 2012, but the work was delayed. Several studies later, the pond is now slated for a full restoration project.

During a March community meeting, residents expressed concerns that construction could introduce invasive plants like Japanese knotweed via machinery that’s worked in places already seeded with the fast-growing shrub. Residents also requested crews do the work outside of the sparrow breeding cycle (roughly March to August) to protect the pond’s namesake avian inhabitants.

Image 1 via Flickr Pool/Dennis Dimick, others via Arlington County

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Updated at 11:35 a.m. — The work on the county’s sewage plant has been postponed until next week, officials say.

Earlier: The air near Arlington’s sewage plant is expected to be a bit more rank than usual this week.

The county’s Dept. of Environmental Services announced yesterday that the plant near Crystal City was undergoing repair work on its odor control system, starting today (Tuesday). As a result “a sulfurous odor may be noticeable near the plant as air is vented out of manholes on both sides of South Glebe Road.”

Staff from the department provided a diagram (above) showing the location of the work and the odorous manholes, noting that the extra emissions are safe and not a health hazard.

The full announcement from DES is below.

Greetings:

Tomorrow through Friday, weather-permitting, crews at the County Water Pollution Control Plant will be repairing a duct connected to an odor control scrubber system that discharges cleaned air to the atmosphere. During the work, a sulfurous odor may be noticeable near the plant as air is vented out of manholes on both sides of South Glebe Road.

There is no health hazard posed by this work.

The photo [above] shows the scrubber buildings involved in the repairs as outlined and two small purple x’s indicating the manholes involved in venting.

Safety is always the plant staff’s No. 1 priority. Last year, the plant won the Virginia Water Environment Association’s Facility Safety Award.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Arlington County Department of Environmental Services

Image via Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services

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(Updated at 2 p.m.) Arlington residents have gone out of their way to chuck 200 tons of bottles and jars at a pair of drop-off locations since the County Board removed glass from the list of recyclable materials.

In April, county officials asked residents to throw their glass away in their black trash bins instead of blue recycling carts, citing the rising costs of recycling the material.

As an alternative, the county set up two designated glass drop-off sites at Quincy Park (N. Quincy Street and Washington Blvd) and the Arlington Trades Center (2700 S. Taylor Street). From there, the glass is transported to Fairfax County where it is turned into sand and gravel used in construction.

Schwartz said in April he hoped to identify three additional drop-off sites by August. The month has since passed, but officials say they’re close to announcing the new sites.

“I don’t want to jinx it, but it should be a matter of weeks,” said Peter Golkin, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Services. “We live in a tiny county where land is at a premium, so it’s a matter of making sure we can put the bins in a space where we can collect them with big trucks.”

Just over two-thirds of respondents to an ARLnow poll in May said they think Arlington should keep recycling glass in the residential recycling stream, no matter the cost. Some experts, however, say the cost of recycling glass outstrips the marginal environmental benefit compared to simply sending it to a landfill.

Flickr pool photo by Aaron Webb

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