Arlington, VA

A trio of Metro stations in Arlington will close starting on Thursday, as Metro experiences low ridership and dwindling cleaning supplies during the coronavirus outbreak.

Closing are the Clarendon, Virginia Square and East Falls Church stations, along the Orange and Silver lines. They’re among 17 stations Metro is closing.

More from WMATA:

Metro’s Pandemic Task Force today announced the strategic closing of 17 additional stations, effective Thursday, March 26, 2020, in an effort to conserve critical resources and protect the health and safety of Metro employees and the public. This follows drastic measures already taken to reduce travel on Metro to essential trips only, leading to a Metrorail ridership decline of 90 percent.

These steps will help reduce the risk of exposure to employees and save critical cleaning supplies for the remaining stations. While Metro increased its on-hand warehouse inventory of essential supplies, such as hospital-grade disinfectant, wipes, hand sanitizer, and other items used by Metro’s frontline employees, suppliers are experiencing delivery delays. Metro is taking action to make its current 2-3 week warehouse supply stretch until massive orders placed in late January are received.

Each Metrorail station has multiple escalators, faregates and other high touch surfaces that are being cleaned daily, including some stations with multiple entrances. By reducing the number of entrances, Metro will be able to better protect its workforce and customers and prolong the inventory of these critical supplies needed to keep the system open.

Metro said the Virginia Square station is being closed due to its close proximity to the Ballston station, while the Clarendon and East Falls Church stations are closing due to low ridership — 299 and 239 trips on Monday, respectively.

The Arlington Cemetery Metro station was previously closed due to low ridership.

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Starting next month, the parking lot at the frequently-packed East Falls Church Metro station will be completely closed for up to nine months.

The closure is part of planned summer shutdown to rebuild four stations on the Orange Line — including East Falls Church, Vienna and Dunn Loring in Virginia. While the projects aren’t scheduled to start for another three months, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) said construction crews will need to utilize several parking lots as a staging ground for equipment and materials starting in March.

More from WMATA:

Beginning Sunday, March 15, the surface parking lots at East Falls Church, West Falls Church, and Vienna stations will be closed for seven to nine months, as construction contractors begin the process of moving material and machines into place. Once these lots close, there will be no parking available at East Falls Church, severely limited parking at West Falls Church, and reduced parking at Vienna Station. Parking at Dunn Loring station is not impacted.

The platform work is necessary to address years of concrete structural deterioration that, left unaddressed, could pose a safety risk to riders. Metro will use the time to make improvements that enhance customer experience with a higher level of safety, accessibility and convenience. Key renovations include new slip-resistant tiles throughout the stations, brighter energy-efficient LED lighting and illuminated handrails, new stainless steel platform shelters with charging ports and digital map/information displays, and new Passenger Information Displays (PIDs) with larger digital screens to improve visibility.

NBC 4 reporter Adam Tuss, a veteran of the local transportation beat, noted that the closure will be especially disruptive given that the parking lot is frequently full.

WMATA said the kiss and ride lot will be open only for pick-up and drop-off, while additional parking will be available at the Dunn Loring Metro station.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Warren Blasts Bloomberg at Arlington Event — “Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said Thursday that Michael R. Bloomberg should not be the Democratic presidential nominee because of newly surfaced comments he made 12 years ago in which he said the end of a discriminatory housing practice had helped contribute to the 2008 financial crisis.” [New York Times]

Warren Draws Big Crowd at Wakefield — Last night’s Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign event at the Wakefield High School gym drew national media, a crowd of thousands and lines that stretched around the block. The gym’s scoreboard was programmed to say “ELIZABETH WARREN” and “20:20.” Warren later addressed the overflow crowd outside the school.

Bike Rack at EFC Metro Has Cost Millions — “Metro has spent $3.8 million and taken five years to build two unfinished bike racks — at East Falls Church and Vienna Metro Stations. WMATA originally budgeted $600,000 for each rack, but the price tag has soared to $1.9 million each. The covered bike shelters will house 92 bikes, putting the price tag at more than $20,000 per bike… The projects were supposed to be completed in December of 2015 but remain unfinished in 2020.” [WJLA]

EPA May Move Out of Arlington — “The Trump administration is planning to move the Environmental Protection Agency from leased space at Potomac Yard to the federally owned William Jefferson Clinton complex in downtown D.C… The GSA plans to shift workers from One Potomac Yard in Arlington starting in March 2021, boosting occupancy in the Clinton building by about 1,200 employees.” [Washington Business Journal]

Megamansion Skews Arlington Real Estate Stats — The average sale price of a single-family home in Arlington was more than $2 million, though that figure was skewed by the nearly $45 million sale of an estate along the Potomac River, the priciest home sale ever in the D.C. area. [InsideNova]

Arlington Startup Sells to Texas Firm — “Mobile Posse announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Digital Turbine, a mobile delivery and app advertising company headquartered in Austin, TX. The acquisition by Digital Turbine builds on both firms’ strategies of creating frictionless mobile app and mobile content solutions for carriers and OEMs, thus creating effective advertising solutions for brands and app developers.” [Mobile Posse via Potomac Tech Wire]

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Morning Notes

EFC Metro Closing This Weekend — The Vienna, Dunn Loring and East Falls Church Metro stations will be closed this weekend, “due to preparation for the Summer Platform Improvement Project.” Per Metro: “Customers on Ballston-bound Orange Line trains who are continuing on to West Falls Church should exit the train at Virginia Square for a same platform transfer.” [WMATA]

Pentagon City Armed Robbery Spike — “So far in 2020, there have been five total armed robberies in Pentagon City. Last year, there were seven for the entire year.” In response to the recent string of parking garage carjackings, Pentagon City mall says “we have increased our security presence to ensure a safe and secure environment.” [WJLA]

Arlington’s Ultra-Low Unemployment Rate — “How low can it go? That may be the question for Arlington’s unemployment rate. The jobless figure squeezed down to 1.6 percent in December, ending the year at its lowest rate of 2019 and – for the umpteenth month and year in a row – lowest in the commonwealth.” [InsideNova]

NFL Star Returns to Arlington — “M. J. Stewart, @Buccaneers Cornerback and Arlington native stopped by his alma mater @APSVirginia!” [Twitter]

Arlington Dems Want Record Turnout — “The Arlington County Democratic Committee is aiming to increase the community’s  2020 voter-participation rate nearly 10 percent from 2016’s presidential race, building on past efforts and launching new initiatives to get there. ‘We’re pulling out all the stops,’ party chair Jill Caiazzo said on Feb. 5.” [InsideNova]

Arlington’s Pupatella Coming to D.C. — “The rumors are true: Pupatella will bring its wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas to Dupont Circle, occupying the prime indoor/outdoor space that housed Rosemary’s Thyme for nearly 18 years. Owner and Naples native Enzo Algarme says his team is angling for a spring opening.” [Washingtonian, PoPville]

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Morning Notes

Never Ending Bike Rack Construction at EFC Metro — “Metro has been building a Bike & Ride facility at the East Falls Church Metro Station for nearly five years, and the project still is not finished. The covered bike shelter was supposed to open in December 2015, but Metro says due to ‘Numerous construction quality issues, including damage caused by a contractor repeatedly drilling into an underground duct bank, led to lengthy delays.'” [WJLA]

Another Sewage Release in Four Mile Run — “Avoid all contact with Four Mile Run south of 7th Street until further notice due to a sanitary sewage release. @ArlingtonDES crews are on scene investigating pipe’s condition.” [Twitter]

Delegate Wants to Retrocede Arlington to D.C. — Del. Dave LaRock (R) “said some counties and jurisdictions in the state ‘are becoming more like California and New York…’ [LaRock said he] could get behind a move to have more liberal jurisdictions such as Arlington and Alexandria become part of Washington, D.C.” [Winchester Star, Blue Virginia]

Weird Crash Leaves Car Hanging — “Rough night… at Columbia Pike and S. Dinwiddie Street.” [Twitter]

Cristol to Chair NVTC — “Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol has been tapped to chair the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission for the 2020 calendar year. She succeeds Matt Letourneau, a member of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.” [InsideNova]

Marine Corps Marathon Bans Cheater — “The Marine Corps Marathon Organization (MCMO) recently concluded an investigation into the running history of a 55-year-old female participant at both the Marine Corps 17.75K and the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM). The research, including photographic evidence and timing data, indicates that the runner had cheated over multiple years by not running the entire course and then claiming the rewards of a finisher.” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Metro is planning to close the East Falls Church Metro station in the summer of 2020 for a platform rebuilding project.

The station is one of three in Virginia — including Vienna and Dunn Loring — slated to close from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Work will also take place at West Falls Church but the station will remain open.

Trains will single-track past the East Falls Church station, which will be closed to passengers. There will be reduced Silver Line service from McLean to Wiehle-Reston East as a result of the single-tracking.

The project follows this past summer’s shutdown of the Blue and Yellow Line in Alexandria, also for platform reconstruction. Like this year, shuttle service will be provided.

The work will include demolition and rebuilding of aging station platforms as well as “major infrastructure work along the 7-mile rail segment.”

“As the station platforms are reconstructed, Metro will use the time to make improvements that enhance customer experience with a higher level of safety, accessibility and convenience,” Metro said in a press release. “Key customer experience improvements include new slip-resistant tiles, brighter energy-efficient LED lighting, larger digital display screens, new stainless-steel platform shelters with charging ports and new surveillance systems.”

Metro says the shutdown approach ensures safety and efficiency.

“By utilizing an extended shutdown during summer months, Metro can provide contractors with 24-hour access to the work sites,” the transit agency said. “This approach improves safety while significantly reducing project duration as workers do not have to repeatedly set-up and break down equipment.”

After this project, two additional Arlington stations will be slated for a future reconstruction project: Reagan National Airport and Arlington Cemetery.

Photo courtesy Elvert Barnes

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A $2.6 million project to renovate Benjamin Banneker Park will close the park and a portion of the W&OD Trail starting the week after Thanksgiving.

The project, which was given the green light in September, will widen the trails from 8 to 12 feet and upgrade the athletic field, playground, picnic area, dog park and more.

The park closure and trail detour were originally advertised as starting this week, but everything is still open, for now.

“We are giving people a two week notice to make adjustments,” said Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. “The trail and park will close December 3. We’ve provided detour recommendations on sandwich boards around the park as well as online. We are putting up a banner at the dog park directing people to the web to find an alternative dog park.”

Not everyone is happy about the trail detour, which will redirect pedestrian and bike traffic from the park — near the East Falls Church Metro station — to the busy intersection of N. Sycamore Street and 19th Street N., which has traffic lights and pedestrian crossing signals.

“Many of us are caught off guard with the total closure of the trail between the creek and the soccer field for the duration of the project,” said Kelly Alexis, a local resident, in an email to county staff that she also sent to ARLnow and other concerned residents.

“Arlington County has provided only one re-route option — funneling all pedestrian and bicycle traffic to the most congested possible intersection; passing across the entry and exit to the EFC Metro Kiss-and-ride lot,” Alexis continued. “This was not part of the plan that was presented to us at the open meetings and has a major impact on bicycle and pedestrian traffic.”

In response to a request to complete trail construction first, before the other park changes, a county staffer said that was not a viable option for a number of reasons. Among them: the need to fence off the trail from the rest of the under-construction park — thus creating “a safety concern for users who would then have very limited egress through a long confined corridor in the park if they were endangered or injured.”

Kalish said she is not aware of any plans to make changes to the detour.

Construction is currently expected to wrap up between July and September of 2020, according to the county website.

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(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A car ran through a fence and into a house Tuesday night near the East Falls Church neighborhood and Arlington’s western border.

The crash happened around 7:30 p.m. along the 7000 block of Fairfax Drive. The road was closed for around an hour due to the emergency response.

Arlington County Police say the crash happened after the driver of the car sped away from a Virginia State Trooper who had attempted to pull the vehicle over on I-66.

Three suspects fled the crash on foot, police said. One suspect, a 22-year-old Manassas resident, was arrested and charged with hit and run and possession of a controlled substance. Neither she nor the two male suspects, who remain at large, were reported to be injured, according to police.

There was no immediate word on the severity of the damage to the home.

More from an ACPD crime report:

FELONY HIT & RUN (Significant), 2019-09170181, 7000 block of Fairfax Drive. At approximately 7:27 p.m. on September 17, police were dispatched to the report of a vehicle that had run off the roadway and into a residence. Three suspects were seen fleeing the scene of the crash on foot. The investigation determined that prior to the crash, the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed on I-66 when a Virginia State Police trooper attempted a traffic stop. The driver of the vehicle failed to stop and sped away at an increased speed. A vehicle pursuit was not initiated. Officers responding to the crash canvased the area and located the female suspect. Tatiana Pendleton, 22, of Manassas, VA, was arrested and charged with Hit and Run – Passenger Fail to Report and Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance. Two suspects remain outstanding. Suspect One is described as a tall, black male wearing a white t-shirt and black pants. Suspect Two is described as a short, heavy set, black male wearing a brown t-shirt and blue jeans. No injuries were reported. The investigation is ongoing.

Photos courtesy JB

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“Virginia is for lovers. No KKK.”

The owner of the shed on 19th Road N. had no intention of being at the center of a civil rights message, but the back of his property expresses a message of tolerance to anyone riding the Metro through the East Falls Church station or taking the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.

The sign says Virginia is for Lovers — a slogan for the state — with “KKK” surrounded by a big red “no” sign.

The sign has been noted a number of times on Twitter since 2018, with tweets mainly expressing support for the message. But the owner of the shed said he didn’t put the sign up and has no idea who did or when.

“The first I heard about it was when one of my neighbors said ‘have you seen the back of your shed?'” said the man, who was wearing a National Rife Association t-shirt when a reporter stopped by to ask about the message on Monday.

The back wall of the shed is accessible from the trail but difficult to reach from the ground.

“I’ll say this, whoever put it up was talented,” the man said. “It’s up in the air, so they needed a ladder to get up there. And the spacing between the letters… it’s nicely done.”

But while the man (who did not want to give his name) was not opposed to the message, he was a little concerned about courting controversy or retaliation — particularly with white nationalist activity cropping up throughout the area. He said he was worried someone could come along and burn the building down.

Those who want to see the artwork should come sooner rather than later though, as the owner said he plans to place vinyl siding around the shed a some point in the near future, thus covering up the message in the process.

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A wayward weather balloon landed in a neighborhood near the East Falls Church Metro station today, frightening some residents and prompting the bomb squad to be called to the scene.

Police and Arlington County’s bomb squad were dispatched to the 6800 block of 19th Road N. just before 2 p.m. today, after a resident reported finding a tube with blinking lights in the front yard of a home, near an entrance to the W&OD Trail.

The entire package, which was deemed suspicious, consisted of a tube, two small boxes and an orange parachute. The bomb squad response was scaled back, however, after a police officer reported finding the words “harmless weather instrument” and information about its origin — which checked out. A bomb-sniffing dog also checked out the devices but did not finding anything of concern, according to scanner traffic.

No one was hurt by the device’s landing, though one cyclist nearly struck it while heading to the trail.

The styrofoam boxes attached to the balloon were wrapped with information about the device — which turned out to be a radiosonde that measures and broadcasts weather conditions from the various layers of the atmosphere back to the offices of the National Weather Service. The data is used to help computer models generate weather forecasts.

Ray Martin, a meteorologist with the Baltimore/Washington NWS office in Sterling, Va., said the office launches balloons twice a day. As the balloon gains altitude, it expands and then finally pops, sending it back down to the ground, slowed by an attached parachute.

Often the balloons are found in remote areas, but landings in the immediate D.C. metro area are not uncommon.

“It definitely happens,” Martin said, noting that the balloon was most likely launched by the Sterling office, though forecasters do not track the exact location balloons after launch. Sometimes the balloon payloads land a far distance away, he said.

Weather balloons and the instruments they carry are nontoxic and disposable, Martin said, though the one that landed in East Falls Church carried a prepaid postal pouch for it to be returned to the National Weather Service. Residents who find the remnants of popped weather balloons need not be alarmed, said Martin, and they can even keep what they find as a unique souvenir if they want.

Vernon Miles contributed to this report. Map via Google Maps.

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A local bookstore is holding an auction to raise money after the owner says rent increased by 30 percent this year due to property tax changes.

One More Page Books, located in the East Falls Church neighborhood at 2200 N. Westmoreland Street, is hosting a silent auction fundraiser from Friday, August 2 at 6:30 p.m. until Sunday, August 18 at 5 p.m. The bookstore is currently finalizing the item list, which currently ranges from artwork and chocolates, to bike tours and book manuscript consults.

Owner Eileen McGervey said she was excited for the auction, which kicks off with the store’s regularly-scheduled wine and cheese party Friday night. She told ARLnow that customers came up with the idea of the auction, which has since gathered items like handmade shawls and a dinner with media members who cover the Capitals.

The auction was arranged after McGervey said the landlord informed her last month that the real estate taxes for the building went up significantly. The end result? A 30 percent rent increase, applicable to the current year.

McGervey said that’s a challenge for the independent bookstore not only because it operates on small profit margins, but also, “unlike other businesses we don’t have the option of raising the prices because books come with prices on them.”

The tax hike was the result of the county changing the way it calculates the value of some commercial buildings, like the mixed-use commercial condo building One More Page inhabits. The change more than doubled the assessed value of One More Page’s space — and thus also its assessed taxes — even after it was lowered on appeal.

(That’s on top of the County Board approving a real estate tax hike which increased the amount owners pay by two cents for every $100 in assessed property.)

“Unfortunately, in the case of the condominium that houses One More Page, this meant an increase in the assessed value of the property from CY 2018 of $2,351,100.00 to a CY 2019 valuation of $5,591,100.00,” Board Chair Christian Dorsey wrote in a letter to McGervey, who had asked if the Board could offer any assistance to the bookstore.

Dorsey continued:

This is indeed a large jump in the assessed value of the building. The County is bound by the Constitution of Virginia and State Code to assess all real estate at fair market value, and this methodology provides a more accurate assessment of commercial condominium values than did the previous. This methodology took into consideration the actual income and expense data submitted by the owner of the property along with similar condominiums in Arlington.

While the owner chose not to appeal the assessment with the County’s Board of Equalization this year, the owner did file an administrative appeal, resulting in a $700,000 reduction in the CY 2019 assessment, to $4,907,500. With the assessment reduction, the total tax bill for the building in Calendar Year 2019 is $56,485.00, up from $26,228.67 in CY 2018.

One More Page has been able to cover the rent raise in the past month, but at the expense of paying some of its vendors. Asking for help covering these bills is awkward, McGervey said, but better than the alternative.

“You don’t want to just be gone one day and have people not know that you could have been there,” McGervey said.

She noted that she’s now exploring the idea of a membership program to cover future rent needs.

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