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Illustration of a real estate for sale sign in Arlington (generated by DALL-E)

Virginia’s U.S. senators are throwing their weight behind a bill to support first-generation homebuyers.

The Downpayment Toward Equity Act would provide grants of up to $20,000 to support socially and economically disadvantaged homebuyers. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are co-sponsoring the bill, alongside several fellow Democrats, saying this will help close equity gaps.

Housing experts warn, however, that substantially changing who can afford to buy in a pricey, competitive housing market like Arlington will probably require a combination of approaches.

“It helps. Of course it helps,” said Alice Hogan, a housing policy consultant with the Arlington branch of the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance. “But in a market like this, it’s not going to have the impact that it would have on other parts of the state.”

The proposed $100 billion federal appropriation would help a subset of homebuyers with expenses including down payment costs, closing costs and costs to reduce interest rates, according to a press release. It would be distributed through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Homeownership is one of the most powerful pathways to accumulate wealth, but first-generation homebuyers — predominantly people of color — still face steep obstacles to achieving it and punching their ticket to the middle class,” said Warner. “The Downpayment Toward Equity Act could serve as a powerful tool to level the playing field, close the racial wealth gap, and help more families achieve their American Dream.”

In a housing market as expensive as Arlington, $20,000 grants would probably cause “a marginal increase” in who can afford to buy a home, said Michael Spotts, director of real estate development at Habitat for Humanity of Washington, DC and Northern Virginia. Grants could also help purchasers retain some cash reserves after buying a home, which plays a role in ensuring that people can sustain homeownership.

But in Spotts’ view, the main problem is Arlington’s housing stock.

“Ultimately, inventory is the binding constraint in Arlington,” he said. “If we want to support homeownership across the income spectrum and for those that have faced discrimination in the housing market, we need to increase the number of attainably-priced homes on the market.”

Hogan pointed out that some homebuyers may draw on multiple funding sources, such as Arlington’s Moderate-Income Purchase Assistance Program. This kind of “layering” is a more likely path toward homeownership for lower-income people in this county.

“In a market like this, alone, [the bill] wouldn’t do very much,” Hogan said. “It has to be in combination with other programs.”

In 2022, the county issued 13 MIPAP loans to people buying homes that cost less than $500,000. As housing costs continue to increase, some advocates say a revamp of the program is overdue.

Kaine said this bill could help fight discriminatory housing practices, the impacts of which he witnessed as a fair housing attorney earlier in his career.

“While we’ve made significant progress in combating discriminatory policies since then, their lasting effects continue to be evident in the wide homeownership and wealth gaps that people of color face,” the senator said. “The Downpayment Toward Equity Act would take a substantial step in addressing these gaps, by helping first-generation homebuyers overcome the disadvantages they face when trying to purchase a home.”

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A cyclist rides in front of the under-demolition RCA building in Rosslyn this past spring (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Arlington County Board will consider accepting a $7.1 million grant to encourage people to plan more trips without their cars.

Nearly $5.7 million of the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Program grant comes from federal funding, with $1.4 million coming from the state. Arlington County is not required to match funding.

“Funds will be used to provide educational and promotional support to… efforts to help facilitate and market alternative commute options such as transit, biking, walking and shared ride options,” per a county report.

The grant would fund efforts by Arlington County Commuter Services to encourage private-sector employers to provide commuter benefits to employees who commute using transit or vanpools. This county agency was formed to reduce traffic congestion, decreasing parking demand and promote driving alternatives.

The funding would also pay for events designed to promote the use of alternative travel modes, such as carpool and vanpool. Lastly, it would help employers, commercial property owners, schools and individuals provide information on telework, parking management strategies and alternative transportation benefit programs.

The cash infusion emphasizing commuting alternatives comes as, regionally, more people are working from the office at least part-time and more people are driving alone.

This year, the remote work rate in the D.C. region dropped to 25% from a high of 33% in 2021, Axios reports.

Meanwhile, the region ended 2022 with 78% of commuters driving alone, a 14% increase from 2019, according to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board of the Metropolitan Council of Governments

Despite the uptick in single-occupant trips, Metro ridership continues recovering from a pandemic-induced hit. Revenue, however, has not seen the same growth, compounding the budget shortfall WMATA faces, which could trigger significant service cuts.

Locally, Arlington Transit (ART) ridership saw a 50% Covid-era drop, though it was insulated from deeper declines because many essential workers continued taking the bus during the pandemic. Going into 2020, ridership had already been declining, however.

Last year, Arlington County contributed to a regional effort, backed by state funds, to launch a campaign to generate interest in taking transit.

In another bid to encourage ridership, county staff intend to apply for $400,000 in regional transportation funding to increase bus frequency on ART Route 75.

Currently, two buses per hour travel between the Shirlington Transit Center and the Ballston and Virginia Square Metro stations. The grant application, if endorsed this weekend by the County Board and later approved by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, would bring that to three buses per hour.

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The Gulf Branch stream in 2019 (courtesy Arlington County)

Armed with some federal funding, Arlington County plans to stem stormwater runoff with native plantings and fix leaky sewer pipes that serve thousands of people.

On Saturday, the Arlington County Board accepted a $2.25 million federal grant to be split evenly among three planned projects. These projects, expected to cost some $6 million in total, are intended to reduce runoff into streets and streams, filter pollutants from local streams, and rehabilitate sewer pipes needing serious repairs.

The upgrades, a county report says, will “mitigate the impacts of existing impervious coverage and protect local waterways, and prevent sanitary sewer structural failure, infiltration and inflow.”

(Sewer pipes experience infiltration and inflow when excess water flows in from sources such as stormwater drains and leaky pipes.)

A $750,000 portion of the grant will fund plans to add more native plantings along part of the Gulf Branch stream, near Gulf Branch Nature Center, and to build rain gardens where S. Walter Reed Drive intersects with 6th and 9th Streets S. The projects, aimed at reducing runoff and filtering pollutants from streams and streets, are expected to cost $1 million overall.

The rain gardens on S. Walter Reed Drive will be planted when Arlington makes transportation upgrades on the major road, including upgraded bike lanes and pedestrian crossings.

Another $1.5 million will be split between two sewer rehabilitation projects, expected to cost $5 million overall.

First up is a $2.8 million project to rehabilitate a 5,876-foot section of a 30-inch sanitary sewer between Arlington Blvd and Columbia Pike, serving all of East Falls Church and parts of Falls Church and Fairfax County.

Three years ago, inspectors found many leaking joints in the now-48-year-old sewer, which runs through the Four Mile Run stream valley. These leaks cause groundwater and stormwater to seep into the pipe, contributing to high bacteria levels in Four Mile Run, according to the report.

That also generates wastewater and increases chemical and energy costs at the Arlington County Water Pollution Control Plant downstream, the report said.

The county also proposes to rehabilitate a 2,906-foot section of a large pipe in Rosslyn that the report says “zig-zag[s] between high-rise buildings and through underground parking garages” between N. Lynn Street and the interchange at Arlington Blvd and Richmond Hwy.

“The sewer was inspected in 2016 and many sections were deemed to require immediate rehabilitation due to structural deficiencies which allow for significant infiltration and inflow and could lead to structural failure,” it says, noting this would also generate more wastewater and higher chemical and energy costs at the wastewater facility.

For both sewers, the county first proposes cleaning the pipes. Then, to prevent leaks, a resin liner would be forced against the walls of the pipes, effectively creating a “new pipe encased within the old sanitary sewer,” per the report.

“Impacts such as travel lane closures, trail and sidewalk detours, bus stop relocations, etc. will be communicated in advance to the public following award of the construction contract, as equipment staging and sewer bypass layouts won’t be determined until then,” it continues.

The grants come from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development at the request of Rep. Don Beyer, as part of a 2023 spending bill Congress approved last December. The funding applies to expenses through Aug. 31, 2031 and no local match is required.

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Sen. Mark Warner visits the Melwood Disability Services facility in Arlington Sept. 22 (courtesy of Office of Sen. Mark Warner)

(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) A local nonprofit specializing in job placement for disabled individuals is drawing on federal funding to expand its services.

Melwood Disability Services, a Maryland-based organization that operates a facility in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood, has received a $307,000 federal grant aimed at expanding enrollment in its 14-week neurodiverse job training program, abilIT, by subsidizing associated costs.

On Friday, Sen. Mark Warner (D) and Rep. Don Beyer (D) visited Melwood’s facility near Pentagon City and presented the nonprofit with a ceremonial oversized check.

Jewelyn Cosgrove, president of Government and Public Relations at Melwood, told ARLnow that 78 individuals participated in the abilIT program from July 2022 to June 2023. She noted, however, that the newly acquired federal grant, in combination with ongoing fundraising efforts, will enable Melwood’s Virginia facility — acquired in 2017 through a merger with Linden Resources — to double its enrollment of people with disabilities in the job training program.

“We will serve an additional 80 people next year with just what we have in normal funding available,” she said. “The [federal] grant allows us to add 30 people, so next year, because of the grant funding…we’ll be hitting, I think, 110 to 115 total people served.”

Melwood, which also provides a range of services from affordable housing to horticulture therapy and family support services, also received a $500,000 federal grant in July to support its neurodiverse job training program in Maryland.

Cosgrove clarified the two grants are separate and the $307,000 will go exclusively toward helping offset the costs, such as curriculum, of operating abilIT.

Within the last year, abilIT has helped dozens of people secure employment through several prominent private and public sector employers, Cosgrove said, such as MITRE and Falls Church-based Enabled Intelligence.

“It’s a program that really blends [professional and personal skills training] together to help job candidates… get an industry recognized certification and then go on to employment,” she added.

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Trees in Glencarlyn (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

Arlington County is seeking $1.9 million in federal funding to plant trees on school grounds and in neighborhoods with less tree canopy.

The funding will help maintain 4,400 trees, plant 400 additional trees and treat 138 acres of invasive species, a county report said. If the county receives the funding, tree planting could begin as soon as next summer.

On Saturday, the Arlington County Board retroactively approved an application county staff filed with the federal government last month. The funding would come from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, via a grant program supporting local efforts to address tree canopy and green space shortages in underserved communities and mitigate the effects of climate change.

With the grant, the county says it is “seeking to improve the livability of neighborhoods with historic and current tree equity deficits.”

While Arlington has an overall tree canopy level of 41%, it varies significantly by neighborhood, according to a 2017 county report. More urban and historically disadvantaged neighborhoods tend to have lower canopy levels, some below 20%, while wealthier, less dense neighborhoods had levels exceeding 70%.

A 2023 citizen-funded study suggests these canopy levels could be even lower.

Tree canopy cover by civic association in Arlington in 2017 (via Arlington County)

Last year, the local nonprofit EcoAction Arlington embarked on a multi-year effort to tackle these inequities. The county says the federal funding would boost this effort while also halving the current 16-year turnaround time for pruning and maintaining its 19,500 street trees.

“This turnaround time is too long to proactively reduce risk from tree or branch failure, which often affects lower income residents more,” the county report said.

“Plant healthcare will prevent or delay tree decline, particularly of trees at risk from invasive species and the impact of climate change,” it continued. “It will help save mature trees, which have significant embodied carbon and provide the greatest ecosystem service to our community.”

Plantings will target neighborhoods with an “equity score” below 100, according to the forest conservation group American Forests. The nonprofit has a map showing Arlington’s varying tree canopy levels and how that maps onto other indicators, such as socioeconomic diversity.

The county will also focus planting efforts on school properties, which have low tree canopy levels owing to black tops and large buildings. It says Arlington schools have an average tree canopy level of 23%, while green space makes up less than 25% of land.

Tree canopy gaps in Arlington (via American Forests)
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A sleeping bag and roll of toilet paper in an alcove of the elevated walkway in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Local nonprofits and the Arlington County government have received $3 million in federal funding to address homelessness.

Nearly $200,000 will go to two new programs from the organizations Doorways and PathForward, formerly A-SPAN. The rest — save for about $81,000 for the county — will support existing programs provided by Bridges to Independence, Doorways, New Hope Housing and PathForward.

“This HUD funding helps ensure survivors of intimate partner violence have access to housing and additional pathways out of shelter, so that they can find healing, harbor, and hope for a brighter future,” Doorways President and CEO Diana Ortiz told ARLnow in a statement.

To date this year, Arlington has received $4.2 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to combat homelessness.

“HUD funding is a vital part of Arlington’s efforts to prevent and end homelessness,” said Arlington County’s Department of Human Services Director Anita Friedman in a statement.

“This announcement confirms that our strategic planning, policy development, and service delivery are effective and that we are changing lives for individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless,” she continued.

The county delivers these services in a partnership with local nonprofits called the Arlington County Continuum of Care (CoC). For more than a decade, the CoC has worked to improve the county’s response to homelessness by focusing on providing permanent housing, working with 1,070 people in 2022, per the county.

Nonprofits receiving this money will use it in one of two ways. The first, called “rapid rehousing,” places people living on the street or in an emergency shelter in existing, empty affordable apartment units. The second, called “permanent supportive housing,” combines housing with services such as health care and employment help.

The funding breaks down as follows:

  • Doorways: $127,398 for a new rapid rehousing program
  • PathForward: $1.85 million for four existing programs and $68,116 for a new permanent supportive housing program
  • New Hope Housing: $586,269 for three existing programs
  • Bridges to Independence: $289,419 for an existing rapid rehousing program

“HUD grant funding supports a broad array of interventions designed to assist individuals and families experiencing homelessness, particularly those living in places not meant for habitation, located in sheltering programs, or at imminent risk of becoming homeless,” per a county press release. “Because grants are competitive, localities must demonstrate need as well as an ability to address those needs.”

Arlington has demonstrated that ability in the past, when, in 2015, it functionally ended homelessness for veterans, according to a presentation on the county’s efforts.

That does not mean Arlington literally eradicated homelessness for former service members, however.

Rather, it means that the number of actively homeless veterans is less than or equal to the average monthly rate at which individuals and families find and move into stable housing, per the presentation. This is known as “functional zero.”

Arlington aims to reach functional zero for all populations experiencing homelessness by 2026, which would mean seven or fewer single adults and three or fewer youth and families with children actively experiencing homelessness at one time.

To reach this goal, Arlington is partnering with Community Solutions, which is a nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness, and updating its strategic plan. As part of that process, the county held listening sessions earlier this year to discuss how homelessness affects specific population groups and hear solutions from the community.

In the presentation, Community Solutions representative Elise Topazian said Arlington is on the right track. Over the last 12 years, the Continuum of Care reduced overall homelessness by 66%, including a 52% reduction in sheltered and 90% reduction in unsheltered homelessness.

“Arlington is on the brink [of] ending chronic homelessness,” Topazian said.

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Man sleeping on a bench outside Arlington Central Library (file photo)

Arlington County has received a $1.2 million federal grant to move people experiencing homelessness into permanent or temporary apartment housing.

Approximately 55% of the grant will be for housing — mostly one- and two-bedroom affordable rental units — and the remainder “is for supportive services and staffing,” says Dept. of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick.

This project provides permanent housing in existing, but unoccupied, committed affordable units in Arlington to people either living outside or in one of the county’s four emergency shelters, operated by Bridges to IndependenceDoorwaysNew Hope and PathForward.

In federal government speak, this is known as “rapid rehousing,” says Larrick.

It is part of Arlington County’s “housing first” approach — one in which people are housed without stipulations, says Adele McClure, a candidate for the second district of the House of Delegates, who has worked for many years in Arlington tackling homelessness after experiencing it herself in Fairfax County.

“It’s breaking down the barrier to housing,” she said. “I am a product of those stipulations growing up. When I was in transitional housing, we didn’t have ‘housing first’ model, it was really, really tough for our family. I am thankful Arlington and all of Virginia engages in that.”

The funds will also pay for master-lease agreements with nonprofits to move people into apartments temporarily before moving to permanent housing, Larrick said.

This grant has a three-year term. It is a new funding source and a new U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) project type for Arlington.

“But the work is not new to Arlington and will be a mix of non-congregate shelter and Rapid Rehousing services for people experiencing homelessness,” Larrick said. “Arlington has a long history of winning competitive HUD funding opportunities across a range of programming areas though.”

McClure says Arlington is well-positioned to address homelessness because of its “continuum of care” model that brings together nonprofits, affordable housing providers and public and private service providers to oversee everything from subsidy programs to street outreach.

The funding will help replace early Covid relief federal funding through the CARES Act, which is coming to an end, she noted.

The grant comes as the county is working on its next strategic plan to help households at risk of homelessness keep their housing and help homeless families quickly regain stable housing.

Arlington County adopted a 10-year plan in 2006. Data over the last decade show that during the out-years of the plan, the population of people living in shelters and outdoors dropped sharply. That rate of decline has since slowed and possibly plateaued.

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Arlington over the last decade (via Arlington County)

“We started off really strong and we had that sharp decline, but once you get down to the lower numbers we have, we’re going to get down to the folks who are hardest to serve: those are the folks who don’t necessarily stay sheltered,” McClure said. “I know, here in Arlington, we are concerned about losing that momentum and progress.”

A three-year plan was adopted in 2018. The plan was extended due to Covid, but now, the county is reprising its planning. This round is focused on addressing inequities for people of color, immigrants and seniors.

“Arlington struggles with the availability of resources, funding and stock of affordable housing,” McClure said. “There are large and systemic root causes that perpetuate homelessness… Arlington is trying to address those systemic root causes.”

Interested community members can attend any of the following informational sessions.

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Raging rapids and minor flooding along Gulf Branch in North Arlington after heavy rain, August 2020 (file photo)

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) has secured $2.25 million in federal funding for stormwater infrastructure projects in Arlington.

The funding was part of a bipartisan omnibus government funding bill that passed the House of Representatives and the Senate last Thursday, three days before Christmas.

“I am proud to announce that bipartisan legislation which will soon pass into law includes funding I secured for worthy projects in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax County,” Beyer said in a statement.

The omnibus appropriations bill helps pay for each of Beyer’s fifteen community project funding requests. Four requests were partially funded in Arlington.

It awards $750,000 for stormwater projects in the Gulf Branch watershed downstream of Military Road and in the Lower Long Branch Watershed along S. Walter Reed Drive. These will include a mix of “gray” infrastructure, such as culverts and storage tanks, and “green infrastructure,” or nature-based solutions.

“The Project will treat and store polluted stormwater runoff, reduce impervious coverage, and mitigate climate vulnerability,” the county said in its request, reprinted on Beyer’s website.

Another $1.5 million will fund rehabilitations of segments of two sanitary sewer interceptor pipes. Interceptor pipes “intercept” the flow from smaller pipes and funnel stormwater and sewage to a treatment plant.

The county requested $2 million to rehabilitate 5,876 linear feet of a 30-inch pipe that runs from Arlington Blvd to Sparrow Pond. The pond is slated to be rehabilitated next year. The pipe, constructed through the Four Mile Run stream valley in 1975, serves the East Falls Church neighborhood as well as parts of the City of Falls Church and Fairfax County.

The county also requested $1.68 million to rehabilitate a 2,906-foot section of a large but decrepit pipe in order to “support continued growth in the Rosslyn area.”

“The subject sewer was originally constructed in the 1930s,” the county said in its request. “It was most recently inspected in 2017 and many sections were deemed to require immediate rehabilitation due to structural deficiencies which allow for significant infiltration and inflow and could lead to structural failure.”

In his statement, Beyer thanked his fellow representatives for enacting the legislation and the local leaders who identified and developed the requests.

“This project funding will make our community healthier, support clean energy, boost our transportation infrastructure, support affordable housing, feed the hungry, and help improve law enforcement transparency,” he said.

Additionally, the omnibus appropriations bill included language to officially rename North Arlington Post Office after letter carrier Jesus Collazos, who emigrated from Colombia in 1978 and served 25 years as a USPS postal carrier in Arlington before losing his life to COVID-19 in June 2020.

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Morning Notes

Sunny and wet Ballston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Interest Rates Could Slow Development — “Arlington County leaders are preparing for a difficult economic environment for multifamily development, even as they say they’re optimistic about the region’s future… [I]f the Federal Reserve pushes the federal funds rate to 3.5% by year-end as it has targeted, that could have serious repercussions, said Shooshan Co. Chairman John Shooshan, speaking at Bisnow’s Future of Arlington County event on Thursday.” [Bisnow]

Talent Driving Local Tech Strength — “Northern Virginia has become a magnet for the industry, with the Dulles Technology Corridor continuing its growth along the Silver Line and Amazon HQ2 going up in Arlington… Taylor said the upcoming Virginia Tech Innovation Campus in Alexandria and George Mason’s Fuse at Mason Square in Arlington are two projects that will be pivotal to ‘churning out more talent.'” [Axios]

Funding for DCA Runway Reconstruction — “Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) announced $5,958,173 in federal funding for two Virginia airports… [including] $1,750,000 for Ronald Reagan Washington International Airport in Arlington, VA for the reconstruction of a runway.” [Press Release]

Business Is Booming at Airport — “Concession sales are booming at Reagan National and Dulles International airports as travel continues to rebound from the early days of the Covid pandemic. Since the start of 2022, concessions sales have grown 241% at National and 143% at Dulles.” [Washington Business Journal]

‘CraigPokesU’ Manager Profiled — “Blake Williams has 14 dragon tattoos and 12 piercings. Some of his body art you can see — like the ‘third eye’ on his forehead, the ring in his nose and the letters that spell out ‘kindness’ on his knuckles — while others fall into the ‘that’s private’ category, he says. Williams, 47, is the head piercer and shop manager at CraigPokesU on Langston Boulevard, just up the street from Cowboy Cafe.” [Arlington Magazine]

Arlingtonian Helped to Shape Region — “Chuck Bean has spent 10 years leading the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments… Bean, who lives in Arlington, is unknown to many D.C.-area residents, but as liaison between COG’s 125 staffers and public officials representing 24 counties and cities, he has played a lead role in coordinating regional planning to improve transportation, combat climate change and encourage more housing construction.” [Washington Post]

Street Project Funded in F.C. –“he Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) approved a $22.5 million project funding request from the City on Thursday for transportation improvements on North Washington Street. The North Washington Street Multimodal Improvements Project includes sidewalk widening, improved intersection geometry, signal improvements, crosswalks, utility undergrounding, lighting, and landscaping, between Great Falls Street and Gresham Place.” [City of Falls Church]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day and hot. High of 92 and low of 75. Sunrise at 6:02 am and sunset at 8:30 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Twilight on the W&OD Trail (Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler)

Lots of Rain from Wednesday Storms — Most parts of Arlington saw 2-3 inches of rain from Wednesday’s onslaught of storms and downpours, with one weather station in a southwestern portion of the county reporting 3.41 inches. [National Weather Service, Twitter]

No ‘Missing Middle’ Cost Analysis — “Staff leading the effort acknowledge there has been no cost-benefit analysis of exactly how such a major zoning change would impact the local government’s bottom line. Nor is there likely to be one. ‘We typically don’t do analysis of this nature. It’s hard to even capture all of that,’ said Richard Tucker, one of a number of county-government housing personnel dispatched to the June 14 meeting of the Arlington County Civic Federation to address an issue that is fast becoming the most contentious Arlington battle since the Columbia Pike streetcar fight of a decade ago.” [Sun Gazette]

Millions for Local Housing Nonprofits — “Two Arlington-based groups will receive a total of $7 million in federal funding to help provide affordable housing and services to low-income people, U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia announced Thursday… Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing Inc. will receive $5 million from the fund and Arlington-based AHC Inc. will receive $2 million.” [Patch]

ACPD Pride Event Next Week — “In recognition of Pride Month and the significant contributions of Arlington’s LGBTQ+ communities, the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) will host the 2nd Annual Pride with the Police… Pride with the Police will take place on: Wednesday, June 29, 20225 p.m. to 7 p.m. [at] Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant, located at 555 23rd Street S.” [ACPD]

F.C. Outranks Arlington for ‘Healthiest Community’ — “The City of Falls Church has been recognized as the second healthiest community in the country by U.S. News & World Report… The City earned an overall score of 98, and is the only community to receive a score of 100 in both education and population health.” Arlington ranked No. 13. [City of Falls Church, U.S. News & World Report]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 83 and low of 63. Sunrise at 5:46 am and sunset at 8:39 pm. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Members of Congress from Virginia are pushing the federal government to help fund proposed changes to Route 1.

The changes, while still being hashed out by VDOT and local officials, would lower elevated portions of Route 1 through Crystal City to grade, turning it into a lower-speed “urban boulevard.” VDOT is also mulling at least one pedestrian bridge or tunnel at 18th Street S., near the Metro station, to improve safety.

With the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 on track to open in Pentagon City in 2023, state and local officials see a need to turn the area — collectively known as National Landing — into a more cohesive downtown and economic center. Key to that vision is revamping Route 1, also known as Richmond Highway, which effectively separates Pentagon City from Crystal City.

At last check, cost estimates for the project were around $200 million.

Northern Virginia’s congressional delegation would like to see the feds foot much of the bill, through funding from the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill.

In a joint letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, the lawmakers say argue that the Route 1 project meets all criteria for funding through the infrastructure bill.

“This grant request will allow Virginia to convert the Route 1 corridor in Arlington into a multimodal urban boulevard that prioritizes pedestrian safety in a walkable environment,” the wrote. “VDOT is developing multimodal solutions for Route 1 to meet National Landing’s transportation needs with the coming of Amazon and other related developments.”

The letter was signed by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), along with Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.), and Robert Wittman (R-Va.).

“The Commonwealth’s commitment to Amazon is to improve safety, accessibility, and the pedestrian experience crossing Route 1,” the lawmakers wrote. “Investment in National Landing will produce significant, measurable benefits to the economy, health, and safety of local citizens… This project satisfies all the merit criteria outlined in the federal grant opportunity, especially the priorities of providing economic, state of good repair, environmental, and equity benefits.

The letter also argues for the project’s fiscal benefits, including reducing bridge maintenance costs and providing acres of additional land for development.

“The transformation of Route 1 to an urban boulevard includes the removal of three bridge structures from the VDOT inventory, which will reduce long term maintenance costs,” the letter said. “Modifications to the I-395 interchange will remove a structurally deficient bridge and avoid future replacement or rehabilitation costs, while also extending the urban boulevard to the north which will contribute to lower speeds.”

“[The project] increases the accessibility to job centers through the proposed access improvements, which will benefit residents of all income levels,” the letter continues. “The project will create approximately 6.5 acres of excess right-of-way resulting in high value developable land.”

Another hoped-for benefit: fewer cars and better safety features.

“It will reduce the need for single-occupancy vehicle trips in favor of environmentally friendly options such as enhanced transit service, walkability, biking routes,” said the letter. “The project also includes multiple innovative solutions, such as a progressive design-build strategy and a pilot safety project to implement near-miss crash technology in National Landing.”

The completion of VDOT’s Phase 2 study of the proposed changes is currently expected to wrap up in early 2023. While the project has general support from the county and the business community, some residents have expressed concerns about whether taking away overpasses in favor of at-grade crossings actually makes things more dangerous for pedestrians.

Much of the congressional delegation, led by Kaine, also wrote a letter to Buttigieg supporting funding for an I-64 connector to ease congestion between Richmond and Hampton Roads.

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