Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Arlington Gets Federal Arts Grant — “Arlington Cultural Affairs will receive a $35,000 Art Works award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)… [Arlington] will use the grant to support a multi-cultural artist residency project serving the Columbia Hills and Columbia Grove affordable housing communities.” [Arlington County]

Justin Trawick to Play ‘Secret’ Show — “We just got approval from Arlington County to present ‘Common Good on The Block’ benefiting the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Join ‘Justin Trawick and The Common Good’ for a secret street show with the full band on August 1st. This will be a socially distanced event and there are only 60 tickets available.” [Twitter]

Armed Robbery Near Ballston — “At approximately 11:45 p.m. on July 7, the victim was outside his residence when he was approached by two male suspects, one of whom was displaying a firearm. The suspects forced the victim back inside of his apartment, assaulted him, and demanded money. The victim was forced into the bathroom while the suspects ransacked the residence, then stole the victim’s vehicle, a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox with Virginia tags, and other items of value.” [Arlington County]

APS Superintendent to Hold Virtual Town Hall — “Dr. Durán will be hosting a community virtual Town Hall on Tuesday, July 14, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., to address the family selection process for choosing an instructional model for students. The Superintendent will address questions already received and take questions during the live event using Microsoft Teams or Facebook Live. The event will provide simultaneous interpretation in 5 languages (more details to come), including ASL, and closed captions in the streamed video.” [Arlington Public Schools]

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(Updated 1 p.m.) The County Board is directing $500,000 in federal coronavirus stimulus and recovery funding towards closing a digital divide that the pandemic has made impossible to ignore.

“Broadband connectivity is not a luxury, it is essential for households,” County Board member Christian Dorsey said.

Dorsey said the digital divide between households with broadband internet access and those without was present before COVID-19, but social distancing and the school from home has made closing that gap more urgent than ever. Ten percent of Arlington households have no internet access, either through a wired or a mobile connection, according to a presentation Tuesday afternoon.

“This will be a critical piece in ensuring students don’t fall behind simply because they don’t have sufficient family income,” Dorsey said. Arlington Public Schools has said its rationale for not teaching new material remotely during the last half of the spring semester was because of concerns about equitable access to online resources.

Some 5,000 to 8,000 families could qualify for the county’s new program, which will provide 25/3 mbs “Internet Essentials” access and will be administered by Arlington Public Schools through a contract with Comcast. Dorsey said that internet access will also be vital for many to seek employment during and after the pandemic.

The funding is a relatively small piece of the $20.66 million in CARES Act funding allocated to Arlington and aimed at supporting programs and services impacted by COVID-19.

“This will be broadband connectivity with decent download speeds and upload speeds,” Dorsey said. “There will be no necessary costs to incur for equipment to access connectivity, it will be provided through Comcast with a self-installation kit.”

Dorsey said there will be no activation or installation fees. Internet access will also be bundled with an option to purchase a computer for $149.99.

“This pandemic has made it clear that the internet should be a utility, like water and electricity, and that everyone is going to need it in this day and age,” County Board Chair Libby Garvey said.

At its meeting last night the Board also approved $400,000 for the Arlington Food Assistance Center and Arlington Thrive, the nonprofit that provides emergency cash to those in need, and allocated an additional $500,000 to Thrive for emergency assistance, including rental assistance, to residents in need.

That’s on top of another $1 million allocated to Arlington Thrive via separate federal grants, an action that was also approved last night.

CARES Act funding will also go toward the purchase of personal protective equipment, staffing for coronavirus testing sites, and hiring more public health workers, among other things.

More from a county press release, below.

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(Updated at 8:10 p.m.) More than 3,500 local residents are having trouble paying their rent during the pandemic, according to a survey of nonprofits conducted by Arlington County.

The figure was included in a staff report for an item to be considered by the County Board later today.

“Arlington County conducted a survey to assess community needs related to the COVID-19 public health crisis and to inform staff recommendations for the use of funds being made available through the federal CARES Act,” the report says. “The survey was sent to 73 nonprofit organizations that serve low and moderate income residents in Arlington, with 26 responses… Of the clients served during the past month, service providers reported that over 3,500 clients were having difficulty paying the rent, with many others unable to pay utilities or access resources or school because of internet/technology issues.”

Lower-income workers have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, which has prompted mass layoffs in the restaurant, retail and hospitality industries, among others.

The county is citing its community needs survey in a plan for how to allocate supplemental Community Development Block Grant and Community Services Block Grant funding under the CARES Act — the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus and recovery bill passed in March.

The County Board is set to vote tonight on a staff proposal for allocating around $1 million in federal funding — intended to help localities respond to the coronavirus crisis — to “provide emergency rent, utility and internet assistance to prevent 200-600 households from becoming homeless.”

The funds will be dispersed by Arlington Thrive, the staff report says. Andrew Schneider, executive director of the nonprofit, tells ARLnow that needs in the community are rising.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Thrive has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of requests,” Schneider said. “We have had approximately a 150% increase in request for basic financial needs like rental assistance, utility assistance, and medical and dental assistance. We anticipate this increase in demand to continue through the summer.”

More from the report:

Based on the survey results and consultation with staff from the Department of Human Services, Department of Libraries, and Department of Technology Services, Arlington County proposes utilizing CARES funding to support an emergency assistance program to include rent, utilities and internet costs for low- and moderate-income Arlington renters who have experienced loss of income directly related to COVID-19. Monthly payments will be based on need, and will not exceed $1,500 per month per household, for up to three months. The program will be administered through Arlington Thrive, a nonprofit emergency assistance organization that will conduct outreach, handle intakes, and make emergency payments directly to landlords and/or utility companies. An estimated 200-600 Arlington households will be served by this program and may avoid eviction as a result. Additionally, Arlington Thrive will provide information on food resources to clients and community partners.

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Morning Notes

Overturned Vehicle on GW Parkway — “The northbound George Washington Parkway was closed [past Key Bridge] during Tuesday morning’s rush hour after a vehicle overturned, authorities said… The southbound side of the parkway was also affected.” [Washington Post]

Transgender Policy Discussion at School Board Meeting — “Students, parents and advocates packed the [Arlington school] board meeting to loudly back [a transgender non-discrimination] plan, waving miniature LGBT and transgender pride flags to signal agreement with the nearly three dozen speakers who proclaimed support… Supporters on Tuesday vastly outnumbered those who turned out to protest the plans.” [Washington Post]

Good Samaritan Murder Trial — “The Good Samaritan who intervened to try to stop a sexual assault in Arlington last fall was beaten so badly it was impossible to tell what killed him, a medical examiner testified Monday.” [Washington Post]

Feds Giving Grant to DCA — “Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and Washington Dulles International both will see millions in funding from the FAA for improvements. DCA is slated to get $4,921,500 in funding.” [WUSA 9, Press Release]

ACFD Chief Battalion Honored — “Chief Wesley was recognized at the event for being the #first #AfricanAmericanWoman Battalion Chief not only in @ArlingtonVA but also the entire Northern Virginia region.” [Twitter]

Amazon HQ2 Jobs Update — There are currently 63 positions listed on Amazon’s HQ2 jobs page, many of them technical. Recently listed job titles include “Region Build Technical Program Manager,” “Full Stack Software Development Engineer” and “Systems Development Manager, Cloud Computing Operations.” [Amazon]

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Morning Notes

Cemetery Flyover Planned Today — Expect to see a military flyover today around 1:45 p.m., in support of a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. [Twitter]

Grant to Pay for Reforestation — “Arlington County government officials will accept about $9,700 in federal funds to restore nearly four acres of riparian buffer along Four Mile Run. The grant will fund purchase of more than 1,000 tree and shrub seedlings to be planted in areas that have been treated for removal of invasive plants.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Man Convicted of Murder — “On Friday, April 13, 2018, a Charles County jury, after a 5 day trial, convicted Bryan Javier Aquice, 25, of Arlington, VA. of the First Degree Murder of Michael Beers.” [Southern Maryland News Net]

Disgusting Discovery Prompts Call to Police — A woman called police after she reportedly found a used condom on the hood of her car in Arlington’s Douglas Park neighborhood. [Twitter]

Nearby: New Company HQ in Falls Church — Investment firm Kiddar Capital will be relocating its headquarters to a new office building in the City of Falls Church. [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Arlington County has received a $25,000 federal grant to fund programming for its Art Truck.

The National Endowment for the Arts awarded the grant, which will be matched by $25,000 in county money for a total of $50,000 in funding, in June. The Arlington County Board voted unanimously Saturday (December 16) to receive the grant.

The grant will help with expenses, commission original artwork and hire artists for programming. The Art Truck is part of approximately 1,000 projects to receive federal money.

The County Board approved purchasing the mobile arts and performance venue last year to partially fill the void left by the closure of the Artisphere in Rosslyn.

It travels to locations like farmers markets, neighborhood events, public libraries and after-school events, with its projects ranging from pop-up galleries to performances.

“The main goal of the Arlington Art Truck is to demystify the artmaking process, to tear down the four walls, turn it inside out and bring the ‘museum’ to the people,” Michelle Isabelle-Stark, director of Arlington Arts and Cultural Affairs, said in a statement earlier this year.

The total $50,000 funding help pay for artists’ fees, transportation and hotels ($26,130); vehicle costs ($8,455); technology needs ($4,027); printing, art and office supplies ($5,638); and marketing and advertising materials ($5,750).

Image via Arlington Cultural Affairs

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Morning Notes

Early cherry blossom bloom in Pentagon City on 2/26/17 (photo courtesy Donna Gouse)

County Board Mulls Exotic Pet Ban — As expected, the Arlington County Board on Saturday voted to advertise a ban on “wild and exotic” pets in the county. Animals covered by the proposed ban “range from monkeys, wolves, raccoons and lynx to alligators, tarantulas, hedgehogs and even sugar gliders.” A hearing on the matter will be held March 18, ahead of final approval by the Board. [Arlington County]

Arlington Cultural Diversity Ranking — Arlington ranks No. 33 among “mid-sized cities” in a new list of cities with the most cultural diversity, behind places like Columbia, Maryland; Glendale, Arizona; and Cambridge, Massachusetts. [WalletHub]

Western Rosslyn Plan Moving Forward — The Arlington County Board has taken a series of actions to push its previously approved Western Rosslyn Area Plan forward. The plan includes a new home for H-B Woodlawn at the Wilson School, a new fire station, a reconfigured park and the redevelopment of several garden apartment buildings into a larger affordable housing complex. The various projects are expected to be completed by 2021. [Arlington County]

Arlington-Based Org Gets Big Grant — The Crystal City-based U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants is getting a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant, announced by U.S. senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), is earmarked for “organizations working to provide unaccompanied minors who fled violence in Central America with services including temporary shelters and foster care programs.” [Sen. Tim Kaine]

County Extends HQ Lease — Arlington County has extended its lease at 2100 Clarendon Blvd for another 15 years, a move the county says will save $1.6 million annually in rent. “This is a great deal for Arlington taxpayers,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “The County will stay in this prime Courthouse location, home to County Government since 1989, at a savings of millions of dollars over the term of the extension.” [Arlington County]

Homeownership Still a Dream for Many Millennials — The Millennial generation is a major force in Arlington’s population and economy, but homeownership remains out of reach for many, including the older portion of the generation that’s getting married and having kids. Contributing to the problem: there is a significant shortage of homes for sale, particularly affordable starter homes, and the new houses that are being built are often higher-end luxury properties. [Washington Post, CNBC]

Photo courtesy Donna Gouse

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It appears that the threat of Memorial Bridge closing by 2021 due to deterioration and neglect has been averted.

The Northern Virginia and D.C. congressional delegation announced today that a proposed Memorial Bridge restoration project has been awarded a $90 million federal transportation grant.

“While additional federal resources will be needed to complete this $250 million project, this funding will allow [the National Park Service] to move forward with planning and contracting immediately so that construction can begin early next year,” lawmakers said in a joint statement (see press release, below.)

“This is a wonderful step forward,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) told ARLnow.com shortly after the announcement Tuesday afternoon. “It is certainly enough to get started, enough for the people who drive over that bridge every day to feel like the government can actually work and we can actually respond to some of the most important infrastructure projects.”

Beyer said the National Park Service, which is responsible for maintaining the bridge, has committed $50 million for the project. Another $30 million is in the works from a U.S. Senate appropriations bill, Beyer said, thanks to Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

(While it connects Virginia and D.C., Memorial Bridge is technically located entirely within the boundary of the District of Columbia, which begins at the western shoreline of the Potomac River.)

Built in 1932, Memorial Bridge is well past its 75-year life expectancy, yet it is a vital, heavily-traveled link between the District and Virginia. That it has taken such a concerted effort to arrange financing for an extremely necessary project is symptomatic of both congressional gridlock and the current, deteriorated state of transportation infrastructure throughout the United States.

“It’s taken a lot mostly because there are so many infrastructure projects around the country,” Beyer said. “But I think we were ultimately effective in saying closing down the major route between the north and the south in Virginia and D.C. would be a disaster for the country and certainly a disaster for the effectiveness of the federal government.”

“We still have to get the other 80 million or so… once the project is rolling we have all the credibility we need to get the rest of the money,” Beyer added. “Now all we have to do is get Metro all fixed and we will be happy campers.”

The full press release on the grant funding, from Sen. Warner’s office, is below.

Congressional representatives from Virginia and the District of Columbia today announced that the National Park Service (NPS), jointly with the District Department of Transportation, has been awarded a $90 million FASTLANE Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for repairs to Arlington Memorial Bridge, which carries 68,000 vehicles daily. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Reps. Don Beyer, Gerry Connolly and Barbara Comstock jointly issued the following statement:

“We are very pleased to announce that the Department of Transportation has selected Arlington Memorial Bridge to receive a $90 million FASTLANE grant. While additional federal resources will be needed to complete this $250 million project, this funding will allow NPS to move forward with planning and contracting immediately so that construction can begin early next year. This significant federal investment will go a long way towards ensuring that Memorial Bridge remains open, which is welcome news for the region’s commuters.”

“We are proud that the entire National Capital Region delegation worked together to make sure that the National Park Service submitted a strong application for this FASTLANE Grant. This would not have been possible without the crucial support of Mayor Bowser and the District Department of Transportation.”

“The congressional delegation looks forward to working with all local jurisdictions and our colleagues in Congress to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated to fully repair the Bridge and keep this 84-year-old icon of American infrastructure standing strong.”

Today’s funding announcement will go toward Phase 1 of the reconstruction of the Arlington Memorial Bridge. The Memorial Bridge, which was originally built in 1932, has exceeded its 75-year design life and is structurally deficient, having never undergone a major rehabilitation. It is currently posted with a 10-ton load limit and buses are prohibited from crossing. Without a major overhaul, the project will be closed to vehicular traffic in 2021. Phase 1 will focus on the approach spans, which are the most in need of repairs, at a total cost of $166 million. Completion of Phase 1 will allow the bridge to remain open until 2030 while additional actions are taken to complete Phase 2, the reconstruction of main bascule span.

Closing the Memorial Bridge would cost local governments a projected $168,000 per day ($75 million per year) in transportation outlays alone, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Transit studies suggest that traffic from the bridge would spill over onto other area bridges, particularly the 14th Street Bridge and Roosevelt Bridge.

In April, the congressional delegation wrote to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to endorse the FASTLANE application. Last month, Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser joined NPS on a tour for a firsthand look at the rapidly deteriorating state of Memorial Bridge.

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Morning Notes

Roadside campaign signs (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

Seeking Fed Funds for Transportation Projects — Arlington County is seeking $840,000 in federal grant funds for three transportation projects. The projects include: bicycle and pedestrian improvements near McKinley Elementary School, Americans with Disabilities Act improvements along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, and an expansion of the Capitol Bikeshare system. [InsideNova]

D.C. More Expensive than NYC, SF? — In terms of housing-related costs, it’s more expensive to live in the D.C. area than New York City or San Francisco. That’s according to a new study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. [Washington Post]

Cyclists Facing ‘Bikelash’ — Bicyclists don’t like being called “bullies” and “terrorists,” but the county’s Mobility Lab blog argues that it’s best not to respond with reason and logic to the increasing amount of “bikelash.” Instead, the blog encourages cyclists to act more strategically by organizing, publishing their own media outlets and engaging in the political process. [Mobility Lab]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

Portal to Rosslyn Gateway Park

County Seeks Federal Funds for Transportation Projects — County officials are expected to apply for three grants for non-vehicular transportation projects. The $1 million in grant money would cover a bicycle and pedestrian connection between Four Mile Run Trail and Potomac Yard, improvements at Ashlawn Elementary School, and street and sidewalk improvements along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. [Sun Gazette]

Man Hospitalized After Fall at Airport — A man has been hospitalized after falling from a roadway at Reagan National Airport on Tuesday. He apparently climbed over the protective barrier near the ticketing level roadway and fell to the arrivals roadway below. [Washington Post]

Study: Arlington Could Cut Back on Parking Spaces — Researchers with the Arlington County Commuter Services’ Mobility Lab conducted a study of residents in 16 high rise towers to monitor their commuting habits. One of the significant findings is that residents are often choosing to walk, bike or use public transportation instead of driving, even if they own cars. A land use expert says the findings suggest that Arlington has more parking spaces than it needs, and can cut back on parking requirements for new developments. [WAMU]

No Anchor Tenant Yet for Ballston Development — All the pieces are in place for constructing a new development at 4040 Wilson Blvd in Ballston, except that there still isn’t an anchor tenant for the building. Developer Shooshan is waiting to sign such a tenant before commencing construction. The final building in the Liberty Center complex will have 20 floors and more than 426,000 square feet of space. [GlobeSt]

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Columbia Pike streetcar renderingArlington County officials are pressing forward with plans for a Columbia Pike streetcar system, despite the federal government’s initial rejection of the county’s funding request due to projected cost overruns.

Officials explained last night, at a County Board meeting, that the Federal Transit Administration rejected its request for $75 million in grant funding because the total project cost was estimated to exceed the $250 million — the cap for projects to receive funding under the FTA’s Small Starts program.

Though pegged by the county at $245.9 million, a contractor hired by the FTA estimated the project cost to instead be between $255.9 and $402.4 million, including contingencies, and thus ineligible for a Small Starts grant. The contractor said $310.1 million was “a most likely cost.”

County officials said the contractor’s report and a subsequent in-person meeting with senior FTA staff lead them to believe the project is still likely to receive federal funding.

“They made it very clear that their action wasn’t based on the merits of the project,” Arlington County Transportation Director Dennis Leach told the Board. “It was really that technical factor that they felt our cost estimate was likely to be somewhat higher.”

Arlington will actually be eligible to receive more than the initially-requested $75 million in federal funding if it applies under the FTA’s New Starts program. Unlike Small Starts, New Starts doesn’t have a cap on total project cost.

Rendering of a streetcar along Columbia Pike“If the county were to choose to reapply as a New Start, the project could qualify for more federal funding,” said Stephen Del Giudice, Arlington County Transit Bureau Chief. “We have a high likelihood of success in addressing the goals of the project.”

“What’s clear at this point is that changes to the evaluation criteria will most likely have a positive impact on FTA’s future rating of our project,” echoed Brian Stout, the county’s federal liaison. “We’ll continue… to work with our partners at FTA to identify federal opportunities for them to support the Columbia Pike streetcar project.”

Even before the report on the FTA’s rationale for its decision, County Board Chair Walter Tejada said the county was not abandoning plans for the streetcar.

“Moving forward with a modern streetcar is our stated policy, and that’s what we’re committed to doing,” Tejada said. “We can repeat it many times, but nothing’s going to change.”

Tejada’s vote of confidence for the project came after Libby Garvey, the lone streetcar critic on the five-member County Board, gave a PowerPoint highlighting problems with other streetcar systems around the country. News reports cited by Garvey include:

“I have not made up the articles, I have not made up the facts,” Garvey said. “These facts are facts. They’re inconvenient, but true.”

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