Press Club
Arlington County staff present the details of County Manager Mark Schwartz’s $3.9 billion CIP for 2023-32 (via Arlington County)

From a new Columbia Pike library to a dedicated pickleball court, County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed 10-year $3.9 billion capital improvement plan would fund projects across Arlington.

The first 10-year plan for capital projects in four years would budget for infrastructure projects between 2023 and 2032. The CIP proposal, slated for adoption in July, is a 40% increase from the plan approved four years ago, Schwartz said in his presentation to the County Board Tuesday.

“This CIP proposal aims to address current and future capital needs in Arlington County as we emerge from the financial setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Schwartz said in a statement. “We want to focus on key planned investments in addition to following through on commitments from prior plans to benefit county residents and businesses long-term.”

Stormwater projects would receive $331.3 million in funding, including $77 million for Spout Run, $14.7 million for Torreyson Run, $28.5 million for Crossman Run and $49.5 million for Lubber Run — all flood mitigation efforts. Streams and water quality funding is proposed at $52.1 million and maintenance at $50.2 million.

A slideshow outlining what Arlington’s investment in environmental goals looks like in the 2023-32 CIP (via Arlington County)

While Metro remains one of the largest investments in the CIP, at $356.4 million, the proposal also outlines $1.8 billion in non-Metro transportation funding. This includes $16 million for Vision Zero street safety improvements program, $64 million for bridge replacements and renovations, and $89 million for bike and walk programs.

Other highlights include:

The proposed CIP includes new park programs that focus on emerging needs and natural resiliency, a new fire station on the west end of Columbia Pike, and facilities consolidation to enable remote work for county staff.

Schwartz said the needs of the county have changed since the last 10-year CIP, as the county is in “a world shaped by the pandemic where we do our business differently.”

Michelle Cowan, deputy county manager overseeing the Department of Management and Finance, noted during the presentation that the finance department works entirely remotely now, potentially a harbinger of a money-saving reduction in the county’s office footprint.

“We have reduced our footprint which… allows us then to do some really strategic consolidations that you’ll hear about in other county buildings that could get us out of some aging assets,” Cowan said.

The CIP will continue to fund debt service obligations for the investment in housing at Barcroft Apartments, construction of Fire Station 8, which is scheduled to be completed in fall 2023, and the design and planning process for the proposed Arlington boathouse.

Preliminary construction funding for the lower boathouse site is included in the later years of the CIP.

This CIP returns funding levels for the Arlington Neighborhoods Program, formerly the Neighborhood Conservation Program, which are projects identified by individual neighborhoods and include street improvements, streetlights, parks, beautification and sidewalks. The program had steep cuts in previous CIPs.

The 2023-32 CIP proposal would provide $85.2 million in funding to the program. That includes $4 million of funding for projects in fiscal years 2023 and 2024, and would increase to $9 million in 2030 and 2031, Director of Management and Finance Maria Meredith said.

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Morning Notes

Squirrel defeating a bird feeder (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Planning for Fmr. Inner Ear Site — “Arlington Cultural Affairs is working with public art and placemaking firm Graham Projects to design a future arts space at 2700 S. Nelson Street/2701 S. Oakland Street in Green Valley, and we are looking for your inspiration and input. A flexible, outdoor open space is planned for the site, which will be designed following the planned demolition of the existing building this fall. In the meantime, we want YOUR thoughts and ideas!” [Arlington County]

Big Money for Growing Local Company — “Arlington’s Federated Wireless Inc. has raised an additional $14 million in a second closing of its latest round of funding — bringing the raise’s total to $72 million — as it looks to augment the private wireless market.” [Washington Business Journal]

Refugee Wins Reprieve in Court — “In a brief ruling from the bench that surprised both sides with its speed, Circuit Court Judge William T. Newman Jr. in December declared Khoy’s plea vacated. Khoy reached for her lawyer’s arm in disbelief. Was the nightmare really over?” [Washington Post]

Events to Mark Civic Association Anniversary — “The John M. Langston Citizens Association will celebrate the 85th Anniversary of the organization with a series of events during the weekend of May 13th through 15th. The Opening Program on Friday, May 13th at the Langston-Brown Community Center will feature recognition of the 28 plaintiffs from the Thompson v. Arlington School Board 1958 court case who were denied entrance to white schools, when the Stratford Four… were admitted on February 2, 1959.” [HallsHill.com]

SoberRide for Cinco de Mayo — “Offered by the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), the 2022 Cinco de Mayo SoberRide® program will be in operation beginning at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 5th (Cinco de Mayo) and operate until 4:00 a.m. on Friday, May 6th as a way to keep local roads safe from impaired drivers during this traditionally high-risk period.” [WRAP]

Circulator Strike Planned — “Fed up with a lack of progress in contract talks and unfair labor practices, the bus drivers for the DC Circulator, employed by RATP Dev, will be on strike tomorrow morning, Tuesday, May 3rd and will stay out until an agreement is reached.” [ATU Local 689]

It’s Tuesday — Partly sunny during the day, then a chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 8 p.m. High of 75 and low of 56. Sunrise at 6:09 am and sunset at 8:04 pm. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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A new bridge in Glencarlyn Park (courtesy Dennis Dimick)

Update at 4 p.m. on 3/15/22 — President Joe Biden has signed a $1.5 trillion spending bill with funding for three projects in Arlington. 

In the 10 months it took for the funding to pass, Arlington County substantially completed two of the projects: repaving parts of the Bluemont Junction Trail and replacing a pedestrian bridge in Glencarlyn Park.

The county moved forward with them in the interim due to safety concerns and the uncertain nature of federal funding, Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow on Tuesday.

The funding will pay for any remaining work and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is considering how to repurpose any unspent funds on similar projects, she said. 

Earlier: A $1.5 trillion spending bill that cleared Congress on Friday has funding for three projects in Arlington.

The bill includes $13.6 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine’s fight against Russia and will fund the federal government through September, avoiding an impending government shutdown. Now the 2,741-page bill is headed to the desk of President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it this week.

The bill also sends Arlington County more than $1.4 million to pay for a health initiative and two parks projects, for which Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) requested federal assistance last May. In total, the spending package has $5.4 million earmarked for 10 projects in Northern Virginia, at Beyer’s request.

“This funding will translate to significant, beneficial projects in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax County,” he said in a statement on Friday. “I am thankful to my colleagues who enacted the legislation to fund these initiatives, and to the local leaders who worked with me to identify and develop the initial requests. These projects will make a real, positive difference in our region.”

Arlington County’s Department of Human Services is getting $390,000 to purchase two medically equipped vehicles for a forthcoming mobile crisis response team. While not yet in existence, the team will be responsible for responding to behavioral health crises and providing on-site treatment.

The team was a recommendation of the Police Practices Group, which identified about 100 ways policing could be reformed in Arlington, including some ways the county could remove police officers from its mental health crisis response.

The county earmarked $574,000 in the current budget to staff the team with a physician’s assistant, nurse and clinician, and to buy a transport van and operating supplies.

DHS spokesman Kurt Larrick says the vehicles will be purchased once the County Board officially accepts and allocates the federal funding, which will take a couple of months. The mobile crisis response team, meanwhile, is “not up and running yet,” he said.

“County residents do have access to Community Regional Crisis Response services, however, which is a mobile crisis response,” he said. “And our Emergency Services staff can and do go into the community when need arises and staffing allows.”

The county will receive $325,000 to fund repaving and repairs for a segment of the Bluemont Junction Trail and adjacent connector paths. A 2018 trails assessment determined the Bluemont Junction Trail needed significant investments, as the condition of the asphalt is deteriorating in many sections.

The section paid for by the federal government spans the intersection of N. George Mason Drive and Wilson Blvd to the intersection of the trail with the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

This project is divided into two phases, according to the county. The first phase, completed late last year, updated the main trail and most of its connecting paths. The second phase will update three remaining trail connectors, which need to be realigned to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Phase two construction is expected to begin and end this spring and early summer.

Arlington budgeted $550,000 in its 2022-24 Capital Improvements Plan for the project.

The county will also receive $800,000 for the replacement of a pedestrian bridge in Glencarlyn Park. The bridge, lost during the July 2019 flash flooding, was recently installed. The project was part of the adopted 2021 Capital Improvements Plan.

Outside of Arlington, local earmarks in the bill will support storm sewer and climate resilience improvements in the City of Alexandria and Falls Church City and improve information technology services in Fairfax County. It will also support a pilot program for the deployment of body-worn cameras in the Alexandria Police Department and safety improvements to the GW Parkway.

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Morning Notes

Ballston at twilight (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Big Raise for Ballston Startup — “Federated Wireless, the leader in shared spectrum and CBRS technology, today announced that it has secured $58 million in Series D funding. An affiliate of Cerberus Capital Management, L.P. led the round, with existing investors Allied Minds and GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, also participating.” [Federated Wireless]

Library Spotlights Segregation History — “A new window display at Aurora Hills Library spotlights efforts of some local residents to promote education and literacy during a time of rigid racial segregation across Virginia. The display focuses on the Henry L. Holmes Library, which was founded by Arlington’s African-American community in 1940 and served as the only library resource for the community until the county’s library system was integrated in the late 1940s.” [Sun Gazette]

Bakery Ramping Up for Mardi Gras — “Chef David Guas at Bayou Bakery is ready for Mardi Gras serving up his famous King Cake… The deadline to order your King Cakes is this Saturday.” [WJLA]

It’s Wednesday — Scattered showers before 10 am. Cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny, with wind gusts up to 21 mph. High of 67 and low of 42. Sunrise at 6:50 am and sunset at 5:56 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.

Cybersecurity company Shift5 has raised $50 million in a Series B funding round to protect planes, trains and military weapon systems from mounting threats.

The round was led by private equity and venture capital firm Insight Partners, and follows up on a $20 million Series A funding round last fall.

“Shift5’s experienced founding team with deep national and cybersecurity experience, plus early success, makes the company a standout in the industry,” Nick Sinai, a senior advisor at Insight Partners who will join Shift5’s board, said in a statement. “We’re excited to work with Shift5 as it fills a crucial space in defending national infrastructure.”

Shift5 intends to use the funding to new products and hire new employees to keep pace with demand for its services across transportation and national defense industries. It works with some notable clients, including the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command.

The Rosslyn-based startup, headquartered at 1100 Wilson Blvd, currently offers a platform that identifies the weak points in the systems making planes, trains and militaries run, and wards off cyber threats. It began selling this product last year, and reported netting tens of millions of dollars in revenue.

The commitment to hiring staff comes after the company doubled the size of its team in 2021.

Airlines, train operators and militaries often rely on outdated operational technology to power their fleets, according to Shift5. As more of these operational systems get connected to the Internet, they become more vulnerable to cyber attacks — which can cost them millions of dollars in losses, remediation and ransom payments.

And soon, they may have a human cost, as these attacks could result in injuries and deaths by 2025, according to research firm Gartner.

Shift5 founders deploy their product on a train during COVID-19 (courtesy of Shift5)

Cyber threats are becoming more commonplace, and demand for Shift5’s services is rising, the company says. Recent attacks have targeted pipelines and surface transportation, including New York’s public transit authority and a major port in Houston. Hacks into maritime operational technology have increased by 900% since 2017 and, overall, the transportation industry witnessed a 186% increase in weekly attacks from 2020 to 2021.

“If the past year has proven anything, it’s that the leading defenders in rail, aviation, and national defense see the prescient risks and are mobilizing to get ahead of costly damages,” said Shift5’s President Joe Lea in a statement. “We look forward to partnering with Insight Partners as we continue to grow and defend.”

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This week was yet another filled with plenty of news about snow, but unlike previous January weeks not a lot of actual snow.

Using its last traditional snow day allotment, Arlington Public Schools closed Thursday for what turned out to be a bust — a rainy, cold day. Lucky for students looking to enjoy the weather when school’s closed, this weekend should at least be sunny, albeit a little cold, in Arlington.

Now, here are the most-read Arlington articles of the past week.

  1. Feds release new details about Jan. 6 weapons cache at Arlington hotel
  2. JUST IN: Winter Weather Advisory issued ahead of Thursday morning snow
  3. BREAKING: APS closes schools Thursday due to expected snow
  4. Morning Poll: Should APS continue to require masks in schools?
  5. The shift from rain to snow delayed in Arlington, NWS decreases possible accumulation
  6. Guaranteed income pilot program moves forward without any county funding
  7. NEW: Covid cases falling in Arlington, following regional trends
  8. Winter Restaurant Week to feature 18 Arlington restaurants
  9. ‘Old Lee Highway’ gets new name: Cherry Hill Road
  10. JUST IN: APS says masks still required for students, despite Youngkin’s order

Feel free to discuss those stories or anything else of local interest in the comments. Have a great weekend!

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Cash (via Pepi Stojanovski/Unsplash)

A local pilot program to give up to 200 qualifying low-income residents $500 a month for two years, no strings attached, will move forward without any public funding.

For a few months last fall, Arlington County was poised to spend either federal or county money on “Arlington’s Guarantee,” a guaranteed income pilot program launched by nonprofit Arlington Community Foundation.

This commitment fell through, however, when the county and ACF realized any infusion of public funding would have put participants at risk of losing their government benefits, such as child care subsidies or food stamps.

“It would put them back instead of putting them forward,” says Anne Vor der Bruegge, ACF’s Director of Grants and Initiatives.

She and Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick call this income precipice the “benefits cliff.” The little additional income would make the fall particularly painful in Arlington given its high cost of living.

“The issue was that in order to give money to recipients and then not push them off the benefits cliff — where, for example, they lose SNAP because they make too much income — and to make the net effect of receiving the cash zero, we had to get a waiver from the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS),” Larrick said.

He added that with the waiver, the monthly stipend “would not count as income in the calculation of benefits, and no one who joined the program would lose benefits by being ‘over income.'”

But this waiver only works if the program is 100% privately funded. Last year, the county and ACF learned that neither the county’s original plan to use American Rescue Plan Act funding nor its revised plan to use unspent funds from the 2021 fiscal year would have worked.

“The County decided to rescind the plan to give ARPA money so as to not negatively impact the recipients,” he said. “Using closeout funds would have created the same issue.”

ACF’s wide donor base ensures this loss of funding won’t impact the program’s trajectory, says Vor der Bruegge, but it may slow it down slightly.

“We had intended all along for it to be privately funded from the get-go: that is, through individual people, philanthropic organizations and corporate dollars,” she said, adding that the ARPA funding “evolved as an opportunity we didn’t plan for or seek out.”

County contributions would have allowed ACF to enroll all 200 participants immediately, she says. Now, ACF will resume its plan to continue accepting donations until it reaches 200 participants.

So far, 105 residents are receiving money directly onto debit cards through the program. ACF will continue expanding enrollment in groups of 25, as funding becomes available, up to 200 people. Donations benefit participants directly, says Vor der Bruegge, as ACF obtained a grant to cover the program’s operating costs.

The “benefits cliff” issue is not exclusive to Arlington.

Vor der Bruegge says it hurt nascent guaranteed income programs across the state and nation that were counting on ARPA funding, she said. These programs are proliferating right now because federal stimulus checks normalized the idea of automatic payments to residents — and many were latching onto ARPA funding.

Now, they’re having to “go back to the drawing board,” she said, adding that some states are introducing legislation to override this unintended consequence.

“It is pretty prevalent across the country,” she said.

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Arlington County is set to receive more than $3 million to entice tourists to visit Arlington and help the hard-hit tourism industry recover from the pandemic.

The county’s tourism division, Arlington Convention and Visitors Service (ACVS), would use the $3.25 million grant for advertising, media outreach, marketing research, promotional events and tourism development to support the travel and hospitality industry, according to a county report.

The Arlington County Board is set to consider the grant during its meeting this Saturday. The Virginia Tourism Corporation awarded ACVS the money through the American Rescue Plan Act Tourism Recovery program, but the County Board must approve the funding.

In November, the Board cited this grant as the reason it did not consider direct financial support to hotels in its allocation of about $9 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds, which went toward housing assistance, expanding critical behavioral health services, meal distribution for senior citizens and more affordable child care options, among other initiatives.

Board members said the ACVS grant will instead help hospitality workers through training and job search support.

“Unfortunately, unlike the ARPA funds Arlington County received earlier from the Commonwealth, [the ACVS] funds can’t be used for grants or other direct financial support to our hotels, which is what we continue to hear would be the most impactful for their recovery and for maintaining sustainable, predictable compensation for their employees,” Arlington Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kate Bates told ARLnow.

In Arlington Economic Development’s survey of local hotels, employee pay and benefits was the top spending priority across hotels of all sizes, Bates said.

“Moreover, employment data show that Arlington has lost about half of its hotel workforce during the pandemic,” she said.

ACVS has gathered input on how to use the grant funding from representatives of Arlington hotels, the Chamber of Commerce, local Business Improvement Districts, the Clarendon, Columbia Pike and Langston Boulevard neighborhood partnerships, Arlington Economic Development and the Department of Parks and Recreation, the report said.

The conversations are expected to continue over the 30 months the grant will be distributed.

“The funds are designated specifically for marketing Arlington as a destination to generate visitor spending, and I’m confident that Emily Cassell and the great team at ACVS will develop a plan to successfully do that, with continued feedback from the hotels along the way,” Bates said.

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Volunteers apply non-skid treatment to Trollheim Bridge on the Mount Vernon Trail (Photo via Friends of Mount Vernon Trail/Twitter)

The National Landing Business Improvement District and the group Friends of Mount Vernon Trail are teaming up to help maintain the heavily-used trail.

This includes financial support from the BID for supplies and equipment, and a series of Saturday clean-up events through Jan. 22.

“We are really excited to partner with the National Landing BID to achieve our common goal of making the Mount Vernon Trail a safe and pleasant doorway to National Landing,” Judd Isbell, president of the Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail, wrote in a press release. “The BID’s sponsorship of our 2022 trail improvement events is providing vital support to purchase equipment and supplies for our volunteers.”

“We’ve had over 800 volunteers so far in 2021 and there have been times where we’ve had more volunteers than tools at our events,” Isabell added.

The sponsorship will provide resources to “better connect trail users to facilities, events and businesses in National Landing,” the nonprofit organization wrote in a blog post on Friday.

The BID declined to comment on exacts in terms of resources and funding. The sponsorship deal does appear to come with some swag, however.

The BID said the partnership will further its mission of making the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard neighborhoods a better place.

“Our wealth of green spaces and access to regional trails like the Mount Vernon Trail which boasts uninterrupted views of the D.C. skyline and stunning nature preserves, is part of what makes National Landing such an active, vibrant community,” National Landing BID president Tracy Sayegh Gabriel said.

The clean-up events began this past Saturday and will continue every week until Jan. 22. Each event will focus on a different section of the trail. For example, on New Year’s Day, volunteers will meet on the trail near the Crystal City Connector to help prune vegetation, cut tree branches, and pick up trash. Volunteers don’t need any special training and all tools will be provided.

There will also be a day of service on Jan. 17, Martin Luther King Day, in Alexandria.

“National Landing’s green spaces and direct access to trails like Mount Vernon are an integral part of our community,” wrote a National Landing BID spokesperson to ARLnow. “The National Landing BID’s mission is to support and complement our community’s exciting transformation, and that involves working with local groups, like the Friends of Mount Vernon Trail, to preserve our natural surroundings for years to come.”

The 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail runs from Mount Vernon in Fairfax County to Roosevelt Island near Rosslyn, passing by Crystal City as it parallels the GW Parkway. The trail is controlled by the National Park Service but volunteers have stepped up to keep it clean and safe for users amid sparse maintenance from the park service.

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Morning Notes

Pupatella Gets Millions for Expansion — “Arlington’s own Pupatella pizza restaurant chain has raised $7.5 million to continue its growth spurt, with plans to open more more than a dozen restaurants in the coming years. The round was fully subscribed and had participation from almost all of the investors who participated in the company’s first round in 2018, when it raised $3.75 million.” [Washington Business Journal]

Steel from WTC Donated to Arlington — “Two pieces of steel from the World Trade Center will now be on permanent display in D.C. and Virginia ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. The words ‘never forget’ are written on the front of a piece of steel beam unveiled during a ceremony in front of the Arlington County Police Officer Memorial on Sunday.” [WTOP]

Crystal City Getting Cooler? — “Nearly three years after Amazon announced it would be bringing its second headquarters to Arlington — and specifically to ‘National Landing,’ a name conjured by local officials to sell the area as a tech hub — its reputation may be changing.” [Washington Post]

Big Win for Fmr. Youth Soccer Star — “Congratulations to #TeamArlington alum [Eryk Williamson] and the @usmnt on winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup.” [Twitter, ALXnow]

Food Scrap Caddy Being Delivered — “With Arlington’s weekly food scraps collection program launching next month, a County-provided countertop caddy, instructions and even introductory biodegradable bags will be delivered to curbside customer homes beginning this week.” [Arlington County]

Fire Engine Involved in Crash — “An Arlington fire engine was involved in a crash at the intersection of 18th Street S. and S. Fern Street this morning around 9:30. No firefighters were injured. One person in the second vehicle involved was taken to the hospital but is expected to be okay, per an ACFD spokesman.” [Twitter]

CPRO to Mark 35th Anniversary — “As the group’s 35th anniversary looms on the horizon this fall, the recent annual meeting of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) was a chance to take stock of tumultuous times and fly the organization’s flag in the march toward the future.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Poetry Book — “I picked up a copy of the ‘Written in Arlington: Poems of Arlington, Virginia’ edited by Katherine E. Young, our poet laureate emerita. Published quietly last fall during the pandemic, it showcases storytelling via 150 poems by 87 poets who ‘live, work, study, worship in or simply pass through… and in so doing, make Arlington their own,’ Young explains. She nodded to famous Arlington-based poets — George Washington Parke Custis, Doors singer Jim Morrison, and Zitkala-Sa.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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Morning Notes

Manafort Home Up for Sale — A house in the Clarendon area that was once sought as a forfeiture to the federal government as part of the case against Paul Manafort is now up for sale. The house is owned by Manafort’s daughter, though the feds once argued that it was paid for by Manafort with money transferred from a shell company in Cyprus. The 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath home is listed for $2.35 million. Manafort was pardoned by President Trump late last year. [Realtor.com]

Northam Announces Mental Health Funding — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced that the Commonwealth will commit $485 million in federal and state funding to address pressing challenges in Virginia’s behavioral health system. The plan includes targeted investments to alleviate pressure on state mental health hospitals, strengthen community-based services, and increase support for substance abuse treatment and prevention programs. The Governor made the announcement at the Arlington County Community Services Board and was joined by Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegates Mark Sickles, Patrick Hope, and Alfonso Lopez.” [Press Release, Twitter, Twitter]

Nearby: Route 1 Fight Brewing in Fairfax Co. — “There’s another fight brewing over a Route 1 redesign, this time in Fairfax Co. Neighbors feel VDOT has once again sought to make the road too wide for it to be walkable, posing safety issues.” [Twitter, Washington Business Journal]

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