Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) It was a seemingly uncontroversial item on the County Board agenda: shifting a temporary parking lot for television station WETA down the block, in order to allow renovations to Jennie Dean Park to proceed.

But the proposal, which was approved unanimously last night after a detailed discussion, ended up raising questions about race, equity and public engagement. It was the subject of a recent op-ed published by the Sun Gazette entitled “Arlington government again fails Green Valley,” accusing the county of repeatedly ignoring the wishes of the historically Black neighborhood.

“While millions marched for equity and racial justice last week, the Arlington County government posted a board agenda item that turns these actions into mere slogans,” wrote Green Valley Civic Association members Robin Stombler and Portia Clark. “A license agreement would have the county government turn a newly acquired $1 million property in the Green Valley community into a parking lot for WETA. This action is but one in a series of events that draw attention to the inequity systemic within the county.”

The discussion at Tuesday’s County Board meeting did not include much talk of race or equity. Instead, it mostly addressed the practical matter at hand: about 10 employees of the nearby WETA facility, which produces the PBS NewsHour, were parking on a temporary, county-owned lot that is set to become a playground in Phase 1 of the Jennie Dean expansion. To allow construction to move forward, they would be moved to a lot a short distance away on S. Four Mile Run Drive, between a small commercial building and the Weenie Beenie.

Demolition of the building that will become the new WETA lot started last week, a county staffer said. Heavy construction on the park is set to begin in late summer or early fall. Without use of the current temporary lot, “we would not be able to build out the project as designed,” the staffer said.

The Green Valley neighborhood didn’t want the current WETA lot and doesn’t want the new lot, said Stombler. And notification of the change — it was advertised in the lightly-read Washington Times newspaper, as are Arlington’s other public notices — was inadequate.

“Publishing notices in the Washington Times and considering it an outreach method is very telling of how the county regards Green Valley and community input in general,” Stomber said. We deserve much better… The county’s engagement processes must be improved.”

The remarks echo complaints from Green Valley residents two years about the lengthy design process for Jennie Dean Park.

“This community has been ignored repeatedly by the Arlington County Board while the requests and desires of several other, predominantly white, Arlington neighborhoods are being placed ahead of those of the people who live here,” one resident told ARLnow at the time.

“I feel like we’re second class citizens,” said a resident during the public comment period last night.

Nonetheless, under an agreement approved by the Board, WETA will be granted temporary use of the newly-created lot for a year, after which its use can be reevaluated. Eventually, the lot will become part of park, in the second phase of its expansion. And the county will get something in return for the temporary use.

“The compensation to the County for the Amended and Restated License Agreement will be in the form of 12, 15-second promotional underwriting credit spots on WETA’s radio programs during each calendar year,” a staff report says.

Stombler and Clark — who support the expansion of WETA’s Shirlington headquarters that will see its aging NewsHour studio eventually demolished — said that the radio ads will not do anything to benefit the neighborhood.

“The county government must reassess its engagement processes to correct these actions, and must be held accountable for practices that marginalize segments of our community,” the op-ed said. “More innovative and compassionate solutions should be encouraged. Local hiring, paid internships, job fair hosting and community clean-ups beat 12 ego-boosting radio spots any day.”

Photos (1-2) via Arlington County, (3-4) via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Black Lives Matter Protest Held Saturday — “As protests continue around the nation following the death of George Floyd, the Black Parents of Arlington group welcomed families and neighbors on Saturday for a special gathering and vigil for the man who died in police custody in Minneapolis in May. Over 100 people gathered at Drew Model Elementary School, some bringing signs while others wore shirts and face masks showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement.” [WUSA 9]

Dorsey Discusses ‘Defund’ Demands — “‘We’re getting a lot of letters with the ‘defund the police’ calls,’ says [County Board member Christian Dorsey, on the WAMU Politics Hour]. He says that over the past few years, the police budget has only risen slightly above inflation. He said he’d be open to cutting tactical weapons and gear.” [Twitter]

Pentagon Entering ‘Phase 1’ Today — “Pentagon and Pentagon Facilities Employees: This Mon., June 15, begins Phase One of re-entering the buildings. Welcome back! Don’t forget your face covering and to social distance while inside.” [Twitter]

Current COVID-19 Hospitalizations Fall — “Fewer than 1,000 Virginians are now hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19, and the number of cases continued to slow both statewide and in Northern Virginia, according to reports Saturday morning. The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reported only 959 coronavirus patients in state hospitals, the lowest number since the organization began providing data in early April… Only 342 of those patients were in Northern Virginia, down from a high of 818 on April 30.” [InsideNova]

County Expanding Free Wi-Fi Spots — “Arlington residents can now access free Wi-Fi in the parking lots of the Charles Drew Community Center and Barcroft Sports & Fitness Center as part of the County’s ongoing effort to help residents without reliable internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with these two new locations, public Wi-Fi is available via the ArlingtonWireless network in the parking lots at Aurora Hills, Central and Columbia Pike libraries.” [Arlington County]

PTAs to Distribute Face Masks — “County staff from a variety of departments packing up more than 4,300 cloth face covers for [Arlington Public Schools] PTAs to distribute to families. Face covering is required in Virginia public indoor spaces. ” [Twitter]

Restaurants Seek Expanded Outdoor Dining Spaces — “Arlington County has allowed 19 restaurants to add new space for outdoor dining or expand existing options, as part of the growing trend of shifting tables outside and allowing safer dining while the Covid-19 pandemic persists… Through June 9, the county has seen a total of 66 applications and approved just under a third of them.” [Washington Business Journal]

Photo courtesy Jean and James Knaack

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Morning Notes

Vigil Planned Saturday in Green ValleyUpdated at noon — “Delegate Alfonso Lopez, Black Parents of Arlington and Yolande Kwinana will be hosting a vigil at Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary School Field, to honor those who have died at the hands of police. Speakers will enlighten the community on what they can do to help enact change in our Arlington.” [Facebook]

Ballston Macy’s Redevelopment Proposal Delayed — “The owner of air rights above the [potentially for sale] Macy’s building in Ballston will have additional time to move forward with a planned redevelopment of the space, if County Board members act on its request June 13. Board members are being asked to extend until July 2023 the ability of the owner to come to the county government with a development plan. The current site plan, which sets out development parameters for the parcel, was set to expire in several weeks.” [InsideNova]

Local CrossFit Gym Speaks Out — “Replacing one CEO for another is not real change. We welcome the retirement of CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman as a step in the right direction, but we find it woefully inadequate. The appointment of Dave Castro as new CEO is unmistakably a tone deaf move that is shying away from making any difficult and meaningful change.” [@crossfitsoutharlington/Instagram]

Op-Ed: Parking Proposal Not Fair to Green Valley — “While millions marched for equity and racial justice last week, the Arlington County government posted a board agenda item that turns these actions into mere slogans. A license agreement would have the county government turn a newly acquired $1 million property in the Green Valley community into a parking lot for WETA. This action is but one in a series of events that draw attention to the inequity systemic within the county.” [InsideNova]

Caps Resuming Practices in Ballston — “The Washington Capitals have announced their date for small group activities to resume: Thursday, June 11. The announcement comes a day after MedStar Capitals Iceplex, the team’s practice facility, posted it would begin the state’s Phase 2 reopening plan this weekend. According to the Capitals, MedStar Capitals Iceplex will remain closed to the public.” [Russian Machine Never Breaks, Washington Capitals]

Nearby: Fairfax Co. Expects Office Vacancy Spike — “Fairfax County’s office vacancy rate is likely to suffer as remote meetings continue to be the norm, the county’s economic development chief warned in early June. Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, delivered that warning to the county board of supervisors during a June 2 meeting.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Police are investigating the killing of a 45-year-old Arlington man last night.

Arlington County Police say the man was found shot to death in the driver’s seat of a car around 10 p.m. Thursday, in the Green Valley neighborhood.

“This is the second homicide in Arlington County in 2020,” police noted. So far there’s no word on any suspects or possible motive.

More from ACPD:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is investigating a homicide that took place in the Green Valley neighborhood on the evening of April 23, 2020.

At approximately 9:54 p.m., police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious vehicle in the 1900 block of S. Lowell Street. Upon arrival, officers approached the vehicle and located the male victim deceased in the driver’s seat suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. The victim has been identified as Marshall Stephens, 45, of Arlington, VA.

This incident remains an active criminal investigation. Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact Detective J. Trainer of the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4185 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

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Arlington County Police have charged two juvenile suspects in connection with an alleged burglary in Green Valley that drew national media attention.

Police say the two juveniles broke into the store —  the Arlington Smoke Shop at 2428 Shirlington Road — early on a Sunday morning in late March and were in the process of stealing items when an employee emerged from a backroom with a gun and opened fire.

One of the suspects was shot “point blank in the back,” and the shooting was caught on video surveillance, prosecutors said. The employee, 33-year-old Hamzeh Abushariah, is now facing serious charges including Malicious Wounding. Gun rights advocates have taken up his cause, which has received national attention on Fox News and other, mostly conservative-leaning media outlets.

While Abushariah’s case is pending, police today announced that two of the alleged burglars are also now facing a slew of charges.

“Charges have been sought against two juvenile suspects related to the breaking and entering which occurred on March 29,” ACPD said. “The suspects have been charged with Burglary, Attempted Grand Larceny, Conspiracy to Commit a Felony, Conspiracy to Commit Larceny and Destruction of Property. In accordance with Virginia law, their identities are not releasable.”

An investigation into the role of a third suspect — who has not yet been charged — “is ongoing,” police said.

The individual who was shot was one of the two suspects facing charges, Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. That suspect “remains in a medical facility,” she said.

Photo via Google

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Arlington County Police are investigating a stabbing in the Green Valley neighborhood, near Shirlington.

Officers were dispatched to the 2200 block of Shirlington Road shortly after midnight Wednesday for multiple reports of a man who was stabbed and bleeding outside of a residential building.

“Upon arrival, officers located a male victim suffering from a minor stab wound,” ACPD said in a crime report today. “He was transported to an area hospital for treatment. The preliminary investigation indicates that a verbal dispute between known individuals preceded the stabbing. The investigation is ongoing.”

The stabbing happened around the same time as an unrelated incident a short distance away, along Columbia Pike.

According to initial reports, a man staying at the Days Inn hotel threatened to kill himself and to harm police if they intervened. That set up a tense standoff that stretched into wee hours.

More from Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage:

At approximately 12:15 a.m. on April 15, police were dispatched to the report of a suicide threat in the 3000 block of Columbia Pike. A negotiation team responded and established communication with the subject. The subject was ultimately taken into police custody and the incident was safely resolved. A search of the room located suspected narcotics. The subject was transported to an area hospital for evaluation. Charges are pending.

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The food pantry for an Arlington church is starting to run dangerously low on supplies for their weekly food distribution.

Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church (2700 19th Street S.) runs a food pantry that, once a week, provides a full bag of groceries. With Catholic churches in the Arlington Diocese no longer meeting on Sundays, Father Timothy Hickey sent a letter on Sunday to the congregation saying the situation with the food pantry has become increasingly dire.

“The number of families we serve has increased each of the past several weeks, and we anticipate that will only continue to grow,” Hickey said. “At the same time, with in-person masses suspended, our donations (both monetarily and food items) have considerably decreased. Combine those two factors and it is not difficult to appreciate the challenge we are facing.”

The church is not alone in this. Local organizations like the Arlington Food Assistance Center have also seen increasing needs and decreasing access to the traditional sources of donations.

“While everything else in our parish has scaled back and otherwise paused during this pandemic, our entire parish leadership very strongly feels it is vital to keep the Food Pantry open and continue to serve this community in need,” Hickey said. “We have a small but mighty staff and volunteers that are committed to keeping this ministry going to the best of our abilities.”

Hickey said there were three ways to contribute to the food pantry.

Monetary donations can be made online. A general donation will include the food pantry as well as money to pay for church staff salaries, but there is also an option to just donate to the pantry.

Food can also be dropped off at the shelter. Hickey said a bin will be placed behind the church from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Friday. There is also a list of specific foods requested for donation:

  • 1 bag of rice, any size (bigger ones will be split into a 1 lbs. bag)
  • 1 bag of dry beans, 1 lbs. or two cans of beans (prefer black, pinto or small red beans)
  • 1 pack of long or short pasta
  • 1 jar of pasta sauce approx. 24 oz. (any flavor is great)
  • 1 box of low sugar cereals (eg. Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, Cheerios)
  • 1 can of corn approx. 16 oz
  • 1 can of green vegetables approx. 16 oz (eg. green beans, sweet peas)
  • 1 can of fruit in light syrup or in its own juices
  • 2 cans of tuna or packs of tuna in water or oil
  • 1 bottle of oil, 48 oz.
  • 1 bag of Tortimasa (no cornmeal)

The church, in Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood, is also requesting help from volunteers to help break food into smaller servings for individual grocery bags.

To this end, the following are our current volunteer needs.

  • 2 Food Sourcing Volunteers — These volunteers will be calling the list of stores and other food sources (eg. Costco, BJ’s, Restaurant Depot) each week to determine which of the Food Pantry needed items are in stock. Ultimately, these volunteers will be coming up with the shopping list and location for the volunteer grocery shoppers. Because so many stores are running out of items, the ideal volunteer for this role will have plenty of patience and persistence. When Plans A, B and C don’t work out because the stores can’t meet the demand, we are looking for creative and resourceful personalities who thrive on figuring out the plan even if that means getting all the way down to Plans X, Y and Z. The ideal volunteer for this role can commit to weekly or every other week outreach through mid-June.
  • 4 Bulk Grocery Shoppers — For this role that involves receiving the grocery list and completing the grocery run for bulk items, the ideal volunteer will have a large car, be able to carry large amounts of heavy items and would be able to commit to weekly or every other week grocery runs through midJune.
  • 1 Signage Volunteer — Any budding artists among us? Signs are needed to clearly mark the bins where in-person donations will be received. This is a short term and immediate need. Perhaps ideal for one of our Religious Education families?
  • 1 Admin Assistant — This ideal volunteer is someone with strong computer skills to help organize various aspects of this effort such as creating volunteer lists, organizing team calls and various other types of simple items that come up. Ideally would be able to commit through mid-June.

“It is only through your generosity that we are able to continue to help supplement their food needs,” Hickey said, “especially in this time of crisis.”

Photo via Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church

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The owner of a local store went on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight last night to discuss the arrest of a store employee for shooting a would-be robber.

Jowan Zuber, owner of Arlington Smoke Shop in the Green Valley neighborhood, said 33-year-old Hamzeh Abushariah was sleeping in the store’s back office when he was awoken by loud noises. He encountered three masked suspects breaking in and fired three shots to scare them off, Zuber claimed.

One of the suspects, a boy under 18 years of age, was struck and suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

To Zuber’s surprise, police and the Commonwealth’s Attorney decided to level felony charges against Abushariah that could land him in prison for upwards of two decades, if convicted. Abushariah was denied bond, Zuber said, leading to concerns for his health while confined during the coronavirus epidemic.

“We thought we’re in the right. Three masked men at 4:30 on a Sunday morning,” Zuber told Carlson. “This is very sad for America today, as American citizens practicing the Second Amendment to protect the store and the lives.”

Zuber claimed that police asked Abushariah, “why didn’t you run out the back door?”

“This [tells] the criminals out there, hey we can rob stuff, kill people, hurt people, and guess what — people have to run out the back door,” Zuber said. “This is mind boggling.”

The Commonwealth’s Attorney Office, led by reform-minded prosecutor Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, defended the decision to charge Abushariah earlier this week.

“There’s evidence we are not at liberty to share that support the charges, the decision was not made lightly,” the office said on Twitter.

Update at noon — The Arlington County Republican Committee has weighed in on the controversy via Twitter, calling for charges against Abushariah to be dropped.

Update on 4/24/20 — Two of the break-in suspects are now facing charges.

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An employee of a local shop is facing charges after police say he shot someone breaking into the store.

The incident happened Sunday morning in the Green Valley neighborhood, shortly before 5 a.m.

Police say a group of three suspects broke into a store on the 2400 block of Shirlington Road and began stealing cash and merchandise. The employee, who was in a backroom at the time, picked up a gun, opened a door into the store, and shot one of the suspects, according to an Arlington County Police press release.

The employee then retreated, before going back into the store and firing another shot, police said.

The wounded suspect was a juvenile male; he suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries. The two other suspects fled the scene before police arrived.

While police did not name the store at which the shooting took place, according to scanner traffic it was the Arlington Smoke Shop at 2428 Shirlington Road. The store’s employee has now been charged in connection with the shooting.

“Following consultation with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, the employee, Hamzeh Abushariah, 33, of Washington D.C. was charged with Malicious Wounding, Reckless Handling of a Firearm and Violation of a Protective Order,” police said. “Additional charges related to the breaking and entering are anticipated at a later date.”

More from ACPD:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is investigating a shooting that took place in the Green Valley neighborhood on the morning of March 29, 2020.

At approximately 4:53 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of trouble unknown in the 2400 block of Shirlington Road. The preliminary investigation indicates that three subjects forced entry into a business and began stealing cash and merchandise. An employee inside a secure back room heard the break in, retrieved a firearm, opened the door to the sales floor and discharged the weapon, striking one juvenile subject. The employee retreated to the back room but reentered the sales floor and discharged his weapon again as the subjects were attempting to flee the business.

Arriving officers located the injured juvenile subject outside the business. He was transported by medics to an area hospital with injuries that are considered serious but non-life threatening. The other two subjects fled the scene on foot prior to police arrival.

Following consultation with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, the employee, Hamzeh Abushariah, 33, of Washington D.C. was charged with Malicious Wounding, Reckless Handling of a Firearm and Violation of a Protective Order. He is being held without bond.

Additional charges related to the breaking and entering are anticipated at a later date.

This incident remains an active criminal investigation. Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact Detective Henretty of the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4237 or [email protected] arlingtonva.us. Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Update on 4/24/20 — Two of the break-in suspects are now facing charges.

Photo via Google

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Weekend Morning Notes

About This Post — Due to lots of coronavirus-related news, we have a number of non-disease-related local links that we haven’t been able to get to over the past two weeks. We’re running a one-time Weekend Morning Notes post to clear our queue. This will replace the usual weekend discussion post.

Arlington Cherry Blossom Walk — “Cherry blossom season in the D.C. area is a wonderful time of year, and taking in the blossoms is a beloved tradition. WalkArlington has created a walk featuring a few of our favorite locations in Arlington where you can appreciate the blooms and enjoy all that springtime in Arlington has to offer.” [WalkArlington]

Median Signs Promote Census — “What is good for the goose apparently is not good for the gander – if, that is, the gander is the Arlington County government. Those driving the roadways of Arlington in recent weeks no doubt have seen a flurry of median signage calling attention to, and promoting participation in, the federal census.” [InsideNova]

Local Cat Makes Headlines –“An adorable cat with a jaw deformity can’t help but always stick her tongue out – and her owner has insisted she wouldn’t have her pet any other way. Pretty Kitty, five, from Arlington, Virginia, can only open her mouth a ‘small amount’, and has her tongue always sticking out thanks to the way her jaw formed.” [Daily Mail]

Instant Runoff Voting for Arlington? — “Voters in future Arlington County Board elections could find themselves using the ‘instant-runoff’ method rather than the current ‘winner-takes-it-all’ manner. Both houses of the General Assembly have approved and sent to Gov. Northam a measure allowing Arlington to conduct its County Board races using instant-runoff voting, also known as ‘ranked-choice’ voting.” [InsideNova]

Arlington-Based Textile Brand Profiled — “From a plant-filled studio in Arlington, Diana Johnson translates ideas in her head to paper by lettering, illustrating and painting. Using her background in graphic design, Johnson is able to transform her artwork digitally into handcrafted products like pillows, clutches, greeting cards and, most often, prints to add a little color to any space.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Green Valley Looks Forward — “Low-level sales of marijuana and other substances in the Green Valley community in the 1960s grew into a full-fledged, open-air ‘drug supermarket’ by the early 1980s, with the intersection of 24th Road South and Shirlington Road ground zero for the illegal operations. On March 7, leaders of the community looked back at those days, and committed themselves to ensuring a better future for their community.” [InsideNova]

Chamber Acquires ‘Awesome Women’ –“Awesome Women (AWE), the professional networking group founded in Arlington in 2014 that now has six chapters throughout the DC area, announced today that it will become a program of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce later this year. The Arlington Chamber will offer women-only networking events beginning in the fall, and will call the new program the Arlington Chamber Chapter of AWE.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Victim of Pentagon Stabbing Identified — “The man who was fatally stabbed Monday morning on the platform of the Pentagon Metro station has been identified as a 25-year-old from Northwest Washington, a spokesman for the transit agency said. Sean Ronaldo Golden, who lived near the District’s Brightwood Park neighborhood, died shortly after arriving at George Washington University Hospital, a report provided by Metro says.” [Washington Post]

New Pho Restaurant Opens on Columbia Pike — Pho Harmony, a carry-out Vietnamese noodle restaurant, has opened on the 3200 block of Columbia Pike. [Twitter]

And now here it is, your moment of zen…

https://twitter.com/wamu885/status/1241206140475768832

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Arlington could finally make progress on a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Four Mile Run near Shirlington that’s been under discussion for nearly two decades, according to county staff.

Staff told the Transportation Commission at a Jan. 9 meeting that the current bridge, which carries two lanes of vehicular traffic in each direction on Shirlington Road, has inadequate bicycle-pedestrian facilities, with only a 3-5 foot sidewalk available.

Pedestrian access on Shirlington Road has been a thorn in the county’s side for years, with efforts made in the past to widen nearby sidewalks and make them more pedestrian-friendly — while the bridge bottleneck remained.

The bridge itself is still in good condition, staff said, so rather than reconstruct the bridge staff said a new bicycle and pedestrian-only bridge constructed 20 feet to the west would provide an alternative transit route without cutting into traffic on the Shirlington bridge.

The project, staff noted, has already been fully funded in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, but not plans have moved forward.

An open house for the pedestrian bridge project is scheduled for Feb. 11 from 6-8 p.m., in which nearby civic associations will be invited, though the location of the open house was not announced. Staff said renderings for the bridge will be available at the open house.

“We are starting to implement what came out of the Four Mile Run area plan,” staff said.

The Four Mile Run plan also considered a, underpass running beneath the bridge, negating the need for cyclists and other trail users to cross busy Shirlington Road, though that was not discussed at the Transportation Commission meeting. Arlington County is currently working on a $15.5 million renovation project for Jennie Dean Park, adjacent to the future bridge.

Photo via Google Maps

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