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Morning Notes

Amazon HQ2 under construction in Pentagon City, with the Pentagon in the foreground (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Construction Milestone for HQ2 — “Metropolitan Park, the first phase of our second headquarters’ development in Arlington, Virginia, is taking shape as we celebrate an important milestone: the ‘topping out,’ or completion of the highest floor of the building. So much has changed since we began construction more than two years ago in National Landing, and we can’t wait to welcome Amazon employees and the Arlington community to Metropolitan Park in 2023.” [Amazon, Twitter]

Covid Rate Low in the ER — From Virginia Hospital Center emergency department chief Dr. Mike Silverman: “This past week was the best COVID week we’ve had in a long time in the ER. We actually didn’t have any positive cases among our ‘symptomatic’ patients and just a handful or so among all comers to the ER. Our percent positivity rate was <2%. Hospitalizations remains low and we are returning to normal with in-person meetings and some options about mask wearing in non-clinical areas.” [Facebook]

Girl Found, Parents Eventually Located — “The parents of the little girl who was found unattended on the Martha Custis Trail in Arlington, Virginia, have been found on Saturday night. The girl was found behind a Giant grocery store on Langston Boulevard-U.S. 29 and Spout Run Parkway just before midnight Saturday.” [WTOP]

Arlington Gets HUD Grant — “The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded more than $2.8 million in FY 2021 Continuum of Care (CoC) Competition Awards to Arlington. The awards will provide funding to help individuals and families experiencing homelessness move into permanent housing with access to supportive services, with the overarching goal of long-term stability.” [Arlington County]

Aircraft Company Opens Local Office — “California-based Stratolaunch, which is testing the largest aircraft ever built, has established a permanent D.C.-area office. It’s in National Landing, the Crystal City area of Arlington County, Virginia. Stratolaunch was founded in 2011 by the late Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft.” [WTOP]

APS Students Serve as Pages in Richmond — “Two students at Swanson Middle School recently finished an 11-week program as pages with the Virginia House of Delegates. This selective program welcomes eighth and ninth-grade students to Richmond from across the commonwealth to learn about the legislative process and assist the House of Delegates. Chandani Rathod and Jacqueline Ake were the only two students chosen from Arlington County.” [Arlington Public Schools, Twitter]

Yes, Traffic is Getting Worse — “With more people returning to work, the D.C. region has seen an increase in drivers and that number could continue to shoot up. ‘It has been a steady climb,’ said Mary DePompa, WTOP Traffic anchor. Despite the rise in gas prices, the boom in the number of drivers appears to be a recent trend.” [WTOP]

It’s Monday — Clear throughout the day. High of 67 and low of 41. Sunrise at 7:11 am and sunset at 7:22 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Another day of trucker convoys in the area have resulted in major traffic headaches for those heading into D.C.

Police have just lifted a series of road closures in District, implemented to try to mitigate the vehicular demonstrations against Covid-related policies. Several convoys headed through Arlington earlier this afternoon, and there were recent reports of a slow-moving group on Route 110 near the Pentagon.

The damage has been done: northbound traffic on I-395 is backed up to Shirlington, while inbound traffic on I-66 is backed up well past the Rosslyn tunnel.

There are also considerable delays on the GW Parkway, in both directions prior to ramps heading into the District, as well as backups on the Key Bridge and N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn.

More via Twitter:

https://twitter.com/DCPoliceTraffic/status/1504890738529734663

https://twitter.com/DCPoliceTraffic/status/1504917414236102663

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(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) After a week of ineffectual laps around the Beltway, the “People’s Convoy” is now jamming up part of I-395 in Arlington.

The convoy, which features a mix of big rigs and personal vehicles, is intended to protest the Covid-related government mandates. It received considerable media attention last week but didn’t do much to disrupt traffic.

Today, however, it is heading into D.C. by way of Arlington and I-395, and creating traffic headaches and a lot of noise in the process.

Traffic cameras show flag-adorned protest vehicles moving at a snail’s pace in the main northbound lanes of I-395, approaching the 14th Street Bridge. Virginia State Police vehicles can also be seen, monitoring the demonstration. The northbound I-395 HOV lanes over the Potomac remain open and seem to be flowing freely.

Public safety watchdog Dave Statter, from his perch in Pentagon City, reports a non-stop honking of horns from the convoy.

Some of the backup can perhaps be explained by traffic restrictions in the District. Authorities there have blocked access from I-395 to 12th and 14th streets “to keep traffic moving safely through the area.”

“Motorists should expect traffic delays in reaching your destination,” the District said in a tweet shortly before 2 p.m. “If possible, you should consider delaying travel on these routes or use alternative transportation such as Metrorail.”

Metro, meanwhile, said the numerous bus lines heading to and from the Pentagon may be delayed due to the convoy.

As of 3 p.m., just over an after the convoy first reached the Pentagon City area, traffic was still slow approaching the Potomac crossings and in D.C.

More via Twitter:

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Morning Notes

Spotted: Robot Dog in Courthouse — “Several people were standing outside one of the Colonial Place buildings today. I thought it was a fire drill at first, but they were too close to the building. Then I saw it.” [Twitter]

Yorktown High’s ‘Dull’ Scoreboard — “The scoreboard at Greenbrier field is not shattered, opaque or severely damaged, but it is dysfunctional and has been for some time. This is especially frustrating for athletes whose sports play in broad daylight, as the scoreboard’s bulbs are so dim they are nearly impossible to see. Parents of these athletes have voiced their complaints about the dull board, arguing that each of the other high schools in Arlington have modern, working scoreboards, while our school’s model has been in use since 2003.” [Yorktown Sentry]

TR Bridge Delays Could Get Even Worse — “Emergency repairs that will enable the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge to safely support the weight of regular traffic will probably last through the summer and cost about $6 million, the District Department of Transportation said, becoming the latest hindrance to the Washington commute as more employees return to in-person work.” [Washington Post]

More Grants for Nat’l Landing Businesses — “A grant program to support restaurants and small businesses in the National Landing area of Arlington will return for a second year… This latest round of funding totals $100,000. Grants will support small businesses’ pay for workers and other operating expenses.” [Patch]

Wakefield Gymnast Going to States — “Gabby Watts will have her opportunity to participate in the girls state gymnastics meet. The Wakefield Warriors gymnast qualified for the Virginia High School League Class 6 competition by winning the balance beam with a 9.583 score at the 6D North Region championships.” [Sun Gazette]

Reminder: ARLnow’s Reader Survey — If you want to weigh in on some changes ARLnow might make this year, please take our annual, three-minute survey before it closes at the end of the month. [SurveyMonkey]

It’s Wednesday — Today will be mostly sunny and breezy, with a high near 53. Sunrise at 6:57 a.m. and sunset at 5:47 p.m. Tomorrow there’s a slight chance of showers after 1 p.m., otherwise it will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 66 and wind gusts as high as 29 mph. [Weather.gov]

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(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) Expect heavy traffic on the southbound GW Parkway just after Spout Run due to a crash following a police pursuit.

Initial reports suggest that Virginia State Police troopers chased a fleeing suspect in a Dodge up the Spout Run Parkway and then back down onto the southbound lanes of the Parkway, when the suspect crashed.

Arlington medics were requested to the scene to evaluate possible minor injuries.

Numerous police cruisers were still on scene of the crash as of 5:30 p.m. The wreck appeared to involve the red Dodge, which ran up an embankment on the right ride of the Parkway, and a second non-police vehicle, which had its airbags deployed after crashing into the left-hand stone wall.

One center lane of traffic was squeezing by the police response. As of 5:45 p.m. Google Maps shows traffic on the Parkway backed up to Route 123 in McLean.

Map via Google Maps

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With former Vice President Joe Biden being named president-elect this morning by the Associated Press and others, celebrations in D.C. area leading to traffic on the 14th Street Bridge.

“Expect traffic delays around [northbound I-395] at the 14th Street Bridge due to street closures in DC around the White House,” said an Arlington Alert. The closures were prompted by impromptu celebrations around D.C., including large gatherings outside the White House.

Around Arlington — which voted for the Biden/Harris ticket over Trump/Pence by a margin of 81%-17% — horns honked and people cheered after the race was called.

https://twitter.com/trilly__vanilly/status/1325116257063084032

https://twitter.com/JulieMalear/status/1325122833253425155

A number of local officials have released statements about Biden’s presumptive electoral victory.

From Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.):

I extend my warmest congratulations to President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris on their massive victory in the presidential election. Though it is taking time to count, they are on track for major wins in every region of the country, with more votes than any candidate in history. When he is sworn as Commander in Chief in on January 20th, 2021, Joe Biden will have a strong governing mandate.

I recognize that this election has shown we are a divided nation, but we also have grave challenges that require immediate action. The time has come for President Trump to accept his defeat, pass the torch, and ensure an orderly transition of government for the Biden Administration. He has a unique power in this situation to promote national unity and to spare the country further dangerous civil strife by following the example of every American President, beginning with George Washington: the peaceful transfer of power.

We have been bitterly divided, but what unites us – including love of country, the Constitution, and our democratic ideals – must be stronger. Inflammatory rhetoric which undermines Americans’ faith in their national elections threatens lasting harm to our society, and it must stop. The country must come first.

“Our nation faces serious threats, including the pandemic and the stalling economic recovery. At this time of crisis, all leaders regardless of party must come together to support the President-Elect. He must be given the support he needs to take the helm of government, including swift consideration and confirmation of his team, so that he can take the country forward. We have no time to lose – there is serious work to be done.”

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(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) A large group of demonstrators blocked the outbound 14th Street Bridge between D.C. and Arlington during the evening rush hour.

Protesters were sitting down across the main southbound bridge span, according to D.C. police, but then started marching towards Arlington. The group — said to number in the hundreds — previously marched from the area around the Jefferson Memorial, according to scanner traffic.

Arlington County fire department medics were dispatched to the bridge at the request of Virginia State Police for a report of a protester who is dehydrated.

Drivers should expect delays in the area, though the outbound HOV lanes remained open. Police are on scene monitoring the demonstration.

Public safety watchdog Dave Statter broadcast live video of the protest, which as of 4:35 p.m. appeared to be winding down. Demonstrators, holding signs and flags, could be seen marching back toward D.C. Lanes reopened at 4:50 p.m.

The protest is related to the persecution of an ethnic group in Ethiopia, according to social media posts. It does not appear to be associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.

https://twitter.com/DCPoliceTraffic/status/1280238440207077377

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(Updated at 5 p.m.) Arlington County Police are now on scene of a big traffic jam on Columbia Pike reportedly caused by a food giveaway.

Initial reports suggest that the Mega Market Express, at 5001 Columbia Pike in the Pike Plaza shopping center, is giving away hundreds of meals as part of a promotion announced on Facebook. Police were not informed of the giveaway in advance, according to scanner traffic.

A large crowd has gathered around the store and Columbia Pike is jammed with traffic in both directions. Streets approaching the Pike like S. Dinwiddie Street are also at a standstill.

“This is absolutely insane,” said ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott, after arriving on scene. “No one is practicing social distancing.”

Officers are working to spread out the crowd and get traffic moving again. As of 5 p.m., the store had closed and was beginning to hand out certificates to let people pick up their giveaway items at a later time, according to scanner traffic.

Arlington’s emergency alert system is encouraging people to avoid the area.

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Arlington has the 25th worst commute in the country, according to a new set of rankings.

The county was ranked just a couple of spots up from cities like Phoenix and San Jose, California. The rankings take into account the average commute time, the percentage increase in commute time over the past five years, percentage of workers with a one hour or longer commute, and median income.

The study by the website SmartAsset found that Arlingtonians have a 30.1 minute commute on average, an increase of 2.4 percent compared to five years ago. Just over 7 percent of Arlington residents have an hour or longer commute.

Surprisingly, New York and Los Angeles — two cities with notorious commutes — only ranked No. 9 and 12 respectively. That’s despite NYC having the longest average commute (42 minutes). The top three worst commutes, according to SmartAsset, belong to North Las Vegas; Hialeah, Florida; and Philadelphia.

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(Updated at 6:45 p.m.) Some local roads around Arlington are becoming snow-covered as moderate-to-heavy snow continues fall into the early evening hours.

Early dismissals for the federal government and local schools resulted in an early rush hour, with I-66, I-395 and Columbia Pike jammed as of 2:45 p.m. Conditions have since improved somewhat, but slow traffic remains on large portions of 395 in Arlington.

Some 1-2 inches of wet snow is expected to fall before the flakes start tapering off around 5 p.m.

“Snow is getting heavier and visibility is dropping,” VDOT said this afternoon. “There’s not much accumulation on the roads, but even a little bit can causes spin outs if people drive like it’s a dry road. We’ve got lots of trucks out treating, but plan for a longer commute.”

ART and Metro buses are continuing to operate on a normal weekday service schedule, though ART warned of “minor delays depending on weather conditions this evening and overnight as snow, and any remaining rain may freeze.”

Most Arlington County facilities and offices remained open this afternoon, though county-run recreational programs after 2 p.m. were cancelled. Trash and recycling collection were suspended for the rest of the day earlier this afternoon.

Though arterial routes and highways were mostly wet, local officials encouraged anyone on the roads to take caution.

“As they head home, commuters and drivers should exercise caution and know the safety rules for dealing with winter road emergencies,” AAA Mid-Atlantic said in a press release. “Some research suggests the first snowy day of the year is ‘substantially more dangerous’ for drivers. What’s more, some earlier research revealed some drivers are ‘more likely to become involved in a crash during the first snowfall of the season compared to other snow days.’ Even so, ‘the first winter storms of the season usually result in numerous crashes because people fail to adjust their driving habits to the road conditions,’ area police and transportation officials advise.”

More from Virginia State Police:

Virginians are still advised to do the following if traveling today:

  • Use headlights. Increasing your visibility helps you to avoid slick and dangerous spots on the road, as well as helps other drivers see you better. Also, it’s a state law that if the windshield wipers are active, then headlights must be on.
  • Slow your speed. Though state police works closely with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to identify problem areas on Virginia’s highways during storms, drivers still must drive for conditions. Slowing your speed gives you more time to safely react and avoid a crash. Drive your vehicle based on your ability to properly maintain control of your vehicle.
  • Don’t tailgate. You need increased stopping distance on slick road surfaces. Give yourself more space between vehicles traveling ahead of you in order to avoid rear end collisions.
  • Buckle Up. Most crashes that occur during winter weather are caused by vehicles sliding into guardrails, off the road or other vehicles. Wearing your seat belt protects you from being thrown around the inside of your vehicle and suffering serious injury in a crash.
  • Check Your Vehicle. Make sure your vehicle is in good working order for the conditions. Fill up the tank in advance. Check windshield wipers, windshield wiper fluid, tire tread, battery life, etc.
  • Don’t leave home without a window scraper, blanket, bottled water, snack, cell phone charger and flashlight.

Forecasters and local officials are warning of a freeze overnight that could turn roads and sidewalks icy, in time for the morning commute.

Some photos above are via users on our Facebook page. Additional snow photos around Arlington, via Twitter, are below after the jump.

Read More

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Police and firefighters are on scene of a crash along Route 50 that left two people trapped in an overturned van.

The crash happened shortly before 8 a.m. on the ramp from Glebe Road to westbound Route 50.

The ramp and two lanes of westbound Route 50 are closed due to the emergency response. Morning rush hour commuters should expect slow traffic on both directions on Route 50.

The trapped occupants of the vans were quickly freed by rescuers. They’re injured but expected to be okay.

Earlier this morning a portion of eastbound I-66 was closed at Washington Blvd in Arlington for a reported multi-vehicle crash.

More on the Route 50 crash via social media:

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