Press Club

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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Constantin remembers growing up in Ukraine and his mother taking him to the streets to protest against the Soviet Union’s occupation of his homeland.

Those memories were at the forefront while Constantin, now an Arlington resident who works in blockchain technology, embarked on a mission.

Over the course of Monday afternoon, he hung Ukrainian and American flags side-by-side on a dozen I-66 overpasses, running east from the Falls Church area to Rosslyn.

“[I’m doing this] to express gratitude towards everything that the United States has done for Ukraine so far,” Constantin, who did not want his last name used out of safety concerns, tells ARLnow. “It’s a unifying message that represents both what America and Ukraine stand for, which is democracy and freedom.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine last week, there has been an outpouring of support for the country internationally, across the U.S. and here in Arlington. Local officials expressed support for Ukraine immediately after the invasion and last night the County Board condemned Russia’s “unprovoked attack” on Arlington’s Ukrainian sister city, Ivano-Frankivsk.

Constantin immigrated to America in 1993 and has lived in North Arlington for about two decades, after first moving here after grad school. He’s a U.S. citizen, but has never forgotten his Ukrainian roots. Over the years, Constantin says he has continued to fundraise, support, and bring awareness to Ukraine’s fight for sovereignty. That includes pressing Congress in 2014 to pass the Ukraine Freedom Support Act.

Yesterday, as soon as he started hanging the flags on the overpasses, he saw an outpouring of support for the Ukrainian cause.

“As soon as I put the Ukraine flags up, people started honking,” Constantin says. “To me, as a Ukrainian American, it is such a positive and inspiring note of support.”

On the overpasses where there was foot traffic, people shared their words of support and some stopped to help him put up the flags.

One woman with a child in the backseat of her car even pulled up beside him to give Constantin $100 cash to “do the right thing.” He says he’ll be donating the money to Ukrainian recovery efforts.

As of this morning (Tuesday), most of the flags remained. The one on the Glebe Road overpass seemed to be gone, either blown away by the wind or taken down.

“There is a pro-Putin set of Russians in D.C. and [the] U.S., in general,” Constantin notes. Public works employees are also tasked with removing items displayed on overpasses, though it’s often a low priority.

Constantin plans to put more flags up, saying Beltway overpasses are next. He also says he’s working with a network of volunteers to send thousands of helmets to Ukraine for civilians and the military.

Constantin still has family and friends in the country that he speaks to and worries about. They are living in constant fear, he says, hearing explosions and seeing fireballs in the streets.

Though he agrees with the measures that the U.S. has taken so far against Russia, and is hopeful that this is the last time Russia will fight a war with Ukraine, he’s also realistic.

“I’m proud people are paying attention now, but fearful that eventually will become desensitized to the horror… and move on. And Russia will keep going,” Constantin says. “This is why the flags could be a reminder to continue the support.”

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Nearly 40 years later, Rosslyn’s Gateway Park may finally officially become Arlington County’s responsibility.

This weekend, the County Board is set to vote on approving a land use permit between the Virginia Department of Transportation and the county formally allowing Arlington the use of Gateway Park. The agreement also pushes the responsibility of maintaining the park to the county.

Additionally, the permit grants the county the ability to change the park’s name.

An approval would mark the end of a decades-long period where there was no written agreement in place between VDOT and the county in regards to the operation and maintenance of the public park along Langston Blvd.

In 1984, VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration agreed to build an urban park between N. Nash Street and Lynn Street as a way to mitigate the impacts of constructing I-66 through Rosslyn.

At that time, an agreement was struck between VDOT and the county which called for the Commonwealth to construct the park and pedestrian bridge, with Arlington reimbursing VDOT for adding benches, bike racks, drinking fountains, and pay phones.

Rosslyn Gateway Park (via Google Maps)

The county and VDOT also committed to signing a 99-year lease that put Arlington in charge of maintaining the park, including the pedestrian bridges, concrete structures, landscaping, facilities, and utilities. The remaining details were to be negotiated and it was expected the lease was going to be brought to the County Board for approval in 1986.

That never happened, according to last month’s county report, and it’s unclear why.

“Despite more than 20 years of on-again, off-again discussions and negotiations, the terms of a 99-year lease were never agreed to and no lease has ever been signed by VDOT and the County,” reads the report.

Despite this, over the last 37 years Arlington has continued to operate and perform routine maintenance at Gateway Park even without a signed, written agreement.

That’s expected to change come this weekend, but in a slightly different form than initially outlined back in the 1980s.

That’s because, in 2015, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring determined that VDOT didn’t have the authority to lease the park to the county. Rather, a land use permit was the only mechanism available to provide Arlington access and use of the public park.

Six years later, that agreement is finally ready to be approved by the County Board.

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Flood Warning as Heavy Rain Falls

Update at 10:30 a.m. — The Flood Warning expired and the Flash Flood Watch, originally in effect until this afternoon, has been cancelled as the rain moves out.

Earlier: Arlington County is under a Flood Warning this morning.

The warning was issued shortly after 5 a.m. Already areas of minor flooding have been reported, including high standing water along I-66 between East Falls Church and Ballston, which closed all but one eastbound lane, according to the National Weather Service.

The warning is in effect until 7:45 a.m.

More from NWS:

509 AM EDT THU SEP 23 2021

…FLOOD WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 745 AM EDT THIS MORNING FOR SOUTHEASTERN MONTGOMERY, ARLINGTON AND EASTERN FAIRFAX COUNTIES AND THE NORTHWESTERN DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, THE CITY OF ALEXANDRIA AND THE CITY OF FALLS CHURCH…

AT 509 AM EDT, DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED THE FIRST AREA OF HEAVY RAIN HAS EXITED THE WARNED AREA. BETWEEN 0.5 AND 1.5 INCHES OF RAIN HAVE FALLEN, WHICH RESULTED IN SOME MINOR URBAN AND POOR DRAINAGE FLOODING. ADDITIONAL MODERATE TO HEAVY RAIN IS EXPECTED TO MOVE ACROSS THE AREA OVER THE NEXT SEVERAL HOURS, WHICH COULD LEAD TO ADDITIONAL FLOODING.

SOME LOCATIONS THAT WILL EXPERIENCE FLOODING INCLUDE… ARLINGTON… ALEXANDRIA… GERMANTOWN… ROCKVILLE… BETHESDA… GAITHERSBURG… ANNANDALE… OLNEY… SPRINGFIELD… FORT HUNT… VIENNA… GROVETON… FALLS CHURCH… HUNTINGTON… FORT BELVOIR… PIMMIT HILLS… MCLEAN… AMERICAN LEGION BRIDGE… ROSSLYN… CRYSTAL CITY…

ADDITIONAL RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF 0.5 TO 1.5 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE IN THE WARNED AREA.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN WHEN ENCOUNTERING FLOODED ROADS. MOST FLOOD DEATHS OCCUR IN VEHICLES.

BE ESPECIALLY CAUTIOUS AT NIGHT WHEN IT IS HARDER TO RECOGNIZE THE DANGERS OF FLOODING.

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Langston Blvd, formerly Lee Highway, at N. Veitch Street (via Google Maps)

The Arlington County Board took a step toward converting one lane of the newly renamed Langston Blvd into a bus- and HOV-only lane.

On Saturday, the Board accepted and appropriated a $710,000 grant from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to pay for the transit project, which will run through parts of Rosslyn. Last year, Arlington County applied for funding from the Commuter Choice program, which helps pay for transit upgrades using toll revenue from I-66 inside the Beltway.

“This is an area where we are continuing to work toward multi-modal,” said Board Chair Matt de Ferranti during the regular County Board meeting on Saturday. “On Lee Highway, soon to be Langston Blvd, we will have a bus-only lane so that more residents can move more quickly to work, through our community, and home as well.”

This grant will cover pavement treatment, restriping, and signage for the new bus lane. The lane will run eastbound from N. Veitch Street, near Courthouse, to N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn during peak morning hours.It will run westbound from N. Oak Street to N. Veitch Street during the evening peak period.

At other times, the lane will continue as a general-purpose travel lane.

This segment of Route 29 in Rosslyn “is very heavily congested and sharply degrades bus performance and reliability, which will be improved by the lane conversion,” a staff report said.

Pre-pandemic, that section of Lee Highway carried around 25 loaded buses per hour, according to the report.

The project could take two years to complete, according to Eric Balliet, a spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.

“The County Board’s acceptance and appropriation of the funds signals the start of the project,” he tells ARLnow. “The schedule included with the NVTC funding application was 26 months from project start to end of construction.”

The funding is less than the full $1 million that the county applied for, but staff are not earmarking more for it.

“We will work to deliver the project within this funding amount,” Balliet said.

The county mulled this project over before, even seeking funding — unsuccessfully — in 2019.

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A Pennsylvania woman injured one person and nearly collided head-on with others while driving the wrong way on the Beltway and I-66.

Virginia State Police detailed what happened today, after NBC 4 reported on the incident on Thursday, airing dashcam footage  (above) taken along I-66 in Arlington.

“At approximately 10:36 a.m. Thursday (June 11), Virginia State Police began receiving calls for a red sedan traveling north in the southbound Express Lanes of I-495 near Exit 51,” VSP spokeswoman Corinne Geller wrote this afternoon. “As state police were responding, the vehicle took I-66 and was then traveling east in the westbound lanes of I-66. As the vehicle headed into Arlington County, it struck another vehicle.”

“The impact of that crash caused the wrong-way vehicle to suffer a flat tire,” Geller continued. “State police troopers were able to meet the oncoming red sedan, at which time the vehicle pulled off to the shoulder.”

With the vehicle stopped near the Lee Highway/Spout Run exit of I-66, the 57-year-old driver initially refused to get out of the car when state troopers approached.

“The troopers recognized the woman was suffering from mental duress and were able to contact a family member,” Geller said. “The troopers kept communicating with the woman and were able to establish a rapport with her. She exited the vehicle and was transported to a nearby hospital for evaluation. The driver of the vehicle that was struck was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of minor injuries.”

Potential charges against the woman are still pending, said Geller.

The man who shared the dashcam video with NBC 4 told the station that it felt like something out of a video game as he swerved and missed colliding with the woman’s Chevrolet “by inches.”

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Morning Notes

APS Working With Nonprofit on ‘Cultural Competence’ — “This week, RISE, a national nonprofit that educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, began facilitating interactive workshops with Arlington Public Schools Student-Athlete Advisory Council members and coaches. This is the first in a series of interactive cultural competence workshops that APS and RISE will be providing to athletes and coaches as part of a new partnership.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Northam to Sign Bill at Marymount — “This coming Monday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam will be visiting Marymount University to hold a ceremonial bill signing for House Bill 2123 and Senate Bill 1387. The legislation will make Virginia students eligible for state financial aid if they are eligible for in-state tuition in the fall of 2022, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.” [Press Release]

GOP Candidate Running Against Del. Hope — A Republican challenger has emerged to contest the re-election campaign of Del. Patrick Hope. Laura Hall said she filed paperwork last week. Hall said she would share more publicly when she hears back from the state regarding her filing. A Democratic primary for the delegate’s district did not occur, after the state Board of Elections determined challenger Matt Rogers did not meet a filing deadline. [Twitter]

Metro Changes On the Way — “Rail service will be extended to midnight, seven days a week, in July, and other bus and rail service improvements and fare changes will start being implemented in the Fall, beginning Labor Day weekend, as many in the region prepare to go back to work and school.” [WMATA, DCist]

Domino’s Is Offering a Signing Bonus — The Domino’s Pizza location on Columbia Pike has signs advertising a $500 hiring bonus for new employees, amid a national labor shortage that is hitting restaurants particularly hard. [Twitter]

Video Shows Wrong-Way Driver on I-66Updated at 8:20 a.m. — “Scary video footage shows a driver speeding the wrong way on Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia on Thursday morning.  Virginia State Police say the driver headed the wrong way on the Capital Beltway and I-66, hit at least one car and set off a wave of 911 calls… The driver finally pulled over in the Rosslyn area because of a flat tire. No information on an arrest or charges was immediately released.” [NBC 4]

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Morning Notes

Arlington House’s Hidden History — “On Tuesday, the historic mansion in Arlington National Cemetery reopens after a renovation that has recaptured the glory of the house, along with clues to the secret lives of the enslaved Black people who were the main occupants of the land where it stood.” [Washington Post, NBC 4]

Developer Looks to Expand in Arlington — “One of JBG Smith Properties’ top executives handling the company’s massive Arlington portfolio — and its relationship with Amazon.com Inc. — has jumped to another developer. Longtime JBG Smith Executive Vice President Andy Van Horn made the move to Dweck Properties on May 17… he aims to transform Dweck from a small family company with a focus on apartment management to an active developer of properties in National Landing,” [Washington Business Journal]

Smash and Grab Theft in Pentagon City — “At approximately 6:57 p.m. on June 5, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that the two male suspects entered the business, smashed the glass display cases containing merchandise, stole several items and fled the scene in a waiting vehicle.” [ACPD]

County Board Resumes In-Person Meetings — “After more than a year participating in meetings largely from their own rec rooms or similar spaces, Arlington County Board members will be back on the dais later this month. ‘The board is looking forward to holding board meetings and interacting with the community in-person safely and responsibly,’ County Board Chairman Matt de Ferranti told the Sun Gazette.” [Sun Gazette]

Baby Deer Found Near Fire Station — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “This tiny (and we really mean tiny) fawn was found in the parking lot of a local fire station. Due to his location and condition, our officers knew they had to step in and help this little guy. He is now safe and sound with a local wildlife rehabber!” [Twitter]

GOP Questions Dem Caucus — “A key leader of the Arlington County Republican Committee last week mused publicly whether the powers-that-be of the Arlington County Democratic Committee put their thumbs on the scale to help a School Board candidate across the finish line. The Democratic leadership, in response, said the GOP attack line is based on a faulty supposition.” [Sun Gazette]

Masks Still Required Inside APS Buildings — “Fully vaccinated individuals may now remove their masks when outside on school grounds and are exempt from quarantine if identified in contact tracing. Masks are required for everyone while inside our facilities and schools. These measures are subject to change as we anticipate additional revised guidance for schools prior to the start of the new school year.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Man Clinging to Side of Overpass Stops Traffic — “I-66 and a portion of N. Glebe Road [are] currently blocked due to a man who was hanging off the side of the overpass. The man is now in police custody and the roads are reopening.” [Twitter]

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Arlington County police frequently escort VIPs like the president and visiting heads of state as they travel to and through Arlington.

On Thursday morning, ACPD conducted a different sort of escort along a local highway. Rather than driving in limos, these VIPs waddled along the pavement.

The waterfowl family — they turned out to be geese and not ducks — ended up making it safely off the busy highway thanks to the assist from a quick-thinking and animal-loving detective.

“At approximately 10 a.m., a detective traveling on EB I-66 prior to Spout Run Parkway came upon a family of geese walking in the lane of travel,” recounted Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “He activated his emergency lights and helped escort them down the ramp, where they exited the roadway.”

No word on where the family of two adults and five little ones ended up.

Photos courtesy ACPD

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A 33-year-old man has been arrested and charged with dragging an Arlington County police officer with his car after being pulled over for speeding on I-66.

The incident happened around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday on eastbound I-66, near Spout Run Parkway, and drew a large police response.

A motorcycle officer pulled over a driver for traveling 88 mph in a 55 mph zone. Then, after smelling marijuana, the officer requested the driver get out of the vehicle and sign the speeding ticket, according to an Arlington County Police Department crime report.

“The driver initially complied but became uncooperative and attempted to enter the vehicle after commanded not to do so,” the department said. “A brief struggle ensued, during which the officer advised he would deploy [pepper spray] if the suspect continued not to comply.”

“The officer deployed their OC Spray in an attempt to gain control of the driver, however he was still able to re-enter the vehicle,” the report continues. “As the suspect fled the scene in the vehicle, he dragged the officer for a short distance. The officer suffered minor injuries and was treated on scene by medics.”

A lookout for the vehicle was broadcast, but police were unable to find it. Then, after using “various investigative tools,” police were able to get in touch with a family member of the suspect, who subsequently turned himself in last night.

“Ahmad Rahim, 33, of Chantilly, Va., was arrested and charged with Malicious/Unlawful Wounding of Law Enforcement, Eluding, Reckless Driving, and Obstruction of Justice,” police said. “He was held on no bond.”

Update on 12/17/20 — The officer who was dragged is Officer Adam Stone, a well-liked veteran of ACPD’s Motor Unit. Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage declined to provide additional details about the incident, “to ensure the integrity of the investigation and prosecution.”

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Arlington County has received a $710,000 grant to convert an outside lane of Lee Highway to bus- and HOV-only.

The lane will run eastbound from N. Veitch Street to N. Lynn Street during peak morning hours and westbound from N. Oak Street to N. Veitch Street during the evening peak period. During these times, roughly 25 loaded buses travel that stretch per hour, staff said in a report this January.

At other times, it will continue as a general-purpose travel lane.

The project is one of six “low-cost, low-risk” projects to receive a grant through the Commuter Choice program, which funds transit projects with toll revenue from I-66 inside the Beltway. On Wednesday, the Commonwealth Transportation Board authorized the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to award $3.5 million in grants, NVTC announced.

“We’re expanding the transportation network now using a conservative strategy focused on low-cost projects and longstanding assets to ensure access to convenient, safe and reliable choices whenever people are ready to commute,” NVTC Executive Director Kate Mattice said in a statement.

The scope and timeline of the program are limited this year after revenue plummeted due to COVID-19. Pre-pandemic, Commuter Choice on the I-66 corridor anticipated $25 million in grant funding for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Instead, tolled trips dropped by nearly 50%, the 2020 Commuter Choice report found.

“Given the lower revenues and increased competition for this round of I-66 Commuter Choice, we’re pleased that NVTC and the CTB selected this project for funding,” said Eric Balliet, a spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.

The funding, less than the full $1 million the County applied for, will be used to cover pavement treatment, restriping, and signage for the new bus lane.

“We anticipate fully implementing the project but have not yet had discussions about adjustments to the project scope based on the lower funding amount,” Balliet said.

The County Board will be need to accept and appropriate the funds and execute an agreement with NVTC, he said. Staff have up to two years to dedicate the money to the project, and up to five years to spend it.

The county mulled this project over before, even seeking funding — unsuccessfully — in 2019.

The county was also denied a request $10 million to help add a second entrance to the Ballston Metro station at N. Fairfax Drive and N. Vermont Street.

Other funded projects include three “existing, high-performing express bus services” and $1 million towards a second entrance to the McLean Metro station, the announcement said.

These projects minimize “the risk around the uncertainty of a return to pre-pandemic traffic volumes and (make) the best use of the minimal available toll revenues,” the announcement said.

Since the Commonwealth of Virginia and NVTC established the program in 2017, it has provided more than $60 million grant funding to 36 projects in Northern Virginia.

Photo via Google Maps

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