Huge Apartment Building Proposed for Ballston — A Bethesda-based developer is proposing a huge new apartment building on the western side of the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Glebe Road in Ballston. The building would feature 483 apartments, 760 underground parking spaces and 68,000 square feet of retail including a grocery store. The nearby Bluemont Civic Association has expressed concern about the proposal, including the potential impact of traffic from the grocery store. [Washington Business Journal]
Mall Worker Accused of Stealing Dozens of Shoes — A maintenance worker at the Pentagon City mall has been arrested and accused of stealing at least 77 pairs of shoes and boots and 9 purses. Police say surveillance footage shows Michael Meza-Guevara unsuccessfully trying to disable surveillance cameras. [NBC Washington]
Arlington Tops Regional Teacher Pay List — Arlington Public Schools offer the highest average teacher pay in suburban D.C. The average teacher salary in Arlington was $78,002 a year, compared to $76,029 for Montgomery County, which ranked third. [WTOP]
Editorial Supports I-66 Toll Plan, Widening — A new Washington Post editorial supports Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s plan for adding tolls to I-66. The editorial also supports widening the highway: “The right policy response to the I-66 mess, in addition to promoting mass transit, is to widen the road. Unfortunately, that’s been blocked by Arlington County, whose hostility from the outset is why the road was designed to narrow to four lanes inside the Beltway (from six outside).” [Washington Post]
Freezing Temperatures This Morning — Temperatures reached the freezing mark, dropping down to 32 degrees for the first time this season. The average first freeze in Arlington occurs on Nov. 18. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
VDOT has a new plan for High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395, the Washington Post reported late Friday.
The news comes nearly five years after the state scrapped plans to build HOT lanes on I-395, following a legal battle with Arlington County. In a lawsuit, the county argued that HOT lanes, as then planned, would exacerbate pollution from and congestion on I-395, negatively impacting Arlington residents.
Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Lane told the Post that the new plan comes with guaranteed funding for carpooling and transit from private partner Transurban. Construction could start as soon as 2017 and would involve adding a third lanes to the existing HOV lanes while keeping the highway’s overall footprint mostly the same, the Post reports.
No word yet on a reaction from local officials.
Meanwhile, Arlington County has given its endorsement to a controversial plan for adding tolls to I-66 inside the Beltway during peak travel times. By a vote of 3-2 — John Vihstadt and Libby Garvey voted against it — the County Board adopted a resolution supporting the “Transform 66” project.
Last month Fairfax County offered conditional support for the plan, while calling for the widening of I-66. Loudoun County officials oppose the plan, which has faced heavy criticism from suburban commuters.
The plan calls for changing HOV rules on I-66 from requiring at least two people per vehicle during rush hour (HOV-2) to giving drivers the option of either having three people in a car (HOV-3) or paying a toll during peak hours.
In their endorsement, County Board members said they hoped that the changes would prevent the possible widening of I-66 inside the Beltway. The county wants VDOT to at least commit to not considering widening from two to three lanes in each direction through Arlington until 2025 at the earliest.
Lane has previously been quoted as saying the widening of I-66 through Arlington is inevitable.
After the jump, the press release from Arlington County on the I-66 project endorsement.
Murder Victim Feared Her Estranged Husband — Bonnie Black, who was found dead in her home in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood on April 17, feared her estranged husband, court documents show. After months of continuing to live in the neighborhood a free man during the investigation, David Black is now in jail, charged with murder. [NBC Washington]
Wakefield, W-L Fall in Football Playoffs — The playoff runs for the Wakefield and Washington-Lee high school football teams have ended early. Wakefield could’t hang on to a 6-0 lead at halftime, falling to Potomac Falls 21-6, while W-L lost 44-20 to Westfield. [InsideNova, Washington Post]
Arlington Wants I-66 Widening Delayed — This week the Arlington County Board is scheduled to decide its position on the plan for tolling on I-66. At its Saturday meeting the Board made clear that it wants to delay the widening of the highway as long as possible. Meanwhile, responding to questions from county officials, VDOT says it’s not able to fully enforce existing HOV restrictions on I-66 because the enforcement causes significant traffic delays. Nearly half of the clogged rush hour traffic on I-66 is believed to be HOV rule breakers. [WTOP, WTOP]
County May Ask for Paper, Plastic Bag Tax Authority — Despite failing efforts in previous years, Arlington County’s draft legislative agenda seeks to again ask the Virginia General Assembly for the authority to levy a small tax on single-use paper and plastic bags. The proposal may exempt bags for certain items, like newspapers, dry cleaning and prescription drugs. [InsideNova]
Historic House for Sale — A 145-year-old house known as “The Hill” is now for sale in Arlington’s Old Glebe neighborhood. Originally a summer home for a prominent D.C. family, the four-bedroom house is on the market for $1,568,000. [Preservation Arlington]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Wakefield Wins, Ends Undefeated in Conference — The Wakefield Warriors football team defeated the Lee Lancers 50-18 on Friday to finish the regular season 8-2 and undefeated in the Capitol Conference. Wakefield will play in the first round of the 5A North Region playoffs on Friday. [InsideNova]
W-L Makes Playoffs with Win Against Yorktown — The Washington-Lee Generals secured a playoff spot and a 5-5 season with a win against cross-county rival Yorktown on Friday. It wrapped up Yorktown’s first losing season since 1995. [Washington Post]
I-66 ‘Worst Damn Freeway in America’ — Traffic-clogged I-66 is the worst interstate highway in America, so says the website Thrillist, based on federal highway data. I-10 in New Orleans was ranked the second worst. [Thrillist]
Arlington to Get Development Boost at Alexandria’s Expense? — After years of losing big office tenants to Alexandria, the economic tables may be turning for Arlington County. This month Alexandria elected a new mayor who ran on a mildly anti-development platform, while Arlington elected two new County Board members who spoke in favor of economic development efforts. [Bisnow]
Photo courtesy Buzz McClain
The latest skirmish involving a County Board candidate started when an automated call from Del. Rip Sullivan (D) started ringing in thousands of Arlington homes Sunday.
Sullivan’s recorded voice ripped into McMenamin for suggesting that he would support adding an extra lane to I-66 within the existing VDOT right of way in Arlington, tying that position into an issue near and dear to many Arlingtonians: parks.
Hi, this is Delegate Rip Sullivan. I have served on a Park Authority and Transportation Commission, and I’ve got an important message for you about the use of parks and green space in Arlington.
Independent-Republican for County Board, Mike McMenamin, supports widening I-66, which would threaten the quality of our parks at Madison Manor, Bon Air, Thrifton Hills, McCoy, and other parklands across the County. It would also threaten the quality of the Custis Trail. To protect parkland throughout Arlington County from development, join me in supporting Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol. If protecting Arlington’s parks and green space is important to you, then vote on Tuesday, November 3rd for the two candidates committed to protecting parks and green space: Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol.
Paid for and authorized by Christian Dorsey for County Board and Katie Cristol for County Board.
McMenamin responded in turn by accusing the Democrats of tying to “hide their weakness on parks.” From a press release:
Mike McMenamin today accused Delegate Rip Sullivan of making an 11th-hour attack purposely distorting his position on I-66.
“It shows that the political establishment in Arlington is worried about losing,” said McMenamin, who is running as an Independent for the County Board.
In a robo-call to thousands of voters on Sunday, the Democratic delegate said that McMenamin’s support for widening the interstate freeway would threaten the quality of various county parks.
McMenamin countered that he would only tolerate widening the highway within the current right of way and no further. Such widening, he said, would not take away any parkland at all.
“My opponents have been unwilling to say that they won’t build affordable housing on parkland, a position they know is unpopular, so they are trying to muddy the waters with these dubious attacks,” McMenamin said. “In fact, I am the only candidate committed to not building on our parks.
The Independent candidate said he is committed to keeping parkland and trails intact. “If any VDOT proposal would negatively affect any parks in Arlington, I think I would be the most effective voice for the neighborhoods.”
“While I don’t like the idea of having to widen 66, I fear the State is inevitably going to do just that,” he said. “After all, VDOT owns the road. So, I have taken the position that Arlington must strike the best deal possible.”
McMenamin also opposes tolls for I-66, saying it will lead to more surface traffic in nearby neighborhoods.
Update at 4:30 p.m. — The crashed vehicles are now on the right shoulder and two lanes of traffic are getting by. However, significant delays remain.
Update at 4:06 p.m. — One lane of traffic is now slowly squeezing by on the lefthand shoulder.
Earlier: The westbound lanes of I-66 are temporarily blocked due to a two-vehicle crash just past Glebe Road.
At least one non-life-threatening injury was reported and there appears to be some sort of a fluid spill on the highway at the crash scene.
Commuters should seek alternate routes.
(Updated at 2:50 p.m.) At a public forum last night, Arlington residents spoke out against the Virginia Department of Transportation’s plan to turn I-66 into a toll road during rush hour.
VDOT officials met residents at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street) to discuss the I-66 Inside the Beltway project, which would convert the highway into a toll road during rush hour by 2017 and increase the HOV requirement to three people by 2020.
While some Arlington residents have spoken out in the past about the HOV changes, the audience’s attention was on the dynamically priced tolls proposed by the transportation authority. Members of the audience — who mostly identified themselves as Arlington residents — had a chance to comment on or ask about the plan.
Not one person supported the tolls, even though the biggest impact is likely to be felt by commuters from the outer suburbs.
“The public isn’t benefiting from the HOT lanes, only the wealthy and the privileged,” said one person.
Under VDOT’s plan for I-66, during rush hour both directions of I-66 would be tolled, with the cost depending on the level of demand for the road. During the presentation last night, Amanda Baxter, a VDOT official, said tolls could be as high as $9 for the eastbound morning commute.
I-66 would be tolled for four hours during each rush hour period, possibly from 5:30-9:30 a.m. and 3-7 p.m., Baxter said.
The idea behind the I-66 project is to reduce the amount of congestion on the road, allowing people to move more quickly during rush hour, said VDOT official Rene’e Hamilton.
“Time is money, and basically we are giving people a reliable trip that they can calculate how much time it would actually take them to go through the corridor and to their destination,” she said.
The project aims to improve mass transit, as well, since buses get caught up in the rush hour traffic too, causing daily bus riders to be late to work at least once a week, said Kelley Coyner with Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.
“The same things that hold you up in a car, hold you up in a bus,” Coyner said.
Using the tolls and converting to HOV 3 likely means fewer cars will use I-66 during rush hour. The goal is to have cars and buses consistently traveling at 45 miles per hour during rush hour, Hamilton said.
Currently, speeds can be as low as five miles per hour during evening commutes and 25 miles per hour in the morning. Other times, speeds are as high as 55 or 60 miles per hour, leaving people with an unreliable way of measuring how long their daily commute will be, she said.
“Tolling the facility will help to manage the congestion along the facility and create a reliable trip,” Hamilton said. “That 45 miles per hour that HOV facilities are required to meet.”
The audience mainly took issue with the price of the dynamic tolling, saying it would hurt people who can’t afford to pay $9 every morning.
“These tolls are for a reliable trip for the wealthy,” a resident said.
Another compared paying to use a road to paying to send a child to a public school.
“I’m opposed to tolls,” she said. “I feel roads, like our schools, should be paid for by our taxes.”
County Gov’t Open on Columbus Day — Arlington County government offices will be open on Monday, Oct. 12. Courts, the Sheriff’s Office, the DMV and Arlington Public Schools, however, will be closed in observance of the Columbus Day holiday. [Arlington County]
Arlington Same-Sex Marriage Stats — Over the past year, same-sex marriages have accounted for 7.2 percent of all marriage licenses in Arlington County. [InsideNova]
Teachers Endorse Cristol, Dorsey — The Arlington Education Association Political Action Committee, which represents Arlington Public Schools teachers, has endorsed Democrats Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey in the upcoming County Board general election. [Christian Dorsey]
Suburban Pols Rail Against I-66 Tolls — Lawmakers from the outer Northern Virginia suburbs are calling VDOT’s proposal to add tolls to I-66 “highway robbery.” Said a Republican state lawmaker from Manassas: “Asking commuters from Prince William, Manassas, Fairfax and Loudoun to pay such an outrageous amount for the privilege of sitting in the same unmoving lanes of traffic so Arlington can have nice new bike paths is unconscionable.” [InsideNova]
British School Choir Coming to Arlington — The IPS singers, a school choir from London, will perform “sacred choral works by famed composers” at the Church at Clarendon (1210 N. Highland Street) next Friday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m.
Arlington Bros Create ‘B.R.O. Ball’ — Two federal contractors from Arlington, along with a third partner, are trying to raise $75,000 on Kickstarter to make a football with a waterproof Bluetooth speaker inside. They have dubbed the ball the “B.R.O. Ball.” [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Joe Green
Starting tonight, commuters on westbound I-66 can expect delays from nighttime lane closures.
The Virginia Department of Transportation will pave westbound 1-66 between Lee Highway and the Dulles Airport Access Road in Fairfax County overnight, causing some lanes to be closed.
Crews will start paving the road tonight at 10 p.m., and will continue for the next three weeks. Paving is scheduled to occur between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., Sunday through Friday.
During the construction, commuters should expect delays and are advised to take alternate routes.
“While VDOT fully understands the impact of night work on the residents, the traffic volumes on I-66 do not allow us to do this work during the day,” the department said on its website. “VDOT has held several meetings with the contractor to come up with ways to minimize the impact of noise stemming from night operations. VDOT staff will work closely with the contractor to reduce the impact of delivery trucks and construction equipment during each operation.”
The paving is part of a $33 million project to improve westbound 1-66 by connecting the on-ramp at Washington Blvd to the off ramp at Dulles Airport Access Road. Once completed, there will be a one-mile auxiliary lane and a new 12-foot shoulder.
VDOT will hold a public meeting on Oct. 7 about “Transform 66,” a project to turn 1-66 into a toll road during morning and evening rush hour and increase the HOV requirement to three people. The meeting will be from 7-9 p.m. at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street).
During this morning’s rush hour, major commuter highways like I-395 and I-66 had about as much traffic as they might at 4 a.m. on a Sunday. Those who commute to D.C. from Virginia apparently decided to just stay home while large swaths of the District are closed for Pope Francis’ visit.
It was a similar situation on Metro: even the perpetually critical @unsuckdcmetro Twitter account couldn’t find anything to fault this morning, retweeting the following.
— Leah Grace (@leahkennebeck) September 24, 2015
— Jordan Hirsch (@jordanhirsch) September 24, 2015
— David Fuchs (@davidwfuchs) September 23, 2015
First Day of Fall — Today marks the autumnal equinox and the first day of astronomical fall in the Northern Hemisphere. We’re losing about two-and-a-half minutes of daylight per day, as the sun rises later and sets earlier. [Capital Weather Gang]
Arlington Unveils New Mobile Visitors Center — Arlington County, which generates about $81 million per year in tourism-related tax revenue, has unveiled a new mobile visitor center. The “Stay Arlington” branded cargo van will provide visitor information and services, primarily from parking spots near five Arlington Metro stations, but also at large events like the Marine Corps Marathon. [Arlington County]
New Traffic System on I-66 Underwhelms — Drivers are scratching their heads, wondering what exactly VDOT is accomplishing with its new, $39 million Active Traffic Management system. The system went live last week. It “combines sensors, cameras, computers and signs to help drivers figure out what’s ahead between Route 29 in Gainesville and the D.C. line.” [Washington Post]
ACFCU Launches New Marketing Campaign — The Arlington Community Federal Credit Union, a nonprofit local financial provider and ARLnow.com advertiser, has launched a new website, NotABank.org as part of a new marketing campaign. “We are for people, not for profit,” the website says.
Pike Office Building Purchased — Bethesda-based Cascade Realty Partners has purchased the 30,000 square foot office building at 3401 Columbia Pike for $4.8 million. The office building is 75 percent leased to Bank of America. [Virginia Business]
‘No Drone Zone’ Reminder for Pope’s Visit — Pope Francis begins his three-day visit to D.C. this afternoon. The Arlington County Police Department and the FAA are reminding residents and visitors that the airspace around the District, including Arlington, is a “no drone zone.” [Twitter, FAA]
Widening of I-66 Inevitable, Says VDOT Chief — Widening I-66 to three lanes between the Dulles Connector Road and Ballston is an inevitability, says Virginia Transportation Sec. Aubrey Layne. However, VDOT will exhaust every alternative before moving forward with expansion, Layne said. [WTOP]
Celeb Posts Pic from Arts Center Installation — A giant dart on the front lawn of the Arlington Arts Center in Virginia Square is gaining some fame. Comedian Nick Swardson over the weekend posted on Instagram a photo of a woman jokingly posing as if the dart had hit her in the rear end. He was apparently unaware that the woman was DC’s 107.3 FM personality Sarah Fraser. The dart is part of a well-reviewed installation at AAC called “Play.” [Sarah Fraser]
Prescription Drug Take-Back Day — Arlington County will participating in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this coming Saturday. The police department will be accepting anonymous returns of pills and patches at fire stations 2, 8 and 9 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. [Arlington County]
New Office Lease in Rosslyn — Tax services Ryan, LLC has signed a lease for the 21st floor of the Rosslyn Twin Towers building. The towers at 1000 and 1100 Wilson Blvd are also home to Raytheon, SRI International, Sands Capital, Strategy&, Politico, WJLA and the Washington Free Beacon. [GlobeSt]
Pope Prayer Protest at DCA — Airport workers and a local pastor will hold a “worker pray-in” at Reagan National Airport this afternoon, in advance of the pope’s visit to D.C. Workers are seeking “a living wage, improved training and adequate resources.” [SEIU 32BJ]
Flickr pool photo by Edobson22207
Arlington Generates $3 Billion in Travel Spending — Arlington County generated $3 billion in tourism spending in 2014, a 5 percent increase over 2013, according to data released Monday. Tourism supports almost 25,000 jobs in Arlington and generated $80 million in local tax revenue. Arlington accounted for about an eighth of Virginia’s $22.4 billion in tourism spending. “These record numbers are a testament to the excellent quality and value of Arlington’s travel and tourism offerings, and the strong collaboration between the County and local businesses in promoting our destination both domestically and internationally,” said Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins. [Arlington County]
Tejada: Crazy Transportation Ideas Better Than No Ideas — Retiring Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada says monorail-like pod transit on Columbia Pike may seem like a crazy idea, but at least it’s an idea. “The JPods or gondolas – some folks might chuckle, but at least the residents are coming up with options, and those who oppose things are not,” he said in an interview. [WTOP]
Moran: Federal Shutdown Coming — Former Democratic congressman Jim Moran, who represented Arlington in Virginia’s Eighth District, says he believes a federal government shutdown is coming because of a budget impasse between Republicans and Democrats. “We have a dysfunctional legislative branch,” said the 12-term congressman, who took a job as a legislative advisor for a D.C. law firm after leaving office. [WTOP]
Future I-66 Tolls May Be Steep — A plan to toll vehicles with fewer than three occupants on I-66 may cost commuters up to $16 round trip just for travel between D.C. and the Capital Beltway. [Washington Post]
County to Buy, Tear Down Home for Park — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to approve the purchase of a home at 2827 N. Harrison Street. The county plans to raze the home and incorporate the 9,632 square foot site into adjacent Chestnut Hills Park. The total cost will be nearly $800,000 and will come from the county’s parkland acquisition fund. [InsideNova]
Booing at Meeting About I-66 Tolling — VDOT representatives were booed by residents at a meeting about the plan to convert I-66 to high occupancy toll lanes inside the Beltway. VDOT wants to have the tolling in place by 2017. In addition to residents, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is skeptical of the plan, worried that it may discourage travel at Dulles International Airport. [InsideNova, WTOP]
Opera Troupe Leaving Arlington — Forced to find a new home due to the closure of Artisphere in Rosslyn, the opera troupe UrbanArias will perform at the Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street NE in D.C. during its 2015-2016 season. [InsideNova]
Barbie Doll Convention Held in Crystal City — More than 1,000 collectors descended on Crystal City for the 2015 National Barbie Doll Collectors Convention last week. The event included auditions for a Barbie-themed Broadway production. [Daily Mail]
Marine Completes Hand-Cycle Journey to Arlington — Double amputee Marine veteran Toran Gaal completed his cross-country ride to Arlington National Cemetery this past weekend. Gaal made the more than 3,000 mile journey, which raised money for other wounded Marines, on a hand-cycle. [NBC Washington, Stars and Stripes]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
(Updated on 7/31/15) The Virginia Department of Transportation is going back to Arlington residents to hear their concerns about its planned Transform 66 project.
Del. Patrick Hope organized a public meeting featuring representatives from VDOT on Saturday at Arlington Central Library auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street) from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to discuss the proposed changes to the highway inside the Beltway.
The planned features include turning the HOV lanes on I-66 between Rosslyn and I-495 into to High Occupancy Travel (HOT) lanes during weekday peak periods. These lanes would be open for anyone with three or more passengers or those who are willing to pay a toll. The new lanes would also not accept Clean Fuel license plates issued before 2006 as a way to avoid the toll.
The idea is to “deliver free-flowing and more reliable travel,” according to VDOT, but some Arlington residents have spoken out against the changes. Arlington residents packed into the library’s auditorium in June to hear from VDOT staff about changes. A lengthy Q&A period followed with many residents expressing their displeasure toward the proposed changes. County Board member John Vihstadt was also in attendance.
Attendees raised concerns about the amount of traffic that would be redirected to Arlington streets as a result of the lane changes. Others proposed that VDOT allow Arlington residents to use the HOT lanes for free since they were supposedly paying for the changes without getting any benefits.