Arlington, VA

Arlington is once again planning to convert an outside lane on Lee Highway to bus and HOV only.

The Transportation Commission unanimously approved staff’s request to seek $1 million in funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission for pavement treatment, restriping, and signage for a new bus lanes.

The lanes would operate eastbound from N. Veitch Street to N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn during morning peak period, and westbound from N. Oak Street to N. Veitch Street during evening peak periods, staff said in the application. The lane would otherwise be open to general-purpose travel.

The sections with a bus lane are three lanes in each direction, and during peak periods roughly 25 loaded buses travel down that stretch of Lee Highway per hour, according to county documents.

“The section between North Veitch Street and Rosslyn is very heavily congested and sharply degrades bus performance and reliability, which will be improved by the lane conversion,” staff said.

An application for the project was submitted last year, but staff said at the Transportation Commission that funding was not approved because the designs had not advanced enough and were too broad in scope.

“The FY 2021-2022 application has been re-scoped to focus on the portion of Lee Highway with the greatest need,” staff said in a request to file the applications. “That has in turn reduced the estimated cost by one-third compared with the previous application.”

Staff said the deadline for grant submission is the end of January and the county would hear back in the spring. If approved, funding would include a feasibility test and the project could be incorporated into ongoing plans to reshape Lee Highway.

Photo via Google Maps

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After years of study and community conversations, Arlington County is just about ready for its plans to reshape Lee Highway to step into the spotlight.

The plan, generally, involves gradually — through zoning and other policy changes — transforming the car-oriented strips of businesses along Lee Highway into clusters of mixed-use development. It’s a goal of increasing importance as Amazon moves in and puts a strain on the county’s supply of available homes.

Questions have arisen in the planning process about how to simultaneously protect small, local businesses long Lee Highway while redeveloping outdated strip malls that line the road. The process of new development might not only force those businesses to close or relocate, but new development could create higher rents for small businesses.

On Friday, Jan 31, Arlington officials are planning to answer questions from and hear feedback from residents and business owners, as the county hosts a workshop marking the end of the first phase of the planning process. The meeting is event to run from 6:30-8 p.m. at Washington-Liberty High School (1301 N. Stafford Street).

A second workshop is scheduled to be held Saturday, Feb. 1, from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m, also at W-L.

“Come meet with us to learn more about progress and the information we’ve uncovered so far, and share new ideas,” the county said on its website. “Be a voice of your neighborhood as we learn more about community perspectives and priorities by geography.”

“All residents, businesses, community groups and stakeholders that live, work and play along Lee Highway are encouraged to attend,” the county noted.

Image via Arlington County 

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Morning Notes

New Security Measures at ANC — “Arlington National Cemetery is implementing heightened security measures after a U.S. airstrike killed a top Iranian general. The extra security will create longer lines at security checkpoints and delays… All visitors over the age of 16 will be required to show a valid state or government photo ID to enter by foot or car, Arlington National Cemetery says. Visitors aged 16 or 17 can show a school-issued ID.” [NBC 4, Twitter]

Office Building Above Rosslyn Safeway Sold — “An affiliate of The Meridian Group has paid $113.15 million for 1525 Wilson Blvd., a Rosslyn office building featuring the colorful sculpture of a dancing couple, after selling another building in the Arlington County office market last summer.” [Washington Business Journal]

Lee Highway Planning Update — “To mark the end of a year collecting ideas for the road’s ‘reimagining‘ by the nonprofit Lee Highway Alliance, its executive director, Ginger Brown, gave an update predicting that phase two — development of land-use and zoning ideas — could be ‘the most contentious.’ […] ‘Lee Highway is stuck in 1950s strip-mall zoning,’ Brown told a Dec. 19 breakfast group.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Local Shop Has Best Cheese Selection in the U.S.? — Arrowine, a long-time ARLnow sponsor, has the best wine selection in the D.C. area and possibly the best cheese selection in the country after its recent renovation, according to local restaurant reviewer Don Rockwell. [DCDining.com]

Pike Lane Closures Are Hurting Local Business — “An employee at Cinthia’s Bakery II on Columbia Pike said the restaurant is seeing a significant drop off in the number of customers and an increase in empty tables all due to the construction.” [WJLA]

Yorktown Boys Improve to 11-0 — “This is the new Yorktown basketball: Take the first available shot, press nonstop on defense, substitute in a whole new lineup every 90 seconds. It’s a strategy some other area schools have tried — Lake Braddock, most successfully — but few have perfected. And it has the Patriots, the worst team in their conference last season, undefeated at 11-0 after a dazzling 86-51 rout of Madison (6-5).” [Washington Post]

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Morning Notes

Lee Highway Merchants Profiled — “Oscar and Evelyn Bunoan are well known in the community for the amazing food they serve at their modest grocery store in Arlington, Va. – the Philippine Oriental Market & Deli. From the time it opened 42 years ago, the place is constantly busy. These days, it’s just the two of them running the store. There are long lines at lunchtime. And they get frequent calls for catered meals or large orders for birthday parties.” [Manila Mail]

APS Wants to Hire Superintendent By Spring — “Arlington School Board members say they hope to have a permanent superintendent announced by April, and will lay out steps for the community to become involved in the process in coming weeks. A series of community meetings to gather input will be held the week of Jan. 20, and an online survey also will be made available, in order to create an ‘in-depth profile’ of the qualities and skills being sought in a new education chief.” [InsideNova]

Police: Woman Threw Knife at Man — “At approximately 3:18 p.m. on December 20, police were dispatched to the report of a stabbing [on the 3100 block of 9th Road N.]. Upon arrival, it was determined that known individuals were involved in a verbal dispute when the female suspect threw a knife at the male victim, causing injury. The suspect fled the scene prior to police arrival. The victim was treated for non-life threatening injuries at an area hospital. Warrants were obtained for Malicious Wounding.” [Arlington County]

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As The Children’s School gets closer to building a three-story daycare facility at 4700 Lee Highway, the Arlington County Board has approved a request to eliminate off-site parking and modify initial architectural plans.

During its meeting last night the Board approved a request to alter the site’s requirements for an off-site parking lot, and instead have a total of 36 on-site parking spaces, 12 more than required under updated zoning code. Thirty of the spaces will be in an underground garage, while 6 will be surface parking.

“At the time of use permit approval [in 2018, the Zoning Ordinance required one (1) parking space per employee for a child care use,” a county staff report explains. “Since that approval, Section 14.3 of the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance has been updated to require one (1) parking space per ten children.”

The new facility is being built where the shuttered Alpine Restaurant now stands.

Architectural changes include extension of the third-story rear play deck, expansion of the front landscape, and the addition of windows to the rear of the building.

The Board also moved to expand the site’s rear wall so car headlights will not shine into neighboring houses, which was subject of concern from residents at the meeting.

Eight spaces in the site’s parking garage will used for child pick-up and drop-off. Parents will also be able to use a teacher-assisted curb loop right off Lee Highway for similar purposes.

When complete, the child care center will oversee up to 235 children between the ages of two months to five years old. The final number of children permitted will “be subject to approval” by the county Child Care Office and the county’s Inspection Services Division, per a staff report.

The co-op program for the children of Arlington Public Schools employees has long operated out of the Reed School building in Westover, but with APS planning to open a new elementary school at that site in 2021, the Children’s School has been forced to relocate elsewhere. The new facility will also be home to Integration Station, a program for kids with developmental or other disabilities that intermingles with The Children’s School.

Until its permanent location is complete, the facility is temporarily located in the second and third floors of a Ballston office building located at 4420 N. Fairfax Drive.

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(Updated at 10:40 a.m.) Big changes are finally coming to the intersection of N. Glebe Road and Lee Highway.

The Arlington County Board will consider a project to add left turn lanes to Glebe approaching the busy intersection. Also part of the project: undergrounding utilities, upgrading bus stops and streetlights, and replacing an old water main.

Currently, northbound and southbound traffic on Glebe each gets its own green light, allowing unobstructed left turns. The new turn lanes will allow simultaneous green lights, thus improving traffic flow and giving pedestrians more time to cross the street, according to a county staff report.

The construction will come with a steep price tag: between $3.4 and 3.9 million. The Board is set to vote on a contract with the low bidder, Rustler Construction, Inc., at its meeting this Saturday.

The first phase of the project, including utility undergrounding, kicked off in 2017. The county has spent years obtaining easements from property owners along Glebe, allowing the roadway expansion, which has general support from local residents.

“There is broad public support for this project because it is significantly improving multimodal mobility and access without any trade-offs aside from construction disruptions and right-of-way impacts,” says the staff report.

“During the lengthy easement acquisition process, the design was revised many times to accommodate surrounding property owners’ requests for considerations such as minimizing the amount of offstreet parking lost, maintaining existing driveway accesses, adding landscaping, and shifting bus shelter locations to not hinder the visibility of commercial monument signs.”

One slightly controversial aspect of the project is the LED streetlights Dominion plans to install.

“Several community members and stakeholder groups have expressed concern with the aesthetics and character of the streetlights selected for the project area – Dominion Energy maintained cobra LED style lights,” the staff report says.

“These lights were selected for the project area by the County’s Streetlight Management Plan (SMP)… Cobra LEDs are preferred for both the Lee Highway (Route 29) and Glebe Road (Route 120) project corridors because they more efficiently illuminate higher speed, wider arterial roadways than post-top lights, thus resulting in needing approximately 30% fewer light poles (and sidewalk pole obstructions) in the project area.”

More on the project from county staff:

The project will widen North Glebe Road (Route 120) to add northbound and southbound full-width left turn lanes. The widening of the street necessitated undergrounding the overhead utilities present throughout the project area. Crews began the utility undergrounding work in January 2017 and are nearing completion of this phase.

The subject intersection improvements will improve safety and mobility for motorists, pedestrians, and transit riders at the intersection, as well as reduce cut-thru traffic along adjacent residential neighborhood streets. Following construction of the new left turn lanes and replacement of the traffic signal equipment, the implementation of a new signal phasing and timing plan will significantly decrease vehicle, transit, and pedestrian travel times through the intersection.

The project is also replacing and upsizing over 1,750 LF of old cast iron water mains in the project area and is upgrading the five (5) existing bus stops with new amenities, pads, and shelters (installed by separate project), as well as installing empty underground conduits giving the shelters the capability to be equipped with real-time transit arrival boards if warranted in the future.

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A fire in the engine compartment of a Loudoun County commuter bus snarled traffic in Rosslyn this morning.

The fire was reported shortly before 7:30 a.m. on Lee Highway and N. Nash Street. The fire was small — at least compared to yesterday’s truck fire in Pentagon City — and quickly extinguished.

No injuries were reported, but at least two lanes of Lee Highway were blocked as a result of the emergency response.

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The Starbucks store at the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center has closed, to make way for a new location down the street.

It was business as usual at the coffeehouse chain’s location at 2441 N. Harrison Street this morning — right up until it closed at 10 a.m. and employees started politely asking customers to leave.

The closure precedes the opening of a new stand-alone Starbucks at 5515 Lee Highway, currently planned for Thursday. That store will have a drive-thru window and its own parking lot, though construction was still well underway this morning.

For Starbucks aficionados who need their Frappuccinos, there’s another location in the Safeway store across the street, at 2500 N. Harrison Street.

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With the Thanksgiving holiday over, the Christmas season now begins. And for Arlington residents in search of a Christmas tree, there are a number of options around the county for finding the perfect pine.

The Optimist Club of Arlington began its annual sale Friday in Wells Fargo Bank lot along Lee Highway (2213 N. Glebe Road). All workers are volunteers from around Arlington, including members of youth athletic teams, high school honors societies, and Optimist Club members. The lot will be open every day until December 23, with the following hours:

  • Monday through Thursday: 2-8 p.m.
  • Friday: 12-8 p.m.
  • Saturday and Sunday: 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

The Clarendon United Methodist Church, meanwhile, is selling trees and wreaths to support a variety of the church’s mission projects. The volunteer-run lot — at the intersection of 7th Street N. and N. Irving Street  — will be open until December 21, or until supplies sell out. The schedule is:

  • Sunday: 12-6 p.m.
  • Monday through Friday: 6-8 p.m.
  • Saturday: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

The Arlington South Lions Club is hosting its annual Christmas tree sale at the corner of S. Four Mile Run Drive and Columbia Pike. The sale continues until December 22, or until the club run out of trees. The lot is open:

  • Weekdays: 12-7 p.m.
  • Weekends: 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

The Knights of Columbus kicked off its 25th annual Christmas Tree Sale on Saturday at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Center near Crystal City, at the corner of 23rd Street S. and S. Hayes Street. The Knights are selling most trees for between $35-90, though some larger and more expensive trees are available. The lot hours are:

  • Weekdays: 6-9 p.m.
  • Weekends: 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

“As usual, we feature fresh cut Fraser and Douglas Fir trees in varying sizes up to 9 feet,” the Knights said in a press release, noting the sale will end on Dec. 22 or when the supply of trees runs out. “We will also have wreaths in 3 sizes (10″, 16″, and 24″ measured from the inside wire), white pine roping available by the foot, and tree stands. Come early to get the best trees!”

Additional Christmas tree sales to check out include a fundraiser for Mount Olivet United Methodist Church (1500 N. Glebe Road) and its boys and girls scout troops. The sale will be held this weekend, beginning on Friday, December 6 from 4-9 p.m.

At St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (400 Lorcom Lane), two hundred Christmas trees have been delivered, with sales continuing this weekend. On Saturday, the trees will be available from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and then on Sunday the lot will be open from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Photo courtesy of Peter Golkin 

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Morning Notes

Arlington Loves Tito’s — The top-grossing liquor brand at Virginia ABC stores in Arlington, and most of Northern Virginia, is Tito’s Handmade Vodka. [Virginia Mercury]

More on Lee Highway Planning Process — “In the new year, the professional team will begin guiding the community in laying out a plan for the [Lee Highway] corridor’s next 30 years. Arlington is known for extensive and very slow community engagement, and the planning process will probably take at least two more years. The push for a more progressive, inclusive, sustainable US Route 29 must be perseverant.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Local ‘Passport’ for Small Biz Saturday — “One Page Books is partnering with thirteen other local businesses for Small Business Saturday. Pick up a Small Business Saturday Shopping ‘Passport‘ at any of the participating businesses, including Covet, Two the Moon, Lemon Lane and Trade Roots.” [WAMU]

Reminder: Mall Hours and Promotions — Arlington’s two malls have special Black Friday hours and promotions today. [ARLnow]

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The new Bob and Edith’s Diner at 5050 Lee Highway will be housed in a new a retro-styled building.

Demolition of the old building, which formerly housed Linda’s Cafe, is mostly complete and work on the new building — described architecturally as sporting a “new Mid Century flavor” — should be starting soon.

“The new structure reflects the image and feel of a family style diner,” the restaurant said in a statement. “The Bolton family is excited for the expansion of the new diner and promises to serve the community with the same great quality and service as the other area locations.”

“My dad, Bob worked here 60 years ago when it was Steak & Eggs,” owner Greg Bolton said. “I worked here 40 years ago and now my kids, Chris and Tammy, are walking the same floor as their grandfather and father did. Bob and Edith’s Diner will be here for generations to come and I really feel it came full circle.”

The new B&E’s will be the 5th location for the local chain, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary. It is currently expected to open in the spring.

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