Va. ‘Seals Deal’ for Rail Expansion — “Virginia finalized agreements Tuesday with CSX, Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express as part of the state’s $3.7 billion passenger rail expansion program that seeks to relieve a rail bottleneck and get more commuters onto trains. The signing of agreements advances a pledge Gov. Ralph Northam (D) made in December 2019 to significantly grow passenger rail service this decade by building a new rail bridge over the Potomac River, adding new track in the Washington-Richmond corridor and buying hundreds of miles of passenger right of way from CSX.” [Washington Post, Twitter]
Affordable Housing CEO Retiring — “Longtime CEO of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing Nina Janopaul will retire June 30, 2021, after a remarkable 14-year career at the helm of the organization, leading APAH through a period of transition and rapid expansion. The APAH Board has appointed Executive Vice President Carmen Romero to lead APAH into its ambitious next phase of growth and service.” [Press Release, Twitter]
New Restaurant Fighting for Funding — “Andrew Darneille had a sense of deja vu when he clicked on the link from his certified public accountant. It led him to a page that said, in essence, that the Restaurant Revitalization Fund would not be the lifeline he had hoped for. Based on the fund’s grant calculations buried in the larger $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, his Smokecraft Modern Barbecue in Arlington, Va., would not get a cent in federal relief during a pandemic that has left many restaurateurs hanging by a thread.” [Washington Post]
No GOP County Board Candidates Yet — “The Arlington County Republican Committee remains on the hunt for a candidate or candidates to challenge for the one County Board seat on the November ballot. ‘We have had people reach out to us,’ party chairman Andrew Loposser said on March 24, though none has yet stepped forward publicly.” [Sun Gazette]
Green Valley Church Helping with Vaccinations — “At Macedonia Baptist Church in Arlington, the sanctuary has sat empty since the start of the coronavirus pandemic… So when Harcum was recently approached about a new vaccine equity partnership with Arlington County and Neighborhood Health, he said he was happy to offer up space inside the church.” [WJLA]
Photo courtesy James Mahony
A new Virginia Railway Express station could bring Amtrak service to Crystal City, says a new report.
The expanded and relocated station is set to open in 2024 and Amtrak is currently “exploring” adding regional service to this station.
This according to a National Landing Business Improvement District report released earlier this month, detailing a number of significant transportation projects scheduled for completion over the decade (many of which long have been in the works).
Responding to inquiries from ARLnow, an Amtrak spokesperson wrote in an email that the planning remains underway “so it’s premature to discuss in depth expansion plans.”
The VRE station station will be built on land owned by real estate developer JBG Smith and will be designed to host Amtrak trains as well as Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) trains. (Neighboring Alexandria has an existing Amtrak station.)
The $50 million two-track station will be built on Crystal Drive between 12th Street S. and Airport Access Road, about a quarter mile from the current one-track station. That existing station was built about 40 years ago and has been called a “operational bottleneck.”
Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, executive director and president of the National Landing BID, says bringing an Amtrak station to Crystal City would “shrink the region” and would enable a “direct one-seat ride between our region by commuter rail.” Some day those heading to New York City might be able to just head to Crystal City to get on a train, rather than trek into D.C. and battle crowds at Union Station.
Gabriel does note that Amtrak has yet to decide about adding a station there.
Along with a new VRE station, a new two-track railway bridge across the Potomac is also being planned. It will replace the 116-year-old Long Bridge and is estimated to be completed by 2030. Gabriel says the existing bridge is also a “bottleneck.”
Other projects highlighted in the report include the $650 million Project Journey at Reagan National Airport set to be completed this year, the continued construction of the new Potomac Yard Metro station, adding a new entrance to the Crystal City Metro station, replacing Route 1 with a “unifying, urban boulevard,” and a pedestrian walkway over the George Washington Memorial Parkway connecting Crystal City to the airport.
According to Gabriel, the airport bridge would create a five-minute walk from the train station to the airport, as opposed to a walk that’s currently long and somewhat dangerous.
All of these projects together, including the possible presence of Amtrak, could transform the neighborhoods collectively known as National Landing, said Gabriel.
“Investments of this scale are really positioning us to be the most connected downtown in the country,” she said.
Full press release about the report is below.
An act of Congress may help to streamline the planned Long Bridge project.
The project to build a new rail bridge across the Potomac, accompanied by new bike and pedestrian facilities, is one of the key components of a $3.7 billion plan to expand passenger and freight rail in Virginia.
To help it along, this week the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill that would cede National Park Service land near the river to Virginia or D.C. “as necessary for the Long Bridge Project.” The land transfer would reduce the complexity and cost of the project, as well as the time required to complete it.
The bill still must pass the Senate and be signed into law by the president. Its passage was hailed by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and the National Landing Business Improvement District as an important step forward.
Some good news: the House just passed the bipartisan Long Bridge Act, introduced by @RobWittman and me, which will advance the Long Bridge project, and eventually yield a new bridge over the Potomac for passenger and freight rail service along with pedestrian and bicycle access. pic.twitter.com/g14lmvQy3c
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) December 10, 2020
— NationalLanding (@NationalLanding) December 10, 2020
Local Dog Adoption Demand is High — “Kim Williams, who volunteers for the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation of Arlington, Virginia, has tapped into a puppy pipeline of sorts to bring some of Georgia’s homeless pet population to the mid-Atlantic region where they are bombarded by requests for dogs to adopt.” [WMAZ]
American Reducing Service at DCA — “American Airlines is discontinuing service to more than 20 destinations from Reagan National Airport in January, according to new data reported by the Official Airline Guide. Cities and/or airports dropped range from major (New York-JFK; Las Vegas; St. Louis; Minneapolis-St. Paul) to smaller (Jackson, Miss.; Manchester, N.H.; Greensboro, N.C.). Many were served just once or twice per day.” [InsideNova]
Land Transfer May Speed Bridge Project — “Interesting: NPS is ‘supportive’ of conveying four acres of parkland to VA and DC to construct the Long Bridge(s), rather than just permitting. That would likely speed design and construction, and could result in a ped/bike span that doesn’t compromise as much on width and lighting in order to conform to NPS interests.” [@CarFreeHQ2/Twitter]
Local Wildlife Caught on Camera — “Arlington resident Levi Novey and his wife Alicia have captured footage documenting quite an array of critters passing through their yard via a fence that Levi has dubbed a ‘wildlife superhighway…’ So far their fence camera has photographed foxes, raccoons, mice, housecats, chipmunks, and lots of birds and possums.” [WJLA]
Redistricting Commission Applications Open — “Beginning Monday, Virginians will have a month to apply for one of eight public seats on the state’s new redistricting commission, which has begun its work with a panel of retired judges setting out plans for the application process.” [Washington Post]
Stormy Day Today — “Get ready for a wild weather finish to November. A strong storm system develops and moves through… bringing a mix of hazards to our area in a short time frame, capped off by the potential for strong to possibly severe storms Monday afternoon. No specific warnings or advisories have been issued, but expect a good soaking of one to two-plus inches of rain (and some wild temperature swings).” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]
More APS Tech Issues Reported — Several people contacted ARLnow yesterday to report more technology issues involving remote learning. While Wakefield High School’s principal posted a possible fix on social media, APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said that any remaining problems were isolated: “At last check this morning, there were 25,273 APS-provided student devices active on our network. There are some issues at the secondary level, but we are working directly with those students to reset their devices.” [Twitter, Twitter]
Sept. 11 Commemoration Tomorrow — “Arlington County will commemorate the lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and express gratitude to all those who responded that day with a virtual event. To ensure everyone’s safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, the public will view the event online or on the County’s cable channels.” [Arlington County]
State Grant to Boost COVID Testing — “The Virginia Department of Health has provided the Department of Human Services with $320,287 to increase COVID-19 testing capacity. The grant award covers the period August 1, 2020 through December 30, 2020. Grant funds will support operations and logistics at testing sites.” [Arlington County]
Amazon Holding Virtual Career Day — “Amazon is looking to build on the success of last year’s Career Day events across six U.S. cities that hosted 17,000 job seekers with over 200,000 people who applied for jobs in the week leading up to the event. The new completely virtual event will open Amazon Career Day 2020 to everyone, regardless of their location. Some of the new employees will be placed at Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia, which is continuing to expand following its opening last year.” [Good Morning America, Amazon, WTOP]
Progress on DCA Expansion — “Project Journey is well on its way. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority this week offered an update on its two-pronged, roughly $650 million modernization program at Reagan National Airport. The final product will deliver a new north concourse, replacing the oft-maligned Gate 35X, and new security checkpoints. The former is expected to open in July 2021, and the latter by the fourth quarter of 2021.” [Washington Business Journal, NBC 4, InsideNova]
Wide Pedestrian Bridge Proposed — “The final EIS for Long Bridge recommended building 14′ wide pedestrian and bike bridge connecting Long Bridge, the MVT and East Potomac Park. Governor Northam committed to funding pre-COVID. This will be huge for regional trail connectivity.” [Twitter, Friends of the Mt. Vernon Trail]
Labor Day Closures — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020 for Labor Day.” Trash will be collected but parking meters will not be enforced. [Arlington County]
Library Buildings Remain Closed — “Even as neighboring Fairfax County is approaching the two-month mark for its reopened library system, Arlington officials appear in no rush to bring their library system more than marginally back to life. That means that while Arlington patrons will continue to have the chance to check out books online and pick them up at a central repository, they remain barred from visiting branches or wandering the stacks.” [InsideNova]
Bluemont BLM Protest Continues — “Father, in his red scooter, and son first rolled down the bike path to this corner in Arlington, Va., just after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. They’ve been back most weekdays since, more than 60 times so far, as demonstrators in Louisville and Atlanta marched for justice for Black Americans killed at the hands of police and protests surged following the police shooting of Jacob Blake last month in Kenosha, Wis.” [Washington Post]
Deep Dive Into New Bridge — “The preferred alternative would add a new two-track rail bridge north of the Long Bridge while retaining the existing bridge without modifications. The plan would cost approximately $1.9 billion. The existing span would retain its CSX ownership, and the new span would be Virginia’s.” [Greater Greater Washington]
MU Extends President’s Contract — “Marymount University’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted to extend the contract of President Irma Becerra by an additional five years to 2026. This action comes one year earlier than expected, as Board members felt strongly that due to Dr. Becerra’s significant accomplishments during her tenure, it was important to ensure her continued association with Marymount on a more accelerated timeline.” [Press Release]
Trump Boat Parade Planned — “A boat parade is planned in support of President Trump on Sunday on the Potomac River. According to a Facebook post from an entity known as “Liberty Rally,” boaters will gather just before 1 PM in the Wilson Bridge no-wake zone and then proceed up the Potomac.” [Washingtonian]
Kanye Booted from Ballot — “A Richmond Circuit Court Judge has ruled that rapper Kanye West will be removed from the ballot as a presidential candidate in Virginia. The decision came after an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case and Attorney General Mark Herring accused the West camp of acting fraudulently to get on the ballot.” [NBC 12]
Va. Booze Biz is Booming — “The Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Authority announced Wednesday retail sales of $1.2 billion in fiscal 2020 — a nearly $120 million increase from the previous year and the second year in a row the liquor monopoly surpassed $1 billion in sales.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Local Real Estate Market Rebounds — “After an uncharacteristically slow spring, thanks to stay-at-home orders and economic uncertainty stemming from Covid-19, Washington’s residential real estate market had a record-breaking July. According to the latest local data, the median home sale price in the DC metro area hit a 10-year high last month.” The median days on the market for Arlington, meanwhile, is seven. [Washingtonian, InsideNova, Twitter]
I-395 Wrong-Way Driver Arrested — “A woman driving the wrong way on northbound Interstate 395 Tuesday morning struck two vehicles before taking off, Virginia State Police said. The crash at 4:49 a.m. sent debris across the interstate and shut down all northbound lanes before Washington Boulevard in Arlington for roughly an hour.” [WTOP]
Long Bridge Project May Be Delayed — “The good news is that the coronavirus pandemic has not derailed one of the region’s most important transit projects: the construction of a second Long Bridge over the Potomac River reserved exclusively for Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express passenger trains. The bad news is that due to revenue shortfalls directly related to the pandemic, the $3.7 billion, 10-year project may be significantly delayed.” [Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Twitter]
W-L Student Dies Unexpectedly — “Generals, it is with great sadness that I inform you of the death of one of our own. Adrian Vega-Alcantara, a student in the 11th grade, passed away suddenly of heart failure on August 10.” [Washington-Liberty High School]
Local Reaction to Veep Pick — “Amid a strong field of highly qualified women, Senator Harris stands out as a powerful and historic choice,” said Rep. Don Beyer. ” I know from our time together in the Senate that she’ll be great for the ticket and more importantly, great for our country,” said Sen. Tim Kaine. [Press Release, Twitter]
Meteor Shower This Week — “Make sure you stay up late one evening (or wake up early) to see the annual Perseid meteor shower! It will peak this week on the mornings of Wed, Thu, and Fri.” [Twitter, EarthSky]
Coronavirus Case in Falls Church — “On Mar. 9, a U.S. Navy civilian employee at the US Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) in Falls Church, Virginia, tested ‘presumptive positive’ for the coronavirus (COVID-19)… The individual is currently at a hospital in Northern Virginia.” [U.S. Navy]
Northam Signs Arlington Tourism Tax Bill — “The governor’s signature on March 2 made it official – Arlington will now be able to impose a surtax on hotel stays, with the proceeds going to tourism promotion, in perpetuity. Gov. Northam signed legislation patroned by state Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax-Arlington) removing the ‘sunset clause’ from existing legislation allowing Arlington to tack on an additional 0.25 percent to the 5-percent transient-occupancy tax imposed by the county government on those staying in hotels and motels.” [InsideNova]
Lawmakers Support Long Bridge Project — Virginia’s delegation to Congress “sent a letter to Secretary Chao in support of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s (DRPT) application for an Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant for the Long Bridge Project.” [Press Release]
No Arlington Rep on Metro Board — “For the first time in recent memory, Arlington will have no representation on the board of directors of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which operates the Metro system… The shifts came about due to the resignation from the WMATA board of Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey, due to issues over reporting of campaign contributions during his 2019 re-election bid.” [InsideNova]
Beyer Gains a GOP Challenger — “On Friday, Mark Ellmore officially filed to seek the Republican nomination for Congress from Virginia’s Eighth District in 2020…. It is currently represented in Congress by Democratic Rep. Don Beyer.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Rail Project Will Include New Pedestrian Bridge — “As part of the Long Bridge project, a stand-alone bike and pedestrian bridge would be built upstream from the new rail bridge, allowing people to walk or bike across the Potomac River between the D.C. waterfront and Crystal City in Arlington. Virginia officials said the state plans to build that pedestrian and bike bridge.” [Washington Post]
Weekend Propane Leak in Ballston — Per the Arlington County Fire Department: “FD and Haz-Mat units are on scene in the 4000 blk of Fairfax Dr investigating a report of a large propane [tank] leaking… Crews located a large propane tank leaking at a building under construction. The leak has been controlled and units are remaining on scene to [perform] air monitoring.” [Twitter]
ACPD Increasing Bike Lane Enforcement — “The county… says that Arlington police are stepping up their enforcement of bike lane violations. Cycling advocate Gillian Burgess says that she has seen evidence of more police presence, though she believes that the problem will ultimately be solved by better street design, not enforcement.” [WAMU]
Rosslyn Startup Gets Big Investment — “Arlington-based Advantia Health, a growing national provider of women’s healthcare, announced a $45 million investment by BlueMountain Capital Management, LLC (BlueMountain), a subsidiary of Assured Guaranty Ltd. This funding comes after a year of rapid growth.” [Advantia Health via Potomac Tech Wire]
(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced a major expansion of passenger rail service at an event in Crystal City Thursday afternoon.
Northam announced a $3.7 billion deal between the state and CSX that would:
- Build a state-owned, passenger-only rail bridge over the Potomac, next to the existing, aging CSX-owned Long Bridge near Crystal City
- Expand Virginia Railway Express (VRE) service by 75%, including by adding additional hours, more frequent trains, and weekend service
- Expand Amtrak service from D.C. to points south
- Build 37 miles of new track
- Remove 5 million cars and 1 million trucks from Virginia highways each year, via increased passenger and freight rail service
Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol called the announcement “an exciting new chapter for passenger rail in Virginia” that will “improve the quality of life and economic opportunity” for thousands of Northern Virginia residents.
Cristol cited the example of rail commuters who will now be able to attend workforce training at night and take the train home, and families that will be able to take the train to the Air and Space Museum while avoiding traffic on I-95.
The deal “will contribute an additional $2 billion annually to Virginia due to expanded commuter activity made possible by a new Long Bridge,” estimated the the Stephen F. Fuller Institute at George Mason University.
The Greater Washington Partnership, a regional business organization, lauded the announcement as “game changing” for the region and “one of the biggest achievements for passenger rail service in the United States” in nearly half a century.
Today’s announcement made by Governor Northam to acquire rail right-of-way from Washington to Richmond and through to North Carolina and fund the expansion of Long Bridge, is game changing for the Capital Region’s transportation system, and represents a key achievement in implementing the Partnership’s Blueprint for Regional Mobility. This deal will establish near hourly rail service between Washington and Richmond, expand peak VRE service, initiate VRE weekend operations, and unlock run-through service for MARC trains into Northern Virginia. This is one of the biggest achievements for passenger rail in the United States since Amtrak was created almost 50 years ago. We commend Governor Northam and his team for their vision, leadership and execution of this historic effort. By working in partnership with Mayor Bowser, Governor Hogan and Amtrak President Richard Anderson, we can leverage this investment to radically improve the reliability and performance of our transportation network for all our residents and ensure the Capital Region from Baltimore to Richmond continues to be globally competitive.
Amazon’s locally-based Vice President of Public Policy also hailed the agreement.
We welcome the announcement of the expansion of rail service and the groundbreaking of the new Potomac Yard metro. Virginia keeps raising the bar with investments in its long term infrastructure Thank you @GovernorVA! https://t.co/69VjYoo4I2
— Brian Huseman (@b_huseman) December 19, 2019
The full press release from the governor’s office about the deal is below, after the jump.
Crews are now starting work on the walls for the long-awaited, long-debated Long Bridge Aquatics and Center near Crystal City.
Arlington County tweeted that the final beam was lifted into place last week for the controversial $60 million recreational center at 475 Long Bridge Drive. Officials say the next steps will be setting up walls and pouring pool foundations.
The final design includes a 50-meter pool with diving towers, as well as a family pool and public fitness space — and $410,000 video screens.
Arlington officials have already budgeted for two full-time staffers to run the facility once it opens.
Kalish also confirmed that last year’s record-breaking rain did not interfere with the construction timetable — even if it did dampen the groundbreaking ceremony.
“Weather has not had any effect on the schedule,” she said. The wet weather reportedly delayed construction projects across the region.
Image (below) via Twitter/Arlington County