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 building’s structural steel work is nearing completion and concrete for the 50-meter pool is being formed and poured,” Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow.
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.
The aquatics center is expected to open at the beginning of 2021, and officials hope it will serve everyone from middle schoolers to competitive swimmers who currently train at the high school pools.
Image (below) via Twitter/Arlington County
What’s Next with Nicole is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.
High speed rail isn’t just a pipedream. But to make it a reality in Arlington, it will require a new bridge.
In the next decade or two, high speed rail lines will shuttle passengers between Richmond and D.C. in less than an hour. A train ride between Arlington and Baltimore will take the same amount of time as taking the Metro to Union Station. This will only happen, however, if we approve and fully fund the Richmond to D.C. Long Bridge rail project.
Long Bridge is the only railroad crossing between D.C. and Virginia — spanning from Crystal City to L’Enfant Plaza. The bridge is 115 years old and currently owned by the rail transportation company CSX. At 98% capacity, it serves 76 trains per day and has become a massive bottleneck for our regional train network.
The five year, $1.9 billion project would expand Long Bridge from two to four tracks and increase the number of trains served everyday by over 250% to 192.
Doubling the number of tracks at Long Bridge is now the highest transportation priority in Virginia, according to state officials. This month, the federal government cleared the environmental impact study requirements to build a high speed rail line between Richmond to D.C., which includes making significant improvements to the Long Bridge. While the project is currently underfunded, it is now eligible for federal transportation funds.
I strongly support the Long Bridge project for four primary reasons:
- It creates not only a more connected Richmond to Baltimore regional economy, but it will also create the potential for high speed rail spanning the entire East Coast along I-95
- To relieve congestion along I-95, thus creating a more efficient workforce
- It is environmentally beneficial, helping to get more cars off the road
- It will help decrease regional housing costs by making it faster for people living further from urban centers to get to work, expanding what we consider to be Northern Virginia’s housing stock.
I strongly support the Long Bridge project and hope you will join me in showing your support during the public comment period, which ends October 26.
Nicole Merlene is an Arlington native and former candidate for Virginia State Senate. She has served as a leader in the community on the boards of the Arlington County Civic Federation and North Rosslyn Civic Association, as an Arlington Economic Development commissioner, in neighborhood transportation planning groups, and as a civic liaison to the Rosslyn Business Improvement District.