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The Pentagon City Metro station (file photo)

Update at 2:55 p.m. — Metro is single-tracking past the station and expected to resume normal service soon, with fire department units clearing from the scene.

Blue Line service has been suspended at Pentagon City due to a small fire producing smoky conditions at the station.

Arlington County firefighters are on scene. The fire — reportedly caused by trash catching on fire behind a wall — is reported to be out but there’s still residual smoke in the tunnels.

The fire department activity is also said to be affecting traffic in the area.

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Clouds over the Pentagon (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Expect to see lots of emergency activity around the Pentagon this weekend. But don’t worry, it’s just a drill.

The emergency response training exercise is scheduled to take place from 6 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday and will include first responders from a number of jurisdictions.

“Expect flashing lights/sirens near the Pentagon Transit Center,” Pentagon police said on Twitter.

The Pentagon Metro station will be closed until around 2 p.m. as a result of the exercise. Buses going to or from the Pentagon will be relocated to the Crystal City and Pentagon City stations.

More from a WMATA press release:

On Saturday, September 24, Metro will temporarily close the Pentagon Station to bus and rail service from opening until approximately 2 p.m. due to a security exercise at the request of the Pentagon. During this time, people in the area may notice a large amount of emergency personnel; however, customers should be aware this is only an exercise.

During the temporary station closure, Metrobus service that normally serves the Pentagon Transit Center will instead be relocated to Pentagon City. Express shuttle buses operating to/from Huntington and Franconia-Springfield to Pentagon due to major construction on the Blue and Yellow lines will be diverted to Crystal City where customers can transfer to/from the rail system.

While Pentagon Station is closed, Blue Line trains will bypass the station, passing through without stopping. Customers may wish to use Pentagon City Station as an alternative.

Bus and rail service will resume to the Pentagon at approximately 2 p.m. at the conclusion of the exercise. Metro will notify customers through our social media channels @MetrobusInfo @MetrorailInfo, online on the Status and Alerts page, and through MetroAlerts text and email messages. Customers are encouraged to sign up for MetroAlerts to be notified about the latest service information.

Metro’s customers service team will also be available to assist customers from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to provide real-time information online or by phone. Metro’s customer service team responds to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram social posts, emails and chat conversations. Customers may also get information by calling 202-637-7000 or visiting wmata.com.

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An end date is in sight for construction work around the Ballston Metro station.

After two years of navigating the active work site and catching the bus from temporarily relocated stops, transit riders could have access to the updated transit facilities and adjacent public areas sometime next month.

“Right now we have our sights on completion in late October,” said Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors.

Over the course of four phases, Arlington County aimed to improve the experience of waiting for a bus, getting dropped off by a car, and walking and cycling around the transit hub. The project added:

  • New bus shelters, sidewalks, landscaped planters and benches
  • More bike parking
  • An expanded public space along Fairfax Drive
  • A dedicated “kiss-and-ride” curb space
  • A dedicated shuttle bus curb space and bus shelter
  • Bus stop flag poles
  • Real-time bus information displays

Construction on the four-phase project started in June 2020 and was expected to end in November 2021. But a half dozen “unforeseen conditions” came up during construction, delaying completion by nearly a year, according to a county report.

Before it can sign off on the project, the county says the following three intersections need to be repaved “due to design changes and unforeseen utility work,” per the report.

  • Fairfax Drive and N. Stuart Street
  • Fairfax Drive and N. Stafford Street
  • 9th Street N. and N. Stuart Street

This will cost about $249,000, bringing the total cost of the project to around $5.7 million. The Arlington County Board is set to review a request to authorize this additional spending during its meeting on Saturday.

Contingency funding approved in the initial budget covered the cost of the other surprises. Staff said electric and telecom lines along Fairfax Drive had to be relocated and it took longer than expected to get Dominion Energy to remove existing street light poles.

The underground Metro platform and garages were also closer to the surface than staff initially estimated. To avoid hitting these structures, construction plans had to be updated and one planter had to be redesigned.

Other planters had to be remade because of how the site slopes, while additional pre-made planters had to be purchased because original estimates fell short.

A curb along N. Stafford Street needed to be realigned and a bus landing rebuilt to ensure getting on and off the bus was safe and accessible to people with disabilities.

Pors said county staff are looking forward to wrapping up.

“Obviously, we’re very excited for the completion of this project,” Pors said.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has also finalized where buses will depart from. The listed changes are set to go into effect this Sunday, Sept. 18:

1A to Vienna: Bay F
1B to Dunn Loring: Bay F
2A to Dunn Loring: Bay C
10B to Hunting Point: Bay G
22A to Pentagon: Bay G
23A, 23B, 23T to Shirlington/Crystal City: Bay H
23A, 23T to Tysons: Bay A
25B to Southern Towers/Mark Center: Bay D
38B to Farragut Square: Bay B

Meanwhile, the county is currently working to design proposed west entrance to the Ballston Metro station, located at N. Fairfax Drive and N. Vermont Street, almost a quarter of a mile west of the existing entrance.

Arlington has sought alternative funding sources to cover the ballooning cost of the project, which it attributes to inflation and having more complete designs.

Some transit advocates have argued that funding for the section entrance should be redirected to cheaper upgrades with greater impact, such as sidewalks, protected bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes.

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Morning Notes

Ballston at twilight with storm clouds looming (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Issues at Court House Station — Noted in a new Washington Metrorail Safety Commission report on the maintenance, cleaning and inspections of automatic train control systems: “For example, at Court House Station on the Orange and Silver Lines, a technician noted racks that were dusty and covered with black soot and noted that an electronic-friendly vacuum cleaner was required for proper cleaning, but no work order was opened. The records also showed missing manuals and reference documents, but no work order was opened.” [WMSC]

Anniversary of Pentagon Officer’s LODD — “Pentagon Police Cpl. George Gonzalez died in the line of duty one year ago today. At the Training Range named for him, members of his Pentagon Force Protection Agency platoon honored Gonzalez again on Tuesday.” [WJLA]

School Board Race Fundraising — “For the period through June 30, independent James ‘Vell’ Rives IV outraised Democratic endorsee Bethany Sutton by $14,286 to $13,132, according to figures from the Virginia Department of Elections. But from those figures you have to subtract the $7,000 loan that Rives gave his campaign, and also chop off a couple of thousand dropped in by Sutton family members to hers, when parsing the data.” [Sun Gazette]

Light Pole Knocked Down on the Pike — “Scanner: Columbia Pike temporary shut down at S. Wakefield Street after a vehicle ran into a county light pole, knocking it down. Driver reported to be injured, but not seriously.” [Twitter]

It’s Friday — After a stormy Thursday night comes another hot day with rain and strong storms in the evening and overnight. High of 91 and low of 76. Sunrise at 6:15 am and sunset at 8:17 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Sunset along Columbia Pike near Dama restaurant (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Baseball Tourney in Arlington — “One area’s loss became another’s big gain in recent days when Arlington County was added as an emergency replacement site for this month’s American Legion state-baseball tournament. The eight-team competition, which will include local District 17’s Arlington Post 139 as the host team, will take place July 26-30 at the Barcroft Park and Wakefield High School fields.” [Sun Gazette]

Grant for Second Ballston Metro Entrance — From the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission: “[Arlington County] received $4.5M from I-66 Commuter Choice to construct a second entrance at Ballston-MU Station that will improve access to transit and support continued redevelopment in the area.” [Twitter]

More Whinos on the Way? — “Whino is a 6,300-square-foot bar, restaurant, art gallery and entertainment venue on the second floor of Brookfield Properties’ Ballston Quarter. While it’s only a year old, founder Shane Pomajambo has big expansion plans for his budding brand.” [Washington Business Journal]

Honor for Local Catholic Newspaper — “The Catholic Herald was named the best diocesan newspaper in its class — one of 36 awards received at the annual Catholic Media Association conference in Portland July 4-7.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

Today in Dubious Data — “A new survey suggests that Virginia residents have a clear preference for their milkshakes. Chocolate? Nope. Vanilla? Negative. Strawberry? Sorry, Charlie. According to a statistical analysis of Google search data, Virginians are most enraptured by peppermint milkshakes, according to new data from RTA Outdoor Living.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Monday — Clear throughout the day. High of 82 and low of 65. Sunrise at 5:54 am and sunset at 8:36 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Dog park in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington Rents Continue to Rise — “Apartment rents in Arlington keep on moving upward, maintaining their position as most expensive in the D.C. area and are now well above pre-pandemic rates, according to new data. With a median rental of $2,063 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,469 for two bedrooms, Arlington’s rental rate grew a whopping 2.8 percent from May to June, the sixth highest increase among the nation’s 100 largest urban areas.” [Sun Gazette]

Local Group Donating Thousands of Socks — “The Nursing Professional Development Council at VHC Health decided to have a ‘Sock Hop’ – not a dance party but a sock collection benefiting ‘Doorways,’ an Arlington non-profit helping people out of homelessness, domestic violence and sexual assault. The goal was set at 1,940 pairs – 1940 was the year the Sock Hop started but the generous nurses and staff at VHC Health tripled that number. It’s the biggest sock donation the group has ever received.” [WJLA]

Dems Resuming Breakfasts — “In another sign that life is getting back to normal(ish) – or at least adopting a ‘live with COVID’ practicality – the Arlington County Democratic Committee is resurrecting its monthly in-person breakfasts. The return engagement – the first since early 2020 – will be held on Saturday, July 9 at 8:30 a.m. at Busboys & Poets in Shirlington. Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) and others will discuss gun issues.” [Sun Gazette]

Cleanup Event Saturday Morning — “WalkArlington & BikeArlington partner to clean up a part of the W&OD Trail on Saturday, July 9. We will make our way down the W&OD, starting near the Barcroft Community Center, setting up our tent on the W&OD Trail at the intersection of a small road named ‘Barcroft Center’ and Four Mile Run Drive. We will pick up trash that accumulates alongside the trail. We will provide trash bags, gloves, trash pickers, drinks and some snacks. We will also have Bike and Walk giveaways.” [WalkArlington]

Metro Seeking Feedback on EFC Project — “Metro is seeking public input on the proposed bus loop expansion and pedestrian improvements at East Falls Church Station.  The station currently has four bus bays that are operating at maximum capacity. In coordination with Metro, Arlington County seeks to expand the footprint of the existing bus loop, upgrade the existing bus shelters, and add three bus bays with shelters at the station.” [WMATA]

Flood Watch This Afternoon — “Multiple rounds of scattered to numerous showers and thunderstorms are likely this afternoon and tonight. The most likely time period for thunderstorms producing heavy rain and potential flash flooding is this evening, but thunderstorms could develop as early as this afternoon, and may linger well into the night. Several inches of rain is possible in a short period of time, which would cause rapid rises of water.” [National Weather Service]

It’s Wednesday — Heavy rain starting in the afternoon. High of 86 and low of 78. Sunrise at 5:51 am and sunset at 8:38 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

SoberRide vehicle in Clarendon on Cinco de Mayo (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

New Interim Economic Development Chief — “Today, I am pleased to appoint Shannon Flanagan-Watson as the Interim Director of Arlington Economic Development (AED), effective May 31. Shannon brings 28 years of combined experience working in and with local governments on a range of professional local government management and policy issues.” [Arlington County]

Shot Fired in Long Branch Creek — “1400 block of 28th Street S. At approximately 1:09 a.m. on May 5th, police were dispatched to multiple reports of shots heard in the area. Police canvassed the area and recovered evidence confirming a shot had been fired. The preliminary investigation indicates a verbal altercation between two subjects may have preceded the discharge of a firearm. No injuries were reported, and no property damage was located.” [APCD]

Netherlands Carillon Dedication — “Today, the National Park Service and Netherlands Embassy celebrated the 77th anniversary of Liberation Day and the end of a four-year restoration of the Netherlands Carillon. This celebration included remarks from Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States Oksana Markarova, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands André Haspels and National Park Service Director Charles F. ‘Chuck’ Sams III.” [Press Release, NBC 4]

More Funding for Metro Entrance? — “Additional financial support for Arlington County’s proposed west entrance to the Ballston-MU Metro station looks to be on the horizon. A recommendation from staff at the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission puts the request for an additional $4.5 million near the top of the list for regional projects that would be part of fiscal 2023-24 funding through the ‘I-66 Commuter Choice’ program.” [Sun Gazette]

Trying Out the Upton Hill Ropes Course — “Waiting in line to jump from the 50-foot apex of Climb UPton, Northern Virginia’s new ropes course, and trying desperately not to look down, I overhear three 10-year-old girls in front of me. ‘Are you scared?’ one asks… The $1.3 million ropes course opened last summer in Upton Hill Regional Park and is run by NOVA Parks. I recently attempted it on a sunny spring Saturday.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Reminder: Malibu Barbie Truck’s Visit — “On Saturday, May 7, the ‘Barbie Truck Totally Throwback Malibu Tour’ is planning on setting up shop at Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row) in the courtyard near DSW shoe store. The truck will be selling ‘retro-inspired’ Barbie merchandise — like Barbie logo embroidered denim jackets and Malibu Barbie necklaces — from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.” [ARLnow]

It’s Friday — Rain throughout the day. High of 65 and low of 58. Sunrise at 6:06 am and sunset at 8:07 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Raindrops on azaleas in Westover (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Another Vehicle Larceny Series — “28th Street S. at 26th Street S./28th Street S. at S. Lang Street. At approximately 9:05 a.m. on April 25, police were dispatched to multiple reports of destruction of property. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the unknown suspect(s) broke the windows to five vehicles and rummaged through them. One victim reported having electronics stolen from their vehicle. There is no suspect(s) description.” [ACPD]

Update on Route 1 ‘Urban Boulevard’ Plan — “The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will hold a virtual public information meeting Thursday, April 28 on a feasibility study identifying enhanced multimodal connectivity and accommodations along Route 1 (Richmond Highway) from 12th Street South to 23rd Street South to meet the changing transportation needs of the Crystal City and Pentagon City communities.” [VDOT]

More Wins for Yorktown Lax — “The defending state champion Yorktown High School boys lacrosse team improved to 7-2 with blowout victories over Herndon, 15-2, and Dominion, 17-5, for seven straight victories.” [Sun Gazette]

Regional Grant for Ballston Metro Entrance? — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “A new west entrance to the Ballston-MU Metrorail station is in the running. Let these fine folks know why their greenbacks would be well spent.” [Twitter, N. Va. Transportation Authority]

‘Empty the Shelters’ Event Next Week — “The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is participating in the Bissell Pet Foundation’s spring “Empty the Shelters” animal adoption event next week from May 2-8. More than 275 shelters in 45 states and Canada are participating in the week-long event. The Bissell Pet Foundation sponsors reduced adoption fees for $25 or less.” [Patch]

Warner Weighs in on Musk Buying Twitter — From Sen. Mark Warner: “Elon Musk must work in good faith to preserve Twitter’s necessary reforms to prevent the spread of misinformation.” [Twitter]

It’s Wednesday — Mostly sunny, with a few more clouds in the afternoon. High of 58 and low of 44. Sunrise at 6:16 am and sunset at 7:58 pm. [Weather.gov]

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(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) Arlington County and JBG Smith are changing up plans for a second entrance to the Crystal City Metro station due to projected cost overruns.

An east entrance to the station — a long-standing goal of county transportation planners — is being built through a public-private partnership with the developer, which the County Board authorized in the summer of 2020.

JBG Smith had initially proposed an underground entrance at the corner of 18th Street S. and Crystal Drive. As those plans came into focus last summer, however, they were estimated to cost Arlington County $123-$126 million, which far exceeded the county’s budget of $95 million.

So JBG Smith went back to the drawing board during the winter and came back with the idea to build the entrance at street level and save the county at least $13 million.

This Saturday, the Arlington County Board is slated to approve changes to its agreement with JBG Smith, giving the developer until September to further design an at-grade entrance. Under this scenario, fare gates and a manager’s kiosk would be at street level with primary access from 18th Street S. and secondary access from Crystal Drive.

“This alternative offers cost savings over the current design by significantly reducing the amount of excavation required, reducing the number of elevators from five to three, and removing the need to penetrate the station vault wall,” according to a county report. It also reduces the construction time by three months.

An at-grade entrance still meets county goals and has the support of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, per the report.

“Both the Underground Entrance Design Concept and the At-Grade Alternative equally achieve the goals of adding capacity to meet future growth, creating a multimodal transportation hub, and improving access and accessibility to the Crystal City Metrorail Station from Crystal Drive,” the county said.

The change to the agreement will cost around $232,000 and bring the total cost of the design phase — funded by a $5 million Northern Virginia Transportation Authority grant — to $3.9 million.

County staff say there will be an update on the project for the public this spring. JBG Smith plans to submit a proposal based on the updated designs in October with the goal of County Board approval in November.

If members approve of the designs and cost estimates, construction could start in the winter of 2023 and end in the spring of 2025 — similar to the existing timeline. The project would be extended if the County Board asks the company, or county staff, to find someone else to do it for less money.

Ultimately, Arlington County is on the hook to oversee the project, as it agreed to get the second entrance online by 2025 as part of the incentive package to bring Amazon to Pentagon City, provided the state partially funded it.

The site of the future east entrance is also slated to see new retail, but JBG Smith has put redevelopment plans on hold due to the pandemic, the county says. The east entrance designs leave room to build the retail spaces later on.

As part of the stalled retail project, JBG Smith agreed to hand over land for a public open space called “Metro Market Square,” according to a memo from the developer. The company is working with the county to build this space concurrently with the entrance project.

A map of the east Crystal City Metro station entrance and proposed Metro Market Square open space (staff image)
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Arlington County is applying for a $4.5 million grant to further offset a proposed west entrance to the Ballston Metro station.

On Saturday, the County Board is set to approve this request for funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC), which would come from I-66 toll revenues.

This is the latest application from the county, which is trying to offset the $140 million project with regional and state dollars even as some of these sources have dried up due to the pandemic.

The entrance would be located at N. Fairfax Drive and N. Vermont Street, almost a quarter of a mile west of the existing entrance. The county previously said this second entrance would greatly expand access to the station, increase Metro’s capacity and make it more efficient.

Map showing potential location of new Ballston Metro entrance (via Google Maps)

If all the funding comes through, designs could be completed next year and construction could start in 2024 and end in 2027, Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors tells ARLnow.

“The team is looking to finish the 35% design update this year and procure design-build services in 2023, pending funding from NVTA,” Pors said. “Construction is projected to start in 2024 and we anticipate a construction period of 3 years.”

The $4.5 million represents a revised request to the NVTC. Arlington had previously applied for $10 million from the same program in January 2020 but — despite being “the top scoring project” — the project was cut from the funding round due to a drop in toll revenue caused by COVID-19.

“Following a request from NVTC staff, the County withdrew its application for the Ballston-MU West Entrance in August 2020,” the report said. “I-66 Commuter Choice Program revenues have still not fully recovered from the effects of the pandemic, and so for Round Five the County has lowered its funding request from $10 million to $4,500,000.”

And while available funding is scarce, the cost to build the second entrance is increasing. A 2019 estimate put the project at $130 million; a 2021 estimate puts the project at $140 million.

“The use of the known information on items such as station entrance layout and elevator location from the design updates instead of previous assumptions in the 2019 cost estimate, along with the impact of inflation, are the two drivers of the cost increase,” the report said.

More than half of the project’s costs could come from a pending application with the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) for $80 million. The county says this sum would cover the rising costs as well as the loss of funding from NVTC and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, which also lost revenue for new projects during the pandemic.

Pors said the NVTA will make a funding decision later this spring or in the early summer months.

Meanwhile, Arlington County intends to increase how much it’s budgeting for the project, from $25 million to $30 million.

Arlington’s Transportation Commission — while supportive of the project — is sounding the alarm on the $5 million increase at the local level.

“The Commission is concerned specifically about: 1) The appropriateness of making a change this large in how capital funding is being allocated completely outside of the CIP process and seemingly hidden within grant applications,” chairman Chris Slatt said in a letter to the County Board. “2) The high overall cost of the project and whether it still represents a good ‘bang for our buck’ in increasing access to transit for Arlington residents.”

He said $30 million could be used locally to bring every bus stop in Arlington into full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, increase Capital Bikeshare’s 10-year capital budget or cover the costs to design and build more local projects intended to lower traffic congestion and improve public transit.

Map via Google Maps

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Changes are coming to the plaza outside the Crystal City Metro station.

Developer JBG Smith and the National Landing Business Improvement District are funding a number of enhancements to the plaza and the streetscape, including a new mural, expanded seating options, additional landscaping, festive lighting, and new trees.

It’s part of a plan to make the area collectively known as National Landing more inviting as more people return to their offices and the pandemic (hopefully) winds down.

“The improvements are intended to welcome residents, workers, and visitors ‘back to transit’ as offices and businesses throughout National Landing safely reopen their doors,” the BID said in a press release, which referred to the office district around the Metro station as “downtown National Landing.”

The BID says that it has selected a winning design for the mural that will adorn a concrete wall next to the plaza, after soliciting design ideas earlier this year.

More from the press release:

To kick off the enhancement project, the National Landing BID has welcomed an iconic new mural by DC-based artist Lisa Marie Thalhammer called “Harmony” that adorns the metro plaza’s expansive west wall. The artwork, which measures approximately 115 feet in length and 20 feet in height, will act as a vibrant new front door to the Crystal City Metro entrance. Featuring the artist’s signature usage of the harmonious color spectrum, the design was selected unanimously through a competitive process that was sponsored by the BID.

JBG SMITH, with the National Landing BID as its funding partner, is carrying out a concurrent public space improvement project intended to refresh the plaza outside the Crystal City Metro to create a more inviting arrival experience. The planned updates will include a more open layout, expanded seating options, additional landscaping, festive lighting, new trees and a biophilic design. JBG SMITH is also improving other open spaces and amenities along 18th Street. Completion is anticipated for winter 2022.

“At JBG SMITH, placemaking is core to our DNA, and this project serves as a golden opportunity to convert mobility infrastructure into truly compelling public spaces that contribute significantly to the quality of life for the whole community,” said Jay Corbalis, Vice President of Public Affairs for JBG SMITH.

The revamped public space is just one of a number of things rapidly changing the face of Crystal City and Pentagon City. Other projects in the works include a number of redevelopments, the ongoing construction and design of the two phases of Amazon’s HQ2, and a second entrance to the Crystal City Metro station.

“The additional entrance, which is anticipated to open by the end of 2023, is intended to alleviate platform congestion and deliver riders directly to Crystal City’s retail main street, Crystal Drive,” the BID’s press release also notes. “Combined with the myriad private development projects that are helping reshape the neighborhood streetscape, National Landing has an incredible opportunity to enhance walkability and deliver human-scale mobility.”

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