Arlington, VA

Metro is asking the public to weigh in on possible options for drastic service cuts, including potentially closing several Arlington stations in January 2022.

On Wednesday Metro announced that the public comment period for its 2022 fiscal year budget had officially opened.

With it, they are asking riders to fill out a survey about what options they’d be willing to deal with beginning on Jan. 1, 2022 if more federal money is not received.

The options on the survey include closing Metrorail every day at 9 p.m, trains arriving only every 30 mins at most stations, and shuttering up to 22 stations that have low ridership or are near others.

That list includes four stations in Arlington: Clarendon, Virginia Square, Arlington Cemetery, and East Falls Church.

Screenshot of the Metro survey, asking about potential service cuts in 2022 (Photo via Screenshot/Metro press release)

These were the same stations that were closed earlier in the pandemic due to lower ridership and construction.

The survey also asks about prefered options for cutting Metrobus service, including a number of lines that run through Arlington and Northern Virginia.

Proposals include consolidating the bus system into 50 lines that serve only the highest ridership routes as well as limiting overall service to about half of pre-pandemic levels.

Metro is asking riders to fill out the survey by Tuesday, March 16 at 5 p.m.

The potential cuts come as Metro continues to say they are facing a significant budget shortfall if no additional federal money is received — a shortfall caused in large part by decreased ridership during  the pandemic.

The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority says ridership has decreased by 90% overall on Metro.

Back in December, Metro was promised more than $600 million in the latest coronavirus relief package. That funding, notes Metro, has helped to avoid layoffs, provide essential service, and prepare for riders returning.

But even with that funding and other austerity measures, “there is not enough money to fill the entire budget gap for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2021,” Metro’s press release says.

There’s a decent chance, however, that this public survey will become moot.

President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan has $20 billion earmarked for public transit agencies. At this time, however, it remains unclear how much would go to Metro if the plan does pass in Congress.

Still, county leaders say the potential cuts are concerning.

“Arlington agrees with Metro that federal funding is essential to ensuring that the sort of drastic cuts that could profoundly impact Metro in Arlington will not have to be made,” writes Arlington Board Chair Matt de Ferranti in a statement to ARLnow. “Our Senators and Representatives fully support Metro funding in the federal legislation currently under consideration on Capitol Hill. We are grateful for their critical leadership and are staying in close contact to ensure this critical federal support for our community gets enacted and appropriated. “

In recent weeks, though, service changes have already come to Metro based on the revised 2021 budget approved in November.

Starting last week, trains started coming every 12 mins on the Orange, Blue, Silver, and Yellow lines. However, Metrobus will start expanding service beginning on March 14. Buses are being added on 125 lines and weekend service is being expanded.

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The Pentagon City Metro station is getting a second elevator.

On Saturday, the Arlington County Board voted to award a contract to W. M. Schlosser Company for the construction of a second station elevator on the west side of S. Hayes Street, near the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall.

Designs for the elevator were first approved early last year and the contract for managing the construction was approved this past summer.

The second elevator will eliminate the need for pedestrians to cross six lanes of traffic on S. Hayes Street, two parking lanes, and a bike lane to reach the one elevator currently in operation on the other side of S. Hayes Street, near the Pentagon Centre shopping center.

“For those with mobility issues, this is a big step forward so that we can serve everyone well,” said County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti at the meeting.

Construction is expected to start in the spring and be completed within a year, by spring 2022.

The Maryland-based W. M. Schlosser Company previously was awarded the contract to rehabilitate Arlington House in 2018 and completed streetscape projects for the county in Crystal City and Potomac Yard.

The total cost of the elevator contract is about $6.5 million, which actually exceeded the initial estimate by about double. Changing market conditions and the risks involved with such a complex project are “likely reasons” for the higher costs, according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesperson Eric Balliet.

Funding for the project is a combination of federal ($2.4 million), state ($2.1 million), and local funds ($2 million).

The Pentagon City Metro station has one of the highest riderships in Northern Virginia, according to the staff report. The station averaged about 12,500 entering riders in 2019, though that number has been cut by more than two thirds in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The elevator will add to the two escalators that already lead to the station at street level on the west site of S. Hayes Street.

“Providing entry to the station from the west side of South Hayes Street improves ADA access as well as access for passengers with strollers and luggage,” reads the report.

Additionally, it will provide redundancy if — or when — one of the elevators goes out of service for any reason.

The County approved this item as part of its consent agenda, meaning it was non-controversial and was acted upon by a single vote. The County Board also approved, as part of the consent agenda, an increase in the contract for the eventual inspection of the elevator’s construction.

The Pentagon City Metro is also getting four new escalators as part of a $179-million, seven-year system-wide project to replace and install new heavy-duty escalators. That project will begin in May.

Photo courtesy of Arlington County

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Seven Arlington Metro stations will be getting new escalators.

This is part of a $179-million, seven-year project that begins in May to replace old escalators and install 130 new heavy-duty ones at 32 stations across the Metro system.

In total, 36 escalators across seven Arlington stations will be replaced.

They are:

  • Rosslyn (8 escalators)
  • Ballston (6 escalators)
  • National Airport (4 escalators)
  • Pentagon (5 escalators)
  • Pentagon City (4 escalators)
  • Crystal City (6 escalators)
  • Virginia Square (3 escalators)

The new escalators will have up-to-date safety features and LED lighting. The contract for the project was awarded to the Finnish engineering company KONE.

The escalators set to be replaced include four in Rosslyn that date back to 1977 and rise nearly ten stories. At 207 feet high, they are among the world’s longest, continuous escalators.

“Replacing these escalators that average 38-years old, will ensure we maintain reliability for our customers today and into the future,” Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said in the press release.

To install the new escalators, KONE will have to demolish the existing escalators and remove them piece by piece.

No more than 18 escalators will be out of service at any given time, the transportation agency promises.

For the last decade, Metro has made it a priority to fix, rehabilitate, and replace frequently breaking escalators. By the time this project is completed, Metro will have replaced or rehabilitated 84% of its escalators since 2011.

However, Metro has not set forth a timeline beyond the work beginning in May.

The full press release from Metro is below.

Read More

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Morning Notes

Arts Group Pushing for New Venue — “As part of its recently adopted strategic plan, [Embracing Arlington Arts] plans to use the coming three years to build community support for a performing-arts venue that would include a black-box theater and ancillary classroom and office space. Efforts would also be made to identify a site and start raising funds.” [InsideNova]

APS Changing Student Camera Policy — “In response to challenges teachers are experiencing engaging students with cameras off, we have adapted our policy regarding the use of cameras during instruction time, based on input we have received from teachers, staff, parents, the Distance Learning Task Force, and advisory committee members. We are asking teachers to encourage students to turn on their cameras during synchronous instruction and while directly engaging with peers and staff.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Spotlight on Arlington Man’s Heroism — “A must read about Arlington’s Paris Davis, the former publisher of VA’s Metro Herald. His heroism in 1965, while commanding a Special Forces team in Vietnam, seems worthy of the Medal of Honor. But those who served with him say the Pentagon kept losing the paperwork.” [New York Times, Twitter]

Local Nonprofit’s Work Highlighted — “Mohammad Ahmed, 30, gave up working as an Uber driver in March for fear of infecting his wife, 3-year-old son and two elderly parents who live with him. When he couldn’t pay the rent or electric bill for their two-bedroom apartment in Arlington, a local charity funded mainly by taxpayer dollars stepped in.” [Washington Post]

Metro Reducing Rail Service — “Metro this week began reducing Metrorail service during peak commuting hours because of low usage while saying it will boost Metrobus service as new commuting trends emerge during the coronavirus pandemic. The transit agency referred to the changes as a way to ‘normalize’ rail service.” [Washington Post]

Local Economy Expected to Grow — “Greater Washington’s economy will rebound in 2021 as Covid-19 vaccinations become more common and the weather warms up, according to a new regional economic forecast released Friday. That means 3.5% growth in the gross regional product in 2021, a sharp rebound from the 2.9% drop in 2020. But the region will only see a full recovery in 2022, with 4.1% projected growth in the local economy.” [Washington Business Journal]

Many Office Workers Will Stay Remote — “Working in D.C. will continue to look different for the greater part of this year due to the coronavirus, a new study shows. Employers expect less than a third of their employees to physically be in the office in the first quarter of this year, but by the fall, they expect 75% of their staff to be back, according to a study.” [NBC 4, Washingtonian]

Flickr pool photo by GM and MB

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Morning Notes

Planning Process for Pentagon City Underway — “Amazon.com Inc.’s vision for Pentagon City is decidedly futuristic, anchored by a helix-shaped building that looks straight out of a sci-fi novel. Arlington County’s existing plans that guide the neighborhood’s growth, meanwhile, date back to the days of disco… The open question is how much more development the tech giant will inspire.” [Washington Business Journal]

SUV Overturns on GW Parkway — From WTOP yesterday morning: “NB George Washington Pkwy before the Key Bridge, crash involves one on its side with the left lane only squeezing by.” [Twitter]

GMU to Partner with Local American Legion Post — “Realizing a need existed to help veterans and their families in similar situations, leaders at the law school established the Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (M-VETS) in 2004…. A new partnership with American Legion Post 139, which will be standing up a new building in Arlington, will allow the clinic to further increase its impact.” [George Mason University]

New Apartment Building Opening — “AHC Inc., a leading developer of affordable housing in the Washington-Baltimore metro region, is pleased to introduce a new apartment community in Arlington, VA, called The Apex. Featuring a total of 256 apartments, the $100 million development has started to welcome its first residents and is currently accepting applications.” [Press Release]

Arlington Housing Remains Pricey — “The city of Falls Church in Virginia remains the most expensive housing market, by official jurisdiction, with a median price of $820,000 last month. But among larger jurisdictions, Virginia’s Arlington County remains the most expensive, at $600,000 last month.” [WTOP]

Instant-Runoff Voting Challenges — “Technical, legal and financial complexities likely will mean any start to ‘instant-runoff’ County Board voting in Arlington will be pushed back to 2022 at the soonest. ‘It’s not practical for this year. The earliest this could possibly be used is next year,’ said Arlington Electoral Board secretary Scott McGeary, summing things up during a Feb. 6 Electoral Board meeting.” [InsideNova]

Reminder: Blue Line Work Starts Tomorrow — “Metro’s entire Blue Line is being shut down for more than three months starting Saturday… platform reconstruction work [is] being performed at the Arlington Cemetery station.” [ARLnow]

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Metro’s entire Blue Line is being shut down for more than three months starting Saturday.

The closing of the Blue Line, which runs through parts of Arlington, is due to platform reconstruction work being performed at the Arlington Cemetery station. Additionally, work is being done at the Addison Road station in Maryland. The project was announced last year.

Both the station and the Blue Line are planning to reopen on May 23.

A shuttle bus will run between the Rosslyn, Arlington Cemetery, and Pentagon stations during the project. The shuttles will run every 12 minutes Monday through Friday and every 15 minutes on the weekends. They will not stop at Arlington Cemetery after 7 p.m.

The construction work is part of a massive effort to reconstruct, modernize, and update station platforms throughout the system.

The work being done at the Arlington Cemetery station will include adding slip-resistant tiles, brighter LED canopy lighting, and lighted handrails on stairs. There will also be new platform shelters equipped with charging ports, improved platform speakers and PA system, better information screens, and renovated bathrooms.

This is the same type of work that closed down parts of the Orange Line and the entire Silver Line over the summer.

Normally, this type of work and necessary shutdown happens during the summer time when Metro ridership is historically lower. But with ridership down as much as 90% due to the pandemic, the Blue Line shut down is being initiated earlier in the year.

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Morning Notes

Virtual Learning Day for In-Person Students — “Due to inclement weather, tomorrow, Tue, Feb. 2, Level 1 students receiving in-person learning support will temporarily revert to distance learning, and the return date for Level 2 Career & Technical Education students will be Feb. 3, depending on weather.” [Twitter]

Limited Service for ART Buses — “Tuesday, Feb. 2: Due to ongoing inclement weather, ART will operate *Limited* service on Tuesday, February 2. All routes will operate regular weekday schedules, but delays are possible and some routes will detour. Additional alerts will be sent if conditions should change during the day.” [Arlington Transit]

More Snow Today — “Snow showers of varying intensity could continue at times into Tuesday. Bursts of snow reduce visibility at times and re-coat roads. Temperatures at or below freezing mean untreated surfaces will remain slick. Additional accumulation in the immediate area should range from a coating to a couple inches through Tuesday.” [Capital Weather Gang]

Arlington GOP Pressing for School Openings — “Whether the prime consideration is public policy, pure politics or (most likely) a combination of the two, Arlington Republicans appear to see an opening in forcefully questioning the county school system’s lackadaisical back-to-class efforts. Keeping students out of classrooms for months on end is ‘destroying the lives of our children – it’s just failing them miserably,’ Arlington GOP chairman Andrew Loposser thundered.” [InsideNova]

Food Program Changes Hands —  “This month, the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) will transition ownership of its Plot Against Hunger program to the Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture (FOUA). Since its inception in 2007, over 600,000 pounds of fresh produce has been donated to AFAC through the Plot Against Hunger program.” [Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture]

More Capitol Rioters Who Stayed in Arlington — “Two more Kentucky residents have been charged federally in the U.S. Capitol riot that killed five people… According to the criminal complaint against Crase and Williams, the two drove to Washington with a third person, a witness not named in the complaint, and arrived at their hotel in Arlington, Virginia, just after midnight Jan. 6.” [Louisville Courier Journal]

Red Hot and Blue Pitmaster Dies — “Ernest McKnight, the pitmaster and executive chef who helped grow Red Hot & Blue from a Rosslyn, Virginia, barbecue joint to an international chain in the 90s, died of lung cancer January 17. He was 74.” [Eater]

New Metro Lost and Found Policy — “Starting March 1, DC Metro says the ONLY lost-and-found items it will help customers reclaim are wallets and electronics. Metro says the rest (see sampling in current list below) will be trashed or auctioned off.” [Twitter, WMATA]

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Morning Notes

Metro on Modified Snow Plan — “On Monday, February 1, Metrobus will operate on a moderate snow plan. Service on some routes will be suspended and detours will be in effect on selected routes to avoid areas prone to hazardous conditions such as hilly terrain and narrow streets. Metrorail service is expected to operate on a regular weekday schedule.” [WMATA]

Arlington Vaccination Stats Might Be Higher — “Over 140,000 Northern Virginia residents have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Virginia Department of Health data, but that does not include federal employees and current and retired military service members who may have received vaccines through the federal government.” [InsideNova]

Fallen Capitol Officer to Be Buried at ANC — Brian Sicknick, the U.S. Capitol Police officer killed during the Jan. 6 riots, will be lie in honor at the Capitol before being buried at Arlington National Cemetery. “Officer Brian Sicknick’s service and sacrifice will never be forgotten. These honors, accorded to few, are richly deserved by one who gave his life in defense of American democracy,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said in a statement. [Press Release]

ACPD: Trespasser Kicked Officer — “Arriving officers observed the suspect outside the business, however, he began to flee on a bicycle. As the officers attempted to make contact with the suspect, he got off the bicycle and approached the officer’s cruiser. When the officer exited their cruiser, the suspect began to walk away and ignored lawful commands. The suspect was detained without further incident, however, while sitting on the curb, he became irate and kicked an officer.” [ACPD]

Recounting Presidential Visits to Arlington — “Which of our 46 presidents spent time in Arlington, before or during their tenures? Most, if not all, would have passed through during cross-Potomac travels, and in modern times most visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Pentagon.” [Falls Church News-Press]

COVID Cases Among DCA Construction Crew — “The two-part, $650 million modernization of Reagan National Airport is still expected to be completed this year… While the health crisis hasn’t slowed construction, it has apparently affected the workers building the project. About 63 Project Journey workers have tested positive for Covid-19 since March, and most of those cases, 26, were discovered in December, according to MWAA.” [Washington Business Journal]

It’s February — Today is Feb. 1, the first day of February. Tomorrow is, of course, Groundhog Day.

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Morning Notes

Cell Service Now Available in All Metro Tunnels — “The nation’s major wireless carriers — AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon — and Metro today officially announced the final milestone, more than a decade in the making, to provide wireless service for those who use the Metrorail system… The latest activation brings the final three segments online between Dupont Circle in Downtown DC and White Flint in Maryland, the Yellow Line from L’Enfant Plaza to the Pentagon, and Silver Line in Tysons Corner.” [WMATA]

More on Amazon’s Affordable Housing Commitment — “‘The biggest housing challenge Arlington faces is preserving and building affordable housing, and Amazon is helping by creating a lot of affordable housing,’ said Matt de Ferranti, Arlington County Board chair via email. ‘Our budget is hurting as we feel the pandemic economically, but our housing prices for homes and condos and any place to live in the area is still increasing as people think we are a good long term place to live in part due to Amazon. We need the housing right now to avoid displacement.'” [GGWash]

Arlington Scores Well for Fiscal Health — “A new report on the financial condition of the 75 most populous cities ranked Arlington no. 16 in the nation for fiscal health. The report is based on the cities’ 2019 comprehensive annual financial reports, which are not analyzed on this scale by any other organization.” [Patch]

New Book Set in Arlington — There’s a new book, set in Arlington during the COVID era, that “tells the story of a sportswriter and baseball pitcher who decide to enjoy a one-night stand, only to discover that their relationship is something more.” [Mindy Klasky]

Inside Virginia’s Vaccine Struggles — “The state is now apportioning vaccines to local health districts based on their share of the state’s population. Previously, allocations were based on district requests, which often depended on demand and how many doses local health departments thought they’d be able to administer.” [Virginia Mercury]

Nearby: Transportation Changes for Seven Corners — “The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will hold two ‘virtual’ meetings next month to seek public input on planned transportation improvements at the Seven Corners interchange and nearby roads.” [InsideNova]

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(Updated on 1/17/21) A number of bridges connecting Arlington to D.C. across the Potomac River are closing due to presidential inauguration security measures.

Virginia State Police is working with the United States Secret Service to close Roosevelt Bridge, the Arlington Memorial Bridge, the I-395 Bridge and the 14th Street Bridge starting Tuesday morning through Thursday at 6 a.m., according to a joint statement from Virginia lawmakers.

The Arlington Memorial Bridge closed Friday night but then reopened, according to news reports. The HOV span of the 14th Street Bridge was set to close Saturday morning until Thursday, according to the Secret Service, but was open as of noon on Saturday.

Those closures would leave the Key Bridge in Rosslyn and the Chain Bridge from N. Glebe Road as the main routes from Arlington into the District for two days.

“The 2021 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony will see the strongest Capital-area security response in history. We worked together to push for a response that balances protecting public safety in a manner commensurate with available intelligence about threats without going too far,” reads the lawmakers’ statement.

It was issued by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Reps. Don Beyer, Gerry Connolly, and Jennifer Wexton.

“It is very important now that the U.S. Secret Service and its partner agencies communicate road and bridge closures swiftly and clearly in order to keep disruptions to a minimum,” the lawmakers added. “All of us want the transfer of power to be as peaceful as possible, and we thank all of the men and women in uniform helping to make this historic occasion safe.”

Additionally, Metro announced this afternoon that the Pentagon Metro station will be closed, and bus service there suspended, on Inauguration Day.

“Blue and Yellow Line trains will continue to operate but will pass through the station without stopping,” Metro said. “The Pentagon Transit Center, served by six Metrobus lines, will also be closed. Buses will be relocated instead to Pentagon City, on the east side of Hayes Street S. and 12th Street S. for the day.”

Arlington Cemetery station is also closing, along with a number of D.C. stations, starting today.

Virginia Railway Express trains, meanwhile, will not be running Monday through Wednesday, due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday and “enhanced security measures” related to the presidential inauguration.

Arlington County Police Department recently announced an “increased police presence” on Inauguration Day in the wake of the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

While Arlington Acting Police Chief Andy Penn didn’t commit to any road closures in Arlington as of yet, he did say discussions are ongoing.

Much of D.C. will be shut down, though, including many roads and the National Mall.

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