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Arlington County has drafted preliminary designs to slow speeds and improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians along a busy artery in the East Falls Church neighborhood.

It proposes a number of streetscape changes to N. Sycamore Street between Langston Blvd and 19th Street N., near the East Falls Church Metro station and not far from the W&OD Trail. A fatal crash happened just over a year ago within the project’s boundaries at the intersection of N. Sycamore Street and Washington Blvd.

The plan calls for replacing right-turn-only lanes with protected bike lanes, removing slip lanes — which motorists use to turn while bypassing an intersection — and adding high visibility crosswalks and green skid marks for bicyclists.

It has taken more than a decade to get to this point. The 2011 East Falls Church Area Plan recommended shortening crossings, eliminating right-turn-only lanes and improving curb ramps on N. Sycamore Street. The, the 2019 Bicycle Element of the Master Transportation Plan recommended adding a bike lane along N. Sycamore Street between Williamsburg Blvd and the East Falls Church line.

County staff have studied the street twice, but progress was sporadic, due to two unsuccessful transportation grant applications and budget-tightening due to Covid. The Dept. of Environmental Services reprised the project last fall.

The department gathered feedback about problems with N. Sycamore Street where it intersects with Langston Blvd, 22nd Street N., Washington Blvd, the I-66 off-ramp and 19th Street N. Staff incorporated this feedback into preliminary plans, which can now be reviewed and commented on through Sunday (Nov. 20).

“Generally we heard from you all that the slip lanes in the corridor negatively impact pedestrian and bicyclist safety,” project manager Ariel Yang said in a presentation. “The other overarching thing we heard is a desire for safety and more comfortable crossings for people walking and biking N. Sycamore Street,” including better markings for bike lanes and better signalization for pedestrians.

Yang said participants reported frequent speeding, particularly around 22nd and 19th Street N., a tendency that the proposed changes are designed to address.

“Through design, we are trying to change behavior at the intersection where conflicts tend to happen more,” Yang said.

Other issues include unmarked and long crossings, narrow sidewalks and unclear markings in “conflict zones” between cars and cyclists, per the presentation.

The county proposes changes to five intersections.

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The Ballston Metro station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Metro announced on Friday that transit police will soon resume citing those who try to ride without paying the fare.

The announcement follows an NBC 4 story earlier this month that fare evasion on buses is “reaching eyepopping numbers.”

A WMATA press release, below, notes that the transit is also considering faregate modifications at Metrorail stations, to prevent fare evasion.

Metro Transit Police officers will begin issuing fare evasion citations on Tuesday, November 1, following a monthlong awareness and warning campaign. Citations with associated fines may be issued to anyone jumping fare gates, improperly using emergency gates, or not tapping fare boxes on Metrobuses.

Fare recovery is a major issue and has been mentioned as one of the top concerns of customers when talking with Metro staff and Metro Board Members. Revenue from fares allows Metro to keep buses, trains, and MetroAccess serving our community.

Fare evasion is responsible for significant revenue losses and is part of the focus to close a shortfall of nearly $185 million in the upcoming budget. Using data from Metrobus and pre-pandemic industry averages for Metrorail, Metro estimates revenue losses due to fare evasion totaling tens of millions of dollars in fiscal year 2022.

Metro is working with local partners to offer resources to make public transit more equitable and affordable for those in need. A low-income fare pilot is getting underway in the District, and at Metro’s recent Board Meeting initial concepts about a regional means-based fare program were presented.

Metro is also exploring other methods that will prevent customers from entering rail stations without paying. This month, Metro is expected to begin testing faregate modifications as a preventative measure. Prototypes will be installed as a pilot at a selected rail station. Some of the modifications being explored include physical deterrents on top of faregates and higher barriers.

Fare evasion was decriminalized in D.C. in 2018, becoming punishable only by a civil fine rather than jail time. Civil rights advocates told WUSA 9 that they’ll be closely watching Metro’s new enforcement effort to make sure it is applied evenly and doesn’t unduly target certain places or groups.

The TV station also counted those skipping the fare at a few Metro stations, including Arlington’s Courthouse station.

“In just 20 minutes, we recorded 26 people hopping the [turnstile] at the West Hyattsville station — an average of 78 people per hour. Based on what we gathered, Courthouse in Arlington sees an average of eight jumpers an hour and three an hour at the Van Ness/University of the District of Columbia stop,” WUSA 9 reported.

Meanwhile, overly restrictive faregates have some critics, who say they constrict passenger flow, cost money to maintain and can make getting around more difficult for those with disabilities.

Given all of that, do you fully support Metro’s new measures? Let me know why or why not in the comments.

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Runners in the 2014 Army Ten-Miler Race in Arlington (Photo via Flickr Pool/Rob Cannon)

The annual Army Ten-Miler race will prompt numerous road closures in Arlington this weekend.

Runners will zip through parts of Rosslyn, D.C. and Pentagon City, starting and finishing the race near the Pentagon.

“The 38th annual Army Ten-Miler race will occur on Sunday, October 9,” Arlington County police noted last week in a press release. “The race begins at 7:50 a.m. on Route 110, crosses the Key Bridge into the District of Columbia, returns to Virginia via the 14th Street Bridge in the northbound I-395 HOV, and ends in the Pentagon reservation.”

“The Arlington County Police Department, Virginia State Police, United States Park Police, Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency will conduct road closures to accommodate the race,” ACPD said.

Planned road closures include parts of Army Navy Drive, S. Eads Street, Route 110, northbound I-395, and N. Lynn Street and Long Bridge Drive.

Metro plans to operate on a normal Sunday schedule while opening the Pentagon station after the start of the race, directing participants to use the Pentagon City station instead.

The planned Arlington road closures, from the ACPD press release, are below.

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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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Yellow Line Metro bridge over the Potomac (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Metro is telling riders to “plan now” for the months-long shutdown of much of the Yellow Line in two weeks.

Starting on Saturday, September 10, the Yellow Line bridge and tunnels will close for up to eight months to undergo much-needed repair work. At the same time, work will also continue on connecting the new Potomac Yard station to the main rail system as that station prepares for a fall opening.

These major construction projects will completely shut down the Yellow Line and bring major service changes to the Blue Line until at least May 2023.

While Metro is offering free shuttles and parking — plus the Virginia Railway Express will be fare-free — the impact on local riders will be significant. Still, while these construction projects are billed as necessary and anticipated, many remain worried about the disruption it could cause to daily life in the region for eight months.

The first phase of the shutdown will last from September 10 until October 22, a period of about six weeks. During this time, all six stations south of Reagan National Airport will be closed. That includes Fairfax County and Alexandria stations: Braddock Road, King Street, Van Dorn Street, Franconia-Springfield, Eisenhower Avenue, and Huntington.

The Blue Line will remain in operation and trains will depart every seven to nine minutes from the National Airport station for most of the day, though it will be every 15 minutes after 9:30 p.m.

Due to crowding and service changes, Metro cautions riders traveling between the Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations to expect about 15 minutes of extra travel time.

Some “limited-stop shuttles” will also be available to take people from Arlington into D.C.

Metro also is warning about possible train troubles.

“If 7000-series trains remain out of service, trains will operate less frequently,” says Metro’s press release.

Also, don’t be alarmed by strange smells, says Metro.

“At times, the welding work and other construction activity in the tunnel may cause a noticeable odor for customers inside the station.”

The second phase of the shutdown will begin on October 23 and last until at least May 2023. While all stations will be reopened, there will still be no Yellow Line service. Blue and Green will service those stations that would normally just be Yellow. All trains coming from Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax County will be routed through Rosslyn.

Metro is promising “additional Blue and Green Line service to keep customers moving,” but it can also be expected that those lines and the Rosslyn station will be much more crowded during the shutdown.

Blue Line trains will operate every 12 minutes and every 15 minutes after 9:30 p.m. Three limited-stop shuttles crossing the Potomac River will still be available after October 22, but only during weekday rush hours only.

More on the free shuttle service that will be provided, via the Metro press release, us below.

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File photo

A man allegedly got mad and drew a gun when an employee at a local car wash asked him to move his vehicle.

The incident happened around 10:15 a.m. Tuesday at the Mr. Wash car wash on the 100 N. Glebe Road, according to scanner traffic. No one was hurt.

Police say they have since identified the suspect.

From today’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:

BRANDISHING, 2022-08160067, 100 block of N. Glebe Road. At approximately 10:16 a.m. on August 16, police were dispatched to the report of a brandishing. Upon arrival, it was determined an employee of the business approached the suspect and requested he move his parked vehicle which was blocking other customers. A verbal dispute ensued, during which the suspect allegedly brandished a firearm before fleeing the scene in his vehicle. No injuries were reported. During the course of the investigation, officers identified the suspect and obtained a warrant for Brandishing a Firearm within 1,000 feet of a School. The investigation is ongoing.

Also Tuesday morning, a man allegedly robbed a 7-Eleven store in Virginia Square, assaulted an employee, and then went back into the store to steal more items.

ROBBERY, 2022-08160042, 3500 block of Fairfax Drive. At approximately 8:42 a.m. on August 16, police were dispatched to the report of a dispute in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined the unknown male suspect entered into the business, took several items off of the shelves and attempted to leave without paying. An employee confronted him, during which a verbal dispute ensued. Another employee attempted to intervene and the suspect struck him before leaving the business. The suspect quickly reentered the business, stole additional merchandise and fled the scene on foot. A lookout for the suspect was broadcast and officers canvassed the area yielding negative results. No injuries were reported.

That afternoon, another retail robbery led police on an ultimately futile search for the suspect, who is believed to have fled via Metro.

The robbery happened at the Costco store in Pentagon City.

“At approximately 12:54 p.m. on August 16, police were dispatched to the report of an armed robbery,” ACPD said. “The investigation determined the unknown male suspect was allegedly attempting to leave a business with unpaid merchandise when he was confronted by loss prevention.”

“A verbal dispute ensued, during which the suspect implied he had a knife before fleeing the scene with the stolen items,” the crime report continues. “The employees followed the suspect out of the business as he continued to verbally threaten them.”

The suspect was seen fleeing into the Pentagon City Metro station, but officers arrived at the platform just as a Blue Line train was departing, according to scanner traffic. That led to unsuccessful efforts to get Metro to stop the train at the Pentagon, at the Arlington Cemetery station, and finally in Rosslyn, per police radio traffic.

“A lookout for the suspect was broadcast and officers canvassed the surrounding area with negative results,” said the crime report.

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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

A rainbow in the sky without the rain (photo courtesy Leslie Koch)

Saturday Afternoon’s Painted Sky — From the Capital Weather Gang: “A couple more nice examples of this circumhorizon arc being see all over the DMV. We wrote about these a few years ago… not uncommon high in the sky around midday during summer.” [Twitter]

Local Woman Harassed in Metro Station — “A 21-year-old woman is sharing the frightening experience she had when a stranger yelled at and harassed her for 10-straight minutes at a Metro station this week in Washington, D.C. Helen Molteni, of Arlington, Virginia, said she was on the platform at the Foggy Bottom station when a man came up to her and started harassing her.” [NBC 4]

Va. Attorney General Visits — “Virginia’s attorney general met with local nonprofit groups in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday for a roundtable listening session about addressing poverty and community needs… Miyares was joined by representatives from the Office of the Attorney General and the Arlington County police in sitting down with members of various faith organizations and nonprofit programs, including Arlington Bridge Builders, a local community coalition with the mission of helping people in need.” [WTOP]

APS Students Top National Competition — “Lina Barclay and Ellie Nix, two Arlington Tech graduates from the Arlington Career Center, won the first-place gold medal in the Television (Video) Production contest at the annual National Leadership and Skills Conference and SkillsUSA Championships in Atlanta. Barclay and Nix represented Virginia in this contest and competed against 37 other teams across the United States.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Are These Pike Apartments Historic? — “Members of the Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) have opted against moving forward, for now, on a proposal to confer historic-district status on a 70-year-old apartment compound in the Arlington Mill neighborhood. But the buildings may end up preserved, nonetheless.” [Sun Gazette]

Rents Keep Rising Rapidly — “The median rental price for an Arlington apartment grew 2.8 percent from June to July, according to new data, ranking the county third nationally among the 100 largest urban areas in terms of price growth. With the increase, Arlington’s median rent now stands at $2,121 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,538 for two bedrooms.” [Sun Gazette]

Crash at Infamous I-395 Exit — From Dave Statter: “Another considerate driver signals before making a left turn across 4 lanes of I-395S. But their #8CDash came to an abrupt halt when the driver in the last lane somehow didn’t see that signal — or just didn’t believe what they were seeing.” [Twitter]

Office to Apartment Conversions Ramp Up — “‘There really hasn’t been a time like right now, where office is on the decline to the point that [an empty building] is basically the same value as just the land,’ says Lindsay Stroud, a structured-finance broker with the commercial real-estate firm Savills. One possible solution: more office-to-residential conversions like Park & Ford.” [Washingtonian]

It’s August 1 — Partly cloudy throughout the day, with spotty rain possible later. High of 86 and low of 72. Sunrise at 6:11 am and sunset at 8:21 pm. [Weather.gov]

Photo courtesy Leslie Koch

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Morning Notes

The sunset reflected in the rain, as seen from Pentagon City (photo courtesy Dave Statter)

Guilty Plea in 1998 Murder — “The case of Andrea Cincotta, a librarian and single mother who was found dead in her Arlington apartment, remained an unsolved mystery for nearly 24 years… On Wednesday, [Bobby Joe Leonard] pleaded guilty to a first-degree murder charge, admitting that he strangled Cincotta to death more than two decades ago. And he claimed he did so hoping to be paid by a man he believed to be Cincotta’s boyfriend.” [Washington Post]

Metro Upping Rail Service on Local Lines — “Welcome news for customers who ride the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. As of Aug 1, trains will arrive every 15 minutes on weekdays, matching service on the Green and Yellow lines. For most customers, the wait for a train will be no longer than 5-8 minutes, as most stations are served by at least two if not all three lines.” [WMATA]

Meteor Over Arlington — “Bright meteor from west Arlington, looking WNW tonight!” [Twitter]

Prohibition Tour of Arlington — “Arlington’s wholesome present hides some scandals of the past. You don’t even want to think of the vice – gambling, prostitution, you name it – that raged unchecked in Rosslyn… Park historian John McNair will lead a short walking tour on the Clarendon area on Aug. 12 at 3 p.m., detailing stories of local bootleggers and the government agents who attempted to stop them.” [Sun Gazette]

Fall Rec Class Catalog Released — “Special Delivery – ENJOY Arlington. We are excited to provide you with recreation, nature and history programs this fall.” [Dept. of Parks and Recreation]

F.C. Is Wealthiest Place in Va. — “According to a study from SmartAsset released this week, Falls Church residents rank the wealthiest in Virginia. The study assessed wealth by comparing counties across three categories: the amount of investment income residents receive, total per capita income and the median home value… After Falls Church, Arlington County and Fairfax County follow in second and third place for the top 10 wealthiest localities in Virginia.” [Falls Church News-Press]

It’s Friday — Rain and storms — some potentially severe — in the afternoon, evening and overnight. High of 85 and low of 73. Sunrise at 6:08 am and sunset at 8:24 pm. [Weather.gov]

Photo courtesy Dave Statter

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Morning Notes

Wilson Blvd in Ballston on a rainy day (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Some 7000 Series Trains Return — “Metro today completed final review of its plan to return eight 7000-series trains to passenger service. Customers can expect service to start [on Thursday]… The popular 7000-series trains will first appear on the Green and Yellow Lines.” [WMATA, DCist]

Shuttle Buses to Run During Major Metro Work — “Starting Saturday, Sept. 10, Metro will begin work to connect the future Potomac Yard Station with the mainline rail system and to rehabilitate the Yellow Line tunnel and bridge between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations. The projects will impact Blue and Yellow line service in two phases over eight months, and free shuttle bus service will be available for customers throughout the duration.” [WMATA]

Groundbreaking for Bus Facility — “Arlington’s ART transit system is now rolling toward a much-anticipated destination: a new centralized Operations and Maintenance Facility for its buses. County officials, joined by regional transportation administrators, advocates and community leaders, broke ground Wednesday, June 15, 2022, on the 3.5-acre site in the Green Valley neighborhood.” [Arlington County]

Shirlington Eatery Makes ‘Top Taco’ List — “Graham Bartlett [of Taco and Pina in Shirlington] calls it a deconstructed chile relleno, but his taco is more an abstract take on the Puebla dish, kind of like the final drawing in Picasso’s bull series, in which the beast has only a passing resemblance to the real thing… It’s a brilliantly conceived taco, which would mean nothing, of course, if it weren’t also delicious.” [Washington Post]

Foundation Awards Scholarships — “Arlington Community Foundation (ACF) awarded new college scholarships totaling nearly $600,000 to 92 students who will attend college next year. An additional 116 scholarships were given to renewal students. More than 60 scholarship funds support these student awards, each with their own eligibility criteria, with many of them designed to support students facing significant financial barriers to higher education.” [Arlington Community Foundation]

Contamination Pushes Up Trail Cost — “Unexpected levels of contaminated soil are pushing the cost of a trail-connection project ever higher. Arlington County Board members on June 18 are expected to approve an increase from $559,000 to $939,000 in the contract for the Potomac Yard-Four Mile Run Trail connection project… The funding was designed to provide a new 10-foot-wide concrete trail connector between the two existing trails.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Thursday — Rain and storms in the morning and also later in the evening. High of 86 and low of 70. Sunrise at 5:44 am and sunset at 8:37 pm. [Weather.gov]

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