With Metro expenses climbing and tax revenue growth slowing, the county’s top executive is calling for a rollback in new construction on some transportation improvements and other neighborhood infrastructure projects.
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz unveiled his proposed Capital Improvement Plan in a presentation to the County Board Tuesday (May 22), detailing the $2.7 billion in construction projects he wants to see Arlington take on over the next 10 years, and he did not have much in the way of good news for county officials.
Schwartz’s proposal does not call for the county to stop work on any existing construction efforts, or cancel some of Arlington’s major new facilities projects. For instance, Schwartz noted that his CIP still has full funding for things like the Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center, the new Lubber Run Community Center and a replacement for Fire Station 8 on Lee Highway.
However, he believes the roughly $90 million in additional bond funding the county will need to put towards Metro, under the terms of the dedicated funding deal hammered out by state lawmakers earlier this year, will seriously squeeze Arlington’s ability to take on major new projects over the next 10 years. When combined with rising school costs, and the Metro funding deal’s cuts to regional transportation funding available through the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, Schwartz feels there’s every reason to believe Arlington will be under some serious budget pressure for the next few years.
“This is not one of the better CIPs I’ve ever worked on,” Schwartz told reporters Tuesday. “You’re not going to find anything new in here… but I’ve proposed a CIP that sticks to what we’re committed to doing. Even still, I think there are things we should be doing that will have to be postponed.”
One of the largest changes Schwartz is proposing is to the county’s Neighborhood Conservation program, which funds modest community improvements like sidewalks, signs and landscaping. The county originally planned to spend $60 million on the program over the next 10 years; the new CIP would slash that to $36 million.
“We’ll be able to catch up on our backlog of projects already in the pipeline, and do some planning for future programs, but not much else,” said Michelle Cowan, the deputy county manager.
Schwartz’s plan also does not include any money for buying land for new parks; the county’s last CIP two years ago included $15 million for that purpose. However, his proposal does include $18 million for the first phase of redevelopment at Jennie Dean Park in Nauck, after the County Board just approved a new policy framework for the Four Mile Run valley.
Transportation projects on “arterial roads,” such as S. Walter Reed Drive or S. George Mason Drive, could also get pushed back under Schwartz’s proposal. He noted that the county still will devote $91 million over 10 years to improvements along Columbia Pike, largely aimed at beefing up bus service in the corridor to help compensate for the death of the controversial streetcar, but he also emphasized that Arlington’s “number one priority” with its transportation money is meeting its Metro obligation.
Arlington County could soon embark on a $1.8 million effort to replace four elevators around Courthouse.
The County Board will vote at its meeting this weekend on a plan to fully overhaul two elevators in Arlington’s Court Square West building (1400 N. Uhle Street) and two more that connect to the Courthouse Metro station underground.
All four elevators have “reached the end of their useful lives,” according to a report prepared by county staff.
The elevators in Court Square West, a building that holds some county offices, travel seven stories each. The Metro station elevators travel just two stories, and are located at each end of an underground access tunnel linking to the station — one is at 2200 Clarendon Boulevard, the other at 2111 Wilson Boulevard.
The County Board is set to vote to award a contract for the work on Saturday (May 19), as part of its “consent agenda,” which is generally reserved for noncontroversial items that are approved all at once.
Funding to help WMATA keep running and catch up on maintenance may end up jeopardizing major projects slated for two busy Arlington Metro stations.
A new deal brokered by state lawmakers will send about $154 million to Metro each year, providing funding for badly needed improvements to the system — but Arlington officials fear the structure of the agreement could imperil planned Metro entrance projects.
For years, the county has been hoping to add second entrances to the Ballston and Crystal City stations to make it easier for people in those neighborhoods to access the Metro. But Arlington planned to pay for those projects with the help of a regional group that doles out money for transportation improvements: the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, commonly known as the NVTA.
Yet the NVTA can only afford to fund that kind of construction effort with the tax revenue it brings in, and the dedicated funding deal hashed out in Richmond will divert a substantial chunk of that money to Metro for ongoing operations and maintenance.
Gov. Ralph Northam and his fellow Democrats had hoped to avoid that outcome by bumping up a few Northern Virginia tax rates instead, but the slim Republican majority in the House of Delegates scuttled that plan in favor of sending the NVTA money to Metro.
NVTA leaders aren’t yet sure just how much money the group will lose — they’re currently projecting a roughly $80 million drop in annual revenue for the next six years — but they are reluctantly admitting that the group will have to trim the list of projects it can fund in the coming years.
Arlington County Board Chair and NVTA board member Katie Cristol expects that will prompt indefinite delays of the projects at Ballston and Crystal City, or it could force the county to find new funding streams for them entirely, an unwelcome prospect given Arlington’s increasingly stretched finances.
“When there’s less money to go around, it forces a re-racking of priorities,” Cristol told ARLnow. “These would be transformational projects for us, but the need is different elsewhere.”
NVTA chairman Marty Nohe, a Republican who also serves as vice chair of Prince William’s Board of County Supervisors, says his group largely focuses on funding projects that relieve traffic congestion around the area. While he fully expects that adding second entrances at those Arlington stations would pull some cars off the road, he also notes that they likely won’t have the same impact as other road improvements elsewhere in Northern Virginia.
“That’s the nature of these multimodal projects,” Nohe said. “It doesn’t put more trains on the track, it makes it easier for people to get there and opens the station up to a larger segment of the Arlington population… so it’s a good example of the type of project that will absolutely be affected by a loss of NVTA funds due to the Metro bill.”
Transportation planners are inviting Arlingtonians to look three decades into the region’s future at a meeting tomorrow night.
The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board is hosting a public forum focusing on its “Visualize 2045” initiative at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (May 2) at the Arlington Central Library.
The organization — which includes representatives of 22 local governments around the D.C. region and a variety of other federal, state and local transportation officials — is convening a series of town halls on its long-range plans for the area over the coming weeks.
The group wants feedback on seven broad goals for the region:
- Bring jobs and housing closing together
- Expand bus rapid transit regionwide
- Move more people on Metrorail
- Provide more telecommuting and other options for commuting
- Expand express highway network
- Improve walk and bike access to transit
- Complete the “National Capital Trail“
While officials are already working on some of these goals, others are deemed more aspirational and need funding to become a reality. But Transportation Planning Board officials hope to get public feedback on all of them to shape the development of policies to support these benchmarks.
Anyone who can’t make it to the meeting but still wants to submit comments on the plan can do so on the group’s website through May 31.
Photo via National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
Metro is planning plenty of maintenance and construction this weekend, April 28-29, with work set to cause delays on all six lines.
Trains will run only once every 24 minutes on the Silver, Orange and Blue Lines, with single tracking in store for riders as well, Metro says.
Silver Line trains will only run between the Wiehle-Reston East and Ballston stations throughout the weekend, and Orange and Blue Line trains will be sharing a track between Eastern Market and Stadium-Armory to allow for rail maintenance work.
Metro is also warning riders to prepare for significant delays on the Red Line, with trains expected every 28 minutes. That’s in part due to single tracking between Farragut North and Union Station, as workers install equipment to support cell service in Metro tunnels.
On the Yellow and Green Lines, trains are expected to run every 15 minutes.
Yellow Line trains will only run between the Huntington and Mt. Vernon Square stations. Metro is also expecting Green Line trains to share a track between the Southern Avenue and Naylor Road stations.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Service was restored between East Falls Church and Clarendon Metro stations after grinding to a halt Thursday morning (April 5) for several hours.
Service was restored at about 8 a.m., but delays are expected to last at least throughout the morning. Metro referred to the incident as both a track problem and fire department activity at the Virginia Square Metro station.
The Arlington Fire Department tweeted that the Virginia Square Metro station was evacuated at about 6:20 a.m. due to smoke in the tunnel.
At about 6:58 a.m., the department tweeted that fire department units were going back in service, that much of the smoke was clear, and that commuters should expect “residual delays.”
The suspended service affects the Orange and Silver lines directly, though Metro tweeted that blue line delays were possible considering the congestion built up from the other lines.
On the highways, drivers reported heavier than usual traffic.
“We all suffer when the Metro fudges up,” one driver told ARLnow, who was stuck on I-66 in what she said was unusually heavy traffic for that part of her commute.
Several would-be riders took to Twitter to report long lines for WMATA buses and shuttles, as well as a general sense of “chaos” and “meltdown” at certain stations.
— Sally Harris (@sdadjou) April 5, 2018
It is 6:20 AM & my Orange Line train is holding due to smoke in the tunnel near Virginia Square. It’s been running for less than 2 hours – how is this happening?! @unsuckdcmetro @wmata #OrangeLine #fail
— Ashley Hollingsworth (@AshHollings) April 5, 2018
— Jim Mathews (@mathewsjh) April 5, 2018
Orange/Silver Line: Train service suspended btwn Ballston & Clarendon due to fire department activity at Virginia Sq. Bus service requested
— Metrorail Info (@Metrorailinfo) April 5, 2018
— Metro Reasons (@MetroReasons) April 5, 2018
— Maxine V Chikumbo (@mchikumbo) April 5, 2018
Wakefield Advances to Championship — The Wakefield High School boys basketball team has advanced to the Virginia Class 5 championship after defeating Edison last night 82-66. The team will face Varina tomorrow at VCU. Meanwhile, Wakefield senior forward A’Mari Cooper has been named Northern Region Class 5 Player of the Year. [Washington Post, InsideNova]
Metro Starts Selling Merch — Despite its reliability issues and subsequent image problem, Metro has launched a new line of clothing and gifts, sold online and at a new gift store at Metro Center. The reaction to the merchandise has been mixed. [WMATA, NBC Washington]
General Assembly Passes Car Seat Bill — “Today, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Bill 708… which would change the commonwealth’s law to require that child safety seats remain rear facing until the age of two, or the child reaches the minimum weight limit for a forward-facing child restraint device as prescribed by the manufacturer of the device. The bill is now on its way to Governor Northam’s office for his signature. If signed, the new law would become effective July 1, 2019.” [AAA Mid-Atlantic]
More Restaurants Considering Ballston Quarter — Fresh off the announcement that Ted’s Bulletin was coming to Ballston Quarter, the owners of trendy D.C. spots Himitsu and Gravitas are said to be considering opening up eateries at the mall. Also in the works: a donut shop, an arepas stand, an oyster bar, and a barbecue joint. [Washington Business Journal]
Nicecream Expanding to D.C. — Liquid nitrogen-powered ice cream shop Nicecream Factory, which first opened in Clarendon, has since expanded to Alexandria and is now planning to open two D.C. locations, in Adams Morgan and Shaw. [Washington Business Journal]
Nearby: Gun Reform Discussion — Fred Guttenberg, father of one of the Parkland, Florida high school shooting victims, will speak at an event called “A Conversation About Gun Safety And The Safety Of American Schools” at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria tonight. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is hosting the event, which will discuss “actions we can take to ensure no other parent has to experience this kind of trauma.” [Eventbrite]
The emergency lights are on at the Pentagon City Metro station’s underground pedestrian tunnel, but nobody’s there.
The third entrance to the Metro station is still closed despite an Arlington County staff report scheduling a March 2017 opening. The tunnel is now supposed to open sometime this spring, wrote Catherine Matthews, communications specialist for the county’s Dept. of Environmental Services, to ARLnow.com via email.
The pedestrian tunnel connected to the Metro is located at the northeast corner of the intersection of S. Hayes Street and 12th Street S. The tunnel opening was initially scheduled for 2015.
The county made an agreement last year with WMATA to claim responsibility for maintaining and operating the $1.3 million tunnel.
“Over the past year the connection, operations and maintenance agreement with WMATA has been amended and a separate letter agreement with Brookfield Office Properties has been executed; specifically to confirm and finalize procedures for the opening and closing of the tunnel each day,” Matthews said.
WMATA and Brookfield Office Properties are responsible for finalizing the procedures for opening and closing the tunnel, according to Matthews, and once that has been done the tunnel will open, she added.
When it does open, the tunnel will be available to pedestrians weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Rosslyn Vying for Amazon HQ2 — Rosslyn is being pitched as a possible destination for Amazon’s second headquarters, alongside Crystal City and other Northern Virginia locales. Rosslyn’s main downside is a lack of space for Amazon’s growth ambitions, but the neighborhood does have a sizable office development pipeline, close proximity to Georgetown and D.C., monumental views and numerous transit options. [Washington Business Journal]
Metro Approves Service Guarantee — “Metro’s Board of Directors today approved the Rush Hour Promise program, a first-of-its-kind service guarantee for Metro customers. Beginning with tomorrow morning’s rush hour commute, on Friday, January 26, if a Metrorail or Metrobus customer using a registered SmarTrip card is delayed by 15 minutes or more, Metro will credit the customer’s SmarTrip card for future travel.” [WMATA]
Fire in Cherrydale — Arlington County firefighters extinguished a chimney fire in the Cherrydale neighborhood last night. The fire did not spread and no one was hurt. [Twitter]
Nominations for Park Volunteer Award — Nominations are being accepted through Friday, Feb. 2 for Arlington’s Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Award. The award “was established to pay tribute to lifelong parks volunteer Bill Thomas and to honor and encourage those residents who also demonstrate a passionate dedication and support for [Arlington parks] programs, natural resources and public open spaces.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
The man suspected of robbing the TD Bank in Clarendon last week is now in police custody.
Police say 33-year-old Jason Walker was arrested by Metro Transit Police at the Columbia Heights station in D.C. He’s accused of robbing the bank last Friday while unarmed and, reportedly, without implying that he was armed.
More from an Arlington County Police Department press release:
A bank robbery suspect wanted in Arlington County has been taken into custody by the Metro Transit Police Department. Jason Walker, 33, of no fixed address, was arrested during the evening of January 10, 2018, at the Columbia Heights Metro Station. Walker has been charged with strong-arm robbery of a business and is currently being held pending extradition to the Commonwealth.
On Friday, January 5, 2018, at approximately 10:55 a.m., a male suspect entered the TD Bank located at 3101 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia and passed the teller a note, demanding money. After obtaining an undisclosed amount of money, the suspect exited the bank and fled the area on foot.
“Our detectives were able to identify this suspect in a timely manner as a direct result of our outstanding relationship and the ability to share resources with our partners at Metro Transit Police Department,” comments Daniel J. Murray, Deputy Chief of Criminal Investigations Division for Arlington County Police Department.
Arlington Chamber Seeking State Help — Possibly in response to the push for housing conservation districts, “the Arlington Chamber of Commerce is asking the General Assembly to ‘serve as a backstop and a safeguard’ against overreach by localities on planning and zoning matters.” [InsideNova]
Reminder: SmarTrip Change Next Week — As of Monday, Metro riders will no longer be able to run a negative balance on their SmarTrip cards. [WMATA]
‘Meet the Chair’ Scheduled — Arlington residents will be able to meet newly-minted Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol on the evening of Jan. 18, when the Leadership Center for Excellence holds its annual Meet the Chair event. [Leadership Center for Excellence]
SoberRide New Year’s Record — A record 1,225 people used the free safe ride service SoberRide on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Thanks to its new partnership with Lyft, SoberRide’s organizer says it “has removed well more than two times as many would-be drunk drivers from Greater Washington’s roadways as compared with the previous year.” [PDF]
District Taco Continues to Expand — Five Guys may be given a run for its money as the most successful Arlington-born restaurant chain. District Taco is now opening a location in the Center City section of Philadelphia. [Eater]
Snow Shovel Contest Winner — “This is Susan. She won our snow shovel, writing that her favorite phase of snow treatment/removal is Phase 1. Brine makes her giddy. Susan’s old shovel is from Nebraska and cracking. Way to go, Susan.” [Twitter]
Photo courtesy @BoccatoGelatos
County Aims to Fix Boring Columbia Pike Architecture — “Arlington County Board members on Dec. 16 approved amendments to the county’s zoning ordinance that revamps existing regulations for Pike properties that are built under the Form-Based Code, a 15-year-old process that aims to speed the development timeline but has had the unintended consequence of rendering architectural creativity persona-non-grata on the Pike.” [InsideNova]
McAuliffe Proposes Metro Funding Plan — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is proposing a $150-million-per-year state funding plan for Metro. The plan includes using a portion of Northern Virginia’s regional transportation sales tax and increasing three other regional taxes. [WTOP]
Gutshall to Be Sworn In Today — Erik Gutshall, the newest Arlington County Board member, will be sworn in today at 5 p.m. at county headquarters in Courthouse. [InsideNova]
Pentagon Had UFO Office — The truth is out there, in Arlington — at the Pentagon, specifically. It was revealed this past weekend that the Pentagon had a secretive program that investigated reports of Unidentified Flying Objects. The “Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program” officially ended in the 2012. [Politico, Washington Post]
Phoenix House Renovation and Expansion — “On time and on budget – and without a dollar of government funding – Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic on Dec. 12 unveiled new and updated facilities in Arlington aimed at giving an extra boost to patients moving through the addiction-recovery process.” [InsideNova]
As part of an expansion to 24 more stations, users at Rosslyn, Clarendon, Courthouse, Crystal City will now be able to access the free wireless internet. Free Wi-Fi is now offered at 30 underground Metro stations throughout the system.
Metro said it expects that all other underground Metro stations — which includes the likes of Ballston, Virginia Square and Pentagon City — to have free Wi-Fi by mid-2018.
And for those riding Metrorail on New Year’s Eve, special late-night service will run until 2 a.m. for those returning from festivities. And in addition, track work will be suspended from 6 p.m. on New Year’s Eve through closing New Year’s Day.
“We are pleased to offer extended hours on Metrorail during New Year’s Eve as a service to our customers who will be ringing in the New Year,” Metro general manager/CEO Paul Wiedefeld said in a statement. “I also want to thank our employees who will be working to provide the public with a safe and responsible option to get around.”
The department is partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to share the reminder: “Buckle Up — Every Trip. Every Time.”
More from ACPD:
Every day, unbuckled motorists are losing their lives in motor vehicle crashes. As we approach the winter holiday season, we want to make sure people are doing the one thing that can save them in a crash, buckling up. As part of the national seat belt enforcement campaign, law enforcement agencies around the country will be stepping up enforcement from November 20 to December 1, 2017.
According to NHTSA, during the 2015 Thanksgiving weekend, 301 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes nationwide, and 53 percent were not their wearing seat belts at the time of the fatal crash. Nighttime proved even more deadly, with 57 percent of Thanksgiving weekend crashes occurring at night. That’s why one focus of the campaign is nighttime enforcement. Participating law enforcement agencies will be taking a no-excuses approach to seat belt law enforcement, writing citations day and night.
To learn more about the campaign, visit the NHTSA website.
In a similar effort, Virginia State Police will be be participating in Operation C.A.R.E., the Combined Accident Reduction Effort. Operation C.A.R.E. is a state-sponsored, national program designed to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries caused by speeding, impaired driving and not wearing seatbelts.
State police will have increased enforcement from tomorrow (Wednesday) through Sunday.
“Tragically, traffic fatalities are on the rise in Virginia,” Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent, said in a statement. “We’ve seen an 11 percent increase over this time last year. With so many people estimated to travel over the Thanksgiving weekend, we need everyone to help prevent crashes by driving smart, buckling up and never driving drunk or drugged. We want everyone to arrive alive and enjoy the holiday.”
And while traffic may be busy along the I-95 corridor, as it has been historically at this time of year, the Virginia Department of Transportation is trying to make life a little easier.
During the Thanksgiving travel period, VDOT will suspend most major highway work zones and lift lane closures on Virginia interstates and major streets from Wednesday through noon on Monday, November 27.
VDOT’s Thanksgiving traffic trends map shows that Tuesday evening and midday Wednesday are among the busiest times on Virginia highways for heading out of the D.C. area.
— Adam Tuss (@AdamTuss) November 15, 2017
Similarly, Metro has no scheduled track work on Thanksgiving Day, with trains and buses operating on a Sunday schedule. The system opens at 8 a.m., and will close at 11 p.m. On Friday, November 24, the system will be open on a normal weekday schedule.
The Arlington County Board unanimously approved a plan to allow new apartment and condo buildings near Metro stations to potentially provide less off-street parking.
Developers can now substitute car parking spaces at certain new apartment and condo buildings built in the Rosslyn-Ballston and Crystal City-Pentagon City Metro corridors for bike and car-sharing. Any tweaks will still be subject to Board approval on a case-by-case basis, and do not affect parking at existing buildings.
It also standardizes a practice that county staff said has evolved in recent years, of approving projects with less parking. Any reduction will only be supported if staff believe local transportation infrastructure can handle the extra demand on transit and parking, or if a project invests in new transportation options.
“These guidelines reflect the fact that the increase in transportation options in our Metro corridors means that some new developments will require less parking,” Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “The guidelines will only apply in the Metro corridors, and only to new projects approved by special exception. They will have no impact at all on existing buildings. And it remains up to the Board, to approve the final parking ratio for each proposed project, based on the site-specific circumstances and the project’s characteristics.”
The new policy includes the following, per a county press release:
- Minimum parking requirements for market-rate units ranging from 0.2 to 0.6 spaces per unit depending on distance from the nearest Metro station entrance (ranging from 1/8 to 3/4 of a mile).
- Minimum parking requirements for 60-percent-of-Area-Median-Income and 50-percent-of-AMI committed affordable units, and no minimum parking requirements for 40-percent-of-AMI units.
- Reductions of up to 50 percent of the minimum parking requirements in exchange for providing bike parking, bike share, or car-share amenities on site, in addition to those already required by the county.
- A separate visitor parking requirement of 0.05 spaces per unit for the first 200 units.
- Allowances for shared parking between different land uses in mixed-use projects, like offices, retail and residential.
- Allowances for meeting parking requirements through the dedication of spaces at existing garages located within 800 feet of the new building and in the Metro corridors.
- Mitigation requirements for parking in excess of 1.65 spaces per unit.
- Relief from minimum parking requirements for sites with physical constraints like size, historic structures that must be retained and more.