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An ART bus (via Arlington Transit Facebook)

(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Arlington Transit buses will return to full service after Labor Day weekend, the county-run transit agency says.

Rush-hour-only ART buses 53, 61, 62 and 74 will run again starting Tuesday, Sept. 7, after being out of service since March 2020 due to the pandemic. Once these buses resume operation, Arlington Transit will largely be back at full service. ART 72 will continue on a modified weekday schedule, however.

With construction ongoing around the Ballston Metro station, ART 53 and 62 bus stops will be relocated near the Metro elevator on Fairfax Drive.

While seating restrictions were lifted on Aug. 1, riders will still be required to wear masks as per a federal mask mandate for passengers on planes, trains and buses from the Transportation Security Administration, effective until January 2022.

Meanwhile, Metrobus is set to implement some changes after Sunday, Sept. 5, adding more buses and trains and extending Metrorail’s weekend hours.

Notably, bus 16Y from Columbia Pike to Farragut Square will resume operation, going both directions during weekday rush hours. The limited-stop service route, which once connected Columbia Pike stops to McPherson Square in D.C., was halted during the pandemic and was absent from when a number of routes were restored earlier this summer.

Buses 16A, 16C and 16E in Columbia Pike and 16G and 16H between Columbia Pike and Pentagon City will get service upgrades as well.

“Service will operate every 12 minutes or better from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily between Columbia Pike & South Joyce Street and Columbia Pike & South Dinwiddie Street at stops served by all routes,” WMATA said.

Bus 25B from the old Landmark Mall in Alexandria to Ballston will see some changes, with Alexandria working to overhaul its own DASH bus network. 25B will travel between Ballston, Southern Towers and Mark Center every day except Sunday, and between Ballston and Southern Towers on Sundays.

Metrorail trains will be available until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, an hour later than was previously offered. Trains will also start running earlier on Sundays, with riders able to board at 7 a.m. rather than 8 a.m.

More on the planned Metro changes from a press release, below.

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Commuters in Ballston now have access to new bus bays on Fairfax Drive, outside the entrance to the Ballston Metro station.

The refreshed bus bays feature “new bus shelters, sidewalks, and planters,” said Eric Balliet, a spokesman for Dept. of Environmental Services. He added that work along Fairfax Drive should be “substantially complete in August.”

These upgrades are part of a four-phase project to update the transit facilities and public areas surrounding the Metro station. Improvements to multimodal facilities along Fairfax Drive comprise the project’s first phase.

The county expects the project will be 100% complete next summer, he said. The goal of the project is to increase transit usage and safety, improve the facilities as well as access to them and circulation around them, and enhance their design and provide sustainable infrastructure.

With phase one nearing substantial completion, the county is embarking on the second phase. Access to bus bays and pedestrian paths along the east side of N. Stuart Street will be impacted during this phase, which is expected to last until spring 2022, the project webpage said.

“Access to businesses along east side of N. Stuart Street will be maintained throughout this phase,” the webpage noted.

Since Sunday, some ART and Metrobus service along N. Stuart Street and N. Stafford Street has been relocated to the new bus stops on Fairfax Drive and temporary ones on the west side of N. Stuart Street. On Monday, attendants could be seen helping commuters get to the right bus stop.

WMATA say it is still working to provide printed schedules for riders.

Phases three and four will focus on upgrades to two plazas, one on N. Stuart Street and one on Fairfax Drive, and each phase is expected to last three months. Once all four phases are complete, commuters will see a number of additional upgrades, such as additional bike parking, expanded public space along Fairfax Drive, a dedicated “kiss-and-ride” curb space and a dedicated shuttle bus curb space and bus shelter.

In addition, “landscaping and benches for the planter areas, bus stop flag poles and real-time bus information displays will be added toward the end of the project,” Balliet said.

The County Board approved the project in December 2019, and construction — expected to last 18 months — was slated to begin in the summer of 2020.

“The project experienced delays due to the need to relocate telecom and electric utilities lines,” Balliet said. “We now expect the entire project to be completed in summer 2022.”

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Morning Notes

Health Directors Urge Mask Wearing —  “Today, all five Northern Virginia Health Directors issued a joint letter of interim recommendations for mask wearing in Northern Virginia. The letter was issued by Health Directors from the City of Alexandria, as well as Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties to Northern Virginia Mayors, Chairs and Chief Administrative Officers with the recommendation that individuals wear masks while indoors in government and other public settings, regardless of vaccination status.” [City of Alexandria, PDF]

Flags at Half-Staff to Honor Fallen Officer — From NBC 4’s Jackie Bensen: “Secretary of Defense orders Pentagon flags flown at half-mast to honor Pentagon Force Protection Agency officer killed in the line of duty this morning.” [Twitter]

Metro Changes for Pentagon Investigation — From WMATA: “Pentagon update for tomorrow (Aug 4): Pentagon Station expected to remain closed all day. Yellow & Blue line trains will bypass the station. All Metrobus service to/from Pentagon Transit Center will operate from Pentagon City (S Hayes near 12th St).” [Twitter, Twitter]

Delayed Request for Assistance at Pentagon — From local public safety watchdog Dave Statter: “Heard shots at approx 10:37 am. This video was at 10:38 am. I’d love to know why Pentagon Protection Force Agency waited until 10:50 to request @ArlingtonVaPD & @ArlingtonVaFD for an active shooter?” [Twitter, Twitter]

Training Exercise Today at Fort Myer — “Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall will hold a routine training event for its first responders Wednesday, Aug. 4, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Myer side of the base. Wright Gate, located at N. Meade Street and Marshall Drive in Arlington, will be closed from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m… Arlington County first responders will also participate in the training, so expect to see an increase in emergency response vehicles near the base.  Neighboring communities may hear the base’s external ‘giant voice’ loudspeaker during the training.” [Press Release]

Former Red Top Cab Exec Dies — From the Washington Regional Alcohol Program: “Today, WRAP mourns the passing of former, longtime WRAP Director George Pakidis. The former VP of Red Top Cab in Arlington, George was a beloved member of WRAP’s Board for 14 years 12 of which he ably served as the nonprofit’s #SoberRide Committee Chair.” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Langston Blvd, formerly Lee Highway, at N. Veitch Street (via Google Maps)

The Arlington County Board took a step toward converting one lane of the newly renamed Langston Blvd into a bus- and HOV-only lane.

On Saturday, the Board accepted and appropriated a $710,000 grant from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to pay for the transit project, which will run through parts of Rosslyn. Last year, Arlington County applied for funding from the Commuter Choice program, which helps pay for transit upgrades using toll revenue from I-66 inside the Beltway.

“This is an area where we are continuing to work toward multi-modal,” said Board Chair Matt de Ferranti during the regular County Board meeting on Saturday. “On Lee Highway, soon to be Langston Blvd, we will have a bus-only lane so that more residents can move more quickly to work, through our community, and home as well.”

This grant will cover pavement treatment, restriping, and signage for the new bus lane. The lane will run eastbound from N. Veitch Street, near Courthouse, to N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn during peak morning hours.It will run westbound from N. Oak Street to N. Veitch Street during the evening peak period.

At other times, the lane will continue as a general-purpose travel lane.

This segment of Route 29 in Rosslyn “is very heavily congested and sharply degrades bus performance and reliability, which will be improved by the lane conversion,” a staff report said.

Pre-pandemic, that section of Lee Highway carried around 25 loaded buses per hour, according to the report.

The project could take two years to complete, according to Eric Balliet, a spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.

“The County Board’s acceptance and appropriation of the funds signals the start of the project,” he tells ARLnow. “The schedule included with the NVTC funding application was 26 months from project start to end of construction.”

The funding is less than the full $1 million that the county applied for, but staff are not earmarking more for it.

“We will work to deliver the project within this funding amount,” Balliet said.

The county mulled this project over before, even seeking funding — unsuccessfully — in 2019.

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Morning Notes

Crash Prompts Hazmat Cleanup — From the Arlington County Fire Department last night: “N Glebe Rd closed in both directions between Arlington Bl and N Pershing due to a fuel leak following a motor vehicle crash. #Avoid the area.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Metrobus Crash in Ballston — From our Twitter account yesterday afternoon: “Southbound N. Glebe Road is blocked at Washington Blvd by a crash involving a car and a Metrobus. Police and medics on scene.” [Twitter]

Police Oversight Vote to Be Held Wednesday — The County Board vote on creating a Law Enforcement Civilian Review Board will be taken during a special carryover meeting on Wednesday. [Arlington County]

Activists Decry Possible Route 29 Development — “An activist group raised the alarm about what it suggests could be a major upzoning along the Route 29 corridor. Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future… said efforts to impose ‘major increases in density’ along the 5-mile Lee Highway corridor were resulting in ‘stiff opposition’ from residents. The group encouraged those with concerns about the proposals for more intense zoning to get in touch with County Board members sooner rather than later.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Firefighter Honored — “2021 Northern VA EMS Council Regional Award winner for Outstanding Prehospital Educator is EMS Education Specialist, FF Clare Sabio, Arlington Co Fire Dept.” [Twitter]

Local Private School Gets Accredited —  “The Sycamore School in Arlington has earned accreditation by Cognia, a nonprofit organization that provides quality assurance for schools, school districts and education-service providers.” [Sun Gazette, Press Release]

Western Wildfires Make for Hazy Sunset — “The haze that hung high above us on Monday has been identified as smoke from Western wildfires, in what seemed a vivid visual reminder that faraway hardship may not leave us unaffected. ‘A thick layer of smoke’ at upper atmospheric levels ‘can be seen in the sky at this time,’ meteorologists in the local office of the National Weather Service said Monday night.” [Washington Post]

Photo courtesy Tom Mockler/Twitter

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Morning Notes

Arlington is ‘Best City for Road Trips’ in Va. —  “In each state, there are some cities with particularly novel and exciting opportunities to soak up some of the local history and culture without breaking the bank. From underrated smaller communities to large metropolises, these are the cities you want to hit on your road trip this summer in 2021.” [Insurify]

Attempted Art Theft from Garage — “4700 block of 36th Street N. At approximately 10:32 p.m. on June 23, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary in progress. Upon arrival, officers located the suspect on scene and detained him without incident. The investigation revealed the male suspect gained entry into the victim’s garage and attempted to remove paintings.” [ACPD]

W-L Softball Wins Regional Title — “It’s hard to lose if the opponents don’t score much, and that was the successful formula for the Washington-Liberty Generals en route to winning the 6D North Region Tournament championship. The girls high-school softball team (13-5) won the crown with a 4-0 record, defeating the host Langley Saxons, 4-1, in the title game. The region championship was W-L’s first in program history.” [Sun Gazette]

Pike Library Renovation Celebration — “The public is invited to attend the grand opening and community celebration of the newly renovated Columbia Pike Library on Thursday, July 8, 4-6 p.m. Join members of the County Board and Library Director Diane Kresh in the ribbon cutting ceremony, followed by family-friendly events, music and ice cream, and a tour of the transformed Library Branch.” [Arlington Public Library]

F.C. Cemetery Full of Arlington History — “An array of Arlington’s historic notables are buried across our southern border in Falls Church City. I received a tour of the open-to-the-public Oakwood Cemetery just off Roosevelt Blvd. behind Eden Center… Don’t miss the marker for Amanda Febrey, who died in 1913 of tuberculosis at age 14, and whose ghost is said to have haunted the clubhouse at Overlee swim club.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Metro Is Electrifying Its Bus Fleet — “Today, Metro’s Board of Directors.. took a major step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving local air quality with the approval of a new Metrobus fleet strategy that would create a 100% zero-emission bus fleet by 2045, with a full transition to electric or other zero-emission bus purchases by 2030.” [WMATA]

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Morning Notes

Redevelopment Proposal Near Rosslyn — “The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) is moving forward with a proposal it previewed to redevelop part of the Marbella Apartments. APAH has filed a zoning application to replace 72 units across a pair of low-rise apartment buildings at 1300 and 1305 N. Pierce Street (map) with two 12-story buildings, delivering a total of 561 affordable units.” [UrbanTurf]

Vision Zero Plan Approved — “Arlington County Board approved a five-year Vision Zero action plan over the weekend, joining other jurisdictions throughout the region that are trying to curb traffic fatalities. The county’s goal is to reach zero traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2030. Currently, Arlington has about four traffic fatalities per year and about 55 severe crashes.” [GGWash, Sun Gazette]

Trump Aides Are Still Working in Arlington — “Taxpayers are still footing the bill for Donald Trump to pay aides, Business Insider reported Monday… For Trump, accepting public money has meant employing 10 transition aides in Palm Beach, Florida — where Trump has been living since he left the White House — and another seven aides in an office building in Arlington, Virginia.” [Raw Story]

Metrobus Service Changes Planned — Adjustments are coming to numerous Metrobus routes starting Sunday, June 6. Service is being restored to a number of routes, but one notable pandemic-era service reduction will stay in place: the 16Y, a limited-stop service route which once connected Columbia Pike stops to McPherson Square in D.C., will remain out of service. [WMATA]

Longtime Arlington Judge Honored — “Its presentation was due to the pandemic, but Arlington Circuit Court Chief Judge William Newman Jr. on May 11 was honored with the 2019 Harry L. Carrico Outstanding Career Service Award by the Judicial Council of Virginia. The award is presented annually to a Virginia jurist who has demonstrated exceptional leadership in court administration while exhibiting the traits of integrity, honest, courtesy, impartiality and wisdom.” [Sun Gazette]

YHS Dominating in Boys Lacrosse — “Pick one: Stingy defense; a potent, high-scoring offense; scads of talent, especially at midfield; depth and experience with 17 seniors; versatility; and a willingness to work hard, achieve and improve. That describes this season’s undefeated Yorktown Patriots high-schoolboys lacrosse team, which began the week with a dominating 6-0 record. The Patriots’ accomplishments include a shutout and outscoring opponents 96-18.” [Sun Gazette]

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If you see some fresh red paint on the pavement in Arlington, that’s a lane that has been designated for use by buses only.

County crews could be seen painting the new lane markers in Courthouse last week.

The new “bus only priority lanes and stops” are intended “to help improve transit safety, service and reliability,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Kathryn O’Brien tells ARLnow.

Seven red-painted portions of roadway are planned throughout the county, O’Brien said, including:

  • 27th Street S. and Potomac Avenue in Crystal City
  • 33rd Street S. and Crystal Drive in Crystal City
    S. Hayes Street and 12th Street S. in Pentagon City
  • Crystal Drive and 26th Street S. in Crystal City
  • 15th Street N. and N. Uhle Street in Courthouse
  • Clarendon Blvd and N. Uhle Street in Courthouse
  • Wilson Blvd and N. Uhle Street in Courthouse

“They should all be completed within the next week,” O’Brien said of the painting effort.

Photo courtesy Lisa C.

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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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Arlington County has received a $710,000 grant to convert an outside lane of Lee Highway to bus- and HOV-only.

The lane will run eastbound from N. Veitch Street to N. Lynn Street during peak morning hours and westbound from N. Oak Street to N. Veitch Street during the evening peak period. During these times, roughly 25 loaded buses travel that stretch per hour, staff said in a report this January.

At other times, it will continue as a general-purpose travel lane.

The project is one of six “low-cost, low-risk” projects to receive a grant through the Commuter Choice program, which funds transit projects with toll revenue from I-66 inside the Beltway. On Wednesday, the Commonwealth Transportation Board authorized the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to award $3.5 million in grants, NVTC announced.

“We’re expanding the transportation network now using a conservative strategy focused on low-cost projects and longstanding assets to ensure access to convenient, safe and reliable choices whenever people are ready to commute,” NVTC Executive Director Kate Mattice said in a statement.

The scope and timeline of the program are limited this year after revenue plummeted due to COVID-19. Pre-pandemic, Commuter Choice on the I-66 corridor anticipated $25 million in grant funding for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Instead, tolled trips dropped by nearly 50%, the 2020 Commuter Choice report found.

“Given the lower revenues and increased competition for this round of I-66 Commuter Choice, we’re pleased that NVTC and the CTB selected this project for funding,” said Eric Balliet, a spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.

The funding, less than the full $1 million the County applied for, will be used to cover pavement treatment, restriping, and signage for the new bus lane.

“We anticipate fully implementing the project but have not yet had discussions about adjustments to the project scope based on the lower funding amount,” Balliet said.

The County Board will be need to accept and appropriate the funds and execute an agreement with NVTC, he said. Staff have up to two years to dedicate the money to the project, and up to five years to spend it.

The county mulled this project over before, even seeking funding — unsuccessfully — in 2019.

The county was also denied a request $10 million to help add a second entrance to the Ballston Metro station at N. Fairfax Drive and N. Vermont Street.

Other funded projects include three “existing, high-performing express bus services” and $1 million towards a second entrance to the McLean Metro station, the announcement said.

These projects minimize “the risk around the uncertainty of a return to pre-pandemic traffic volumes and (make) the best use of the minimal available toll revenues,” the announcement said.

Since the Commonwealth of Virginia and NVTC established the program in 2017, it has provided more than $60 million grant funding to 36 projects in Northern Virginia.

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated at noon) Metro’s “barebones” Fiscal Year 2022 budget proposal threatens to eliminate service on a number of bus lines running through Arlington.

Among the proposed cuts is the Metroway route between Pentagon City and the Braddock Road Metro stations.

Arlington and Alexandria have spent millions building the Crystal City/Potomac Yard Transitway that the Metroway line serves, with more than a dozen stops, primarily in the Crystal City and Potomac Yard area. An $27.7 million expansion of the Transitway to Pentagon City is in the works and set for construction.

The revenue-starved Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority shut Metroway down at the beginning of the pandemic in March, and has since experienced a system-wide 90% decline in ridership. The budget, as proposed, would extend the closure at least to mid-2022.

With Amazon’s choice of National Landing for its HQ2 headquarters in Pentagon City and Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus to be situated next door in Alexandria, the budget moves have caused concern for many, including Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, president and executive director of the National Landing Business Improvement District.

“Transit access is at the center of National Landing’s vibrant future and is a critical component of keeping our community competitive, equitable and sustainable,” Gabriel told ARLnow. “Public transit is more essential today than ever before as it enables our region’s frontline workers to access their jobs and continue serving the community during the pandemic. As the backbone of our transportation network and the most efficient means of reaching our commercial centers, our economic recovery will similarly depend on the continued funding, reliability and effectiveness of WMATA.”

Metro, which has sought a second injection of federal relief funding since May, is also proposing to shutter 19 Metrorail stations — including Arlington Cemetery, Clarendon, East Falls Church and Virginia Square — as well as eliminate weekend rail service and reduce weekday hours to 5 a.m.-9 p.m.

Metro is proposing the elimination of the following bus lines in Arlington and Alexandria:

  • 4A and 4B from Pershing Avenue to the Pentagon
  • 7F and 7Y from Lincolnia to North Fairlington
  • 10A from Alexandria to the Pentagon
  • 16A, 16E, 16G and 16H on Columbia Pike
  • 22A, 22F from Barcroft to South Fairlington
  • 25B from Landmark to Ballston
  • 38B from Ballston to Farragut Square
  • 7M from Mark Center to the Pentagon

Other lines are set for reductions or modifications in service.

In neighboring Alexandria, Mayor Justin Wilson said the changes would harm those who most rely on Metro service.

“My hope is that the federal government enacts new COVID-relief legislation that provides support to transit agencies and local and state governments so that we do not need to inflict these cuts on transit and city services,” Wilson said. “If that doesn’t happen, this will very detrimental to our community. Many of our residents rely on these transit services to get to places of work, healthcare services and essential trips. It has taken generations to develop our transit system and dismantling it will be tragic.”

On Tuesday night, members of Metro’s Rider Advisory Council (RAC) said that the bus cuts were “dramatic” and “draconian.”

“I’m just really sad and scared about this,” RAC Member Rebekah Mason said. “It just seems really highly prejudicial and really not a way to treat riders who have jobs, other than white collar jobs.”

Doris Ray, a member of the WMATA Accessibility Advisory Committee, wants the agency to instead enhance bus service in light of potential rail cuts.

“I am concerned as many in the community about the ability of people who do not drive, particularly essential workers, but for everyone who doesn’t drive and rely on transit to be able to get around,” Ray said.

Photo via Donna Gouse

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