Press Club

There is a new sign of progress on the 30-year-old project to build a boathouse in Arlington.

In anticipation of planning and design work kicking off this year, the Arlington Boathouse Foundation — an organization that exists to ensure residents one day can launch non-motorized boats, such as kayaks, into the Potomac from the county’s shoreline — has launched a new website.

It is intended to provide frequent updates on the project’s progress as well as engagement opportunities, says foundation secretary George Kirschbaum. Those who need a refresher on the project, given how many years it has been discussed, will have easier access to important documents and answers to frequently asked questions, he added.

“We needed something new and fresh that’s more about the project,” Kirschbaum said. “Plus, we hope to provide some new interesting features, such as interviews with community members and interested parties to give their ideas and impressions of why this facility is important to the county and the residents.”

The website will also promote foundation-sponsored educational and promotional events, such as a river cleanup this June by the proposed lower portion of the site. Kirschbaum said foundation leaders hope events such as this one demonstrate the sustained community interest in the facility to project leaders.

Momentum has been building over the last year to build a boathouse at 2105 N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn. The project is a joint venture between Arlington County and the National Parks Service, as the county’s Potomac shoreline is NPS property.

Most recently, Kirschbaum said boathouse foundation leaders met with county officials, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and NPS representatives in December to discuss roles and responsibilities and how to keep the project moving forward.

This year, the county will solicit designs for the facility, to be comprised of two buildings: one near the entrance to the Key Bridge with locker rooms, workout areas, offices and meeting spaces, and the other at river level with storage for boat and stand-up paddle equipment, according to the boathouse website.

The county budgeted $4.75 million for planning and initial designs in the 2022-24 Capital Improvements Plan.

The project is popular with Arlington’s crew community, as it would provide them a more convenient boat launch that is away from D.C.’s crowded boathouses. Crew alumni and their friends also comprise many of the members of the Arlington Boathouse Foundation, which has pushed for the facility since 1991.

“It’s been a long process,” says Kirschbaum, who rowed for Washington-Liberty High School (then Washington-Lee) in the 1980s.

It didn’t gain momentum until 2012, when the parks service initiated an environmental impacts study — looking at how construction could affect floodplains and species living in the waterway. The study was held up several times before resuming in 2016 and wrapping up in 2018.

Meanwhile, the county purchased land south of the Key Bridge in 2014 to speed up the process and, despite some opposition, the Arlington County Board authorized an agreement with NPS in 2019.

“I think it’s important to know that the county has a very vested interest in working with the National Parks Service to see this through to fruition,” Kirschbaum said. “There are still high-level discussions about how are we going to work together to move forward, but those talks are happening… We can actually envision a boathouse where before, it was the dream.”

Kirschbaum says he hopes the boathouse will be ready if and when his currently elementary school-aged kid goes out for crew in high school.

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GW Parkway between Spout Run and Chain Bridge (photo via Google Maps)

For the first time since it was built in the early 1960s, the northern section of the GW Parkway will be getting a major overhaul.

The National Park Service announced yesterday that it had awarded a $161 million contract to rehabilitate the Parkway from Spout Run in Arlington to the Capital Beltway in McLean. After a design process in 2022, construction is expected to take place between 2023 and 2025.

Drivers are being cautioned that there will be traffic impacts during construction.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) touted the project in a statement, saying such work is overdue. This stretch of the Parkway has had to close at least three times over the past seven years due to sinkholes.

“The contract to repair G.W. Parkway’s northern section is a huge infrastructure win for our region,” Beyer said. “Northern Virginians have been pleading for major repairs to this section of the G.W. Parkway for years, as potholes and other damage accumulated over the past six decades put the parkway in ever-worsening shape. Thanks to legislation we passed in Congress and the Department of the Interior under Secretary Haaland’s leadership, we are finally going to get that fixed.”

“I also deeply appreciate the ongoing efforts of the National Park Service to improve safety on G.W. Parkway’s southern stretch,”  Beyer added. “Together these projects deliver a top transportation objective for my constituents: making the historic G.W. Parkway as safe as it is scenic. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will lead to so many projects that will benefit Virginia and the rest of the country as we deliver on the promise to rebuild America’s infrastructure.”

The full press release from the National Park Service about the coming rehab project is below.

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A music-producing memorial tied to World War II received some fanfare this morning, as part of a restoration effort that began in 2019.

The towering Netherlands Carillon, located near the Marine Corps War Memorial and a short walk from Rosslyn, had its bells removed and shipped back to the Netherlands for restoration and tuning. The country gifted the memorial to the U.S. for its help during and after the war.

On Thursday morning, a new bell weighing over three tons was raised by a crane, in a ceremony that featured the U.S. and Dutch anthems as well as speakers including André Haspels, ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The hoisted George C. Marshall Bell is named after the former secretary of state who under President Harry Truman helped Western Europe rebuild with the Marshall Plan.

The bell, along with two other new bells, were cast in 2020 in the Netherlands.

The carillon was first installed in D.C. in West Potomac Park before being relocated next to the war memorial in Arlington in 1960.

The three new bells will make it a grand carillon — a term for the musical instruments that have more than 50 bells.

The other two bells will be added later, and the National Park Service expects the restoration to be complete by this fall. Those other bells are being named in honor of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

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(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) After a pandemic winter, the region’s annual rite of spring is finally here: The cherry blossoms have bloomed.

A string of warm weather days got the famed Tidal Basin cherry blossoms to hit peak bloom a few days earlier than initially predicted. While there were fears that peak bloom would result in crowded conditions that would prompt the National Park Service to shut down access, that has yet to materialize.

As of now, the Tidal Basin remains open with peak bloom expected to last about a week.

If blossom peeping is what you’re after, then Arlington National Cemetery is another possible destination, with numerous cherry blossom trees. However, it’s currently only open to the public on a limited basis.

Here in Arlington, our cherry blossoms aren’t as famous as those across the river, but there are still plenty to see elsewhere around the county. Clusters of cherry trees and blossoms can be seen in various Arlington neighborhoods, heralding the arrival of spring without the fanfare of their Tidal Basin brethren.

ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott traveled around Arlington over the past week to capture some of the blooms, as seen in the gallery above.

There are other ways to participate in the cherry blossom festivities that don’t require venturing across the Potomac.

In National Landing, where dozens of cherry trees are being planted, two “Art in Bloom” sculptures are now on display. Relatedly, Amazon is now a top-level sponsor of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Arlington restaurants are included in the annual “Cherry Picks” program, which highlights cherry blossom-inspired dishes.

A new addition to the festival is the “Porch Parade and Pedal Procession,” in which area residents and businesses decorate their porches, yards, and windows with a cherry blossom theme. Arlington is home to numerous such displays, according to a map.

Some Arlington neighborhoods, including the Aurora Highlands community near National Landing, are even organizing their own cherry blossom activities this year.

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(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) After two years of construction, the Arlington Memorial Bridge is completely open for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.

The 90-year-old bridge, which connects Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial, was renovated to save it from potentially closing for good in 2021. The $227 million rehabilitation project, one of the largest infrastructure projects in National Park Service history, will give the bridge another 75 years of service, officials said on Friday.

According to NPS, although the bridge is officially open, workers will continue putting final touches on the bridge and the Memorial Circle, replanting staging areas, completing small projects on the deck and installing bird netting.

In addition to the heavy infrastructure work on the bridge, a key Potomac River crossing, NPS repaved, improved crossings, added new signs and made the area easier and safer for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate, officials said.

The overhaul closed lanes and created traffic headaches for the 68,000 daily commuters that use it — by pre-pandemic counts, at least.

Local members of Congress — including Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Reps. Don Beyer and Gerry Connolly and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton — pushed for funding the project, after the discovery of corrosion led officials to close outer lanes and impose a weight limit.

In a joint statement issued Friday, the lawmakers said they worked to save the bridge because a closure would hurt their constituents.

“Memorial Bridge is now fully operational, and stands not only as a historic and functional monument, but also as a symbol of the kind of progress that is possible on rebuilding key transportation infrastructure through smart government investment,” they said in a statement.

Warner added that the project’s funding only came together as a result of a long-running, concerted effort among lawmakers and local officials.

“In 2015, we were warned that Memorial Bridge — a critical artery between Virginia and the nation’s capital — was literally falling apart,” said Sen. Warner. “Today’s reopening is a testament to years of work by the region’s congressional delegation, our local partners, and the National Park Service. Commuters can now rest easy knowing that this nearly 90-year-old landmark will carry them safely over the Potomac for years to come.”

The completed project preserves a national memorial to the sacrifices of veterans, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt said.

“The completion of this project marks one of the largest infrastructure projects in National Park Service history, which was done on time and on budget,” Bernhardt said. “I hope that all Americans are brought together to remember and honor our veterans every time they cross this bridge into the capital of our nation.”

Flickr pool photo (top) by Kevin Wolf, photo (bottom) courtesy of Office of Sen. Mark Warner

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Morning Notes

Local Dog Adoption Demand is High — “Kim Williams, who volunteers for the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation of Arlington, Virginia, has tapped into a puppy pipeline of sorts to bring some of Georgia’s homeless pet population to the mid-Atlantic region where they are bombarded by requests for dogs to adopt.” [WMAZ]

American Reducing Service at DCA — “American Airlines is discontinuing service to more than 20 destinations from Reagan National Airport in January, according to new data reported by the Official Airline Guide. Cities and/or airports dropped range from major (New York-JFK; Las Vegas; St. Louis; Minneapolis-St. Paul) to smaller (Jackson, Miss.; Manchester, N.H.; Greensboro, N.C.). Many were served just once or twice per day.” [InsideNova]

Land Transfer May Speed Bridge Project — “Interesting: NPS is ‘supportive’ of conveying four acres of parkland to VA and DC to construct the Long Bridge(s), rather than just permitting. That would likely speed design and construction, and could result in a ped/bike span that doesn’t compromise as much on width and lighting in order to conform to NPS interests.” [@CarFreeHQ2/Twitter]

Local Wildlife Caught on Camera — “Arlington resident Levi Novey and his wife Alicia have captured footage documenting quite an array of critters passing through their yard via a fence that Levi has dubbed a ‘wildlife superhighway…’ So far their fence camera has photographed foxes, raccoons, mice, housecats, chipmunks, and lots of birds and possums.” [WJLA]

Redistricting Commission Applications Open — “Beginning Monday, Virginians will have a month to apply for one of eight public seats on the state’s new redistricting commission, which has begun its work with a panel of retired judges setting out plans for the application process.” [Washington Post]

Stormy Day Today — “Get ready for a wild weather finish to November. A strong storm system develops and moves through… bringing a mix of hazards to our area in a short time frame, capped off by the potential for strong to possibly severe storms Monday afternoon. No specific warnings or advisories have been issued, but expect a good soaking of one to two-plus inches of rain (and some wild temperature swings).” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]

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Portions of the Mount Vernon Trail in Arlington should be widened due to heavy use and crash risks, according to a new study.

The National Park Service this month released a report on its Mount Vernon Trail Corridor Study, which examined the condition of the trail, usage patterns and potential improvements.

The trail, which runs along the Potomac from the Rosslyn area to George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate, is used by more than one millions cyclists and pedestrians per year. But its 1970s-era design no longer reflects current engineering standards and the trail’s heavy usage, the report says.

“The trail is relatively narrow by modern standards, and characterized by meandering curves, timber bridges, and in some areas, dense vegetation,” says the report. “The MVT is beginning to show its age, from deteriorating pavement and bridges, to limited accessibility features, and outdated signage and striping. These attributes, combined with increasing usage and user behavior, contribute to risk exposure and considerable crash history.”

There were 225 reported bike and pedestrian crashes on the trail between 2006 and 2010, according to the study. Many of those were at crash hotspots along the trail in Arlington, including near Reagan National Airport, Gravelly Point and the 14th Street Bridge.

“Trail intersections, roadway crossings, surface transitions, and blind curves along the MVT were associated with higher crash and injury rates,” the report says. “On average, the MVT experiences one ambulance call per week related to a bicycle or pedestrian injury.”

“Collisions are more likely to involve male bicyclists (although males are typically overrepresented in the bicycling community),” the study also notes.

Reported crash injuries range include lacerations, bone fractures and head injuries, attributable to both single-person wrecks and collisions between trail users.

Among the near-term (1-4 year) improvements recommended in the report are new way-finding signs, increased trail maintenance, reduced-slip surfaces on bridges, and new “slow zones” at certain points on the trail.

“‘Slow zones,’ including the appropriate signage and pavement markings [could] be used at areas of high conflict among different trail users (e.g., at Arlington Memorial Bridge, Belle Haven Park, Gravelly Point, and other appropriate locations),” the report says.

The recommendations for medium-term changes — potentially 5-7 years away — are more drastic.

The study recommends that portions of the trail in Arlington be reconstructed and widened to at least 11 feet, in accordance with modern multi-use trail standards, compared to the current average 8-9 foot width. Another possibility: separating cyclists and pedestrians in high-traffic areas like Gravelly Point.

That’s in addition to improved trailheads at Crystal City and Gravelly Point, with “more bicycle parking, repair stations, and additional amenities.”

More from the report:

Widening the trail to meet this standard improves trail safety by providing appropriate width to minimize user conflict in high-traffic areas. Focus areas for widening and modernization include:

  • The portion of the trail located between Four Mile Run and the Theodore Roosevelt Island Bridge, pursuant to NEPA analysis. Some segments of trail in this area face widening constraints, but much of this high-use segment could be widened to better align with best practices and serve trail users.
  • Trail intersection enhancements, such as implementing trail roundabouts, at the 14th Street Bridge and Four Mile Run to better manage these conflict areas by slowing bicycle traffic and reducing conflict points.
  • Consider the use of bicycle-pedestrian separation at areas such as Gravelly Point, which have high levels of user conflict and pedestrian use. This could include a designated pedestrian path or increased separation and access control between the trail and adjacent site. A potential trail redesign in this location could also reduce motorist and trail user conflict at the trail intersection with the Gravelly Point parking lot.

A Mount Vernon Trail widening might not sit well with some local activists. A similar proposal, to widen portions of the W&OD Trail in Arlington and provide separate lanes for cyclists and pedestrians is facing opposition from some who have expressed environmental concerns.

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A stone’s throw from Crystal City is Roaches Run, a waterfowl sanctuary on the northern flight path to and from Reagan National Airport.

The body of water, surrounded by woods, is home to birds, ducks and dragonflies. Accessible primarily from a small parking lot off the southbound GW Parkway, most human activity is confined to fishing and birdwatching.

But that may eventually change.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey toured a portion of woods around Roaches Run last week with the chair of Arlington’s Planning Commission and representatives of Crystal City property owner and Amazon landlord JBG Smith.

Though Roaches Run is controlled by the National Park Service and is part of the GW Parkway, JBG owns parcels of land adjacent to the waterfowl sanctuary and could help link it to Crystal City. That would give the rapidly-developing neighborhood newfound accessibility to natural spaces.

“JBG owns a lot of the land over there and is in communication with the Park Service,” Garvey told ARLnow, noting that the developer invited her to last week’s tour. “Can we take this land and turn it into an accessible, usable space for people?”

Garvey said Roaches Run is “a lost area” that’s “not very accessible for anybody” at the moment. Active railroad tracks currently separate it from Crystal City and Long Bridge Park.

JBG declined comment for this story.

Among the ideas for Roaches Run are walking and biking trails, a floating dock for boaters in canoes or kayaks, and bird observation stations. Roaches Run would remain a nature preserve, however, and is not envisioned for other sports or recreation uses.

“It’s going to take some cooperation” to see this idea come to fruition, Garvey said.

The county, the Park Service, JBG and even the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority would likely be involved. That’s not to mention local civic associations, which have floated the idea of establishing connectivity to Roaches Run from Long Bridge Park and the Mt. Vernon Trail as part a series of improvements to the Crystal City and Pentagon City are dubbed Livability 22202.

“I think it’s an advantage for everybody…. making that whole area spectacular for people,” Garvey said. “You could get on an airplane and go hiking and boating within a mile radius.”

While discussions about Roaches Run have been informal in nature so far, with Amazon moving in nearby and demand for recreational opportunities growing it’s likely to advance to a more formal planning process at some point in the near future.

“It’s all very tentative but this is how ideas start, you have to start somewhere,” Garvey said. “Nothing is happening tomorrow or even next year… it’s probably 5-10 years out.”

Map via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

NPS Seeking Funds for GW Parkway Upgrades — “[National Park Service] officials are pursuing funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant program to support the [GW Parkway’s] North Section Rehabilitation Program. That program will rebuild a 7.6-mile section of the parkway from Spout Run Parkway to Interstate 495, address serious deterioration of the roadway and implement significant safety improvements.” [InsideNova]

Update on Cupid the Cat — “‪We want to send a HUGE thank you to everyone who has donated so far to Cupid’s recovery! We have been overwhelmed by all of your support, and are so grateful for your kindness and generosity. We’re happy to report that today Cupid is doing really well after his surgery yesterday! He has a good appetite, is getting lots of rest and just wants to spend as much time as possible snuggling with our staff.” [Facebook]

Shirlington Employment Center to Relocate — “Arlington County Board members later this month are slated to approve the move of the Shirlington Employment & Education Center (SEEC) into space at the Arlington Mill Community Center. The non-profit organization will occupy 845 square feet of space on the fourth floor at the center, located at the intersection of Columbia Pike and South Dinwiddie Street. It currently occupies space in the Four Mile Run corridor.” [InsideNova]

Mother Climbs Mountain After Son’s Death — “After losing a teenage son, Henry, to leukemia, Arlington resident Heather Burneson had to take life one step at a time. She took that attitude to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa on ‘a healing trip,’ for her and several family members.” [Connection Newspapers]

Armed Man Protests at Del. Levine’s House — “A Republican official from Hopewell, Virginia drove to Alexandria this weekend for a small, armed protest outside Delegate Mark Levine’s home in Old Town.” The state lawmaker, who represents parts of Alexandria Arlington and Fairfax County, “said when he found out about the protest, he called the police.” [ALXnow]

Nearby: Local Sears Store Closing — “The Seven Corners Sears is closing April 12. There are deep discounts throughout the store. Signs in the store say all sales are final, no returns are allowed, and points may be redeemed on purchases.” [Annandale Blog]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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N. Glebe Road reopened to drivers within days of the major Nov. 8 water main break near Chain Bridge, but those looking to hike the rugged Potomac Heritage Trail are not as lucky.

Erosion from the torrent of water unleashed by the break in the 36-inch distribution line washed away a portion of the trail that connects the southern section that’s accessible from the Roosevelt Island parking lot with the section north of Chain Bridge.

“The Potomac Heritage Trail is currently closed south of the Arlington County parking lot at the intersection of Glebe Road and Chain Bridge Road,” says an alert the National Park Service’s GW Parkway website. “The NPS is working with Arlington County and the PATC to identify a temporary re-route and a plan to reopen.”

NPS spokesman Aaron LaRocca confirmed to ARLnow that the closure was “due to trail damage as a result of the water main break on Glebe Road.”

So far there’s no word about when the trail might reopen.

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The Memorial Bridge rehabilitation project is halfway complete.

The bridge is back open today after a total closure over the weekend (delayed from earlier this month) that allowed crews to replace concrete support structures and panels, along with other work, on the southern side of the span.

The National Park Service released a new video (above) highlighting work so far on the $227 million project, which kicked off last fall. The video notes that the bridge is “a symbolic link between north and south” and “a symbolic entrance to our nation’s capital.”

It took years to secure federal funding for the project, as warnings of the bridge crumbling and becoming unusable grew more dire.

More on the construction progress so far, from NPS:

Over the weekend, workers finished preparing the southside of the bridge for users and made changes to transition to the next phase of the rehabilitation project. The work included:

  • Moving the bridge’s center barrier.
  • Striping the southside of the bridge for drivers.
  • Moving the poles that support overhead lights guiding drivers in three reversible lanes.
  • Installing or uncovering new detour signs for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The total rehabilitation of Arlington Memorial Bridge began in fall 2018 and is on schedule.  So far, workers have:

  • Replaced the concrete structures that support the southside of the bridge.
  • Installed new pre-cast concrete panels to replace half of the bridge deck.
  • Placed new steel beams on the southside of the bridge.
  • Cleaned, repaired and reinstalled the bridge’s historic granite balustrade.

“Since its dedication in 1932, Arlington Memorial Bridge has served as a monument to national sacrifice and valor — a symbol of reunification, spanning the historic divisions of the North and South,” NPS said of the bridge, which connects Arlington and D.C. across the Potomac River. “As one of the largest transportation infrastructure projects in National Park Service history, the rehabilitation of Arlington Memorial Bridge will give new life to our Capital’s ceremonial entrance while respecting its character, history and national significance.”

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