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Planners Plot Out Changes Aimed at Reducing Crashes at Memorial Circle

Transportation officials are proposing a host of safety improvements for Memorial Circle, a confusing confluence of roads connecting Arlington National Cemetery to the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

The circle has long been the site of all manner of dangerous crashes, particularly those involving cyclists and pedestrians looking to access the nearby Mt. Vernon Trail or cross into D.C. But the National Park Service has drawn up a series of changes for the roads in the area designed to address the issue, including traffic pattern changes to transform the circle into something more like a traditional roundabout.

“The project area is at a major convergence of regional roadways and modes that interact through a complex series of roadway merges (on-ramps), weaves, diverges (off-ramps), and intersections, resulting in traffic congestion and crashes,” NPS planners wrote in a November environmental assessment. “The proposed action would change the way area users access and circulate through the area by car, bicycle, or foot.”

Officials estimate that the area saw approximately 600 crashes between 2006 and 2012. Lawmakers previously secured some safety improvements for the G.W. Parkway and the circle to try to address the issue. The new NPS proposal would address not only the circle itself, but also the roads approaching the area from both the north and south: S. Arlington Blvd and Washington Blvd.

Perhaps the most substantial change park officials are proposing would be cutting back on one lane of traffic in the circle, in order to “allow the circle to function more like a modern roundabout,” the NPS wrote. That means that drivers in the circle would have the right of way, and anyone entering the circle would need to yield to them.

The NPS also plans to split up an island on the east side of the circle, near where it meets the Memorial Bridge, allowing two westbound lanes coming from the bridge to “bypass the circle and head north onto S. Arlington Boulevard” and one lane of traffic to proceed and enter the circle.

For roads north of the circle, officials are proposing some improved signage at the various intersections, including “fluorescent yellow advance pedestrian crossing warning signs” at some and “rapid flashing beacon” signs at others.

But they’re also envisioning more dramatic improvements, like reducing Washington Blvd down to one lane, and removing both the “existing southern exit ramp connecting S. Arlington Blvd and S. Washington Blvd” and “the existing far left exit lane of S. Arlington Blvd.”

As S. Arlington Blvd exits the circle, the NPS also envisions reducing the road from three lanes down to two leading up to the crosswalk. The existing far left lane leading onto a ramp to S. Washington Blvd is slated to be removed, as is the exit ramp itself.

The NPS is planning similar pedestrian sign improvements for intersections south of the circle, as well as other lane reductions.

One major change would be the construction of a new concrete island where Washington Blvd enters the circle to its south, allowing two lanes of the road to bypass the circle and reach the Memorial Bridge, and one lane to enter the circle. That would require a slightly widening of the road in the area, the NPS wrote.

The plans also call for Washington Blvd to be reduced from four lanes to three south of the circle “in order to simplify merging patterns,” while the G.W. Parkway would be widened “to add an acceleration lane allowing traffic from Arlington Blvd to enter the parkway in its own dedicated lane before merging onto the two-lane parkway.”

Additionally, the NPS envisions relocating two bike and pedestrians crossings south of the circle. One, located as a trail crossing Washington Blvd, “would be relocated closer to the Circle, to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to cross where vehicle speeds are slower and where drivers are anticipating conflicts.” The other, designed to help people cross the parkway to the southeast of the circle, would be moved slightly further north of the parkway.

The NPS traffic analysis of these proposed changes suggest they’d generate “an overall improvement” in congestion on the roads, in addition to substantial safety upgrades.

People in the bicycling community are pretty skeptical of the latter assertion, however.

The NPS is accepting comments on the plans through Dec. 29.

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Memorial Bridge Construction Creates Big Headaches for Monday Morning Commuters

Major construction work on the Arlington Memorial Bridge kicked off late last night (Sunday), snarling traffic for thousands of commuters headed into D.C. this morning.

Traffic cameras and maps showed heavy backups along both I-395 and Washington Blvd approaching the bridge for the morning rush hour. Other nearby roads, like the G.W. Parkway and Arlington Blvd, also saw heavy delays, no doubt worsened by the morning’s dreary conditions.

The National Park Service has closed three of the bridge’s six lanes to allow for the $227 million rehab project, which planners say is needed to avoid a full shutdown of the bridge in the coming years.

The NPS plans to keep one eastbound lane and one westbound lane open at all times, then reverse one lane to match the direction of traffic in the morning and afternoon rush hours. One of the bridge’s sidewalks will also be closed at all times as the work continues.

AAA is warning commuters to avoid the bridge if at all possible between now and the expected end of construction in 2021, reasoning that the delays for the 24.8 million vehicles to cross the bridge each year are too substantial to be ignored.

“If possible, avoid the Arlington Memorial Bridge altogether. Seek alternate routes and try other modes of transportation, if you can, while construction is underway,” John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, wrote in a statement. “Plan your trips across and around the Memorial Bridge. If you must use the bridge, do the right thing, drive carefully and slowly through the construction site, watch for construction workers, expect changing travel patterns and possible delays, exercise extreme caution, and minimize distractions.”

The NPS has details about the bridge’s new traffic pattern, and suggestions for commuters looking to avoid the bridge, available on its website.

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Mt. Vernon Trail Blocked After Construction Equipment Damages Bridge

The Mt. Vernon Trail is currently blocked near Roosevelt Island after someone tried to drive a piece of large construction equipment over a rickety wooden bridge.

The wooden plank bridge carries trail traffic in the area of Roosevelt Island and the Roosevelt Bridge, near Rosslyn. It is noted for being slippery when wet and generally uneven at all times, causing bikes to shake as cyclists ride over it.

Earlier today, a large piece of construction equipment was driven over the bridge and, predictably, broke a number of boards before getting stuck. The National Park Service is currently working to assess and repair the structure so that the trail can be reopened.

“NPS and Federal Highway Administration engineers are assessing the bridge,” said NPS spokesman Jonathan Shafer. “We hope to reopen the bridge and this section of the Mt. Vernon Trail soon, but we don’t have a time set yet.”

Via Twitter, an NPS spokeswoman said they were “hoping to reopen by evening commute but not sure yet,” adding that cyclists can detour past the closure by crossing bridges into D.C. and back.

Shafer says the circumstances around how the equipment was driven onto the boardwalk are being investigated. He said the equipment does not belong to the park service.

“It was not NPS equipment,” he said. “U.S. Park Police are investigating this.”

Update at 5 p.m. — The trail has reopened, according to NPS.

Photos (1 & 4) via NPS/Twitter (2 & 3) via BikeArlington Forum

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More Severe Flooding on the GW Parkway Near DCA Unlikely, Park Service Says

There may be yet more rain in the forecast, fresh on the heels of last month’s persistent storms, but don’t expect to see the sort of flooding that trapped dozens of people in their cars on the GW Parkway two weeks back.

That’s the word from National Park Service officials, who believe the waves of water covering the parkway back on July 17 were more a fluke than anything else.

The flooding, which impacted a stretch of the road as it winds past Reagan National Airport, was severe enough to strand about 25 cars on the parkway until firefighters could get them to safety. But the NPS doesn’t see much it can do to prevent that sort of flooding from happening again, simply because parkway officials believe it was largely a result of the extraordinarily rapid rate of rainfall.

Jonathan Shafer, a NPS spokesman, noted that meteorologists recorded more than 2.6 inches of rain per hour falling at the airport that day.

“Maintenance staff from [the parkway] think the drainage system there was overwhelmed by the large amount of runoff,” Shafer told ARLnow via email.

Shafer added that parkway “[does not] believe this area has flooded due to rain in recent memory,” though water main breaks have occasionally caused some problems north of the airport.

Warren Stewart, a 22-year resident of Northern Virginia, agrees that he’s never seen the parkway look as it did two weeks ago. He was driving toward D.C. to pick his son up from school on July 17 when he saw what looked like “a creek coming down the road.”

“From my truck back, it was not flooded and the cars in front of me were,” Stewart said. “They were bailing water out of their cars with buckets… Water rose up as high as their tail lights, for some of them.”

The parkway hasn’t experienced anything like the mid-July flooding since then, even as rain has continued to pound the region. That’s why Shafer thinks the best solution to avoiding any similar scary situations on the parkway is for drivers to “exercise caution” getting on the road when storms pick up.

“Conditions can change fast, and it’s hard to predict when and how the weather might affect them,” he wrote.

Shafer says the park service is hard at work studying drainage and stormwater management improvements on other sections of the parkway, though construction is likely years away.

Photo via @ArlingtonVaFD

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JUST IN: Park Service Selects Location Near Rosslyn as Preferred Site for Boathouse

A decades-long effort to build a boathouse along the banks of the Potomac River is lurching forward once more.

Officials with the National Park Service have wrapped up an environmental analysis of the project and settled on a preferred alternative near Rosslyn for its construction, in the latest bit of forward momentum for an initiative that has long bedeviled county leaders.

Local high schoolers have been particularly keen on seeing a new boathouse come to the fruition, as the closest access points for rowing teams have long been in Georgetown or Alexandria, but the project’s complexity has repeatedly stalled it.

NPS took control of Arlington’s portion of the Potomac shoreline after the construction of the GW Parkway, and the federal agency has spent years working off-and-on with the county to find a way to give local rowers easier access to the river. Arlington officials helped jump-start the process in 2014 by buying a parcel of land along Lee Highway just south of the Key Bridge, giving the NPS some added flexibility as it evaluated several options where the boathouse could be built.

Now, the agency is recommending a design that would involve building a 300-foot-long floating dock and 14,000 square feet of boat storage along the Potomac’s shoreline near Rosslyn, just across from Theodore Roosevelt Island. The plan also calls for building a support facility on the county-owned Lee Highway site with office space, locker rooms and handicapped parking.

NPS also evaluated plans to build the boathouse on the same site near the island without the support building, as well as an option that would involve building the boathouse on Gravelly Point near Reagan National Airport instead.

Yet the agency settled on its preferred alternative because the additional space off Lee Highway “allows for development of a smaller boat storage structure while providing additional support facilities outside the floodplain, off NPS property, and close to transit,” officials wrote in the environmental analysis.

They also noted that the Potomac is a bit calmer near the Rosslyn location, earning it higher marks than Gravelly Point. The close proximity of the Rosslyn Metro station and several local bus stops, in addition to the Custis bike trail, also won the option some praise.

While the agency found that any construction would have some limited impacts on the area’s wetlands and soil, it broadly didn’t foresee many stumbling blocks for the project to move forward. Nevertheless, any construction will require both federal and state permits to advance, and the county will need to work with federal officials to find funding for the effort.

In the meantime, however, NPS is accepting comments on the environmental analysis through July 30 on its website. The agency also plans to hold a July 12 open house at Washington-Lee High School on the project, starting at 6 p.m.

Hat tip to Chris Slatt

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Capital Bikeshare May Come To Roosevelt Island, Gravelly Point

Arlington may get two new Capital Bikeshare stations, at Roosevelt Island and Gravelly Point.

The County Board is set to approve a “memorandum of understanding” with the National Park Service, which has to approve the bikeshare stations since they would be located on NPS land.

The approval would further the goal of an expansion of the bikeshare network along the Mt. Vernon Trail.

Responsibility for the installation and maintenance of the bikeshare facilities on NPS land would fall on the county, according to the memorandum. It also restricts any advertisements on the stations, and sets requirements for site preservation and, should the stations be removed in the future, restoration.

The office of the County Manager has recommended that the memorandum be approved at Saturday’s County Board meeting (April 21).

Currently there are about 440 stations and 3,700 Capital Bikeshare bikes in the region. As of 2017, 85 Bikeshare stations were in Arlington.

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Beyer Blasts Bill Renaming Gravelly Point Park for Nancy Reagan

Rep. Don Beyer (D) criticized a bill that would rename Gravelly Point Park for former First Lady Nancy Reagan as it passed a U.S. House of Representatives committee earlier today.

The bill failed once in the House Natural Resources Committee, but then was brought up again and passed 18-16 on a party-line vote.

It now heads to the House floor for debate and a final vote, with similar actions required by the U.S. Senate before it can be signed into law by President Donald Trump.

But Beyer, a committee member whose district includes Arlington County, took exception to the efforts to rename the park near Reagan National Airport’s main runway as Nancy Reagan Memorial Park. The bill, H.R. 553, is sponsored by Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) and has 51 Republican co-sponsors.

In remarks to the committee today (Wednesday), Beyer criticized the bill for not taking sufficient public input from residents of Arlington and Alexandria, the communities closest to Gravelly Point.

“[This] bill is the equivalent of someone coming in and changing the furniture in your house without asking you,” he said. “First, you would have liked them to ask you, and even if you do like the furniture, you probably would have wanted input since it’s your house…Gravelly Point is not a national tourist attraction, it’s where local families go to have a picnic, throw a ball around, put a blanket down and watch the planes coming in and out, and it’s also where almost every Northern Virginia Uber driver sits to wait for a pickup.”

Beyer also called the bill a “pet project” by conservative advocacy group Americans For Tax Reform, which looks to minimize “the government’s power to control one’s life.”

“This is what some call Washington at its worst — when we ignore the will of the local community to appease the desire of a moneyed, special interest,” Beyer said.

In response, Hice said there was “no better way” to honor Reagan by naming the park after her.

Beyer’s full remarks on the bill, including a video clip, are after the jump.

“Mr. Chairman, with true regret I rise to speak in opposition to this bill.

I have great respect for Nancy Reagan, and my opposition to this bill must not be interpreted as my having any personal animus towards our former First Lady.

But this bill is the equivalent of someone coming in and changing the furniture in your house without asking you. First, you would have liked them to ask you, and even if you do like the furniture, you probably would have wanted input since it’s your house.

First and foremost, this bill does not have local support and did not have any local input.

Gravelly Point is not a national tourist attraction, it’s where local families go to have a picnic, throw a ball around, put a blanket down and watch the planes coming in and out, and it’s also where almost every Northern Virginia Uber driver sits to wait for a pickup.

In this committee I constantly hear from my Republican friends that local communities know how to manage their land better, and that the feds should stay out of local decisions. I hope that this doesn’t only apply to Republican districts. This bill is Congress unilaterally forcing a decision on a local community — Arlington and Alexandria — without any local say or input.

And why? Because this bill is the pet project of Americans for Tax Reform, a special interest group. This is what some call Washington at its worst — when we ignore the will of the local community to appease the desire of a moneyed, special interest.

While I understand the desire to honor political figures, something like this should not be done without involving the local community. This would be the equivalent of my offering a bill in Mr. Hice’s district to rename the Oconee National Forest’s campground the Hillary Clinton campground or the Michelle Obama campground. I’m sure Mr. Hice would like his constituents to be able to weigh in on a decision like that.

The other reason this is concerning is the process with which it was handled. My understanding typically is that when offering legislation that impacts another Member’s district you either work with them or at least notify them. That respect was not extended to my office.

When we discovered it was Americans for Tax Reform and not our constituents that wanted the bill, we asked the sponsor’s office to not move forward, and my requests via staff were ignored. I was deeply surprised to find this bill before us here in markup. I asked the committee if they would remove it from markup, but that request was also denied.

This also [gets to] the process of how we consider bills. This bill had no legislative hearing. This is the first time that I have an opportunity to formally speak expressing my concerns.

And the other reason we needed a legislative hearing is because there is a potential technical impediment to the bill that needs airing.

Memorials, monuments and other commemorative works in Washington DC and its environs are governed by the Commemorative Works Act, which lays out a series of guidelines for the establishment of memorials and requires consultation with the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission. The Commission reviewed H.R. 5457 – the identical bill [introduced] in the 114th Congress – and determined that the proposal to establish Nancy Reagan Memorial Park potentially violates several guidelines established by the CWA.

First, Congressional authorization for memorials to individuals is not supposed to occur until the 25th anniversary of the death of the individual. Since space is limited and memorials should not be established without careful consideration, this provides time for reflection on the individual’s contributions. Since Mrs. Reagan passed away less than three years ago, the designation of a memorial park in her name violates the CWA.

Second, the CWA requires a comprehensive evaluation of site locations to determine suitability. The commission noted that this hasn’t happened for this proposal and that the designation of this site after the Former First Lady could prevent the establishment of other memorials in the area, since CWA states that no new memorial shall encroach upon an existing memorial.

So as one of my constituents wrote on ARLNow.com, I ask my colleagues to “just say no.” We cannot allow a pet project of a special interest group to override local consideration or input. Just as I respect my colleagues to know what’s best in their districts, I’d ask the same curtesy be extended. Let’s allow for public comment and local input and follow the Congressionally mandated process.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back.”

[After further debate]

“I would humbly suggest that if we want to rename the park from Gravelly Point, that we engage the Arlington County Board, the Alexandria City Council, the jurisdictions that are there with all the constituents that are using this on a regular basis, and rename it after a vigorous public discussion about which of our many former First Ladies or just American leaders who should be honored in that way, rather than just unilaterally deciding that former First Lady Reagan – whom I admire very much – that this park should be named after her.”

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Visitor Center Approved for Iwo Jima Memorial

(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) The Iwo Jima memorial is set to get a new visitor center as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that was just signed by President Trump.

The act of Congress, which sets military spending levels for FY 2018, includes language introduced by Rep. Don Beyer (D) to authorize building a new center.

It instructs the Secretary of the Interior to build a “structure for visitor services to include a public restroom facility.” It does not specify where the center will be built, but the text says it will be “in the area” of the memorial, the formal name of which is the Marine Corps War Memorial. A Beyer spokesman said this was the “final hurdle” to getting the visitor center built.

Beyer, whose district includes Arlington County, introduced a bill authorizing construction of the restrooms last year, funded by a gift from local philanthropist David Rubenstein.

Work began earlier this year to revamp the memorial, including washing and waxing the memorial and re-gilding its lettering; repairing any parts of the granite plaza that have become damaged; improving lighting; repaving roads and footpaths; and installing new signs, shrubs and trees.

Rubenstein pledged more than $5 million for the entire project and new visitor center.

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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National Park Service Approves More than $200 Million for Memorial Bridge Repairs

(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) The National Park Service has approved more than $200 million in funding to repair and rehabilitate Arlington Memorial Bridge.

NPS announced today (Friday) it will spend $227 million on the repair contract. U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) helped secure the funding, alongside U.S. Reps. Don Beyer (D-8) and Gerry Connolly (D-11) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

Construction will begin next fall on the 85-year-old bridge, with the project set for completion in 2021. At least three lanes of traffic will remain open at all times during construction, which — thanks to the project now being fully funded — NPS will finish in one phase rather than two, to save $35 million.

Officials estimate the repairs will increase the bridge’s lifespan by 85 to 100 years. Last year, the bridge won a $90 million federal transportation grant to help with repairs, matched by $60 million from NPS, after years of deterioration and neglect led to worries it could close by 2021.

Beyer, who represents Arlington in the House of Representatives, said earlier this year he would push hard for federal money to fund repairs on a bridge that carries 68,000 vehicles each day from the county into D.C.

“After years of work to secure funding to fix Arlington Memorial Bridge, today’s announcement gives us hope that the bridge will remain safe and serviceable into the 22nd century,” Beyer said in a statement. “Our tour of the bridge and press conference in 2015 crystalized the dire need for this funding. Since then I have worked together with my colleagues in Congress, leaders from Virginia and the District, and two Administrations to secure the money for these structural repairs. This truly is great news, and I thank everyone whose efforts brought us here.”

Federal officials are scheduled to discuss the project during a press conference in the District at 3 p.m. this afternoon.

The full press release is after the jump:

Virginia’s two Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, along with U.S. Reps. Don Beyer and Gerry Connolly (both D-VA) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) , today announced that after years of effort by the Senators and House members, the National Park Service (NPS) has approved $227 million to initiate a long-awaited contract to fully repair and rehabilitate Arlington Memorial Bridge. The 85-year-old bridge, owned and maintained by NPS, is a vital daily route connecting Arlington, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The Virginia and D.C. delegations, with support of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, played a decisive role in successfully advocating for a federal FASTLANE project grant, as well as secured additional appropriations to launch the Memorial Bridge rehabilitation project in January. Construction will begin in the fall of 2018, with the project being completed in 2021, giving the bridge a lifespan of an additional 85 to 100 years. During construction, at least three lanes of traffic will remain open at all times to allow for continued use of the span. Identifying the remaining required funds allows the NPS to save $35 million in costs by completing the project in one phase rather than two, and will allow the project to be finished 18 months sooner than previously estimated.

“It is hard to overstate the importance of this progress on a key transportation project for this region,” Sen. Warner said. “It required the combined efforts of all of us from the national capital region – those of us serving in both houses of Congress, as well as the District government, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Transportation Department. These partnerships allowed the Park Service to design an innovative project that will save money and time for  the region’s commuters and visitors.”

“Arlington Memorial Bridge is among the nation’s most deteriorated bridges, and I’m extremely proud that after years of hard work, the National Park Service has committed full funding for rehabilitation of the bridge. This is a huge win for Northern Virginia commuters, as well as visitors to the nation’s capital,” Sen. Kaine said.”As we celebrate this good news, we should also redouble our efforts to pass a major infrastructure bill so other aging bridges don’t degrade to such a terrible condition in the first place.”

“After years of work to secure funding to fix Arlington Memorial Bridge, today’s announcement gives us hope that the bridge will remain safe and serviceable into the 22nd century,” Rep. Beyer said. “Our tour of the bridge and press conference in 2015 crystalized the dire need for this funding. Since then I have worked together with my colleagues in Congress, leaders from Virginia and the District, and two Administrations to secure the money for these structural repairs. This truly is great news, and I thank everyone whose efforts brought us here.”

“This is a victory for Northern Virginia commuters and the effort to improve our nation’s ailing infrastructure,” Rep. Connolly said. “I am pleased the National Park Service stepped up to the plate to address this uniquely federal transportation challenge. Communities across the country deserve this kind of good news about their old and failing infrastructure.”

“As Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, I could not be more delighted that the National Park Service has secured full funding to repair a critical priority, the iconic Memorial Bridge, with significant cost and time savings,” Rep. Norton said.  “When I visited the bridge before construction, I saw firsthand how it was barely standing, and why traffic has to be rerouted, bringing even more traffic congestion on both sides of the river.  With full funding rather than the phased dollars we already secured, we can finally break ground.”

The Memorial Bridge, which carries 68,000 vehicles daily between Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Va., was originally opened in 1932 with a 75-year design life. It is now structurally deficient, having never undergone a major rehabilitation. As a result a 10-ton load limit remains in effect, and large vehicles, including trucks and buses, are prohibited from crossing. Without a major overhaul, it has been expected that the Bridge would have to be closed to vehicular traffic beginning in 2021. However, NPS has an annual budget of just $20 million for transportation projects across all its assets in the National Capital Region.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has previously estimated that closing the Memorial Bridge could cost local governments $75 million per year in transportation outlays alone. Moreover, transit studies suggest that traffic from the bridge would spill over onto other area bridges, particularly the 14th Street Bridge and Roosevelt Bridge, further exacerbating congested roadways in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC.

Last year, the region’s congressional delegation was instrumental in securing $90 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation for Phase 1 of the reconstruction of the Arlington Memorial Bridge, with NPS providing an additional $60 million in matching funds. At the time, NPS estimated that more than $100 million in additional funding would be needed in order to bring the Memorial Bridge into a state of good repair.

Due to years of chronic underfunding, NPS has been forced to defer billions of dollars in necessary maintenance on transportation infrastructure such as Memorial Bridge, as well as other facilities it operates, like visitor centers, rest stops, trails and campgrounds. In March, Sen. Warner and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) announced legislation, the National Park Service Legacy Act, to address the maintenance backlog at the National Park Service, which is currently more than $11 billion, and Sen. Kaine is one of a dozen bipartisan co-sponsors who have signed on to support the effort.

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Morning Poll: Should Banished Statue Come to Arlington?

The National Park Service has denied a permit to erect a 45-foot statue of a naked, meditating woman on the National Mall near the Washington Monument.

The group behind the upcoming Catharsis on the Mall festival planned to transport R-Evolution, the statue created by artist Marco Cochrane, from San Francisco to the Mall at a cost of around $100,000.

The event is being held from Nov. 10-12.

Not that anyone has proposed it, but we were wondering whether Arlington might be a more welcoming place for the statue. If it were an option, would you support the statue being erected somewhere in Arlington?

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Morning Notes

Sixteenth 9/11 Anniversary — A flag was unfurled at the Pentagon this morning as the nation marked the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford were among those expected to attend a ceremony at the Pentagon, honoring the 184 people killed in the attack there. Arlington County also hosted its own remembrance ceremony and is posting recollections from Sept. 11, 2001 on social media. [ABC News, Twitter, Twitter]

Another Police-Impersonation Phone Scam — Local residents are again getting calls from a scammer claiming to be a law enforcement officer, demanding a fine be paid over the phone. As a reminder, police never call on the phone to collect fines. [Twitter]

Arlington 9/11 5K Recap — The 2017 Arlington Police, Fire and Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K was held in Pentagon City on Saturday evening amid perfect September weather. Among those on hand to address the crowd were Police Chief Jay Farr, County Board Chair Jay Fisette and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore. Spotted among the runners: former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who was wearing a Navy t-shirt and was all smiles after the race as the occasional group of fellow runners asked to take a photo with him. [Facebook, Chronotrack]

Park Service May Revamp MVT Boardwalk — As part of a larger improvement project for Theodore Roosevelt Island and the TR Bridge, the National Park Service is considering rehabilitating the nearby, aging boardwalk bridge along the Mount Vernon Trail, which carries bike and pedestrian traffic. [The Wash Cycle]

County Holds Transportation ‘Pop Up’ Event — “Arlington Transportation Partners, the County’s business-to-business transportation outreach organization, held its very first ‘Our Shared Street’ Pop Up festival recently at Arlington Mill Community Center. The late August gathering brought together residents of Columbia Pike with local businesses to highlight Arlingtonians’ many transportation options.” [Arlington County]

GW Parkway Crash — Earlier this morning, northbound traffic on the George Washington Memorial Parkway was temporarily blocked near the TR Bridge following a multi-vehicle crash. [Washington Post]

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Beyer to Push for GW Parkway Safety Study, More Memorial Bridge Funding

Rep. Don Beyer (D) announced Wednesday he will use the coming weeks in Congress to push for safety at two roadways that run through Arlington County.

Beyer said he will introduce appropriations amendments related to repairs for Memorial Bridge and safety on the George Washington Memorial Parkway as Congress debates legislation to fund the federal government’s operations past the deadline of September 30. Beyer’s district includes Arlington and a portion of Fairfax County as well as Alexandria and Falls Church Cities.

Memorial Bridge received $90 million last year from the federal government for repairs after years of deterioration and neglect led to worries it could close by 2021.

But Beyer said he wants to require President Donald Trump’s administration to submit a report to Congress outlining a plan to fully fund repairs, as the project could cost up to a quarter-billion dollars.

And for the GW Parkway, Beyer submitted an amendment requiring the Secretaries of Interior and Transportation to carry out a study on how to improve safety in its sections south of Alexandria in Fairfax County. The parkway, which like the Memorial Bridge is controlled by the National Park Service, has been the site of several serious crashes in recent times, sending motorists to the hospital and snarling traffic.

“Arlington Memorial Bridge and the George Washington Parkway are essential hubs for my constituents in Northern Virginia,” Beyer said in a statement. “Unfortunately, like much of the country’s infrastructure, these historic roadways have not been maintained sufficiently. We need prompt action by the federal government to guarantee the continued safety and reliability of these key transportation arteries.”

Meanwhile, after Congress’ return from its summer recess, Beyer will host two town hall-style events in Arlington in the next two months, one on the future of social security and another focusing on women’s issues.

On Sunday September 10 from 3-5 p.m. at Drew Model School (3500 23rd Street S.), Beyer hosts “A Forum on Social Security in the 21st Century,” alongside Connecticut Rep. John Larson (D). A flyer for the event said the pair will discuss what they are doing to protect Social Security today and protect it in the future.

And on Saturday, October 14 from 8:30 a.m. to noon, Beyer will host his third annual Women’s Conference and Forum at George Mason University’s Arlington campus (3351 Fairfax Drive), entitled, “Moving Forward, Together – Impact & Influence.”

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Work Begins on Revamping Iwo Jima Memorial

Crews started moving in this morning (Tuesday, August 15) to begin work to give the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial — also known as the Iwo Jima memorial — a facelift.

The work will limit public access to the memorial and surrounding parkland until next year. In signs posted near the memorial and the Netherlands Carillon, the National Park Service said the revamp includes washing and waxing the memorial and re-gilding its lettering, repairing any parts of the granite plaza that have become damaged, improving lighting, and installing new signs, shrubs and trees.

The roadway and footpath around the memorial will also be repaved.

“The road will be rebuilt in its current configuration, but with materials to better support the heavy weight of the many tour buses that use the road daily,” NPS said in a press release.

As of Tuesday morning, crews were putting up detour signs for road and trail users, as the access road to the memorial’s parking lot will be closed. In an announcement of the work, NPS said the memorial will be surrounded by scaffolding for much of the project, but pedestrians can still access the memorial plaza from N. Meade Street. Buses will have a small area for pick-up and drop-off on N. Meade Street also.

The $5.37 million project is funded by a donation from local philanthropist David Rubenstein, who has also used some of his multi-billion dollar fortune to fund the Washington Monument’s post-earthquake repairs, enrich the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ endowment and gave $12.35 million to the Arlington House Robert E. Lee museum in Arlington National Cemetery.

NPS said public access will be limited until February 2018. The memorial was dedicated in 1954 by President Dwight Eisenhower and receives 1.5 million visitors per year.

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National Park Service Considering Improvements to Roosevelt Island

The National Park Service is studying several improvements to Roosevelt Island, including a proposal to combat the invasive emerald ash borer that killed trees at the site earlier this year.

Among a number of issues being examined by NPS for the island, located off the George Washington Memorial Parkway near Rosslyn, is a plan for the future of the hundreds of ash trees.

NPS closed the island in June to remove diseased trees after the ash borer came through, and is now considering if the trees should be replaced with more ash trees or another species.

“As a result of [the ash borer], one of the things we’re going to be looking at is what do we do after the borer has come through, and those ash trees have either died off or been removed,” said Simone Monteleone, chief of resource management at the GW Parkway, in a talk on Facebook Live Monday morning. “Do we replant? What type of species do we go back with?”

To help the Park Service decide how to make improvements while preserving the history of the island, which has been occupied in some form since the 17th century, it is in the early stages of producing a Cultural Landscape Report and Environmental Assessment.

Monteleone said both documents will help NPS balance the need to respect the island’s history with any improvements that are made. She added that rehabilitating what is already there will help do that.

“Rehabilitation gives us both the flexibility to preserve those historic features and make compatible uses possible for enhancement of visitor experiences,” she said.

Other improvements proposed by NPS include:

  • Rehabilitating the bridge to the island
  • Improving bridge safety to reduce conflicts between pedestrians and bicyclists
  • Restarting water access to the island for kayaks, paddleboards and other water transport without an engine
  • Making the island’s comfort stations usable year-round
  • Building another comfort station off the island by the trail

NPS will host another Facebook Live presentation on the project at 1 p.m. today (August 14), and the talk will then be archived on its page for viewing afterwards.

The Park Service is taking public comment on the plans until September 8. The project is expected to be completed in February 2018.

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Roosevelt Island Temporarily Closed For Diseased Tree Removal

Theodore Roosevelt Island closed for up to three weeks starting Monday while crews remove diseased trees from the nearby trails.

The National Park Service said the closures, which began yesterday, come after a survey found damage from the invasive emerald ash borer.

Sections of the island’s trails will reopen on a rolling basis as diseased trees are removed. NPS announced last week the island would close as the storms that hit the area could have brought down some of the diseased trees.

From a National Park Service press release:

Starting Monday, June 26, 2017, Theodore Roosevelt Island will be closed for the removal of diseased trees from along the maintained trails. As diseased trees are removed from sections of maintained trails, those sections will be reopened. Work is weather dependent and should last about three weeks.

A recent tree survey on Theodore Roosevelt Island found extensive damage to trees along the island’s trails from the invasive and deadly emerald ash borer. To facilitate the removal of these hazardous trees and reopen sections of the island more quickly, contracted services as well as park staff, will be working throughout the island.

Theodore Roosevelt Island is one of many parks in the Greater Washington Area hit hard by emerald ash borer. The island has many ash trees throughout its 88 acres that have been infected with the exotic beetle. The pest is highly destructive, killing ash trees within two to three years once infected. Dead ash trees rapidly become dry, brittle and hazardous. There is no known cure; once a tree is infected, it will die. Emerald ash borer is almost always fatal.

We are now more than 10 years into the emerald ash borer invasion of the National Capital Region.  White ash was the tenth most common tree species in the region based on data collected between 2006 and 2009.  In some areas of the region, the number of white ash trees decrease by a quarter between 2009 and 2016.

Rangers remind you to that you can do your part!  To help prevent the spread of emerald ash borer and other pests, buy firewood where you intend to burn it, and do not take firewood or logs from home when you travel.  Invasive species like the emerald ash borer cost the United States billions of dollars in damages every year.

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