(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) The National Park Service now has a plan to rehabilitate the deteriorating Memorial Bridge.
Officials announced today the selection of a comprehensive plan that would replace and refurbish some of the bridge’s components to keep it from closing by 2021. The plan was one of several others considered for the project.
The plan calls for “the repair of the concrete arches and stone facades on the 10 approach spans, the replacement of the bascule span’s steel superstructure, the reconstruction of the bridge deck and sidewalks and the resurfacing of all travel lanes,” according to a release from NPS.
The rehabilitation project was awarded a $90 million federal transportation grant for repairs last July. Virginia’s U.S. senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, are working on securing additional funding needed to complete the project.
Built in 1932, Memorial Bridge has far exceeded its 75-year life expectancy. Still, many people use the bridge each day to travel between the District and Virginia.
More on the plan, from an NPS press release, after the jump.
There’s a renewed push for action on the decades-old plan to build a boathouse in the Rosslyn area.
County and federal officials want the public to know that although the project has stopped and restarted several times, it definitely hasn’t been scrapped.
Arlington County has been working on various forms of the boathouse project since the 1990s. It has collaborated with the National Park Service because the county’s shoreline along the Potomac River technically is NPS property.
In October, the county requested that the Commonwealth of Virginia quitclaim any interest it has in the street that fronts the property at 1101 Lee Highway. The county had purchased the Lee Highway land parcel in 2014 for $2.4 million with the listed intent of using the land for possible boathouse-related purposes.
The county requested the quitclaim because it’s unclear exactly who owns and maintains this small portion of the land along the former Lee Highway right of way. VDOT now has to approve the quitclaim — which has no fiscal impact to either party — and the county believes that should happen by or shortly after the new year.
The county points out that this section of land also is the only service vehicle access point if a boathouse is built. Public parking and drop-offs would be located in a safer area further away from the busy intersection with N. Lynn Street and the I-66 off-ramp.
Any progress on the boathouse plan is theoretical until NPS completes an environmental study — as required by law — showing how such a project would impact the area’s natural and cultural resources.
NPS launched an environmental impact statement (EIS) in 2012, with funding secured by former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). The study involved getting community feedback on locations for a potential boathouse.
But the EIS was put on hold and NPS is investigating whether it can instead do an environmental assessment, which is a similar but less intensive study that takes less time to produce. The EA would incorporate the information already gathered during the now-stalled EIS.
NPS launched a transportation study last year to determine what impact a boathouse would have on the area’s existing transportation network. The agency has been collaborating with Arlington County and VDOT for that study and in compiling a final report on the transportation impacts.
Although 1101 Lee Highway was intended to be a location for a boathouse facility, that’s actually not set in stone. That parcel of land is called an “upper site” and cannot effectively host a boathouse on its own without a nearby “lower site” near Theodore Roosevelt Island where boats could be stored and launched. If NPS deems another site better suited for a boathouse, Arlington County could use the Lee Highway land for something else.
“In addition, or as an alternative use, the county may put other passive or recreational uses on the parcel,” said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “We need to wait until a final determination is made by the National Park Service on the parcel, so other uses aren’t actively being pursued.”
A study for another hot project — the Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola — in relatively the same area was released last month, but Baxter says it’s far too early to consider that an option for the land parcel. In fact, she said it’s premature to even comment on the feasibility of a possible gondola project because the study hasn’t even been reviewed or vetted by county staff.
As far as the next steps for moving forward with the boathouse, NPS hopes to announce a decision about the environmental study and its possible transition to an environmental assessment by early 2017.
If the agency announces it is able to go forward with an EA instead of an EIS, it could potentially reveal a preferred boathouse site at that time as well, although the location decision is not required until the final environmental study results are released.
Cemetery to Start Screening Visitors — Arlington National Cemetery will begin security screening of visitors and random inspection of vehicles in November. Visitors, particularly those in large groups, are being advised to allow extra time to go through screening. [Dept. of Defense]
Police: Dog Walker Stole from Residents — A dog walker who served clients in Arlington has been charged with stealing from them. Police say 34-year-old Margarita Denison and an accomplice stole valuables from watches to jewelry to baseball cards from homes in Arlington and Fairfax. Denison worked for the dog walking service Time for a Walk, which said it runs background checks and checks references but will be tightening security. [NBC Washington]
NPS Recommends Trail Projects in Arlington — Among the 18 regional trail-related projects recommended by a new National Park Service study are two in Arlington: connecting the Roosevelt Bridge path to the Mt. Vernon Trail, and improving safety at the so-called Intersection of Doom in Rosslyn. [Greater Greater Washington]
ACPD Lauded for Crisis Intervention — A father whose son spit and cursed at police as he was taken into custody in Arlington has written an op-ed to praise the Arlington County Police Department for its crisis intervention training. The father called police after his neurologically-disabled son got drunk and left the house. Officers could have hurt the son and threw him in jail, but instead used the minimum amount of force necessary and took him to a hospital, the man said. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
A “Junior Park Ranger Ride” is set to kick off this Sunday at 9:30 a.m., according to Kidical Mass Arlington, the event’s organizers.
During the 60-90 minute trip, riders will hit several stops along George Washington Memorial Parkway, including the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, the Netherlands Carillon and Lyndon B. Johnson Memorial Grove. The ride will end up at Theodore Roosevelt Island, according to Kidical Mass.
The event will also include activities from BikeArlington and the U.S. National Park Service. All young riders will earn Junior Park Ranger credentials for the GW Parkway once the ride is complete, according to event organizers.
Photo via Facebook / Kidical Mass
A group of outdoor enthusiasts will be taking a “moon walk” on Theodore Roosevelt Island tomorrow night.
The nonprofit group Friends of Theodore Roosevelt Island is leading the “Full Moon Walk,” which will give participants the rare opportunity to explore the park at night, during a full moon.
The cost for members of the Friends of Theodore Roosevelt Island was $15 while non-members paid $20.
One BR Rental Near Clarendon: $4,300/month — A sub-800 square foot one bedroom apartment in a newly built building in Lyon Park, near Clarendon, is leasing for a staggering $4,300 per month. [Real House Life of Arlington]
Metro Delays Planned This Weekend — Trains on the Orange, Blue and Silver lines will run every 20 minutes this weekend due to “emergency call box installation and testing for a safer ride.” [WMATA]
Ballston Office Building Sold — JBG Cos. has sold a five-story office building on Fairfax Drive in Ballston to a partnership that hopes to eventually tear it down and build a new mixed use development. The building sold for about $22 million. [Washington Business Journal]
Delhi Dhaba Turning 25 — Delhi Dhaba restaurant in Clarendon is turning 25 next year. “Although it’s not at the pinnacle of Indian food in Northern Virginia, Delhi Dhaba is a great restaurant with more than decent service,” writes a reviewer. [Falls Church News-Press]
Park Service Studying Bricks — The National Park Service is studying the original bricks at Arlington House, Robert E. Lee’s family house in what is now Arlington National Cemetery, in order to help with a preservation and renovation effort. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The two-month project will result in lane closures and rush hour delays between the GW Parkway and Lorcom Lane.
From an NPS press release:
George Washington Memorial Parkway (GWMP) will begin a roadway project on July 27, 2015, which is expected to last through late September, along Spout Run Parkway in both directions between GWMP and Lorcom Lane. The project will also include work on the southbound GWMP ramp to Key Bridge, and Rosslyn Circle Ramp onto northbound GWMP.
Throughout the 50-day project, motorists should expect single lane closures for a period of up to 10 days per lane in order to mill and overlay the road and replace the guard-rails. No detours will be in place, so please plan accordingly for delays, especially during rush hour. Every effort is being made to complete the work in a timely manner and minimize traffic delays.
Photo via Google Maps
The northbound lanes of the parkway were closed just past the Spout Run Parkway after a tour bus engine exploded and leaked oil and diesel fuel on the roadway — at 9:30 last night.
One lane opened reopened just before 1:00 p.m. as crews continue to try to clean up the second lane.
The auto association said the National Park Service, which manages the parkway, is either too underfunded or too inept to effectively run a major commuter route. In a statement, below, AAA says today’s closure and the recent lane closures on the corroding Memorial Bridge demonstrate the park service’s “inability to appropriately manage transportation facilities under its control.”
Enough is enough. Today we have had yet another transportation travesty in our region via the National Park Service (NPS) and its inability to appropriately manage transportation facilities under its control. The closure of the GW Parkway northbound for over 12 hours–through the morning rush–as a result of a crash that happened around 9:30 pm the night before is outrageous and cost tens of thousands of commuters this morning untold hours caught in congestion, as commuters jam packed alternative routes. This fiasco comes only weeks after restrictions were placed on the NPS operated Memorial Bridge because of a failure to properly maintain the structure. This is not a new problem for NPS and its roadways. In 1997, AAA led an effort with local members of Congress to force the NPS to barrier separate the traffic flows on the GW Parkway to end a series of head-on collisions that had taken several lives. We are sure that for today’s outrageous and unnecessary disruption of this morning’s rush, the NPS will once again plead inadequate funding.”
It is time for Congress to either appropriately fund the Park Service’s transportation needs, or get the NPS out of the transportation business. Major unnecessary disruptions to an already over-taxed transportation network that already has some of the nation’s most congested arteries must be avoided. In a region that is currently discussing the need for more Potomac River crossings, having to limit the ones we have because of neglect is unacceptable. In an area that needs more rush hour capacity, closing half of a major commuter artery during morning rush-hour because of poor incident management of a crash that happened the night before is unacceptable. AAA Mid-Atlantic calls upon our regional Congressional delegation to find a prudent solution to the repetitive and costly transportation failures of the NPS in the Washington Metro area.
Arlington’s representatives on Capitol Hill are calling for action after additional restrictions were put in place on the structurally deficient Memorial Bridge.
Starting this morning, both outside lanes of the Memorial Bridge were closed to traffic and a 10-ton load limit put in place, closing the bridge to bus traffic. That follows an inspection that found corroding support beams and “significant deterioration” of the bridge’s concrete deck.
The 83-year-old, 2,100-foot-long bridge opened in 1932. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and — since it connects the Lincoln Memorial with Arlington National Cemetery and Robert E. Lee’s Arlington House — it is considered a national symbol of reunification of the North and the South following the Civil War.
The National Park Service, which oversees the bridge, is planning 6-9 months of emergency repairs starting next month. It says that with the restrictions, the bridge is safe for drivers and pedestrians. The load limit will “help extend the life of the deck for passenger vehicles,” NPS said.
The Park Service is currently seeking $250 million from Congress for permanent repairs and rehabilitation.
Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with Rep. Don Beyer, called the state of the historic bridge the “latest evidence of federal neglect.” In strong statements, the lawmakers said it’s time for Congress to fund crucial transportation infrastructure projects.
From a press release:
Senator Mark Warner (VA), Senator Tim Kaine (VA), Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton (DC) and Congressman Don Beyer (VA-8) called for stronger federal infrastructure investment, citing the closure of a second lane on the iconic and congested Arlington Memorial Bridge as the latest evidence of federal neglect.
“There is nothing more emblematic of Congress’ failure to invest in our nation’s infrastructure than the bridge that brings people into our nation’s capital, a national memorial, falling apart. Memorial Bridge has already been labeled ‘structurally deficient’ and one lane was closed just last week due to safety and infrastructure concerns. Today, we have news that another lane will be shut down. It’s time for Congress to stop kicking the can down the road and pass a federal transportation bill to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, starting right here in DC,” said Rep. Beyer.
The National Park Service (NPS) announced today that it will close a second lane of traffic on the bridge, which stretches from Arlington National Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial and is a major artery across the Potomac. The rush hour effects of the six-month closures will be dramatic.
“Unlike other infrastructure, NPS roads and bridges like the Arlington Memorial Bridge are 100 percent funded by the federal government, and there are almost no alternative sources of funds for maintenance and improvements other than federal funds. With a cost of up to $250 million to replace the Memorial Bridge, it is no wonder that NPS is unable to do this work when it only receives $15 to $20 million for its transportation projects in the National Capital Region and only $240 for the entire nation. Our region must offer leadership and work with Members of Congress as far away as the western states that are also deeply affected. Beginning with our region, we must create a coalition of Members of the House and Senate determined to begin the uphill climb of rescuing priceless and essential federal assets like the Memorial Bridge that bring millions to the states by providing everything from workplace corridors to tourist sites,” said Del. Norton.
Nearly 68,000 vehicles cross the 83-year-old bridge on a typical work day. The cost to fully repair the bridge is estimated at more than $250 million over several months. Memorial Bridge is just one of more than 70,000 US bridges deemed “structurally deficient.”
“Today’s announcement that we have to close yet another lane of the Memorial Bridge highlights the decrepit state of our infrastructure,” said Senator Kaine. “This additional lane closure will cause unbearable congestion and delays for the approximately 68,000 drivers who use theMemorial Bridge to travel between Virginia and Washington every day. Today’s frustrating news represents a nationwide issue. It’s estimated that there are 4,800 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges in Virginia alone. It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road and address our nation’s crumbling infrastructure by passing a bipartisan, long-term transportation bill.”
“How can Congress fail to act while the Memorial Bridge – which is not only a vital artery for local commuters, but also the entrance to our nation’s capital - is literally falling apart? This is not just embarrassing – it’s outrageous,” said Sen. Warner. “We have to get serious about fixing and upgrading our roads, bridges, ports and other infrastructure. Until that happens, Virginia commuters will be stuck sitting in even more traffic – and crumbling and inefficient infrastructure will remain a serious drag on our economic growth.”
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
One of D.C.’s most prominent philanthropists has turned his eyes — and his wallet — to Rosslyn’s U.S Marine Corps War Memorial.
The Iwo Jima memorial is in line to receive a $5.37 million donation from David Rubenstein, who just last year gave $12.35 million to the Arlington House Robert E. Lee museum in Arlington National Cemetery. Rubenstein co-founded the private equity firm The Carlyle Group and has also used some of his billions of dollars to fund the Washington Monument’s post-earthquake repairs and enrich the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ endowment.
Today, the National Parks Service announced that Rubenstein’s gift will go to “re-gild the engravings on the sculpture’s pedestal, wax the sculpture, and improve lighting, landscaping, and infrastructure.” The NPS will also improve the signage and educational materials on the memorial, sandwiched between the Netherlands Carillon, N. Meade Street, Route 50 and Route 110.
“It is a privilege to honor our fellow Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to attain and preserve the freedoms we enjoy,” Rubenstein said in a press release. “I hope this gift enables visitors to the Iwo Jima Memorial to better appreciate the beauty and significance of this iconic sculpture, and inspires other Americans to support critical needs facing our national park system.”
The memorial was dedicated Nov. 10, 1954, by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Since then, it has attracted millions in visitors. According to Arlington Economic Development, it attracted 1.4 million visitors in 2007.
“The Marine Corps War Memorial stands as a symbol of this grateful Nation’s esteem for the honored dead of the U.S. Marine Corps,” Marines Major General Michael R. Regner said in the release. “We are grateful for Mr. Rubenstein’s patriotism and generous donation to the National Park Foundation that will ensure this significant memorial continues to honor our fallen and inform public understanding of the cost and nature of their nation’s expeditionary force in readiness.”
Arlington County has worked to bring a boathouse to the area since the 1990s. It has collaborated with the National Park Service on the project because Arlington’s shoreline technically is NPS property.
NPS launched an environmental impact statement (EIS) more than two years ago per direction from Congress, but had to put it on hold. Neither the county nor NPS would comment on why the EIS stalled. NPS and county staff revived the process when they met twice this spring to discuss moving forward. NPS now is in the process of finding a contractor to complete the EIS. According to NPS Superintendent Alex Romero, the goal is to partner with the contractor who previously began the EIS.
“There’s work that’s already been done,” said Romero. “We’re purposely identifying the same contractor that worked on it in the past to pick up where they left off. There may be some tweaks to the existing document, but we don’t want to revisit the whole thing.”
The county acquired some land in May on which the boathouse could be built if the Key Bridge area is chosen as the boathouse location. The County Board approved the purchase of 1101 Lee Hwy in Rosslyn for $2.4 million. However, the exact site for a boathouse hasn’t been chosen and won’t be until the completion of the EIS. So if an area other than Rosslyn is picked, the land purchased in May could be used for other recreational uses, according to Arlington County Park Development Division Chief Lisa Grandle.
Rep. Jim Moran, who is touted as being instrumental in securing funding for the EIS, believes the land purchase is a step in the right direction.
“Arlington’s decision to acquire land at Rosslyn Circle for a potential joint initiative with the National Park Service is encouraging and moves us closer to bringing the dream of an Arlington boathouse to reality.” Moran said.
The hope is that a contractor will be chosen soon and can begin to work on the EIS this year. Once a contract is awarded, NPS will have a better idea of long-term timelines for steps like public involvement, final plan approval and finding a company to build a boathouse.
“Until then, everything is preliminary, but the ball is rolling,” said Romero. “We are looking forward to moving ahead with the study and developing alternatives, and seeing what the alternative is so it blends into the landscape along the George Washington Memorial Parkway.”
(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) Arlington House, the former home of Robert E. Lee on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, received a major donation this week.
D.C. philanthropist David Rubenstein, co-founder of private equity firm The Carlyle Group, donated $12.35 million to the National Park Service “to restore and improve access to Arlington House.” The donation will fund a project that will restore Arlington House “as it was in 1860,” including more attention to the slave quarters. The money will also fund technology investments, with more mobile and web “assets,” an audio tour and a virtual tour, NPS said.
“I am honored to support the National Park Service’s renovation of historic Arlington House built in honor of George Washington and located on hallowed ground atop Arlington National Cemetery,” Rubenstein said in the release. “I hope that upon its restoration, Arlington House will appropriately remind visitors of America’s rich history and our country’s good fortune to have such a unique site to honor our veterans, especially those who gave the last full measure of devotion on behalf of this nation.”
Arlington House went through a round of renovations 2-3 years ago — including work done to repair damage from the 2011 mid-Atlantic earthquake.
The Washington Post reported that Rubenstein, a billionaire, decided to make the donatation after funding half of the Washington Monument’s post-earthquake repairs. NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis suggested the $12.35 million repair project for Arlington House — described as languishing in “embarrassing” condition — to which Rubenstein simply replied, “be glad to do that.”
Arlington House was built by George Washington Parke Custis — and, the NPS points out, his slaves — between 1802 and 1818 as a memorial to George Washington, before it was the home to Lee and his plantation. The plantation was used as a base for Union soldiers during the Civil War, as a community for freed slaves after the Emancipation Proclamation and, later, as a military cemetery.
The NPS says more than 650,000 people visit the house every year, making it the country’s most-visited house museum. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), the ranking member on the Interior and Environment Appropriations Committee, which oversees the National Parks, issued a statement after Rubenstein announced his gift yesterday.
“On behalf of 8th District voters and local history buffs I’d like to thank Mr. Rubenstein for his generous gift,” Moran said. “I’ve been a supporter of Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial, throughout my 24 years representing the people of Northern Virginia. Mr. Rubenstein’s philanthropy allows the flexibility needed to restore this historic site, working beyond the constraints of public funding to build on the restoration work already completed by the National Park Service.”
Sunday’s Army Ten-Miler race won’t take place on an altered course after all, now that the federal government shutdown has ended.
Earlier this week, ARLnow.com reported that the government shutdown had forced a route change for the race, in order to avoid National Park Service territory affected by the shutdown. The altered course would have covered more land in Arlington.
Today the Army Ten-Miler’s Facebook page was updated to inform participants that they will be running the original race course because the federal government has re-opened.
The Marine Corps Marathon, scheduled for next Sunday (October 27), was also in jeopardy due to the shutdown. It could have been postponed or canceled because about 60 percent of that race is run on National Park Service property. Today, organizers confirmed the original plans have been restored, posting the following message on the marathon’s website:
“A special thank you to MCM and MCM10K participants for your patience during the recent period of uncertainty. It is with great pleasure that the MCM can officially announce we are on. We are SO on. See you at the start line!”
There will be a number of roads closed on Sunday for the Army Ten-Miler. The full list, after the jump.
Trash cans have been removed from the Iwo Jima memorial and a number of other National Park Service properties in the area, including Netherlands Carillon, Roosevelt Island, LBJ Memorial Grove, and the Roaches Run waterfowl sanctuary.
The trash cans were removed following the Boston Marathon bombing — when there were incorrect rumors of the bombs being placed in trash cans — but the timing is coincidental. The removal was actually done as part of a larger “Trash Free Park” campaign, and timed to coincide with Earth Day.
“It is a solid waste management strategy of removing trash receptacles from all or sections of a park,” NPS’ George Washington Memorial Parkway branch wrote in a fact sheet last month. “Visitors are expected to carry out the refuse they generate and dispose of it properly at home or at another appropriate destination.”
National and local parks around the country have been getting rid of trash cans as a way to save money and discourage visitors from generating trash at parks to begin with. According to NPS, benefits of a “trash free park” include:
- Fostering a partnership between visitors and the park by encouraging people to take an active role in maintaining a trash-free park.
- Encouraging people to adopt a carry in, carry out Leave No Trace principle.
- Encouraging people to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
- Reducing odors in the picnic area.
- Increasing visitor safety by reducing the number of stinging insects, rodents, and other wildlife in the picnic area.
- Allowing staff time and funds spent on trash collection to be applied to other projects and improvements within the park. (These projects include facility and grounds maintenance, and resource preservation.)
- Reducing the amount of litter in the park.
- Establishing a commitment to park sustainability and responsible park use that will carry on to future generations.
When Fairfax County considered going trash free at county parks in 2010, the annual savings was estimated at $1.8 million.
Not everybody thinks it’s a good idea, though. Some say it’s confusing visitors and resulting in trash being left on the ground, including one recent visitor to the Iwo Jima memorial.
“I watched a war veteran (as indicated by his baseball hat) look for a garbage can to place his empty coffee cup… not finding one he placed it next to another discarded coffee cup,” local resident Lindsey Paola said in an email to ARLnow.com.
Arlington House Rededicated — Arlington House, the family home of Robert E. Lee and an iconic symbol of Arlington County, has been rededicated by the National Park Service following a six year restoration effort. The ceremony was held on Saturday, on the 152nd anniversary of Lee’s decision to lead the rebellion in the Civil War. [Sun Gazette]
County’s Bond Ratings Reaffirmed — Arlington County has had its top Aaa/AAA debt ratings reaffirmed by rating agencies Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. The ratings will allow Arlington to borrow money at a lower interest rate. “The Aaa rating reflects the county’s strong long-term credit characteristics including a sizeable and affluent tax base, stable and carefully-managed financial operations with sound reserves, and moderate debt position with manageable future borrowing needs,” Moody’s wrote of Arlington. [Arlington County]
Garvey: Streetcars Fail Cost/Benefit Analysis — In an op-ed in the Washington Post, County Board member Libby Garvey says streetcars on Columbia Pike “are not a good investment for anyone.” Streetcars would not solve transportation challenges on the Pike, and would instead “siphon resources away from other important needs,” Garvey wrote. [Washington Post]
Arlington to Help Train Vets in IT — Arlington County has accepted a $150,000 state grant that will help train military veterans for high-demand Information Technology (IT) jobs. The grant will go to a joint Arlington/Alexandria job training program, which is expected to serve more than 50 veterans over an 18-month period. [Arlington County]