Arlington, VA

Opposition is taking flight against new route changes proposed at Reagan National Airport as residents and multiple members of Congress raise concerns.

The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) earlier this year announced plans to adjust National Airport flight paths to avoid parts of the federal no-fly zone around D.C., to “address Secret Service concerns.” But Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va.) says the new paths means more noise.

“I hear from constituents on airplane noise issues consistently,” Beyer told ARLnow.com this weekend. “On this issue and in general, my constituents are frustrated that their concerns are not being heard and their interests not considered meaningfully by FAA, and rightly so. We must ensure that the community is involved in these decisions, which is exactly why the Community Working Group was created to begin with.”

The changes would adjust northbound departing planes at DCA’s Runway 19 to fly further westward. This would push more planes over land in Arlington — a plan residents fiercely criticized when it was first proposed three years ago, echoing long-standing concerns about the sound shaking homes and interrupting sleep as airlines switched to new navigation techniques to optimize routes, resulting in more flights early in the morning and late at night.

The FAA presented the same proposal again this past June, announcing the changes would go into effect in August to quell concerns from the Secret Service about planes zooming too close to the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. However, Beyer says the agency failed to consult the Reagan National Community Noise Working Group about the idea.

Beyer, who represents parts of Alexandria and Arlington, wrote a letter last week saying he understood the need to prevent planes from flying into federally restricted airspace, but noted that he remained “concerned about the process — specifically, the failure to give meaningful consideration to community interests — involved in a decision that will further concentrate the airplane noise in Arlington, Virginia.”

Maryland Democrats Sen. Benjamin Cardin, Sen. Chris van Hollen, and Rep. Jamie Raskin also wrote a letter this summer saying the surprise proposal represented a “failure to give meaningful consideration to community interests, the absence of an environmental review, and the negative impact” on neighborhoods.

“I join my Maryland colleagues in urging the FAA to halt implementation of the proposed changes to DCA flight procedures (both approach and departure changes) until it can demonstrate a need for these changes, as well as considering the concerns of the affected communities per the standard environmental review process,” Beyer wrote in his letter last week.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) held a series of regional meetings in October to gather public feedback on the proposed flight paths. Arlington and Montgomery County also opened bidding for a contractor who can recommend the best ways to solve the noisy dispute — after teaming up last year to fund a study on aircraft noise.

The issue over which jurisdiction should bear the brunt of the airport’s noise has at times created a tug-of-war between Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. The issue re-surfaced as some residents worry Amazon’s arrival in Arlington and the airport’s expansion project mean more flights could be added to the airport. (Last year, officials denied they have plans for additional flights.)

Raskin and Beyer are both members of the Congressional Quiet Skies Coalition, which advocates for “meaningful solutions” to aircraft noise and has previously called for DCA to limit its growth and study the impact of the noise.

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Morning Notes

New Noise Enforcement Tools — “Arlington government officials have added new tools in an effort to address nighttime noise violations from restaurants and bars. The new policy is designed to target ‘the ones who consistently refuse to comply’ in resolving noise complaints, County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac told County Board members on Oct. 22.” [InsideNova]

Beyer on Aircraft Noise — “Today, Rep. Don Beyer (VA-08) sent a letter to the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration expressing concerns about its recent announcement to make changes to flight paths at DCA to accommodate Secret Service needs without giving meaningful consideration to community interests.” [Press Release]

Video: Amazon Truck Towed in Crystal City — “Can’t say we didn’t warn you… controversial Advanced Towing removes an @amazon truck from ‘National Landing.'” [Twitter]

Housing Supply Down, Prices Up — “The Arlington County, Virginia, housing market continues to get more expensive, and potential buyers continue to have fewer and fewer houses and condos to consider.” [WTOP]

What Goes Into an Arlington Nat’l Cemetery Burial — “If you live near Arlington, you may be familiar with the sound of cannon fire early in the morning. The Presidential Salute Battery fires cannons for military ceremonies in Washington and is the only unit of its kind in the Army. ” [WAMU]

Nearby: Nats World Series Scam — Per Fairfax County Police: “Our Detectives are investigating an increasing number of scams involving the sale of @Nationals World Series tickets. Please use caution when purchasing tickets from sources other than @MLB authorized dealers.” [Twitter, FCPD]

Courtesy photo

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(Updated 9:40 p.m.) A press conference on the front steps of a Rosslyn townhouse drew noisy protesters Monday afternoon, which in turn prompted a call to Arlington County Police.

Several ACPD officers responded to the 1500 block of N. Colonial Terrace for a noise complaint around 3 p.m. They arrived near the end of a press conference involving a trio of conservative provocateurs — Jack Burkman, Jacob Wohl and Milo Yiannopoulos — outside of Burkman’s home.

Burkman and Wohl have organized a recent series of press conferences, mostly to accuse prominent Democrats of sexual malfeasance. Today’s event focused on similarly lurid-but-lacking-in-evidence accusations against Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

The 2:30 p.m. press conference featured the claims against Cruz being read by the female accuser, while Burkman and Wohl stood nearby and Yiannopoulos sat to the side, checking his phone and smoking a cigarette.

During the press conference, a protester played a banjo while another shouted, blew an air horn and tossed donuts at the participants. A live stream of the event shows about two dozen people, including journalists, protesters and curious onlookers, in attendance.

Police responded to the area after receiving a report of disorderly protesters, arriving around 3 p.m.

“Is anybody in charge of the protest that wants to talk?” an officer asks. Attendees answered that there was no organized protest.

With police still on scene, a man who identified himself as a resident started to yell at the bystanders, complaining about the noise.

“I want all of you out of this f—ing neighborhood now,” he said. “You are bothering me.”

“Seriously, can you make them leave?” he asked police, who continued keeping watch near a street corner.

“This is such a s—show circus,” commented one of the people standing on the sidewalk.

Police could be seen starting to leave at the end of the livestream, as the attendees started to disperse. An ACPD spokeswoman told ARLnow the event “disbanded without incident.”

According to ACPD spokeswoman Kirby Clark:

At approximately 2:48 p.m. on October 21, police were dispatched to the report of loud noise and traffic obstructions in the area of North Colonial Terrace and North Ode Street related to an event being held in the area. Upon arrival, officers made contact with parties on scene and the event concluded without incident.

ACPD has not been made aware of community concerns regarding other similar events at this location. Residents who have specific community concerns regarding this event or others are advised to contact the Community Outreach Team for this area by email ([email protected] arlingtonva.us) or phone (703-228-4184).

Burkman was previously in the news locally after he was shot in the parking garage of the Key Bridge Marriott hotel in Rosslyn.

Screenshots via Ford Fischer/Twitter

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(Updated at 1:50 p.m.) Three out of four lanes of Wilson Blvd in Ballston were blocked by utility work Monday morning.

The work, at the intersection of Wilson and N. Randolph Street, near the mall, was to replace a blown electrical transformer in a utility vault that’s in the middle of the westbound lanes of Wilson. Crews from Dominion Energy were on scene, along with a large, mobile crane.

We’re told the transformer went out Sunday, knocking out power to an adjacent apartment building.

All westbound lanes of Wilson Blvd were blocked approaching Ballston Quarter mall, while only one eastbound lane was closed. The lane closures caused minor backups during this morning’s rush hour.

Residents in the area have been complaining for years about excessive noise caused by vehicles — particularly trucks — driving over the utility vaults.

“The plates have been there for years, but starting in October 2018, they began making absurdly loud noises whenever cars/buses/trucks drive over them,” one tipster said in July. “Dozens of complaints have been filed on the county’s ‘reporting tool’ website… The result of the noise is that local residents at Ava Ballston Square, Origin Ballston, and other apartments are disturbed through the day and awakened at night.”

Today’s work is not expected to alleviate the noise issue. A Dominion spokeswoman noted that the vault itself is maintained by the owner of the nearby building, not the utility company.

“The grates are not ours and the work has nothing to do with replacing them,” a Dominion spokeswoman told ARLnow. “The grates top our underground vaults containing our transformers that serve the buildings along the street… Normally, you will see our transformers sitting at ground level or up high on a utility pole. The developer wanted them underground.”

As of 1:30 p.m., all lanes had reportedly reopened.

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Morning Notes

HQ2 to Include Banana Stand, Local Businesses — “Schoettler said the outdoor areas will likely include elements from its Seattle headquarters, such as a community vegetable garden and a banana stand… Amazon’s in-house food program will only serve about one-quarter of the HQ2 workforce, encouraging the majority of the employees to each lunch at nearby businesses. And because Amazon will own the buildings, Schoettler said it will be able to curate the retail to focus on locally owned businesses.” [Bisnow, WAMU, Washington Business Journal]

County Again Recognized for Tech Savvy — “Arlington County is once again among the top ranked digital counties in the nation. The Center for Digital Government and National Association of Counties 2019 award designated Arlington second place in the 150,000-249,999 population category.” [Arlington County]

Legion Development a National Model? — “Post 139 and APAH’s partnership should serve as an example for addressing the issue of homeless veterans, said Darryl Vincent, chief operating officer of nonprofit U.S.VETS… In 2018, there were 12,806 American Legion posts across the country, a huge inventory of property that could be repurposed as affordable housing.” [Politico]

Helicopter Noise Amendment Passes House — “The House of Representatives adopted a set of amendments to H.R. 2500, the National Defense Authorization Act, including two offered by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) which would address helicopter noise in the National Capital Region.” [Press Release]

ACPD: Lock Your Car and House — “The Arlington County Police Department is joining law enforcement agencies throughout the country in a public safety campaign aimed at promoting crime prevention strategies to reduce and prevent thefts from vehicles and homes. The campaign, known as the 9 P.M. Routine, encourages residents to conduct security checks in their homes and vehicles each evening to ensure their property is secure.” [Arlington County]

APS Teacher Receives National Recognition — “Wilfredo Padilla Melendez, teacher at Claremont Immersion School, received Instructure’s 2019 Educator of the Year Award. Wilfredo was recognized as one of six educators who go above and beyond to redefine traditional classroom activities.” [Press Release]

Photo courtesy Arlington VA/Flickr

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(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) A meeting is planned for Wednesday, July 10 in Arlington to provide an update on the I-66 widening project.

Work is underway to add a third travel lane to eastbound I-66 between the Dulles Connector Road and Fairfax Drive, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) website.

The meeting, scheduled from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd), will discuss a planned noise wall replacement, among other topics:

Work will begin in the coming months to add and replace noise walls in many locations along the project corridor as well as build a new ramp connection between two existing ramps at Route 7 to allow direct access from eastbound I-66 to the West Falls Church Metro Station. The open house will include a presentation and opportunity for attendees to view plans and talk with project team staff.

VDOT had previously announced plans to replace deteriorating sound walls along I-66 in Arlington as part of the widening project. A report in January noted that at least three segments of the wall were in a state of disrepair.

Photo (1) courtesy Del. Patrick Hope/Twitter, (2) via VDOT

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Morning Notes

Helicopter Complaints Continue  — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), one of the lawmakers who requested the study, said that helicopter noise is ‘our number one constituent complaint’ and that the number of complaints has risen steadily since he took office in 2015.” [Washington Post]

Early Morning Apartment Fire — “Units were called to 2400 blk 27th Ct S for fire in 4 story garden apt. On arrival crews found balcony #fire on floors 1 & 2 being controlled by #firesprinklers. Fire extinguished, no extension inside. No injuries.” [Twitter]

New Election Chief Sworn In — “When Gretchen Reinemeyer was sworn in as Arlington County’s general registrar, she became only the fifth person to hold the position since it was created in 1947. Reinemeyer is succeeding long-time registrar Linda Lindberg who is retiring at the end of the month after serving more than 25 years in the Arlington Voting and Elections Office–16 of them as general registrar. [Arlington County]

YHS Student Helps Improve Pedestrian Safety — “Pedestrians in Arlington, Virginia, may notice flashing yellow lights when crossing the street, thanks to one high schooler who’s working to make streets safer… Jake Smith, who graduated Yorktown High School on Thursday, interned with the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services to help them plan their beacon project and keep cars accountable.” [NBC 4, Arlington County]

Zoning Keeps Parts of Arlington Exclusive — “Arlington does have a decent amount of area zoned for multi-family housing, but it’s concentrated in the more southern parts of the county. This makes North Arlington completely inaccessible to many and is the source of the county’s geographical inequality.” [Blue Virginia]

Dozen New Arlington Police Officers — “The Arlington County Police Department welcomed 12 new officers this week, as Session 140 graduated from the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy (NVCJA) and took their oath to serve and protect the residents and visitors of Arlington County.” [Arlington County]

Local Businessman Sentenced — “A prominent Northern Virginia businessman has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for multiple fraud schemes that cheated investors out of roughly $20 million. Todd Hitt, 54, of Arlington, Virginia, pleaded guilty earlier this year in federal court in Alexandria to soliciting investments in building projects as part of what amounted to a Ponzi scheme.” [Associated Press, Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

New Census Population Estimate — “Arlington’s estimated population was up 14.4 percent from 2010 to 2018, more than double the increase statewide and nationally, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. The federal government’s recently released guesstimate of Arlington’s population as of July 1, 2018, stood at 237,521, up about 1 percent from a year before.” [InsideNova]

Fraudster’s Arlington Home Sold — “The Arlington home of real estate developer Todd Hitt — who pleaded guilty in February to eight counts of fraud — has found a buyer, according to court documents. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, approved the $1.3 million sale of the 5,500-square-foot house on North Kensington Street.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Working With MoCo on DCA Noise Study — “Arlington government officials plan to formalize their agreement with leaders in Montgomery County, Md., to fund a study on the northerly aircraft departure route out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The County Board plans to ante up half the projected cost for a consultant, with the Montgomery County Council putting up the other half.” [InsideNova]

County Proposes New Development Review Fee — “Arlington County staff is proposing a new fee for the acceptance and review of conceptual site plan applications, a process through which developers can get input on their projects before their formal submission.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Crews have been cutting down trees along I-395 to make room for sound-mitigating walls expected to help buffer noise from expanding the highway’s HOV lanes.

Drivers may notice construction crews clear cutting trees and brush along I-395 where large new concrete wall panels are being set up.

The walls are being built because officials expect more traffic to result from their two-year project extending I-395’s Express Lanes through Alexandria and Arlington to the D.C. border.

The eight-mile, $475 million project converts two HOV lanes to HOT lanes, and adds a third HOT lane, between Turkeycock Run at Edsall Road to Eads Street near the Pentagon and is scheduled to finish later this year. The construction is taking place within the highway’s existing right-of-way.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) contracted Australia-based toll company Transurban to build and operate the project. VDOT directed ARLnow’s requests for comment about tree removal to Transurban.

Transurban spokesman Michael McGurk acknowledged residents may be upset about losing the trees, but the company”takes as much care as possible where it comes to tree removal” and is “committed to adding landscaping” along the walls.

McGurk also noted that the company is giving grants to communities for new tree planting or “other beautification projects” and that neighborhood can apply for a grant by March 31. He also said the wall construction is “on time and on budget” with southbound walls scheduled to be completed this summer, and northbound walls expected next spring.

The construction of the walls was preceded by a community outreach. In 2017, wall contractor AECOM polled residents who lived near I-395 in the Fairlington neighborhood if they wanted sound walls built to mitigate noise from the highway. The vote came at the same time the Fairlington Civic Association (FCA) wrote that its residents were concerned that the proposed 25-foot walls required 10 feet of clearance on both sides, likely necessitating tree removal.

The HOT lane expansion has been touted as a way to increase revenue for other local infrastructure upgrades, with Transburan pledging to pay $15 million each year to local jurisdictions for projects like renovating bridges and re-doing the Pentagon’s south parking lot.

Read Transurban’s complete comment below:

The project team takes as much care as possible where it comes to tree removal. We know how much the community cherishes the tree canopy and how important the trees are to our environment. VDOT and the 395 project team has committed to adding landscaping in identified areas along sound walls. And, Transurban, the operator of the 395 Express Lanes, has provided many of the neighborhoods along the corridor a grant to plant trees or to pay for other beautification projects. We invite any neighborhood in the 395 corridor to apply for one of our quarterly grants… The next deadline is March 31st.

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Arlington residents can expect a special morning wake-up this week as a U.S. Army regiment begins its annual cannon fire training.

Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall announced that the Presidential Salute Battery Guns Platoon of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, a.k.a. the “Old Guard,” will begin firing off blank rounds in the Arlington National Cemetery between 7-8 a.m. on Thursday.

Joint Base community relations officer Leah Rubalcaba told ARLnow that the training will continue on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-8 a.m. “going forward” but that there isn’t a scheduled end date because it depends on how long it takes to train the platoon.

Residents in Radnor-Fort Myer Heights, Foxcroft Heights, Columbia Heights, Aurora Heights and Pentagon City have previously reported being able to hearing the sounds, which they described as “pounding,” “banging,” “booming,” or “explosion.” The booming sound has been reported in neighborhoods even farther away, depending on weather conditions.

During the training, teams work together to fire howitzers and 21-gun volleys. The goal is to time the shots with a ceremony or song, but the guns were not always ceremonial, according to the platoon’s website.

The platoon is equipped with ten M5, 75mm antitank cannons mounted on the M6 howitzer carriage. Each gun weighs 5,775 pounds. The M5 cannon saw service in North Africa, Italy, and Northwest Europe from 1943 until the end of World War II. Today, the Presidential Salute Battery fires the 75mm blank ceremonial shell with 1.5 pounds of powder….

Ceremonies require a five-man staff and a two-man team for each gun. The staff consists of the Battery Commander, who initiates fire commands and ensures the proper number of rounds is fired; the Sergeant of the Watch, who marches the battery into position, controls the firing of the backup gun, and monitors the watchman and his assistant; the Watchman controls the timing between rounds and gives the command to fire; the more experienced Assistant Watchman ensures the Watchman stays in time; and the Counter, counts the rounds and signals the last round to the battery.

Rubalcaba wrote in email Monday that the Presidential Salute Battery Guns Platoon conducts the training in preparation for firing the cannons “at ceremonies in honor of the President of the United States, for visiting foreign dignitaries, during official government ceremonies, regional celebrations… and while rendering honors during the funeral services of our nation’s fallen service members and veterans.”

Rubalcaba said the training sessions will each end prior to the cemetery’s visiting hours.

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Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District) and other D.C.-area lawmakers are pressing for a new study of helicopter noise in the area, a persistent concern for many Arlingtonians living near the county’s copious military installations.

Beyer and four of his Democratic colleagues sent a letter to the head of the Government Accountability Office Monday (Jan. 28) calling for an examination of everything from which helicopters tend to make the most noise to which neighborhoods military aircraft pass over most frequently.

“Many of our constituents live with the impacts of regular helicopter noise that interrupts sleep patterns, causes their homes to shake and negatively impacts their quality of life,” the members of Congress wrote. “While disturbances from helicopter noise have been a longstanding problem for some, others have noted recent increases in the frequency and severity of helicopter noise in their neighborhoods.”

Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Anthony Brown (D-Md.) and David Trone (D-Md.) joined Beyer in writing the letter.

In all, they argue that “information collection, analysis and coordination” will help lawmakers “identify strategies to minimize the negative impacts of helicopter activity without impeding the work of the agencies operating helicopters within the region.”

Other points they’d like to see the agency investigate include “the frequency of flights over neighborhoods, including information on each agency operating helicopters, the times of flight and flight altitude; the number of flights that occur during the day and at night” and “the altitude at which helicopters currently fly within the Washington metropolitan area today compared to the altitude at which helicopters operated within the Washington metropolitan area in the past.”

The lawmakers are also looking to learn more about “degree of coordination that currently exists among the various government and non-governmental entities operating helicopters” in the region, in order to improve efforts to cut back on noise. Beyer has previously proposed similar efforts aimed at increasing that collaboration, including a “working group” that would’ve included both local officials and representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Defense.

Beyer has certainly raised the issue plenty of times since winning office for the first time in 2014, and has also pressured the DOD to pursue other studies of helicopter noise, or even to simply fly its helicopters at higher altitudes to reduce noise complaints.

However, many of those efforts have been stymied by Republican leaders, who have long controlled the House of Representatives — Beyer is cautiously optimistic that the new Democratic majority will be more sympathetic to his concerns.

Beyer and his colleagues are hoping to get an answer on this latest request for a study within the next month or so.

Flickr pool photo by Jeff Sonderman

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