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Morning Notes

Voting Getting Underway — It’s Election Day. Polling places in Arlington are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. today. The statewide race for governor is dominating headlines, but here in Arlington there are local races for County Board, School Board and Virginia House of Delegates, plus bond referenda.

Three-Day Week for Students — “It’ll be a three-day work week, so to speak, for Arlington students this week. Classrooms will be closed on Nov. 2 for Election Day, and on Nov. 4, the school system will for the first time celebrate Diwali – a Hindu festival of lights – by taking the day off.” [Sun Gazette]

More on School Bus Driver Protests — Bus drivers for Arlington Public Schools earn the lowest hourly rate among various D.C. area school systems, as compiled by a local TV station. Drivers protested their treatment just over a week ago. [WUSA 9]

Pedestrian Tunnel Closing for Repairs — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “The pedestrian tunnel between Courthouse Metro station and Colonial Place will be closed for repairs this Wednesday through Friday. Aboveground crosswalks will remain open and the views of CVS are exquisite.” [Twitter]

Ticket Sales Restricted for Football Game — “This coming Saturday, November 6th at 3:30PM, W-L Varsity Football team, Cheerleaders and Marching Band will travel to Yorktown to play our last regular season football game. Please note that attendance at this game will be restricted.  Free passes will not be accepted. There will be no tickets sold at the gate. Due to restrictions put in place by Yorktown to address capacity and supervision concerns (including students rushing the field), W-L has been allocated 600 spectator tickets.” [Generals Athletics, Twitter]

ACPD Toy Drive Returns Next Week — “Help spread joy this holiday season by donating new, unwrapped toys during the Arlington County Police Department’s (ACPD) seventh annual Fill the Cruiser Holiday Toy Drive. This year, with families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for donations may be greater than ever and your generosity helps ensure the holidays are bright for some of our most vulnerable community members – children in need.” [ACPD]

It’s Tuesday — Today showers are likely, mainly between 11am and 2pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 53. Chance of precipitation is 70%. Sunrise at 7:36 a.m. and sunset at 6:06 p.m. Tomorrow it will be mostly sunny, with a high near 53.

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Morning Notes

Man Found Unconscious in Jail Cell — “A 58-year-old adult male has been transported to an area hospital for medical treatment after being found unconscious in his cell in the Arlington County Detention Facility. At approximately 6:30 a.m. on Oct. 5, 2021, the individual was found unconscious in his cell in the medical unit. Deputies and medical staff began immediate resuscitation efforts until the arrival of Arlington [County Fire Department] units. He was transported to Virginia Hospital Center for additional treatment and is in stable condition.” [Arlington County]

Expect More Pedestrians Near Schools — “On Wednesday, Oct. 6, Arlington Public Schools is taking part in Walk, Bike and Roll to School Day, an annual international celebration that encourages students to walk, bike or roll to school while teaching the health, environmental and community-building benefits of active transportation and safe routes to school.” [Arlington County]

New DCA Checkpoints Opening Soon — “Reagan National Airport’s new security checkpoints are set to open in about a month, in time for holiday travel. This will dramatically reshape the airport, putting most of what is now open space (Ben’s Chili Bowl) in the B/C terminals BEHIND security.” [NBC Washington, Twitter]

Honors for Fmr. W-L Volleyball Player — “Kate Sheire ’24 led the Bears offense, scoring 21 kills and blocking three shots to help bolster their defense… Sheire, who leads the Bears roster with 136.5 points over 11 games, added to her already-stellar rookie campaign with the performance against Yale. The Ivy League announced Monday that Sheire — whose 21 kills led all scorers in the first week of conference play – was selected as both the Ivy League Rookie of the Week and Ivy League Player of the Week Monday.” [Brown Daily Herald]

Historical Society Talk Planned — “In another sign of a rebound in the COVID era, the Arlington Historical Society is resuming in-person meetings. First up: An Oct. 14 gathering focused on the Syphax family. The event will be held at 7 p.m. at the Reinsch Library on the main campus of Marymount University… Historian and genealogist Steve Hammond will discuss the Syphax family, starting with those who were enslaved on the Arlington House plantation, continuing with the post-Civil War era and running through the modern day.” [Sun Gazette]

Football Trophy Returns to Yorktown — “After years of being elsewhere, a championship football trophy has returned to where it originated – in possession of the Yorktown High School football team. Back in 1976, when David Gebhardt was Yorktown’s first-year head football coach, the Patriots won the Great Falls District title. When Gebhardt moved to Jamestown, N.C., years later, that trophy unintentionally was taken along.” [Sun Gazette]

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The Arlington County Police Department is reminding folks to navigate school zones and bus stops safely as Arlington Public Schools students return to class today.

“More travelers will soon be on our roadways as students begin walking, bicycling, and riding the bus to school when classes resume on Monday,” the department said in a release said. “With a little awareness and prevention, all travelers can arrive at their destinations in a timely and safe manner.”

It’s the first time APS students will be in class five days per week since before the pandemic.

Motorists will see variable message boards on county roadways reminding them to slow down, avoid distractions and watch for students, according to the release. The “high-visibility transportation safety campaign in and around school zones and bus stops” is intended “to ensure the trip to class is as safe as possible.”

Police recommend families talk to their kids about safety, too.

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility and back-to-school is an opportune time to remind students about important steps that can help keep them safe while out in the community,” the department said.

The police department and Arlington Public Schools published a video with safety reminders.

The press release included the following safety tips for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

Transportation Safety Tips

Drivers are reminded to:

  • Obey speed limits which may change during school zone times.
  • Avoid distracted driving and keep your attention on the road.
  • Watch for students walking and riding bikes to school.
  • Don’t pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading passengers.On a two-lane road, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop.
  • On a multi-lane paved road, vehicles traveling in both directions must stop.
  • On a divided highway, vehicles behind the bus must stop. Vehicles traveling in the opposite direction may proceed with caution.
  • Have all vehicle occupants wear their seatbelts.
  • Pick-up and drop-off students in designated locations.

Pedestrians are reminded to:

  • Cross the street at marked crosswalks and never against a red light.
  • Look before you cross and follow the direction of school crossing guards or APS staff members.
  • Always walk on designated sidewalks or paths, never along the side of a road.

Bicyclists are reminded to:

  • Wear your helmet. Helmets are required for riders ages 14 and younger but are recommended for all.
  • Keep right and ride with traffic.
  • Secure your bicycle with a lock when not in use

General Safety Tips for Students

Safety is everyone’s responsibility and back-to-school is an opportune time to remind students about important steps that can help keep them safe while out in the community. Parents and guardians are also encouraged to role-play possible situations with students and discuss personal safety and awareness tips.

Ensure students:

  • Know their address, telephone number and how to contact a parent or guardian.
  • Remain aware of their surroundings.
  • Walk or bike with another person, whenever possible. Stay in well-lit areas.
  • Limit the use of devices that may distract them.
  • Avoid engaging with or answering questions from strangers.
  • Immediately report anything that makes them feel unsafe to a trusted adult.
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Morning Notes

Delayed Reopening for N. Glebe Road — From VDOT: “Update: Due to last week’s inclement weather, the new reopening date for Glebe Road is Monday, Aug. 30 at 5 a.m.” [Twitter]

Arlington Paralympian Competing in Tokyo — “Sydney Barta of Arlington is competing in four track and field events this week and next at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. Barta, a 17-year-old student at National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C., will be competing in the 100-meter, 200-meter, discus throw, and shot put throw.” [Patch]

Pedestrians Peeved About Pushing Buttons — “Last Wednesday, Arlington County officials announced plans to roll back 78 automatic pedestrian phase activations, also known as ‘beg buttons,’ throughout the county… The chair of Arlington’s volunteer transportation commission, Chris Slatt, had choice words… ‘To use the start of school to justify this change and to claim it is to ‘improve walkway safety’ is, frankly, gross and unacceptable.'” [GGWash]

Police Investigate Saturday Robbery — “At approximately 11:42 p.m. on August 21, police were dispatched to the late report of a robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined that approximately 40 minutes prior, the male victim met with the suspect for the prearranged sale of sneakers. The suspect brought the victim down a residential hallway where the second suspect was waiting. The suspects then grabbed the victim, assaulted him and stole an undisclosed amount of cash from his person before fleeing into the building.” [ACPD]

Local Rookie Cop Saves Nine Lives — “From a rookie to a pro, a Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPDC) patrol officer, Taylor Brandt, is being hailed a hero amongst fellow colleagues and community members after saving 9 lives within one year of working on the streets. Brandt joined DC police in December 2019 as a resident from Arlington, Virginia.” [WJLA]

Historical Society Planning 9/11 Event — “The Arlington Historical Society annual banquet commemorates the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon.  We will hear about the events of the day and learn about how the Arlington community responded to the crisis. Eyewitnesses and first responders will recount their experiences as we honor the resilience of our community.” [Arlington Historical Society]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Some Automatic Ped Signals Ending — “The County will be rolling back automatic pedestrian phase activations at several signalized intersections across Arlington. This measure was enacted in 2020 in response to low traffic volumes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to minimize the need to press push buttons to trigger the pedestrian phase at a signal. This initiative was accompanied by ‘Do Not Push’ signage posted at various intersections.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

Mostly Back to Usual for School Buses — “APS will operate with normal bus capacity and follow normal procedures. Properly fitted masks are required for everyone on school buses and inside schools. There will be no temperature checks or verification of health screening completion upon arrival at the bus or school. Families will continue to receive the daily Qualtrics Symptom Screener as a reminder to complete health screening with their children prior to arrival at the bus, and to check temperatures daily. Please keep students home if they are sick.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Armed Robbery of Phone in Penrose — “The victim and suspect connected online regarding the sale of a cellphone. When the male victim arrived at the agreed upon location, he approached the two suspects and asked if he could see the cellphone prior to purchasing. Suspect One reached into his backpack, brandished a firearm and demanded the victim give him all of his money while Suspect Two brandished a knife. The victim gave the suspects an undisclosed amount of cash and the two fled the scene on bikes.” [ACPD]

AWLA Caring for Cat Hit By Car — “Last week, Gomez was hit by a car and needs eye removal surgery, a weight -gain diet and monitoring for neurological symptoms. You can make sure Gomez, and more pets like him, get the lifesaving care they need by donating.” [Twitter]

County Mulls Joining Sports Event Consortium — “Should Arlington government leaders wish to join an emerging regional consortium aimed at jointly promoting sports facilities in Northern Virginia, they’d be welcome to do so, officials with the new group said. In return, Arlington officials said they would be interested in being part of the effort down the road, if opportunities present themselves.” [Sun Gazette]

Free Cuts for Kids at Local Barbershop — “Moore’s Barber Shop in Arlington is part of the initiative, ‘Kuts For Kids,’ with Building Blocks Mentoring Program… giving kids free back-to-school haircuts.” [Fox 5]

Segment Draws Customer from a Distance — From barber James Moore: “Yesterday, @fox5dc @gwenfox5dc did a story at the barbershop. A man 70 miles away saw it and came in for a haircut today. My new friend Mike gave me tomatoes, peppers, apricot preserve and a FD patch for our ‘good deeds.’ It was so cool!” [Twitter]

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The right lane of S. Carlin Springs Road reopens to traffic on Saturday (photo via DES)

Temporary bollards and wheel stops along a segment of S. Carlin Springs Road are set to come down this weekend.

Since March, these barriers — closing off the northbound right travel lane from 8th Place S. to 5th Road S. — have been up to give more room to kids walking to their neighborhood schools. On Saturday (July 24), S. Carlin Springs Road will fully reopen to traffic, according to a tweet from Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.

“APS and the Department of Environmental Services saw an opportunity to create pilot temporary walking routes not on built sidewalks but rather on space carved out from an original travel or parking lane to help students get to school,” DES spokesman Peter Golkin said.

Campbell Elementary School, Glen Forest Elementary School and Carlin Springs Elementary School are all on or near that stretch of S. Carlin Springs Road that starts in Arlington Mill and ends in Glencarlyn.

The pilot walkability route was part of the county’s five-year Vision Zero Action Plan, aimed at eliminating traffic-related deaths and severe injuries. The County Board approved the Vision Zero safety plan this May.  

“Staff collected information on facility use feedback, community experience, field observation of operation, traffic pattern, crash experience, etc.,” Golkin said. “Staff hope to use the comments and data to inform future decisions.”

DES and APS will continue studying how the road is used to decide any future changes to traffic patterns, he said. They also tested out the idea on Lorcom Lane in residential North Arlington, which has seen prior attempts to improve safety for kids walking to school.

Although the test was part of a long-range plan, the department took advantage of conditions this spring — when there were fewer cars on the road due to the pandemic and kids were starting to walk to school again — to pilot the change, Golkin noted.

He says neither the Arlington County Police Department nor APS observed a notable increase or decrease in the number of collisions during the study period. Instead, they saw “challenging and dangerous encounters, but none resulted in a collision.”

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By 2030, Arlington County aims to have zero transportation-related deaths and serious injuries on its streets and trails.

The County Board took its first step toward this ambitious goal in July 2019, the same year that Arlington registered six fatal crashes, according to county data. The board adopted a “Vision Zero” resolution that, at the time, offered few details. Its second step was to draft a five-year action plan.

After more than a year of work by county staff and review by advisory commissions, the final draft of the first five-year Vision Zero Action Plan, with those long-awaited details, is set to be reviewed by the County Board next Saturday (May 15).

This plan — informed by local crash data, public engagement and talks with other Vision Zero communities — lays out one-time and ongoing projects aimed at improving public safety. These range from installing automated traffic enforcement cameras and lowering speed limits to maintaining a crash data dashboard and educating children about safety with help from Arlington Public Schools.

If adopted, the plan will result in a number of changes locals will see and experience, Principal Planner Christine Baker told the Arlington Transportation Commission in February.

She said these will include enhanced intersections (shown below) and improved warning signs, as well as more education programs and messaging from the Arlington County Police Department.

“It’ll take time to see these improvements on every single street in the county, but in the meantime, we’re going to be reporting our progress on the program,” Baker said. “We’re really excited to be diving into this program.”

The county will update its website and send emailed updates telling people “when they’ll be able to recognize Vision Zero is on the streets,” she said.

Folks may be seeing some recent changes made in the spirit of Vision Zero: Over the last year, the county has sought lower speed limits while raising fines along 11 mostly residential streets in Arlington.

The County Board also made installing speed cameras a legislative priority in the 2021 General Assembly assembly session, a move toward more equitable law enforcement that also would reduce public interactions with police officers.

According to the action plan, there are a dozen target areas to tackle, from pedestrian safety and intersections to drunk or distracted driving and speeding.

Pedestrian safety is the most at risk, according to county data. One-quarter of serious crashes and more than half of fatal crashes involved a pedestrian, though pedestrian-involved crashes account for 5% of total crashes. Bicyclists and motorcycles comprise 2% and 1%, respectively.

The plan also cites data indicating that speeding and turning-related crashes are more common than alcohol-related ones, but almost half of all fatal crashes involved alcohol and more than half occurred at night.

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A lot happens on N. Oak Street between Clarendon Blvd and 17th Street N. in Rosslyn.

To the east is an office building where the internet was invented. It now serves as an annex for the State Department. To the west is a very busy, standalone Starbucks.

What the block lacks, at least on the west side, is a sidewalk.

A new project set to kick off next week aims to rectify the lack of a pedestrian walkway, with a makeshift path along the road. More from an Arlington County transportation update:

During the week of May 10, weather permitting, the County will create a pedestrian pathway along the west side of North Oak Street between Clarendon Boulevard and 17th Street North.

Currently, there is no sidewalk on the west side of Oak Street. After receiving a request from the community, County staff conducted a traffic investigation for this location and determined that adding a pedestrian treatment would help improve safety and access.

The pedestrian pathway will be installed by adding a barrier between the travel lane and the curb. This will slightly narrow the southbound lane, but access for vehicles, including the driveway to the coffee shop, will be retained.

What to expect during this work:

  • Once installation begins on the pathway, we anticipate completion within 1 week.
  • The installation will be done during work hours, generally 8 am to 2 pm, Monday through Friday.
  • During installation, there may be some impacts to the southbound travel lane on North Oak Street.

Photos (1) via Arlington County, (2) via Google Maps

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Arlington County is seeking public input about improvements to the portion of S. Eads Street between 12th and 15th streets in Pentagon City.

The public survey focuses on the east (northbound) side of the relatively small section of S. Eads Street running near Amazon’s future HQ2. It asks questions about living and working in Arlington, how individuals travel around the county, and how safe does one feel traveling along this particular segment of S. Eads Street.

The last page of the survey provides an interactive map, asking individuals to leave comments about their difficulty crossing the street, sightlines, and if pavement or sidewalks are in need of repair.

“We’re hoping to gather observations and experiences on how people use the street now across all modes, from biking and walking to taking transit and driving,” writes Eric Balliet, spokesperson for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, in an email to ARLnow. “We’d like to know what issues they experience, any safety or access concerns they have, and how they might want to see the street improved. The feedback will be used to guide the development of the concept design, which we will present later for another round of feedback.”

The existing streetscape includes a partially protected bike lane, inconsistent sidewalk, and a lack of street lighting. The layout of the street is also primarily oriented toward cars, according to the project’s webpage.

Improvements being considered include adding physical protection to the bike lane, adding more street lighting, and reconstructing and realigning sidewalks.

“Together, these improvements will create a safer, more accessible, and more comfortable environment for all users of the street,” says the webpage.

The county’s master transportation plan as well as other plans and studies all call for S. Eads Street to be reconstructed into a so-called complete street — one safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, mass transit users, and drivers. This was first implemented as a pilot project back in 2014.

The survey is part of the county’s “preliminary public engagement” process and will be open until Friday, April 23.

The concept design for the changes is set to be unveiled this spring or summer. Afterward, more time will be provided for the public to weigh in.

By the fall, the final concept design should be ready with engineering, design, and procurement of a contractor set to be completed by the spring of 2023.

Construction is scheduled to start in the summer of 2023 and be completed a year later, in the summer of 2024.

S. Eads Street has seen constant construction, planned improvements, and redevelopment in recent years due in large part to Amazon’s arrival to the county.

The other side of S. Eads Street — southbound — is also set to receive improvements as part of later phases of the (Amazon-funded) Metropolitan Park development.

Image (2) via Arlington County

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A real estate company developing an apartment building in Crystal City is looking to “refresh” its holdings nearby with a new retail plaza.

Lowe Enterprises Real Estate, which owns 2450 Crystal Drive and 2641 S. Clark Street, has applied for a minor site plan amendment to help break up the “mega block” along Crystal Drive south of 23rd Street S. Where a low-slung building space is currently sandwiched between two taller office buildings, Lowe envisions a plaza and retail pavilion, according to application documents.

The application comes nearly four years after the Arlington County Board approved Lowe’s “Century Center Residential” development: a yet-to-be-built apartment building to go on top of the Buffalo Wild Wings at the corner of Crystal Drive and 23rd Street S.

Lowe is now proposing a 10,500-square-foot public plaza with ground-level retail improvements to take the place of a chunk of office space. This change “fulfills the ‘market’ public plaza” called for in the Crystal City Sector Plan, the applicant’s attorney, Kedrick Whitmore, told the county in a letter.

“The proposed changes would substantially enhance the existing condition of the area,” boosting the ability for outdoor gatherings and seating, Whitmore said.

The plaza would be an interim installation until the time when an east-west road between Crystal Drive and Clark-Bell Street can be built. For that to happen, however, additional buildings will need to be torn down, which requires some leases to expire.

Members of the public had the chance to engage with the site plan amendment last week as part of a new community engagement process, Arlington Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development spokeswoman Jessica Margarit tells ARLnow.

“For this subset, County Planning staff believe additional community input would be beneficial prior to consideration by the County Board,” she said. “While a majority are in fact minor, at times others can have a significant impact on the public realm or garner broad community interest.”

Examples of these minor plans with major impact include public park improvements or reconfigurations and substantial streetscape or road modifications, she said.

The focus on increasing community engagement for “minor” changes follows problems with a recent site plan amendment from JBG Smith to make changes to the Crystal City Water Park. The County Board initially denied its application in January over potential problems and approved the latest iteration of the project last month. During this process, members said this project revealed how technically minor site plan amendments can be major enough to warrant more public engagement.

Since then, the county has solicited public feedback on amendments to the Reed School Stormwater Facility, to Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row), and now, Century Center, Margarit said, adding that the feedback so far has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

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Construction has started on two residential towers at 1900 Crystal Drive in Crystal City, according to developer JBG Smith.

The announcement came nearly one year to the day after the County Board approved the project, which involved tearing down an aging office building.

The new development at 1900 Crystal Drive will have 808 multifamily rental units and about 40,000 square feet of street-level retail across the two towers, each to be LEED Silver certified and approximately 300 feet tall, according to the developer.

A 27-story southern tower will feature 471 apartments, while a 26-story northern tower will incorporate 337 apartments.

Through a spokesperson, JBG Smith declined to comment on when the towers are expected to be completed. Last year, however, when the County Board met and approved the project, a company rep said construction could take 2-3 years.

“The start of construction on 1900 Crystal Drive marks yet another major milestone in National Landing’s ongoing transformation,” said Anthony Greenberg, Executive Vice President of Development at JBG Smith. “The introduction of new residences, restaurants and shops at 1900 Crystal Drive, combined with our recently delivered retail and entertainment district just about a block away will more than double the concentration of street-facing retail amenities on Crystal Drive.”

Residents will have access to private rooftops and green spaces. At the street-level, JBG Smith is planning a pedestrian-friendly street that will connect 18th and 20th Streets S. as well as open park space. JBG Smith will provide a number of community benefits, including enhanced streetscapes, a grand staircase connecting to public open space and bicycle facilities.

JBG Smith, the developer, leasing agent and property manager for the Amazon HQ2 project, anticipates that with Amazon’s arrival, National Landing’s daytime population will increase from 50,000 people to 90,000 in the near future.

The housing and amenities at 1900 Crystal Drive and neighboring developments will be a “thriving, mixed-use environment [that] will allow people to easily walk from their home or office to their favorite restaurants and amenities — cementing National Landing as a destination both day and night,” Greenberg said.

Neighbors and visitors can expect sidewalk closures during construction.

“This exciting project may create changes for our everyday pedestrian routines,” according to an announcement on the National Landing Business Improvement District website. The changes include:

  • The southern sidewalk along 18th Street will be closed; pedestrians should use the north side of 18th Street S. to access Crystal Drive and S. Clark Street.
  • The western sidewalk along Crystal Drive will be closed; pedestrians should use the jersey barrier, protected lane to travel north and south along Crystal Drive.
  • The northern sidewalk along 20th Street S. will be closed; pedestrians should use the jersey barrier, protected lane to access Crystal Drive and S. Clark Street.

Photo (middle) via Arlington County and (below) via National Landing BID

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