A project scheduled to begin this summer will tunnel under the Four Mile Run near the Route 1 bridge to move overhead power lines underground.
As part of the project, Dominion Energy will rebuild its Glebe Substation next year, modernizing the facility that was built in the 1970s and is reaching the end of its service life. The substation serves parts of Arlington and Alexandria.
“Everything will look a lot cleaner, a lot of the equipment will be a lot smaller,” said Ann Gordon Mickel, Dominion Energy’s communication and community lead for the project.
When work begins, a 250-foot by 250-foot area will be fenced off in the Potomac Yard shopping center parking lot in Alexandria to allow for a 40- to 50-foot deep pit for tunneling.
In Arlington, a pit will be constructed at the substation and there may be temporary intermittent closures on S. Eads Street, as well as on nearby sidewalks and pedestrian paths. Electric service will not be affected.
The underground line will run between the substation and the Potomac Yard Transition Station, which will be decommissioned at the end of the project. The rebuilt Glebe Substation will incorporate new technology, requiring less maintenance and making it more reliable, the power company said.
“Any time you address aging infrastructure and replace it with new technology the reliability always enhances,” said Greg Mathey, a manager of electric transmission communications for Dominion Energy. “The transmission system feeds the distribution system, so the more reliable and hardened we can make the transmission system, the better the distribution system can perform.”
The construction to convert to underground lines is scheduled to continue through 2024. The whole project should be completed by late 2025.
The entire project is expected to cost about $122.8 million. The State Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities in Virginia, approved the project in 2019. It was originally scheduled to be up and running by this month, but due to the nature of the construction, the timeline was pushed back.
Using a trenchless microtunneling method will increase costs by about $16 million — but it shortens the construction timeline, according to project documents.
This type of tunneling will also reduce construction-related impacts to the Potomac Yard shopping center, as it won’t require as much space for pipes above ground.
The overhead lines that can be seen over Four Mile Run will be removed at the end of the project.
Man Convicted of Crystal City Shooting — “A convicted murderer has been found guilty on four charges for shooting and wounding his ex-girlfriend in her Arlington, Virginia, office in 2019. Mumeet Muhammad forced his way into the woman’s office, in the 1500 block of Crystal Drive in Crystal City, and shot the woman on Aug. 28, 2019. Muhammad also was shot by police.” [WTOP]
Body Found Near Roosevelt Island — “A death investigation was underway Wednesday after a body was found in the Potomac River, D.C. police said. Authorities said the body was found in the water between Teddy Roosevelt Island and the Virginia shoreline under the footbridge pedestrians use to access the island… Officials with knowledge of the investigation said the body was heavily decomposed.” [NBC 4, Twitter]
GW Parkway Chase Leads to Lawsuit — “A D.C. police captain sued the District on Tuesday, alleging he was retaliated against after trying to stop a high-speed pursuit last month that ended with a car overturning on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, causing injuries and bringing rush-hour traffic to a halt.” [Washington Post]
Task Force: Expand County, School Boards — “Increasing the size of the Arlington County Board and School Board by at least two members is among the recommendations of the Arlington County Civic Federation’s task force on local governance, which on April 12 delivered the first of what are expected to be two sets of proposals to be voted on by the organization in June.” [Sun Gazette]
PSA: Steer Clear of River Near Chain Bridge — From D.C. Fire and EMS: “The river knows no boundaries. All this holds true for the District. One slip off the rocks can lead to a fall into a deceptively calm looking river actually laden with treacherous currents and hidden rocks that quickly pull you under. Especially the case around Chain Bridge.” [Twitter]
Lease Change Scores Big Bucks for County — “Arlington County Board members on that date voted 5-0 to support a change in technical aspects of the lease that guides the relationship between the county government, which owns substantial parcels in the Courthouse area, and the developer JBG Smith, which holds ground leases and owns the buildings on some of those very same parcels… By making the changes, which staff say carry little risk to the county government or taxpayers, the Arlington government coffers would receive somewhere in the area of $10 million to $12 million in a one-time payment from JBG Smith.” [Sun Gazette]
ARLnow Article Confuses Chicago Suburbanites — From the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Police Department: “The incident was reported by Virginia news outlets with the headline ‘Barricade situation in Arlington Heights.’ News reports were then shared on social media using the #ArlingtonHeights. We understand this created some confusion and concern for our residents. The Arlington Heights Police Department would like to clarify the above incident occurred in Arlington County, Virginia.” [Facebook]
It’s Thursday — Rain and storms in the afternoon and evening. Southwest wind 11 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 31 mph. High of 76 and low of 59. Sunrise at 6:34 am and sunset at 7:45 pm. [Weather.gov]
The residential redevelopment, dubbed The Hazel & Azure at National Landing, is located along Potomac Avenue and Crystal Drive between 29th Street S. and 33rd Street S., between Potomac Yard and Crystal City.
The developer, ZOM Living, announced the step forward — and its acquisition of $152 million in construction financing — yesterday (Thursday).
Hazel & Azure is comprised of two towers, 15 and 11 stories tall, separated by a pedestrian pathway. The 491-unit development will also have 6,800 square feet of ground-floor retail space for restaurants and “service-oriented retailers,” according to a press release.
The original site plan for Potomac Yard Landbay C, divided into east and west parcels, was approved in 2007 and included four office buildings, 41,000 square feet of retail space and a half-acre for a park.
The parcels sat undeveloped for years before ZOM Living submitted its proposal to convert Landbay C East into a residential redevelopment. The western half is still slated for offices.
When complete, the complex will have several amenities for residents, including a rooftop pool, a spin and yoga room, co-working spaces, a self-serve market and an indoor green space for dogs. The lobby will have a café called Verza Coffee and Cocktails, serving coffee and food during the day and cocktails at night.
The mixed-use development is less than a mile south of Amazon’s HQ2, which recently reached a new milestone, and north of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus and Potomac Yard Metro station, both of which are currently under construction.
“We are excited to commence construction on Hazel & Azure at National Landing, a development that will meet the rising demand for high-quality rental apartments in one of DC Metro’s most sought-after neighborhoods,” said Andrew Cretal, Senior Vice President for ZOM Living’s Mid-Atlantic Region, in a statement.
“With the area’s rapidly expanding employment base and vast retail offerings, the delivery of ZOM’s luxury apartment community will further bolster the premier live-work-play district of National Landing,” he added.
Now, with the exception of Potomac Yard Landbay C West, Arlington’s side of Potomac Yard is mostly built up. In the last three years, two apartment complexes came online: The Sur (3400 Potomac Avenue) on Landbay D East and The Clark (3400 S. Clark Street) on Landbay D West.
Another long-delayed redevelopment project, currently a parking lot, sits a few blocks north of the project at 2661 S. Clark Street. Arlington County is giving property owner Gould Property Co. until Dec. 31, 2025 to get started on an apartment project — otherwise, the county proposes turning the lot into an interim plaza.
Construction has started on a pair of multifamily towers in a corner of Crystal City experiencing a bevy of development.
The two towers by developer JBG Smith, located at the intersection of Richmond Highway and 20th Street S., will add 775 apartment units and nearly 27,000 square feet of retail, and will be separated by a new S. Clark-Bell Street.
Demolition of the office building that the towers will replace began last spring, after the project was approved by the County Board in May 2021. JBG Smith expects the project will be completed in 2025.
The West tower (2000 S. Bell Street) will be 25 stories tall and glassy with 355 units and 15,000 square feet of street-level retail. Coming in at 19 stories and 420 units, the East tower (2001 S. Bell Street) will feature “a bold, green-glazed brick façade” and 10,000 square feet of retail, the developer said.
In addition to the new S. Clark-Bell Street, the project will add a tree-lined pedestrian passageway along the East tower and an enclosed, climate-controlled underground connection from 12th Street S. to 23rd Street S.
The developer is currently overseeing the construction of 1,583 apartment units and has another 1,760 units planned for near-term development.
“The start of construction at 2000 and 2001 South Bell Street is a major milestone in National Landing’s ongoing transformation and delivers on our pledge to build new housing in lockstep with Amazon and Virginia Tech’s growth in the neighborhood,” said Bryan Moll, JBG Smith’s executive vice president of development, in a statement.
The first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 is still on-track to be completed in 2023 and the Virginia Tech facility will be done in 2024, according to JBG Smith’s announcement.
When complete, 2000 and 2001 S. Bell Street will be a stone’s throw from a stretch of recently revamped dining and retail spaces, named Central District Retail.
Towers Coming to Site in National Landing — “Developers have closed on the purchase of a vacant site near Crystal City and Potomac Yard in Arlington, a transaction that paves the way for a new two-building project there.” [Washington Business Journal]
Anti-Vaccine-Mandate Rally Growing — “The event, called ‘Defeat the Mandates: An American Homecoming,’ plans a march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial… [A spokesperson] says the group has more than 36,000 signups; a permit application filed with the National Park Service… says it expects 20,000 people.” Organizers have been encouraging attendees to stay in Arlington. [Washingtonian]
Keep Uncollected Bins Out — “Curbside recycling/trash/organics collection resumed Monday, Jan. 10, following last week’s storms. Keep any carts left unemptied this week at the curb through Saturday, Jan. 15. The County’s contractor is making progress collecting about twice the regular tonnage but runs are slower, trucks fill faster and Covid has affected staffing.” [Arlington County]
MLK Mass This Weekend — “On Sunday, January 16, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Catholic Diocese of Arlington, will celebrate a Mass in Observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More. The annual Mass honors the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader who was slain almost 54 years ago.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]
Shred and Recycling Material Drop-Off — Each Arlington resident can shred up to two boxes or bags of paper or unload a small truckload of inert materials for free at a regularly held recycling event this Saturday. [Arlington County]
Return of 7000 Series Delayed Again — “Metro General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld said today he will not resume the placement of 7000-series trains into passenger service for about 90 days to allow Metro engineering and mechanical experts time to focus on root cause analysis and acquire technology to measure 7000-series wheelsets. During the 90-day period, Metro will accelerate efforts to restore 6000-series railcars to increase the availability of newer cars in the fleet and improve reliability for customers.” [WMATA, Washington Post]
It’s Friday — Today will be mostly sunny, with a high near 46. North wind 8 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph. Sunrise at 7:25 a.m. and sunset at 5:10 p.m. Tomorrow will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 27. North wind 7 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph. On Sunday, snow is likely after 1 p.m. [Weather.gov]
Photo courtesy of Huskerdont/Flickr
Many are predicting that the pandemic will drastically affect how we commute and use public transportation for the foreseeable future.
How that will impact long-term transportation projects, like the Metroway bus rapid transit line and the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway extension to Pentagon City, is a puzzle that local officials are trying to put together.
In 2021, according to Metro’s data, bus ridership overall is down by close to two thirds from 2019. And those numbers may not increase a whole lot for at least a couple of years.
“It really is something that we all are literally struggling with to understand,” Arlington County’s Transit Bureau Chief Lynn Rivers told ARLnow. The transit bureau was responsible for building out the initial Transitway infrastructure, as well as the forthcoming Pentagon City extension. “Now… we’re talking 2023 when we’re going to start seeing the same levels [of bus riderships] that we had before.”
Even as more people head back to the office and lockdowns are no longer in effect, traffic patterns have shifted particularly on the roads. There’s now less traffic in the mornings, allowing cars and buses to get to their destination quicker.
“People are changing their patterns and how they are using the service,” Rivers said. “The huge rush hours in the morning and in the afternoon, we may not see that.”
Instead of seeing huge jumps in use during peak times — 6-9 a.m. in the morning and 3-7 p.m. in the evening — Rivers said there may be a leveling-out of how commuters use train and bus transit.
“Throughout the day, there will be constant movement,” she said.
This shift could be at least somewhat permanent and largely due to still a large number of folks continuing to work from home. Those that are going to the office, meanwhile, are spending fewer hours there.
(Nearly half of readers who responded to a ARLnow morning poll in October said they were still working from home.)
In response, and to encourage more people to use the bus system, Metro increased the frequency of the Metroway back in Sep last month (as well as other bus lines). It now runs every 12 minutes on weekdays and 20 minutes on weekends from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., in a bid to encourage ridership.
This shift in commuting patterns comes just as the county unveiled design plans last months for Pentagon City extension of the Transitway. While it comes with a price tag of nearly $28 million, most of the cost will be financed by the state and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. Arlington is contributing about $1.8 million to the project, according to county officials.
Nonetheless, that’s still a significant use of tax dollars at a time when commuting is down and there are plenty of competing priorities. When the rapid bus transit system in Arlington was first conceived more than a decade ago, an airborne illness was not infecting millions across the globe.
With the knowledge that Covid spreads more easily in indoor settings, there could be hesitation among some commuters to be in crowded spaces with strangers despite relatively high local vaccination rates.
“Are we really going to cram back on a bus?” Chris Slatt, Arlington Transportation Commission chair and founder of Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County, asks rhetorically. “Are we going to want to be crowded into a Metro train as we were two or three years ago?”
John Vihstadt, former County Board member who vehemently opposed the Columbia Pike streetcar project, which he helped to scuttle, agrees that shifting commuter behaviors could make the Transitway not as a sound an investment as it once appeared.
While an avid public transit user himself and, generally, in favor of bus rapid transit — opponents of the streetcar argued that BRT along the Pike was a cost-effective alternative to a light rail system — Vihstadt thinks the county needs to do more modeling and forecasting of people’s commuting patterns before moving ahead with the build out.
“We can’t stick our heads in the sand and just expect that everything is going to ultimately return to the status quo,” he tells ARLnow.
A decade ago, when Arlington County was in the midst of planning the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway for the future Metroway bus rapid transit line, the Route 1 corridor looked a lot different.
Development was still ongoing in the corridor, which encompasses Pentagon City and Crystal City, and Amazon was still years away from selecting the area for its HQ2.
There were just over 17,000 residents in the corridor and nearly three quarters of them lived in rental units, according to 2010 county census data. By 2020, that number had risen by about 15% to 20,000 residents. Renters now occupy 91% of the housing stock, according to county data.
While there have been plenty of bumps along the road, including the continued delay of the Potomac Yard Metro station and low ridership during the pandemic, at least one transportation advocate praises the county for looking ahead.
“To do this later, after the development happens, would have been 20 times harder. 100 times harder,” Chris Slatt, Arlington Transportation Commission chair and founder of Sustainable Mobility for Arlington, told ARLnow. “I really give Arlington a lot of credit.”
In terms of Potomac Yard, Slatt made the point that this was an extremely rare opportunity where urban and transportation planners had the ability to start anew and could try out their best laid plans without dealing with already existing infrastructure.
“Potomac Yard was this kind of special opportunity that we don’t have very often,” said Slatt. “I’m sure there are a lot of other places in Northern Virginia where we can say we’re basically a new neighborhood from scratch.”
Local officials agree, which is why the Metroway is such an exciting project for them.
“For mass transit planners… it is a lot easier to design the infrastructure when you’re starting from scratch rather than trying to retrofit it into a pre-existing system, particularly if you want dedicated [transit] lanes,” said Eric Randall, principal transportation engineer with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG).
Plus, he noted, it’s easier for residents to get in the “frame of mind” to use the mass transit option if it is there initially, as opposed to needing to break their previous habits.
Metro’s Yellow Line, which runs through Crystal City and Pentagon City, could see major disruption next year due to needed repairs.
The proposed Yellow Line Bridge and tunnel rehabilitation project will include repairs to the bridge and the tunnels between the Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations.
WMATA’s project website said the bridge is now showing “excessive wear and corrosion,” while “decades of water infiltration and underground moisture have eroded the steel-lined tunnels.” Both the bridge and the tunnels “date to original construction [of the Metro system] more than 40 years ago.”
The transit agency warned that long-term repairs are necessary to avoid structural failure.
The project will also upgrade the fire suppression system on the bridge, which is currently past its useful life according to WMATA. Further remediation work in the tunnel will repair cracks.
The exact timeline for the project is still unclear. Andrew Off, Vice President of Project Implementation and Construction, said a shutdown of the bridge is expected sometime in fall 2022.
“We expect to start sometime at the end of the next calendar year,” Off said. “We’re still working through with our general contractor on the specific construction duration for the Yellow Line Bridge closure.”
Meanwhile, further south on the Yellow Line, Off said a two-week closure is likely as WMATA connects the new Potomac Yard Metro station.
“We’ll have a scheduled two-week or 16-day shutdown in late summer or early fall in support of connecting the new Potomac Yard infill station to our existing system,” Off said.
The station had been scheduled to open next spring but was pushed back to September 2022 after an error was found in the project’s design. Alexandria leaders are still hopeful the project could be moved up to earlier in the year.
And today (Tuesday), the developer is set to cinch two crucial parts of the skeleton. This morning, it announced a partnership with AT&T to install 5G network throughout Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard, collectively known as National Landing.
“The goal of this collaboration with AT&T is to further enhance National Landing and create the only neighborhood that provides entrepreneurs, universities, and global technology companies the digital infrastructure necessary to shape the future of their industries,” JBG Smith CEO Matt Kelly said.
The speedy wireless network could draw more innovative companies to the area and help bring futuristic experiences — such as self-driving vehicles, immersive and augmented reality, building automation and environmental sustainability — to fruition, according to their press release.
Parts of the 5G network could be operational in the first half of 2022, JBG Smith Smart Cities Vice President Vardahn Chaudhry tells ARLnow.
“5G is complex in that it requires robust underlying digital infrastructure both underground and across the built environment,” he said. “JBG Smith and AT&T are still working through the details of the infrastructure deployments and will share more in the coming months.”
The real estate company made its ambitions known last August, when it acquired seven blocks of Citizens Broadband Radio Service spectrum spanning Arlington and Alexandria through a national Federal Communications Commission auction.
Still missing the underground network backbone, JBG Smith eyed Arlington County’s unused fiber optic assets in National Landing, from when the county built a ring of dark fiber nearly 10 miles long called ConnectArlington.
The network was designed to support county government and Arlington Public Schools and give local businesses access to cheaper, higher-speed internet, but an ARLnow investigation found legal issues made it difficult for businesses to use it.
County staff recommend the County Board approve the 75-year agreement with JBG Smith, which is planning to market National Landing — home to Amazon’s HQ2 — as an “Innovation District.”
“Consistent with the intent of the original ConnectArlington investment, the primary benefit of this Agreement will be to assist in the creation of an Innovation District that will establish the area as a magnet for human talent and innovation — the key driver of economic prosperity today and moving forward,” according to the report.
JBG Smith said it already possess other things needed for the project: expansive real estate holdings, from existing office space and apartments to developable land, which provides the buildings, street furniture and underground infrastructure needed for the roll-out.
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said he is thrilled to see two private-sector organizations leading the 5G charge.
“American competitiveness in the deployment of 5G networks — and innovation in the emerging technologies [that] 5G unlocks — remain key to our national and economic security interest,” he said. “This collaboration can be a blueprint for how digital infrastructure is deployed, and I am heartened by the prospects of the innovation this may unlock to advance our country’s competitiveness globally.”
County staff valued the transfer at $3.5 million after weighing how much it would need to recoup construction costs and advance county goals against how much it would cost JBG Smith to build its own assets.
Fiber rights transferred to JBGS are for 75 years plus a 24-year extension option
Arl staff basically say they have no clue how much this transaction should be valued, but they settled on $3.5mil pic.twitter.com/YIgeW0YR21
— Stephen Repetski (@srepetsk) July 19, 2021
Arlington County has taken another step toward developing a county-owned and maintained waterfront park in Potomac Yard.
On Saturday, the County Board approved an agreement with the Arlington Potomac Yard Community Association to accept a gift of three parcels of land within the boundaries of Short Bridge Park. The park is located across Four Mile Run from the Potomac Yard shopping center, along Route 1.
The property “is used by the public as an open space but is privately owned and maintained,” according to a staff report. “[It] has concrete paths, landscaping, a public ‘tot lot,’ open grass, trees, and irrigation.”
Since 2015, the county has had a public access easement over the property, the report said. When the land is turned over to the county, it will cost about $44,000 to maintain annually.
Acquiring the land gets Arlington closer to turning Short Bridge Park into a county park. Although the 3.5-acre open space was created through the Potomac Yard Phased Development Site Plan, adopted in 2000, it remained privately owned by the association and the Eclipse on Center Park condominiums.
That process includes two phases of construction to realizing the vision of the Short Bridge Park Master Plan, adopted by the County Board in January 2018.
(That was also when the name changed from its informal moniker, South Park.)
The existing park amenities were constructed by a developer.
“These improvements were intended as interim improvements until Arlington County funds were available to develop a Park Master Plan and implement permanent park improvements,” the master plan said. “The developer-constructed improvements are minimal and lack typical County park amenities such as trash cans, seating, signage, and Americans with Disabilities Act accessible pathways.”
It will take a few years, however, before the master plan’s vision for the park is implemented.
“The first phase includes a trail connection that links Richmond Highway to the Four Mile Run trail and is estimated to begin construction in late 2021,” a county staff report said.
The trail project is funded through a federal grant and 20% county match, according to the report.
“The second phase of the park master plan will construct the rest of the park and is dependent on Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) funds,” the report said.
As of now, the adopted CIP plan — which schedules out county projects through 2028 — identified construction funding for phase two “in the out-years” or the 2023-24 fiscal year, the county said.
According to the master plan, this phase includes a dog run, a riverfront overlook and an “interpretive plaza.”
Image via Arlington County
(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) The “all clear” has been given after a bomb threat in the Crystal City/Potomac Yard area.
The investigation took place on the 3500 block of S. Clark Street, a block that includes the U.S. headquarters of grocery chain Lidl and an LA Fitness location.
An Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman declined to specify who or what received the bomb threat, but did note that several nearby businesses were evacuated during the investigation.
Arlington County firefighters and other law enforcement agencies are assisting with the investigation, said ACPD’s Ashley Savage. Assistance was provided by the explosives detection K-9 units of Virginia State Police, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, Amtrak, and and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, she said.
The large police presence and road closures prompted delays for some buses, Metro said earlier via social media.
FINAL: The all clear has been given. Employees are beginning to reenter businesses and road closures should be lifting shortly.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) May 3, 2021
Okay looks like state and federal folks just showed up. This must be a real deal thing.
— Boomer Bear (@barefootboomer) May 3, 2021
Metroway-Potomac Yard Line Delay: Due to police activity on S. Glebe Rd at Potomac Ave, buses are experiencing delays in both directions.
— Metrobus Info (@Metrobusinfo) May 3, 2021
Photo courtesy anonymous