Work could begin soon on the 65-year-old W. Glebe Road Bridge, which Arlington County says is “structurally deficient.”

This Saturday, the Arlington County Board is set to approve a $9.9 million contract that would kickstart the project. Improvements include replacing the top of the bridge, repairing its supports and making it more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly.

According to the county, the bridge is in poor condition and requires attention soon. The bridge has been restricted to vehicles weighing fewer than five tons since a routine inspection in November 2018 uncovered structural problems.

The bridge “needs immediate superstructure replacement as further deterioration of the beams may result in bridge closure for [an] extended period,” a staff report said.

W. Glebe Road Bridge will remain open to vehicles and pedestrians during construction, which is expected to last 18 months, the county said, adding that extra time is needed to move underground utilities.

“The project includes removing the existing prestressed concrete superstructure and constructing a new superstructure with steel girders and a concrete deck,” the report said. “The project also includes repairing the existing substructures, and installing new,
wider sidewalks, bike lanes, architectural features and enhanced lighting.”

This bridge is the first to be rebuilt as part of an agreement between Arlington and Alexandria to share the costs of rehabilitating and maintaining five bridges across Four Mile Run which connect the two jurisdictions. Once the repairs are complete, Arlington will be fully responsible for inspecting and maintaining the W. Glebe Road Bridge.

The next bridge slated for attention is Arlington Ridge Road, which needs to be repaired in two to five years, according to the county. Other bridges in the agreement are at Shirlington Road, Route 1 and Potomac Avenue.

The county said it has received community feedback in favor of replacing the bridge, adding separate areas for pedestrian and bicycle traffic and incorporating art.

Such art elements would “connect the design of the bridge to Four Mile Run and the communities that live in the area,” the report said.

According to the county, some people voiced concerns about the length of the project. A shorter build time would require closing the bridge, staff said.

“The public prefers the bridge remain open during the construction period,” the county said.

Photo (1) via Google Maps, (2-3) via Arlington County

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Arlington County is moving forward with a project to restore Donaldson Run Tributary B despite some vocal public opposition.

On Tuesday, the County Board voted 4-1 to award a $1.5 million contract to restore a segment of the stream beginning at N. Upton Street and extending about 1,400 feet downstream to where it meets with Donaldson Run Tributary A in Zachary Taylor Park. Takis Karantonis cast the dissenting vote.

The vote came after a handful of locals criticized the proposed project for sacrificing trees, as well as allegedly misusing taxpayer dollars and ignoring changing scientific opinions.

With the vote, the county will use an approach similar to the one taken in 2006 to restore Donaldson Run Tributary A.

The project will address “critical infrastructure, public safety and environmental threats,” the county said. It “will stabilize the stream’s eroding banks to protect existing stream valley infrastructure, including the threatened water main and sanitary sewer, which crosses the stream and runs parallel to it.”

Staff said 83 trees will be axed as part of the project, which has been in the works since 2004.

Board Chair Matt de Ferranti told public speakers he agreed with many of their points but he is ultimately supporting what county staff recommended.

“We need to work on impervious cover and climate change but we also lost more than 20 trees since 2017 due to some of the washout that has come,” he said.

Critics weren’t convinced.

The restoration of Tributary A “failed miserably,” said Rod Simmons, who said he worked on the project and argued that it actually made flooding and runoff worse. Those recommending a different solution say theirs is cheaper, less intensive, and will save more trees.

“I am heart-sick at the devastation of the Donaldson Run ecosystem that will result from this project but I am even more distressed at the systemic discounting of the importance and integrated nature of the unique ecosystems in Arlington such as Donaldson Run,” said Mary Glass, a local resident. “For more than a decade, concerned citizens have provided valuable information on the adverse impact of this project and constructive alternatives to reach the same results…It’s a shame that despite all of this, no significant modification has occurred.”

Karantonis argued that the area needs restoration but 83 felled trees is too high a price.

“I don’t think we did everything we could to minimize impact,” he said.

But Jason Papacosma, the watershed programs manager for Arlington County, said the method suggested by the advocates is not applicable to the “very high-energy environment” of Donaldson Run.

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Three safety and beautification projects are coming to western Arlington streets.

This Saturday the County Board is scheduled to vote on $2.8 million in construction contracts for Neighborhood Conservation projects. The three projects are all at the western edge of Arlington, near Falls Church.

The project at Patrick Henry Drive near Westover Apartments will add dedicated bike lanes from Washington Boulevard to 16th Street N.

The other two projects — 2nd Street South at S. Kensington Street and N. Quintana Street — will add new sidewalks. The N. Quintana Street project will also add streetlights.

The projects are all planned to:

  • Improve pedestrian connectivity
  • Provide disability accessible routes
  • Rehabilitate existing roadways
  • Improve drainage

The projects are 32 percent more expensive ($883,379) than when they were first proposed in 2017, which staff attributed to inflation in construction costs and higher construction standards enacted by the county since then.

Photo via Google Maps

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Though National Skip The Straw Day already passed this year, three local Girl Scouts are asking their fellow students not to use plastic straws for a week.

The Claremont Immersion School students presented their research on the effect that plastic straws have on the environment to third through fifth grade science classes last week.

The project is part of a Girl Scouts bronze award project, in which junior level scouts tackle a project that they believe will “create a long-lasting change in their community.”

The trio, all members of Arlington Troop 4594, hopes to have at least 300 students sign the pledge and use paper, silicone, bamboo or steel straws — or no straws at all.

According to one of the girls’ parents, Levi Novey, the girls also intend to approach two restaurants, pitching a plastic straw-free dining area.

According to Novey, the three girls are being advised by two mentors: Kate Ceste, the Arlington County Solid Waste Bureau’s contracts manager, and Elenor Hodges, executive director of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment.

Photos courtesy of Levi Novey

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It’s been about a year and a half in the making, but today marked the ribbon cutting for the newly revamped Clarendon Central Park.

County Board members Mary Hynes and Jay Fisette joined county employees for the ceremony, including many from the Department of Environmental Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation directly involved in planning the renovations. Hynes was one of the speakers and thanked all the people involved, from planners to construction workers, for bringing the idea to fruition.

“It addresses so many different goals,” Hynes said. “That great collaboration has led to this amazing space, which will be well used by not only the people who live nearby, but all of the people who come and enjoy our restaurants and the other amenities that Clarendon offers. It’s going to, I think, be a great addition to this neighborhood for many, many years to come.”

Improvements to the park and Metro plaza include new bike shelters, landscaping, irrigation, tables and chairs, lighting and ADA-compliant pavers. The plaza was designed to have more open space for events, such as the farmers market, and for easier pedestrian access to the Metro.

In May of 2012, the County Board approved a contract for the first phase of the project, worth more than $760,000. Workers completed the first phase — the eastern portion ending near the Clarendon Metro elevator — last December, and an additional $197,000 was requested at that time to complete the rest of the park.

County officials believe the hard work and long process involved in this project are worth the end result: an improved “gateway to Clarendon” that thousands of people pass through each day.

“This has been a little bit of a long, torturous journey,” said Dennis Leach with the Department of Environmental Services. “But I think the result is pretty phenomenal.”

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Rendering of proposed Latitude Apartments building in Virginia SquareResidents at the Monroe Condominium (3625 10th Street N.) in Virginia Square take issue with plans for a nearby apartment development, and they want the county to do something about it.

The site in question currently houses a one-story bank building and a two-story office building with surface parking. There is a request to rezone the land at 3601-3625 N. Fairfax Drive from commercial to residential in order to move ahead with the proposed Latitude Apartments project. The 12-story building would contain 256 residential units and 5,600 square feet of ground floor retail space along Fairfax Drive.

Some Monroe residents believe the plan is progressing without adequate community input. They claim the project directly violates the Virginia Square Sector Plan, which calls for a commercial building on the site. In a written statement, the condo association’s board of directors asked the County Board to reject Latitude’s site plan application.

In response to the association’s complaints and request for county action, Helen Duong with the Arlington County Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development said, “We’re still evaluating the proposal and will be developing a recommendation in the near future.”

The Monroe board’s written statement called the Latitude plan “ill conceived.” It also says the project would “have a disastrous effect on the Virginia Square Community,” by upsetting the desired residential-commercial balance, creating a street parking burden and overwhelming the Virginia Square Metro station.

Monroe board officials will hold a public forum at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 19, in the condo building’s community room. All Virginia Square residents are encouraged to attend the meeting to receive more information about the Latitude Apartments project and to express their views.

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A CubeSat device (photo via Wikipedia)(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) Students at St. Thomas More Cathedral School (STM) are taking part in what has been dubbed “Mission Possible.” It’s a rare opportunity build a satellite and launch it into orbit.

According to an article published this week by Satnews.com, students will get assistance from a NASA Mission Manager in building a CubeSat, which is a miniature satellite used for space research. The satellite will collect data to be used for school research in math and science.

STM computer teacher Melissa Pore is helping to manage the project. She said yesterday was the official kick off and construction should begin in about two weeks.

“The really unique part about it is making the projects tie in to what’s already expected in the classroom, and giving that real world simulation for the kids,” Pore said. “Every student will have a part and will touch a piece of the hardware, whether they’re screwing in a bolt or putting together an onboard camera, they will all have a part.”

One of the things the satellite is expected to do is to take wide angle photos of small asteroids, of Earth and of St. Thomas More Cathedral School.

More than 60 high schools and universities participate in the CubeSat program, but STM would be the country’s first Pre-K through 8th grade elementary school to participate. The goal is to launch the CubeSat in late 2014.

STM received a donation of $10,000 to assist with the satellite launch from ATK Space Systems. The school has also received equipment such as solar panels and cameras from space industry donors. Anyone interested in donating additional resources or time to the project should contact Melissa Pore at [email protected]

CubeSat photo via Wikipedia

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Civic association leaders, with an assist from the county’s Wisdom Works group, are hoping to establish a county-wide “Senior Village” to help Arlington’s sizeable population of seniors remain independent and in their own homes.

The project is based on a concept that has taken root in a number of communities across the country. A network of volunteers band together to provide services to older residents who wish to remain in their neighborhoods and out of retirement homes or senior living communities.

Services can include daily check-ins, home maintenance, social events or tasks as minor as help opening email or a ride to the supermarket.

“As people get older, there are some things they just can’t do,” said Pete Olivere, a longtime Glencarlyn Citizens Association member who last October started talking to other neighborhood groups about forming an Arlington village. “We wanted to build on the very active civic association type bases that Arlington has and use those as building blocks toward delivering volunteers.”

There are about 25,000 over-60 residents in Arlington, reflective of the expected nationwide surge in the senior population as members of the “baby boomer” generation age into retirement.

Wisdom Works, organized by the county’s community engagement program, came up with much of the design of the village, which Olivere said is likely a year or two away from launching. The group will be promoting the concept and looking for volunteers today (Friday) through Sunday at the Arlington County Fair.

A Wisdom Works “project team” of mostly retired residents came up with a hub-and-spoke model for the village, with volunteers assigned to senior residents in, or close to, their own neighborhoods.

The team also deals with non-senior issues. Program Manager Barbara Karro said they’ll likely take on childhood obesity soon.

“We were able to go county-wide, and that enabled Pete to have a group outside of a civic organization to work with,” Karro said. “Particularly in Arlington, we have just an amazing resource in terms of their skills and lifetime experience. As this group of seniors gets larger, that would be a shame to waste.”

The hub would provide record-keeping and liability insurance (a major hurdle to some village set-ups) for volunteers. Villages come in a variety of forms. Some are funded by private donations. Others require  monthly membership fees.

The Arlington senior village, which will be set up as a nonprofit agency independent of the county, will require “a modest membership fee.”

Olivere, 64, said the group has about 30 willing volunteers after a couple of presentations to civic and senior groups. He hopes the fair will open up the concept to more.

“A lot of these things foster a neighbor helping neighbor type environment, just to make sure an older person isn’t struggling” Olivere said. “These are things that can make a difference.”

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The Columbia Pike Implementation Team is holding a meeting tonight, and anyone interested in the Pike’s future is welcome to attend.

The focus will be on the progress of the Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements Project and what should be done next to reach its goals. The county started the project to analyze transportation along the 3.5 mile Columbia Pike corridor, and suggest improvements for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles.

Residents are encouraged to attend the meeting and offer feedback on the recommended design. It’s tonight from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 S. 16th St.).

More information on the Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements Project can be found here.

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On Saturday, Arlington County board members will debate where to award some $3 million worth of Neighborhood Conservation funds.

The funds are intended to pay for basic street and park improvement projects, which are proposed by neighborhood groups. This year, most of the money is coming from a $9 million Neighborhood Conservation bond, approved by Arlington voters in November.

In December, the county’s Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee (NCAC) recommended seven projects for the first round of funding under the new bond, out of 33 proposals. The recommended neighborhood projects are listed below.

  • Rock Spring — $12,500 — Neighborhood sign design, fabrication, installation
  • Rock Spring — $732,245 — Beautification, pedestrian safety and street lighting improvements on Williamsburg Blvd from George Mason Drive to N. Kensington Street
  • Arlington Heights — $381,478 — Beautification, pedestrian safety and street lighting plus sidewalk, curb and gutter improvements on Arlington Blvd from S. Fillmore Street to S. Irving Street (Phase 2)
  • Douglas Park — $495,000 — Park improvements, lighting and trail upgrades to Doctor’s Run Park
  • Ballston/Virginia Square — $719,956 — Sidewalk, curb, gutter, beautification and pedestrian safety improvements on Kirkwood Road from Lee Highway to 14th Street N.
  • Dominion Hills — $269,678 — Beautification, pedestrian safety, sidewalk, curb and gutter improvements on Patrick Henry rive from 9th Street N. to Wilson Blvd (Phase 3)
  • Columbia Heights — $391,703 — Sidewalk, curb, gutter and street lighting improvements on 11th Street S. from S. Edgewood Street to S. Cleveland Street

There are two rounds of Neighborhood Conservation funding each year. In October, the NCAC and the county board agreed to spend $3.87 million on ten separate projects throughout the county.

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VDOT is planning to widen the ramp from the HOV lanes of I-395 to Eads Street in Pentagon City.

The project would add an extra turn lane to the ramp, which often gets backed up during the morning rush hour. The ramp serves commuters heading to both Pentagon City and to the Pentagon itself. The left turn necessary to head to the Pentagon parking lots is a bit tricky, leading to some of the backups.

VDOT advertised the project in yesterday’s Washington Post. The agency says it will hold a public hearing on the project if anyone requests it in writing.

The proposal seems rather uncontroversial. The ramp is tucked away in the existing I-395 concrete jungle next to the Pentagon, several blocks from the nearest residential building. A VDOT report found no significant adverse impacts resulting from the project.

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