With Amazon coming to town, Arlington leaders believe the time is ripe to finally change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway — and some of their allies in Richmond are ready to hit the gas on that effort, even as others look to pump the brakes.
Once again, the County Board plans to ask the General Assembly for the authority to remove the former Confederate president’s name from its section of the state-owned Route 1. Alexandria leaders have already taken a similar step, but state lawmakers have repeatedly refused to grant Arlington the permission to make such a change over the years.
But with a socially conscious tech giant planning to set up shop in Crystal City and Pentagon City, the very neighborhoods where signs currently honor Davis’ legacy, the Board hopes skeptical legislators might be a bit easier to convince. Board members held a joint work session with six of the county’s representatives in Richmond Friday (Dec. 7), in order to underscore the importance of the switch ahead of the start of the General Assembly’s session on Jan. 9.
“We should be clear that this is an effort to elevate white supremacy and honor Confederate leaders on our highways,” said Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “A nongovernmental company choosing our area to locate underscores how we should be thinking about things differently.”
While all in attendance could agree that the name of the highway needs to change, preferably to match Alexandria’s newly adopted moniker of “Richmond Highway,” there wasn’t much in the way of consensus on how to achieve that goal.
Some lawmakers urged patience, noting that the upcoming 2019 elections could flip control of both the House of Delegates and the state Senate to Democrats for the first time in nearly two decades — Republicans hold one-seat majorities in both chambers, following last year’s wave election for Democrats in the House.
Until that happens, however, most lawmakers aren’t willing to spend political capital battling on the issue, particularly considering that the upcoming legislative session will last less than a month.
State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) carried legislation to spur the name change this year, only to see it narrowly die in committee on a party-line vote, and she’s already sworn off interest in renewing that effort. Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District) has backed other such bills in the past, but he expressed similar skepticism about the legislation’s prospects next year.
“The only way I’m putting it in is if we have any hope of passing it,” Ebbin said. “I’m polling some Republicans on the prospect of that… but I’m not introducing it unless can we can get a very narrow bill together.”
Ebbin suggested that the Board might have more success if it secured some allies in the business community for that effort, urging officials to solicit support from groups like the Arlington Chamber of Commerce or the Crystal City Business Improvement District. Representatives from both groups did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether they’d be interested in supporting such a bill.
Other lawmakers suggested that Amazon itself might provide a powerful push, considering the company’s robust lobbying efforts and its growing importance to the state’s economy. But, after speaking with the company’s representatives about just such a prospect, Ebbin is less than optimistic.
“I don’t think Amazon will be taking active political positions until after things cemented in,” Ebbin said, noting that state lawmakers and local officials still need to formally sign off on Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed deal with the company. That isn’t set to happen until early next year, meaning that Amazon likely won’t have much of a say in the upcoming legislative session.
Del. Mark Levine (D-45th District) was similarly pessimistic on the prospect of his Republican colleagues taking action on any name change legislation in 2019, but he believes the county shouldn’t wait on Richmond.
He argued that Arlington could act immediately to remove any road signs referencing Davis, even if the county doesn’t formally change the name. After all, Levine pointed out that the highway is known by all manner of other names as it winds its way throughout the state.
“There is zero Virginia law that requires that highway to have those street names,” Levine said. “If the question is: ‘can you change the street signs?’ Of course you can change the street signs. If it has some name in a dusty book somewhere, that’s fine.”
Levine argued that the county should go directly to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the executive agency overseeing all of Virginia’s road and transit operations, to ask for such a change. He suggested an appeal to Northam, a Democrat, might help that effort, considering that “we have a very friendly governor right now, and we have a much less friendly General Assembly.”
County Board Chair Katie Cristol noted that Arlington officials have had some conversations with the CTB about such a prospect, but have not come away with the clarity that Levine sees in the law. A spokesman for the CTB did not respond to a request for comment on the issue.
Cristol also pointed to an advisory opinion from Attorney General Mark Herring suggesting that the county might not be able to make such a change, which Levine waved away quickly as having “no force of law.”
Still, Dorsey and his colleagues argued that they’d much rather pursue a more cautious path, in order to avoid unnecessarily ruffling feathers in Richmond.
“In the absence of universal certainty, we’re not interested in figuring out what think we can get away with,” Dorsey said. “This is not about if we can somehow figure out if we can do it and somehow not suffer adverse consequences. That’s a risk we’re not willing to take.”
Arlington officials are gearing up once more to ask state lawmakers for permission to change the name of the county’s section of Jefferson Davis Highway, and adopt Alexandria’s new chosen moniker for the road.
The County Board will review its legislative agenda for the upcoming General Assembly session for the first time tomorrow (Nov. 17), sketching out a host of priorities they hope the county’s representatives in Richmond will fight for when the legislature reconvenes in January. The county has long hoped for the state’s permission to change the name of Route 1, but Alexandria’s move to rename its section of the road “Richmond Highway,” when combined with Amazon’s impending arrival in Crystal City, could well lend new urgency to the effort.
Virginia law bars localities from assuming powers that aren’t specifically ascribed to them by the state code — a principle commonly referred to as the “Dillon Rule” for a notable court case on the matter — and that means the county doesn’t have the ability to change the highway’s name without the General Assembly’s permission.
But Republicans have consistently blocked any efforts to give Arlington the authority it needs to strip the former Confederate president’s name from the highway. Most recently, State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) introduced a bill to do so earlier this year — that measure was killed on a party-line vote in a Senate committee.
This time around, Arlington could specifically ask lawmakers for permission to “rename the section of Jefferson Davis Highway that runs through the county with the same name adopted by an adjacent jurisdiction,” in a nod toward Alexandria’s June vote to rename the highway. As a city instead of a county, Alexandria has a bit more latitude on the matter.
Republicans still hold narrow majorities in both the House of Delegates and the Senate, however, meaning that any name-change effort will face an uphill battle once more. Amazon’s decision to locate its new headquarters in the exact section of Arlington that’s home to Jefferson Davis Highway could prove to be a complicating factor, though.
Gov. Ralph Northam frequently made the state’s “inclusivity” a key part of his pitch to the socially conscious tech giant, and many Arlingtonians have pointed out the incongruity of Amazon’s public positions on social issues with a new headquarters sitting in the shadow of signs tied to the state’s legacy of slavery.
How long until Amazon realizes that “Jefferson Davis Highway” runs thru the heart of Crystal City? pic.twitter.com/sSL0eVKUnU
— Doug Adams (@DougNBC) November 13, 2018
The County Board is set to open up the legislative agenda for a public hearing at its Dec. 17 meeting, then sign off on the document soon afterward. Other notable proposals include a renewed push to issue driver’s licenses to non-citizens, the expansion of renewable energy initiatives and the maintenance of last year’s dedicated funding deal for Metro.
Photo via Google Maps
For pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike, Crystal City has never been the easiest neighborhood to navigate — and Amazon’s looming arrival in the neighborhood has stoked fears that things could get worse in the area long before they get better.
But now that the tech giant has officially picked Arlington for its new headquarters, county officials are free to unveil their grand plans for allaying those concerns and fundamentally transforming transportation options along the Crystal City-Pentagon City-Potomac Yard corridor.
Virginia’s proposed deal with Amazon calls for the pairing of state dollars with money from both Arlington and Alexandria to make a variety of projects long envisioned for the area a reality — so long as the tech giant holds up its end of the bargain and creates targeted numbers of new jobs, of course.
It adds up to a complex mix of funding sources that defies easy explanation, but would be in service of a massive shift in the transportation network surrounding the newly christened “National Landing.” And, as last week’s nightmarish traffic conditions created by the shutdown of the Crystal City and National Airport Metro stations helped prove, the county is in desperate need of an upgrade in the area.
“All of these plans which been long gestating without a path to realization, they’re all going to come together,” County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey told ARLnow. “All the great things we’ve diagrammed on paper now have a path to reality.”
The main transportation projects included in the pitch to Amazon are:
- A second, eastern entrance to the Crystal City Metro station
- A second, southwestern entrance to the proposed Potomac Yard Metro station
- A new pedestrian bridge connecting Crystal City to Reagan National Airport
- An expansion of the Crystal City-Potomac Yard bus rapid transit system
- Improvements to Route 1 through Crystal City and Pentagon City
“Many of these we’ve already included in our prior commitments, whether it was our [10-year Capital Improvement Plan] or other long-range planning documents,” said County Board Chair Katie Cristol. “But we pulled these together as a way of saying, ‘This is our overarching vision for the area.'”
Certainly, the aforementioned projects were all on various county wish lists over the years — the Crystal City Transitway expansion to Pentagon City is perhaps the most developed of any of the proposals, with the county convening a public meeting on the matter just last week.
The difference is that many of the projects have largely lacked the necessary funding to move forward. The county still needs another $15 million to fund the Transitway project, which is now set to come from the state, and the other efforts need substantially more money than that.
The second entrance at the Crystal City Metro station has been a particularly challenging project for the county.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a regional body doling out funding for transportation projects, recently awarded Arlington only a small shred of the funding it was looking for to move the station forward. The county’s gloomy revenue picture previously forced Arlington to push the project off into the long-term future, and it remained a very open question whether the second entrance would score highly enough on state metrics to win outside funding.
Those concerns vanish virtually all at once for the county, and that could be quite good news for both Crystal City residents and Amazon’s future workers. Though the exact details need to be worked out, the new entrance would be located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Crystal Drive and 18th Street S., with $82.5 million of the project’s $90 million price tag coming from the state through the Amazon deal.
Cristol hopes the project will “transform the beating heart of Crystal City” and encourage its new residents to rely on Metro. She notes that the Crystal City and Pentagon City Metro stations have seen a combined 29 percent drop in ridership since 2010, as the military and federal agencies moved out of the area, and hopes thoughtful transit strategies around Amazon’s arrival will reverse that trend.
Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the transit advocacy-focused Coalition for Smarter Growth, added that a second entrance will help the area manage demand as thousands of employees flock to one of Metro’s sleepier stations.
“By having entrances at each end of the platform, you’re reducing the people congestion at escalators and gates, which is huge,” Schwartz said. “And we know that walking distance makes a big difference in how many people use transit. So to the degree we can shorten it, we should do it.”
Schwartz also hopes the new entrance will provide better accessibility to the area’s Virginia Railway Express station (located a few minutes’ walk up Crystal Drive) for anyone looking to reach the more distant sections of D.C., or Northern Virginia’s outer suburbs. The VRE is even weighing an expansion of the station in the coming years, which would put an entrance directly across from the second Metro access point.
County Board member Erik Gutshall points out that the proposed bridge to DCA would land in just about the same spot. A feasibility study backed by the Crystal City Business Improvement District suggested that an office building at 2011 Crystal Drive would make the most sense for the pedestrian connection, which Gutshall notes also matches up with an entrance to the Mt. Vernon Trail.
All of that could someday add up to a promising transit hub in the area, which developer (and future Amazon landlord) JBG Smith has already begun advertising in its marketing materials.
“You can bike, walk, ride VRE and ride Metro, all together,” Gutshall said.
The project will need about $36 million to become a reality, with $9.5 million chipped in from the state and the rest coming from Arlington and the NVTA.
The county will need even more cash for the Route 1 improvements: about $250 million in all, with $138.7 million coming from the state’s Amazon deal. The proposal doesn’t include a funding stream for the rest, but the changes could be quite substantial indeed.
The documents don’t lay out details beyond a goal of improving the “pedestrian improvements” on the road, but officials say a guide could be the changes detailed in the county’s Crystal City sector plan. Those plans involve bringing the highway to the same grade as other local roads, eliminating the soaring overpasses that currently block off large sections of the neighborhood.
“This may, in fact, lead to the total reimagining of Route 1,” Dorsey said.
In all, the county expects to spend about $360 million — about $222 million in already committed funding and $137 million in future grants — to fund transportation improvements in the area. The state’s total could one day go as high as $295 million, depending how many workers Amazon ends up hiring for the area.
The county’s commitment is large enough to give some local budget minders heartburn.
“Where will Arlington get $360+ million in transportation bond capacity — since we are bumping up against our credit limit for the next decade or more, without meeting all school needs?” local activist Suzanne Sundberg wrote in an email. “Raising the tax rate would be my first guess. We can probably expect to see our real estate taxes double over the next 15 years.”
County Manager Mark Schwartz has often warned about the strain on the county’s debt limit precipitated by recent fiscal pressures, and taxes may well go up on residents in the coming years, even with the Amazon revenue windfall.
But Dorsey waived those concerns away, noting that the county has long planned for the spending associated with many of these projects, and will have hefty state dollars to rely on for the rest.
“Our investments are already planned,” Dorsey said. “We’re not bringing anything new to the table.”
People living in neighborhoods around Reagan National Airport say a staging lot for Uber and Lyft drivers is snarling traffic in the area, and Arlington officials are taking new steps to work out some sort of fix.
The county is convening a public meeting on the issue Thursday (Sept. 27) after hearing persistent complaints about the lot (located at 2780 Jefferson Davis Highway and adjacent to S. Eads Street and a Holiday Inn hotel) over the last few months.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) started routing rideshare drivers to the lot in April, in order to account for construction as part of the airport’s massive improvement project known as “Project Journey,” and required drivers to wait there until would-be passengers request rides at the airport. Since then, neighbors have grown particularly concerned with the congestion the change has caused on S. Eads Street, with the Arlington Ridge, Aurora Highlands and Crystal City civic associations all mentioning it in recent community newsletters.
“Although there is no objection to the parking lot itself, the single entry/exit on S. Eads Street is causing considerable traffic problems and dangerous driving conditions,” the Crystal City Civic Association wrote in its September newsletter. “Plus, drivers in a hurry are [cutting] through the CVS and McDonald’s parking lots to get to the airport ramp on Route 1.”
The Arlington Ridge Civic Association added that the number of drivers cutting through those lots has “reached epic proportions,” and that “the police are now monitoring both.”
The civic associations noted in their missives that they’re pressing the county to reopen the lot’s access to Route 1, in a bid to ease traffic on S. Eads Street. But VDOT has jurisdiction over Route 1, meaning state officials would have to approve any change to the traffic pattern in the area.
“The county estimates the design work and construction to provide ingress and egress from the staging area onto Route 1 may take up to 14 months to complete and cost upwards of $250,000, which is not currently included in the county’s budget,” the Crystal City Civic Association wrote. “While undertaking this engineering work, the county says it is also exploring interim measures and/or options for phased implementation, which will also require coordination with and actions taken by both VDOT and MWAA.”
To that end, the county says it’s invited officials from both MWAA and VDOT to Thursday’s meeting. That gathering is set to be held at the Aurora Hills Community Center (735 18th Street S.) from 7-8:30 p.m.
Photo 1 via Google Maps
(Updated at 3:25 p.m.) Demolition work is set to get started next week on the S. Clark Street overpass in Crystal City, and that will prompt a handful of traffic detours through the end of the month.
Workers will begin removing the elevated section of the road over 15th Street S. next Monday (July 16) and the demolition is set to run through July 26. The county doesn’t plan to use any explosives in this process, and will merely remove the overpass in sections.
The work will impact eastbound 15th Street S. from July 16-17, with detours set to help drivers reach Route 1 and 18th Street S. Then, the demolition will cause problems on the westbound section of the road from July 18-26, with similar detours planned.
The demolition work will run from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, though detours will continue on weekends. At least one sidewalk under the bridge will remain open at all times as the work progresses.
The county closed the S. Clark Street overpass to traffic in February to kick off work on this project, with the ultimate goal of easing traffic patterns in the area and encouraging more development along Route 1. Ultimately, the county plans to re-align S. Clark Street in the area to open up more green space in the area, projecting to wrap up that effort in 2022.
Just a week left to bond visually with the doomed Clark Street structure above 15th Street in Crystal City. That puppy's coming down. Sadly no explosives will be involved. https://t.co/wynyUwWeoB pic.twitter.com/SmozxhBZJu
— Arlington DES (@ArlingtonDES) July 9, 2018
Water Disinfectant Switch — With the annual pipe spring cleaning complete, the Washington Aqueduct will be switching back to chloramine as its water disinfectant after today. [ARLnow]
Auction Item Prompts Mini Controversy — Ethical concerns were raised over the weekend by an item donated by State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) to an auction at the annual Fairfax Democrats dinner. The winning bidder was promised an official introduction on the state Senate floor. Favola responded by saying she was “horrified” and that she “never approved this auction item.” [Twitter, Twitter, Blue Virginia]
Choun Profiled By VOA — Democratic Arlington County Board candidate Chanda Choun had his campaign highlighted by the Voice of America. [Voice Of America]
Nearby: Wonder Woman and J-D Highway — Two items of note in Alexandria: first, Wonder Woman 2 is set to film some scenes at the Landmark Mall. Also, Alexandria is replacing signs marking Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) with its new name in the city: Richmond Highway. [Washington Business Journal, WTOP]
The Democrats running for Arlington County Board and the Virginia House of Delegates say they are united with the Board in its desire to rename Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway.
Arlington County Board candidate Erik Gutshall and incumbent House of Delegates candidates Mark Levine, Patrick Hope, Richard “Rip” Sullivan and Alfonso Lopez praised the County Board’s stand. In a statement, an excerpt of which is below, all five applauded what they described as “a powerful statement from the Arlington County Board rejecting racism and bigotry.”
The county will need to first obtain the legal authority to rename both stretches of state highway within its borders, an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled General Assembly. But the incumbents pledged to try to do so, so the county can choose “who in our history we want to honor and celebrate.”
Erik Gutshall, Democratic nominee for Arlington County Board, said “I am proud to live in a community that has long shared the values of diversity and inclusion. I fully embrace the County Board’s determination to garner local control of the names of our roadways, as I know Arlington’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly do.”
“It’s long past time for us to rename highways that were labeled to send a hateful and divisive message to people of color in our community,” said Delegate Alfonso Lopez (49th District), House Democratic Whip. “I look forward to working with the Arlington County Board to make sure they have the necessary authority from the General Assembly to make these important changes.”
Delegate Patrick Hope (47th District) said, “I have long-supported the renaming of Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway in Arlington and commend the Arlington County Board for this bold statement of leadership. I look forward to supporting legislation to grant Arlington and all localities the freedom to rename buildings, roads, and to remove monuments that do not reflect our values.”
“Giving localities the authority to rename highways — like Jefferson Davis Highway — is long overdue,” said Delegate Rip Sullivan (48th District), “This is not about erasing or trying to change history — indeed, we must never forget the evil that led to our Civil War. Rather, this is about a community choosing who in our history we want to honor and celebrate. Arlington County should have that choice. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ This matters, and I applaud the County Board for choosing not to be silent on this important issue.”
“I’m very pleased that the Arlington County Board is committed to renaming the Jefferson Davis Highway, ” said Delegate Mark Levine (45th District). “Changing those street signs will no longer honor the Mississippi traitor (with little or no connection to Arlington) who was President of a rebellious group of states that seceded from the union to enforce and protect their cruel and odious institution of slavery. Street signs bearing the current name of this highway do a gross injustice to Arlingtonians who are loyal to their nation and who abhor slavery. I know the vast majority of us are looking forward to seeing these signs no more.”
(Updated at 5:35 p.m.) Arlington is thinking about renaming two state highways named after Confederate leaders, but needs authorization from the state legislature to do so, according to a statement released by the Arlington County Board late Thursday afternoon.
In the statement, County Board Chair Jay Fisette says the county is “united against racism and bigotry” in the wake of the events in Charlottesville this past weekend.
“Arlington rejects the hateful speech and actions of the KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the alt-right movement,” the statement says. “We will not allow a resurgent hate movement that distorts history and threatens our future to take us backward.”
The statement goes on to say that the county is seeking legislative authority to rename Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) and Lee Highway.
“Arlington is committed to seeking the authority from the General Assembly to rename both Jefferson Davis and Lee highways within our boundaries,” said the statement. “Our legislative delegation is committed to putting legislation forward on Jefferson Davis Highway. Arlington believes that local governments should have the authority to name any roadways within our borders.”
Arlington’s ability to actually get the authority, however, is in serious doubt due to Republican majorities in both the House of Delegates and state Senate. Arlington has previously placed authority for renaming Jefferson Davis Highway on its list of legislative priorities, to no avail.
Fisette notes that the renaming of Washington-Lee High School is also under consideration, but falls under the jurisdiction of the School Board.
The full statement is below.
The tragedy that unfolded in Charlottesville, where three people lost their lives, has shaken the conscience of our community and of our nation.
The Arlington County Board condemns the act of domestic terrorism that cost Heather Heyer her life, and mourns her death and the deaths of the two Virginia State Police troopers, H. Jay Cullen and Berke M.M. Bates, who died in the line of duty. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, and with the many who were injured that day.
As many yard signs across Arlington proclaim: “hate has no home here.”
It is appropriate, in the wake of the Charlottesville events, that our community and many others are reconsidering the public memorialization of Confederate leaders. This Board has received numerous letters from concerned residents pleading that these leaders of rebellion against the Union not be publicly memorialized – particularly noting Jefferson Davis Highway, Lee Highway and Washington-Lee High School.
Because we are a county, Arlington currently does not have the authority to rename state highways such as Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway. We do have the authority to name local roads, and we exercised it in 2012 to rename Old Jefferson Davis Highway as Long Bridge Drive.
Arlington is committed to seeking the authority from the General Assembly to rename both Jefferson Davis and Lee highways within our boundaries. Our legislative delegation is committed to putting legislation forward on Jefferson Davis Highway. Arlington believes that local governments should have the authority to name any roadways within our borders.
Because it is a city, neighboring Alexandria controls all roadways within its borders. The City Council voted in September 2016 to rename its stretch of Jefferson Davis Highway, and graciously included two Arlington residents in the advisory panel it formed to seek suggestions from the public for a new name. That panel will make a recommendation this fall, and the Alexandria City Council will act.
We expect that the name Alexandria selects will be suitable for our section of Jefferson Davis Highway as well. Anyone in Arlington who wants to suggest a new name for Jefferson Davis Highway can do so on the City of Alexandria’s website through September 25.
While we are not aware of any Confederate statues on County-owned land in Arlington, we support Governor McAuliffe’s recent proposal that all Virginia localities relocate Confederate statues in Virginia to museums, and be given the legal authority to do so.
Finally, the name of Washington-Lee High School and all other public schools in Arlington falls under the authority of the School Board. We know that the School Board will be speaking to this issue in the near future.
Although this is a painful time for us all, ultimately, Arlington’s story is an inspiring one of racial and social progress, of moving forward and overcoming the deep wounds inflicted by slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow and the legacy of segregation. Our past can never be erased, but we can and will continue to learn from it.
Arlington today is a vibrant, diverse and inclusive community that treats each individual with respect and champions human and civil rights.
We will not allow a resurgent hate movement that distorts history and threatens our future to take us backward. Together, we will continue to strengthen the bonds that unite us.
Arlington County Board Chair, on behalf of the County Board
McCullough said in a letter to the County Board and Arlington’s representatives in the Virginia General Assembly on Tuesday, August 15 that they must work to rename Jefferson Davis Highway, the name for U.S. Route 1 in the county from its border with Alexandria into Rosslyn. Such a change would require action by the General Assembly.
In doing so, he said, it would condemn racism and bigotry and distance Arlington from the Confederate president.
“Even one more day of Route 1 as Jefferson Davis Highway is 24 hours too long,” he wrote.
The question of whether to change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway has swirled for several years, but local leaders have said passing a bill in Richmond to change the name is unlikely.
In Alexandria, a group is soliciting name suggestions for its stretch of Jefferson Davis Highway just south of Arlington. A letter from the Virginia Attorney General’s office last year said Alexandria does not need state approval to change the name as it is part of the Urban Highway System, so state bodies do not have naming rights.
McCullough’s full letter is after the jump.
Dear Members of the Arlington County Board and State Delegation:
While we Virginians take time to heal from the events in Charlottesville this weekend, we must also reflect and consider those actions that will turn our good words condemning racism and bigotry into good deeds.
As such, I am calling on the Arlington County Board to finish what it began in 2011 by working with the General Assembly and the communities along Route 1 to rename the Arlington portion of Jefferson Davis Highway in a way that is respectful to all who live and work along it.
This effort should include submitting a name-change request in the Arlington County legislative package, identifying a member of the Arlington delegation to be patron of the bill, and creating an Arlington-based advisory group to solicit and recommend name-change options, including those selected by the Alexandria City Council at the conclusion of its renaming process.
It was easy for the vast majority of Americans to quickly identify and condemn the violent Neo-Nazi and KKK perpetrators of violence this weekend because those expressions of hate burn brightly. There are other expressions of prejudice, small embers, which often go unnoticed but burn just as severely. This is the case with Jefferson Davis Highway, the name attached to Route 1.
For several years the hardworking people of Arlington have expressed good cause for our desire to change this name. On many occasions you all have made some attempt to do so. Now is the time for you, as local and state officials, to summon the political will, stand strong in Richmond, and get it done once and for all.
Even one more day of Route 1 as Jefferson Davis Highway is 24 hours too long.
Candidate, Arlington County Board
Photo of Jefferson Davis Highway in Crystal City via Google Maps
Charlottesville Solidarity Rally Held — Arlington County Board vice chair Katie Cristol was among those who spoke at a “Rally of Solidarity for Charlottesville” in Courthouse yesterday. The rally was intended to “actively condemn bigotry and racial hatred through a series of speeches, songs, actions, and a moment of silence.” [Facebook, WJLA]
Alexandria Considering New Names for Route 1 — An Alexandria group charged with considering new names for Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) is soliciting suggestions through an online form and two public hearings. [City of Alexandria]
Flashing Lights on I-66 — If you drove on I-66 this weekend and noticed flashing lights from equipment overhead, don’t worry: you’re not getting a ticket. Instead, VDOT is testing new toll equipment. Non-HOV drivers are expected to begin paying a toll to use I-66 inside the Beltway in December. [VDOT, NBC Washington]
Old Oak Tree Saved — A “mighty” oak tree that pre-dates the Civil War was saved from being removed during the construction of a new home thanks to a petition by neighbors and a developer willing to consider their concerns. The tree, at the corner of N. Nottingham and 27th streets, is 18 feet in circumference and one of Arlington’s 100 designated “champion” trees. [Washington Post]
WeWork Offering Free Space on Mondays — Coworking provider WeWork is offering free workspace at its D.C. and Northern Virginia locations — including its Arlington location in Crystal City — on Mondays as part of a new promotion dubbed “#SummerMondays.” The promotion runs through the end of September. An RSVP is required. [WeWork]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
A car crashed into a side entrance of Target in Potomac Yard, just over the Arlington border in Alexandria.
The car came through a smaller door at the store at 3330 Jefferson Davis Highway at around 11:20 a.m. this morning. The driver and a passenger were extricated after a brief entrapment, according to scanner traffic. Both were transported to the hospital with minor injuries.
The crash left the front side of the car mangled, and set off an alarm in the store away from the main retail section. Customers continued to enter the store as normal, while police were out directing traffic around the scene but did not close any travel lanes in the parking lot.
Firefighters from the Arlington County Fire Department initially went to assist at the scene, but as of 11:45 a.m. had left. Police and fire units from Alexandria remained on scene.
Public Hearings Set for Sign, Rosslyn Streetscape Changes — At its meeting Saturday, the Arlington County Board set public hearings for changes to the county sign ordinance related to mixed-use retail centers and industrial districts, which would allow for more blade signs in certain places. The Board also set hearings for a plan that “would establish a cohesive set of streetscape furnishings to strengthen Rosslyn’s character, and encourage more pedestrian use and vibrancy in Rosslyn’s core.” [Arlington County]
Washingtonian Spends Day in Crystal City — The staff from Washingtonian magazine spent Friday — Bike to Work Day — in Crystal City, filing stories about everything from quirky neighborhood fixtures like a reasonably-priced strip club and a long-time puppet store to WeLive, TechShop and other places driving Crystal City’s innovation economy. The goal was to report “stories of a place that’s creating a new future for itself in the ashes of one that didn’t quite work out the way everyone thought.” [Washingtonian]
Bike to Work Day Record — This year’s Bike to Work Day set a regional record, with 18,700 registrants at 85 D.C. area pit stops. [Twitter]
Beyer Calls for Expulsion of Turkish Ambassador — On Friday Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) urged the Trump administration to kick the ambassador of Turkey out of the country in response to a violent confrontation between protesters and bodyguards for the visiting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey, meanwhile, today summoned the U.S. ambassador to complain about police treatment of the bodyguards who were seen beating up protesters. [Rep. Don Beyer]
D.C. Man Is Big Arlington Thrive Donor — A retired ophthalmologist who lives in D.C. has donated more than $750,000 to the nonprofit Arlington Thrive over the past few years, after reading about it in a Washingtonian magazine article. Arlington Thrive, formerly known as Arlingtonians Meeting Emergency Needs, “delivers same-day emergency funds to our neighbors in crisis, so they can be secure in their jobs, health, and homes and thrive in a caring community.” [Washington Post]
Board Approves Intersection, Stormwater Projects — The Arlington County Board has approved more than $2.3 million in contracts to improve safety at the intersection of Arlington Blvd and N. Irving Street and construct a “green streets” stormwater management system along Williamsburg Blvd. [Arlington County]
Arlington Represented on Route 1 Renaming Group — The former president of the Arlington NAACP and former president of the Arlington Historical Society have been appointed to an “Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Renaming Jefferson Davis Highway” formed by the City of Alexandria. The city is moving forward with its effort to strip Route 1 of its confederate monicker, but wants to coordinate with Arlington in case the county decides to lobby Richmond to allow it to rename the road. [WTOP]
Columnist Blasts Website Comments — “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark says that reader comments about the candidates in the recent Democratic Arlington County Board caucus were “inflammatory” and “pea-brained.” He singled out ARLnow’s comment section and “the slightly-more-civil commenters in the Sun-Gazette.” Caucus winner Erik Gutshall, meanwhile, said he seldom reads the comments, opining that “some are thoughtful, but it’s like opening a horror show.” [Falls Church News-Press]
The redevelopment of North Potomac Yard in Alexandria gathered more steam last week, and residents in Crystal City are keeping an eye on its potential impacts.
North Potomac Yard is in the northeast corner of Alexandria, just across the Arlington County line, near a planned Potomac Yard Metro station. It is currently occupied by a Regal movie theater, a Target and other big box stores and restaurants.
The City of Alexandria is in the planning process for a massive mixed-use development at the 69-acre site, to include retail, residential units, a hotel and office space.
On February 22, city staff released the first draft three chapters of the updated plan, then the following day met with the Crystal City Civic Association at its general meeting.
Association president Christer Ahl told ARLnow.com that his members are most concerned that Crystal City will be left behind as nearby developments spring up in Arlington and Alexandria.
“Perhaps the larger issue which the project raises is whether it could contribute to the notion of Crystal City becoming a ‘backwater,’ stuck with many old buildings which at best might be renovated, while the Rosslyn/Ballston corridor and Potomac Yard in two very different ways will be full of exciting new development,” he said.
“Of course, this depends a lot on the attitude and priorities of the county, JBG/Smith and other developers, together with the near-term market situation.”
Ahl added that many in the area are also concerned with the impact on traffic along Crystal Drive and Route 1 from the new development, which could total as much as 7.5 million square feet.
The Alexandria City Council voted to approve the new Metro station in May 2015, to be located on the Yellow and Blue lines between the Braddock Road and National Airport stops.
While the new Metro station and the Metroway bus rapid transit route along Route 1 could take care of a lot of traffic impact, Ahl said, there were still concerns about the number of cars to hit the roads with the new development.
“If we assume that the new development goes hand-in-hand with the new Metro station, that should take care of a lot of the concerns,” Ahl said. “Alexandria very strongly focuses on being as pedestrian, bike and transit-friendly as possible, and conversely avoiding car dependency. In terms of vehicular traffic on U.S. Route 1 or Potomac Avenue leading into Crystal City, I guess the proof in the pudding is hard to predict.”
One other aspect that Ahl said troubled some association members is the potential loss of amenities like the movie theater and Target, which are major draws. But he said members will continue to monitor the situation and see how it evolves.
“To some extent, it becomes wait and see,” Ahl said. “Depending on their own inclinations and their own preferences, we’re speculating on whether it will be positive or negative in some sense. Some people would hate to see losing some of their existing favorite places, although they emphasized in our meeting that Target has a lease in place until 2028, so that might be the last thing that happens down there.”
According to a timeline, an advisory group tasked with updating the North Potomac Yard plan will present its final recommendations in April.
Images via City of Alexandria
APS Receives Top Ranking — Arlington Public Schools is the top school division in Virginia and in the D.C. area, according to new rankings from Niche.com. All three comprehensive high schools in Arlington ranked in the top 10 in Virginia, according to the website. [Arlington Public Schools]
Alleged Racial Confrontation at Metro Station — A local man says a trio of older white men confronted him last week in the Courthouse Metro station, a few days after the election, and told him “good thing you’ll all be gone soon” — an apparent racially-motivated comment — and “it’ll be great again soon.” [Patch]
Remy Releases Post-Election Song — Arlington’s best-known libertarian comedian/musician, Remy, has released a new original song on the topic of Donald Trump’s election. [Twitter]
‘Isolated’ Schools in Arlington — Two schools in Arlington County, and 136 schools statewide, are considered “racially and economically isolated,” according to a new report from a liberal Richmond-based think tank. [Washington Post]
No Name Change Push for JD Hwy — Seeking a name change for Jefferson Davis Highway, the formal name of Route 1 in Arlington County, is not part of the county’s recently-approved legislative agenda. The chance of the Republican-dominated state legislature allowing the name change in its upcoming 2017 session was “all but nil.” [InsideNova]
Joint Meeting of N. Va. Jurisdictions — County Board and city council members from Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church held a joint meeting last night, in which they discussed ways to cooperate and save money. Together, the three inside-the-Beltway jurisdictions have about 500,000 residents, as compared to Fairfax County’s population of 1.1 million. [Washington Post]
Crash Closes 395 Ramp — A multi-vehicle crash closed the ramp from northbound I-395 to northbound Washington Blvd during this morning’s rush hour. The ramp reopened just after 9 a.m. [Arlington County, Twitter]
Metro Delays This Morning — There were delays on the Yellow, Orange and Silver lines this morning due to “unscheduled track repairs.” [Washington Post]
Jefferson Davis Highway Name Change? — The Virginia attorney general’s office has determined that Alexandria can legally change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway in the city, while Arlington cannot remove the Confederate leader’s name from Route 1. One local lawmaker says he wants the name to change, for various reasons, but adds that he doesn’t have a problem with routes named after Robert E. Lee. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok