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In the shadow of Amazon’s HQ2, the Americana Hotel stands vacant and ready for redevelopment.

The hotel at 1400 Richmond Highway, which JBG Smith purchased in late 2020, is in a prime location. Met Park, the first phase of Amazon’s headquarters, is across the street. PenPlace, the project’s second phase, is down the road. The Crystal City Metro station is a block south.

But the prospect of building apartments and retail right next to a global tech company’s second headquarters came with two issues: physical problems with the land and questions about when, and how, neighboring properties and Route 1 would change.

The Americana property slopes down significantly. It abuts an elevated portion of Route 1 that the Virginia Department of Transportation proposes lowering. The building is surrounded by apartment buildings, a hotel and a VDOT-owned patch of grass, all of which could be redeveloped or reconfigured in the future.

JBG Smith representatives say the proposal, filed in April and accepted by the county this month, accounts for these conditions and questions. They say it meets a county zoning requirement that towers be separated by 60 feet and a recommendation in the Crystal City Sector Plan that podiums be separated by 40 feet.

“We have designed the building around trying to maintain the maximum flexibility for that future development, but there is nothing in the current plan that is in any way not compliant or fully in accordance with the sector plan and zoning ordinance,” land use attorney Kedrick Whitmore told members of the Long Range Planning Committee this summer.

The aging Americana Hotel — which was once featured in a Russell Crowe movie — would be replaced with a 644-unit, 19-story tall building with 3,674 square feet of ground floor retail, according to the application materials. A below-grade parking garage would provide 191 on-site parking spaces and an existing garage at the Bartlett Apartments (520 12th Street S.) would provide an additional 206 off-site spaces.

The developer aims to achieve LEED Gold certification.

“The building includes work-from-home, fitness, and other amenity spaces, as well as outdoor access to balconies and two rooftop terraces with unobstructed views of the surrounding landmarks,” Whitmore wrote in a letter included in JBG Smith’s application.

And the developer aims to break ground before VDOT gets started on rebuilding Route 1 at-grade. VDOT plans to wrap up a second study phase of the proposed changes early next year.

“We do acknowledge that’s an issue we have to discuss with county staff and VDOT,” Jack Kelly, a Vice President with JBG Smith, told the LRPC. “We made high-level assumptions on setbacks, based on what we know about the future alignment of Route 1.”

The developer also had to do “a lot of guesswork” to design around potential redevelopment projects for the adjacent Embassy Suites by Hilton Crystal City National Airport, The Paramount apartments and the VDOT parcel, said Malcolm Williams, an associate with JBG Smith, in the same meeting.

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Morning Notes

Post-it Notes on the office building at 1600 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, congratulating a graduating H-B Woodlawn student who’s noted for her Post-It Note art (courtesy photo)

School’s Out for Summer — Today is the last day of high school for Arlington Public Schools students. Tomorrow is the last day of middle school and Friday is the last day of elementary school. [Arlington Public Schools]

Meetings Planned for Route 1 Changes — “Two upcoming online forums will look at Virginia Department of Transportation proposals for U.S. Route 1 through the Crystal City corridor. On June 15 at 7 p.m., the Livability 22202 Route 1 Working Group and VDOT proposals will be presented and feedback sought… On June 21 at 6:30 p.m., VDOT will host a public-information meeting on the proposal.” [Sun Gazette, VDOT]

Yorktown Girls Win State Soccer Tourney — “A season that began with a loss ended with no other setbacks and a state championship for the Yorktown Patriots. The girls soccer team won the Virginia High School League Class 6 state tournament by nipping the Kellam Knights, 1-0, in the June 11 title game.” [Sun Gazette, Washington Post]

DJO Softball Wins State Title — “The [Bishop O’Connell] Knights capped a dominant campaign with their 26th Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association state title over the past 28 seasons. Katie Kutz tossed 235 strikeouts and went 17-0 while batting .482 at the plate en route to Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and VISAA player of the year nods.” [Washington Post]

Groundbreaking for Bus Maintenance Yard — “Arlington County will host a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning for its new Arlington Transit (ART) operations and maintenance facility. The public is invited to attend. The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. at the site of the future facility at 2629 Shirlington Rd. in Arlington in the Green Valley neighborhood.” [Patch]

School Board Absences — “The board, whose schedule of meetings is approved at the start of each fiscal year, has had a tough time gathering all five members on the dais at one time in recent months. Goldstein frequently has been absent, and at the May 26 meeting Priddy was gone. (On May 26, Diaz-Torres was not attending in person but did participate remotely from Puerto Rico, Kanninen said at the start of that meeting.)” [Sun Gazette]

More Bad Driving on I-395 — From Dave Statter: “This is a new one. Driver just stops at the end of the gore partially blocking the left lane until they can figure out their next move.” [Twitter]

Gov. Proposes Three-Month Gas Tax Holiday — “In Arlington, Virginia, the cost of regular gas is around $5.29. As gas prices continue to climb, CG Green says he’s pumping the brakes on unnecessary trips. ‘Look at it, it’s crazy,’ said Green. ‘It’s $5.29 for gas. I have to rethink where I’m going.’ Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin says he is in favor of temporarily suspending the commonwealth’s gas tax.” [WUSA 9]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 86 and low of 68. Sunrise at 5:44 am and sunset at 8:37 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Members of Congress from Virginia are pushing the federal government to help fund proposed changes to Route 1.

The changes, while still being hashed out by VDOT and local officials, would lower elevated portions of Route 1 through Crystal City to grade, turning it into a lower-speed “urban boulevard.” VDOT is also mulling at least one pedestrian bridge or tunnel at 18th Street S., near the Metro station, to improve safety.

With the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 on track to open in Pentagon City in 2023, state and local officials see a need to turn the area — collectively known as National Landing — into a more cohesive downtown and economic center. Key to that vision is revamping Route 1, also known as Richmond Highway, which effectively separates Pentagon City from Crystal City.

At last check, cost estimates for the project were around $200 million.

Northern Virginia’s congressional delegation would like to see the feds foot much of the bill, through funding from the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill.

In a joint letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, the lawmakers say argue that the Route 1 project meets all criteria for funding through the infrastructure bill.

“This grant request will allow Virginia to convert the Route 1 corridor in Arlington into a multimodal urban boulevard that prioritizes pedestrian safety in a walkable environment,” the wrote. “VDOT is developing multimodal solutions for Route 1 to meet National Landing’s transportation needs with the coming of Amazon and other related developments.”

The letter was signed by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), along with Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Donald McEachin (D-Va.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.), and Robert Wittman (R-Va.).

“The Commonwealth’s commitment to Amazon is to improve safety, accessibility, and the pedestrian experience crossing Route 1,” the lawmakers wrote. “Investment in National Landing will produce significant, measurable benefits to the economy, health, and safety of local citizens… This project satisfies all the merit criteria outlined in the federal grant opportunity, especially the priorities of providing economic, state of good repair, environmental, and equity benefits.

The letter also argues for the project’s fiscal benefits, including reducing bridge maintenance costs and providing acres of additional land for development.

“The transformation of Route 1 to an urban boulevard includes the removal of three bridge structures from the VDOT inventory, which will reduce long term maintenance costs,” the letter said. “Modifications to the I-395 interchange will remove a structurally deficient bridge and avoid future replacement or rehabilitation costs, while also extending the urban boulevard to the north which will contribute to lower speeds.”

“[The project] increases the accessibility to job centers through the proposed access improvements, which will benefit residents of all income levels,” the letter continues. “The project will create approximately 6.5 acres of excess right-of-way resulting in high value developable land.”

Another hoped-for benefit: fewer cars and better safety features.

“It will reduce the need for single-occupancy vehicle trips in favor of environmentally friendly options such as enhanced transit service, walkability, biking routes,” said the letter. “The project also includes multiple innovative solutions, such as a progressive design-build strategy and a pilot safety project to implement near-miss crash technology in National Landing.”

The completion of VDOT’s Phase 2 study of the proposed changes is currently expected to wrap up in early 2023. While the project has general support from the county and the business community, some residents have expressed concerns about whether taking away overpasses in favor of at-grade crossings actually makes things more dangerous for pedestrians.

Much of the congressional delegation, led by Kaine, also wrote a letter to Buttigieg supporting funding for an I-64 connector to ease congestion between Richmond and Hampton Roads.

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VDOT is not turning back on its recommendation to lower the elevated parts of Route 1 in Crystal City, but it is considering new options for separated pedestrian and bike crossings near the Metro station.

The state transportation agency on Thursday provided an update on Phase 2 of its study, which is focused on how to make the “urban boulevard” vision for Route 1 from 12th Street S. to 23rd Street S. a reality.

VDOT unveiled concepts for alternatives to a street-level pedestrian crossing at 18th Street after its recommendation to lower elevated portions of Route 1 drew ire from the community for prioritizing cars over pedestrians.

Four alternatives to the at-grade pedestrian crosswalks at 18th Street S. were presented, including a pedestrian bridge; a more gradual, bicycle-friendly bridge; a tunnel; or an underpass.

While the options incorporate some public feedback, including the tunnel proposed by community group Livability 22202, the state is focused on finding a way to make the at-grade roadway work.

“Everything that happens in the Phase 2 study is really looking from that lens of having made that recommendation already and Phase 2 is really geared towards figuring out the details of how to make that recommendation from Phase 1 work,” said Dan Reinhard, VDOT’s lead project manager for the project.

The first phase of VDOT’s study recommended the elevated portions over 12th, 15th and 18th streets be lowered and Phase 2 examines the feasibility of doing that, what traffic in the area looks like and strategies to reduce vehicular traffic.

A table shows benefits and disadvantages to each of the pedestrian and cyclist options for the Route 1 and 23rd Street S. intersection (via VDOT)

The first alternative to at-grade crossings is a 12-foot-wide pedestrian bridge with stairs and an elevator option. VDOT estimates this would cost $15 million.

The second bridge alternative, at an estimated $32 million, would add more gradual entry points for cyclists on 18th Street S. This option could link with a multimodal trail that the county plans to build near the Crystal City Metro station, said John Martin, with engineering consulting firm Kimley-Horn.

The third concept, a tunnel under Route 1, was informed by Livability 22202, a coalition of the Arlington Ridge, Aurora Highlands, and Crystal City civic associations. The estimated $43 million tunnel would accommodate both bicyclists and pedestrians, connecting them to the Crystal City shops and the Metro.

The final alternative is a 12-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle underpass. In coordination with building owners of the plaza at the corner of Route 1 and 18th Street S., the tunnel could feature a public space at its east entry. An underpass is estimated to cost between $9 million and $14 million.

VDOT also presented two options to ease navigation of the sometimes chaotic 23rd Street S. intersection.

At 23rd Street S., VDOT imagines windening pedestrian spaces and medians, removing one southbound left turn lane and allowing through traffic in the northbound right turn lane. A second option would also add bike lanes on the west side of 23rd Street S.

A chart of options for improving the Route 1 intersection with 23rd Street S. (via VDOT)

A second public meeting is expected in mid to late June, which will workshop the curb elements of street design and discuss potential relocation of 18th Street bus stops.

A third will be held in September or October and discuss ways to reduce vehicle volumes through Transportation Demand Management strategies. A final meeting will review the findings and recommendations.

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Morning Notes

Raindrops on azaleas in Westover (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Another Vehicle Larceny Series — “28th Street S. at 26th Street S./28th Street S. at S. Lang Street. At approximately 9:05 a.m. on April 25, police were dispatched to multiple reports of destruction of property. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the unknown suspect(s) broke the windows to five vehicles and rummaged through them. One victim reported having electronics stolen from their vehicle. There is no suspect(s) description.” [ACPD]

Update on Route 1 ‘Urban Boulevard’ Plan — “The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will hold a virtual public information meeting Thursday, April 28 on a feasibility study identifying enhanced multimodal connectivity and accommodations along Route 1 (Richmond Highway) from 12th Street South to 23rd Street South to meet the changing transportation needs of the Crystal City and Pentagon City communities.” [VDOT]

More Wins for Yorktown Lax — “The defending state champion Yorktown High School boys lacrosse team improved to 7-2 with blowout victories over Herndon, 15-2, and Dominion, 17-5, for seven straight victories.” [Sun Gazette]

Regional Grant for Ballston Metro Entrance? — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “A new west entrance to the Ballston-MU Metrorail station is in the running. Let these fine folks know why their greenbacks would be well spent.” [Twitter, N. Va. Transportation Authority]

‘Empty the Shelters’ Event Next Week — “The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is participating in the Bissell Pet Foundation’s spring “Empty the Shelters” animal adoption event next week from May 2-8. More than 275 shelters in 45 states and Canada are participating in the week-long event. The Bissell Pet Foundation sponsors reduced adoption fees for $25 or less.” [Patch]

Warner Weighs in on Musk Buying Twitter — From Sen. Mark Warner: “Elon Musk must work in good faith to preserve Twitter’s necessary reforms to prevent the spread of misinformation.” [Twitter]

It’s Wednesday — Mostly sunny, with a few more clouds in the afternoon. High of 58 and low of 44. Sunrise at 6:16 am and sunset at 7:58 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Blue Jay in the fall (Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman)

Route 1 Project Now Mostly Funded — “Virginia is making a huge financial commitment to the transformation of U.S. Route 1 as it runs through Crystal City, fulfilling a key promise officials made to Amazon.com Inc. to lure the tech giant to Arlington. The Commonwealth Transportation Board, a panel that manages state transportation funding and policy, voted unanimously Wednesday to allocate $134.4 million to fund the highway’s overhaul through 2028. The project, designed to bring at least some portion of the newly renamed Richmond Highway down to grade and make it more friendly to pedestrians, has a total estimated price tag of roughly $180 million.” [Washington Business Journal]

FAA Says Proposed HQ2 ‘Helix’ Is Okay — “The Federal Aviation Administration has no issue with the height of Amazon.com Inc.’s proposed Helix, the towering conical structure that will be a major part of HQ2’s PenPlace phase, closing the book on questions raised by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Says It’s Ready for Winter — “Despite predictions for another below-average snowfall this winter, the County can’t stray from a solid-if-not-frozen annual strategy: Prepare for whatever nature may drop. Commuters can take comfort knowing a big County response of almost 50 trucks – plus additional contractors – can roll in case forecasters are wrong at any point in coming months.” [Arlington County]

Ceremony for Re-elected County Board Member — “The public is invited to join the Arlington County Board at the swearing-in of County Board Member Takis P. Karantonis on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. The ceremony will begin at 4:30 p.m. and will be followed by a brief reception outside the Board Room, Room 307 in the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center.” [Arlington County]

New Term for Electoral Board Member — “The three-member Arlington Electoral Board will have continuity for the coming year, with Republican Scott McGeary on Dec. 6 reappointed to a three-year term. Arlington Circuit Court Chief Judge William Newman Jr. signed the order of appointment, which was not a surprise – even though the Arlington County Republican Committee was expected to submit three names for the court’s consideration, McGeary (who has served on the body, on and off, for nearly 30 years) was anticipated to receive the nod.” [Sun Gazette]

New ‘Wish Catalog’ for Local Nonprofits — “Looking for a way to add more charitable giving to the season of giving while supporting your neighbors in need? For the second year in a row, Arlington Community Foundation is excited to host the Nonprofit Wish Catalog featuring grant ideas of 26 local nonprofits with wishes of up to $5,000 each.” [Arlington Community Foundation]

It’s Thursday — After a few snow flurries yesterday, today will also be cold, with increasing clouds and a high near 44. Sunrise at 7:15 a.m. and sunset at 4:46 p.m. Tomorrow there is a slight chance of showers after 1 p.m., otherwise Friday will be partly sunny, with a high near 54. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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Current view of Route 1 (via National Landing BID)

The state’s idea to lower elevated segments of Route 1 through Crystal City could cause more injuries to pedestrians and chronic congestion, according to a new report.

This summer, the Virginia Department of Transportation officially decided to turn Route 1, which is elevated over 12th, 15th and 18th Streets S., into an at-grade urban boulevard. It would feature wide buffered sidewalks on both sides, six to seven narrowed travel lanes, a 30-mph speed limit, wide crosswalks, landscaping and medians with pedestrian refuges.

The changes, which could cost $180 million, are aimed at making the corridor more pedestrian-friendly, but that may not actually be the case, according to the VDOT-commissioned report. Using Arlington County rush hour traffic forecasts, the report predicts pedestrian-involved crashes could increase.

Meanwhile, travel times could lengthen by up to 6 minutes for vehicles heading into Crystal City in the morning and heading out in the afternoon, due largely to delays for drivers turning left on Route 1 and several commuter bus stops getting rerouted.

Arlington County staff questioned how these negatives could square with VDOT’s preference for the concept, per a staff report. They suggested that the authors make the negative results of the traffic analysis clearer.

“An at-grade Route 1 has many operational challenges,” county staff said. “The short block lengths between parallel streets result in the need to coordinate signals and thus, the pedestrian delays will be increased on the minor parallel routes. The results point to negative impacts on the ability of transit to effectively serve the National Landing area. The at-grade scenario shown in the preferred alternative offers a more limited network connectivity while simultaneously introducing conflicts and sacrificing transit mobility.”

The report, prepared by engineering consulting firm Kimley-Horn, specifically recommends one at-grade option that allows all turns at 15th Street S., eliminates left turns at 18th Street S., and possibly includes a pedestrian underpass or overpass at 18th Street.

The state initially agreed to the study and changes to Route 1 as part of its 2018 agreement with Amazon to invest in transportation in the region.

Rendering of potential changes to Route 1 (via National Landing BID)

Pedestrian safety 

As progress ramped up on the study, locals and organizations following the Route 1 project have kept pedestrian safety front and center.

When VDOT initially considered a nine-lane highway, advocates said that would be unsafe for pedestrians and the National Landing Business Improvement District (BID) created its own renderings for a tree-lined and pedestrian-friendly Route 1.

After VDOT revised its proposal and announced its intention to bring Route 1 at-grade, Livability 22202 — a coalition of three area civic associations — rejected the study for several reasons, chief among them that even the new six- to seven-lane highway would not, in their view, improve pedestrian safety.

Data in the report appears to bear that conclusion out. Over two decades, pedestrian traffic during peak afternoon hours could increase 2x to 5x current levels, and with that could come more crashes involving pedestrians.

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Morning Notes

Manafort Home Up for Sale — A house in the Clarendon area that was once sought as a forfeiture to the federal government as part of the case against Paul Manafort is now up for sale. The house is owned by Manafort’s daughter, though the feds once argued that it was paid for by Manafort with money transferred from a shell company in Cyprus. The 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath home is listed for $2.35 million. Manafort was pardoned by President Trump late last year. [Realtor.com]

Northam Announces Mental Health Funding — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced that the Commonwealth will commit $485 million in federal and state funding to address pressing challenges in Virginia’s behavioral health system. The plan includes targeted investments to alleviate pressure on state mental health hospitals, strengthen community-based services, and increase support for substance abuse treatment and prevention programs. The Governor made the announcement at the Arlington County Community Services Board and was joined by Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegates Mark Sickles, Patrick Hope, and Alfonso Lopez.” [Press Release, Twitter, Twitter]

Nearby: Route 1 Fight Brewing in Fairfax Co. — “There’s another fight brewing over a Route 1 redesign, this time in Fairfax Co. Neighbors feel VDOT has once again sought to make the road too wide for it to be walkable, posing safety issues.” [Twitter, Washington Business Journal]

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Morning Notes

Arlington Traffic Still Way Down — “New numbers provided to 7News by the Virginia Dept. of Transportation (VDOT) show… weekday traffic in Arlington County in June 2021 was still down 26% versus June 2019. But that was an outlier – in Fairfax County traffic was only down 12%, Loudoun County just 8%, and Prince William County was basically back to normal, falling just 3% versus June 2019.” [WJLA]

A-SPAN Rebrands — “What began life three decades ago as the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, or A-SPAN, has assumed a new identity: PathForward… ‘We came to the conclusion that we needed a new name to match all that we do,’ the organization’s board chair, Tim Denning, said.” [Sun Gazette]

Route 1 Makes NYT List — “The New York Times this May compiled a list of ’50s-era American highways being re-thought in an age when environmental concerns and past racial injustices in land use are at the national forefront. Arlington’s section of Route 1, that elevated structure that pierces Crystal City, made the cut.” [Falls Church News-Press]

AWLA Reunites Raccoon Mom and Baby — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “Officer Elpers got some amazing footage of this mama raccoon reuniting with her baby this morning.” [Facebook]

Local NAACP Awards Scholarships — “The Arlington branch of the NAACP recently awarded nearly $60,000 in college scholarships to Arlington high-school students.” [Sun Gazette]

Big Donation to VHC — “Virginia Hospital Center (VHC), a community-based hospital providing medical services to the Washington, DC metropolitan area for 75 years, has received a transformative gift of $5 million from long-time donor Lola ​C. ​Reinsch to promote the Hospital’s campus expansion efforts.” [Press Release]

Darby Family Visits ACFD Station — “Ashley Darby is having plenty of family fun with her kids this summer. The Real Housewives of Potomac cast member [and Arlington resident] recently took to Instagram to capture their latest outing that left her two-year-old son, Dean, completely ‘lost for words’… ‘What a fun time we had at the Arlington County Fire Station 4 with our friends!’ she wrote in the caption.” [Bravo]

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Morning Notes

YHS Lax, Other Teams Cap off Stellar Seasons — “The spring sports season was a busy and successful time, maybe the most accomplished ever, for high-school varsity teams and individuals in Arlington County, with many winning various championships. That spring campaign ended this weekend with some Virginia High School League Class 6 state championship games. One contest included the undefeated Yorktown Patriots in the boys lacrosse title match, which they won.” [Sun Gazette, Washington Post]

Neighborhood Leaders Don’t Like Route 1 Plan — “A coalition of civic associations representing surrounding neighborhoods suggests that a pending Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) report on improvements in the Route 1 corridor could turn out to be an ‘epic fail’ that does not address key issues. As a result, leaders of the organizations are urging the Arlington County Board to ask VDOT to go back to the drawing board and consider their concerns.” [Sun Gazette]

 A Bro Ode to Whitlow’s — “It’s the final few nights for Whitlow’s on Wilson, the venerable Clarendon bar where, for 26 years, 20-somethings have come to drink cheap beer and try to get lucky. This is concentrated Clarendon. Pure, unadulterated, un-adult Clarendon, a teeming room of recent grads absolutely wilding out after a year of epidemiological confinement.” [Washington Post, YouTube]

Long-Time Whitlow’s Patrons Bid Farewell — “As the days dwindled to hours before the closure of Whitlow’s on Wilson, some of those who had been patrons and boosters of the iconic Clarendon restaurant and watering hole gathered June 25 for one last hurrah.” [Sun Gazette]

ACFD Now Publishing Response Stats — “Check in each Monday to see our #Weekly Incident Summary, highlighting the total emergency incidents #ACFD responded to overall as well as by category. Last week our members handled over 600 calls for service!” [Twitter]

Amazon Funds Synetic Theater Initiative — “This spring, Isaac’s school gave students art kits through an Amazon.com Inc.-funded program called smARTies Art-in-a-Box, designed to jump the digital access gap. The box included a flat piece of cardboard student artists could fold to make a stage and blank puppet characters for decoration. The idea came from Synetic Theater, an arts and theater organization based in Crystal City.” [Washington Business Journal]

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It’s official: The Virginia Department of Transportation recommends turning Route 1, which is elevated over 12th, 15th and 18th streets, into an at-grade urban boulevard.

“An at-grade configuration for Route 1 provides most desirable characteristics that meet the multimodal and community vision for National Landing,” according to presentation materials from a virtual VDOT meeting Wednesday.

The news caps off one year of study, but is not much of a surprise, as the at-grade solution seemed to emerge as the likely recommendation over the last few months despite some concerns about it being more dangerous for pedestrians. But the newest version appears to take into account concerns among some over the number of lanes, pedestrian safety, and the possibility of traffic overflow onto local streets.

The surface-level Route 1 that VDOT envisions would have wide buffered sidewalks on both sides, six to seven narrowed travel lanes, a 30-mph speed limit, wide crosswalks for pedestrians and bicycles, landscaping and medians with pedestrian refuges.

That is a few lanes fewer than the nine-lane option for the intersection with 15th Street S. that VDOT floated earlier this year. Last night’s presentation said eight- and nine-lane options are “not conducive for pedestrians or the vision for Crystal City.”

According to the presentation, however, even these improvements will not significant reduce crashes and increase pedestrian safety, increase transit effectiveness, or reduce vehicle traffic along an at-grade Route 1.

VDOT indicated two things will be needed to make an at-grade Route 1 safer. First is a travel demand management (TDM) strategy to bring down traffic levels. Second, and in response to public comments, the department said it will consider a separated pedestrian crossing over or under Route 1 at 18th Street S.

A “comprehensive and effective TDM strategy that reduces traffic volumes 20% to 30% below existing volumes” will “reduce future congestion and future diversion of traffic to local and regional roads,” according to the presentation materials.

The pedestrian crossing study would look at cost, aesthetics, use, construction feasibility, maintenance and accessibility, the presentation said. Possibilities for grade-separated crossings include a pedestrian underpass, a tunnel connection to the Crystal City underground, or a pedestrian bridge over Route 1.

Both the TDM and pedestrian crossing proposals will be explored in a second phase of the study. The next phase will likely further examine the department’s third recommendation — based on a concept requested by Arlington County staff — to allow all turns at 15th Street S. but no left turns at 18th Street S., near the Crystal City Metro station.

Realizing the urban boulevard vision could cost $180 million, which is less than the $260 million VDOT projects would be needed to create a split-level highway for through-traffic and local traffic, as envisioned in the ten-year-old Crystal City Sector Plan.

The National Landing Business Improvement District has been a champion of turning Route 1 into an urban boulevard. It recently released renderings of a road transformed by protected bike lanes, pedestrian refuges and prominent sidewalks, as part of a new campaign, “People Before Cars,” which has featured outdoor signs and public advocacy.

The state transportation department is accepting public comments on these recommendations through July 12. A draft report will come out in August and a final report in September.

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