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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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New renderings from JBG Smith envision Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard as a lush urban core with glassy high-rises and connected by a surface-level Route 1, along with Metro and commuter rail.

When all of the developer’s projects are delivered, that is.

JBG Smith released an investor relations video explaining its plans for the area — known collectively as National Landing — which include building a number of new apartment and office buildings and partnering with local and state governments to improve transit and technological infrastructure.

“We’ve been incredibly busy during the pandemic, teeing up growth opportunities, delivering new assets, we have a lot of exciting growth in the next 18 months,” JBG Smith CEO Matt Kelly said in the video.

He said about 15 million square feet are under development in National Landing, two-thirds of which are multifamily residential — apartment buildings, mostly. Other big projects include the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2, which the video said is on track to be done in 2023, and the second phase, which includes the proposed Helix building.

“All of these developments are on vacant land or replacing out-of-service buildings,” said Chief Development Officer Kai Reynolds.

One of those is the former Americana Hotel, which JBG Smith purchased in December for more than $27 million, Executive Vice President of Real Estate Development Kristi Smith said.

JBG Smith views this site, planned for an apartment building, “as one of the best development opportunities in National Landing,” given its proximity to HQ2 and its visibility from Route 1, she said.

The video provided updates on the following residential developments, which collectively would add thousands of new apartments to the area:

Construction started on 1900 Crystal Drive in late March and could be completed in 2024, according to the video. Meanwhile, the earliest start date for 2000 and 2001 S. Bell Street, which received County Board approval last month, is later this year.

Both 2250 Crystal Drive and 223 23rd Street S. have a potential start date of 2023, the video said.

The developer also plans to build 750,000 square feet of office space at 2525 Crystal Drive in the form of two V-shaped towers, according to the video.

Reynolds highlighted the pending changes to Route 1, which could result in lowering the highway to grade and transforming it into more of an urban boulevard. The changes are part of an incentive agreement between Amazon and Virginia to invest $5 billion in important infrastructure improvements, he said.

“Amongst the most critical was the lowering of the elevated sections of Route 1, which currently runs north-south within National Landing,” he said. “The new road will feature a modern cross-section that will be pedestrian-friendly to improve walkability within the submarket.”

As for other transit improvements, Reynolds said the second Crystal City Metro station entrance, a public-private partnership between Arlington County and JBG Smith, could be completed between 2023 and 2024.

Meanwhile, progress could move forward on a new Virginia Railway Express station in National Landing, as the state recently finalized a $3.7 billion plan with CSX, Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express.

The new station will be built on land owned by JBG Smith. It will also serve as a connection point for the planned pedestrian bridge to Reagan National Airport, renderings of which are seen in the video.

The Bethesda-based developer also has plans for increasing technological connectivity, too.

Adam Rashid, the Senior Vice President and Co-Head of Smart Cities for JBG Smith, said the company aims to deploy “ubiquitous 5G in National Landing, with the goal of making National Landing the U.S.’s first 5G Smart City at-scale.”

Photos via JBG Smith/Vimeo

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(Updated at 12:20 p.m.) New renderings from the National Landing Business Improvement District explore what Route 1 would look like if it were surface-level.

These images of protected bike lanes, pedestrian refuges and prominent crosswalks are part of a campaign the BID launched this week touting the benefits of transforming the highway — which is elevated over 12th, 15th and 18th streets — into an at-grade urban boulevard.

People Before Cars” aims to advocate “for the implementation of best practices in urban street design and highway-to-boulevard conversions,” according to the BID.

The new campaign builds on “Reimagining Route 1,” a report it released last year envisioning the highway as a leafy, vibrant urban boulevard. Meanwhile, the Virginia Department of Transportation is wrapping up a study of how to improve the thoroughfare, which will likely involve making it surface-level.

“The improvement of Route 1 has been a huge priority for the collective community and was even featured in the historic negotiations that brought Amazon’s HQ2 to the area — further cementing its importance in the overall repositioning of National Landing,” said Jay Corbalis, Vice President of Public Affairs for JBG Smith, the largest property owner in the area.

More than half of Arlington residents surveyed by VDOT said Route 1 is not safe, easy or effective to use. About 45% of respondents said cyclists face dangers in the area and 64% want more protected bike lanes.

By 2040, conditions could be worse for drivers, who could experience heavy traffic at snail-like speeds during the morning rush hour, as the National Landing area and the region continues to grow, VDOT projects. Area employment by then is expected to double while the population is expected to grow nearly 50%.

The competing priorities of keeping traffic moving while making the corridor more attractive and safe is a tough balancing act for VDOT, and the BID is pushing a less car-centric approach.

The BID recommends shortening pedestrian crossings, narrowing vehicle travel lanes, dedicating spaces for all modes of transportation and automating traffic enforcement. It also suggests adding lush landscaping, public art and wider sidewalks. Growth does not necessarily equate to more traffic, the BID argues.

“As our area experiences an influx of new residents and workers in the coming years — a population that is anticipated to favor walking and biking as means of transit over cars — we must do all we can to ensure that Route 1 can safely and effectively serve the needs of our growing community,” said Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, President and Executive Director of the National Landing BID.

According to the campaign, traffic fell by 18% between 2000 and 2018, despite 67% population growth during that time. One-quarter of households in National Landing do not have cars, and the number of cars passing through National Landing dropped from 61,000 in 2005 to 47,000 in 2019, the BID says.

Still, JBG Smith and the BID have raised concerns that VDOT still views Route 1 as a highway where drivers are prioritized, the Washington Business Journal reported, after the department previewed a vision of Route 1 that included nine at-grade vehicle lanes at the intersection with 15th Street S.

That worry is shared by some others, who also question whether crossing the road at-grade is safer than the current underpasses.

A group of civic associations, known as Livability 22202, has recommended taking Route 1 below ground instead.

VDOT is slated to issue a new report on possible improvements this summer. A virtual public meeting will be held Wednesday, June 16 at 6:30 p.m.

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Morning Notes

APS to Fully Return to Classrooms in Fall — “Arlington Public Schools will bring all students who choose it back for five days of in-person learning every week starting in the fall, Superintendent Francisco Durán told the school board Thursday.
He emphasized that any families… who want to stay virtual-only will be able to do so, and noted that staffers have already begun to plot out what the remote option will look like.” [Washington Post]

County Still Seeking New Logo Ideas — “Calling all artists, and artists-at-heart! The County will choose a new logo this year that better represents our Arlington community, and we need your help… Submit your logo concept/art by March 14.” [Arlington County]

Fire Breaks Out in Route 1 Median — From Dave Statter: “Watch your cigarettes, matches & ashes. Dry & breezy. A small brush fire on Rt 1 south of 23rd St briefly blocked traffic. @Reagan_Airport MWAA Engine 301 handled it.” [Twitter]

Brooks Basking in the Sunlight — From the Arlington County Police Department yesterday afternoon: “It’s a pawsitively beautiful day in Arlington County! FRK9 Brooks hopes you get out and enjoy the weather!” [Twitter]

Va. Booze Sales Soar During Pandemic — “Virginians bought considerably more liquor in the second half of 2020 than they did during the same period of 2019. That’s according to figures Washingtonian obtained from the commonwealth’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, which show statewide sales of spirits were up 15 percent over 2019 from July to December of the worst year in recent history.” [Washingtonian]

State Tax Revenue Higher Than Expected — “On a year-to-date basis, collections of payroll withholding taxes — 61 percent of General Fund revenues — increased 1.1 percent, behind the annual forecast of 2.7 percent growth. Sales tax collections — 17 percent of General Fund revenues — increased 6.7 percent through February, ahead of the annual forecast calling for a 4.8 percent increase. Recordation taxes advanced 38.3 percent on a fiscal year basis, ahead of the 24.4 percent annual forecast. Total revenues rose 8.0 percent through February, ahead of the revised annual forecast of 3.0 percent growth.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]

Reminder: Spring Forward This Weekend — “The second Sunday in March is when Daylight Saving Time begins in most areas of the U.S., so in 2021 we’ll ‘spring forward’ one hour and on Sunday, March 14, 2021, at 2 a.m. Be sure to set your clocks ahead one hour before bed on Saturday night!” [Farmers’ Almanac]

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VDOT is in the process of designing changes to Route 1 as it travels through Crystal City.

The changes include turning Route 1 from more of a highway to an urban boulevard of sorts, with the heavily-traveled commuter route brought down to grade in places where it’s currently elevated.

That means removing the imposing overpasses that, on one hand, physically separate portions of Crystal City — but on the other hand provide a relatively safe path for pedestrians and cyclists to get from one side to the other.

Under the VDOT plan, there would be more intersections mixing vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Though the urban boulevard idea is supported by the National Landing Business Improvement District and major local property owner JBG Smith, VDOT’s initial design of it, with 9 vehicle travel lanes and no bike infrastructure, has managed to pick up united opposition from the BID, JBG, neighborhood groups and other local activists.

Last year we published a poll asking about the idea of bringing Route 1 underground instead, an expensive proposition but one supported by local civic associations. Just over 75% of respondents preferred that idea to an at-grade urban boulevard.

The BID and some neighbors would like to see the urban boulevard concept implemented, but in a more pedestrian-friendly manner with fewer vehicle travel lanes. VDOT and some other locals, however, are concerned that would cause more cut-through traffic on local roads.

Today we’re asking: assuming that an underground Route 1 is infeasible, what about just keeping the overpasses largely as is? Is that preferable to the alternatives? Or should VDOT stick to some form of the urban boulevard idea, perhaps refining its initial concept plan?

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Morning Notes

County Getting Paid for Glass Recycling — “Arlington’s glass recycling drop-off program continues to shatter expectations–surpassing 5 million pounds (2,500 tons) collected since its debut in 2019. And the effort is officially paying off. The County now receives $15 per ton for glass collected as the result of a new hauling and commodity contract with a Pennsylvania recycler.” [Arlington County]

VDOT’s Route 1 Proposal Bombs — “As a new vision for Crystal City’s portion of U.S. Route 1 comes into focus, local businesses, neighbors and the area’s dominant landlord are all becoming increasingly concerned… Renderings unveiled in a Virginia Department of Transportation meeting Wednesday night have united the National Landing Business Improvement District, JBG Smith Properties and some neighborhood activists in opposition over fears that the designs are still too car-centric.” [Washington Business Journal, Twitter]

Police Warn of Ongoing Scams — “The Arlington County Police Department is sharing information on common scams circulating in Arlington County and ways you can spot, avoid, and report them. The public should be particularly cautious of anyone calling, emailing, or interacting with them and requesting payment in the form of gift cards as this is often a red flag for fraud.” [ACPD]

Driver of Stolen Car Escapes — “At approximately 2:15 a.m. on March 3, a patrol officer observed a stolen vehicle traveling on S. Carlin Springs Road. Before a traffic stop could be initiated, the driver accelerated the vehicle and made evasive turns before pulling over and fleeing the scene on foot. A perimeter was established and officers, with aerial support from the Fairfax County Police Helicopter Division, conducted a search for the driver with negative results.” [ACPD]

New Race Planned Next Weekend — “Join Arlington For Justice and Black Parents of Arlington for the 1st Run For Her Life (Women’s Only) 5k WALK and YOGA Event… March 13, 2021 at 2 p.m.” [Facebook]

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While VDOT considers lowering a section of Route 1 to a surface boulevard, a group of civic associations, known as Livability 22202, recommends going below ground instead.

As development activity in Crystal City and Pentagon City continues, VDOT and Arlington County are looking for ways to improve the pedestrian and transit experience along Route 1, also known as Richmond Highway. The study directly responds to the increased demand for transportation resulting from the construction of Amazon’s HQ2.

VDOT’s study will examine the feasibility of an at-grade boulevard, with the current overpasses removed, comparing it to the current elevated route and the changes prescribed in the Crystal City Sector Plan, according to a presentation from December.

Following online public engagement in the fall and a virtual public meeting, Livability 22202, which represents the Arlington Ridge, Aurora Highlands and Crystal City civic associations, published a series of alternatives to an at-grade boulevard — including taking part of Route 1 below-grade.

The group suggests going underground for at least the 18th Street S. and 23rd Street S. intersections, creating patterns similar to those in Washington, D.C., where through-traffic is below-grade and local traffic uses at-grade streets — like Connecticut Avenue NW through Dupont Circle.

For a more extensive below-grade roadway, the group suggests trenched express routes from 23rd Street S. to 15th Street S., flanked by at-grade roads. The underground portion would eventually transition into the 12th Street overpass.

“This concept would solve side-street traffic issues, create far-safer pedestrian crossings, create a brand-new open space in what is now wasteland, and open up myriad redevelopment opportunities,” the group said in its response. An even more extensive “big dig” is also proposed, though the group acknowledges is may be “infeasible.”

Dropping Route 1 to grade and creating more signalized intersections would make pedestrians and cyclists less safe unless significant measures are put in, Liveability 22202 predicted. They suggested lower speeds, bike tunnels, signalized right turns and pedestrian-led crossings.

The group also envisions an at-grade boulevard as a “linear park” with retail, wide sidewalks and an abundance of trees.

If VDOT keeps Route 1 elevated, Livability urged VDOT to consider something like a viaduct. Such a bridge would allow the space below to be activated with open spaces or retail.

In a letter, the presidents of the three civic association said “a study of Route 1 in this area is long overdue,” but until VDOT conducts a broad stakeholder review of multiple alternatives, “we endorse the Crystal City Sector Plan as the best alternative.”

The 2010 sector plan keeps the grade separations at 12th, 15th and 18th streets, reconfigures the 15th Street intersection and takes traffic below-grade at 26th Street S., under a newly-created National Circle, as pictured below.

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A virtual public meeting is being held this week on the topic of potential improvements to Route 1 through Crystal City.

VDOT and Arlington County are studying ways to improve the safety, accessibility and experience along Route 1 between 12th and 23rd Street. The study responds to greater demand for various transportation methods as construction of Amazon’s HQ2 progresses.

“As this area’s commercial and residential densities continue to increase, transportation plans will need to address the wide-ranging needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, motorists, and other users while maximizing the safety, convenience, and sustainability of the system for decades to come,” said the VDOT study page.

Participants in the online meeting, scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., will hear a review of existing conditions on Route 1 — also known as Richmond Highway — and learn about responses to a public survey that was open during October and November. They can also ask questions and give input.

The public is invited to provide comments during the meeting or through Monday, Dec. 28.

After the meeting, the public will hear and have the chance to provide feedback on draft recommendations in spring 2021. Officials expect the final study to be done next summer.

“At this time, no construction funding has been allocated, so the study will not set design or construction dates,” the VDOT website said.

The department is not the only group thinking of ways to improve the highway. In October, the National Landing BID released “Reimagining Route 1,” a report that transformed the car-centric highway into a safer boulevard lined with trees, retail and restaurants.

“Route 1 was originally designed to accommodate the auto-centric development trends of the mid-20th century, when the primary objective was to move cars through the area as quickly as possible,” the BID said in a press release. “The resulting elevated highway, super blocks, and oversized intersections divided the community for decades, inhibiting not only connectivity and access, but also the area’s ability to come together as a singular downtown district.”

VDOT is studying the Route 1 overpasses over 12th, 15th and 18th streets, which some have called to be eliminated in favor of more urban intersections at grade.

Those interested in joining the virtual meeting can register online or participate in listen-only mode by calling 877-309-2071 (access code 205-472-841).

The study team will make a short presentation beginning at 6:30 p.m. and answer questions for about an hour afterward, the website said. A recording and meeting materials will be available online following the meeting.

In addition to doing so during the meeting, feedback can be provided via a comment form or email.

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