Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Fire Behind Restaurant in Crystal City — Firefighters responded to a small blaze outside a restaurant in Crystal City last night around 7:30 p.m. The fire, reported to be under a deck behind Andalusia Hookah, Bar & Lounge (525 23rd Street S.), was quickly extinguished, but not before a large fire department response swarmed the scene. Some smoke damaged was reported. [Twitter]

Santa, Carolers at DCA — ” Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport [is] ready to celebrate the holiday season with a variety of performances, giveaways and surprises for passengers throughout the month of December.” [Press Release]

Christmas Tree Fire Safety — “It’s the holiday season in Arlington, which means it’s time to put up your own Christmas tree in the living room. However, be aware you are bringing a major risk into your home… The Arlington County Fire Department says they don’t encourage a live tree in the house, but if you do have a live tree, keep it really watered. Also, make sure to keep any sources of ignition at least three feet away.” [Patch]

Arlington Resident Makes 30 Under 30 List — Adam Richelieu, a 29-year-old Arlington resident who works as a salary cap manager for the NFL Players Association, has been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Sports list for 2020. [Forbes]

Impeachment Banner on Arlington Overpass — “Spotted [Monday]: a banner saying ‘Impeach for our country’ on the George Mason Drive bridge over Route 50. County staff said signs of any kind placed on country property like this are not permitted and will be removed.” [Twitter]

Nearby: New Restaurant Near Fairlington — “The tables are set and the staff at El Saltado Restaurant and Carryout (3616 King Street) say it’s just about ready to open in the Bradlee Shopping Center. The restaurant is replacing the Hong Kong Bistro on the east side of the shopping center.” [ALXnow]

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Morning Notes

Developer May Give Parking Lot to County — “Arlington County planners and the owner of the Crystal House apartments have struck a deal to turn one of the four proposed buildings in its 798-unit expansion over to the county for affordable housing and public parking. It’s a change that has brought some hope to owners and operators along Crystal City’s restaurant row of 23rd Street, who, for the last few weeks, have criticized [the development] because it could have reduced access to parking spaces.” [Washington Business Journal]

Tips for a Safe Thanksgiving — “While Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed on Thursday and Friday, we want to remind you of all the great ways you can celebrate Thanksgiving week in Arlington. Whether you’re traveling or staying locally, these tips will help ensure you have an enjoyable — and safe — Thanksgiving holiday.” [Arlington County]

Dozen Arrested at DCA Protest — “On one of the busiest travel days of the year, American Airlines catering workers held sit-in protests at Reagan National Airport demanding higher pay and better access to healthcare. According to Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), 12 individuals were arrested and released on summons… the issue occurred when protesters entered the street and blocked traffic outside the B/C terminal.” [WUSA 9]

TSA Confiscates Loaded Gun at DCAUpdated at 8:20 a.m. — “A Fredericksburg, Virginia, resident was cited by police after Transportation Security Administration officers detected a 9 mm handgun loaded with seven bullets, including one in the chamber, in the man’s carry-on bag at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) on Monday, November 25.” [Transportation Security Administration]

Local Lawmakers Become Committee Chairs — “Two of the three state senators in Arlington’s legislative delegation will chair committees in the 2020 session, which opens Jan. 8. State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) has been tapped to chair the Senate Committee on Finance, while Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st) will chair the Committee on Rehabilitation & Social Services.” [InsideNova]

Impact of a Casino in N. Va. — “With Virginia’s General Assembly expected to debate casinos and gambling in the upcoming legislative session, its research agency issued a report Monday examining fiscal impacts on the state — including what a casino in Northern Virginia might mean. According to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission study, a Northern Virginia casino would produce $595 million in gaming revenue annually.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Local governments are rolling out their annual “Street Smart” campaign with a warning about a recent uptick in the number of people on foot killed by drivers.

This fall, the annual campaign by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) will highlight a 14% increase in the number of pedestrian fatalities between 2017 and 2018 regionwide, from 77 people killed in 2017 to 88 in 2018.

The regional government organization unveiled a wall featuring crash stories told by victims yesterday (Monday) at 12th Street and Florida Avenue NE in D.C. That’s where cyclist and safety activist Dave Salovesh was killed by a speeding driver earlier this year — spurring citywide protests and as well as calls for change in Arlington. The wall project is expected to tour Maryland and Virginia as well, per a MWCOG spokeswoman.

One of the victims featured in the awareness campaign is Ren Werbin (above), who was struck while crossing Wilson Blvd near the Ballston Quarter mall around 11 p.m. on February 1. The impact broke vertebrae in Werbin’s back and shattered her collar bone, shoulder, and leg.

“I went from having a neck brace, to having a full back brace, to having a full leg brace, and not being able to move my right arm,” said Werbin in an interview filmed for the project “My world completely changed.”

Werbin spent three months in the hospital recovering from her injuries. An Arlington County Police spokeswoman told ARLnow that an investigation found that the driver — described in an MWCOG press release as “a teen driver in a car full of friends” who “blasted through an intersection” — had a green light at the time and was not cited.

Another testimonial is from a Rosslyn resident who was struck in a crosswalk.

“It happened so fast,” she recounted. “I walked like a penguin for months. Finally, I walked like a normal person, but I was scared of the streets. The physical pain passes, but it was traumatic.”

The most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates while driving a car has become safer over the years, walking on roads has become more dangerous. And the majority of pedestrian who are killed are hit after dark — a concern that grows later in the year when the hours of daylight wanes in the fall.

Last November saw the highest number of pedestrians hit in the D.C. area (292) out of any other month, per data shared by MWCOG. In Arlington, the month with the highest number of pedestrian collisions (15) was October.

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More than 300 instances of vehicles blocking bike lanes were recorded during yesterday’s data collection project in Rosslyn, Ballston and Crystal City.

A map of the violations from the D.C.-based ‘How’s My Driving?’ app indicates volunteers spotted 307 bike lane violations on sections of N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn, Fairfax Drive in Ballston, and Crystal Drive in Crystal City yesterday (Thursday).

“We knew the bike lanes monitored yesterday were a problem anecdotally, but now we have data to back up those claims that will hopefully help drive changes to enforcement practices and improve built infrastructure,” app co-creator Mark Sussman told ARLnow.

Most of the violations appear to have occurred along Crystal Drive.

Vehicles parked in bike lanes can force cyclists to swerve into traffic on the street, creating dangers for cyclists and drivers.

Arlington’s County Code prohibits people who “stop, stand or park a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane, nor shall any person drive a motor vehicle in a bicycle lane for a distance of more than one hundred (100) feet.”

Despite some targeted enforcement efforts, the county has long-struggled to consistently enforce the rule, and activists have increasingly pushed for more protected bike lanes to prevent the problem, while criticizing new transit plans for not prioritizing cyclists’ safety.

In the meantime, engineers have also tested new lane-protecting barriers, and ACPD has conducted enforcement “blitzes” as recently as July.

Sussman previously told ARLnow he’d like to expand his crowd reporting app to Arlington after the the D.C. service attracted thousands of submissions for cars blocking bike lanes.

A particularly popular part is a Twitter bot that fetches DMV data on how many fines the cars in question have racked up. But this feature won’t work for Arlington drivers until the county allows Sussman and his partner Daniel Schep access to the public databases.

Three years ago, Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt created a crowdsourced reporting tool — ParkingDirty.com — for bike lane blockages that relied on users monitoring traffic cameras. On one day, it found that a stretch of bike lane along Crystal Drive was blocked about 65% of the time.

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The Arlington County Board is looking to potentially use armed, private guards for security at county government headquarters in Courthouse.

The guards could help provide security at the building (2100 Clarendon Blvd) generally and during County Board meetings specifically, relieving pressure on the understaffed local police force.

According to an item on this weekend’s County Board meeting agenda:

The County currently stations armed police officers at the Bozman Government Center, as well as armed sheriff’s deputies at County Board meetings. To enhance public safety and security, the County would like the option to use armed private security guards.

The agenda item says that adding private guards would enhance the security at County Board meetings without taking law enforcement officers away from other jobs around Arlington.

The prospect of private security came up in the wake of the Virginia Beach shooting at a municipal building.

“After the Virginia Beach shooting in May, 2019, the County Manager hosted a virtual employee town hall meeting to discuss workplace security,” the agenda item said. “[This item] merely expands the choices that the County may make for the provision of that security.”

“Funding for the potential costs of enhanced security in the Bozman Government Center was included in the Adopted FY 2020 Budget,” county staff noted in the report.

File photo

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Arlington County is pledging to eliminate road deaths and serious traffic-related injuries — but it’s not yet clear how officials plan to accomplish that goal.

The Arlington County Board unanimously passed the “Vision Zero” resolution during its meeting Tuesday night that aims to bring the number of traffic casualties to zero. However, officials expect the details of the plan won’t be ready for another two years.

Now the county plans to gather public input on the proposal this fall, decide specific goals before January, and share a draft plan by next fall, per a county press release.

The final version of the Vision Zero plan isn’t likely to be completed before 2021.

County Board Chair Christian Dorsey noted that the number of accident-related deaths and injuries in Arlington remained steady for the past five years despite Arlington’s quickly growing population.

“But we can, and must, do better,” said Dorsey during the Tuesday meeting. “As our population continues to grow, and more cars, buses and bicycles share our streets, it is important that we work with the community toward the goal of completely eliminating deaths and serious injuries from traffic collisions.”

The resolution puts Arlington among network of governments, including neighboring jurisdictions like D.C., Alexandria and Montgomery County, which have passed similar “Vision Zero” promises to rethink traffic deaths as preventable, instead of inevitable.

However, advocates from New York to San Francisco have criticized officials for failing to live up to the goals in recent years. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has also faced pushback for raising traffic fines and increasing the number of speed cameras, but doing little to prevent a rising tide of deadly collisions.

In Arlington, two people were killed last year in crashes, versus six in 2017, and one in 2016. This is the about on par with Alexandria (five fatalities in 2018, and four in 2017) but much lower than in D.C. where 34 people were killed in 2018 alone.

Almost 60 people were reported to have been seriously injured in crashes in Arlington last year — a number that’s remained relatively steady since 2013.

As a condition of the newly-approved resolution, Arlington will publish regular reports on traffic fatalities and injuries, as well as an annual update on overall progress.

Officials in Arlington have discussed a Vision Zero resolution for years. Former Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze promised to enact the pledge during his 2014 unsuccessful campaign for County Board.

This year, as the county updated the bicycle portion of Arlington’s Master Transportation Plan, officials said that they would put forth a formal Vision Zero proposal this summer.

Some took to social media to criticize the slow-moving process, including Chris Slatt, who chairs the Transportation Commission.

“After all this time I expected a plan, not a one-page resolution,” Slatt said.

“For now, we celebrate and strategize,” replied Gillian Burgess, who chairs the county’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.

“We are making progress,” Burgess added. “This is a good step.”

File photo (top). Graphs via Arlington County.

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Morning Notes

HQ2 to Include Banana Stand, Local Businesses — “Schoettler said the outdoor areas will likely include elements from its Seattle headquarters, such as a community vegetable garden and a banana stand… Amazon’s in-house food program will only serve about one-quarter of the HQ2 workforce, encouraging the majority of the employees to each lunch at nearby businesses. And because Amazon will own the buildings, Schoettler said it will be able to curate the retail to focus on locally owned businesses.” [Bisnow, WAMU, Washington Business Journal]

County Again Recognized for Tech Savvy — “Arlington County is once again among the top ranked digital counties in the nation. The Center for Digital Government and National Association of Counties 2019 award designated Arlington second place in the 150,000-249,999 population category.” [Arlington County]

Legion Development a National Model? — “Post 139 and APAH’s partnership should serve as an example for addressing the issue of homeless veterans, said Darryl Vincent, chief operating officer of nonprofit U.S.VETS… In 2018, there were 12,806 American Legion posts across the country, a huge inventory of property that could be repurposed as affordable housing.” [Politico]

Helicopter Noise Amendment Passes House — “The House of Representatives adopted a set of amendments to H.R. 2500, the National Defense Authorization Act, including two offered by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) which would address helicopter noise in the National Capital Region.” [Press Release]

ACPD: Lock Your Car and House — “The Arlington County Police Department is joining law enforcement agencies throughout the country in a public safety campaign aimed at promoting crime prevention strategies to reduce and prevent thefts from vehicles and homes. The campaign, known as the 9 P.M. Routine, encourages residents to conduct security checks in their homes and vehicles each evening to ensure their property is secure.” [Arlington County]

APS Teacher Receives National Recognition — “Wilfredo Padilla Melendez, teacher at Claremont Immersion School, received Instructure’s 2019 Educator of the Year Award. Wilfredo was recognized as one of six educators who go above and beyond to redefine traditional classroom activities.” [Press Release]

Photo courtesy Arlington VA/Flickr

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Morning Notes

New State Laws Take Effect Today — A number of laws intended to improve safety on Virginia’s roads and highways take effect today, July 1. [Press Release, Press Release]

Wardian Runs Around Beltway — “Michael Wardian has sat in traffic on the Capital Beltway and thought, ‘Wow; I wish I could just park my car here and take off and run home.’ This weekend, he ran the entire loop of the iconic highway. Wardian, of Arlington, Virginia, ran the 89.9 miles of the Beltway in 17 hours, 54 minutes and 59 seconds.” [WTOP, WUSA 9, RunWashington]

Organ Donation Info Session Today — “The Washington Regional Transplant Community (WRTC) and an organ donor will join us to talk about organ donation and what we, as potential donors, need to know.” [Event Calendar]

Retired ACPD K9s Pass — “With great sadness, Arlington County Police announce the passing of retired K9 Charly and K9 Koda. Both K9s loyally served the Arlington community from 2007 to 2015. We kindly ask that you keep the K9s and their handlers in your thoughts.” [Twitter]

Police Help Find Lost Dog — “While on bike patrol [Friday], Detective Adams, Detective Olson and Detective Blow encountered a citizen who had lost her dog along Four Mile Run Trail. Shortly later, Detective Adams located Lucy further up and stayed with her until she could be reunited with her owner.” [Twitter]

DePoo Makes Giant Ship on Stage — “When [Arlington’s] Signature Theatre artistic director Eric Schaeffer commissioned the world premiere musical Blackbeard, he knew he wanted to push the boundaries of the Signature’s newly flexible space… Set entirely on the titular conqueror’s ship, every aspect of Paul Tate DePoo III’s set implies mystery, daring, and grandeur.” [Playbill]

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(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) The National Park Service is ready to move ahead with plans to make Memorial Circle safer and easier to navigate.

NPS finalized a study last week, stating its plans did not negatively impact the surrounding environment or historical character of the area. The agency can now move forward on making the nexus of roadways safer for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

“The National Park Service is very pleased this project has advanced to a stage where we’ll be able to implement these improvements as soon as funds are available,” a spokesman for the federal agency told ARLnow.

NPS chose the most aggressive of three proposed plans to modify Memorial Circle and the roads around it, S. Arlington Blvd and Washington Blvd.

The plan chosen, Alternative C, calls for changes like re-striping Memorial Circle down to one lane of traffic instead of two, thus reducing conflicts between drivers in the circle and approaching the circle.

The plan also includes a proposal to enlarge and shorten the text on signs in the circle, making them easier to read. Additionally, new yield signs would give vehicles inside the circle the right of way.

NPS also proposed adding walk signals for pedestrians and flashing beacons for drivers at six intersections where the study notes near-misses are common. Officials estimated 600 crashes occurred near Memorial Circle between 2005 and 2012.

The agency would also re-stripe S. Arlington Blvd down to two lanes before it approaches the crosswalk just north of the circle to make crossing safer for pedestrians.

To help reduce weaving between lanes and merging traffic north of the circle, NPS would:

  • Re-stripe Washington Blvd, reducing it to one lane
  • Re-stripe S. Arlington Blvd to two lanes and Washington Blvd to one lane where the roadways merge, allowing traffic to continue without changing lanes
  • Remove the S. Arlington Blvd exit ramp and far left exit lane to S. Washington Blvd
  • Widen the northern ramp off of S. Arlington Blvd up to 12 feet to allow two lanes of traffic to exit, making the left lane exit-only and the right lane a shared exit/through lane
  • Possibly remove one or two trees along the exit of the S. Arlington Blvd ramp

The plan also calls for widening northbound Washington Blvd to fit a third lane as it merges into the circle.

The widened road would make room for a concrete island, directing two of Washington Blvd’s three northbound lanes onto Memorial Bridge and one lefthand lane into the circle. NPS said Washington Blvd could be widened up to 20 feet, pending design specifications.

The existing concrete island where the Memorial Bridge meets the circle’s east side would be split into two. These two new concrete islands would direct the left westbound lane coming off Arlington Memorial Bridge into the circle and syphon the other westbound lanes onto S. Arlington Blvd.

Other changes include:

  • Adding rumble strips and raised pavement markings to avoid “last-minute weaving” and provide more guidance to drivers
  • Installing more speed limit signs and increased police presence to crack down on speeding

NPS has implemented traffic improvements to the area before. In 2012, the agency moved a sidewalk and installed rumble strips, among other changes, on the GW Parkway in a bid to make the roadway safer.

“Whether you are a frequent commuter, visitor to Washington, D.C. or someone recreating, we want the Memorial Circle area to be a safe and accessible experience for everyone,” said Charles Cuvelier, the Parkway’s superintendent, in a statement about the latest round of improvements.

Work continues nearby on structural repairs to Memorial Bridge, a project NPS started last year.

Image 2 via Google Maps, images 1 and 3-5 via National Park Service

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Morning Notes

Fire Outside Shirlington Apartment BuildingUpdated at 9:30 a.m. — “ACFD working to extinguish a dumpster fire near an apartment building at 3000 S. Randolph Street in Shirlington. ‘Smoke conditions’ reported in portions of the building.” [Twitter, Twitter]

The Cost of Renaming Washington-Lee — “It will cost taxpayers about a quarter of a million dollars to change ‘Lee’ to ‘Liberty’ on the name of Arlington’s oldest public high school. School officials have released an estimate of $224,360 for the name change, with about two-thirds of the total for ‘soft costs’ (uniforms, athletic equipment and the like) and the remainder ‘hard costs’ such as signage.” [InsideNova]

Local Teen Gets Celebrity Shoutout — “When [H-B Woodlawn student] Cole Goco, 17, sits down to draw his comic Billy the Pop, every line and contour is decisive. He uses pen, after all. And, after five years, hundreds and hundreds of strips published regularly to a blog, two self-published comic books, a dedicated following, and — most recently — the recognition of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s safe to say Goco knows what’s doing.” [DCist]

Rosslyn Startup Gets Another Investment — “Frontier Capital, a Charlotte-based growth equity firm focused exclusively on B2B software, today announced a strategic growth investment in Phone2Action, a digital advocacy platform that connects citizens to lawmakers.” [BusinessWire]

Bomb Squad Investigates Suspicious Car at DCA — “A portion of the daily parking lot at Reagan National Airport was closed [Wednesday] morning after suspicious contents were spotted inside a parked car. Authorities checked out the car ‘out of an abundance of caution’ and nothing hazardous was found, per an airport spokeswoman.” [Twitter]

Local Pedestrian, Bicycle Crash Reduction Effort Honored — “The Arlington County Pedestrian Bicycle Crash Reduction Campaign aims to reduce bicycle and pedestrian-involved traffic crashes through the coordination of education, engineering and enforcement… Arlington County saw a seven percent decrease in pedestrian crashes and a 29 percent reduction in bicycle-related crashes in 2018.” [Virginia DMV]

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Police and local bar owners are teaming up to talk about alcohol and nightlife safety this week.

The two groups are co-hosting “A Conversation About Nightlife Safety” on Wednesday, May 1 from  7-9 p.m.

The free event will be held at the Hazel conference center at Virginia Hospital Center (1701 N. George Mason Drive). Attendees are asked to RSVP online.

“Patrons, restaurant staff, and those interested in maintaining Arlington County as a safe destination for entertainment are encouraged to attend a community conversation on nightlife safety,” a county press release reads.

Speakers include Freddie Lutz of Freddie’s Beach Bar, John Williams of Whitlow’s on Wilson, and Chris Lefbom of Ragtime, Rhodeside Bar and Grill, and William Jeffery’s Tavern

A panel line-up include officials from the county’s zoning, human services, economic development and fire departments.

Arlington County Police will be sending a member of its Restaurant Liaison Unit to the event, which is a part of the “Arlington Restaurant Initiative” to train bar employees to serve alcohol responsibly and help reduce nightlife crime.

Officials made the restaurant initiative a permanent fixture of Arlington’s nightlife scene back in October after piloting it earlier in 2018.

Last year, ACPD said that increased police presence around bars due to the initiative may have contributed to a jump in reported alcohol-related offenses, even though overall county crime rate dropped by 7.7%. The 2018 report noted  a 73% increase in liquor law violations and a 17% increase in “drunkenness” charges, in addition to police catching 703 fake IDs.

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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