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Salt Storage Dome Replacement Plans Move Ahead, Despite Some Community Complaints

Arlington’s plans to demolish a roughly 90-year-old storage “dome” for road salt and build a temporary replacement are inching forward, even as some neighbors have cried foul about the county’s rushed public engagement process for the project.

The county Planning Commission unanimously lent its seal of approval last night (Thursday) to a series of zoning changes to let work on the salt dome move ahead, keeping the county on track to move about 4,500 tons of salt into a new shelter in time for the first threats of snow in late November.

Officials discovered this spring that the old dome, made out of a repurposed water tank and located on a piece of county property near the intersection of 25th Road N. and Old Dominion Drive, was on the verge of collapse. Considering that the dome was one of just two of the county’s facilities for road salt storage, staff wanted to take urgent action to commission a replacement.

The County Board agreed to kick off that process in July, but people living nearby were peeved that officials would push ahead with these changes on a considerably more expedited timeline than Arlington’s notoriously lengthy engagement guidelines might normally allow. Many neighbors were particularly concerned that the temporary replacement for the dome might become permanent, lending a considerably more industrial feel to the neighborhood, which is just near Marymount University.

“It will be the defining feature of the entrance of our neighborhood, and it will say ‘Welcome to Industrialville,'” Mike Hogan, president of the Old Dominion Citizens Association, told the commission. “Never have so many planning rules been violated in one proposal as this one.”

Arlington Department of Environmental Services Director Greg Emanuel stressed to the commission the rushed process is “clearly not how we prefer to do our work,” offering a mea culpa for his staff’s failure to identify the problem a bit earlier. But he also emphasized that the project was so important that it was worth speeding things along — should the dome fail, he expects the county would see its response time to a snowstorm increase anywhere from 30 to 40 percent.

“There should’ve been a public process, there’s no question about it,” Planning Commission Chair Jane Siegel told ARLnow. “Nobody’s trying to hide the ball here… but if there is no salt storage in the appropriate part of the county, we risk people getting injured.”

Siegel expects that county staffers managed to overlook the salt dome’s degrading status because the property was at one time slated to become the home of a replacement for Fire Station 8. When those plans fell apart, she suspects the salt dome got lost in the shuffle, as officials were initially expecting it to be removed.

Some neighbors, however, were not so convinced of the county’s good intentions.

“We’ve all known for a long time this is failing,” Jacqueline Smith, another Old Dominion resident, told the commission. “This is a really predictable crisis… and we’re being put under this pressure, saying we have no other options. And personally, I don’t see that.”

But Emanuel told the commission that staff did examine other options for the temporary salt dome, like a site the county uses for storing leaf removal and the Buck property, a piece of county land near Ballston eyed for all manner of uses over the years. Neither option, however, would quite fit the county’s needs, Emanuel said.

Even with the county stuck using the Old Dominion property, Siegel pointed out that vocal community scrutiny of the project managed to force some concessions from the county to make the effort a bit more tolerable. For instance, the county shrank the amount of land it plans to use for the project, and will save all but three trees it originally planned to cut down on the site.

“Even though it was not a full public process, the public did weigh in and get some wins out of this,” Siegel said.

Still, Old Dominion neighbors worry about the site’s future.

“We recognize this is intended to be temporary, but we’d like to know what temporary means,” Hogan said.

Manuel estimates that the temporary structure will stay in place for the next three to four years, until the county can build a new salt storage tank. And for any concerned neighbors, Siegel also points out that the County Board will soon convene a working group on a “master plan” for the property, a process she says might not have started for quite some time without the community’s interest in the salt dome.

“Temporary things become permanent if there’s no opposing group or force or idea, but here there obviously will be,” Siegel said. “There is a bulwark against the drift.”

The County Board will get a chance to weigh in on the salt dome zoning changes at its Sept. 22 and Sept. 25 meetings.

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With Salt Storage Facility Deemed Unusable, County Eyes Replacement

As temperatures near 90 degrees, winter feels awfully far off these days — but Arlington officials are taking new steps to keep county roads clear of snow and ice, all the same.

County leaders are preparing to build a temporary replacement for the salt storage tank serving the northern half of the county, located near the intersection of 25th Road N. and Old Dominion Drive.

They believe the current tank, which was built back in the 1930s, has deteriorated over the years and is no longer safe for workers to use. The County Board is now set to consider plans today (Tuesday) to construct a tank for interim use on the site, ensuring that the county has a working facility by the time the winter arrives.

“The loss of a north side operational facility would have an immediate and apparent effect upon response time for every storm and would put the county at significant risk of exhausting salt supplies during an event,” county staff wrote in a Board report. “An expedited process is necessary as ice storms, which rely exclusively on salt, pose the most significant risk and can occur as early as November.”

Workers use the existing storage tank to hold about 4,500 tons of road salt, with another 1,500 tons stored under a tarp on the property. The county is planning to replace that with a “canvass-skinned structure 120-feet long by 85-feet wide, with a height of 47 feet” on the property, according to the report.

The site is owned by the county, and officials are pursuing a few zoning changes for parcels surrounding the old salt storage tank to clear the way for the construction of its temporary replacement, reasoning that “there is insufficient time to deconstruct and reconstruct the temporary facility on the existing site and be ready to meet the upcoming winter needs.”

Staff envision the new tank staying in place for the next three or four years, as officials draw up plans for a permanent storage tank on the property. They’re aiming to begin construction on that project by “the fall of 2021 or 2022,” and will use $2.4 million in previously approved bond funding to afford the effort.

The Board will vote today whether to hold public hearings on the plan for a temporary facility. Should it approve them, those gatherings would be scheduled for sometime in September, and county staff would hold extensive conversations with the nearby civic associations on their plans.

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Pentagon Row Ice Rink Closed This Week, Despite Possible Weekend Snow

The Pentagon Row ice rink closed on Monday, April 2, despite possible Saturday snow and ongoing cold temperatures.

According to the Capital Weather Gang, “snow or a mix of precipitation is likely across the region between 8 a.m. and late morning, with temperatures in the 30s.”

Several crew members were seen clearing the space on the shopping center’s plaza today (April 5). No word yet on social media when the plaza will be open again for other activities.

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Arlington Public Schools Opening Two Hours Late on Thursday

(Updated at 10 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools’ classes and offices will open two hours late tomorrow (March 22) as the county cleans up from the winter storm that left at least four inches of snow in the area today.

The delay comes after the Virginia Department of Transportation warned of overnight refreezing of melting water.

From APS spokesperson Darryl Johnson:

All APS schools and offices will open two hours late on Thursday, March 22. The Extended Day program will also open two hours late and morning field trips are canceled. Essential employees and food service workers should report to work at their regularly scheduled time. All other employees should report to work two hours past their usual start time. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics.

Also Thursday, Metrobuses and Arlington Transit buses will start the morning with limited service. From WMATA:

Metrobus will begin Thursday, March 22, on a light snow plan with snow detours in effect on a route-by-route basis where hilly terrain or narrow streets may be problematic for buses.

MetroAccess paratransit service for riders with disabilities will be restored on Thursday. Customers may experience delays and service impacts due to road conditions.

Metrorail will open tomorrow at 5 a.m. with normal weekday service on all rail lines.

File photo

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VDOT: Beware of Refreeze Overnight

Meltwater from the wet spring snow that fell today may refreeze overnight, leading to treacherous conditions Thursday morning.

That’s the message from VDOT, which issued the following press release this evening.

As snow tapers off across northern Virginia and temperatures hover at or below freezing, the Virginia Department of Transportation asks drivers to be aware of potential icy conditions overnight and through tomorrow.

Crews will continue working overnight to clear roads, providing a passable path in neighborhoods as well as retreating all roads for refreeze. VDOT asks drivers to use extreme caution or delay overnight trips if possible, to ensure crews are able to work safely and efficiently.

Drivers are asked to continue to monitor weather and to use extreme caution if driving. Low temperatures over the next several days will mean potential for continued refreeze, slick spots and varying road conditions.

Drivers are reminded:

  • Stay tuned to weather conditions (see latest from National Weather Service).
  • If existing conditions refreeze and roads become icy, delay trips for safety, or allow plenty of extra time and reduce speeds significantly.
  • Assume any “wet” pavement could be slick. Even previously treated roads become slick quickly with low pavement and air temperatures.
  • Take it slow on bridges, ramps, overpasses, and other known trouble spots.
  • Ensure gas tanks and wiper fluid tanks are full and completely clean off vehicles before traveling.
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These Businesses Are Still Open in Arlington This Snow Day

(Updated at 5 p.m.) With Arlington schools, county facilities and the federal government closed for the snow day, it might be worth asking: just what is open today?

Below is a partial list of some restaurants, bars and other businesses that are still open or closed in the county.

What’s open:

What’s closed:

ARLnow reporter Bridget Reed Morawski was live on Facebook earlier this afternoon giving a walking snow tour of roads, sidewalks and businesses from Clarendon to Rosslyn. The video replay of that is below.

Join our reporter as she makes her way back to her home in Rosslyn from our Clarendon newsroom in the snow.

Posted by Arlington Now on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

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Four Inches of Snow Has Fallen in Arlington

Four inches of snow has fallen in Arlington, according to the 2 p.m. snowfall total at Reagan National Airport.

The snow has led to slippery roadways and numerous closures. Though above-average temperatures and dogged work by Arlington and VDOT crews has resulted in many main roads being more wet than snow-covered as of mid-afternoon, a number of accidents and spinouts have been reported.

On a hilly stretch between Rosslyn and Courthouse this morning, at least a half dozen vehicles were stuck for upwards of 15 minutes after one driver slid down the hill, according to a witness.

Across the county, firefighters were told this afternoon to put tire chains on their vehicles to help with traction, according to scanner traffic.

Photo (top) courtesy Chris Warner

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Roads Becoming Snow-Covered as Transit Agencies Scale Back Service

Most roads in Arlington have become snow-covered throughout the course of the morning as the D.C. area’s first — and likely last — big snowstorm of the season continues.

A look at traffic cameras in various parts of the county shows light traffic and — for the most part — snowy but still drivable roads. Drivers are, however, having difficulty getting up and down some hilly streets.

Authorities have been urging those who do not absolutely have to get somewhere to keep their cars parked today.

Mass transit is still running, but at reduced service levels. WMATA made the following announcement around 10:30 a.m.

Due to deteriorating weather conditions, Metro is announcing the following service changes, effective as of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday:

Metrobus service is transitioning to a Severe Snow Plan, which will further limit service to major roadways only. Due to current road conditions, buses are subject to significant delays systemwide, and customers should travel only if absolutely necessary. For details about the Severe Snow Plan, visit: https://www.wmata.com/rider-guide/weather/bus/severe.cfm

MetroAccess service is no longer accepting “outbound” trips due to current weather conditions. Service will continue to be provided only for customers who need to be transported back to their residences.

Metrorail continues to operate on a modified schedule. Trains are operating about every 12-15 minutes on each line. There are no issues to report on the rail system at this time.

Arlington Transit buses, meanwhile, are also operating at “severe service” levels.

More via social media:

UPDATE: Traffic is light and most roads around Arlington appear to be snow-covered, though major arteries are being treated

Posted by Arlington Now on Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Video (above) by Dwayne Stewart

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County Government, Facilities Closed as Snow Gets Underway

(Updated at 8:05 a.m.) Those waking up expecting a winter wonderland were instead greeted by icy but mostly snowless roads and sidewalks this morning.

Still, local governments, agencies and schools are taking no chances as snow starts to ramp up in the metro area.

Arlington County government offices, courts, community centers and other facilities are closed today and the county is urging residents to “stay off the roads as the snowstorm enters the area.”

Schools are also closed and all parks and rec programs and activities are cancelled. Trash and recycling collection has been bumped back a day.

Trash & Recycling collection for today, March 21, 2018, has been cancelled. Service will resume tomorrow with the collection schedule shifting by 24 hours. Wednesday collection will occur Thursday, Thursday collection will occur Friday, Friday collection will occur Saturday.

The federal government is closed today, the Office of Personnel Management announced. Along with federal agencies, Joint Base Myer Henderson-Hall is also closed. Emergency and telework-ready employees must follow their agency’s procedures, OPM said.

VRE and MARC service is cancelled, most Amtrak service is cancelled, and Metrobus and Metrorail is operating on a modified service schedule. Arlington Transit buses, meanwhile, are also operating on a reduced schedule.

“Expect snow today 8AM-8PM. Metrobus avoiding hills & narrow streets. ART will provide limited service as conditions permit,” ART said via email.

VDOT is urging drivers to “avoid being caught in hazardous conditions such as limited visibility and slick or snow-covered roads, as well as to allow crews plenty of room to work safely.”

For those who must drive, HOV restrictions have been lifted on local highways.

High occupancy vehicle (HOV) restrictions are lifted on I-66 (inside and outside the Beltway) and on I-395 (from Edsall Road to D.C.) for the morning and afternoon rush hours today. Because HOV restrictions are lifted, tolls on the 66 Express Lanes inside the Beltway will also be suspended today. Please also be aware that shoulder lanes on I-66 and I-495 may be closed through the day to allow crews room to treat.

Even before the bulk of the snow arrives, issues are being reported on the roads. As of 7:10 a.m., firefighters were responding to a report of two vehicles that spun out and off the road along the GW Parkway near Roosevelt Bridge.

More weather updates via Twitter:

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Arlington Public Schools Closed Wednesday

It’s a snow day for Arlington Public Schools students.

APS announced tonight that it would be closed Wednesday, due to the expected snowstorm. The full announcement is below.

All APS schools and offices will be closed on Wednesday, March 21. Essential personnel should report to work at their scheduled time. Extracurricular activities, interscholastic games, team practices, field trips, adult education classes, and programs in schools and on school grounds are canceled. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics. For information about Arlington County programs and operations go to www.arlingtonva.us.

Updated at 9:25 p.m. — Bishop O’Connell High School will also be closed.

File photo

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Winter Storm Warning Issued for Arlington

(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) A Winter Storm Warning is set to take effect overnight tonight, as a snowstorm bears down on the D.C. area.

Forecasters say 4-8 inches of heavy snow accumulation is likely for Arlington and the immediate metro area, though even snow is possible.

From the National Weather Service:

…WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 2 AM TO 8 PM EDT WEDNESDAY… * WHAT…HEAVY SNOW EXPECTED. TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 4 TO 8 INCHES ARE EXPECTED. * WHERE…THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, PORTIONS OF CENTRAL AND NORTHERN MARYLAND AND NORTHERN AND NORTHWEST VIRGINIA. * WHEN…FROM 2 AM TO 8 PM EDT WEDNESDAY. * ADDITIONAL DETAILS…PLAN ON DIFFICULT TRAVEL CONDITIONS. BE PREPARED FOR SIGNIFICANT REDUCTIONS IN VISIBILITY AT TIMES. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR SNOW MEANS SEVERE WINTER WEATHER CONDITIONS WILL MAKE TRAVEL VERY HAZARDOUS OR IMPOSSIBLE. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL, KEEP AN EXTRA FLASHLIGHT, FOOD AND WATER IN YOUR VEHICLE IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY. THE LATEST ROAD CONDITIONS FOR THE STATE YOU ARE CALLING FROM CAN BE OBTAINED BY CALLING 5 1 1. &&

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Winter Storm Watch Issued As County Prepares for Snow

(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) A Winter Storm Watch has been issued for the D.C. area as Arlington County crews prepare for several inches of snow.

The storm is expected to start as rain tomorrow, the first day of spring, before transitioning to snow. The National Weather Service noted on its Twitter page that there is “lots of uncertainty” in terms of the type of precipitation.

More from NWS:

…WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM LATE TUESDAY NIGHT THROUGH WEDNESDAY EVENING…

* WHAT…Heavy wet snow possible, with a total wet snow accumulation of 5 inches or more.

* WHERE…Metropolitan Baltimore and Washington areas, as well as the northern and central Shenandoah Valley.

* WHEN…From late Tuesday night through Wednesday evening.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…Plan on difficult travel conditions. Significant reductions in visibility are possible.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

A Winter Storm Watch means there is potential for significant snow, sleet or ice accumulations that may impact travel. Continue to monitor the latest forecasts.

Via Twitter, the Virginia Department of Transportation said crews will not be pretreating the roads because of the expected rain on Tuesday. An Arlington Department of Environmental Services representative confirmed that the county will not be pretreating for the same reasons, but added that trucks are “ready to treat arterials and any trouble spots should they appear overnight.”

More from VDOT:

The first day of Spring in northern Virginia is forecast to bring snow and sleet and Virginia Department of Transportation crews will be ready. The National Weather Service has already issued a Winter Weather Advisory and Winter Storm Watch for the area. Drivers should continue to monitor the weather and be prepared to stay off the roads if the timing and intensity of this storm impacts rush hours.

Overnight Monday, plow trucks will be staged and ready to treat roads with salt and sand at the beginning of the storm. After two inches have fallen, crews will be able to begin to push snow and/or continuously treat affected areas.

Drivers are asked to:

  • Stay closely tuned to weather forecasts (see National Weather Service) throughout the day Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • Consider adjusting trips around the forecast for safety.
  • Assume any “wet” pavement to be slick. Bridges, ramps, overpasses and lower-volume roads may get slippery first, and even previously treated roads will become slick quickly with the low pavement temperatures.
  • Ensure gas and wiper fluid tanks are full, and have a good emergency kit. Here’s how: www.ready.gov/car.
  • Be aware that low temperatures will mean continued potential for refreeze and slick road conditions.

Via social media:

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Morning Notes

GGW Boosts Gondola — “While [the proposed Georgetown-Rosslyn gondola] might not be the one, most important transportation project in the whole region, it’s a worthwhile way to help people reach jobs and shops and reduce single-passenger car trips.” [Greater Greater Washington]

USB E-Cig Banned at APS — “Schools in Arlington, Virginia, have specifically banned a new type of e-cigarette that has gained popularity among local teenagers: the Juul.” [WTOP]

‘Collision’ to Showcase N. Va. Tech — Arlington and Alexandria’s economic development agencies last week “announced their collaboration in showcasing the brightest and emerging startups on a national platform next month at one of the fastest growing tech conferences in the country.” [Alexandria News]

Beyer Unhappy With Military Helo Report — “A 400-page U.S. Army report on military-helicopter noise in the Washington area has failed to satisfy the member of Congress who authored legislative language requiring its compilation.” [InsideNova]

Snow Predicted for Arlington Tonight — “Expect a sloppy mix of precipitation that slowly transitions from rain to sleet to perhaps snow between early Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon.” [Capital Weather Gang]

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Morning Notes

Social Media Threats Against Arlington Schools — “There is an increased police presence at a middle school and high school in Arlington Friday after authorities say they were the targets of social media threats Thursday night. Arlington County Police say ‘threats of violence’ were made to Williamsburg Middle School and Yorktown High School… police have identified a person in connection with the incident.” [WJLA, Twitter]

Cannonball Found Near the Run — “A remnant of the most turbulent period in Arlington’s history was unearthed during the recent renovation of the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s warehouse space in the Four Mile Run corridor. A 24-pound spherical shell was found during the construction period.” [InsideNova]

Snow Showers Dust Area — Winter is not over yet. A brief period of snow showers left some white patches on lawns this morning. Meanwhile, a potential snowstorm looms for next week. [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]

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VDOT: Wintry Mix May Impact Wednesday Morning Commute

A wintry precipitation mix is expected to hit the region this evening (March 6) and continue into tomorrow morning, which Virginia Department of Transportation officials say could impact the morning commute.

Crews are treating the roads and are preparing for any necessary snow removal, though a tweet from the Capital Weather Gang notes that it is unlikely that much will stick. It’s more likely that there will be a buildup of slush.

VDOT has the following tips for the anticipated precipitation:

  • Stay closely tuned to weather forecasts (see National Weather Service) overnight and through the day tomorrow.
  • Consider teleworking or adjusting trips around the forecast. If roads are slick, delay trips for safety.
  • Bridges, ramps, overpasses and lower-volume roads may become slick quickly with low pavement temperatures.
  • Ensure gas and wiper fluid tanks are full, and have a good emergency kit. Here’s how: www.ready.gov/car.
  • Be aware that low temperatures will mean continued potential for refreeze and slick road conditions.

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