The announcement rippled through Virginia politics, with elected officials from a local level on up weighing in on the decision.
Among Democrats representing Arlington in Richmond or across the Potomac, many were quick to praise the pick.
Said Sen. Mark Warner, in a statement:
I enthusiastically applaud Secretary Clinton’s choice. Without reservation, I can say there is no one of higher integrity and trustworthiness.
I first met Tim Kaine in law school 37 years ago, and our paths crossed years later in Virginia politics. Whether serving as mayor of Richmond, Virginia’s lieutenant governor, governor, and now as U.S. senator, Tim has always shown a commitment to serving others.
He always finds reasons for hope and optimism in every situation, and he is centered by his faith and his family. Our country, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, will be very well-served by electing Tim Kaine as Vice President.
Said Gov. Terry McAuliffe:
I am thrilled to congratulate my friend Senator Tim Kaine on his selection to join the Democratic ticket with Hillary Clinton. As a Mayor, Lieutenant Governor, Governor and United States Senator, Tim Kaine has demonstrated that he is the right choice to help lead our country forward as Vice President of the United State. His experience, intellect and dedication to making life better for people from all walks of life will make him an enormous asset to Secretary Clinton throughout the remainder of this campaign and as a leader in her administration over the next four years. This is a proud day for every Virginian.
Said Del. Alfonso Lopez:
Secretary Clinton has made a wise choice in Tim Kaine as her running mate. He is an extraordinary public servant who has dedicated his life to helping others. In his administration, I coordinated and supervised Congressional and Federal Relations for the Commonwealth and the Governor. In that position, I saw firsthand his intelligence, innate decency and ability to get folks from all points of view to work together.
A tireless champion for the citizens of the Commonwealth, Tim Kaine takes a pragmatic and results-oriented approach that has earned him respect on both sides of the aisle. He is a strong addition to the Democratic ticket and will be a true asset to a Clinton Administration.
Simply put, my old boss and friend U.S. Senator Tim Kaine is one of the best public servants and one of the best individuals I’ve ever encountered. In a world that sometimes feels like it has lost its way, the nation will benefit greatly from the leadership, compassion and infectious optimism of Tim Kaine.
Said state Sen. Adam Ebbin:
— Adam Ebbin (@AdamEbbin) July 23, 2016
The speculation about who Gov. McAuliffe might appoint to replace Kaine in the U.S. Senate, should he and Clinton win the presidential race in November, has already started.
Who will presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton choose as her running mate? Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) is reportedly on the top of her resume pile.
Kaine, 58, is said to be the frontrunner among the people Clinton is considering as the Democratic National Convention nears its opening in Philadelphia next week.
So far, Kaine hasn’t given much indication as to whether Clinton might choose him, but there are signs that such a pick would make sense. Additionally, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said earlier this week that Kaine is someone President Obama would recommend for the job.
Kaine, who speaks Spanish, attended Harvard Law School and was a Catholic missionary before entering the political realm. He has served as Mayor of Richmond, Governor of Virginia and was elected to the senate in 2012.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is the other top candidate for the job, the Washington Post reported.
Clinton is expected to choose her running mate “soon,” according to Hillary for America director Adam Parkhomenko:
Hillary will announce her running mate soon! Text VP to 47246 and be the first to know who she picks.
— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) July 22, 2016
It appears that the threat of Memorial Bridge closing by 2021 due to deterioration and neglect has been averted.
The Northern Virginia and D.C. congressional delegation announced today that a proposed Memorial Bridge restoration project has been awarded a $90 million federal transportation grant.
“While additional federal resources will be needed to complete this $250 million project, this funding will allow [the National Park Service] to move forward with planning and contracting immediately so that construction can begin early next year,” lawmakers said in a joint statement (see press release, below.)
“This is a wonderful step forward,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) told ARLnow.com shortly after the announcement Tuesday afternoon. “It is certainly enough to get started, enough for the people who drive over that bridge every day to feel like the government can actually work and we can actually respond to some of the most important infrastructure projects.”
Beyer said the National Park Service, which is responsible for maintaining the bridge, has committed $50 million for the project. Another $30 million is in the works from a U.S. Senate appropriations bill, Beyer said, thanks to Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.
(While it connects Virginia and D.C., Memorial Bridge is technically located entirely within the boundary of the District of Columbia, which begins at the western shoreline of the Potomac River.)
Built in 1932, Memorial Bridge is well past its 75-year life expectancy, yet it is a vital, heavily-traveled link between the District and Virginia. That it has taken such a concerted effort to arrange financing for an extremely necessary project is symptomatic of both congressional gridlock and the current, deteriorated state of transportation infrastructure throughout the United States.
“It’s taken a lot mostly because there are so many infrastructure projects around the country,” Beyer said. “But I think we were ultimately effective in saying closing down the major route between the north and the south in Virginia and D.C. would be a disaster for the country and certainly a disaster for the effectiveness of the federal government.”
“We still have to get the other 80 million or so… once the project is rolling we have all the credibility we need to get the rest of the money,” Beyer added. “Now all we have to do is get Metro all fixed and we will be happy campers.”
The full press release on the grant funding, from Sen. Warner’s office, is below.
Congressional representatives from Virginia and the District of Columbia today announced that the National Park Service (NPS), jointly with the District Department of Transportation, has been awarded a $90 million FASTLANE Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for repairs to Arlington Memorial Bridge, which carries 68,000 vehicles daily. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Reps. Don Beyer, Gerry Connolly and Barbara Comstock jointly issued the following statement:
“We are very pleased to announce that the Department of Transportation has selected Arlington Memorial Bridge to receive a $90 million FASTLANE grant. While additional federal resources will be needed to complete this $250 million project, this funding will allow NPS to move forward with planning and contracting immediately so that construction can begin early next year. This significant federal investment will go a long way towards ensuring that Memorial Bridge remains open, which is welcome news for the region’s commuters.”
“We are proud that the entire National Capital Region delegation worked together to make sure that the National Park Service submitted a strong application for this FASTLANE Grant. This would not have been possible without the crucial support of Mayor Bowser and the District Department of Transportation.”
“The congressional delegation looks forward to working with all local jurisdictions and our colleagues in Congress to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated to fully repair the Bridge and keep this 84-year-old icon of American infrastructure standing strong.”
Today’s funding announcement will go toward Phase 1 of the reconstruction of the Arlington Memorial Bridge. The Memorial Bridge, which was originally built in 1932, has exceeded its 75-year design life and is structurally deficient, having never undergone a major rehabilitation. It is currently posted with a 10-ton load limit and buses are prohibited from crossing. Without a major overhaul, the project will be closed to vehicular traffic in 2021. Phase 1 will focus on the approach spans, which are the most in need of repairs, at a total cost of $166 million. Completion of Phase 1 will allow the bridge to remain open until 2030 while additional actions are taken to complete Phase 2, the reconstruction of main bascule span.
Closing the Memorial Bridge would cost local governments a projected $168,000 per day ($75 million per year) in transportation outlays alone, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Transit studies suggest that traffic from the bridge would spill over onto other area bridges, particularly the 14th Street Bridge and Roosevelt Bridge.
In April, the congressional delegation wrote to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to endorse the FASTLANE application. Last month, Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser joined NPS on a tour for a firsthand look at the rapidly deteriorating state of Memorial Bridge.
Rep. Don Beyer, County Board member Katie Kristol and U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine — all Democrats — today praised the Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision to strike down a Texas law that greatly restricted abortion providers there.
Beyer called the decision a victory for “common sense and justice for women” in a statement:
Common sense and justice for women and families prevailed at the Supreme Court today. This decision once again affirms our nation’s longstanding policy that women have the right to an abortion until viability, and that efforts by anti-choice forces to deny that right through lack of access imposes an undue burden. Anti-choice forces in Virginia apply the same tactics, and have also failed. We will continue every effort to maintain and expand women’s healthcare access in Virginia.
Cristol echoed Beyer’s praise in a tweet:
Thank you, SCOTUS! W/o access, there is no right to choose. "Each [restriction] violates the Federal Constitution.” https://t.co/0qCj9aBS1t
— Katie Cristol (@kcristol) June 27, 2016
Warner also released a statement praising the decision:
Today the Supreme Court sent a clear message that all women have the right to make their own reproductive health decisions, no matter where they live. This is a victory for women’s health in Texas, in Virginia, and across the country.
As did Kaine:
I applaud the Supreme Court for seeing the Texas law for what it is – an attempt to effectively ban abortion and undermine a woman’s right to make her own health care choices. This ruling is a major win for women and families across the country, as well as the fight to expand reproductive freedom for all.
The Texas law is quite similar to arbitrary and unnecessary rules that were imposed on Virginia women after I left office as Governor. I’m proud that we were able to successfully fight off such “TRAP” regulations during my time in state office. I have always believed these sort of rules are an unwarranted effort to deprive women of their constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.
File photo of Supreme Court
Arlington resident and 86-year-old World War II veteran Rudy Panaglima delivered a heartfelt speech on Capitol Hill Thursday morning, thanking lawmakers for a new immigration that allow Filipino veterans to be reunited with their families.
Panaglima was just 13 years old when he joined a Philippine guerrilla unit that secretly worked with the United States during World War II. Eventually, he became a member of the United States Army in the Philippines.
Filipino veterans who served for the United States during World War II received citizenship in appreciation for their service. However, many of their children were not able to.
Panaglima and his 83 year old wife Pura, have been waiting since 1995 for their two sons to come to the United States.
“We need our sons to take care of us because of our age,” said Panaglima.
Other speakers included Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D), Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono (D), Nevada Sen. Harry Reid (D) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service Chief of Staff Juliet Choi.
“For too many years, Filipino veterans who fought valiantly alongside the United States in World War II – including many who call Virginia home – have been waiting for the promise of reunification with their families to be fulfilled,” Kaine said. “I’m so pleased that implementation of the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program has finally begun and that families like Rudy and Pura Panaglima of Arlington will soon be reunited with their sons who can provide them with much-needed care.”
Panaglima and his wife Pura have been living in the United States for over 21 years. Throughout the years, they have moved all around the D.C. area. However, now they currently reside along Lee Highway.
The Filipino World War II Veterans Parole (FWVP) Program, which officially took effect Wednesday, allows Filipino veterans or their spouses, whose service has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense, to apply to bring their children to the United States. The policy also allows the families to be together in the United States while the applications are processed.
“In a few months, my two sons will be with us in America because of this program. On behalf of the Panaglima family I would like to convey our gratitude,” said Panaglima.
Update at 6:10 p.m. — The federal government is open tomorrow. Federal workers has the option of unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework, says the Office of Personnel Management. Arlington County government is also open with a telework option.
Arlington’s congressional delegation is weighing in on tomorrow’s complete closure of the Metrorail system for safety inspections.
Rep. Don Beyer (D):
Our office has been in contact with the Office of Personnel Management. We have urged them to allow unscheduled leave for federal employees, and I urge other employers in the region to be equally flexible, allowing employees to take unscheduled leave or to work from home if at all possible.
I have confidence in the new leadership of Paul Wiedefeld and look forward learning more about the technical details behind this decision. We must overhaul this critical public transit system, and we must continue our federal investment in Metro in order for that to happen. Tomorrow we will get a glimpse of what our nation’s capital will look like without this essential system.
Sen. Mark Warner (D):
“It’s sad that it’s come to this, but hundreds of thousands of people depend on the safety of the Metro system. We need to take it seriously. I’m glad that Metro’s new leadership is treating system safety with an appropriate sense of urgency.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D):
“While this is an unprecedented step and a major inconvenience for thousands of daily commuters, it’s also the type of tough call that signals WMATA’s new management team is doing whatever it takes to ensure the safety of Metro riders. Employers across the region — including OPM — should offer their employees flexibility tomorrow as they face limited transit options.”
Word that the Memorial Bridge is deteriorating faster than expected and could close by 2021 without a complete overhaul has prompted a response from Northern Virginia’s congressional delegation.
Lawmakers issued the following joint press release today (Thursday), promising to work together to get the quarter-billion dollars in funding necessary to keep the bridge open.
The National Park Service (NPS) today announced that Arlington Memorial Bridge will need to close by 2021 absent funding for a full rehabilitation. The bridge has been undergoing emergency repairs since last year. Northern Virginia Reps. Don Beyer, Gerry Connolly, and Barbara Comstock, along with Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, reacted to the news with urgent calls to fund repairs, estimated to cost as much as $280 million.
“Memorial Bridge was built to symbolize the coming together and reunification of a fractured nation following the Civil War. Today, unfortunately, it also symbolizes the neglect of our nation’s transportation system.” said Rep. Don Beyer. “The prospect of a shuttered Memorial Bridge is one we cannot live with. This challenge demands a solution and the regional delegation will work together to find it.”
NPS devotes much of its $20 million D.C. area transportation budget for repairs to the aging Memorial Bridge. This continued funding allotment severely hinders its efforts to sustain other regional transportation and infrastructure projects.
“To the tens of thousands of Virginians, D.C. residents and visitors who travel across the Potomac River every day, Arlington’s Memorial Bridge is a critical piece of our regional transportation system,” said Sen. Mark Warner. “The extended closure of this major commuter artery will be devastating to the economy and quality of life in the capital region. We will work together as a delegation to identify the necessary resources so the National Park Service can keep Memorial Bridge open.”
“Arlington Memorial Bridge is a key transportation link for thousands of daily Northern Virginia commuters as well as visitors to our nation’s capital,” said Sen. Tim Kaine. “It speaks to the state of our nation’s infrastructure that replacing this National Park Service-owned bridge would cost as much as the entire yearly budget for Park Service bridges across the country. My colleagues and I in the National Capital Region’s congressional delegation took steps in last year’s transportation bill to make it easier to fund major projects like this. It is critical that we take the next step toward a new bridge before we reach the point at which it becomes unsafe to use the current one.”
Over 68,000 vehicles cross the bridge between Washington, D.C. and Arlington, VA every day. Closing the Memorial Bridge would cost local governments a projected $168,000 per day ($75 million per year) by 2021 in transportation outlays alone according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Transit studies suggest that traffic from the bridge would spill over onto other area bridges, particularly the 14th Street Bridge and Roosevelt Bridge. The impact on an already-strained transportation system could likely produce new, extreme levels of gridlock in the nation’s capital and its Northern Virginia suburbs.
“The potential closure of Memorial Bridge, a major commuter route for many Northern Virginians, will have a profound negative effect on all our regional roadways,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly. “It is disheartening this announcement comes as we celebrate the National Park Centennial. I can think of no better way for Congress to celebrate the Park’s 100th birthday than to redouble its efforts to invest in our Park system. This is a federally-owned bridge, and thus a federal responsibility that Congress must address.”
“Arlington Memorial Bridge is a national treasure as well as a major thoroughfare for Northern Virginia commuters,” said Rep. Barbara Comstock. “It’s used every day by 68,000 vehicles as well as people coming and going to our airports, local landmarks, and work. We must ensure proper funding for the bridge so that this critical piece of infrastructure remains safe and usable. The alternative would cause serious traffic problems for my constituents and the region and harm the local and national economy.”
Arlington’s members of Congress are touting wins for federal workers, veterans, Metro and the Virginia economy in a new federal spending bill.
The bill, a rare bipartisan budget compromise, passed both houses of Congress this morning. It includes a raise for the federal workforce, $150 million for WMATA, $30 million for Arlington National Cemetery, and billions for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and various other military spending priorities.
The office of Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) described it as “good news for federal employees” in a press release.
There is finally some good news for federal employees in the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress this morning. The $1.1 trillion spending package included a pay raise for federal employees and service members, as well as significant additional funding for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), some of which is earmarked for cybersecurity.
“Federal employees suffered through enough with years of wage stagnation, furloughs and shutdowns, and, perhaps most egregiously, the theft of their personal information as a result of the OPM hacks,” said Rep. Beyer. “In addition to cybersecurity investments to prevent future breaches, this deal gives our federal workforce a modest 1.3 percent pay raise for the second year in a row.”
“These efforts will help improve the recruitment and retention of federal employees to help our government grow the new American economy,” Beyer added.
The agreement provides $272 million for OPM and the OPM Inspector General, a $132 million increase over the previous year. The legislation also provides $21 million for critical upgrades to OPM’s cybersecurity infrastructure and to ensure protections to prevent similar security breaches are installed. Individuals affected by the OPM data breaches will be provided with identity protection coverage for 10 years — much more than the previous commitment — and identity theft insurance in the amount of $5,000,000.
After the jump, a joint press release from Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, including details of specific spending and tax provisions of note for Virginia residents, businesses and federal workers.
Metro announced yesterday that Paul Wiedefeld, the former CEO of BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, has been selected as the agency’s next General Manager and CEO.
Following a lengthy search process, the WMATA Board of Directors is expected to make Wiedefeld’s appointment official on Nov. 19.
With Metro in turmoil due to ongoing rail service reliability problems and financial challenges, state officials and lawmakers welcomed the appointment of an experienced executive to Metro’s top post.
From Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.):
“Today’s news concludes a period of uncertainty for Metro. Paul Wiedefeld’s transportation and executive experience gives him the tools to provide WMATA with the leadership a first class transit system needs. I look forward to working with him to ensure a safe, reliable future for Metro as a critical part of the national capitol area’s transportation infrastructure.”
From Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe:
“I am pleased to see that the WMATA Board has unanimously chosen Paul Wiedefeld to lead the agency as its General Manager and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Wiedefeld’s significant experience in managing safety and operations in the transit industry will surely serve him well as he steps into his role with Metro. I am hopeful that this appointment, though overdue, will give WMATA the stability and expertise it needs to produce meaningful change across the agency. I look forward to Mr. Wiedefeld’s formal confirmation by the Board on November 19th.”
A joint statement from U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.):
“We’re pleased to finally see this progress in bringing on new management for Metro after a year-long search.
“As federal lawmakers, we have been strong advocates and effective partners for Metro. In his years of service to BWI, Mr. Wiedefeld has proven himself to be a creative and successful infrastructure manager in the public sector. We are eager to meet with him to emphasize our shared commitment and steady focus on turning-around the troubled Metro system.
“We’re prepared to work with Mr. Wiedefeld as he accepts the challenge of improving the safety and reliability of this pivotal regional investment for Metro passengers and visitors to the national capital region.”
After a jump, a press release from the recently-formed WMATA Riders’ Union.
Post Endorses Dorsey and Cristol — The Washington Post has endorsed Democrats Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol in the race for Arlington County Board. The paper writes of the pair’s opponents: “Both are serious candidates and have attacked what they consider Arlington’s profligate spending… Yet neither has advanced convincing proposals to trim spending or explained why enlarging the stock of affordable housing should not be a priority in a place where the supply of it has diminished rapidly with gentrification.” [Washington Post]
County Board Push Poll Criticized — A “push poll” in the Arlington County Board race is being criticized after two residents say the caller asked misleading questions and didn’t disclose who had paid for it. Board candidate Michael McMenamin said he commissioned a poll but the script explicitly said that it was paid for by his campaign. [Washington Post]
Tour of New 1776 Offices — The newly-refurbished office of tech incubator 1776 in Crystal City is being debuted this week. The office includes a full kitchen, and the incubator is seeking two chefs to cook for its members. [Washington Business Journal]
Kaine Speaking at GMU Arlington Campus — Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) will give a speech on Congress and war powers at George Mason University’s Arlington campus tonight at 7 p.m. “Kaine has been a leading voice urging the Obama administration to seek a specific authorization for U.S. military action against ISIL while pressing his congressional colleagues to debate and vote on the mission – one he believes goes well beyond the legal scope and intent of existing authorizations from 2001 and 2002,” a press release notes.
Drunk Man Calls 911 for Ride to Arlington — A drunk hotel guest in Vienna, Va. was arrested last week after twice calling 911 to request a ride to Arlington. [InsideNova]
An American flag that once flew over the U.S. Capitol will replace a missing flag at the American Legion post in Virginia Square.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) gifted the post at 3445 Washington Blvd with the flag after reading that its previous flag was missing and possibly stolen, as first reported by ARLnow.com.
“While on the road along Route 58 today, I read that the U.S. flag at American Legion Post 139 in Arlington had gone missing,” Kaine said on Facebook. “I asked my staff to see if we could help. I hope they enjoy this new flag which was flown over the U.S. Capitol!”
The flag was obtained through Congress’ Capitol flag program, said Joe LaPaille, Kaine’s deputy press secretary.
“After reading story, he wanted to see if there was something he could do,” LaPaille said.
The flag will be raised tomorrow with an accompanying ceremony, said Sharon Walker, the club manager at the American Legion.
“It was so generous of his office,” she said.
Community Pushes Back on Fire Station Plan — Arlington County Board members are hearing an earful from residents who live around Fire Station 8 on Lee Highway. The county is considering relocating the station to improve fire response times in far northern neighborhoods. However, residents say the fire station is historic because it was the first in Virginia to be staffed mostly by professional black firefighters, in the 1950s, and should not be moved. [InsideNova, WTOP]
Kojo and Kaine in Crystal City — WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi will host a “Kojo in the Community” discussion with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) tonight. “The discussion will focus on the ways in which the military and defense industry shape our region, ranging from jobs and the economy to infrastructure and traffic,” organizers say. The talk will take place at Synetic Theater in Crystal City. [ARLnow Events]
New Restaurant at DCA — Former “Top Chef” finalist Carla Hall has opened a new 110-seat restaurant in Reagan National Airport’s Terminal A. The menu features contemporary American cuisine with a Southern flair. [Eater, Washington Business Journal]
Now Showing: Shrek, the Musical — Arlington’s Encore Stage and Studio is currently performing Shrek, the Musical at Thomas Jefferson Community Theater. The family-friendly show runs through Sunday. [DC Metro Theater Arts]
Bunnies Galore Near Clarendon — There sure are a lot of bunnies around Clarendon these days, at least according to some concerned bunny spotters who have contacted us about it. Now, there’s some photographic proof. [Twitter]
Arlington’s representatives on Capitol Hill are calling for action after additional restrictions were put in place on the structurally deficient Memorial Bridge.
Starting this morning, both outside lanes of the Memorial Bridge were closed to traffic and a 10-ton load limit put in place, closing the bridge to bus traffic. That follows an inspection that found corroding support beams and “significant deterioration” of the bridge’s concrete deck.
The 83-year-old, 2,100-foot-long bridge opened in 1932. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and — since it connects the Lincoln Memorial with Arlington National Cemetery and Robert E. Lee’s Arlington House — it is considered a national symbol of reunification of the North and the South following the Civil War.
The National Park Service, which oversees the bridge, is planning 6-9 months of emergency repairs starting next month. It says that with the restrictions, the bridge is safe for drivers and pedestrians. The load limit will “help extend the life of the deck for passenger vehicles,” NPS said.
The Park Service is currently seeking $250 million from Congress for permanent repairs and rehabilitation.
Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, along with Rep. Don Beyer, called the state of the historic bridge the “latest evidence of federal neglect.” In strong statements, the lawmakers said it’s time for Congress to fund crucial transportation infrastructure projects.
From a press release:
Senator Mark Warner (VA), Senator Tim Kaine (VA), Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton (DC) and Congressman Don Beyer (VA-8) called for stronger federal infrastructure investment, citing the closure of a second lane on the iconic and congested Arlington Memorial Bridge as the latest evidence of federal neglect.
“There is nothing more emblematic of Congress’ failure to invest in our nation’s infrastructure than the bridge that brings people into our nation’s capital, a national memorial, falling apart. Memorial Bridge has already been labeled ‘structurally deficient’ and one lane was closed just last week due to safety and infrastructure concerns. Today, we have news that another lane will be shut down. It’s time for Congress to stop kicking the can down the road and pass a federal transportation bill to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, starting right here in DC,” said Rep. Beyer.
The National Park Service (NPS) announced today that it will close a second lane of traffic on the bridge, which stretches from Arlington National Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial and is a major artery across the Potomac. The rush hour effects of the six-month closures will be dramatic.
“Unlike other infrastructure, NPS roads and bridges like the Arlington Memorial Bridge are 100 percent funded by the federal government, and there are almost no alternative sources of funds for maintenance and improvements other than federal funds. With a cost of up to $250 million to replace the Memorial Bridge, it is no wonder that NPS is unable to do this work when it only receives $15 to $20 million for its transportation projects in the National Capital Region and only $240 for the entire nation. Our region must offer leadership and work with Members of Congress as far away as the western states that are also deeply affected. Beginning with our region, we must create a coalition of Members of the House and Senate determined to begin the uphill climb of rescuing priceless and essential federal assets like the Memorial Bridge that bring millions to the states by providing everything from workplace corridors to tourist sites,” said Del. Norton.
Nearly 68,000 vehicles cross the 83-year-old bridge on a typical work day. The cost to fully repair the bridge is estimated at more than $250 million over several months. Memorial Bridge is just one of more than 70,000 US bridges deemed “structurally deficient.”
“Today’s announcement that we have to close yet another lane of the Memorial Bridge highlights the decrepit state of our infrastructure,” said Senator Kaine. “This additional lane closure will cause unbearable congestion and delays for the approximately 68,000 drivers who use theMemorial Bridge to travel between Virginia and Washington every day. Today’s frustrating news represents a nationwide issue. It’s estimated that there are 4,800 structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges in Virginia alone. It’s time to stop kicking the can down the road and address our nation’s crumbling infrastructure by passing a bipartisan, long-term transportation bill.”
“How can Congress fail to act while the Memorial Bridge – which is not only a vital artery for local commuters, but also the entrance to our nation’s capital - is literally falling apart? This is not just embarrassing – it’s outrageous,” said Sen. Warner. “We have to get serious about fixing and upgrading our roads, bridges, ports and other infrastructure. Until that happens, Virginia commuters will be stuck sitting in even more traffic – and crumbling and inefficient infrastructure will remain a serious drag on our economic growth.”
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) visited La Cocina VA yesterday, a nonprofit program that gives Hispanic immigrants bilingual, culinary job training in the basement of an Arlington church.
Below Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church (1500 N. Glebe Road) yesterday afternoon, Kaine — who speaks fluent Spanish after spending a year in Honduras before entering politics — met with the program’s leaders and participants, eager to learn more about the benefits it provides.
“This is an important program for a lot of reasons,” he said. His father was a welder and, when he was in Honduras, Kaine taught welding to the locals. “Teaching students in Honduras taught me a lot about technical education. People need skills you can’t get in the classroom.”
Kaine walked into the building and introduced himself to the program’s five current trainees and head chef, Diego Rojas, a U.S. Army veteran. He also met with graduates of the program, one of whom, Jose Hernandez, now works as a line cook at Le Meridien in Rosslyn.
Hernandez said when he came to Arlington and graduated high school, he was afraid to speak in English because he wasn’t as comfortable with the language as Spanish, and he was teased by classmates for his lack of proficiency.
“Now I’m more confident,” he said. “Now I’m training people in preparing salads and doing well in the kitchen.”
La Cocina not only trains its enrollees on how to work in a commercial kitchen, it also provides language skills to interact with coworkers and customers. It provides job placement services — Whole Foods has recently partnered to offer monthlong paid internships with the potential for a full-time position — and the environment Rojas and Founder/CEO Patricia Funegra cultivate generate leadership skills and confidence.
“This kitchen is like the garage Steve Jobs started in at his parents’ house,” Funegra said. “It’s one big step to get into the industry.”
While they are training, the cooks make thousands of meals provided to low-income families. La Cocina also focuses on health education, both for the trainees and the communities at large; 50 percent of every meal is made up of fruits and vegetables, Funegra said.
“This program is opening up doors I wouldn’t get anywhere else as a Hispanic woman,” one of the trainees said, according to a translator. “When we leave, we will be a voice for others.”
After a 45-minute discussion, Rojas and his trainees took Kaine to the kitchen, where they prepared meals of turkey cutlets, roasted squash and carrots made with turkey stock, plus sautéed onions, carrots and green beans.
Today Obama announced that his administration will normalize diplomatic relations and ease economic restrictions on the island nation. Also announced: that American Alan Gross and a U.S. intelligence asset were freed from Cuban jails, in exchange for three jailed Cuban spies.
Kaine’s brief statement:
“I am overjoyed by today’s announcement of Alan Gross’s release and wish him the very best as he reunites with his family and loved ones. His release marks a victory for American diplomacy. I’d like to especially thank Pope Francis and the Canadian government for their role as intermediaries in this effort.”
“Our relationship with Cuba will not change overnight – human rights and political freedom are important concerns that we will continue to raise with the Cuban government. But as the reestablishment of U.S. diplomatic ties with Vietnam proved, engagement rather than isolation is often more effective at advancing American interests and democratic values.”