Arlington, VA

On Saturday, the County Board is scheduled to review an agreement with the City of Alexandria to build a connector trail near Four Mile Run and Route 1, in the Potomac Yard area.

“The Connector Trail will connect a trail to be constructed by Arlington County from Richmond Highway in Arlington County to a portion of the Four Mile Run Trail located in the City of Alexandria,” says a county staff report.

The new trail and the connecting trail are part of a development plan for Short Bridge Park. The waterfront park, adjacent to several bridges over Four Mile Run, is part of both Arlington County and the City of Alexandria.

“The first phase of development of Short Bridge Park involves the construction of the New Trail leading from Richmond Highway across a parcel currently owned by Arlington Potomac Yard Community Association and on which the County Board has a public access easement,” the staff report said.

The board will have three years to construct these paths.

“The County shall be responsible for maintenance, repair and replacement of the connector trail and the removal of trash and debris during the term of the agreement,” the report said.

Short Bridge Park was created through a site plan that the County Board approved in 2000. A master plan for the park, including a name change from the informal moniker “South Park,” was hashed out in 2018 after “extensive community engagement.”

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The group Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail are asking for help over the next three weeks to fix a trail bridge next to Theodore Roosevelt Island.

The efforts come after successful fundraiser that raised more money than the friends needed to apply non-skid treatment to the bridge, which is nicknamed the “Trollheim Bridge” and has a reputation for being dangerous to bike riders.

After scrubbing away mold, moss and mildew, the Friends are turning to fixing loose boards and replacing damaged boards, another hazard on a bridge that the organization says is “notoriously slippy.”

The opportunities are part of the ongoing effort to “make Trollheim Bridge a little less trollish,” said the announcement on the website.

This Saturday, the friends will be reattaching boards bicyclists often hear “flopping around” on the bridge. Next Thursday, they will be replacing rotting deck boards. On Saturday, Dec. 5, there will be a second event for fixing boards on the bridge.

“There’s a lot of freaking loose boards,” the announcement said. “If we run out of boards, we’ll start flipping some of the boards to extend their life.”

The Friends encourage those who are interested to register via the above links. According to the registration page, volunteers are asked to bring water, gloves, a safety vest and a cordless drill, if they have one.

Extra money from the GoFundMe fundraiser went toward a pressure washer that is speeding up cleaning, as well as extra non-skid treatment for two other bridges with many crashes, including Bridge 1 north of Mount Vernon estates.

In May, the National Park Service released a study of the trail that recommends widening it in some places, particularly hot spots for crashes. There were 225 reported bike and pedestrian crashes on the trail between 2006 and 2010, according to the study, though most were reported in parts of the trail south of the bridge.

The 18.5-mile Mount Vernon Trail sees approximately one million annual users.

The Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail, founded in 2018, supports the National Park Service and helps keep the trail safe through education, trail maintenance and community events.

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A major project to add 70 acres to Arlington National Cemetery while reconfiguring the eastern end of Columbia Pike is inching forward.

The cemetery’s southern expansion project will add about 60,000 burial sites, across 37 acres of new burial plots and an above-ground columbarium, allowing the cemetery to continue military burials through the 2050s. It will also bring the Air Force Memorial within the cemetery grounds, and add a parking garage across Columbia Pike.

The federal government acquired county-owned land for the expansion via an eminent domain suit this summer. In exchange, the feds are paying for the reconfiguration of Columbia Pike and the creation of a new S. Nash Street in the tiny Foxcroft Heights neighborhood adjacent to the Air Force Memorial — a $60 million project.

“The expansion project will benefit Arlington County and its residents by, among other things, burying overhead power lines and incorporating the Air Force Memorial and surrounding vacant land into Arlington National Cemetery,” the federal government said in June. “The project will transform Columbia Pike from South Oak Street to Washington Boulevard by re-aligning and widening it. The project includes streetscape zones with trees on both sides of Columbia Pike, adding a new dedicated bike path, and widening pedestrian walkways.”

In all, the cemetery expansion and the road project are expected to cost $420 million, most of which has already been appropriated by Congress.

Separately, the federal government is also planning a visitor center for the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon, across from the expanded portion of the cemetery closer to the Pentagon, as well as a new trail along the cemetery border from Foxcroft Heights to Memorial Drive.

The National Capital Planning Commission discussed the cemetery expansion plan at a review meeting last week. A presentation that preceded the discussion included a number of renderings of the project, as seen above.

The commission largely approved of the plan, but asked the Army to “submit a revised design for the Air Force Memorial vehicular entrance gate to address the unwelcoming experience created by the 60-foot line of bollards and fencing.”

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Morning Notes

‘Open Schools’ Signs Also Being Stolen — “The debate over whether kids should be learning in or out of schools is getting ugly in Arlington. So much so, dozens of signs that said ‘Open Schools Now’ have gone missing. ‘Some of them have gotten stolen and neighbors have found them in trash cans,’ parent Russell Laird said Friday, standing near 100 new signs that had just been delivered. ‘I told people, keep count of how many were stolen, come back with double.'” [Fox 5]

County Getting More COVID-19 Aid — “The Arlington County Board today accepted more than $3 million dollars in additional federal aid to support low-to-moderate-income residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aid included more money for housing vouchers and funding for a range of relief programs to support families and small businesses.” [Arlington County]

Restaurant Week Starts Today — “Arlington Restaurant Week will run from October 19-26. During the week, diners can try set menu items from many local restaurants, at a discounted price. The idea is for diners to find a new to-go place for dining out.” [ARLnow]

W&OD Trail Detour Shifting — “The current W&OD Trail detour route just east of Lee Highway (Route 29) will be shifted for about two weeks beginning October 19 to allow additional construction activity. Crews will reconstruct sidewalks on Lee Highway, the Econolodge entrance on Fairfax Drive, and nearby curb ramps on Lee Highway. Trail users will be directed to a new sidewalk and trail adjacent to the new trail bridge during this detour.” [VDOT]

Gutshall Posthumously Honored By Chamber — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce that the late Erik Gutshall is our 2020 inductee into the Arlington Business Hall of Fame.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Local Church Gets Big Donation — “Today, Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Arlington received 40 pallets of toiletries and household products worth $250,000 from @FoodForThePoor. They plan to give away the items during their weekly food distribution and through the parish thrift store.” [Arlington Catholic Herald/Twitter]

AED Wins Prestigious Awards — “Arlington Economic Development took home numerous honors at this year’s International Economic Development Council (IEDC) 2020 Excellence Awards, which were announced earlier today at the organization’s annual conference. AED’s programs and partnerships were recognized for Economic Excellence in several categories.” [Arlington County]

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Arlington County police have arrested a man they say is the cyclist behind a series of “trail rage” incidents on local trails.

On Friday, ACPD issued a community warning about a middle-aged man who had aggressively cursed at, mooned and in some cases struck pedestrians, in at least five separate incidents along trails in Arlington. Police say they received “numerous tips” over the weekend, which led them to identify a suspect.

“On the evening of Sunday, September 6, police executed a search warrant at the suspect’s residence and took him into custody without incident,” police said in a press release today. “David Marlowe, 55, of Arlington, VA, was arrested and charged with Robbery, Assault and Battery (x3), Indecent Exposure (x5) and Felony Possession with the Intent to Distribute Marijuana. He is being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility on no bond.”

Marlowe is accused of striking several people in fits of rage, attempting to steal one victim’s cell phone, and exposing his buttocks on numerous occasions. The marijuana charge against him was not further explained in the press release.

On Friday, a police spokeswoman told ARLnow that the department was “working with our regional partners” to try to determine whether the same suspect might be behind similar incidents on other trails, including a August 13 confrontation on the Mt. Vernon Trail that’s being investigated by U.S. Park Police.

Police say they’re continuing to investigate and are seeking additional information about the case.

The investigation into the suspect’s actions is ongoing. Anyone with additional information related to this investigation is asked to contact the Police Department’s Tip Line at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Members of the public reporting additional criminal incidents are asked to use the police department’s online reporting system.

Photos courtesy Arlington County Police Department

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(Updated at 9:25 a.m.) In addition to the official woodlands paths and trails through Arlington parks, a visitor is likely to find countless other well-worn paths that criss-cross the park built from decades of use.

As Arlingtonians venture into nature for a social-distanced outdoors experience, a local group is hoping to legalize the natural trails and make them sustainable.

An over 200-member Facebook page called Arlington Trails advocates for preserving and sustaining natural trails across Arlington — particularly for local mountain bikers.

“Arlington County is the only area that doesn’t allow mountain biking,” said Matthew Levine, who runs Arlington Trails. “It’s a great way of getting kids into nature. Right now, a lot of people need to be outside.”

Susan Kalish, a spokeswoman for the parks department, verified that natural trail use is restricted to walking humans and dogs on leashes, due to the damage caused by bicycles.

“Bikes are not allowed on a natural trail in Arlington,” Kalish said. “Wheels on trails compact the ground and have a greater impact on the flora and fauna that make up our natural trails. Wheeled transport on natural trails compacts the soil and can destroy plants and damage tree roots. Compacted soils and less vegetation lead to water runoff and degradation of our streams. There are also safety issues as these trails are narrow and the walkers and bikers can’t easily step to the side without harming more vegetation and possibly themselves on steep embankments.”

Kalish said those trails have been damaged in recent months by irresponsible users.

“We find rogue, bushwhacked trails where trees have been cut down and plants pulled out,” Kalish said. “We’ve also found places where bikers have built ramps, jumps and holes.”

For Levine, the recent damage shows that cyclists are still using these trails despite local ordinance, and legalizing that use while providing less destructive options for use.

“Part of it is making these trails legal, otherwise there are rogue trails being built with thrillseekers going straight down,” Levine said. “If they’re not sanctioned and following protocol — that’s why you have kids in the woods building jumps.”

Nora Palmatier, an Arlington resident and a member of Tree Stewards of Arlington and Alexandria, said that the trails through the parks are currently unsafe for mountain biking.

“It is too dangerous for off-road biking in small parks,” Palmatier said. “Several of us have been hit getting off trails by speeding bikes. I discovered 13 holly saplings 6-10 feet tall chopped down for bike trails which is just wrong in Lacey Woods. I love to bike ride but not where it destroys wildflowers and trees or where it is too dangerous.”

Currently, many of those trails are desire paths — reflecting the most direct routes park users take from one place to another. Levine said those paths aren’t made with concerns about erosion and other issues in mind, which is why Levine and local organization Mid Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE) work to adapt those trails into sustainable paths. Emails Levine provided of his offers to do so in Arlington show park managers rebuffing those efforts.

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Morning Notes

County May Get Million from CARES Act — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam “is considering a plan to distribute $3 billion of CARES cash using a formula that considers in economic need, a way to send more money to places like Lee County or Petersburg and less money to places like Alexandria and Arlington.” [@MichaelLeePope/Twitter, WVTF]

Arlington Trail Usage Way Up — “Trail counts are up 50% above average, on the weekends. Try an alternative route. Protect yourself and others by avoiding crowded trails.” [@BikeArlington/Twitter]

Dems Hold County Board Forum — Blue Virginia has video and notes from Sunday’s County Board special election candidates forum, held by Arlington Democrats. [Blue Virginia]

ACPD: Man Threw Brick Through Car Window — “At approximately 12:10 p.m. on April 30, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was driving on Columbia Pike when the suspect allegedly threw a brick through the rear window of the vehicle, causing it to shatter. The victim was not injured. Arriving officers located the suspect in the area and took him into custody without incident.” [Arlington County]

Marymount Faculty Member Makes ‘Fashion Masks’ — “Marymount University faculty member William Allen, an award-winning fashion designer, is using his creative talents and those of his students to help boost the amount of crucial PPE available at the Arlington Free Clinic.” [Press Release]

Sen. Kaine Volunteering at AFAC Today — “On Monday, May 4, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine will visit the Arlington Food Assistance Center, where he will meet with staff, tour the center, and volunteer to distribute food. The center has seen increasing demand amid the coronavirus pandemic and currently distributes groceries to over 2,400 families each week in Arlington.”

TSA Workers Create Food Bank at DCA — “Transportation Security Administration employees at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) have established a free food and toiletries pantry to assist employees in the airport community who have been laid off or seen their work hours and paychecks reduced due to the significant decrease in travelers as a result of the pandemic.” [Press Release]

Photo courtesy @EthanDevries_/Twitter

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The Arlington County Board is set to vote this weekend on the federal government’s plan to realign Columbia Pike to facilitate the southern expansion of Arlington National Cemetery.

Under the plan, Southgate Road, which runs from the entrance to Henderson Hall to the intersection of the Pike and S. Joyce Street, would be removed to make way for new cemetery grounds and interment spaces. Columbia Pike would be realigned near the Air Force Memorial to run directly down to Joyce Street rather than curving around the memorial.

The County Board is expected to endorse the plan — part of the federally-funded Defense Access Roads program — this weekend, allowing it to move forward.

Also on the Board agenda is a Memorandum of Agreement with a federal transportation agency for the creation of a new segment of multi-use trail between Washington Blvd and Arlington National Cemetery.

The long-proposed trail would run along the western side of Washington Blvd, from the realigned portion of the Pike to Memorial Drive. It would provide a safer alternative to an existing trail on the other side of the highway, which is well-utilized but has a number of harrowing crossings at ramps to and from the GW Parkway.

“Upgrading this portion of the trail provides an important connectivity from the Columbia Pike/Pentagon City area to Memorial Drive,” a county staff report said. “With the expansion of Arlington National Cemetery and the interchange modifications, the timing is perfect for this segment of trail improvements. “

The County Board is expected to approve the MOA, along with a half-million dollars in funding for the trail from the existing Columbia Pike multimodal improvements project.

“Representatives from [Arlington National Cemetery] have agreed to provide Arlington County the necessary easements for the trail improvements,” the staff report noted. “Under this MOA, Arlington County will provide advanced funding to Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division (EFLHD), in an amount of $500,000, for engineering design, construction advertisement, and procurement for construction services, and oversight of the construction required for the multi-use trail portion of the project.”

More on both items, from a County Board meeting preview:

The Board will consider two agreements with the federal government that, if approved, would endorse major design elements for the planned realignment of Columbia Pike and build a trail segment that will connect Columbia Pike Pentagon City to Memorial Drive. The realignment grows out of the federal government’s southern expansion project to create more burial space for Arlington National Cemetery by closing, realigning and relocating several Arlington roadways. The federal government has agreed to realign Columbia Pike modify the South Joyce Street intersection and the Columbia Pike/ Washington Boulevard interchange and replace Southgate Road with a new segment of South Nash Street. A second, related agreement that the Board will consider would, if approved, provide $500,000 for the federal government to design a multi-use trail along Washington Boulevard adjacent to the cemetery. This segment of the trail, adjacent to the cemetery, is an important connection from Columbia Pike Pentagon City to Memorial Drive. If approved, the agreement would give the Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division the authority to move forward with designing the trail.

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Morning Notes

Amazon Not Giving Up on HQ2 Helipad — “The list of nongovernmental aircraft the Transportation Security Administration permits to fly inside the [Flight Restricted Zone], besides commercial fights to and from Reagan National, is basically nonexistent… In a statement, Amazon suggested it hasn’t given up. ‘We recognize there are several layers of approval for such a feature, and will continue to work with Arlington County and other relevant stakeholders as we determine its feasibility for our Arlington HQ,” the statement read.” [Washington Business Journal]

Pentagon Helipad to Get New Tower — “The Department of Defense has designs on building a permanent air traffic control tower to help guide aircraft landing at the Pentagon and is seeking a contractor to carry them out.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Concerned About Peak Trail Usage — “We’ve noticed the trails are pretty crowded between 3pm-6pm. To help stop the spread of COVID-19, we suggest finding a less busy time to walk, bike, or run on the trails or to find an alternate route.” [Twitter]

Mexicali Blues Closed, For Now — Clarendon mainstay Mexicali Blues has shut down its carryout business and is closing temporarily. [Twitter]

Candidate Blasts County’s Coronavirus Response — “Audrey Clement, who has been running campaigns for elected office for more than a decade, said last week that the County Board failed to use its powers to force restaurants to close in the earliest days of the crisis.” [InsideNova]

Va. Senators Seek Local News Funding — “U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined their Senate colleagues in a letter calling for funding to support local journalism and media to be included in any future COVID-19 relief package.” [Press Release]

Video: YHS Orchestra Plays Remotely — “Vivaldi: Concerto for Strings in D Major, RV 121 (1st movement) by the members of the Yorktown High School Chamber Orchestra during the COVID-19 pandemic.” [YouTube]

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A portion of the W&OD Trail is being put back onto a temporary pavement trail and off sidestreets as VDOT continues work on a new trail bridge.

The new detour will take trail users, who previously had to travel on nearby streets, on a 200-foot temporary pavement path adjacent to the new bridge under construction.

The bridge will separate trail users from traffic at the intersection of Lee Highway and Fairfax Drive in the East Falls Church aera, with the aim of enhancing safety for both trail users and motorists.

“This section of the W&OD Trail serves approximately 1,500 trail users on weekdays and over 2,000 on weekends,” VDOT said on its website. “On weekdays, the W&OD Trail is a significant commuter route, carrying a steady flow of cyclists in both directions, tying together much of the region’s trail network. On weekends, the trail is a prime recreational resource for thousands of cyclists, runners, walkers, and more.”

A press release noted that the new configuration will mostly remain in place until the project is completed, though the previous detour onto side streets could come up again during some phases of construction.

Meanwhile, work continues on the bridge with an expected opening this fall. New abutments and bridge beams have been installed, VDOT said, with crews currently working on installing steel onto the deck. Concrete pours are expected to finish by late April.

“W&OD Trail bridge construction is part of the Transform 66 Inside the Beltway Eastbound Widening Project, which is adding a travel lane along four miles of eastbound I-66 and installing approximately 12,000 linear feet of new and replacement noise barriers,” VDOT said. “The project also includes constructing a new direct access ramp from eastbound I-66 to the West Falls Church Metro Station at the Route 7 Interchange, which is scheduled to begin in spring 2020.”

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