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County Could Speed Up Design Work on Army Navy Country Club Access Road

County officials seem to have found some money to speed up design work on an access road to link the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive.

County Manager Mark Schwartz initially proposed some hefty delays for the project, which is set to stretch across a section of the Army Navy Country Club, in his proposed 10-year plan for county construction efforts. Under his proposal, design work on the effort wouldn’t even start until fiscal year 2027, with construction set for 2029.

The county’s budget challenges have ensured that Arlington officials haven’t suddenly found enough money to build the road, and its accompanying bike and pedestrian trails, right away. But county staff did manage to track down about $230,000 to pay for design and engineering work starting in fiscal year 2020, officials told the County Board during a work session Tuesday (July 10).

That news is quite welcome for Board members and residents alike, considering that the county has been working to build the 30-foot-wide road since 2010, in order to better connect Columbia Pike to Crystal City.

The road would run from S. Queen Street, near Hoffman-Boston Elementary, to the I-395 underpass, where a country club access road meets up with Army Navy Drive. The process of securing an easement to even cross the country club in the first place was a challenging one for the county, but the two sides ultimately struck a deal after the county agreed to allow the club to build a larger clubhouse than county zoning rules would ordinarily permit.

Staff cautioned the Board that reallocating this money for design work won’t do anything to change when the project gets built, at least for the time being. But members supported the change all the same as a way to provide some more detailed plans for the Board to consider a few years from now, when the county’s fiscal picture could improve.

“At least it’s getting us somewhere,” said Board member Erik Gutshall. “We’ve got to move the ball forward.”

In order to get that design work moving, the Board would need to pull $105,000 away from some minor arterial road projects over the next two fiscal years, and another $125,000 away from the “Walk Arlington” program for pedestrian-centric projects. The latter move will leave just $50,000 available for the program in 2020 and 2021.

But Board members seem to believe the funding shake-up is well worth it, particularly as bicycling advocates stress the importance of the project.

“There is a compelling case to be made that this will allow one of our largest growing population centers, Columbia Pike, to have more access to one of our major commercial and office centers of Crystal City,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “The most important thing is we get the scope of this proiect to the point where we can have those conversations about feasibility.”

County transportation director Dennis Leach cautioned that additional examinations of the project could reveal that it’s too challenging for the county to pursue. He noted that the “steep grades” in the area, combined with its proximity to woodlands and I-395, could all combine to make the effort “extremely expensive.”

Initial estimates pegged construction costs around $5.2 million, but the county hasn’t updated that figure in years.

Cristol added that there are also “big questions” about whether the county can afford to bring the project into compliance with federal accessibility laws. However, she did suggest that one avenue for addressing those cost concerns might be redirecting some revenue generated by the commercial and industrial property tax on Crystal City businesses, as the area would potentially stand to benefit from the project.

“I look forward to the prospect of a taking a better scoped project and having a conversation with the business community about whether it’s a proper use of that tax money,” Cristol said.

The Board will make the reallocation of money for the access road official when it votes to approve a final Capital Improvement Plan on Saturday (July 14).

Photo via Google Maps

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Army Navy Country Club Access Road Set for Lengthy Delay Due to County Funding Woes

Construction work on an access road crossing a portion of Army Navy Country Club could be pushed back by nearly a decade, as Arlington grapples with a funding squeeze impacting transportation projects.

County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan calls for engineering work on the project, which is designed to link the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive, to start by fiscal year 2027 with construction kicking off two years later. The county has long expected to start design work for the project by fiscal year 2020, with work to begin in 2022.

Since 2010, county officials have aimed to build the new road, which would be reserved for emergency vehicles looking to more easily cross I-395, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. The 30-foot-wide road would run from S. Queen Street, near Hoffman-Boston Elementary, to the I-395 underpass, where a country club access road meets up with Army Navy Drive.

The process has required a good bit of back-and-forth with the country club — the county only secured an easement on the club’s property as part of a deal to allow Army Navy’s owners to build a larger clubhouse than county zoning rules would ordinarily permit. Some members of the country club even sued the county to block the arrangement, over concerns that cyclists and pedestrians on the proposed trail would be disruptive to golfers.

Yet Arlington leaders have pressed ahead with the project all the same, with the County Board approving two different updates to the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, known as the CIP, including funding for the project.

Schwartz hasn’t gone so far as to ask the Board to abandon the project — his proposed CIP calls for the county to spend $837,000 on engineering work in fiscal years 2027 and 2028 — but the delay does reflect Arlington’s new challenges paying for transportation projects.

As he’s unveiled the new CIP, Schwartz has frequently warned that the deal hammered out by state lawmakers to send the Metro system hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funding has hammered localities like Arlington. Not only does the deal increase the county’s annual contribution to Metro, but it sucks away money from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a regional body that would ordinarily help localities fund transportation projects.

With the county having to shift money around to compensate for those changes, officials say smaller projects like the Army Navy access road will necessarily suffer.

“Overall, the transportation CIP has fewer resources for smaller, neighborhood-scale improvements due to reduced funding resulting from legislation,” Jessica Baxter, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services, told ARLnow via email.

The project’s delay comes as particularly bad news for people living in the Arlington View neighborhood. One resident, Eric Davis, told ARLnow via email that he fears delaying the project would “endanger the lives of nearby bicyclists and pedestrians.”

“With Columbia Pike being our only access out of the neighborhood, this new access road would give us a safe alternative to reaching Pentagon City, Crystal City, and other points east,” Davis wrote. “And, if/when connected to the Washington Boulevard path currently under construction, it then becomes an essential north/south connection in Arlington for bikes and pedestrians.”

Davis also pointed out that the project as a whole could be in jeopardy if delayed much longer.

The county’s CIP documents note that the easement for the country club’s land was recorded back in March 2012, and “may terminate automatically if construction contracts are not awarded within 20 years of that date.” Baxter noted that “the current schedule anticipates completion before the easement expires,” however.

Any delay is also contingent on the County Board approving the change in the CIP. The Board is in the midst of holding a series of work sessions on the CIP this month, but doesn’t expect to sign off on a final spending plan until July 14.

Photo via Google Maps

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Bluemont Park 5K Slated This Weekend for ‘Opening Day for Trails’

A 5K fun run starting in Bluemont Park is scheduled for Saturday (April 7) to celebrate the Opening Day for Trails.

Organized by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, it’s the sixth annual 5K celebration for the trails’ opening day. Registration for the run is free.

The event is meant to encourage people to explore the region’s trails while promoting the Capital Trails Coalition’s goal of creating a trail network throughout the D.C. region.

The 5K will begin at the Bluemont Park Picnic Pavilion and continue along the W&OD and Four Mile Run trails. Registration begins at 9 a.m., and the run itself begins an hour later at 10 a.m. After the race, live music and face painting, among other activities, will last through 1 p.m.

Parking will be available in the lots near the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Manchester Street and the intersection of 4th Street N. and N. Manchester Street.

File photo

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W&OD Trail to Be Pre-Treated if Snow or Ice in the Forecast

Crews will pre-treat the Washington & Old Dominion Trail for the first time this winter when accumulating snow or ice is in the weather forecast.

Officials behind the 45-mile paved trail between Shirlington and Purcellville announced the change in a series of tweets last week.

When snow or ice is in the forecast, crews will pre-treat the trail “in Arlington heading west.” The change comes after discussions with staff from Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation, who have been pre-treating trails for at least the past few years.

The Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority, which is responsible for the trail, purchased a tanker trailer to do the pre-treating, which will likely involve putting salt down hours before snow or ice is due to hit. NOVA Parks will continue to use its snow blowers to clear the paths.

“The pre-treatment working in tandem with our snow blowers should help reduce trail down time so to speak with snow & ice on the trail,” the trail’s Twitter account tweeted.

The new regime may be needed later this week. The Capital Weather Gang reports that there will be a “decisive flip to cold,” which may bring snow flurries.

https://twitter.com/WODTrail/status/936634069739335681

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Trail Permanently Closed Near Alcova Heights Park As Federal Facility Expands

Construction to expand a federal training facility has closed a walking trail near Alcova Heights Park.

The trail between 6th Street S. and S. Quincy Street closed permanently yesterday for construction on the State Department’s National Foreign Affairs Training Center (4000 Arlington Blvd).

NFATC trains members of the nation’s foreign service, and is seeking to expand its campus in Arlington to include a new training and classroom facility, childcare center and other buildings. The project is expected to be completed in October 2018.

As planned, the expansion would extend the perimeter fence farther south, and, in the process, swallow up a pedestrian path that connects George Mason Drive and S. Quincy Street.

The decision to close the path came under fire earlier this year from local residents, who signed a petition to try to save it. At the time, critics said pedestrians would be deprived of a way to walk from one end of the Alcova Heights neighborhood to another.

The petition was signed by more than 130 people and urged the General Services Administration, which is responsible for the project, to “build a perimeter trail connecting 3rd St. S to the existing trail at Quincy at 6th St. S,” among other demands.

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Police Investigating Death Near Bike Trail

A man was found dead Sunday morning near the Four Mile Run bike trail and the intersection of S. Glebe and W. Glebe roads.

The bike trail is heavily used by those connecting from Shirlington and the W&OD Trail to the Mt. Vernon Trail that runs along the Potomac River. Arlington County Police are investigating the death but do not currently believe it to be suspicious.

“At approximately 11:40 a.m. on October 15, police responded to the area of S. Glebe at West Glebe Road for the report of a deceased male located near the bike trail,” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “The police department is conducting an active death investigation and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine cause of death.”

“The preliminary investigation does not lead us to consider this death suspicious,” Savage continued. “This appears to be an isolated incident and there is no threat to the community.”

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New Bike Trail Section Set for Washington Blvd

Arlington County is set to add a new section of bicycle and pedestrian trail along Washington Blvd.

The Arlington County Board is scheduled this weekend to consider a plan for the second phase of the trail, running north along Washington Blvd from Towers Park — near Columbia Pike — to 2nd Street S. It will then link with the first phase of the trail along Washington Blvd, between Arlington Blvd and S. Walter Reed Drive.

The project proposes to construct a 10-foot wide paved trail on the western side of Washington Blvd. The trail will be mostly located in the road’s existing right-of-way, but also runs through the U.S. Navy Supply Facility (701 S. Courthouse Road) and Towers Park.

County staff moved the northern section of the trail onto the shoulder of Washington Blvd to reduce the need to build retaining walls and reduce the number of trees to be cut down. Under the current plan, about 84 trees would be removed and as many as 160 replanted after the project is complete.

“The project will serve as a valuable link in the overall trail network as it provides a north-south trail between the Columbia Pike (Towers Park) area and the Arlington Blvd Trail,” county staff wrote in a report endorsing the plan. “Recent improvements to the trails along Arlington Blvd will now be more accessible via this new Washington Blvd trail.”

In a letter to the County Board on September 6, Penrose Neighborhood Association president Maria “Pete” Durgan said members “wholeheartedly support” the project.

The county budgeted just over $2.1 million for the project, with just over $420,000 as contingent in case of change orders. Construction is expected to begin this winter and wrap up late next year.

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Four Mile Run Stream Restoration to Close Part of Trail

Four Mile Run construction and detour map

Walkers, joggers and cyclists soon will have to take a detour on the Four Mile Run Trail as Arlington County works to revitalize the path and the stream that borders it.

Work on the Arlington side of Four Mile Run between Mt. Vernon Avenue and Route 1 tentatively is scheduled to begin tomorrow (Sept. 20) and last until next fall, according to a county notice. During construction, the path in that area will close.

Trail users can take a detour through Alexandria across the stream. Signage on the path will provide directions.

The pathway will get new asphalt and railings, as well as a new observation platform. As for the stream, the county’s notice adds:

The work in the stream will include naturalization of the stream bank and construction of living shoreline features along the edge of the stream.  Living shorelines are a more environmentally sensitive way to protect stream banks and coastal areas, with wetland plantings behind small stone breakwaters. They provide numerous benefits including:

  • reducing erosion along the bank,
  • improving water quality by capturing sediment and utilizing nutrients, and
  • providing habitat for fish and waterfowl.

The existing stone rip rap that currently covers the stream banks will be removed and replaced with native vegetation that will improve the habitat quality and aesthetics of the stream channel.  Some of the stone will also be reused to create the living shoreline features.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the restoration project is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 10 a.m. near Mt. Vernon Avenue and S. Glebe Road.

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Racist, Homophobic Graffiti Found on Trail, Around Neighborhood

Arlington County Police are trying to figure out who is responsible for a series of racist and homophobic graffiti along the Bluemont Junction Trail and around the Boulevard Manor neighborhood.

The graffiti was first spotted last night along the trail, with the N-word and the F-word spray-painted on the trail and other graffiti on rocks and on a trampoline at a nearby property, according to scanner traffic. It was reported that a group of teenagers was responsible for the graffiti, but police were unable to locate the group at the time.

This morning, more graffiti was found around the Boulevard Manor neighborhood, immediately west of the trail.

“At approximately 5:30 a.m., an unknown suspect(s) vandalized numerous items in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood of Arlington,” wrote Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “The vandalism included destruction of property and graffiti.”

“This series is similar to the vandalism on the Bluemont trail yesterday and detectives are investigating whether or not these are linked,” Savage told ARLnow.com. “The graffiti included various derogatory terms to include swastikas, N-word and homosexual slangs. This is an ongoing and active investigation and will include determining if this could be a hate crime.”

The vandalism was widespread around the neighborhood, including properties on the following streets, according to police.

  • 6000 block of 4th Street N.
  • 100 block N. Nottingham Street
  • Unit block of N. Montague Street (at Washington Blvd)
  • 500 block of N. Montague Street
  • 400 block N. Lombardy
  • 200 block of N. Nottingham Street
  • 500 block of N. Lombardy Street

Along the Bluemont trail, neighbors said the vandals damaged the trail and some neighborhood landmarks.

“I’ve lived here for 40-something years and when I saw the blue on the rocks down here, these rocks have been there forever,” said Debbie Cowell. “If I saw somebody doing it, I definitely would have said something.”

“I have no idea who did it, my guess is kids,” said William Pearson. “A couple years ago this wouldn’t have happened. I think because of the influx of families, my guess it that it’s teenagers being teenagers.”

Additional reporting and photos by Adrian Cruz and Jackie Friedman.

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Morning Notes

The Washington Monument is seen in the distance, above Arlington County's fire training facility near Shirlington

Shark Tank Casting in Crystal City — ABC’s “Shark Tank” is holding a casting call today at the 1776 incubator in Crystal City. “Applicants will have roughly 90 seconds to make their initial pitches to casting producers, with about three minutes for a Q&A portion.” [Washington Business Journal]

Bill Clinton Visits the Pike — Former President and possible future First Gentleman Bill Clinton met with Virginia Latino leaders at Cafe Sazon on Columbia Pike over the weekend. [Facebook]

Arlington Man Is Suspected Serial Bank Robber — Police have identified a serial bank robbery suspect who was arrested Friday in Falls Church as 42-year-old Arlington resident Amin Huie. Police say Huie is the “Forever Loyal Bandit” who has robbed seven banks since 2014, including a Capital One Bank on Columbia Pike last year. [Fairfax County PD, WJLA]

More on Garvey’s Win — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey’s “unorthodox, controversial” strategy of appealing to non-Democrats in the Democratic primary is “likely to alter future campaigns,” writes Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey, in an analysis of Garvey’s decisive primary win last night. [InsideNova]

Repairs to Westover Branch Library — Work to repair water damage and install new windows at the Westover Branch Library will take place from mid-July to late September. The library will remain open during that time. [Arlington Public Library]

County Touts Increase in Trail Usage — “After a week of single tracking along the Orange/Silver Line between Ballston and East Falls Church, automated counters in the County’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor show an increase of between 70 and 90 percent in bike ridership from the same period last year. Capital BikeShare use in Arlington is up between 20 and 50 percent.” [Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

Duck goes fishing in a pond (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

Washington Blvd Trail Design Approved — The Penrose Neighborhood Association voted to endorse a new design for Phase II of the county’s Washington Blvd Trail project. The trail was originally supposed to be built a few years ago, but residents objected to the loss of trees the trail’s path would have necessitated. [Greater Greater Washington]

Anti-Gun Store Car Towed — Opponents of the planned Lyon Park gun store say the store’s landlord ordered a car towed from the parking lot because it was covered in anti-gun store literature. Despite being covered in the articles, which were held in place by colorful magnets, the car actually belonged to one of the building’s tenants and wasn’t parked illegally, says the group Act4LyonPark. [Facebook]

Female Firefighters in Arlington — In 1974, Judith Livers became the first paid, full-time municipal firefighter in the United States when she took a job with the Arlington County Fire Department. On Friday, a graduation ceremony was held for the county’s latest firefighting recruit class. Continuing Livers’ legacy, four of the 14-member class are female. Nationally, only about 4 percent of firefighters are women, while 9 percent of Arlington’s firefighters are female. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

Dark clouds over Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

ACPD Patrolling Trails — Auxiliary officers with the Arlington County Police Department will be increasingly patrolling trails around the county this spring, to help keep pedestrians and bicyclists safe. [InsideNova]

Arlington Transit Survey — Arlington County is conducting an online survey of residents as part of its update of Arlington’s Transit Development Plan. The 10-year-plan is intended to identify transit goals and prioritize improvements. This latest update will include recommendations for future transit on Columbia Pike. [SurveyMonkey]

Blue Goose Mostly Torn DownDemolition of the above-ground portion of the Blue Goose building in Ballston in nearly complete. [Twitter]

Forums Shut Down — Due to an influx of uncontrollable spam and an unresolvable technical glitch with the latest version of WordPress, ARLnow.com has made the decision to shut down our message board indefinitely. Thank you to our forum participants for four years of vigorous community discussion.

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

Pizza makers at Pupatella in Bluemont (Flickr pool photo by Chris)

Route 50 Trail Proposed — The Washington Area Bicyclist Association has proposed connecting existing trail infrastructure along Route 50 to create a contiguous trail between the National Mall and Fairfax City. The potential project faces a number of challenges, including its estimated $40 million price tag. [Greater Greater Washington]

‘Arlington Archive’ to Be Studied — Arlington County will assemble a task force that will spend all of 2015 trying to figure out a plan for the county to preserve its history with a digital “Arlington Archive.” [Arlington County]

Wakefield Falls to Tuscarora –Wakefield High School’s story book football season came to an end Friday when the Warriors fell to the top-ranked and undefeated Tuscarora Huskies 42-14. [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Chris

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Trail Between Doctor’s Run, Randolph ES Nears Completion

The trail connecting Doctor’s Run Park and S. George Mason Drive to Randolph Elementary School is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

The project, funded with Neighborhood Conservation money, will realign the trail that runs between the park and the school, widening it and decreasing its slopes in several areas, according to its county project page. The trail will be lit until 6:00 p.m. to coincide with Randolph’s after school programs.

The new trail will also connect with the 12th Street S. bike boulevard that goes from street to trail at S. Quincy Street. When complete, county Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager David Goodman told ARLnow.com a HAWK signal will be installed at the intersection of George Mason Drive and 13th Street, where the trail connector meets the road. The improvements will also include a pedestrian

“There are some improvements we’re doing on either end of this connector that are going to tie this all together,” Goodman told ARLnow.com.

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$1.7 Million Washington Blvd Trail Expected Next Year

Arlington is moving forward with a bike trail along Washington Blvd and has moved the placement of the trail to save trees.

The trail is expected to cost about $1.7 million, according to county Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel, but it has not been put out to bid yet. The trail has been approved and in planning stages for years, but its initial path would have necessitated digging up hundreds of mature trees.

This Saturday, the Arlington County Board is likely to approve a realignment of the trail to put it closer to Towers Park and S. Rolfe Street, north of Columbia Pike. If approved, the county would pay $8,000 to the federal government to acquire the easement for the trail. The trail will then be put out to bid. Construction is expected to begin next year and end by summer 2015.

Phase I of the trail has already been built, between Route 50 and S. Walter Reed Drive, according to the county staff report. The trail segment in question would run from Walter Reed Drive to S. Rolfe Street and Columbia Pike. The trail is being built to “provide a new opportunity for persons in the southeastern part of Arlington to bicycle, walk or run on a route apart from motor vehicle traffic,” according to the staff report.

Waiting for approvals from the Virginia Department of Transportation has delayed the project, McDaniel said. VDOT controls the space adjacent to Washington Blvd where a large part of the trail will be built.

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