A proposed bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians between Crystal City and the Southwest Waterfront area of D.C. has received $20 million in federal funding to move forward.
When complete, the 16-foot-wide shared-use path will connect Long Bridge Park and East and West Potomac parks via the Mount Vernon Trail.
On the Virginia side, the bridge will be located behind the Long Bridge Park Aquatics & Fitness Center (333 Long Bridge Drive), which opened last year. It will eventually provide a connection to the expanded and relocated Virginia Railway Express (VRE) station set to open in 2024.
Several local elected officials, including D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey and Alexandria Vice-Mayor Amy Jackson, gathered this morning (Friday) at the aquatics center to hold an oversized $20 million check and celebrate the project, which could be completed by 2030.
“This is going to be a major gateway for Arlington that allows residents and visitors who walk, bike or roll to come to this beautiful facility and the environs around Long Bridge Park, but then be able to move on to Crystal City and National Landing and points beyond via the Mount Vernon Trail and the robust bicycle infrastructure that we are developing that will go all the way through to the City of Alexandria,” Dorsey said. “This helps meet Arlington and our region’s goals of moving more people with less automobile traffic. ”
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) secured the funding from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program, which was included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Warner co-wrote.
“I am thrilled to announce this new funding for the Long Bridge Pedestrian Crossing project. This $20 million investment was made possible by the bipartisan infrastructure law I was proud to help write and will help the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VRPA) complete a new span across the Potomac dedicated to cyclists and pedestrians,” Warner said in a statement. “This project is a key component of the broader effort to fix a major rail chokepoint and expand commuter and passenger service over the Potomac River.”
The shared-use bridge serves as environmental mitigation for the Long Bridge Project to add a two-track rail bridge next to the existing two-track 117-year-old Long Bridge, owned by the freight railroad company CSX Transportation. Once completed, the expanded railway is projected to bring an annual $6 billion in benefits to the region by 2040, according to a press release.
“We would never even be in the running [for funding for this project] if it weren’t for the infrastructure bill,” Warner told reporters after the event. “That’s got $58 billion additional dollars for passenger rail. We intend to make sure the District and Virginia get its share and it’s our hope the passenger rail bridge would open before the end of the decade.”
The goal of the $2 billion Long Bridge Project, discussions for which began in 2010, is to alleviate rail congestion on the existing Long Bridge. Annually, up to 1.3 million Amtrak passengers and 4.5 million VRE commuters traverse the bridge, in addition to CSX freight trains, according to a project website.
Officials say that the aging bridge is heavily utilized and frequently experiences bottlenecks, and — as if to prove their point — a freight train and an Amtrak train sped by within five minutes of each other during the media event.
Meanwhile, pedestrians and cyclists looking to cross the Potomac at this point have to navigate crossings shared with vehicles and maneuver a 10-foot-wide shared-use path on the 14th Street Bridge.
The lead agency on the project will be the VPRA, which the Virginia General Assembly created in 2020 to “promote, sustain and expand the availability of passenger and commuter rail service in the Commonwealth,” said VPRA Executive Director DJ Stadtler.
While elected officials heralded the new pathway over the Potomac, pedestrians and bicyclists in attendance told ARLnow that the 16-foot bridge is still too narrow to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians alike.
Stadtler told ARLnow that VPRA’s initial 10% complete designs proposed a 14-foot bridge, but in response to feedback, is widening it to 16 feet for the 30% complete designs. The agency has “considered all options” and has determined the current proposal is an appropriate width, he added.
There will be opportunities for the public to weigh in next spring.
During the event, Dorsey joked about the bridge width.
“What did you say, a 20-foot bridge?” he said, to cheers from cyclists in attendance.
New Rail Bridge Design Revealed — “The new rail bridge will be built with many of the features in the existing span, including its structure, material and form, with steel girders and similar pier spacing, according to preliminary site plans approved this month by the National Capital Planning Commission. The plans also call for the use of Ashlar stone cladding for the bridge piers, and abutments and walls near the George Washington Memorial Parkway.” [Washington Post]
County Board Approves ‘Heights’ Parking — From School Board member Barbara Kanninen: “‘APS did us a solid.’ Thx @kcristol for that comment regarding our hosting the County’s temp fire station for several years! Glad to see the use permit for Phase 2 [of The Heights building in Rosslyn] approved this morning, providing important universal access improvements for all students, esp @APS_Shriver.” [Twitter]
APS Hiring Hundreds of Teachers — “Officials in Arlington Public Schools will also spend the summer working to fill an atypically large number of empty positions. Arlington, which enrolls 27,045 students, according to state data, saw 284 teachers resign between August 2021 and mid-May 2022. The district usually employs about 3,000 teachers, per spokesman Frank Bellavia. That is 96 percent higher than the average number of resignations between 2018-2019 and 2020-2021: 145.” [Washington Post]
Free Chicken Today — “July 18th is Nelson Mandela’s birthday. His birthday is recognized and celebrated world wide as Mandela day; a day for us all to inspire change and make a difference in our communities. At Nando’s we are proud of our South African heritage. We will join in celebrating his birthday on July 18th by following his example and giving back to our communities.” [Nando’s Peri Peri]
Cyclist Struck on Busy Ramp — “Police, fire on scene of cyclist struck by driver on the WB Route 50 / Washington Blvd ramp. Cyclist was thrown from bike and is being treated by medics, per scanner.” [Twitter]
Treasurer Honored, Again — “Arlington County Treasurer Carla de la Pava received the President’s Award for her service and leadership to the Treasurers’ Association of Virginia (TAV). The award was presented during the association’s annual conference in June. It is the second time de la Pava has be recognized with the President’s Award.” [Arlington County]
More Bad Driving on I-395 — From Dave Statter: “You’ll want to see this one. Driver goes bowling with the barrels & almost takes one along for the ride. @VaDOTNOVA time for clean-up again on aisle 8C.” [Twitter]
It’s Monday — Mostly cloudy, with rain and possible storms in the evening. High of 88 and low of 74. Sunrise at 5:59 am and sunset at 8:33 pm. [Weather.gov]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Arlington Medic Saves Man at Nats Game — “The Clements were sitting in the front row of section 209 when John suffered a heart attack. He thought he was going to die… Jamie Jill, an Arlington County EMT, and Lindy Prevatt, an emergency room nurse, were sitting in different sections when they saw something was wrong and jumped into action.” [NBC 4]
Would-Be Candidate Changes Mind — “Brandon Clark is officially off the Nov. 8 ballot for School Board after he decided not to make the run. Clark, a public-school teacher, initially announced plans to seek the Democratic endorsement for the School Board seat being vacated by Barbara Kanninen. But he later dropped that bid, saying he instead would run as an independent in the general election. Then he changed his mind again, getting out of the race entirely.” [Sun Gazette]
Rail Bridge Proposal Advancing — “For now, a single rail bridge carries millions of Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express passengers and freight trains between Virginia and D.C. each year. But a $1.8 billion expansion plan to ease that congestion and add a new bridge for pedestrians and cyclists spanning the Potomac River is picking up steam… The National Capital Planning Commission is scheduled to vote July 7 on the project’s preliminary site development plans.” [Washington Business Journal]
May Home Sales Stayed Strong — “It’s an admittedly lagging indicator in a fast-evolving market, but Arlington home sales held up strong in May, according to new data, overcoming inventory challenges and a more complex economic environment. A total of 313 properties went to closing during the month, down just 6 (or 1.9%) from a year before.” [Sun Gazette]
It’s Thursday — Rain in the morning and afternoon. High of 74 and low of 64. Sunrise at 5:45 am and sunset at 8:39 pm. [Weather.gov]
(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Arlington Transit buses will return to full service after Labor Day weekend, the county-run transit agency says.
Rush-hour-only ART buses 53, 61, 62 and 74 will run again starting Tuesday, Sept. 7, after being out of service since March 2020 due to the pandemic. Once these buses resume operation, Arlington Transit will largely be back at full service. ART 72 will continue on a modified weekday schedule, however.
While seating restrictions were lifted on Aug. 1, riders will still be required to wear masks as per a federal mask mandate for passengers on planes, trains and buses from the Transportation Security Administration, effective until January 2022.
Meanwhile, Metrobus is set to implement some changes after Sunday, Sept. 5, adding more buses and trains and extending Metrorail’s weekend hours.
Notably, bus 16Y from Columbia Pike to Farragut Square will resume operation, going both directions during weekday rush hours. The limited-stop service route, which once connected Columbia Pike stops to McPherson Square in D.C., was halted during the pandemic and was absent from when a number of routes were restored earlier this summer.
Buses 16A, 16C and 16E in Columbia Pike and 16G and 16H between Columbia Pike and Pentagon City will get service upgrades as well.
“Service will operate every 12 minutes or better from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily between Columbia Pike & South Joyce Street and Columbia Pike & South Dinwiddie Street at stops served by all routes,” WMATA said.
Bus 25B from the old Landmark Mall in Alexandria to Ballston will see some changes, with Alexandria working to overhaul its own DASH bus network. 25B will travel between Ballston, Southern Towers and Mark Center every day except Sunday, and between Ballston and Southern Towers on Sundays.
Metrorail trains will be available until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, an hour later than was previously offered. Trains will also start running earlier on Sundays, with riders able to board at 7 a.m. rather than 8 a.m.
More on the planned Metro changes from a press release, below.
Va. ‘Seals Deal’ for Rail Expansion — “Virginia finalized agreements Tuesday with CSX, Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express as part of the state’s $3.7 billion passenger rail expansion program that seeks to relieve a rail bottleneck and get more commuters onto trains. The signing of agreements advances a pledge Gov. Ralph Northam (D) made in December 2019 to significantly grow passenger rail service this decade by building a new rail bridge over the Potomac River, adding new track in the Washington-Richmond corridor and buying hundreds of miles of passenger right of way from CSX.” [Washington Post, Twitter]
Affordable Housing CEO Retiring — “Longtime CEO of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing Nina Janopaul will retire June 30, 2021, after a remarkable 14-year career at the helm of the organization, leading APAH through a period of transition and rapid expansion. The APAH Board has appointed Executive Vice President Carmen Romero to lead APAH into its ambitious next phase of growth and service.” [Press Release, Twitter]
New Restaurant Fighting for Funding — “Andrew Darneille had a sense of deja vu when he clicked on the link from his certified public accountant. It led him to a page that said, in essence, that the Restaurant Revitalization Fund would not be the lifeline he had hoped for. Based on the fund’s grant calculations buried in the larger $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, his Smokecraft Modern Barbecue in Arlington, Va., would not get a cent in federal relief during a pandemic that has left many restaurateurs hanging by a thread.” [Washington Post]
No GOP County Board Candidates Yet — “The Arlington County Republican Committee remains on the hunt for a candidate or candidates to challenge for the one County Board seat on the November ballot. ‘We have had people reach out to us,’ party chairman Andrew Loposser said on March 24, though none has yet stepped forward publicly.” [Sun Gazette]
Green Valley Church Helping with Vaccinations — “At Macedonia Baptist Church in Arlington, the sanctuary has sat empty since the start of the coronavirus pandemic… So when Harcum was recently approached about a new vaccine equity partnership with Arlington County and Neighborhood Health, he said he was happy to offer up space inside the church.” [WJLA]
Photo courtesy James Mahony
A new Maryland law greases the wheels for Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) train service to come to the new Crystal City station set to open in 2024.
HB 1236 — First Step for MARC Commuters Act — calls for the Maryland Transit Authority to “engage in good-faith negotiations” for a pilot program that would extend MARC service into Arlington and Alexandria. It could one day allow workers at Amazon’s HQ2 to commute in via rail from Baltimore or the Maryland exurbs.
The National Landing Business Improvement District calls the act a good “first step.”
“Passage of the First Step for MARC Commuters Act is significant progress towards realizing a bold vision for a truly regional commuter rail system,” BID president Tracy Sayegh Gabriel tells ARLnow. “Though National Landing is already well served by WMATA and VRE, the addition of MARC service will greatly enhance access to employment and affordable housing opportunities for residents throughout Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.”
The new Virginia Railway Express station in Crystal City is planning to open in 2024 and is being specifically designed with MARC and Amtrak trains in mind, in hopes that these negotiations bear fruit. Amtrak, too, is “exploring” adding regional service to the station.
Maryland State Delegate Jared Solomon, who co-sponsored the bill, tells ARLnow that it provides “legal authority” for MTA to negotiate with Virginia and train companies. Virginia has been much more “forward-looking” with its rail infrastructure than Maryland, he said, adding the he hopes the bill leads to an agreement in the near future.
“It’s a win-win-win for the region,” Solomon said.
HB 1236 actually passed both houses of the Maryland General Assembly back in March 2020, but Governor Larry Hogan vetoed it. He cited the nearly $3 billion pandemic-related shortfall in the state budget and a bill of this nature being “not financially feasible nor responsible at this time” as reasons.
The veto was overridden by both houses of the Maryland General Assembly within the past two weeks, turning the bill into state law.
The Crystal City BID — now the National Landing BID — and JBG Smith, Crystal City’s predominant property owner, provided testimony in favor of the bill last year.
The BID’s statement cited the arrival of Amazon and projected job growth over the next decade as reasons for why MARC train service needed to extend across state lines. The BID also noted the planned future investments in rail infrastructure, specifically the replacement of Long Bridge.
JBG Smith mentioned that MARC’s existing service prevented residents in Maryland jurisdictions from fully taking advantage of job and economic opportunities in Arlington.
“By providing for a ‘one seat ride’ to National Landing, HB 1236 would substantially improve conditions for existing Maryland commuters,” wrote Andy VanHorn, the company’s Executive Vice President of Development.
The law retroactively took effect on July 1, 2020 and is set to remain on books until June 30, 2022.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons
A new Virginia Railway Express station could bring Amtrak service to Crystal City, says a new report.
The expanded and relocated station is set to open in 2024 and Amtrak is currently “exploring” adding regional service to this station.
This according to a National Landing Business Improvement District report released earlier this month, detailing a number of significant transportation projects scheduled for completion over the decade (many of which long have been in the works).
Responding to inquiries from ARLnow, an Amtrak spokesperson wrote in an email that the planning remains underway “so it’s premature to discuss in depth expansion plans.”
The VRE station station will be built on land owned by real estate developer JBG Smith and will be designed to host Amtrak trains as well as Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) trains. (Neighboring Alexandria has an existing Amtrak station.)
The $50 million two-track station will be built on Crystal Drive between 12th Street S. and Airport Access Road, about a quarter mile from the current one-track station. That existing station was built about 40 years ago and has been called a “operational bottleneck.”
Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, executive director and president of the National Landing BID, says bringing an Amtrak station to Crystal City would “shrink the region” and would enable a “direct one-seat ride between our region by commuter rail.” Some day those heading to New York City might be able to just head to Crystal City to get on a train, rather than trek into D.C. and battle crowds at Union Station.
Gabriel does note that Amtrak has yet to decide about adding a station there.
Along with a new VRE station, a new two-track railway bridge across the Potomac is also being planned. It will replace the 116-year-old Long Bridge and is estimated to be completed by 2030. Gabriel says the existing bridge is also a “bottleneck.”
Other projects highlighted in the report include the $650 million Project Journey at Reagan National Airport set to be completed this year, the continued construction of the new Potomac Yard Metro station, adding a new entrance to the Crystal City Metro station, replacing Route 1 with a “unifying, urban boulevard,” and a pedestrian walkway over the George Washington Memorial Parkway connecting Crystal City to the airport.
According to Gabriel, the airport bridge would create a five-minute walk from the train station to the airport, as opposed to a walk that’s currently long and somewhat dangerous.
All of these projects together, including the possible presence of Amtrak, could transform the neighborhoods collectively known as National Landing, said Gabriel.
“Investments of this scale are really positioning us to be the most connected downtown in the country,” she said.
Full press release about the report is below.
State Dept. Staying in Rosslyn — “The Department of State will be staying put in an aging Rosslyn office building for another two decades after the General Services Administration ruled out options elsewhere in Northern Virginia for the agency’s space needs. The General Services Administration intends to seek a succeeding lease of 20 years with the owner of 1800 N. Kent St.” [Washington Business Journal]
Va. Square Development Underway — “Mill Creek Residential has begun construction of Modera Kirkwood, a 270-unit apartment community in Arlington, Va., in the heart of the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor… at 3415 Washington Boulevard.” [Commercial Observer, Multi-Housing News]
Combine VRE and MARC? — “Creating a unified brand and fare policy for the Washington region’s commuter rail systems could help reduce travel times and improve economic development opportunities over the next few decades, according to a new report released Thursday… [The report says] plans should begin to physically connect the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) lines and create a unified brand and fare policy to make commuters’ travel experience faster and easier.” [InsideNova]
Does Anything Look Different? — Updated at 10 a.m. — We made some upgrades to the website last night. Expect some additional minor updates over the next few weeks.
Parent Group Calls Out APS — From the Black Parents of Arlington: “In addition to tracking incidents of racism, APS needs to implement mandatory anti-racism and implicit bias training for all teachers and staff throughout the system on a regular basis. Moreover, APS must begin to track incidents of racial and ethnic hostility and make these findings public. The time is now. We will no longer wait. Arlington’s Black children deserve better.” [Facebook]
Pizzeria to Open Next Month in Clarendon — “A storied Connecticut pizza shop is making one of its biggest moves, opening a new location in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood next month. Colony Grill is gearing up to debut Oct. 13 with a 5,200-square-foot space, taking over at 2800 Clarendon Blvd. for the Gallery Clarendon art installation pop-up that shuttered in February. The restaurant offers seating for 170 guests in three different areas.” [Washington Business Journal]
New Potomac Bridge Moving Forward — “With the state budget in tatters and commuter levels at record lows, now might hardly seem the right moment for Virginia to embark upon a $1.9 billion rail project. However, the recent conclusion of the Long Bridge’s environmental impact study has cleared the way for the commonwealth to do just that.” [Virginia Mercury]
Eagle Scout Project at Fire Station 5 — “A special project is taking shape to honor the victims of September 11th.
A piece of steel from the World Trade Center was brought to the Arlington County Fire Department nearly ten years ago. Now, a local high school senior and aspiring Eagle Scout wants to transform the area into a place where people can gather.” [WUSA 9]
Arlington Man Jailed in Belarus — “A U.S. diplomat warns that her Belarusian American husband’s health is in ‘immediate danger’ following his late-July arrest by security forces of the authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Vitali Shkliarov, a political analyst and dual citizen who worked on the presidential campaigns of both Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, was detained while visiting his parents in his hometown of Gomel, Belarus, in the runup to the country’s Aug. 9 presidential elections.” [NPR]
County Reaffirms Fair Housing Commitment — “Arlington will continue to follow the federal government’s 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, despite the federal government’s July 2020 action to rescind that rule within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the County Board said in a resolution approved at its September 15 Recessed Meeting.” [Arlington County]
Local Historian Dies — “It is our sad duty to announce the passing of beloved historian Ed Bearss, one of the legends of the battlefield preservation movement and a long-time member of the American Battlefield Trust board.” [National Parks Traveler, Twitter]
Local Real Estate Market Rebounds — “After an uncharacteristically slow spring, thanks to stay-at-home orders and economic uncertainty stemming from Covid-19, Washington’s residential real estate market had a record-breaking July. According to the latest local data, the median home sale price in the DC metro area hit a 10-year high last month.” The median days on the market for Arlington, meanwhile, is seven. [Washingtonian, InsideNova, Twitter]
I-395 Wrong-Way Driver Arrested — “A woman driving the wrong way on northbound Interstate 395 Tuesday morning struck two vehicles before taking off, Virginia State Police said. The crash at 4:49 a.m. sent debris across the interstate and shut down all northbound lanes before Washington Boulevard in Arlington for roughly an hour.” [WTOP]
Long Bridge Project May Be Delayed — “The good news is that the coronavirus pandemic has not derailed one of the region’s most important transit projects: the construction of a second Long Bridge over the Potomac River reserved exclusively for Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express passenger trains. The bad news is that due to revenue shortfalls directly related to the pandemic, the $3.7 billion, 10-year project may be significantly delayed.” [Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Twitter]
W-L Student Dies Unexpectedly — “Generals, it is with great sadness that I inform you of the death of one of our own. Adrian Vega-Alcantara, a student in the 11th grade, passed away suddenly of heart failure on August 10.” [Washington-Liberty High School]
Local Reaction to Veep Pick — “Amid a strong field of highly qualified women, Senator Harris stands out as a powerful and historic choice,” said Rep. Don Beyer. ” I know from our time together in the Senate that she’ll be great for the ticket and more importantly, great for our country,” said Sen. Tim Kaine. [Press Release, Twitter]
Meteor Shower This Week — “Make sure you stay up late one evening (or wake up early) to see the annual Perseid meteor shower! It will peak this week on the mornings of Wed, Thu, and Fri.” [Twitter, EarthSky]
Special Election Voting Starts Today — “Arlington election officials have announced plans for two Saturday dates for in-person absentee voting in advance of the July 7 County Board special election. Saturday voting will be available on June 20 and July 4, augmenting the usual Monday-to-Friday early voting that will begin May 22.” [InsideNova]
Big Food Donation to Green Valley Church — “3,300 lasagna and vegetable meals donated by chef Jose Andres’ @WCKitchen were given to those in need at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Church in Arlington [on] May 21.” [@ZoeyMaraistACH/Twitter]
Flags In at Ceremony Despite Pandemic — “The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment has continued their tradition of placing American flags at every grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day.” [NBC 4]
Arlingtonian Aims to Run Every Street — “Before the pandemic hit, I hadn’t taken a big vacation in years. Since I’m at a dramatically reduced salary from not working full-time and, like so many Arlingtonians, dealing with underlying stress and anxiety while still feeling incredibly thankful, I’ve decided to use this time to discover my own city by walking or running every street.” [Arlington Magazine]
Local Wages Were Rising at the End of 2019 — “The average weekly wage for those working in Arlington (wherever they may live) stood at $1,963 in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to data reported May 20 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s an increase of 4.7 percent from the same period a year before, well above the national growth rate of 3.5 percent (to $1,185).” [InsideNova]
Local Artist Creates Virus Sculptures — “The sculptures seem to be inspired by the latest breaking news headlines. A figure in a stark white face mask. A giant virus cell mutating into a tentacled sea creature that morphs back into a virus… The centerpiece was a spiky model of “a virus, with seven figures running away,” said [Hadrian] Mendoza, 46, a ceramic artist, sculptor and full-time art director at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington since 2017.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]
Rain and Storms Today — “Waves of showers or storms are a good bet as the slow-moving upper level low pressure system finally decides to wander by. Round one will end in the morning to midday, but skies remain mostly cloudy. If we do see enough sunshine and heating, it’s not impossible some severe storms will develop nearby.” [Capital Weather Gang]