Renovations for Crystal City Sheraton — The Crystal City Sheraton hotel (1800 Jefferson Davis Highway) will close in mid-April and undergo renovations.. The 218-room hotel will reopen as a Westin. Nearly 100 workers will be laid off during renovations. [Washington Business Journal]
New Signage for WJLA Building Approved — A divided Arlington County Board has approved new rooftop signage for the office building at 1100 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, also known as the WJLA building. The board split its vote 3-2 after residents expressed concern that the new signage would “be detrimental to their neighborhoods” and local monuments. The potential signage is for an unnamed prospective client. [Sun Gazette]
Board Approves New Transportation Funding — The County Board on Tuesday gave the okay to Arlington’s share of a new regional transportation funding stream. The county will receive $11.4 million in the first year, which will go to support projects like the Columbia Pike streetcar, a western entrance to the Ballston Metro station, local transit service and “complete streets” improvements. [Arlington County]
Galaxy Hut Named Top Karaoke Spot — DCist has dubbed Clarendon’s Galaxy Hut (2711 Wilson Blvd) “Arlington’s favorite dive” and one of the “best places for karaoke in the D.C. area.” [DCist]
Alexandria is Poised for Growth — Arlington’s neighbor to the south, Alexandria, is poised to begin booming with new development. The city expects a new Potomac Yard Metro station and the impending move of the National Science Foundation to the Eisenhower Valley area to further spur development. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
County Seeks Federal Funds for Transportation Projects — County officials are expected to apply for three grants for non-vehicular transportation projects. The $1 million in grant money would cover a bicycle and pedestrian connection between Four Mile Run Trail and Potomac Yard, improvements at Ashlawn Elementary School, and street and sidewalk improvements along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. [Sun Gazette]
Man Hospitalized After Fall at Airport — A man has been hospitalized after falling from a roadway at Reagan National Airport on Tuesday. He apparently climbed over the protective barrier near the ticketing level roadway and fell to the arrivals roadway below. [Washington Post]
Study: Arlington Could Cut Back on Parking Spaces — Researchers with the Arlington County Commuter Services’ Mobility Lab conducted a study of residents in 16 high rise towers to monitor their commuting habits. One of the significant findings is that residents are often choosing to walk, bike or use public transportation instead of driving, even if they own cars. A land use expert says the findings suggest that Arlington has more parking spaces than it needs, and can cut back on parking requirements for new developments. [WAMU]
No Anchor Tenant Yet for Ballston Development — All the pieces are in place for constructing a new development at 4040 Wilson Blvd in Ballston, except that there still isn’t an anchor tenant for the building. Developer Shooshan is waiting to sign such a tenant before commencing construction. The final building in the Liberty Center complex will have 20 floors and more than 426,000 square feet of space. [GlobeSt]
Four Arlington transportation projects were approved for funding in Fiscal Year 2014 last night by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.
The authority approved funding for the Columbia Pike Multimodal Improvement Project, the Crystal City Multimodal Center, four additional ART buses and improvements to the Boundary Channel Drive/I-395 interchange; a total of $18.835 million.
In addition, the NVTA approved $5 million for the design of WMATA traction power improvements on the Orange Line, and $7 million for 10 new buses on Virginia Metrobus routes.
The package approved was the first to be directly allocated funding from the controversial transportation bill, HB 2313, passed by the General Assembly in the spring. About $270 million is estimated to come to Northern Virginia in funding this fiscal year, $190 million of which was available to be allocated by the NVTA.
The other $80 million will be distributed directly to localities. Arlington is projected to receive $11 million in direct funding, which it expects to direct to its Transportation Capital Fund.
The NVTA voted unanimously to approve $116 million in pay-as-you-go funding and more than $93 million in bond funding, pending a bond validation. Of Arlington’s approved projects, only $4.3 million for the Boundary Channel Drive/I-395 interchange will go through the bond process.
The state began collecting funds for the projects July 1 when a series of tax increases and other funding measures took effect. Over the next six years, HB 2313 is expected to raise more than $1.5 billion total for the region and close to $200 million for Arlington alone.
Other projects that were approved for funding that could have an impact for Arlington residents include $838,000 to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission for the study of transit alternatives on the Route 7 corridor between King Street and Tysons Corner and five new DASH buses in Alexandria.
Two projects that impact Arlington — a $4 million VRE Crystal City platform extension and $5 million for upgrades to interlocking and platform girders at the Reagan National Airport Metro stop — were denied funding by unanimous vote.
One project that did not come up in the discussion was the Columbia Pike Streetcar project. Critics of the streetcar were calling the lack of funding another loss for the controversial project, but Arlington officials did not submit it for consideration.
The Columbia Pike Multimodal Improvement Project, the purchase of four additional ART buses, the Crystal City Multimodal Center, and Boundary Channel Drive- I-395 interchange improvements — which include construction of two roundabouts as well as safety and aesthetic improvements — are under consideration by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to receive funding under the bill, HB2313.
In Fiscal Year 2014, the NVTA is expected to have $190 million to spend, and the authority is considering 32 projects across the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park. Arlington’s four projects on the list that cost a combined $18.835 million.
County Board member Chris Zimmerman is Arlington’s representative on the NVTA, which is responsible for allocating 70 percent of the expected $1.6 billion in funds the region will receive from HB2313. The remaining 30 percent will be given directly to the localities.
The proposed list, culled by the Project Implementation working group that Zimmerman chairs, costs a total of $186.99 million. The NVTA has indicated in its recent meetings that it will decide to allocate significantly less than that because the $190 million is a projection and no actual revenues have been raised. Even if all four Arlington projects make the final cut, however, the money Arlington is expected to raise will be less than it receives in regional funding, Zimmerman said.
Arlington’s return on investment “is meant to [even out] over time,” Zimmerman clarified when reached by phone earlier this week. “I think all four projects for Arlington are strong regional projects.”
The statute dictates that each locality must receive approximately equal benefit to what it puts in, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a dollar in and a dollar out, said Regional Transportation Planning Coordinator Jennifer Fioretti, who has worked closely with Zimmerman for the NVTA.
Sietsema Skewers La Tagliatella — Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema has delivered a devastating half-star review of La Tagliatella, the European-based Italian restaurant chain that recently opened in Clarendon and is planning to open in Shirlington. The restaurant “makes a strong case for hazard pay for restaurant critics,” Sietsema wrote, and future locations (like Shirlington) “have my condolences.” In a subsequent online chat, Sietsema said that La Tagliatella was several notches below the Falls Church Olive Garden in terms of the overall dining experience. [Washington Post]
AAA Predicts Lower Gas Prices — Gas prices in Virginia will fall 6 cents after July 1 thanks to the bipartisan transportation package that passed the state legislature this year, AAA predicts. Another byproduct of the legislation: the state sales tax in Northern Virginia will rise from 5 to 6 percent. [Sun Gazette]
Forum on Transportation Projects — Arlington’s Transportation Commission will hold a public forum next week to review projects under consideration for funding by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. Projects proposed by Arlington County include the Columbia Pike Multimodal Improvement Project, the Crystal City Multimodal Center, ART fleet expansion (Silver/Blue Line mitigation), and a new Boundary Channel Drive interchange. [Arlington County]
As the county continues to move forward with its Cherrydale Lee Highway Revitalization Program, the Cherrydale Citizens Association (CCA) is voicing strong disapproval with changes to traffic patterns at the “Five Points Intersection.”
The Cherrydale Lee Highway Revitalization Program is part of the county’s overall plan to foster a safer, more aesthetically-pleasing, and pedestrian-friendly Arlington. In its efforts to enhance the Five Points Intersection — where westbound Lee Highway splits into Old Dominion Drive and Old Lee Highway as it crosses N. Quincy Street and Military Road — the county has made a number of changes which Cherrydale residents say have made the intersection worse.
The CCA formed a Five Points Intersection Committee (FPIC) in the fall of 2011 and, according to CCA President Maureen Ross, the committee has been unanimous in their opposition to the proposed changes.
“Citizens who had never met each other all voiced the same conclusions when we met with Betty [Diggs, Arlington County Representative] and those conclusions were that every change we’ve made in the past two years have made the travel problems worse,” said in a PowerPoint presentation posted online in September 2012.
County engineers added a nub at the corner where Lee Highway intersects North Quincy Street. Though it was intended to help pedestrians, the FPIC alleges that it has resulted in restricting right-turn traffic from N. Quincy Street onto Lee Highway.
Additionally, the creation of a left-turn-only lane on northbound Quincy Street has forced cars into a single restricted right lane causing motorists to cut across 20th Street N. and into residential neighborhoods to avoid the bottleneck.
“They have narrowed how far you have to cross which makes it a better pedestrian experience but it’s still a miserable vehicular experience and it forces cars down pedestrian streets which isn’t good for anyone,” said Ross.
Fiscal Year 2014 — which starts on July 1 and ends on June 30, 2014 — will be busy for the county’s procurement office. While residents are still debating the merits of the Crystal City and Columbia Pike streetcar systems, and while county officials regroup after being initially denied federal funding for the Pike streetcar, Arlington is moving forward with the projects by soliciting bids for engineering and construction.
Among the anticipated procurements in FY 2014, according to a presentation given to transportation industry representatives earlier this month:
- Construction of Columbia Pike multimodal project segment from S. Jefferson Street to Four Mile Run
- Program management for the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar systems
- Engineering services for the Columbia Pike streetcar
- Construction of phase 3 of the Crystal Drive two-way project, from 26th Street to 27th Street
- Construction of 15th Street extension in Crystal City
- Construction of reconfigured Clark/Bell Street in Crystal City
- General contractor for construction of the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway
- Construction of a Crystal City Multimodal Transit Center (“Improved and expanded bus bays at Crystal City Metrorail Station; Facilities for longer distance commuter buses, local shuttles, and kiss-and-ride”)
- Design/build contract for a second elevator at the Pentagon City Metro Station
One longer-range project mentioned during the briefing but not included in the procurement list was a second entrance to the Crystal City Metro station. The entrance would be located near the intersection of Crystal Drive and 18th Street, and would, among other benefits, offer easier access to the Crystal City VRE station.
County procurement and transportation officials told industry reps that they would seek to keep the procurement process as transparent as possible, while avoiding conflicts of interest.
“We aim to be transparent,” said Arlington County Transportation Director Dennis Leach. “We want to [stimulate] competition and we want good bids for these projects.”
In response to a question from the audience, Leach noted that the county still has not settled on which type of streetcar vehicle it will use — a key decision that could impact how the streetcar system is designed and built. He said there was no time frame for making that decision.
Heavy Seas Alehouse to Open in Rosslyn — Baltimore brewer Heavy Seas plans to open a restaurant at the newly renovated 1501 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. So far, the existing Baltimore location is the only other Heavy Seas Alehouse besides the one planned for Rosslyn. The restaurant is expected to open by the end of this year. [Washington Business Journal]
Army Ten-Miler Registration to Begin — Registration for the Army Ten-Miler opens at midnight on Wednesday, May 15. This year, 35,000 spots will be available for the October 20 race, instead of 30,000. General admission entries sold out within nine hours last year. [Army Ten-Miler]
Local Eighth Grader Named State’s Top Female Orator — Swanson Middle School eighth grader Dorothee Mulumba won the Virginia State Oratorical Contest on May 4. In total, her scholarship winnings from the local, regional and state competitions add up to $3,000. [Sun Gazette]
McDonnell Signs Transportation Bill — On Monday, Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the transportation funding bill into law. The law cuts the state’s 17.5 cents per gallon gas tax and raises the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.3 percent, in addition to adding a $64 registration fee for hybrid vehicles. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Mark C. White
Va. Sq. Giant Celebrates Changes — The Virginia Square Giant grocery store (3450 Washington Blvd) is celebrating its “grand reopening” following recent renovations. A representative for Giant says new features include a redesigned produce department with a better fruit and vegetable assortment, a new gourmet cheese case, a new bakery and an expanded natural foods section. Customers at that location will have the opportunity to take part in tastings, raffles and prize giveaways over the next four weekends.
Event Examines Seniors’ Transportation Needs — A Mobility Lab regional symposium held at George Mason University yesterday focused on the transportation needs of residents aged 65 and older. Speakers voiced the need for better coordination of senior transportation programs that would keep seniors mobile in their communities. Suggestions for improvement included better marketing and promotion, using volunteers and issuing performance surveys. [Mobility Lab]
Streetcar Debate Focuses on Types of Riders — At the Arlington Committee of 100 streetcar forum on Wednesday, speakers addressed which riders prefer different modes of transit. Speakers debated whether the Columbia Pike streetcar or a bus rapid transit system would better draw in “choice riders” — those who have access to a car but could be persuaded to take transit under the right circumstances. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Jason OX4
The Right Note is a weekly opinion column by published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
It’s a busy week in Arlington with varied possible topics to discuss in this space. The governor signs a transportation bill and vetoes an Arlington hotel tax, the school boundary debate continues, there are three public forums to raise concerns with the County Board, and there’s Peter’s Take on Ken Cuccinelli.
Governor McDonnell signed the largest tax increase in Virginia history to pay for his transportation plan. It includes regional taxing authority and projected revenue from an online sales tax that may never materialize. While many on my side of the political fence did not support the tax plan, we are hoping that the new transportation dollars will go farther than they did on the $1 million bus stop here in Arlington.
The Governor vetoed the Arlington hotel tax which, somewhat surprisingly, made it through the General Assembly. Since the tax is paid by guests from other places, its rejection seems to come down to the fact that Arlington gets no special love from elected officials in Richmond. Of course, it seems the feeling is mutual.
There is no less enviable job in the world than being on any school board that has to change boundaries. No matter the overcrowding issues in any school, telling parents their children may have to move from one school to another is no easy task. The Arlington School Board hopes for consensus, but I imagine there are four board members who are glad they are not on the ballot this year.
Mr. Rousselot’s attack on Attorney General Cuccinelli was an over the top campaign scare tactic. Rousselot said that Cuccinelli “would exploit every opportunity to set Virginia’s women back 60 years to an era in which they were ‘stuck in the drudgery of domestic servitude.’” Certainly, for any voter who bases their vote on the issue of abortion, there is no doubt where the two candidates stand. To make the leap to “drudgery” and “domestic servitude” strains the bounds of credibility. For insight into the Attorney General’s view of women, before he ran for any office, see this Washington Post profile.
The County Board is holding three public forums this week. While many people have shown up with statements and questions, I think we have all learned by now that the Board will do what they want to do. If the public input fits into their agenda, all the better. If not, that will probably be okay with them too.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
Democratic Northern Virginia legislators joined gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe in spending part of the afternoon praising the state’s newly passed transportation bill and Republican Governor Bob McDonnell’s role in pushing it through.
State Sen. Dick Saslaw, Sen. Janet Howell and Del. Alfonso Lopez joined McAuliffe in discussing the bipartisanship and compromises needed for passing the legislation. Howell noted that nobody fully backed the bill but legislators had to put aside their difference to reach a compromise on the state’s first transportation funding plan in nearly three decades.
“We had very different views on what the ultimate solution should be. We had philosophical differences, we had regional differences, we had partisan differences. But we agreed on one crucial matter — doing nothing was no longer an option,” said Howell. “We’ve all disagreed with Governor McDonnell on certain issues, but this was a time when we came together. Like every compromise, no one got exactly what he or she wanted. In fact, there are parts of it that make me want to gag. But we made progress for Virginia.”
The press conference took place near the Washington Blvd bridge over Columbia Pike; speakers took turns referencing the bridge and how the new bill would fund similar infrastructure projects.
“We have needed this in South Arlington for literally decades. Because of the compromise that we were able to hash out in the General Assembly, there will be projects like this happening all across the Commonwealth,” Lopez said. “Literally, there have been pieces falling out of that bridge for decades and now we’re getting it fixed.”
Although he wasn’t directly a part of passing the legislation himself, McAuliffe said he spent hours on the phone with members of both parties, pushing them to find a compromise. The former Democratic National Committee chairman commended all legislators involved while alluding to more projects on failing infrastructure should he win the governor’s seat.
“We finally have some money to do what we need to do to keep the citizens safe,” said McAuliffe. “This was a bipartisan effort to deal with transportation. We are able to stand here today, where inaction has been happening for 27 years, and say something was done.”
McAuliffe did take time to blast Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is expected to be his Republican rival for governor. He bashed Cuccinelli, as did the other officials in attendance, for acting as a roadblock to the transportation bill. He then turned his focus to another of his campaign issues — job creation.
“We need to be making sure that if we’re going to get cuts here, your next governor is focused on diversifying this economy, bringing in 21st century jobs. And you can only do that by a great transportation system, a great education system, workforce training,” said McAuliffe. “I can work with anybody, any time of the day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, anybody, anytime if you’re going to help me create jobs for the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
One of the issues in the transportation bill that has been controversial in Northern Virginia is the $100 annual tax for hybrid vehicle owners. Saslaw told ARLnow.com that he could potentially argue for either side of that issue, but it might be better for the governor in the long run if he performs a line item veto on that particular measure.
“The governor probably would be better off lining it out. You could say the squeeze ain’t worth the juice having it in there. It’s an awful lot of aggravation for $18 million out of an $800 million dollar thing,” Saslaw said. “It only takes a minute to look at it, I don’t know if he’ll do anything. And if he starts mucking with it too much, it’s going to start to get rejected.”
Saslaw said the issue will likely create more trouble than it’s worth because the number of hybrid drivers in the state is so small — only a little more than 1 percent of the total vehicle owners. He believes it might have made more sense to find another revenue boost, such as raising vehicle registration fees or imposing a tax based on a vehicle’s gas usage per gallon, not simply the fact that it’s hybrid. In the end, he reiterated that the bill was imperfect, but it needed to pass.
“I voted for the compromise, as did everyone else, because when that thing comes out of conference you either vote for it or you don’t vote for it,” said Saslaw. “As Senator Howell pointed out, [it] is not the ideal situation. In fact, when it becomes law, it’s going to have to be tweaked.”
Arlington on a ‘Money-Hungry Crusade?’ — Arlington is on “a money-hungry crusade for increased revenue at the expense of neighborhoods and communities,” writes the Arlington Connection. The paper suggests that “residential neighborhoods are increasingly in the crosshairs of developers seeking larger and larger densities,” and the County Board is acquiescing to their demands in an effort to drum up more tax money. “This is a County Board that acts like Republicans even though they’re all Democrats,” one civic association president is quoted as saying. [Arlington Connection]
Governor Backs Bipartisan Transportation Deal — A bipartisan compromise on transportation funding in the Virginia General Assembly has won the support of Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). The deal, which will ultimately raise $880 million per year for transportation projects, replaces the 17.5 cent gas tax with a 3.5 percent wholesale tax on gas and a 6 percent wholesale tax on diesel. It also raises the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.3 percent and imposes a $100/year fee on hybrid vehicles. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Shakespeare Production to Include ‘Splash Zone’ — The Synetic Theater production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” opening today in Crystal City, will include 2,500 gallons of standing water on stage, an on-stage rainfall, and a “splash zone” (a section of audience seating likely to get wet during the show). [Washington Post]
Parks Dept. Says Camp Registration Went Smoothly — The Arlington County parks department received more than 1,900 summer camp registrations between 7:00 and 7:10 a.m. yesterday. Officials said the registration process, which has been beset by technical problems in the past, went smoothly this time around. [Patch]
ARLnow Commenters Called ‘Offputting’ — An Arlington “community notable” has “found the ranting of loony respondents on ARLnow to be offputting,” according to Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey. McCaffrey predicts that of Arlington’s three online-only news sites, “odds are not all will survive the year.” [Sun Gazette]
Va. Senate Passes Transportation Bill — The Virginia state Senate yesterday passed a Democrat-backed transportation bill that would raise gas taxes and index them to inflation, impose a gas wholesale tax, and would allow Northern Virginia localities to impose a sales tax surcharge to pay for transportation projects. Unlike a version of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation plan that passed the House of Delegates, it does not increase the overall statewide sales tax rate. [Washington Post]
House Rejects Income Tax Proposal — A bill that would have allowed Arlington and other Virginia localities to impose a one percent income tax in order to pay for transportation improvements has failed in the House of Delegates. The House Committee on Finance voted to reject the bill. [Sun Gazette]
GGW: Pike Bus Proposal is Not BRT — Those who are proposing a more modern bus system for Columbia Pike as an alternative to the county’s streetcar plan are falsely calling calling it Bus Rapid Transit, writes David Alpert. Also, the proposed bus system might be just as expensive as the streetcar, Alpert said. [Greater Greater Washington]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada has suggested that he’s open to a discussion about imposing a local income tax and using it to fund transportation projects, the Washington Post reports.
A bill that would allow Arlington and other Virginia localities to impose a 1 percent income tax without a voter referendum passed the Virginia state Senate last week. It’s now under consideration in the House of Delegates, although most tax bills face an uphill battle in the Republican-majority body.
(Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax County and other jurisdictions are currently authorized to impose a 0.25 to 1 percent income tax, but must first have it approved by voters.)
Tejada told the Post’s Tom Jackman that the Board is following the bill “intently.”
“We’re always trying to find ways to fund transportation projects, and considering we were ranked number one in gridlock, any resources would be helpful,” Tejada said. “We’ve been trying different things, and traffic’s not going anywhere.”
At last month’s meeting, County Board members said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) transportation plan might not raise enough new revenue to meet Northern Virginia’s transportation needs. McDonnell and state lawmakers are currently working to hash out a compromise version of the governor’s proposal.
School Boundary Meeting on Wednesday — Arlington Public Schools will hold its next school boundary meeting on Wednesday (February 6), at 7:00 p.m. in the Williamsburg Middle School auditorium. APS will share feedback gathered at the January 23 meeting, and present a smaller set of boundary options. After reviewing the options, meeting attendees will have the opportunity to offer feedback. The final set of options is expected to be offered to the School Board in late March.
Metro Region Worst for Traffic — The annual Texas A&M Transportation Institute survey lists the D.C. metro area as number one for the country’s worst traffic congestion, topping Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Boston. The average driver is said to spend 67 hours per year sitting in traffic. Analysts believe drivers will add seven hours to that number by 2020. [Washington Post]
Cuccinelli Backs Alternative Transportation Plan — Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is not backing Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation plan, but rather a plan that’s considered the conservative alternative. Instead of eliminating the gas tax and increasing the sales tax as McDonnell’s plan proposed, the alternative plan would replace the current gas tax with a sales tax on gasoline. McDonnell’s plan has been controversial, including when the Arlington County Board bashed the proposal late last month. [Washington Examiner]
Free Pancakes at IHOP — Customers at IHOP can get a free short stack of pancakes today. Guests celebrating National Pancake Day are encouraged to leave a donation for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The offer is limited to one stack per customer while supplies last. Arlington’s lone IHOP is at 935 N. Stafford Street in Ballston.
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann