(Updated on 1/17/21) A number of bridges connecting Arlington to D.C. across the Potomac River are closing due to presidential inauguration security measures.
Virginia State Police is working with the United States Secret Service to close Roosevelt Bridge, the Arlington Memorial Bridge, the I-395 Bridge and the 14th Street Bridge starting Tuesday morning through Thursday at 6 a.m., according to a joint statement from Virginia lawmakers.
The Arlington Memorial Bridge closed Friday night but then reopened, according to news reports. The HOV span of the 14th Street Bridge was set to close Saturday morning until Thursday, according to the Secret Service, but was open as of noon on Saturday.
Those closures would leave the Key Bridge in Rosslyn and the Chain Bridge from N. Glebe Road as the main routes from Arlington into the District for two days.
“The 2021 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony will see the strongest Capital-area security response in history. We worked together to push for a response that balances protecting public safety in a manner commensurate with available intelligence about threats without going too far,” reads the lawmakers’ statement.
It was issued by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Reps. Don Beyer, Gerry Connolly, and Jennifer Wexton.
“It is very important now that the U.S. Secret Service and its partner agencies communicate road and bridge closures swiftly and clearly in order to keep disruptions to a minimum,” the lawmakers added. “All of us want the transfer of power to be as peaceful as possible, and we thank all of the men and women in uniform helping to make this historic occasion safe.”
Additionally, Metro announced this afternoon that the Pentagon Metro station will be closed, and bus service there suspended, on Inauguration Day.
“Blue and Yellow Line trains will continue to operate but will pass through the station without stopping,” Metro said. “The Pentagon Transit Center, served by six Metrobus lines, will also be closed. Buses will be relocated instead to Pentagon City, on the east side of Hayes Street S. and 12th Street S. for the day.”
Arlington Cemetery station is also closing, along with a number of D.C. stations, starting today.
Virginia Railway Express trains, meanwhile, will not be running Monday through Wednesday, due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday and “enhanced security measures” related to the presidential inauguration.
While Arlington Acting Police Chief Andy Penn didn’t commit to any road closures in Arlington as of yet, he did say discussions are ongoing.
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.
D.C. Now More Expensive Than Arlington — “D.C. has bumped Arlington County, Virginia, from the top of the most-expensive area jurisdictions by county for median home-selling prices — at least for the month of May. Long & Foster reports the median price of a home that sold in the District in May was $656,000, 10% more than May of last year. The median price of a home that sold in Arlington County was $646,000, up 4%.” [WTOP]
Lower Census Response Rate Than 2010 — “In 2010, 74% of Arlington households filled out their Census form and returned it by mail, which was the only option at the time. In 2020, despite being able to fill out the Census online, by phone and by mail, Arlington’s self-response rate is hovering at just over 70%.” [Arlington County]
Missing: BLM Banner — Someone took a Black Lives Matter banner that had been hanging on a pedestrian bridge over Route 50, and its creator wants it back. [Twitter]
JBG Wants to Improve VRE Station Plan — “JBG Smith Properties could soon play a key role in a second major transportation improvement project in Crystal City, performing design work to beef up plans for a new Virginia Railway Express station there. The developer is advancing a plan to manage the construction of a second entrance for the nearby Crystal City Metro station, and this work on the VRE designs would be closely tied to that effort.” [Washington Business Journal]
Another Unique Feat for Wardian — Arlington ultramarathon runner Michael Wardian ran 62.3 miles to every District Taco in the D.C. area, eating tacos along the way. [Instagram]
Amazon Orders Thousands of Meals from Freddie’s — “Amazon has hired Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant, which is widely known as an LGBT establishment, to prepare and deliver 10,000 meals in the month of May for front line healthcare workers and first responders in Arlington and nearby Alexandria who are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. In a statement released to the Washington Blade, Amazon said it was investing $200,000 to pay for the 10,000 meals.” [Washington Blade]
VRE Ridership Down 97% — “First, the good news, such as it is: Ridership on Virginia Railway Express stabilized in April as the public-health pandemic rolled on. The bad news: The ridership decline is now averaging 97% compared to normal times.” [InsideNova]
Meat Section Bare at Local Costco — A photo posted Wednesday evening shows the Pentagon City Costco store’s meat section picked clean, amid a worsening meat shortage in the U.S. [@dccelebrity/Twitter]
Arlington Getting Big Check via WMATA — “The Arlington County government can expect a check for $7.2 million at some point in the future from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, as federal COVID-19 relief funding makes its way among government agencies. The funding will be part of $110 million that WMATA plans to reimburse to its member localities, so they can support non-Metro local transit systems, such as Arlington’s ART buses.” [InsideNova]
Board Members Remember Erik Gutshall — “The four remaining Arlington County Board members – Chair Libby Garvey, Christian Dorsey, Katie Cristol and Matt de Ferranti – spent several minutes each remembering former Vice Chair Erik Gutshall, who died on Thursday after an 8-week battle with brain cancer.” [Blue Virginia]
School Board Discusses Distance Learning — “There’s both positive and negative news as Arlington Public Schools has pivoted to distance-learning in an effort to squeeze in some education during the COVID-19 lockdown. The good news? At least things have not gone as badly as in neighboring Fairfax County, where that school system’s attempt to re-start instruction collapsed in a technical debacle and ensuing recriminations last week. The bad news? Arlington school officials acknowledge that their efforts are not going to be able to replicate what could be accomplished during more normal time.” [InsideNova]
APS Names Teacher, Principal of the Year — Arlington Career Center Culinary Arts Teacher Chef Renee Randolph is the 2020 Arlington Public Schools Teacher of the Year, while Campbell Elementary’s Maureen Nesselrode has been named Principal of the Year.
Beyer Blasts Trump Immigration Order — “From the beginning Trump has flailed about seeking someone to blame for his own failure… Immigration has nearly stopped and the US has far more cases than any other country. This is just xenophobic scapegoating.” [Twitter]
Legality of County Grant Criteria Questioned — “The Arlington County government announced that it will hand out grants to small businesses based on ‘considerations’ such as whether the business is ‘women and/or minority-owned.’ That ‘consideration’ of race and sex is unconstitutional.” [CNSNews]
VRE Train Strikes Man in D.C. Near Long Bridge — “A man was hit and killed by a train in Southwest D.C. Monday morning and train traffic in the area has been stopped. The man was struck in the 1300 block of Maryland Avenue SW, the D.C. fire department said on Twitter at 7:30 a.m.” [NBC 4, Twitter]
(Updated on 10/18/19) This weekend, the Arlington County Board will consider whether to help advance the overhaul of the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) Crystal City station.
The County Board is poised to vote this Saturday, October 19 on a resolution supporting the VRE’s application for $15.8 million in regional funding, which would help pay for the long-discussed plans to expand and redesign the station.
Arlington’s buy-in is required as part of the VRE’s funding application to the regional transit planning board Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), per a staff report to the Board.
The new station will feature 850-foot-long platforms to accommodate commuting trains. The station’s current 400-foot long platforms are too short to accommodate the trains’ length, forcing passengers to walk to the front cars to disembark at Crystal City.
The County Board previously approved a somewhat controversial site behind 2011 Crystal Drive for the new platform space. The new site would make the station more accessible to Crystal City Metro station (via a future second entrance) as well as 18th Street S. (via a tunnel) and Crystal Drive (via a pedestrian bridge.)
“VRE’s project will enhance station capacity and convenience for passengers; expand railroad capacity, operational flexibility, and resilience; improve commuter rail reliability and on-time performance; reduce highway congestion; and reduce transportation- related air pollution,” staff wrote in the Board report.
VRE renewed pushes to fund the $44.5 million project after Amazon chose Arlington for its second headquarters, bringing the promise of 25,000 Amazon workers in the Crystal City and Pentagon City area.
VRE said its Crystal City station is already the railroad’s most heavily-used station, with about 18% of riders using it.
The Board previously supported VRE’s requests to the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to fund a majority of the project earlier this year.
As of today (Thursday), the resolution supporting VRE’s application for the remaining funding was listed on the County Board’s consent agenda — a place usually reserved for items members expect to pass without debate.
VRE is currently finalizing designs of the project and estimates construction will wrap up around 2023 or 2024, the same time Amazon is expecting to open its permanent Met Park headquarters.
Baby Boy for Cristol — Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol gave birth to her first child, a baby boy, this past weekend. She plans to call in to Saturday’s County Board meeting and participate in the crucial Amazon incentive package vote. [Twitter]
Building Plans for Temporary Amazon Office — JBG Smith “submitted plans March 7 to make common area improvements throughout the 12-story, 221,000-square-foot [office building at] 1800 S. Bell St., to be leased in full by Amazon.” [Washington Business Journal]
County May Change Building Plan Practices — “Arlington officials are considering ending same-day viewing at the Department of Community Planning, Housing & Development after a Washington Business Journal reporter asked to view a permit for a building Amazon.com Inc. is expected to lease, said Ben Aiken, director of constituent services in the county manager’s office.” [Washington Business Journal]
VRE Plans Moving Forward — “Virginia Railway Express is moving forward with plans to build an expanded Crystal City Station, a key step needed to expand and improve service. The VRE Operations Board is due to vote Friday to allow contracting to move forward for engineering work based on the already approved concept design.” [WTOP]
New Leases in Rosslyn — Earlier this week Monday Properties announced the signing of three lease deals at 1100 Wilson Boulevard, one half of its Rosslyn twin towers. The firms leasing new space are The Health Management Academy and Trilogy Federal LLC, while WJLA owner Sinclair Broadcasting is expanding its existing space. [Monday Properties]
Extensive Road Closures Saturday — Expect a number of road closures in Courthouse, Rosslyn and near the Pentagon Saturday morning for the annual Four Courts Four Miler. [Arlington County]
Nearby: Gentrification Fears in Arlandria — “Concern of rising rents and gentrification have always been present in the Arlandria neighborhood, which sits between South Glebe and West Glebe roads and ends at Potomac Yard. Amazon.com Inc.’s plan to move to nearby Arlington has only intensified those worries.” [Washington Business Journal]
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With Amazon hoping to open a headquarters in Arlington, Crystal City’s transportation network can’t seem to stay out of the spotlight.
Major redevelopment is coming whether or not local resistance turns the e-commerce giant away, but the attention-grabbing headlines and all-at-once infrastructure proposals don’t reveal how mobility investment is a gradual process – or how Crystal City has been steadily improving its transportation infrastructure since long before the HQ2 contest even began.
Crystal City has long been slated for some major transportation investments: Long Bridge reconstruction could enable MARC to bring commuters straight from Maryland to Crystal City and let people bicycle straight to L’Enfant Plaza. A new Metro entrance would make it much easier to connect to bus service. A remodeled VRE commuter rail station would enable larger and more trains, Metroway expansion will strengthen ties with Pentagon City and Alexandria, and a pedestrian bridge to the airport would take advantage of the fact that DCA is three times closer to Crystal City than any other airport in America is to its downtown.
These projects are big: big visibility, big impacts, big cost. They have all been in the pipeline for years, and Amazon is bringing them renewed attention and new dollars.
However, these major investments aren’t the only projects that will update Crystal City’s decades-old transportation infrastructure. Just as important as these headline-making proposals are the more incremental projects that, block by block, are making Crystal City an easier place to get around — and, just like their larger counterparts, these smaller projects have been given some extra weight by HQ2.
Old Visions, New Funding
One document has guided much of Crystal City’s development for the past decade: the Sector Plan. The Crystal City Sector Plan made many suggestions for possible improvements. Not all of them have yet come to fruition, but many have, and the plan continues to drive Arlington’s conversation about Crystal City.
That conversation has recently become a little more ambitious. Amazon’s HQ2 announcement brings not only attention, speculation and more than a little resistance — it will also bring very definite funding. Arlington and Alexandria, combined, “have secured more than $570 million in transportation funding” while the commonwealth of Virginia has committed to $195 million for the same.
This new funding flows mostly toward old designs, all of them focused on alternatives to the car. Arlington’s Incentive Proposal discusses 10 transportation “example projects.” Five of them fall within Crystal City itself, of which all but one follow ideas that originated in the Sector Plan (the remaining project, VRE station expansion, isn’t new either).
Moving Block by Block
Most of Crystal City’s streets were built in the 1950s and 1960s, and followed the “modernist” school of city planning.
They separated pedestrians from cars as much as possible, often putting pedestrians in bridges or tunnels; located stores in malls rather than on sidewalks; and spaced out intersections widely so that cars could accelerate to highway speeds. The Sector Plan calls to convert these into “Complete Streets” that will “accommodate the transportation needs of all surface transportation users, motorists, transit riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians.”
It can be easy to think of transportation investments as one-off projects. The CC2DCA pedestrian bridge to the airport, for example, is an all-or-nothing endeavor. Half of a bridge wouldn’t be very useful for anybody.
Because of its focus on the street level, the Sector Plan calls for gradual change. It endorses street transformation projects that can be completed incrementally — block by block, street by street, improving the area’s transportation network over time. It seeks “to balance any proposed investments in transportation infrastructure with improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the existing network, so that the maximum benefit can be delivered at the lowest cost.”
This approach pairs well with Crystal City’s desirability for land developers. Most significant developments in Arlington are governed by the site plan process, through which the county negotiates with developers for community benefits — which might include a street renovation. Robert Mandle, chief operating officer of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, explained that “as a redevelopment plan, many [Sector Plan] improvements were anticipated as occurring in conjunction with opportunities presented from redevelopment.”
Memorial Bridge Potholes — Large potholes made for dangerous driving on the under-construction Memorial Bridge over the weekend, but crews started repairing the bridge’s pockmarked surface Tuesday. [Twitter, Twitter]
Poke Restaurant Coming to Ballston — Local restaurant Poke It Up is expanding with a second location. The restaurant, which first opened in the Pentagon City mall food court, is now planning to open this summer at 4401 N. Fairfax Drive in Ballston, next to a new soup shop, Zoup. [Eater]
Shutdown Costing Local Economy Big Bucks — “About $119.2 million per day is removed from the gross regional product each day the shutdown drags on, according to local economist Stephen Fuller, thanks to lost pay of federal workers, contractors and suppliers and the multiplied economic effects of their lost spending. That daily hit… drops to $46.4 million per day once federal workers are ultimately repaid their lost wages.” [Washington Business Journal]
Overturned Vehicle in Crystal City — A driver managed to flip his or her vehicle in a crash last night on 18th Street S., near the Crystal City Metro station. [Twitter]
Board Set to Endorse VRE Funding — “Arlington County Board members on Jan. 26 are expected to endorse a request by Virginia Railway Express (VRE) for state funding to support construction of a new Crystal City station. The transit agency will seek grant funding from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, which if approved could cover up to 70 percent of the cost of construction. VRE will fund the rest.” [InsideNova]
Changes to State Inspection Stickers — “The stickers are smaller, in response to complaints that the new sticker placement on the bottom left of the windshield, which started in 2018, resulted in reduced visibility for drivers.” [Tysons Reporter]
Nearby: Alexandria Warns About Opioids — “The City of Alexandria has responded to four suspected opioid overdoses in the last 72 hours, including two fatalities. While recreational use of opioids is always dangerous and illegal, City officials are urging residents to be aware of the medical safety of the drugs, including heroin, that could be extremely concentrated or mixed with something unusual that is resulting in life-threatening situations.” [City of Alexandria]
Flickr pool photo by Eschweik
Virginia Railway Express leaders think they’ve just about nailed down funding for a new and improved Crystal City station, a key component of the area’s impending transportation transformation with Amazon on the way.
VRE officials have been eyeing improvements to its existing station, located at 1503 S. Crystal Drive, for years now, considering that its platform isn’t quite long enough for the commuter trains. Right now, anyone hoping to get off at the station needs to walk to one of their train’s first four cars, even though many are 10 cars long.
The station is also only set up to serve one train at a time, and sits a bit far away from the neighborhood’s Metro station, a challenge for commuters from Northern Virginia’s outer suburbs who use VRE to reach destinations in D.C. or elsewhere in Arlington. A new, relocated station could solve all of those problems at once.
The challenge, of course, is coming up with money to pay for the roughly $41 million project. But on that front, VRE officials seem to be nearing a solution, according to documents prepared in advance of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission’s meeting tonight (Thursday).
The VRE is asking the NVTC, a collection of regional leaders that helps oversee the rail service, for permission to make a variety of budgetary moves, including strategies to fund the new Crystal City station. Primarily, the VRE plans to ask for a combined $30 million in state funding for the project: half would come from a grant from the state’s rail agency, half from gas tax revenues set aside for VRE capital projects as part of the dedicated Metro funding deal last year.
Notably, the station overhaul was not included among the promised transportation improvements designed to lure Amazon to the area. But, with the tech giant expected to bring 25,000 jobs to the neighborhood, VRE officials are ready to get moving on the project sooner rather than later.
“VRE’s commuter rail service will also be critical to serving these expected new workers, and the planned relocation and expansion of VRE’s Crystal City Station has taken on additional importance,” staff wrote in a report delivered to the NVTC.
The rail service previously won $4 million in regional transportation dollars to cover design and engineering costs, and is nearing completion on a final design for the station now, VRE staff wrote.
The Arlington County Board and VRE agreed on a new location for the station in fall 2017, selecting a site behind 2011 Crystal Drive. The new station will be accessible via a tunnel to 18th Street S. between the Crystal Place residential buildings and the Crystal City Water Park, in addition to a pedestrian bridge from the second level of 2121 Crystal Drive.
It will also sit across the street from a new second entrance to the area’s Metro station, set to be located at the intersection of Crystal Drive and 18th Street S. Considering that VRE estimates that about 18 percent of passengers headed to the Crystal City station then transfer to the Metro, county officials have long viewed improving the connection between the two rail services as a key way to boost transit ridership.
The station will also include an “island platform” to serve two tracks simultaneously, and work on the project is set to move in conjunction with the state-backed “Atlantic Gateway Initiative” to construct a new rail track between D.C. and Fredericksburg. The old station will eventually be demolished.
There are no firm dates for when the project might be completed, but VRE estimates suggest it wouldn’t be finished until 2023 at the earliest, depending on how quickly officials secure the necessary funding.