County Closures for Labor Day — County-run Covid vaccination clinics and testing will be closed Monday for the Labor Day holiday. County offices, libraries, rec centers, courts and schools will also be closed. Trash will be collected, but parking meters will not be enforced. [Arlington County]
Two Libraries Reopening Next Week — “Starting September 7, 2021, Arlington Public Library will reopen two locations — Cherrydale and Glencarlyn Libraries… ‘The Library continues to make steady progress toward filling an unprecedented number of public service vacancies caused by the pandemic and subsequent hiring freeze. We believe we are turning the corner and look forward to seeing more of our patrons,’ said Arlington Public Library Director Diane Kresh.” [Press Release]
No County Cash for Amazon This Year — “Arlington won’t pay Amazon.com Inc. any cash incentives this year — the second year in a row the pandemic has essentially thwarted that deal… ‘As a result of the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions in place during much of the year, Arlington’s FY2021 Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) revenues did not yield the incremental growth necessary for Amazon to receive a grant for the second year of the 15-year performance period.'” [Washington Business Journal]
VRE Ridership Remains Low — “Despite upticks over the summer months, passenger counts for Virginia Railway Express (VRE) remain well down from pre-pandemic levels. For the weeks ending July 30, Aug. 6, Aug. 13 and Aug. 20, passenger counts were down 85.7 percent, 85.8 percent, 85.8 percent and 86.5 percent from the same periods in 2019, according to information provided by VRE officials to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.” [InsideNova]
New Restaurants Coming to Crystal City — “The Kabob Palace in Crystal City will soon have new neighbors. A halal restaurant franchisee has signed a lease for about 2,400 square feet at 2323 S. Eads St., where it plans to open a combined Peri Peri Original and Kallisto Steakhouse inside an end-cap space where the buffet-style Kabob Palace Family Restaurant had been.” [Washington Business Journal]
Map Chronicles Close Calls — “Developed with the help of Virginia Tech graduate students, the Near Miss Survey allows walkers, bicyclists, drivers, and other road users to report instances where they came close to getting into a crash or accident but were fortunate enough to avoid it. The resulting map highlights specific incidents as well as hotspots that are especially accident-prone, with the goal of helping local transportation and public safety officials see what areas need their attention.” [FFXnow]
Flickr photo by Bekah Richards
Progress on Revamped VRE Station — “It could just be just a matter of months until the Virginia Railway Express plan to create a new station in Crystal City reaches another milestone. VRE officials project it will be in the third quarter of 2021 that preliminary engineering and environmental-impact steps toward eventual construction will be completed.” [Sun Gazette]
Amazon Sponsoring Arlington Youth Soccer — “Kids in Arlington’s travel soccer programs will play with the Amazon logo on the backs of their jerseys this fall thanks to a sponsorship between the retailing giant and the Arlington Soccer Association.” [Washingtonian]
Board Mulls Police Oversight — “Throughout June and July, the Board will consider different models of a Civilian Review Board with the goal of creating a CRB and Independent Policing Auditor function that can enhance community trust in and collaboration with the Arlington County Police Department… In the coming weeks, the County Board will be studying these models, as well as others from around the Commonwealth and country, and encourages community members to provide their feedback and perspectives on the different models.” [Arlington County]
Storms Expected Today — “Strong to severe thunderstorms are possible Thursday afternoon and evening across the DMV, with strong to locally damaging winds being the main threat. The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center has the region at a Level 2 out of 5 slight risk for severe weather.” [Washington Post, Twitter]
Arlington County Attorney Steve MacIsaac is leaving his position after two decades with the county government.
“Our attorney, Mr. MacIsaac, is going to be leaving us to return to where he started — to work for the Virginia Railway Express,” Matt de Ferranti, County Board Chair, said May 18 during a county meeting. “We will certainly miss Mr. MacIsaac.”
MacIsaac will be returning for a newly-created, full-time position as general counsel at Virginia Railway Express (VRE).
“It’s been for me a real pleasure to work with you,” MacIsaac said after County Board members gave him accolades during the meeting. “It’s really been enjoyable to work with you.”
VRE is owned by two parent authorities, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission.
MacIsaac spent 21 years with the county as its county attorney, said County Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol, who as Chair of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission helped lead others to create the new position at VRE.
“We are losing, in my opinion, the finest county attorney in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” County Board member Christian Dorsey said. “That is a tough pill to swallow.”
MacIsaac has served as part-time counsel to VRE since planning for the commuter rail service began in the mid-1980s.
Before working for Arlington County, McIsaac spent 18 years at the County Attorney’s Office in nearby Prince William County, which VRE services.
VRE connects D.C. with Manassas and I-95 corridor communities — such as Fredericksburg and beyond — with commuter rail service. A revamped Crystal City station is part of VRE’s future expansion plans. VRE is planning on expanding with weekday evening and weekend service, and has existing plans to double its daily train passengers by 2040.
Prince William County Supervisor Margaret Franklin, the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission Chair, said MacIsaac’s “in-depth knowledge of VRE and the jurisdictions it serves will allow us to chart a course for the future that will better serve our communities and passengers.”
The County Board has appointed deputy county attorney MinhChau Corr as acting attorney after MacIsaac leaves. A search for his permanent replacement is expected to begin sometime this summer, county spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell said in an email.
MacIsaac’s last day will be this Friday, May 28. He’ll start his new position next week.
“Thank you,” MacIsaac said. “It’s been a great ride.”
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.
(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.