Woman Struck By Metrobus Files Suit — A woman who was struck and pinned under a Metrobus in Crystal City last month is suing WMATA for $25 million. The woman, who suffered a broken arm and crush injuries to her left leg, worked as a personal trainer and bartender. She’s still recovering in a hospital, according to the lawsuit. [Associated Press]
Rhodeside Grill Anniversary — Rhodeside Grill (1836 Wilson Blvd) is celebrating its 20th anniversary tonight. [ARLnow]
Letter Writer: Muslim Town Hall Was Partisan — A Muslim Town Hall at Arlington Central Library billed as a “non-partisan community event” included lots of criticism of Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, says an attendee who wrote to the Sun Gazette. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
More Cars on Local Streets Due to I-66 Plans? — Will plans to toll I-66 inside the Beltway during rush hour send cars spilling onto local streets in Arlington? Not exactly. Traffic studies suggest the opposite will happen: more cars will use the highway rather than seek alternate routes through Arlington. [Washington Post]
Metro Begins Installation of Cable for Cell Service — Metro has begun the process of installing 100 miles of cable in Metrorail tunnels in order to allow mobile phone and better emergency radio coverage. [WMATA]
Optimism from Arlington’s New Metro Board Member — Freshman Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey is serving as the county’s representative on the WMATA board. Though he says the agency is facing “a fair number of problems,” he says Metro expects “to see some significant improvements” in 2016. [InsideNova]
Potholes on GW Parkway — The northbound lanes of the GW Parkway had to be closed from Spout Run to the Beltway for pothole repair last night. This morning, crews were dispatched to fill potholes in the southbound lanes. [Twitter]
County Combines Budget Hearings — In previous years, Arlington held separate budget hearings to discuss proposed expenditures and the tax rate. This year, those topics are being combined and members of the public can weigh in on either at two budget hearings: one on Tuesday, March 29 and another on Thursday, March 31. The county is also accepting online budget feedback. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
You know a top executive’s gig is tough when an entire room applauds after someone gets up and says, “thank you for taking the job.”
Wiedefeld started the night by telling the crowd he has been fighting a cold since the January blizzard, when Metro shut down for a couple days, and will be taking a decidedly unglamorous trip to Lincoln, Nebraska later this month to check on the manufacturer of Metro’s problematic 7000-series railcars.
Turning around Metro is an exhausting job and Wiedefeld sounded, well, a bit exhausted.
During the audience question-and-answer session, he was asked whether Metro should lower the expectations of riders for the reliability of a two-track system built in the 1970s for a sleepier capital city
“I do think we need to be more realistic about what’s achievable and what’s not,” Wiedefeld said. “You can only fit so much through a small tube, that’s just reality. We need to do a better job of educating the public, for sure.”
Despite that, Wiedefeld acknowledged Metro’s problems, took responsibility for rider frustration and promised change.
“I don’t think we’re doing the best we can do,” he continued. “We’re not putting out the service the best we could, and that’s the first thing we need to do.”
Under Wiedefeld, who was formerly the CEO of BWI Airport in Maryland, Metro has three main priorities: improve safety, improve basic service reliability, and get its fiscal house in order.
Wiedefeld is approaching the challenge from the bottom up: he’s been trying to spend as much time as possible with Metro’s front-line employees: those maintaining the rails, driving the buses and cleaning the trains. He said Metro’s headquarters and leaders have been too removed from its day-to-day operations on the ground, something he wants to improve.
Wiedefeld has also been making an effort to be a more visible leader in the region. That’s what brought him to the Committee of 100. At the meeting, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey marveled that Wiedefeld was the first Metro general manager she had actually met in person in all of her years of public service.
The realities of Metrorail’s maintenance needs may require some fundamental changes in the way Metro operates. Poor maintenance, after all, is what’s causing much of Metro’s current unreliability. The agency doesn’t even have enough working rail cars to meet its promises about eight-car trains. The delivery of the new 7000-series cars — only 80 are in service so far — will help, but they must be maintained, in addition to track and the myriad other components of the Metro system.
“We need to take a hard look at how we’re doing things, particularly on the maintenance side,” Wiedefeld said. “These are big, complex systems.”
Garvey Named 2016 Arlington County Board Chair — Libby Garvey, who is facing a challenge in this year’s Democratic primary, has been named the Chair of the Arlington County Board. Articles to follow.
Update: Family Given Lease Extension — An Arlington family with a disabled son has been given a 30-day lease extension, after they went to the media to protest the landlord’s reported refusal to renew their lease. The family said the manager of Columbia Pike apartment complex complained about them making too much noise. [Washington Post]
Dorsey to Serve on Metro Board — Christian Dorsey, who along with Katie Cristol began his first County Board term on Jan. 1, has been chosen to serve as Arlington’s non-voting representative on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board of directors. [InsideNova]
Reminder: Arlington Is the Smallest Governing County — Arlington County is the smallest self-governing county in the United States. Kalawao County in Hawaii, New York County in Manhattan and Bristol County in Rhode Island are smaller, but don’t have their own separate county governments. [Arlington County]
Favola Proposes Allowing Cigarette Tax Hike — State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) has proposed a bill that would allow Arlington and Fairfax counties to double local cigarette taxes. The extra funds would be used to support education. [InsideNova]
Free Breakfast at Northside Social — It’s unclear whether the promotion is still going on as of publication time, but Northside Social this morning was giving away free breakfasts and coffee courtesy of the new CBS show Angel from Hell, starring Jane Lynch. [Twitter, Twitter]
Christmas Tree Collection Starts Today — Christmas tree collection in Arlington County starts today and runs through Friday, Jan. 15. Trees will be collected curbside on regular trash collection days. Those who live in apartments or condos without county trash collection can bring their trees to the Solid Waste Bureau near Shirlington. [ARLnow]
Among the proposed changes:
- Eliminating the 5A line that connects L’Enfant Plaza, Rosslyn and Dulles Airport
- Eliminating the 9A line that runs from the Huntington Metro station to Old Town Alexandria, Potomac Yard and the Pentagon
- Eliminating late night weekend service on the 7A line connecting Shirlington, Fairlington and the Pentagon Metro station
- Stopping service to Crystal City on the 16H line that runs down Columbia Pike (it will instead stop at the Pentagon City Metro station)
- Eliminate service from East Falls Church to Rosslyn on the 3A line that runs to Annandale (it will instead be replaced by ART bus service)
Metro says the proposals are part of an annual service review that’s intended to make the system more efficient.
Yesterday, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority began work on improving the bus bays at the Pentagon, according to WMATA spokesman Richard Jordan.
Jordan said that the bus bay improvements, which include expanding pedestrian walkways and replacing the pavement with concrete, are the largest component of the transit center renovations, which are intended to move pedestrians more efficiently and make the bus bays more comfortable. Jordan said the project also aimed to improve traffic circulation, access and security, although he was unable to speak to specifics.
Both WMATA and Arlington Transit buses serving the Pentagon will be rerouted beginning Thursday (June 18), said Jordan.
ART spokesman Steve Yaffe said delays are currently expected to be less than five minutes.
According to a service update on ART’s website, ART buses 42, 87 and 92 will enter the Pentagon reservation as usual but will exit via S. Fern Street. Again according to the update, the two bus stops between S. Fern and S. Eads Street will be closed for the duration of the construction; an alternate stop has been set up at the corner of S. Fern and Army Navy Drive.
WMATA buses will also experience delays due to rerouting, but there are no planned changes to where the buses stop.
“[The construction] isn’t going to affect where riders get on and off the bus,” said Jordan.
During morning and evening rush hour times, police will be at the Pentagon to direct buses to their detours. During all other times of the day, flaggers will be present to indicate where the buses should go.
WMATA has listed all affected routes on their website and encourages commuters to plan for slightly longer traveling times.
Part of a $58.8 million TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation is funding the project. According to Jordan, construction is expected to last about two months and should be completed sometime in August or September.
The Metro tunnel began to leak in the fall because a stormwater-retention system built by the county was overflowing, Metro spokeswoman Caroline Laurin told WUSA9. The county built that system in the median of S. Hayes Street as part of street upgrades for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
WMATA has placed pieces of sheet metal where the leaks are occurring, deflecting the water down the wall and away from passengers.
“When that retention pond overflows, water enters our station,” Laurin told the TV station, which first reported the leaks after seeing a tweet from a curious Metro rider. “This temporary solution will be in place until Arlington County can address the issue with the storm water retention structure.”
Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, which oversaw the road construction, said WMATA approved the work it did around the Metro station, and denies that it is to blame for the leaky tunnel.
“It’s not unusual to have leaks in tunnel systems, especially systems like the Pentagon City Metrorail tunnel that are 40 years old,” Katherine Youngbluth, the project manager for the S. Hayes Street improvements, told ARLnow.com in an email. “The rain garden facility that was constructed as part of the County’s Pentagon City Multimodal project (and all other aspects of the project that were adjacent to WMATA facilities) was fully vetted through WMATA’s review and approval process and received a permit for all construction work.”
Youngbluth said the county has known about the leak since the fall, but has only had preliminary talks with WMATA about whose responsibility it is to fix the leak. The county is “continuing to explore technical studies and solutions that are available for an investigation of this type” and doesn’t yet have a timeframe or cost analysis for the repair, she added.
The multimodal improvements wrapped up last year, and included new sidewalks, crosswalks, street lighting, landscaping, new street crossing areas and bicycle amenities to go with the rain garden. The total project cost was $9 million.
Photo via @jurbanchuk
“We called in a team today to hook up our trucks with chains, spreaders and plows,” said Shannon Whalen McDaniel, spokeswoman for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services. “We will also brine the roads throughout the night in preparation.”
VDOT, meanwhile, said “crews are pre-treating roads aggressively throughout Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties today.”
“Crews will be out in force overnight and through the duration of the storm, treating icy roads and plowing snow,” VDOT said in a press release. “While VDOT is in full preparation mode, motorists are urged to make sure their vehicles are in proper driving condition for winter weather and have emergency kits. During the storm, motorists should avoid driving on the roads.”
WMATA says it will start the Tuesday on a normal weekday Metrorail and bus schedule, but may reduce rail service and suspend bus service later in the day as conditions deteriorate. MetroAccess service has been suspended for all of Tuesday.
“For your safety, travel only if necessary,” Metro said in an advisory. “If you must travel, plan to arrive at your destination before the worst of the storm, and be prepared to remain there until the storm passes. Check wmata.com before starting your trip or sign up for MetroAlerts to receive updated service information by email or text message.”
Metro Weekend Service Adjustments — Due to work on the Metrorail system, trains on the Orange and Blue Lines will run every 24 minutes this weekend. The altered schedule begins at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, November 22, and runs through closing on Sunday, November 24. [WMATA]
Metro Sign Upgrades on the Way — By the end of the winter, Metrorail riders should notice a number of upgrades to the electronic signs announcing train arrivals. Some improvements include making the display crisper so it’s easier to read from a distance and temporarily stopping service advisories from scrolling on the screens when trains are arriving. [Washington Post]
ART System Expansion — At its meeting on Tuesday (November 19), the County Board approved a plan to expand the ART bus system within the next year. Two lines will be added and one line will have service later into the evening. [Sun Gazette]
Students Place First in Video Contest — Six students at Arlington Career Center won first place for the video they submitted to the Virginia School Boards Association student video contest. High school students were challenged to create a 30 second video for the theme “What’s Super About Public Schools.” [Arlington Public Schools]
With Metro’s Silver Line soon to open, WMATA is considering eliminating a Metrobus route that stops in Rosslyn on the way to Dulles International Airport.
The agency held a public hearing this week on changes to dozens of bus routes, during which it presented three options for the future of the 5A route: eliminating it completely, only running it between Dulles and the Wiehle-Reston East Metro stop (the end of the Silver Line when it opens in early 2014), or only running it before and after Metrorail’s hours.
Rob Stern, an Arlington-based vacation planner, spoke out against the proposed changes to bus service at the public hearing Tuesday night.
“Metrobus 5A provides fast, affordable transportation for local residents, visitors, students, airport employees and commuters,” he said in an email. “Alternatives like the Washington Flyer and the Fairfax Connector would require a change and paying an additional fare, as well as taking more travel time. This is a burden for those with heavy baggage, and in bad weather. Taxi service from the airport can cost $60, 10 times more than the 5A’s $6 one-way fare.”
“The heavy use of both the Orange line and Silver line rail service at evening rush hour would make the rail option difficult for many travelers, as Dulles Airport’s peak travel time is in the evenings,” he continued. “As a travel agent I mentioned that many of my clients choose the airport to fly from based on ease of access, and while Washington National Airport has direct rail service, and BWI Airport has both Marc Train and Express Metro Bus Service, on the B30, this change would put Dulles Airport at a competitive disadvantage. ”
Those interested in giving input to WMATA’s community outreach can fill out a survey by Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 5:00 p.m. After the public comment period closes, the WMATA Board Customer Service and Operations Committee will consider the feedback and proposed changes at their meeting in November, according to WMATA spokeswoman Morgan Dye.
If any of the options are approved, they would go into affect soon after the Silver Line opens, which is expected January or early February 2014. Phase 2 of the Dulles Corridor Metro Rail Project, which will extend the Silver Line to the airport and beyond, is not expected to be completed until July 2018.
The changes to the 5A route were first proposed by the District Department of Transportation.
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.
In Virginia alone, nearly 72,000 DoD employees are affected by furloughs, which require one unpaid day off per week for 11 weeks. The state is expected to be particularly hard hit by the cuts due to the Pentagon being housed in Arlington.
It’s too early to definitively claim furloughs will ease traffic congestion, but AAA believes fewer people on the road could lead to less gridlock and fewer accidents. In fact, the organization suggests commutes could resemble those of July and August, when the region experiences its lowest traffic volume and rate of accidents.
“For all other workers, the morning and evening commutes to the daily grind could look like it does on any of the ten federal holidays in the Washington metro area or on Fridays, when federal workers use their flex-time schedules or compressed work weeks (AWS) to take time off,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs.
AAA predicts Metrorail and Metrobus ridership may be affected as well. According to WMATA, nearly half of peak period commuters are federal employees and 35 Metrorail stations serve federal facilities, including the Pentagon in Arlington.
Rep. Jim Moran (D) took to Twitter earlier today to express his displeasure with the furloughs. He also sent the following statement to ARLnow.com:
“Due to sequestration, today marked the first of 11 furlough days for 650,000 DOD civilian employees. This 20 percent pay cut is the unfortunate and shameful result of Congress’ failure to work together to find an appropriate way to reduce the federal debt and deficit. I voted against the Budget Control Act that set up sequestration not only because it focused solely on cutting discretionary spending at the expense of increased revenues, but I feared that the Supercommittee could not find compromise. Congress must make tough choices, but we cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal workers.”
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.
(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) Track work will close Metro stations along the Orange Line this weekend, for the third time in the past month. This time the Ballston and Virginia Square stations will be out of service.
The closures begin at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, May 17, and run through closing on Sunday, May 19. Trains are expected to operate at normal weekend intervals even though service will be split into two segments — between Vienna and East Falls Church and between Clarendon and New Carrollton.
Free shuttle buses will replace trains between East Falls Church and Clarendon. Customers using shuttle bus service should add up to 25 minutes to their travel time.
The last trains of the night from Vienna to East Falls Church will depart 28 minutes earlier than normal — at 1:57 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, and at 10:57 p.m. on Sunday.
The Orange Line closures are to allow for track circuit module replacement. There will also be work on the Red and Green lines this weekend. Information regarding those closures can be found on WMATA’s website.
The Ballston Business Improvement District expressed concern about the timing of the Ballston Metro station closure, considering the Taste of Arlington festival is expected to bring around 20,000 people to that area on Sunday.
Members of the BID have worked out a deal with WMATA. The station closures will remain in effect and passengers will still need to take shuttles between East Falls Church and Clarendon. However, starting around 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, additional shuttles will be put into service to accommodate the heavier flow of passengers expected to travel to Taste of Arlington, which begins at noon.
“They will add a whole crew of buses to the schedule for Sunday so they can ensure that nobody is waiting too long and can get to their destination in a timely fashion,” said Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone. “We’re not the first group this has happened to. They’ve assured us they will monitor the buses in making sure they’re arriving and leaving at a rapid rate. We’re just thrilled they were so responsive and so accommodating.”
Leone added that the bus trip is only about 10 minutes, so hopefully festival attendees won’t experience too many delays. Those who prefer to drive to the event should note that the cost is only one dollar for three hours to park at the Ballston garage.
Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser
Now that a prototype has been built, and now that Arlington will be replacing WMATA as the project manager, the Columbia Pike Super Stop project should proceed in a much quicker, smoother and more cost-efficient manner, county officials said Tuesday.
The project will ultimately construct a network of 24 enhanced “Super Stop” bus stops along Columbia Pike, featuring real-time bus arrival screens, lighting, heating and a modern design. Arlington County officials briefed the County Board on the status of the project at its meeting yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, following a minor public outcry about the over $1 million construction cost of the first stop.
(The county funded just over $200,000 of the construction budget, with the rest coming from state and federal sources.)
“This is perhaps the first of its type in the Commonwealth,” Arlington County Director of Transportation Dennis Leach said of the newly-completed Super Stop, at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive. “In any new endeavor, you end up paying more in soft costs for the prototype. When you actually get the efficiency is… when you refine it and go out replicate the facilities.”
“This was a project that was a partnership between Arlington and WMATA,” he said. “Moving forward we are going to make a shift where these are going to be Arlington-managed construction projects. We hope to dramatically reduce the construction time, and we have already fine tuned the design… to make it easier to construct in the future.”
County Board member Chris Zimmerman said WMATA’s ability to run construction projects has been reduced over the past few years.
“Its capacity having been greatly diminished undoubtedly affected their ability to deal with a small project like this one,” he said.
Zimmerman said he believes the project is on track. Crews are expected to begin work this spring on a “Barton West” Super Stop near Penrose Square, followed by work on new stops at Columbus and Dinwiddie Streets later this summer.
“I’m a lot more confident going forward that we’ll be able to deliver these things on a reasonable basis in terms of time, budget and schedule,” he said.
Libby Garvey, a critic of the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar system (which will utilize the new stops, when built), asked a few tough questions about the project. She said she was still awaiting a breakdown of the costs of the project, and was skeptical that the open-air design would serve riders in bad weather.
“I did see the stop and it’s pretty, but I was struck by the fact that if it’s pouring rain i’m going to get wet, and if it’s cold the wind is going to be blowing on me,” she said. “It doesn’t seem to be much of a shelter.”
Zimmerman suggested there might be room for refining the design to provide more shelter in the rain, but said he was otherwise pleased with the distinctive design — which, he reminded the room, was chosen during a public process, with extensive input from residents.
“I personally think they’re extremely attractive,” he said. “Part of making people confident and comfortable using transit is creating places that they feel like they want to be, even in the dark.”