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Metro’s Yellow Line, which runs through Crystal City and Pentagon City, could see major disruption next year due to needed repairs.

The proposed Yellow Line Bridge and tunnel rehabilitation project will include repairs to the bridge and the tunnels between the Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations.

WMATA’s project website said the bridge is now showing “excessive wear and corrosion,” while “decades of water infiltration and underground moisture have eroded the steel-lined tunnels.” Both the bridge and the tunnels “date to original construction [of the Metro system] more than 40 years ago.”

The transit agency warned that long-term repairs are necessary to avoid structural failure.

The project will also upgrade the fire suppression system on the bridge, which is currently past its useful life according to WMATA. Further remediation work in the tunnel will repair cracks.

Schedule of Metro station work, including Yellow Line shutdowns, photo via WMATA

The exact timeline for the project is still unclear. Andrew Off, Vice President of Project Implementation and Construction, said a shutdown of the bridge is expected sometime in fall 2022.

“We expect to start sometime at the end of the next calendar year,” Off said. “We’re still working through with our general contractor on the specific construction duration for the Yellow Line Bridge closure.”

Meanwhile, further south on the Yellow Line, Off said a two-week closure is likely as WMATA connects the new Potomac Yard Metro station.

“We’ll have a scheduled two-week or 16-day shutdown in late summer or early fall in support of connecting the new Potomac Yard infill station to our existing system,” Off said.

The station had been scheduled to open next spring but was pushed back to September 2022 after an error was found in the project’s design. Alexandria leaders are still hopeful the project could be moved up to earlier in the year.

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Arlingtonians planning on taking Metro this weekend might want to allot more time than usual for their trips.

All four Metro lines running through Arlington will have delays this weekend, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The transit authority said riders should expect “service adjustments” on Saturday and Sunday for lines running through Northern Virginia.

On the Blue and Yellow lines, Metro will be single-tracking between the stations at Reagan National Airport and Braddock Road. WMATA said riders should expect a train every 30 minutes.

The cause of the single-tracking is ongoing work at the Potomac Yard Metro station in Alexandria, according to WMATA. Originally scheduled to open this coming April, the station’s opening was pushed back to next September.

The Orange Line, meanwhile, will be shut down between the East Falls Church and Ballston Metro stations for radio cable installation.

“Trains will operate in two segments: Vienna to East Falls Church and Ballston to New Carrollton,” WMATA said on its website. “Free shuttle buses available.”

The Silver Line will only be running from East Falls Church out to the Wiehle-Reston East station. Silver Line riders will have to take a shuttle bus to continue on the Orange Line.

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Transit planners have come up with four different ways that they say could solve congestion at the Rosslyn Metro Station while planning for future ridership needs.

Unfortunately, a Metrorail line through Columbia Pike — supported by nearly 70% of ARLnow poll respondents — did not make the cut. But each of the potential future projects does start with changes that some Arlingtonians could see as benefits: a second Metro station in Rosslyn and a first-ever Georgetown stop.

After linking Rosslyn to Georgetown, all four expanded lines would run parallel to and to the north of existing east-west trains, connecting Arlington to West End, the southern halves of Dupont Circle and Logan Circle, and stopping at Union Station. From there, they veer north toward Greenbelt and New Carrollton, Maryland or south to National Harbor.

Two options stand out from the pack. First, a Silver Line express tunnel in Virginia starting at West Falls Church station, and stopping at a possible second Ballston station en route to a second Rosslyn station. Another intriguing possibility is a Blue Line loop to National Harbor, which would add some new direct transit connectivity to Arlington’s Crystal City-Pentagon City corridor.

WMATA says these two would have the second-greatest and greatest gains in new ridership and annual fare revenue, respectively.

While these changes could improve commutes, the projects are decades down the road, if they happen at all. Each of the two options above could take up to 25 years to fund (needing $20-25 billion), construct and complete.

Suspending for a moment how far away these new Metro projects could be, what do you think of WMATA’s proposed changes to connectivity in Arlington and just over the river?

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Morning Notes

Tower of Light Returns — From Dave Statter: “The Tower of Light at the Pentagon began tonight & continues through September 12 in honor of those killed when the United States was attacked 20 years ago Saturday.” [Twitter, Fox 5]

Road Closures for Memorial 5K — “The Arlington Police, Fire, Sheriff and ECC Memorial 9/11 Memorial 5k race will take place on the evening of Saturday, September 11, 2021. The Arlington County Police Department will close the following roadways around the Pentagon and in Crystal City to accommodate the event.” [ACPD]

Some Boundary Adjustments Coming — “Arlington’s public-school leadership has so much on its return-to-classrooms plate already – ya think? – that a massive boundary-adjustment process is just not in the cards for now. School officials are planning for ‘only those adjustments that must be done,’ said Lisa Stengle, the school system’s executive director of planning and evaluation, during an Aug. 26 briefing to School Board members.” [Sun Gazette]

Feds Add Rep from Arlington to Metro BoardUpdated at 9 a.m. — A new alternate Metro Board member from Arlington was sworn in yesterday. Assistant County Manager & Director of Communications and Public Engagement Bryna Helfer is a federal appointee to the Board. Helfer previously worked for the U.S. Dept. of Transportation. [U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Twitter]

Biz Booming for Local Tattoo Shop — “As more Americans resolve to change their lives after a tumultuous year and a half, many are choosing to get tattoos: D.C.-area tattoo-shop owners are reporting a boom in business, even though the pandemic all but shuttered other industries. Inside Lady Octopus, in Arlington, Virginia, artist Gilda Acosta shades in a touch of light green on the leaves of a primrose. Client Meg Little, of Alexandria, booked this appointment seven months ago.” [WTOP]

Higher Ed Booms With Amazon Arrival — “With the arrival of Amazon and a proliferation of other tech companies in fields ranging from big data to cybersecurity, candidates like Bhatia are in high demand. The problem is, there aren’t enough to go around. Universities are trying to change that, and in the process, sparking an academic explosion in and around Arlington… Virginia Tech, Mason and the University of Maryland are preparing to open gleaming new facilities here.” [Arlington Magazine]

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It looks like the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is not going to consider a Metro line through Columbia Pike any time soon.

For the last year and a half, there were some signs that such an expansion — which was part of initial Metro planning in the 1960s but was never built — was an actual possibility.

In December 2019, Metro mulled the idea for a Silver Line extension down Columbia Pike and up Route 7, connecting with the West Falls Church Station, as one of a handful of ways to address congestion in the Rosslyn Metro tunnel, system reliability and future ridership growth. News of President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which coincided with WMATA’s deliberations, further crystallized those hopes.

A new study posted this week, however, indicates this extension — which nearly 70% of ARLnow readers supported in an April poll — has been ruled out. That follows a cost-benefit analysis by planners, which favored four other routes — each starting with a second Metro station in Rosslyn and adding an underground Metro station in Georgetown — as well as two options that don’t involve new construction.

WMATA is looking for the next way to expand Metro on a scale similar to the Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport, as it seeks to alleviate traffic and congestion in the Rosslyn tunnel and along the the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. In early 2019, it launched the Blue/Orange/Silver Capacity & Reliability Study (BOS Study) to identify a line that would do so.

Metro planners outlined the four finalists, absent the Pike, in an update to the BOS Study that Metro posted this week. The four options use a second Rosslyn station to alleviate congestion at the existing station, and establish a long-discussed underground station in Georgetown, which has never had a Metro connection.

The possible projects, which would cost billions of dollars to build, include a Blue Line loop to National Harbor — which planners think would add the most new riders and revenue to the Metro system — as well as a Blue Line extension to Greenbelt, a Silver Line express tunnel option through Arlington, and a Silver Line to New Carrollton.

The express option “would create a separate tunnel and tracks for the Silver Line, starting at West Falls Church Station,” according to WMATA. A diagram suggests it would skip all Arlington stations except the second Rosslyn station and perhaps a second Ballston station.

“From WFC to a new second Rosslyn station, the new tunnel could support express service, local service or a mix of express and local service,” WMATA said. “From the second Rosslyn station, the Silver Line would travel through Georgetown…. to Greenbelt.”

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(Updated at noon) Metro’s “barebones” Fiscal Year 2022 budget proposal threatens to eliminate service on a number of bus lines running through Arlington.

Among the proposed cuts is the Metroway route between Pentagon City and the Braddock Road Metro stations.

Arlington and Alexandria have spent millions building the Crystal City/Potomac Yard Transitway that the Metroway line serves, with more than a dozen stops, primarily in the Crystal City and Potomac Yard area. An $27.7 million expansion of the Transitway to Pentagon City is in the works and set for construction.

The revenue-starved Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority shut Metroway down at the beginning of the pandemic in March, and has since experienced a system-wide 90% decline in ridership. The budget, as proposed, would extend the closure at least to mid-2022.

With Amazon’s choice of National Landing for its HQ2 headquarters in Pentagon City and Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus to be situated next door in Alexandria, the budget moves have caused concern for many, including Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, president and executive director of the National Landing Business Improvement District.

“Transit access is at the center of National Landing’s vibrant future and is a critical component of keeping our community competitive, equitable and sustainable,” Gabriel told ARLnow. “Public transit is more essential today than ever before as it enables our region’s frontline workers to access their jobs and continue serving the community during the pandemic. As the backbone of our transportation network and the most efficient means of reaching our commercial centers, our economic recovery will similarly depend on the continued funding, reliability and effectiveness of WMATA.”

Metro, which has sought a second injection of federal relief funding since May, is also proposing to shutter 19 Metrorail stations — including Arlington Cemetery, Clarendon, East Falls Church and Virginia Square — as well as eliminate weekend rail service and reduce weekday hours to 5 a.m.-9 p.m.

Metro is proposing the elimination of the following bus lines in Arlington and Alexandria:

  • 4A and 4B from Pershing Avenue to the Pentagon
  • 7F and 7Y from Lincolnia to North Fairlington
  • 10A from Alexandria to the Pentagon
  • 16A, 16E, 16G and 16H on Columbia Pike
  • 22A, 22F from Barcroft to South Fairlington
  • 25B from Landmark to Ballston
  • 38B from Ballston to Farragut Square
  • 7M from Mark Center to the Pentagon

Other lines are set for reductions or modifications in service.

In neighboring Alexandria, Mayor Justin Wilson said the changes would harm those who most rely on Metro service.

“My hope is that the federal government enacts new COVID-relief legislation that provides support to transit agencies and local and state governments so that we do not need to inflict these cuts on transit and city services,” Wilson said. “If that doesn’t happen, this will very detrimental to our community. Many of our residents rely on these transit services to get to places of work, healthcare services and essential trips. It has taken generations to develop our transit system and dismantling it will be tragic.”

On Tuesday night, members of Metro’s Rider Advisory Council (RAC) said that the bus cuts were “dramatic” and “draconian.”

“I’m just really sad and scared about this,” RAC Member Rebekah Mason said. “It just seems really highly prejudicial and really not a way to treat riders who have jobs, other than white collar jobs.”

Doris Ray, a member of the WMATA Accessibility Advisory Committee, wants the agency to instead enhance bus service in light of potential rail cuts.

“I am concerned as many in the community about the ability of people who do not drive, particularly essential workers, but for everyone who doesn’t drive and rely on transit to be able to get around,” Ray said.

Photo via Donna Gouse

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Fulfilling a long-delayed promise, Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey dropped off a cashier’s check for $10,000 to the headquarters of the Amalgamated Transit Union International yesterday.

The action is, one would assume, the last chapter in the saga of a political donation that caused Dorsey to lose his seat on the WMATA Board and lose the trust of some of his constituents in Arlington.

Dorsey was ordered by the WMATA Board to return the $10,000 political donation to his Christian Dorsey for County Board political committee due to a conflict of interest — between his role in helping to run the transit agency and his acceptance of a donation from its largest labor union. He also faced ethics scrutiny for not disclosing the donation for four months.

Dorsey resigned from the WMATA Board in February after failing to return the donation; at the time, he did not have sufficient funds in his campaign account to do so. Most of Dorsey’s campaign cash in 2019 went to himself and his wife, in the form of loan repayments and payments for campaign services, respectively.

Dorsey filed for personal bankruptcy in October 2019. The bankruptcy case was still active in federal court as of last week.

Friends helped to raise additional campaign funds for Dorsey in February and March, despite him not being up for reelection until 2023. In addition to donations from fellow elected officials and from individuals, Dorsey accepted $1,000 from the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and $2,000 from Steamfitters Local Union #602.

Dorsey wrote a $10,000 check dated Feb. 24, 2020 and sent it to ATU International but, according to reporting by the Washington Post last week, the check was somehow lost when it was sent from the union to the bank.

In response to subsequent inquiries from ARLnow, Dorsey said on Thursday that he had dropped off a cashier’s check drawn from his campaign account. He provided a photo of the check, and ATU International spokesman David Roscow confirmed that it had been received.

“I’d like for this saga to be closed as well, and will cooperate as necessary to do so,” Dorsey told ARLnow earlier in the week, though he added that he saw it as closed “at least as it pertains to my responsibility in the matter.”

“My promise was to return the contribution, which I did, as evidenced through the certified mail receipt and acknowledgment by ATU in February/March,” he said. “That they didn’t process it is a matter I cannot speak to, nor can I reasonably be held responsible for.”

According to the Virginia Dept. of Elections website, Dorsey’s campaign initially submitted a campaign finance report on July 15 that did not include the February return of the donation. That report was amended on July 19, to include the $10,000 check as an expenditure. The Post reported on July 23 that the check was never cashed.

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Morning Notes

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]

Army Navy Drive Project Pushed Back — “Anticipated completion of the Army Navy Drive Complete Streets project quietly slips an entire year with no explanation.” [@alongthepike/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Home Prices Up in 2019 — “Data from Bright MLS, a multiple listing service that analyzes real estate data in the Mid-Atlantic region… revealed the average home sale price in Alexandria City, Arlington and Fairfax counties, collectively, rose by 4%, from $590,582 in 2018 to $614,236 in 2019.” [WUSA 9]

Endorsements for Choun — Chanda Choun, who is running in the Democratic Arlington County Board primary against incumbent Libby Garvey, has received the endorsement of a pair of current and former elected officials: former County Board member Jay Fisette and, most recently, current Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy. [Twitter, Chanda Choun]

Chain Salon Locations to Close — “The parent company of Hair Cuttery, Bubbles, and other salon chains will close more than 80 locations around the country starting later in January… A full list of the stores that will shutter was not disclosed. There are more than 30 Hair Cuttery locations, 20 Bubbles locations, 14 Salon Plazas and three Salon Cielos in Greater Washington.” [Washington Business Journal]

Musical Performances at DCA — “Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) will host its annual Black History Month celebration of achievements and contributions to American history by African Americans with musical performances for passengers traveling through both airports each Thursday during the month of February.” [Press Release]

Dorsey Absent from WMATA Board Meeting — Arlington County Board and WMATA Board member Christian Dorsey was absent from the latter body’s meeting yesterday, raising an eyebrow. A WMATA spokesman tells ARLnow that Dorsey was not at the meeting because we was “going to Richmond to provide testimony.”

Monday: MLK Day of Service in Arlington — “Celebrate the National MLK Day of Service by joining EcoAction Arlington to clean up trash and debris from Four Mile Run and surrounding streets. Everyone is welcome; we will provide supplies and snacks.” [ARLnow Events]

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(Updated at 5:25 p.m.) The Arlington County Fire Department is urging Metro to keep its Metrobuses from blocking fire hydrants in Pentagon City.

The call came after retired reporter, former volunteer firefighter, and fire service consultant Dave Statter tweeted videos and pictures for weeks of Metrobuses blocking two hydrants on S. Hayes Street outside the Pentagon City Metro station.

Blocking fire hydrants carries a $50 penalty in Virginia because getting around vehicles can delay firefighters in an emergency, as well as make it harder to ferry water to the fire.

“The best way to get water to a fire is a straight line from the hose,” Statter told ARLnow. “When it being blocked the pumper can’t get a good angle to the hydrant, or get can’t get to the hydrant.”

In response to Statter’s dogged chronicling of blocked hydrants, ACFD replied on Friday that “we are working with WMATA to address this issue of unattended buses in front of hydrants. Our Fire Marshals will be stepping up patrol and enforcement.”

ACFD spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli told ARLnow today (Tuesday) that one of the hydrants was scheduled to be removed but was delayed due to construction. In the meantime, he said the fire department gave Metro permission for Metrobuses to load and unload passengers at the stop — provided the buses don’t stop in front of the hydrant for too long.

“At some point that message got lost in translations,” Tirelli noted.

Pictures Statter snapped at the hydrant last week showed two Metro supervisor SUVs parked in front of the bus.

“The worst part of today’s blocked hydrant was when the bus finally pulled away after at least 20 minutes,” he wrote. “The electronic sign showed the mission it was on — ‘Driver Training.'”

“At no time should buses block fire hydrants,” Metro spokesman Ian Jannetta told ARLnow.

“This policy is being reiterated to every Metrobus operator, and field supervisors are increasing their focus on Pentagon City to ensure proper procedures are being followed in bus layover areas,” said Jannetta in an email Tuesday afternoon. “Metro’s bus operators are trained and expected to comply with all traffic laws. We appreciate this matter being brought to our attention to ensure everyone’s safety.”

Statter also tweeted out a video of an out of service bus parked at the hydrant for 10 minutes back in August, writing that, “WMATA workers need breaks. They need to pee. They need to eat. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of safety.”

At the time, a spokeswoman for the transit agency told the Washington Post that its drivers should not be parking in front of hydrants.

“At bus terminals, operators are expected to use the proper layover bay and at no time should buses block fire hydrants,” spokeswoman Sherri Ly said. “If someone does see this we would ask that they report it.”

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Within the next decade, a new transit group wants to make the bus the go-to transit option in the D.C. area

Earlier this year, the Washington Area Bus Transformation Project — which is backed by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority — released a draft strategic plan with a variety of short and long-term goals and strategies for improving the D.C. region’s bus network.

“The national capital region is adding 40,000-60,000 jobs and households each year,” the group said in its strategic plan. “But its transportation system is struggling to keep pace, leading to some of the longest commutes and worst traffic congestion in the nation.”

Potential ways to improve D.C. area buses and thus help alleviate traffic issues were broken into six categories, ranging in complexity and potential cost.

  • Ease of use: make simpler, consistent maps, naming conventions, and pricing. Another recommendation would be free transfers between Metrorail service and local bus lines.
  • Prioritizing buses on roads: potentially with bus-only lanes and traffic signal priority, though regional coordination will be needed.
  • Frequent, reliable, convenient service: overhaul existing routes to create a more efficient system and provide flexible, on-demand transit services for areas not well served by conventional buses.
  • Balance regional and local bus systems: develop a 10-year plan to allocate services between bus systems and applicable routes. The plan also includes a recommendation to “revise the cost local jurisdictions pay WMATA for local service to better match the actual cost to provide service.”
  • Streamline back-office functions: most of the recommendations in this category are behind-the-scenes improvements, like consolidating support functions and developing regional standards for bus data collection and analysis.
  • Centralizing regional bus networks: form a regional coalition of jurisdictional representatives with authority to implement strategy recommendations.

The bus system has a long way to go if it wants to turn its image around. Since 2012, bus ridership has fallen 13 percent across the region. The project will also require cooperation from the region’s nine bus service providers.

Much of the project also depends on local jurisdictions to implement strategies like restricting parking to facilitate better bus transit. This is why representatives from Arlington Transit and several Arlington County departments are in the group’s technical team and strategy advisory panel.

Meanwhile, most of the technical team and all of the leadership team are WMATA employees.

So far there are no cost estimates for the plan’s recommendations. Allison Davis, a member of the project team, said the price tag will come later in the process.

The project started in September. The group is currently in the middle of a public outreach campaign to sell the public on the idea and gather feedback. At an open house yesterday at George Mason University’s Arlington campus, the room was covered with boards for collecting thoughts on the project and the direction it should take. A survey is also available online.

The plan goes to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and the WMATA board this summer for review, with a roadmap planned for development in the fall.

“We’re trying to look at this from a customer perspective,” Davis said. “This [plan] is a tool we have to make better [transit] choices.”

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