Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

APS Working to Keep School Construction on Track — “Top Arlington school-system staff are recommending doing whatever it takes – including shuffling money away from other projects – to ensure construction of a new elementary school in Westover does not fall behind schedule.” [InsideNova]

Yard Waste Collection Suspended Again — After a one-week reprieve, Arlington has again suspended its residential yard waste collection service. There’s no word on when it will resume, though the county has opened two yard waste drop-off centers. [Arlington County]

Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony to Be Livestreamed — On Wednesday at 8 a.m. “the Arlington County Police Department and the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office will host a virtual Observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day to honor and pay tribute to the memory of Arlington’s seven fallen law enforcement officers.” [Arlington County]

New Superintendent’s Introductory Remarks — “Among other things, Dr. Durán pledges to close ‘access, opportunity and achievement gaps;’ to ‘commit collectively to sustain and improve the level of academic excellence for students in APs
through an equity and inclusion lens;’ and to help students and families ‘through these troubling times times.'” [Blue Virginia]

Paper’s Prediction: Dems Win Special Election — “The field is set at three: Democrat Takis Karantonis, Republican Bob Cambridge and independent Susan Cunningham. The arrival of Cambridge is probably music to the ears of Democrats, as he will help split the anti-Democratic vote with the better-known and probably more viable Cunningham, allowing Karantonis to win and avoiding a repeat of a 2014 special election when John Vihstadt went mano-a-mano against Democrats and wrestled them into submission.” [Sun Gazette]

Amazon Running Arlington-Herndon Shuttle — “It’s too early to tell if Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) will launch a Seattle-style shuttle service for its HQ2 employees, but the company has connected its Herndon and Arlington offices via shuttle.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Participating in Virtual Tech Conference — “For the last several years, Northern Virginia has taken dozens of promising tech start-ups to the Collision conference, granting them access to programming, investors, mentors and networking opportunities. This year, the Collision organizers have moved everything online, so instead of traveling to the conference in Toronto this year, eighteen lucky start-ups from Northern Virginia will get an all-access pass to the Collision from Home tech conference.” [Press Release]

Nearby: Alleged W&OD Trail Creeper Arrested — “City of Falls Church Police arrested Lamar Dontae McCarthy, 23 years old of Stafford, VA, and charged him with assault. On Saturday, May 9, police reported to Grove Ave. and the W&OD Trail for a report of a suspect who had pursued a woman on the trail. The woman stated she saw a man in a red hooded sweatshirt suddenly stop his vehicle and sprint after her.” [City of Falls Church]

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Morning Notes

Small Biz Grant Application Now Open — “The Arlington Small Business Emergency GRANT (Giving Resiliency Assets Near Term) Program, designed to provide immediate financial assistance to Arlington’s small businesses and nonprofits impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, is now open for applications.” [Arlington County]

Why Your Pizza Is Not Going Ham — The national meat shortage has led Domino’s Pizza to cut down on the availability of some toppings, including in Arlington. “Due to the current uncertainty in the market for meats, we are limiting the amount of ham we are delivering to our stores,” the company told one local resident. [@craigcolgan/Twitter]

Kids Don Costumes in Support of Masks — “Kids roaming my neighborhood dressed as a hotdog and a bun, with a placard: ‘DON’T BE A WEENIE, WEAR A MASK.’ Lots of people in the D.C. area I’ve observed this week going in and out of stores, playing basketball and mingling on the National Mall are not masking up.” [@meekwire/Twitter]

Police Investigate Robbery in Rosslyn — “Two suspects entered a business and began selecting merchandise. An employee of the business recognized one of the suspects and confronted him as he attempted to exit the business in possession of merchandise that had not been paid for. The suspect shoved the victim, causing her to fall, and both suspects fled in a vehicle driven by a third subject prior to police arrival.” [Arlington County]

Teachers Endorse Diaz-Torres — “The Arlington Education Association Political Action Committee (AEA-PAC) recently announced its endorsement of Cristina Diaz-Torres, a teacher and education policy specialist, in the Arlington Public School Board Democratic Caucus.” [Press Release]

Police Looking for W&OD Trail Creeper — “City of Falls Church Police received a report about a man following a woman in a suspicious manner on Monday, May 4, at about 3:10 p.m. He followed the woman on the W&OD trail then continued to follow her into a neighborhood. The woman was not harmed.” [City of Falls Church]

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A portion of the W&OD Trail is being put back onto a temporary pavement trail and off sidestreets as VDOT continues work on a new trail bridge.

The new detour will take trail users, who previously had to travel on nearby streets, on a 200-foot temporary pavement path adjacent to the new bridge under construction.

The bridge will separate trail users from traffic at the intersection of Lee Highway and Fairfax Drive in the East Falls Church aera, with the aim of enhancing safety for both trail users and motorists.

“This section of the W&OD Trail serves approximately 1,500 trail users on weekdays and over 2,000 on weekends,” VDOT said on its website. “On weekdays, the W&OD Trail is a significant commuter route, carrying a steady flow of cyclists in both directions, tying together much of the region’s trail network. On weekends, the trail is a prime recreational resource for thousands of cyclists, runners, walkers, and more.”

A press release noted that the new configuration will mostly remain in place until the project is completed, though the previous detour onto side streets could come up again during some phases of construction.

Meanwhile, work continues on the bridge with an expected opening this fall. New abutments and bridge beams have been installed, VDOT said, with crews currently working on installing steel onto the deck. Concrete pours are expected to finish by late April.

“W&OD Trail bridge construction is part of the Transform 66 Inside the Beltway Eastbound Widening Project, which is adding a travel lane along four miles of eastbound I-66 and installing approximately 12,000 linear feet of new and replacement noise barriers,” VDOT said. “The project also includes constructing a new direct access ramp from eastbound I-66 to the West Falls Church Metro Station at the Route 7 Interchange, which is scheduled to begin in spring 2020.”

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A $2.6 million project to renovate Benjamin Banneker Park will close the park and a portion of the W&OD Trail starting the week after Thanksgiving.

The project, which was given the green light in September, will widen the trails from 8 to 12 feet and upgrade the athletic field, playground, picnic area, dog park and more.

The park closure and trail detour were originally advertised as starting this week, but everything is still open, for now.

“We are giving people a two week notice to make adjustments,” said Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. “The trail and park will close December 3. We’ve provided detour recommendations on sandwich boards around the park as well as online. We are putting up a banner at the dog park directing people to the web to find an alternative dog park.”

Not everyone is happy about the trail detour, which will redirect pedestrian and bike traffic from the park — near the East Falls Church Metro station — to the busy intersection of N. Sycamore Street and 19th Street N., which has traffic lights and pedestrian crossing signals.

“Many of us are caught off guard with the total closure of the trail between the creek and the soccer field for the duration of the project,” said Kelly Alexis, a local resident, in an email to county staff that she also sent to ARLnow and other concerned residents.

“Arlington County has provided only one re-route option — funneling all pedestrian and bicycle traffic to the most congested possible intersection; passing across the entry and exit to the EFC Metro Kiss-and-ride lot,” Alexis continued. “This was not part of the plan that was presented to us at the open meetings and has a major impact on bicycle and pedestrian traffic.”

In response to a request to complete trail construction first, before the other park changes, a county staffer said that was not a viable option for a number of reasons. Among them: the need to fence off the trail from the rest of the under-construction park — thus creating “a safety concern for users who would then have very limited egress through a long confined corridor in the park if they were endangered or injured.”

Kalish said she is not aware of any plans to make changes to the detour.

Construction is currently expected to wrap up between July and September of 2020, according to the county website.

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The Arlington County Board has signed off for NOVA Parks to apply for a $5.6 million grant that would widen a portion of the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.

If approved, the project will widen two miles of the W&OD Trail between N. Roosevelt Street and N. Carlin Springs Road by eight feet. In addition, the trail will incorporate a “dual path” to divide walkers and cyclists.

“When I talk to trail users I hear the same complaint, which I will attribute to Yogi Berra, ‘No one goes there anymore because it’s too crowded,'” said chairman of NOVA Parks Michael Nardolilli during Tuesday’s recessed County Board meeting.

Officials are expected to know if the grant, submitted to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), has been approved by June 2020. If it is, the County Board will review the project plans before giving an official vote on whether to begin construction.

Nearly a dozen people spoke in opposition the project during Tuesday’s meeting. Many stressed that the project it could destroy a large number of trees and damage storm water management, while others expressed disappointment in what they describe as NOVA Park’s lack of public outreach.

Among the groups opposed to the widening is Arlington Tree Action Group, which called it — perhaps a bit hyperbolically — “the most environmentally destructive project that has ever occurred in Arlington’s public spaces.”

The Arlington County Board has moved consideration of a resolution that will allow NOVA Parks (formerly known as the…

Posted by Arlington Tree Action Group on Sunday, November 17, 2019

“My commission learned of this a week ago with no information about what was being planned,” said Phil Klingelhofer, chair of the Arlington Urban Forestry Commission, a county commission that is also concerned about the project. “[This] is in fact putting a multi-lane highway for bikes through the middle of the park.”

Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said widening the trail would be great for the area’s bike community — citing recommendations from the county’s Master Transportation Plan — but also stressed the need for public engagement and environmental analysis.

“This whole conversation tonight has been one big, giant paradox,” said County Board member Eric Gutshall. “I can’t wrap my head around folks who are concerned about preserving nature and trees, allies to those interested in cycling and using alternative modes of transportation to be a part of larger, sustainable society — somehow, you’re against bicycling and trails.”

The County Board unanimously signed off on the application, with two recommendations for County Manager Mark Schwartz:

(1) Determine the data and analyses that NOVA Parks must submit to substantiate the safety and levels of service concerns along the subject street of the W&OD trail, and (2) initiate a process with NOVA Parks to determine the appropriate level of public engagement for the project along with the information that must be developed and presented…[including] plans to address environmental stewardship including impact on vegetation, flood risk management, erosion, and natural habitats.

“Our support for the seeking of funding, so those plans can be drafted, does not mean endorsement of the final design,” said County Board member Libby Garvey.

Nearby in Falls Church, NOVA Parks has begun a $3.7 million project to widen 1.2 miles of the W&OD Trail in Falls Church, funded mostly through a similar NVTA grant.

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Morning Notes

One Year Since HQ2 Announcement — “I cannot believe it’s been one year since I had the privilege of announcing our Arlington, VA HQ2! It’s been amazing to work with all of the government officials and the community on this project. It’s just Day One and I look forward to many more successful years together!” [Twitter]

Crystal City Office Market Tightening Up — “There’s still an awful lot of empty office space in Crystal City, but a year after Amazon.com Inc. picked National Landing for its second home, conditions have already started to become less favorable for non-Amazon tenants in the Arlington County submarket.” [Washington Business Journal]

Lots of Amazon Employees Elsewhere in the Region — “Amazon’s biggest base locally is miles from HQ2. Some 2,500 corporate employees, not connected to the second headquarters, work in its D.C. and other offices. In Herndon, where the company already has a significant and growing footprint, there are nearly 800 job openings. For much of this year, many of Amazon’s Arlington job openings were allotted for Ballston, where the company leases some 52,000 square feet.” [Washington Business Journal]

Video of the Big Water Main Break — “Dramatic early footage from Friday’s break. Fast-acting crews were able to restore pressure to the water system within a few hours through a bypass. Repairs starting tonight” — N. Glebe Road is closed near Chain Bridge during the morning rush hour — “will allow renewed use of the main and then long-term resurfacing of Glebe Road.” [Twitter]

Rosslyn Renovation Mean Changes for Local Barber — “When it’s done, Rosslyn City Center will boast a new food hall, reimagined workspaces and experiential activated environments. And Rosslyn Metro Barber Shop will move to a highly visible, first-floor location where would-be customers are sure to take notice.” [Rosslyn BID]

W&OD Trail Upgrades Proposed in Arlington — “Arlington County Board members on Saturday will be asked to add their voices in support of a request from the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NOVA Parks) for $5.65 million in regional funding to improve and expand the Washington & Old Dominion Trail over a two-mile stretch in the western part of the county. NOVA Parks aims to replace the existing 12-foot-wide, shared-use trail with a 12-foot-wide bicycle trail and an 8-foot wide pedestrian trail.” [InsideNova]

New Scanner for County Jail — “A new security measure that will help prevent the smuggling of prohibited items into the Arlington County Detention Center by people who are arrested is now in use, Sheriff Beth Arthur announced.” The announcement follows the death of a homicide suspect in the jail. [Arlington County]

Photo courtesy Yung Chen

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Morning Notes

New Trail Bridge Work Progressing — “Bridge girder installation is occurring this week during daytime hours for the new Washington & Old Dominion Trail Bridge over Route 29 (Lee Highway) in Arlington. This work is taking place west of Lee Highway, and will not impact roadway or trail users. Work will continue the week of Oct. 28, and will require nighttime hours and an additional trail detour.” [Press Release]

Chick-fil-A to Blame for Blocked Bike Lane? — Delivery drivers picking up orders from Chick-fil-A in Crystal City may be at least partially to blame for frequent bike lane blockages along Crystal Drive. [Twitter]

Netherlands Carillon to Get ‘Grand’ Upgrade — “The National Park Service (NPS) and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands today celebrated the start of a project to restore the Netherlands Carillon and add three bells to elevate its status to ‘grand carillon.'” [Press Release]

E-CARE Sets New Record — This past Saturday’s E-CARE recycling event recorded record turnout, as Arlington residents showed up en masse to drop of tons of old bikes, scrap metal and household hazardous materials. [Twitter]

Yorktown Golfer Wins State Championship — “He was the last player to tee off in the round, then at the end of the 18-hole competition, Benjamin Newfield was standing No. 1 on the leaderboard. The Yorktown High School freshman carded a 4-under-par 35-33-68 on Oct. 14 to win the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 individual state golf championship by one stroke.” [InsideNova]

Ceremony for New Elementary School — “This past weekend, the APS and [Fleet Elementary] communities celebrated the opening of the new school with ribbon cutting and fall festival.” [Twitter]

Woodbridge Development Claims HQ2 Proximity — “The radius of Northern Virginia buyers citing Amazon HQ2 in their plans continues to expand, with a developer in Woodbridge now citing the tech giant as a catalyst for a large-scale shopping center redevelopment.” [Bisnow]

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Next week, county officials will present details and ask for feedback on a long-awaited project to restore a pond along the W&OD Trail.

On Tuesday, October 1, Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services will present a draft plan for digging the Swallow Pond in Glencarlyn Park deeper, and restoring some of the wild habitat in and around the pond.

People interested in learning more about the designs can attend the meeting at the Long Branch Nature Center (625 S. Carlin Springs Road) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Officials are also welcoming feedback from community members.

“The project goal is to restore the pond to the original depth by removing sediment, add a sediment collection forebay to allow easier maintenance and sediment removal, maximize water quality benefits, and restore habitat,” the county wrote on the project webpage.

Officials hope that clearing sediment means clearer water will flow from the pond to Four Mile Run — making this project one of several the county is hoping can cut down on pollution and clouding downstream in the Chesapeake Bay.

Sparrow Pond was man made in 2001 and has been slowly filling up with sediment ever since.

Sparrow Pond in 2018 after years of sediment build up, filling in the manmade waterway (Image via Arlington County)

Sediment was first cleared out of the pond 2007, per a county presentation. The pond was due for another clean-up in 2012, but the work was delayed. Several studies later, the pond is now slated for a full restoration project.

During a March community meeting, residents expressed concerns that construction could introduce invasive plants like Japanese knotweed via machinery that’s worked in places already seeded with the fast-growing shrub. Residents also requested crews do the work outside of the sparrow breeding cycle (roughly March to August) to protect the pond’s namesake avian inhabitants.

Image 1 via Flickr Pool/Dennis Dimick, others via Arlington County

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“Virginia is for lovers. No KKK.”

The owner of the shed on 19th Road N. had no intention of being at the center of a civil rights message, but the back of his property expresses a message of tolerance to anyone riding the Metro through the East Falls Church station or taking the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.

The sign says Virginia is for Lovers — a slogan for the state — with “KKK” surrounded by a big red “no” sign.

The sign has been noted a number of times on Twitter since 2018, with tweets mainly expressing support for the message. But the owner of the shed said he didn’t put the sign up and has no idea who did or when.

“The first I heard about it was when one of my neighbors said ‘have you seen the back of your shed?'” said the man, who was wearing a National Rife Association t-shirt when a reporter stopped by to ask about the message on Monday.

The back wall of the shed is accessible from the trail but difficult to reach from the ground.

“I’ll say this, whoever put it up was talented,” the man said. “It’s up in the air, so they needed a ladder to get up there. And the spacing between the letters… it’s nicely done.”

But while the man (who did not want to give his name) was not opposed to the message, he was a little concerned about courting controversy or retaliation — particularly with white nationalist activity cropping up throughout the area. He said he was worried someone could come along and burn the building down.

Those who want to see the artwork should come sooner rather than later though, as the owner said he plans to place vinyl siding around the shed a some point in the near future, thus covering up the message in the process.

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(Updated 3:25 p.m.) After years of planning, Arlington County is ready to put money into the planned renovation of Benjamin Banneker Park.

The 12.5 acres park at 1680 N. Sycamore Street features the head for the Four Mile Run Trail and a section of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, as well as a dog park.

Plans to renovate the park have been in the works for years, capped by the recent acquisition of “the last three properties along 18th Street North” needed for an expansion of the park, according to a county staff report. In 2017, the County Board approved a long-term vision which included replaced amenities and trail improvements.

The County Board is set to approve a $2.6 million contract — which includes $238,554 as a contingency for changes — at the Saturday (Sept. 21) meeting.

The project is funded in part by $2.5 million set aside in the 2015 fiscal year for the park and an additional $750,000 for work on the trails from the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Trail Modernization Program, according to the staff report. The park is expected to have a $117,659 increase in operating costs as a result of the improvements.

Planned work for the park at the western edge of Arlington include a widening of the trails and replacement of:

  • The parking lot
  • Picnic area
  • Rectangular athletic field
  • Playground
  • Walkways
  • Signage
  • Furnishings
  • Stormwater management
  • The dog park

The staff report for the park improvements noted that most of the feedback was positive, but concerns were expressed about the permeability of the trails and the impact widening the trails from eight feet to 12 feet might have on the surrounding environment.

The report notes, however, that county staff is promising “extra attention to minimize impacts on the stream and Resource Protection Area through site appropriate and sensitive erosion and sediment control methods.”

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(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) A portion of the Custis Trail in Arlington will be soon detoured for the next year as crews continue to work on the widening of Interstate 66.

Starting Monday, September 16, trail riders and walkers will not be able to follow the Custis under I-66 where the trail now passes near Bon Air Park until fall 2020, per the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Instead, the department will detour people over the highway via an existing pedestrian bridge about 750 feet from the underpass.

“Extensive work will occur on the I-66 bridge that runs above the trail, which requires the underpass to be closed for safety,” VDOT officials wrote in a statement yesterday (Wednesday.) “As part of the construction, the Custis Trail alignment will be modified to improve safety for trail users.”

The pedestrian bridge travelers will be re-routed to is paved and connects the Custis Trail to Fairfax Drive near Kensington Street.

The trail closure itself was previously expected to start this past May.

“Construction schedules can be fluid with design built projects, but overall we are still on track and schedule,” VDOT spokeswoman Michelle Holland told ARLnow today (Thursday.)

The $85.7 million highway widening project also closed a section of the W&OD Trail between Little Falls Street and Lee Highway. That trail section will remain closed until next fall as crews build a new bridge over Lee Highway.

Holland said while construction crews work on widening the I-66 overpass near Bon Air Park, crews will also add a rotary to the south side of the Custis passage underneath. The new roundabout is designed to eliminate the sharp right turn into the tunnel that currently causes conflicts between those entering versus exiting the passageway. She added that current plans call for no trees to be cut down in the park.

As part of the I-66 project, officials have pledged to make several improvements to county’s trails, including new park benches, bike shelters, fencing, and trail signage.

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