The Potomac Yard Metro station opening has been pushed back from spring to September next year .

After months of insisting that production was on schedule, WMATA announced today that the Potomac Yard Metro station’s opening will be pushed back five months.

“Metro engineers determined that the original design of the Automatic Train Control (ATC) systems, which was based upon specifications written by WMATA, did not meet all of the important safety requirements to ensure the safe operation of trains,” WMATA said in a statement. “The ATC system prevents trains from getting too close to one another and ensures trains always maintain a safe distance. The need to redesign the ATC system is the result of project management decisions for which WMATA is accountable.”

WMATA said it is working with the contractor to reduce delays in the project schedule, and that construction at the station will continue on the earlier timeline, but that track-related construction work will be delayed by the ATC design issue.

“The station, originally expected to open in April 2022, is now anticipated to open in or around Fall 2022 in order to complete the design and implementation of this safety critical system,” WMATA said. “Metro will work with its contractor to seek ways to prioritize completion of the ATC elements of this project.”

Mayor Justin Wilson called the delay resulting from an error in contract language “inexcusable”.

“Due to a contract language decision related to Automatic Train Control specifications, Metro and its contractor have indicated to the City that a delay in the station opening until the Fall will likely occur,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in a press release. “While we appreciate Metro’s acceptance of accountability and recent diligence in addressing this issue, the contract language mistake is inexcusable.”

Wilson continued, “With the large investment of $370 million being made by the City and other governmental and private partners to fund the station construction, internal systems should have caught the error. The City intends to have its own expert construction consultant review the schedule to determine if there is a way to safely open this station earlier than September of 2022.”

The revised timeline does account, in part, for why an earlier announcement of reduced travel lanes on Potomac Avenue until September 2022.

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Taylor Run (photo via City of Alexandria)

One of the biggest points of contention in the stream restoration debate was that models, and not actual testing of the streams in question, were being considered in policy discussions. Next week, the city is moving to rectify that.

The city announced in a press release that a consultant will be performing soil collection, sampling, and analysis tests at Taylor Run, Strawberry Run and Lucky Run — three streams being considered for restoration work.

“The field work for all three steams is anticipated to take place the week of July 25, 2021,” the city said in the release. “Additionally, a consultant will be inspecting the previous stream project completed on the downstream portion of Strawberry Run during the Taft Avenue development to document issues that have occurred.”

The city’s plans to reshape the three streams were derailed in April when criticism from civic groups and some environmental experts compelled the City Council to take the plans back to the drawing board and do more testing to get a better idea of pollutant levels in the streams. The outcry centered primarily on Taylor Run, where some like Natural Resources Manager Rod Simmons said preliminary testing of the stream indicated that the phosphate levels in the water were likely significantly lower than models based on out-of-state data.

“The work that will be performed is consistent with direction received from City Council at the April 27, 2021 legislative meeting for staff to perform soil sampling and analysis and collaborate with the Environmental Policy Commission (EPC) on alternatives to natural channel design,” the city said. ”Council instructed staff to pause the planned stream restoration projects at Taylor Run and Strawberry Run for further evaluation, but proceed with Lucky Run while the soil sampling and analysis occurs. This process includes collection and analysis of soil samples to determine soil nutrient concentrations (total nitrogen and total phosphorus) and the bulk density and development of a report describing the effort and potentially recalculating the nutrient reductions using these data.”

The tests are slated to be completed between October and December. Once the information is finalized as a report, the city said that will be available on the city website.

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It’s taken Don Hayes 40 years to get to the top of the mountain, and the acting chief of the Alexandria Police Department wants to keep it that way.

It’s been a less than a month since Hayes took over after the sudden departure of Chief Michael Brown, who gave three weeks notice and pulled up stakes for the West Coast to handle family matters. Now with a national search underway for Brown’s replacement, Hayes has let City Manager Mark Jinks know that he wants the job.

“They’re gonna do a process, and I’m going to put my hat in the ring and we’ll see what happens there,” Hayes told ALXnow in a recent interview at police headquarters.

Hayes’ rise in the department has been steady, becoming a sergeant in 1996, a lieutenant in 1999, a captain in 2013 and then being named assistant chief under Brown in 2019.

Since taking the reins, Hayes has used early evenings making the rounds to communities in a trust-building effort. His department has been plagued by compensation issues, low morale, rising crime throughout the city resulting from pandemic and other challenges that have stretched both the APD budget and the nerves of officers.

“I go around to communities because they know me,” Hayes said. “And I know them. But what is happening, because of the national narrative, is that I believe that there’s a lack of trust in some communities, with the police department.”

He also recently named Captain Dennis Andreas as his acting assistant chief.

“I believe that what you’re going to see is leadership by example,” Hayes said. “I believe that when the officers see that their leaders are out there in the neighborhoods, getting to know them, they’re going to follow suit.”

Hayes is married with two adult children, and has lived in the city for 30 years. A native of Washington, D.C., Hayes followed his older brother Clarence into the U.S. Air Force, where he became a military police officer. After being discharged and returning home four years later, he kept on a uniform by joining the Alexandria Police Department in March of 1981. He has a degree in business and finance from Norfolk State University, a Master’s degree in management and leadership from Johns Hopkins University and a Master’s in divinity from Liberty University.

Hayes has been the pastor at Oakland Baptist Church for the last 15 years. He’s taken a break sermonizing every Sunday since taking the acting chief role, but says he’ll return to the pulpit this fall.

“I believe in leadership by inclusiveness,” he said. “I don’t make decisions in a silo. I bring the leadership team together, we discuss our options and we make the best informed decision that we can.”

Hayes also says his staff are working with Alexandria City Public Schools on drafting a new memorandum of understanding since City Council defunded the school resource officer program. He said he hopes the new MOU will be ready before school starts on April 24.

“Students are going to be students, and we will have things in place to ensure that schools are safe,” he said.

Hayes, who is the second Black man to lead the department after Chief Earl Cook, said he was fortunate to be able to work with Al Beverly, the first-ever Black Alexandria police officer. Beverly, who joined the department in 1965, passed away last year.

“I remember (Beverly) telling me the story about how, at one point time, he didn’t know what side he was on because he wasn’t accepted by the police department,” Hayes said. “And he wasn’t accepted by his community, because he thought that they had pretty much turned on him. But he stuck it out because he wanted to blaze the trail for people like myself, that one day I would be able to join his police department and make an impact.”

Hayes continues, “When I think about the conversations that I used to have with him and talk to him and now to be able to sit in the seat… to actually make decisions to try to make this police department the best that it can be, it’s really sobering. It’s a challenge.”

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Two years after historic floods wiped out swaths of the Holmes Run Trail, Alexandria is hosting a community meeting next week to provide an update on long-term repair efforts.

Parts of the trail in Dora Kelley Park have been inaccessible since flooding in 2018, but much of the rest of the trail has been in a state of disrepair since floods in 2019 undermined the structural integrity of two of the bridges and three stretches of trail.

A community meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 28, at 6:30 p.m. at the Patrick Henry Recreation Center (4653 Taney Avenue). The city said meeting will include a restoration schedule and planned restoration activities, as well as an opportunity for the public to ask questions.

:As part of the design phase of the restoration project the City will study how the flood impacted Holmes Run and determine how the trail, bridges, and slopes should be modified/stabilized to minimize potential damage from future flood events,” the city said in a press release.

Three sites along the trail, including the two bridges, are listed on the city website as Tier 1 repairs — repairs that are most essential and should be prioritized.

“Tier 1 repairs are the most complex and costly to complete due to the structural damage caused by recent floods,” the website notes. “Unfortunately, these are not quick fixes, and substantial civil and structural engineering is required to ensure these repairs are sustainable and not subject to damage by future flood events.”

These repairs are funded with the design phase scheduled to start in September 2021.

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Alexandria’s public swimming pools are open, but residents will need to arrive early if they want a chance to cool off.

City pools close at 3:45 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday — as opposed to 7 p.m. in previous years — and on a recent hot weekend residents were kept out and asked to sign waitlists due to capacity issues.

“It has not been uncommon in normal operating years and with staff levels, that on the hottest days in the summer, occasionally the pools would reach capacity and patrons could not enter,” said Andrea Blackford, a senior communications specialist with the city.

Warwick Pool (3301 Landover Street) is open for lap swimming and open swimming every Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7:45 p.m., but closes at 4:45 p.m. on Friday and 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Old Town Pool (1609 Cameron Street) is open Monday to Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7:45 p.m., closes at 5:45 p.m. on Friday and at 3:45 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

“City pool hours for summer 2021 are challenging for several reasons,” Blackford said. “First, the number of individuals that may be within the pool area are determined by the pool’s occupancy load and the number of staff needed to safely monitor aquatic activities.

Blackford continued, “Second, due to the closure of Chinquapin for planned maintenance this summer and the relocation of learn-to-swim programming, camps and other community programs, and the region-wide shortage of available lifeguards, the City has had to adjust normal open swim operating hours. Third, because of the lifeguard shortage, the centers cannot be extended for longer hours in the day. The City is actively recruiting lifeguards, and schedules will be adjusted if possible.”

Via Brian Matangelo/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

National search begins for new City Manager — “City Council has chosen the firm POLIHIRE to conduct a nationwide recruiting search. Members approved initial recruiting materials, including a recruitment brochure and timeline, during a closed executive session during the July 6 meeting.” [Patch]

Free food distribution this Saturday — “On Sat, July 17, @ALIVE4AlexVA will distribute food at 3 sites from 8:30-10:30am. Drive-up: Cora Kelly Elem School & NOVA-Alexandria (lot B-1). Walk-up: Ramsay Rec Center.” [Twitter]

Alexandrians biking in 211-mile charity ride — “Three residents from Alexandria will be among more than 6,000 riders participating in the 211-mile Pan-Mass Challenge on Aug. 7 and 8.” [Patch]

Today’s weather — “Sunshine and clouds mixed (during the day). High 93F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph… A few clouds from time to time (in the evening). Low 74F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Office manager — “Looking for someone proficient in word, office,Excel, and QuickBooks, to manage multifaceted Catering Company. Timely response to e-mails, seamless communications with 2 kitchens, as well as front of the house. Flexible hours, with potential for health benefits.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria’s police, fire and sheriff’s offices are asking the City Council for a raise.

The city imposed a pay and hiring freeze during the pandemic, and after more than a year of operating under a City Emergency, all city and state employees got a 1% bonus and merit increases were restored with the passage of the fiscal year 2022 budget.

It wasn’t enough.

The Alexandria Police Department and Fire Department are among the lowest paid in the region, with full-time starting salaries at $$49,294 for firefighters and $51,000 for police officers.

The presidents of the Alexandria Sheriff’s Association, the local 5 chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters and the International Union of Police Associations want a 1.5% merit pay increase, instead of the 1% that all city employees received in the approved FY22 budget. They said that the city saved $6 million with the hiring freeze, and that hundreds of jobs were left vacant.

“The workload was instead picked up by other dedicated City employees so as to maintain seamless service to Alexandria’s residents and visitors,” the trio wrote in the July 8 letter to Council. “This added work caused burn-out and lowered morale as employees took on additional responsibilities.”

Mayor Justin Wilson has asked City Manager Mark Jinks to provide an update on the city’s regional comparisons to determine necessary adjustments to “remain competitive.”

Salaries are a collective bargaining issue, and earlier this year Council unanimously adopted a collective bargaining ordinance. In other words, the unions are expected to reach a collective bargaining agreement before making asks of Council.

“In a future collective bargaining environment, we will have multi-year collective bargaining agreements that dictate what raises (as well as many other things) will look like,” Wilson said. “But we’re not there yet.”

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Turbulent week in Alexandria, with tropical storms battering the city and locals struggling with a dangerous heat wave.

It was a big week for city politics, with the City Council meeting in-person for the first time in over a year. At the meeting, the Council approved some development plans for Landmark Mall and cut funding away for school resource officers.

In the world of local development, the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation unveiled new plans for their Chirilagua-Arlandria affordable housing development and on the flip-side a new development on Eisenhower Avenue will have none.

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  4. Alexandria high-jumper Tynita Butts-Townsend qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team
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  6. Long-awaited Landmark Mall redevelopment clears City Council approval
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Senior citizen, via Tiago Muraro/Unsplash

The city is looking to get a count-of and celebrate it’s 100+ year-old residents.

The City of Alexandria announced in a press release that, in partnership with the Successful Aging Committee, the city is celebrating National Centenarian Day on Sept. 28 with a look at the experiences and achievements of Alexandrians who have lived long enough to be designated for historic preservation by the Board of Architectural Review.

“At the September 28 City Council meeting, a slideshow presentation will recognize residents who will be 100 years old or older by December 31,” the city said. “Alexandria centenarians who choose to participate in the presentation will receive a certificate honoring their lifetime experiences and achievements and a recognition coin. To participate or submit a nomination, complete an application and social history form by July 30.”

There are an estimated 100,322 centenarians nationwide, according to the city.

Via Tiago Muraro/Unsplash

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Alexandria will spend millions on emergency financial support programs, stormwater repair, childcare and dozens of other projects as part of its first portion of American Rescue Plan Act funding.

“Now the really hard work begins,” Mayor Justin Wilson said after Council’s unanimous passage of a plan Tuesday night. “I think this is an opportunity to make some transformational investments.”

The City received its first $29.8 million on May 17, and has to spend the total $59.6 million in funding by Dec. 31, 2024. Alexandria is getting substantial funding by being counted as both a city and county — along with 41 other cities across the country — and will get its second allotment in May 2022.

Federal funds will not directly go to individual businesses, but some are allocated toward the funding of business districts for trial street closures, ABC-licensed special events and public access parklets.

“Our thought was that direct assistance for businesses was best provided, and continues to be provided, through the federal government at scale,” Alexandria Economic Development Partnership CEO Stephanie Landrum told Council. “We are much better equipped as a community, and certainly as an economic development group to reach a wider swath of businesses than we ever have been. And so part of our challenge and responsibility is to make sure all of those businesses know about other programs not being provided by the city.”

The 30 projects include:

  • $4 million for an Alexandria Community Access and Emergency Support program to determine which city services are eligible for residents, including emergency financial aid, rent assistance and child care
  • $3.7 million in stormwater repairs at the Hoofs Run Culvert
  • $3 million for a Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot, which will give $500 in gift cards to 150 poor families for 24 months
  • $2.8 million for a Unified Early Childhood Workforce Stabilization Initiative to “support hundreds of childcare providers and early childhood educators, provide a safe and healthy learning environment for thousands of children, and help parents, especially women, get back to work.”
  • $2.5 million for food security to ensure two years of continual free food distributions at hubs throughout the city
  • $2 million for Alexandria Housing Development Corporation flex space to expand city services for the Arlandria neighborhood
  • $1.9 million in flash flooding spot improvements throughout the city
  • $1.1 million to scale up a workforce development pilot
  • $800,000 to make permanent the closure of the 100 block of King Street
  • $620,000 to fund the Out of School Time Program to help with learning loss associated with the pandemic
  • $560,000 to the Alexandria Economic Development Authority fund commercial business districts for trial street closures, ABC-licensed special events and public access parklets
  • $500,000 for Visit Alexandria marketing efforts
  • $295,000 to fund two new Office of Historic Alexandria tourism experiences on the city’s history with civil rights and and the Duke Street Corridor
  • $253,000 to increase services for LGBTQ and BIPOC communities
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