Newsletter
A construction crew installs a check valve on East Mason Street in November (via City of Alexandria)

City staff laid out what’s ahead for some of the city’s stormwater infrastructure projects in a presentation prepared for the City Council’s meeting tonight (Tuesday).

Three large projects to increase sewer capacity are planned in Del Ray, according to the Flood Action Alexandria presentation. Two of the projects — a $34 million undertaking at East Glebe Road and Commonwealth Avenue and a $16 million project at Ashby Street and East Glebe Road — were merged together for planning purposes. The two projects are next to each other in the Four Mile Run watershed.

“This project is expected to increase the capacity, or size, of the stormwater sewer pipes; create opportunities for stormwater to be stored and released slowly over time; and incorporate ‘green infrastructure’ practices, such as permeable pavement, that allow the stormwater to soak into the ground, reducing runoff,” the city website states.

The contract for work in the Four Mile Run watershed is estimated to be awarded sometime this spring, with the project targeted for completion in 2025.

Another, called the Hooff’s Run Culvert/Timber Branch Bypass, is at the southern end of Del Ray. The $60 million project will construct a new stormwater pipe system to transport stormwater away from the Hooff’s Run Culvert, helping manage flows from the Timber Branch watershed, the city website states. The city plans to put out a request for qualifications for that project this spring.

Between fiscal years 2023 and 2032, the city proposes to fund $156 million in large capacity projects, $55 million in maintenance, $44 million in spot improvements and $18 million in water quality projects, according to the presentation.

The presentation lists two spot improvement projects in the design phase and another two in construction phase. Spot improvements are small capital projects meant to address localized flooding and draining issues relating to the city’s storm sewer system.

Cul-de-sac inlets and drainage are being designed for the Mount Vernon Avenue cul-de-sac near Blue Park. At Oakland Terrace in Rosemont, the city is in the design phase to stabilize degrading and eroding banks and protect sanitary sewer line.

The city is also increasing inlet capacity at Hume Avenue in the Potomac Yard area, and not far away at Clifford Avenue, and Fulton and Manning streets. The latter work started at the end of February.

Vernon Miles contributed to this article. Photo via City of Alexandria.

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Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and Congressman Don Beyer (D-8th) took a quick break from work in Washington today (March 18) for a tour of Alexandria Renew Enterprises’ RiverRenew Tunnel Project.

The $454.4 million project will replace Old Town’s combined sewer system to prevent 120 million gallons of combined sewage from flowing into the Potomac River every year. The project is partially funded through a $321 million loan from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act and $50 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The Virginia General Assembly mandated that the project be completed by 2025. Alexandria, Lynchburg and Richmond all have CSO projects in development — the latter of which Kaine worked on when he was a member of the Richmond City Council in the 1990s.

“The project had started before I got onto the council, and it’s still going on,” Kaine said after the tour. “It’s such an expensive and massive thing to do… It’s really interesting to see how you solve your challenge here.”

After the tour, Kaine discussed infrastructure and job training at Northern Virginia Community College’s Woodbridge campus.

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After a few years of somewhat jubilant legislative sessions, the City Council is moving into preparation for a legislative package with a more grim outlook.

The legislative package is an annual list of asks and recommendations from the city to the state government. These sorts of legislative packages are particularly important in Virginia where, as a Dillon Rule state, the authority of the city is limited to only those areas explicitly granted by the state. With Republicans winning control of much of the state government in last week’s election, the all-Democrat City Council’s days of “playing with house money” could be coming to an end.

The biggest project involving state funding in Alexandria is the combined sewer overhaul, a $400 million project mandated by the state that comes with $45 in state funding. The top item on the 2022 legislative priorities list is maintaining funding for that project and offering more flexibility in how the city finances its infrastructure projects.

“The City supports a technical amendment to the budget to ensure funds already appropriated for the [combined sewer] project from the State’s American Rescue Plan Act funds are directed to AlexRenew/The Alexandria Sanitation Authority,” the legislative package draft said. “In addition, the City supports the General Assembly’s commitment to appropriating an additional $40 million in bonds in the next biennial budget to support Alexandria’s legislatively mandated combined sewer overflow project.”

Similarly, the legislative package also expresses support for:

  • Legislation to authorize a comprehensive, statewide workgroup and/or master planning process to consider issues related to inland flooding and recommend actionable short-term and long-term strategies and funding opportunities to prepare for and adapt to inland flooding, including policy changes, priority resiliency projects, funding and financing strategies, and a plan for coordination among state, federal, and local governments.
  • Budget language to direct [Department of Environmental Quality] to convene a work group to review and recommend modifications to current law regarding the limitations on local authority to regulate additions/modifications to single family detached residential structures where land disturbance is less than 2,500 square feet in order to review the land disturbing activity for potential stormwater impacts. (T&ES)

Following up on an area where Mayor Justin Wilson said the city shares some commonalities with Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, the city is also pushing for more transparency from Dominion Power.

“The City supports legislation to require electric utilities in Virginia, including Dominion Power, to report and publish, on an annual basis, industry-standard electric reliability metrics to the State
Corporation Commission for its system and for individual localities, including Alexandria,” the package said.

Other items included in the legislative package include:

  • Increased funding for childcare support programs, along with adequate support for legal representation in child welfare cases
  • Support for universal and affordable broadband access
  • Stricter high-rise building safety regulations — a topic that became particularly relevant after the condominium collapse in Florida
  • The ability to locally regulate gas-powered leaf blowers
  • Expanded authority to implement automated traffic enforcement solutions, like red-light cameras
  • Reinstated authority for local law enforcement to regulate noise from vehicle exhaust
  • Support for low-to-no fare public transit programs, such as the one Alexandria recently implemented
  • Continued support for and funding to the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention Fund

The legislative package also includes a series of requests, submitted by the Office of housing. for more protections against eviction at a state level, including:

  • Legislation requiring evictions be for cause;
  • Legislation allowing localities to establish a landlord registry;
  • Legislation limiting the percentage of annual rent increases for existing tenants;
  • Legislation requiring landlord notices and communications in languages other than English;
  • Legislation allowing a ten-day appeal period for all evictions even if the tenant is not present;
  • Legislation to allow tenants to file a tenant’s assertion to schedule a hearing on landlord violations of the lease without having to pay rent into court escrow;
  • Legislation eliminating the appeal bond or allowing indigent waivers for low income tenants;
  • Legislation establishing a tenant right to counsel.

The legislative package is scheduled for initial review at the upcoming Saturday, Nov. 13, City Council meeting.

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After recent infrastructure work, Alexandria City Public Schools confirmed that it’s satisfied with the conditions at Alexandria’s middle schools — for the time being.

In what one school official described as a pleasantly “boring” meeting between the City Council and School Board after recent City Council-School Board turmoil, school staff said some recently completed work at George Washington Middle School and Francis C. Hammond Middle School should be the last big investments in those schools for the foreseeable future.

From mold to faulty fire alarms, parents and students at GW Middle School have raised concerns about school infrastructure for years.

Mayor Justin Wilson confirmed at the meeting with school staff that the near-term plans for both middle schools are system replacements to keep the building in a state of good repair, but no widespread expensive infrastructure projects are currently planned for either school.

“We’re not staring down a $30-40 million investment in these buildings in the near term?” Wilson asked, which ACPS confirmed.

John Finnigan, director of educational facilities, said that ACPS recently replaced the roofs and have been working on water intrusion issues at both schools.

“We’ll see what [the assessments] show, but we’re not looking at huge investments,” Finnigan said, “especially on the two schools you mentioned.”

At GW Middle School, Finnigan said the roof replacement started in 2016 and ran for two-and-a-half years. ACPS also completed work on the building exterior, along with additional caulking and masonry. At Hammond, infrastructure work was completed last year and included lighting upgrades for the school.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., cautioned that the schools will still need to review the impending division-wide facility assessments, but that currently there are no plans for more multi-million dollar projects at either school.

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The city is starting work on a new municipal fiber optic network, but while the project should boost internet speeds at city facilities and schools, the big news for most local residents is higher internet speeds could be a few years and a few contract negotiations away.

Two coils of plastic tubing were wrapped up at the dig site this morning (Monday), where city officials stuck shovels into the ground. One will carry the new municipal network, but the other — added at minimal expense — will be empty for now but built to house a future network put into place by a private provider.

A fiber optic network has been a longtime goal of the city, and City Manager Mark Jinks said the construction of the network is estimated to run over four years.

“It’s a small city, but we’re wiring a hundred facilities,” Jinks said. “One of the cables will be empty, and it costs very little to add that once we’re digging in the ground.”

Jinks said the city is currently working on a process to get a private internet provider onboard.

“The city would issue an announcement for offering a franchise and would give rights of access to that provider,” Jinks said. “Our goal is to start that process before the end of the calendar year.”

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RiverRenew Tunnel Project Map, courtesy AlexRenew

Massive infrastructure project RiverRenew has laid out a rough timeline for the ambitious three-pronged work throughout Old Town later this year.

The project is part of compliance with a 2017 Virginia law that requires Alexandria to overhaul the city’s combined sewer system, which has been dumping 130 million gallons of raw sewage into the Potomac River every year. The city is required to complete the overhaul by July 1, 2025.

In an email to ALXnow, RiverRenew Outreach Program Manager Sheeva Noshirvan outlined the schedule of the project moving forward.

Work at the AlexRenew site started the earliest, in May this year, and will be the last part of the project to finish — in July 2025.

The first community work for the RiverRenew project will be in October, when work starts on Royal Street for Outfall 2.

The full schedule is:

  • Royal Street (Outfall 2) — starting October 2021, ending June 2024
  • Pendleton Street (Outfall 1) — starting November 2021, ending October 2024
  • Hooffs Run Interceptor (Outfalls 3 and 4) — starting December 2021, ending May 2023
  • AlexRenew — started May 2021, ending July 2025.

RiverRenew is planning to host a series of virtual community listening sessions, where project staff meet with locals to discuss issues surrounding construction. The next meeting will be held Thursday, July 15, at 6 p.m., to discuss construction of a facility on Pendleton Street near Oronoco Bay Park.  A meeting the next Thursday, July 22, will discuss a similar facility on Royal Street near Jones Point Park.

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Update at 4:50 p.m. — A spokesperson for the City of Alexandria said the city is not “proposing” bike lanes, but that bike lanes are one of several options being considered for North Beauregard Street.

T&ES feels the article is still misleading and not providing accurate information. We request you change the headline to reflect the actual input we are asking from the community.

To clarify, at T&ES we conduct feedback for several streets on the repaving list every year to adhere to the City’s Complete Streets Policy and Beauregard is no exception. Beauregard is scheduled for repaving this year and we are soliciting feedback on ways to make the stretch of road safe for all users, including people that drive, ride transit, walk, and bike. Bike lanes are not being considered or proposed here because the Beauregard Trail CIP project will provide a shared-use path adjacent to Beauregard with bicycle and pedestrian connections to other areas of the City. Further, staff has not developed any design nor proposed potential improvements for the street thus far. Safety improvements will be based on the feedback we’ll receive from the community and safety best practices.

Earlier: Buckle up, here we go again.

The City of Alexandria is looking for public feedback on a plan to repave North Beauregard Street and — potentially — add new bike lanes, along with curb ramps, upgrade crosswalks, and more.

The planned repaving would run along North Beauregard Street from Seminary Road to King Street near Northern Virginia Community College. The street is primarily two lanes in each direction for most of that .8 mile stretch.

Part of the Complete Streets policy adopted by Alexandria in 2011 requires improved accessibility of city streets that, along with other plans like Vision Zero, means added infrastructure for pedestrian and cyclists.

The rollout of that plan has been occasionally contentious, to say the least. A political faction of civic activists arose out of a Facebook page that started with opposition to bike lanes installed on Seminary Road as its rallying cry, though the bike lanes had their fair share of ardent defenders as well.

Proposed changes to the street, according to the city, include:

  • Add or upgrade curb ramps
  • Add or upgrade pedestrian crosswalks
  • Improve roadway signage
  • Add bicycle facilities, such as bike lanes or shared-lane markings
  • Additional pedestrian crossing treatments
  • Minor signal timing changes

Locals are encouraged to submit their feedback online by Friday, March 26th.

Image via Google Maps

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Long-running efforts to address the condition of Alexandria’s roads will continue this summer with a new set of local roadways set for repavings.

Roads were prioritized for repaving based on the Pavement Condition Inventory, according to a newsletter put out by Mayor Justin Wilson. The study done last year showed roads throughout the city score poorly, particularly the side streets through neighborhoods.

“We continue to play ‘catch up’ throughout the City from deferred road maintenance during the worst of the Great Recession,” Wilson said in the newsletter. “I’m hopeful we can continue (and hopefully increase) these investments in this very basic infrastructure.”

The work is contingent on funding proposed in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget, scheduled for adoption on April 29.

Wilson said the following 37 streets are all scheduled to be repaved this year and work could start as soon as July 1:

  • Callahan Drive from King Street to Duke Street
  • North Pitt Street from Oronoco Street to King Street
  • King Street from Callahan Street to Dangerfield Street
  • North and South Union Street from Pendleton Street to Franklin Street
  • North and South Fairfax Street from Jefferson Street to Third Street
  • South Walker Street from Duke Street to Stevenson Avenue
  • West Taylor Run Parkway from Janneys Lane to Duke Street
  • East Abingdon Drive from Second Street to Slaters Lane
  • Commonwealth Avenue from E/W Braddock Road to King Street
  • Duke Street from South Patrick Street to Strand Street
  • Hume Avenue from Commonwealth Avenue to Richmond Highway
  • North Floyd Street from Duke Street to North French Street
  • Fendall Avenue from Duke Street to South Floyd Street
  • Wellington Road from Beverley Drive to Chalfonte Drive
  • Fillmore Avenue from Seminary Road to End
  • Farm Road from Beverley Drive to Circle Terrace
  • North Gladden Street from Uline Avenue North Grayson Street
  • North Grayson Street from North Gladden Street to Uline Avenue
  • Tulsa Place from North Gordon to End
  • Uline Avenue from North Gordon Street to Taney Avenue
  • North and South West Street from Duke Street to Wythe Street
  • Skyhill Road from Janneys Lane to End
  • Daingerfield from King Street to Duke Street
  • North Morgan Street from North Chambliss Street to End
  • North and South Alfred Street from First Street to Church Street
  • Reading Avenue from North Beauregard Street to End
  • Rayburn Avenue from North Beauregard Street to Reading Avenue
  • South Iris Street from Venable Avenue to Vermont Avenue
  • Cameron Mills Road from Virginia Avenue to Allison Street
  • Marlboro Drive from West Braddock Road to End
  • Fort Ward Place from Ellicott Street
  • Ellicott Street from Marlboro Drive to End
  • Moncure Dr from S View Terr to Hilton St
  • Crown View Drive from Clover Way to Dartmouth Road
  • Jewell Court from North Chambliss Street to End
  • Anderson Court from Jewell Court to End
  • North and South Saint Asaph Street from First Street to End

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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As Alexandria’s Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) project RiverRenew starts making progress, it’s looking increasingly likely the project’s cost will approach the half-billion dollar mark.

During an update at the City Council meeting on Dec. 10 (Monday), Mayor Justin Wilson said the price will be towards the upper end of the $370 to $555 million price range.

“We’ve been able to refine the pricing… the numbers do not ever get smaller, they get bigger,” Wilson said. “The current estimate is around $464 million. Those numbers have gone up.”

The massive infrastructure project — the largest in the city’s history — was an unfunded mandate from the state legislature. The state will require Alexandria to completely overhaul its centuries-outdated sewer system by July 1, 2025, to prevent sewage from flowing into the Potomac River during rainstorms.

The good news, for Alexandria, is that since the initial mandate the state has started putting some funding into the project. The General Assembly adopted a budget earlier this year that included $25 million for the project. This year, Wilson said the city government is back requesting $75 million more.

“We will hear in a couple of weeks whether there’s money in the governor’s budget,” Wilson said.

Meanwhile, Wilson said three design-build teams have been shortlisted for the project, and will have to submit proposals for the project by Feb. 11. From there, Wilson said it will be a pretty quiet year in terms of news on the project as Alexandria Renew Enterprises chooses who is awarded the contract. The goal, Wilson said, is to have a design selected by December 2020.

“We still have a substantial amount of work to do,” Wilson said, “[but we’ve] made a lot of progress.”

Photo via Alexandria Renew Enterprises/Facebook

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The City of Alexandria is inviting companies to bid for the construction of a municipal fiber network, putting the city one step closer to breaking the current monopolies on television and telephone services in Alexandria.

The city is hoping to build a broadband network that can support voice, video and data transportation at public facilities. A side benefit of this plan is an increase in consumer choice in cable, voice and broadband services at a variety of costs and available speeds.

According to the city website:

The city has received consistent feedback from residential and business consumers regarding the lack of local competition in cable television and broadband Internet services. Although no provider has an exclusive franchise with the city, there is only one cable television franchisee (Comcast) and one landline telephone franchisee (Verizon) in Alexandria, and there are no broadband Internet franchisees.

The system design was completed in August. The design focused on addressing connectivity for city buildings, public schools, library and public safety communication needs, according to the city website.

For years, the city has sought out other potential providers, but the website notes that “companies are typically reluctant to make multimillion-dollar capital investments in new fiber networks.” Thus, the city is attempting to include the addition of fiber infrastructure wherever digging projects and utility work are already underway. Once the fiber network is built, the city would lease excess capacity.

“The city is planning to seek new franchisees who could lease excess capacity on the city’s new fiber-optic network and provide service to residents and businesses,” according to the city website. “This would allow all providers to compete fairly, and would incentivize providers to offer consumer services.”

Nearby Arlington County also built its own “dark fiber” network, at the cost of millions of dollars. But a plan to have businesses use the network, and thus provide an economic development boost to the county, have not panned out — as of earlier this year the network was almost totally unused.

A pre-bid conference for the Alexandria fiber project is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 19, in the purchasing conference room at 100 N. Pitt Street.

Photo via J.C. Burns/Flickr

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