Newsletter

DASH is making some changes to the bus network in Old Town, including one change that has residents concerned.

At a meeting of the Transportation Commission yesterday, DASH Director of Planning & Marketing Martin Barna outlined plans to adjust DASH service in coordination with the opening of the Potomac Yard Metro station. Among those changes is one Barna said has proven contentious to residents along the affected route.

Route 34, which currently runs from the Lee Center to Braddock Road Metro station, will be changed to connect up to the Potomac Yard Metro station instead. As part of that change, DASH is planning to realign the route from N. Fairfax Street to N. Pitt Street.

“This is far and away the most contentious part of our proposal,” said Barna. “We’ve received 30-35 comments from residents along Pitt Street who don’t want to see DASH service along that street for parking and noise concerns.”

Barna said residents along the street have expressed concerns at more congestion caused by the new bus route, while DASH is hoping the shift will provide a more useful route through Old Town North.

“N. Fairfax street is well served by the 30 and 31, which are more frequent,” Barna said. “Nearly all ridership along that stretch are those [lines].”

Without this change, Barna said there will continue to be a four-block gap in DASH coverage between Washington Street and Fairfax Street. With new apartment complexes and grocery stores coming to that area, Barna said DASH saw the change as a good opportunity to potentially provide more service.

One of the other changes for Potomac Yard DASH routes is that the 33 and the 36, which currently go to Potomac Yard, will continue serving the shopping center but will go to the Metro station first.

“We’re trying to make sure the people trying to catch trains can go directly there,” Barna said.

Barna also provided the Transportation Commission with an update on the fare-free and electric bus programs. With DASH ridership going up, Commissioners asked Barna how much money was being taken off the table by the fare-free program.

“Last year council increased budget by $1.5 million to offset lost revenues,” Barna said. “Before the pandemic we were making $3.5-4 million in revenue but we’re not back to that point. It’s hard to say whether riding because fares are free or because they’d normally be riding.”

Barna said that $3.5 million could pay for around three electric buses, which are more expensive than diesel ones, but that DASH doesn’t currently have the infrastructure to support the additional buses anyway. DASH is currently “aggressively pursing grants” to boost the bus system’s electric infrastructure, Barna said, as well as working through the development process for a facilities expansion.

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A six-car Metrorail train hit a contractor work unit and derailed in the Alexandria Rail Yard in 2020 because an interlocking train operator was watching a movie trailer on an electronic device.

There were no injuries, but the February 10, 2020, incident is included in a scathing audit of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority by the Washington Metropolitan Safety Commission, which found “a culture that accepts noncompliance with written operational rules, instructions, and manuals.”

The audit identified several “safety gaps” related to staff training and certification requirements. It was compiled by WMSC staff and led by Chief Executive Officer David Mayer, and 14 recommendations were issued after finding that the transit system is “not meeting its own written requirements, does not have adequate procedures, processes or requirements, or does not have adequate training, coordination and supervision.”

The Alexandria Rail Yard incident occurred a month before the WMATA would be rocked by the pandemic and largely suspend its services. The operator was retrained on proper communication procedures 10 days after the incident, and a 2020 report detailing the incident outlines existing issues WMSC found with the transit system in the recent audit — namely a lack of proper training, radio protocols and oversight.

“In addition to this example at Alexandria Rail Yard, RTRA (the Office of Rail Transportation) managers interviewed for this audit were not familiar with the existence of hazard logs that Metrorail submitted to the WMSC as part of this audit, and several managers were not sure what hazards are supposed to be reported to them,” the audit determined.

Lack of oversight and training

The audit also found that WMATA is “not effectively training and certifying personnel authorized to operate trains on all active railcar fleets,” and that staff operate with outdated copies of Metrorail’s Safety Rules and Procedures Handbook.

The audit revealed “confusion related to the proper signals and rail alignment” at the King Street-Old Town Metro station in February 2021. A train operator incorrectly followed a route set for the Huntington station, and an investigation determined that the engineer for the territory had “inadequate training.”

“Metrorail does not effectively identify, track, communicate and address operational hazards as required by its Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan,” the audit found.

The audit recommends that Metro must develop better training procedures for personnel, and replace safety equipment with expired calibration dates, including electrical safety gloves.

“Metrorail must develop, require, and implement effective territory familiarization and physical characteristics training and take steps such as territory-specific certification to ensure adequate knowledge of physical characteristics prior to assigning operations personnel (such as train operators, rail supervisors, terminal supervisors, and interlocking operators) work on a line, in a terminal or in a yard,” the audit said.

The transit system is now required to develop a corrective action plan for the outlying issues no later than 30 days after release of the audit.

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A DASH bus pulls into Landmark Mall (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Landmark Mall Transit Center will be closed for about a week starting tomorrow (Tuesday) for construction as the facility serving DASH and Metrobus is relocated ahead of the mall’s demolition this spring.

DASH sent out a notice that the transit center would close Tuesday, March 29, for about one week, meaning DASH Line 30, 32 and 35 buses will not stop at Landmark Mall. It wasn’t yet known whether the transit center will reopen at the relocated spot in front of the former Macy’s, or if that relocation would happen at a later date.

Landmark Mall will be demolished ahead of Inova’s construction of a new hospital campus. Inova recently filed concept plans with the city, showing the campus will include a new Level 2 trauma hospital, a cancer center and a specialty care center.

The temporary transfer chart for DASH and Metrobus customers as the Landmark Mall Transit Center ic closed for construction (via DASH)
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Morning Notes

A view from Shipyard Park along South Union Street (staff photo by Brandi Bottalico)

Mayor Asks Metro for Support During Closure — “Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson urged Metro in a Thursday letter to commit to city rail and bus service amid an announcement of extended closures, particularly on the transit agency’s Yellow Line.” [WTOP]

West Glebe Road Bridge Lane Closed — “Engineers have identified a structural issue with a bridge connecting Arlington County and Alexandria, prompting a lane closure.” [Patch]

Art Installation Opens at Waterfront Park — “The ‘I Love You’ art installation opened Friday morning at Waterfront Park, 1A Prince Street.” [Patch]

It’s Monday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 36 and low of 28. Sunrise at 7:00 am and sunset at 7:29 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Thinking about going into business in the Alexandria area?

It can sometimes be easier to buy an existing business, and the latest listings on BizBuySell show all kinds of companies in and around the city.

The website aggregates numerous business sale listings, and the names and locations are generally left out.

Reasons for selling, when provided, typically do not mention economic hardship, but more often involve the owner retiring or not having time to actively run the business.

Here are some that are currently listed:

  1. Low rent bakery for sale — “Specialty bakery for sale in the heart of Alexandria. This bakery is located on a very busy road surrounded by residential and retail businesses. The current owner is looking to retire and we are looking for a new owner/operator ready to expand this current business by adding a new menu with more options than the current menu. Seating inside and outside. Bring your concept to this turn key location.”
  2. Dog boutique in Old Town — “Incredible dog boutique store in charming and wealthy Old Town Alexandria. The business has been growing since inception in 2010.The high visibility location draws in hundreds of customers each week.”
  3. Truck parts distributor — “Turn Key Truck Parts Distributor! This business has been profitable for 60+ years. Loaded with Goodwill!”
  4. Alexandria-Falls Church nail salon — “Established, nice nail salon/spa with good income available for sale in the Falls Church, Alexandria area. Good rent. Potential for growth if adding more nail techs. Nail services comprise 80% of the business, the rest is hair services. Highly visible from main road. Good reviews. Nice and well decorated. Owner can stay and work on a part time basis. Staff will stay if new owner want.”
  5. Plumbing company in Alexandria part of Fairfax County — “Recent Price Adjustment a must see business. PROFITABLE, GROWING, Fully Staffed with great growth potential.”
  6. Former hair salon in Fairlington — “Formerly a hair salon by the name of Primary Colors, a hair salon that was in business for twenty years. Now the space is open, and is still built out to be a hair salon, but the space can also be altered to become a different business.”
  7. Hair salon for sale — “Great opportunity to own a small business for hairstylists who dream of owning their very own salon or a low capital investment for seasonal beauty salon owners who want to expand their business networks. The important fact to know is not about the price to buy this salon, it’s the financial ability and assets to prove to the Landlord in order to get the Landlord approval on the Leasehold of this great and unique business location.”
  8. Profitable restaurant for sale — “Great location, great visibility, long lease term, plenty of parking spaces, in a busy shopping center with many other businesses that crowded with customers on the daily basic, this restaurant is built up from the cold cell condition with new kitchen equipment, freezer, cooler, HVAC….., that’s clean and presenting a long useful life for new owner to do business in years to come without any major upgrading. This restaurant can be converting to other cuisine given there is no other restaurant of that cuisine is currently operated within the shopping center.”
  9. Highly profitable well-established restaurant for sale — “Located in the big shopping mall with a lot of traffic. Business serving dine in and high volume of carry out and perfect for any type of cuisine. Ample parking all around and lease is inexpensive. Owner is seeking a retirement.”
  10. Busy high-end Mediterranean restaurant — Sales at this location are listed at  more than $75,000 monthly, and the seller claims that the owner income is $250,000. The restaurant seats 104, has 12 trained employees and is surrounded by commercial and residential properties.
  11. Dog waste removal company — “Currently have 500 active customers and growing quickly! Fully staffed and great reviews. Owner is looking to relocate and invest in a new venture.”
  12. Full-service restaurant with outdoor seating — “Prime location full service restaurant in the heart of Alexandria. Located on a heavy traffic road surrounded by residential, retail and offices. This restaurant has 3 floors which is great to host private events, lounge area as well as the sit down restaurant portion. The menu/concept can be kept the same or converted to your own. Large kitchen area with top of the line equipment. This is a must see location for any restauranteur looking to expand or take over an established turn key location. The current owner is ABSENTEE but ready to retire and we are looking for a new hands on owner/operator to bring this location to its full potential.”
  13. Profitable fast casual restaurant — “Profitable Thai restaurant in a very busy shopping center on a high traffic road in Alexandria VA. This restaurant has been in business for almost 10 years and has a great following with excellent google reviews by serving the most authentic Thai food with the highest quality ingredients in the area. All furniture, fixtures and equipment are in excellent condition and are included in the sale of this restaurant. Can be converted to fit most concepts & menus.”
  14. Mexican restaurant in Alexandria part of Fairfax County — “Fast casual dine in & carry out Mexican restaurant in a high traffic shopping center. This restaurant needs an updated menu with a hands on owner to manage daily business and take this location to the next level. The current Mexican menu can be changed to fit most concepts. Great layout for almost any type of fast food restaurant. All furniture, fixtures and equipment are in great working order.”
  15. Optometry practice — “Turnkey Optometry and Optical Business. Lease is assignable. Business is established and profitable. Optometry is considered “essential” business. Sellers will stay for transfer training. Beautiful store fully stocked with inventory, equipment, lab, exam room. 5 star location. Database, business name, website, inventory, and seller training all included. Priced below market.”
  16. Pizza restaurant — “Pizza restaurant established in 2014 for sale in Alexandria. This restaurant is located on a heavy foot traffic road surrounded by residential, retail and businesses. Great location with very low rent. Perfect starter restaurant for anyone looking to get into the restaurant business as well as a great location for restauranteurs looking to expand. This restaurant serves hand crafted pizzas, sandwiches and pasta’s as well as beer and wine. All furniture and fixtures are in excellent condition. High end kitchen equipment.”
  17. Japanese restaurant — “The restaurant is located in a busy area, and has been in the operation more than 8 years. More than 5000sf, high-class construction and decoration. The menu includes sushi, hibachi, and ramen. First generation owner since the business was founded, tons of the local customers and Japanese food fans from other places, the business can make $180k sales per month, lease can be extended definitely.”
  18. Barbecue chain with food trucks — “An American-style (Kansas City ) BBQ Restaurant with food trucks. They also have a nice catering component to the business. Decorated in a rustic decor, these units are located in great locations in easily accessible areas close to Washington DC.”
  19. Remodeling business — “After serving the community for 7 years, the current owner is ready to retire from this successful construction business. Ranked as a Top 100 Remodeling Company in the United States by Remodeling Magazine, the company provides exterior remodeling, windows, roofing, siding, gutters, doors, and attic solution services to their residential clients, tailored to fit their needs.”
  20. Auto sales and repair shop two blocks from Metro — “Auto use is grandfathered making this literally a once in a lifetime deal!”
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Construction work at Potomac Yard Metro station, photo via City of Alexandria

The WMATA monkey’s paw curls once more, and the planned opening of the Potomac Yard Metro station will coincide with a pair of shutdowns along the Yellow Line.

The first — and long-expected — shutdown will last from Sept. 10 to Oct. 22 as WMATA ties the new Potomac Yard Metro station in with the rest of the system. The shutdown will close all rail service south of Washington National Airport.

“Potomac Yard Station construction will require a six-week shutdown of rail service south of Washington National Airport station to build new tracks that ‘tie-in’ the new station with the existing Metrorail system,” a release from WMATA said. “Engineering, testing, and commissioning needed to integrate the track, power, communications and signal systems into the system will also be conducted during this time. This will be followed by additional testing and training to determine when service can begin.”

But even once the work on the Potomac Yard Metro station ends, it could be months longer before Alexandrians can take the Yellow Line into D.C. Rehab work on the Yellow Line Bridge across the Potomac River and work on the Pentagon and L’Enfant stations will shut down the crossing into D.C. for seven to eight months, WMATA said. The work is expected to be completed in spring 2023.

“In order to maintain a healthy system, Metro needs an aggressive capital program,” said Metro General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld in a release. “We will continue working with our regional partners to advance construction and rehabilitation projects that ensure a state of good repair for critical regional infrastructure. While service outages can be disruptive, we know they are foundational for maintaining safe and reliable service.”

The closure was discussed at the Alexandria City Council meeting last night (Tuesday), where local leaders acknowledged the closure will impact Alexandrians and outlined some mitigation efforts planned.

“Metro did make a significant announcement today regarding significant impacts to the service in our community beginning in September,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “Part of that is to accommodate the Potomac Yard metro, which obviously we’re very excited about and we knew some of that impact was coming, but part of that is a much more significant impact to the Yellow Line than we knew a year ago.”

Wilson said further conversations with WMATA and the city will likely start up in the spring. City Council member Canek Aguirre said discussions will also likely continue in the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission/WMATA sucomittee. Aguirre said there was some collaborative efforts that helped in the 2019 shutdown that could be revisited.

“We will have a conversation on this dais with WMATA and our staff probably in the May timeframe once they’ve had an opportunity to do some planning around accommodations,” Wilson said. “We will approach this just how we did last time: work with our partners, work with everyone, to ensure this is a success for our community, doesn’t negatively impact our residents and businesses any more than it has to be.”

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Construction on the Potomac Yard Metro station is 70% complete, and Mayor Justin Wilson said he’s knocking on wood in hope that it will open this fall.

On Tuesday, City Council received an update on the massive project.

“Is it done yet?” Wilson joked to city staff. “How about now? Now?”

City staff reported that most of the station buildings will be finished in late July. The station is now planned to open for service this fall, and the entire project is planned to wrap up in summer 2023.

Many of you all were with us in December 2019 when we broke ground,” Daphne Kott, the city’s project director told Council. “At that time, we hoped that in a month from now we would be cutting a ribbon. Unfortunately, due to current events that we’ve all learned about and many things going on in the construction industry, that date is not going to be met but we are working very closely with WMATA to push this project forward as expeditiously as possible.”

The project broke ground in Dec. 2019, with the plan to open in spring 2022. However, last summer Metro engineers found that the Automatic Train Control systems were not safe and needed to be redesigned.

“The need to redesign the ATC system is the result of project management decisions for which Metro is accountable,” the City said. “Metro is working with the contractor to reduce delays in the project schedule and ensure system safety. Construction of the station will continue largely on schedule, but there are some track-related construction elements that are dependent on the completion of the ATC design.”

Via City of Alexandria

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Construction work at Potomac Yard Metro station, photo via City of Alexandria

(Updated 1/12/22) Slowly — maybe too slowly — the Potomac Yard Metro station is coming together. An update at a meeting last Tuesday showcased the latest in the station’s construction and offered a look at what’s ahead in the spring.

One of the biggest updates is that the rail in the middle of the station is nearly complete.

“Our track subcontractor aligning and placing rail to correct location,” said project manager Jeff Wood. “Once that work is completed, we will come back through and start pouring the concrete plinths underneath it. At that point, the rail will be done in the middle of the station. Our electrical subcontractor will have work to do on tightening signals, but the track itself will be complete.”

Wood said the next steps are pouring concrete plinths underneath the rails and having an electrician tighten signals, but once that’s done the track itself will be complete.

Now, the construction workers are putting together the escalator, roof, and pedestrian bridges.

A schedule shared at the meeting indicates that the AC Switchgear building and the foundation work for the southwest entrance are scheduled to be finished this month and in January. Other infrastructure work is scheduled to continue through the spring.

“Each month, you’ll see more and more external work occur,” Wood said, “and the station will become more like what people envisioned on day one.”

The next meeting of the group is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 24.

The Potomac Yard Metro station — originally scheduled to open in April — is now scheduled to open next fall.

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Morning Notes

Prince Street in Old Town (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

Metro to keep reduced service through Dec. 31 — “Metro will continue offering reduced rail service through the end of the year, WMATA announced Monday.” [NBC4]

Bun Papa opens third location in Bradlee Shopping Center — “The newest Bun Papa location operates out of the future BeeLiner Diner which will open in Bradlee Shopping Center early next year.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Nominations sought for Alexandria Living Legends — “Once selected, each new Living Legend of Alexandria will be celebrated with a museum-quality photographic portrait, an interview with a professional print journalist and will have a segment in a lasting video produced by an award-winning film company.” [Zebra]

Virginia police stop teen suspect from jumping off bridge — “Virginia State Police stopped a teenager who was linked to several burglaries from jumping off the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, a report says.” [Patch]

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Morning Notes

Hank’s Oyster Bar moving to Old Town North — “Award-winning Chef Jamie Leeds spoke up on a social media post this morning to confirm that yes, Hank’s Oyster Bar is moving to the Old Town North neighborhood, into the space formerly occupied by Hank & Mitzi’s, an Italian restaurant named after her parents, that she closed in June 2020.” [Zebra]

Safeway donates to ALIVE! — “This morning, [the] Safeway Foundation presented ALIVE! with a $9,159.38 grant to ensure children in the City of Alexandria, VA have access to a healthy breakfast this fall 2021. [ALIVE!/Twitter]

Rail Magazine gives positive review to Yellow/Blue Line Metro experience — “Heading down to ALX via National Airport on the YL/BL… IMO, DCA is the most accessible U.S. airport by transit in terms of convenience to the metro area & distance from gate to train. [Rail Magazine/Twitter]

Kismet to host grand opening this week — “Honored to stop by and cut the ribbon to formally open Kismet Modern Indian in Old Town!” [Justin Wilson/Twitter]

Alexandria Shop Small Week starts Nov. 26 —  “In support of Alexandria’s large community of independent boutiques, Visit Alexandria on Thursday announced the city’s biggest shopping week of the year, the second annual Alexandria Shop Small Week, Nov. 26 to Dec. 2.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

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