Alexandria, VA

Updated at 3:20 p.m. — An adult woman suffered minor injuries after an altercation with another woman on the platform of the King Street-Old Town Metro station in Old Town on Friday.

Alexandria Police and the Metro Transit Police Department responded to the incident at around noon.

According to MTP, the victim was struck with a cane or a pole and was transported to the hospital.

The suspect was identified as 41-year-old Jessica Williamson, 41, of Round Rock, Texas. Police said she was carrying a round metal object when she was arrested, and was charged with assault and battery.

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Morning Notes

Beyer Enthusiastic After American Rescue Plan Passage — “THERE IT IS: the House just passed the American Rescue Plan, sending the bill to President Biden’s desk for signature! We did it!!!” [Twitter]

Metro Service Cuts Averted With Passage Of COVID Relief Bill — “While it will take more time to work out all the details, including Metro’s exact share of this funding, the $1.4 billion provided by the American Recovery Plan for our region’s transit agencies will allow us to avert the painful service reductions and layoffs that were on the table.” [Patch]

ACPS Transitions Special Education Middle-to-High Schoolers to In-Person Instruction — “Our hybrid schedule allows for students to return to the classroom two days a week.” [ACPS]

Del Ray Business Association Launches ‘Del Ray to Delray Beach’ Raffle — “One of the things we’re looking forward to most is traveling again.  This fun promotion is a way to say thank you to the community for their tremendous support of our small businesses, and to encourage customers to continue to shop local as we wrap up these tough winter months.” [Zebra]

Wooden Benches Replaced at City Marina — “The City Marina received a little facelift! All the old wooden benches have been replaced with new park standard benches. The new benches will improve visitor experience and aesthetics at the City Marina. We hope you get a chance to check them out!” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “A few passing clouds, otherwise generally sunny (during the day). High 76F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph… Partly cloudy skies in the evening, then becoming cloudy overnight. Low 57F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Experienced Sushi Chef — “Kaizen Tavern is expanding and we are looking for a Sushi Chef. We offer a great salary, benefits and the opportunity to grow a business together. The position is meant for a skilled, passionate sushi chef.” [Indeed]

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The infamously troubled King Street-Old Town Metro Access Improvement Project could finish in the next few months after a full year of delays.

The city said the first phase of the project is still reportedly on track for the spring 2021 timeline established last March, when the project was originally supposed to be completed.

The contractor for the project is Fort Myer Construction Corporation (FMCC), and officials haven’t been shy about calling the contractor out for dropping the ball on the project.

“That contractor doing that work has failed the city in a variety of ways,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in a recent town hall. “We’re pursuing all options to make sure that contractor adheres to their obligations under that contract and makes the taxpayers of the city whole for the delay and for the failures of that contract. It’s a bad contractor experience and going to do everything we can to ensure the tax payers of the city and get that project done.”

Lydia Durand, a management analyst with the Department of Project Implementation, acknowledged the project’s troubled history but said that staff are overseeing the contractor’s work.

“This project has been a challenge and the contractor continues to be behind schedule,” Durand said. “FMCC’s latest schedule indicates that they will achieve substantial completion this Spring. Staff continue to closely oversee the contractor’s work to ensure the City receives the project to the quality level required by the contract.”

The goal of the project is to add capacity and new safety measures to the often crowded bus loop, where a woman was fatally struck in 2010.

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Morning Notes

Del Ray Business Association Launches ‘I Love Del Ray’ Campaign — “Now through April, you’re going to see a lot of marketing and promotion out there about all of our wonderful small businesses — both in-home and brick-and-mortar — and how we can support them through these tough upcoming winter months.” [Zebra]

How Alexandria is Celebrating Black History Month — “Join the City in celebrating #BlackHistoryMonth with special virtual events and activities throughout February, honoring the history, culture, achievements and contributions of African Americans.” [Twitter]

City Announces CDC Order Requiring Masks on Public Transportation — “Public transportation employees must use best efforts to ensure that everyone waiting, embarking and disembarking is wearing a mask over their nose and mouth at all times, with limited exceptions. Efforts for compliance may include only boarding people wearing masks; instructing passengers of the federal law and requesting compliance; and disembarking any individual who refuses to comply. This order applies to all modes of public transportation within, to and from the United States, including airplanes, ships, ferries, subways, buses, and ride-shares.” [City of Alexandria]

City Warming Centers Open — “City warming centers are open daily 8am-5pm through February 5 to provide relief from the cold for community members who may not have access warm shelter during the day.” [Twitter]

City Says Playing Around Relieves Stress — “Play is good for you! Studies show that laughter can help adults relieve pain and even increase immunity. So do your body good and make room for joy!” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Snow showers (during the day). Temps nearly steady in the mid 30s. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of snow 50%. Snow accumulations less than one inch. Higher wind gusts possible… Cloudy (in the evening). Low 29F. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph. Higher wind gusts possible.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Team Member  — “Toastique is a rapidly growing company looking for passionate new talent to help create smoothies, gourmet toast & juice while giving the customers an incredible experience the minute they walk through the door.” [Indeed]

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It was a cold and news-filled week in Alexandria.

It all started with the report of two public safety incidents over the weekend — a serious car crash in Old Town and another shooting in the West End.

On the coronavirus front, Alexandria is now at 104 fatalities and 9,342 cases. Mayor Justin Wilson said that there is a vaccine shortage in the city, as the waitlist to get inoculated is at more than 25,000. The Alexandria Health Department reported to the Alexandria Times that about 2,000 doses are being distributed weekly.

Our top story this week was on the body that was found last Friday in the water at Holmes Run Trail by Cameron Run Regional Park. In an update, police told us that the death was not suspicious in nature.

Additionally, 630 people responded to our weekly poll. This week, we asked about the proposed Heritage development in Old Town. About 67% of respondents don’t think it’s appropriate for the neighborhood and 33% don’t have a problem with it.

In case you missed it, here are some important stories:

  1. New Flood Warning Signs Installed in Del Ray
  2. Initial and Continued Unemployment Claims Go Down in Alexandria
  3. Despite COVID-19 Contractor Impacts, Potomac Yard Metro Station on Track for Spring 2022 Opening
  4. City Council Accepts Plan to Double Stormwater Utility Fees
  5. Victory Center’s Condominium Redevelopment Headed to Planning Commission

Here are our top stories of the week:

  1. BREAKING: Body Found in the Water Near Cameron Station
  2. Photos: The Regal Potomac Yard Movie Theater is Being Torn Down
  3. Citizens Group Vilifies Heritage High Rise Project in Old Town
  4. Atlantis Pizzeria and Family Restaurant Closing on Jan. 24
  5. Alexandrians with Joe Biden Yard Signs Get Anonymous Letters Saying Biden is a Pedophile
  6. Police: Shots Fired in West End, Car Crash in Old Town Over Weekend
  7. Snow in Alexandria: Winter Weather Advisory in Effect Until 9 A.M. Tuesday
  8. BREAKING: Woman Gets Arm Amputated, Police Investigate if She Was Thrown From Car in West End
  9. Local Business in Hot Water with City Architects After Unauthorized Paint Job
  10. Alexandria Mayor Formally Requests Dominion Energy Step Their Game Up
  11. JUST IN: ACPS Announces No In-Person Schooling For Week of Feb. 1

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria is on schedule to see the Potomac Yard Metro station open in spring 2022, despite letters sent to the city from the contractor that work has been impacted by COVID-19.

“The contractor does continue to submit letters stating that there have been some impacts due to COVID-19,” Daphne Kott, the city’s Design Division Chief, reported to City Council on Tuesday night. “They have not made any formal requests for any time extensions, but again these are letters with potential delays and we’re just trying to be transparent that these are occurring.”

Contractors will be erecting the pedestrian bridge span over the WMATA tracks over the President’s Day weekend, during which time Metro access between the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport station and Braddock Road station will be shut down on the blue and yellow lines from Friday, Feb. 12 until Tuesday Feb. 16.

“It’s just been really great to see, even with the weather in the middle of pandemic, that we’ve still been able to move along and stay on schedule,” Councilman Canek Aguirre said. “Knock on wood, and we’re targeting spring 2022.”

Image via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Local Housing Alliance Says Rent Assistance is Underutilized — “It is estimated anywhere between 263,000 and 384,000 households are at risk of eviction in Virginia. NVAHA Executive Director Michelle Krocker said local governments have been so busy aiding that they have not been able to compute proper data, but she predicts thousands of tenants and landlords in Northern Virginia are missing out on funds meant for them.” [WUSA9]

Zebra Profiles Alexandria Gazette GoFundMe — “Ask any group of people in town about the historic Alexandria Gazette Packet, and voices will quickly rise up, volunteering things like “I used to deliver the Gazette”, “My dad delivered the Gazette on his bicycle in Rosemont”, “My birth was announced in the Gazette” or “I remember when they merged with the Port Packet back in the eighties.” [Zebra]

Metrobus Resumes Fares, but DASH Remains Free — “With other regional bus systems preparing to resume fare collection in early January, Alexandria’s DASH Bus will remain fare free.” [Patch]

Drive-In First Night Sells Out — “Usually a crowded street affair, First Night Alexandria was celebrated with two drive-in events instead because of the pandemic. And at a $60 admission charge, both the 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. events sold out.” [NBC4]

COVID-19 Cases Hit New High in Virginia — “Virginia and two of its five health regions hit new highs Saturday for average daily COVID-19 cases reported, the state wrapped up one of its worst weeks yet in terms of deaths from the virus, and test positivity rates are rising rapidly.” [Inside Nova]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Starting this coming Sunday, Jan. 3, riders on Metrobus will have to start paying for their fare once again.

During the pandemic, WMATA briefly ended charging fares for travel on Metrobus. But with the Metro facing a “doomsday scenario” in its budget, the city is planning to start reinstating fare collection and front-door boarding on Sunday.

“With everyone wearing masks, shields for operators on every bus, and enhanced daily cleanings, front-door boarding is safe, expands our capacity for more riders, and helps us resume some normalcy,” said Metro General Manager/CEO Paul Wiedefeld in a press release. “We also need to collect fares from every rider to keep essential Metro transit employees working and continue to provide essential service.”

The move comes as regional transit organizations start to recover some service, though the situation is unsteady with COVID-19 figures continuing to climb in Alexandria.

According to the WMATA website:

Metrobus will resume fare collection and front-door boarding beginning Sunday, January 3, as part of Metro’s pandemic recovery plan that aims to preserve service and transit jobs.

The current rear-door boarding policy was implemented in March under Metro’s comprehensive plan to protect frontline employees at a time when less was known about the coronavirus and its means of transmission. Because the farebox and SmarTrip equipment is located at the front of the bus, the Metro Board authorized the temporary suspension of fare collection…

Beginning January 3, customers should board at the front of the bus. The cost per trip is $2 payable in cash or with SmarTrip. Customers can save considerably by purchasing a 7-day bus pass for just $15, providing an unlimited number of bus trips on a Metrobus, RideOn, ART, DASH, Fairfax Connector, and The Bus.

For a faster, contactless way to pay, customers can add SmarTrip passes to their Apple Wallet and then pay using iPhone or Apple Watch. Simply hold the mobile device over the SmarTrip target, just as you would a SmarTrip card. To get started, download the SmarTrip app from the App Store. Payment support for Google Wallet on Android devices is coming soon.

The return of front-door boarding and fare collection is consistent with recovery efforts by major transit agencies across the country including Baltimore, New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver, Houston, Portland, Oakland and San Francisco.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Honestly, kind of a slow week in Alexandria — must have been the tryptophan in the Thanksgiving turkey.

As we head into the end of the year, the city and many local organizations are working to lay the groundwork for a better 2021. Even as the Campagna Center recoils from cancelling the Christmas Parade, the organization is working to ensure fundraising stays consistent for the local non-profit’s early childhood programs. The City, too, is planning for a looming budget setback when CARES Act funding expires.

On the bright side, unemployment figures continue to go down for Alexandria and adoptions from the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria are on the rise. The West End could also get also be getting that Capital Bikeshare expansion sooner than expected.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories of the week in Alexandria:

  1. Planning Commission Approves Potomac Yard Park Expansion
  2. New Report Recommends Making Voluntary Affordable Housing Contributions Mandatory in Alexandria
  3. Cars Stolen With Fake Checks in Alexandria, Suspects Selling Cars
  4. Alexandria Refines Accessory Dwelling Units Policy and Cuts Parking Requirement
  5. Women’s Clothing Store LOFT Closes in Old Town
  6. Officials Debunk Conservative Study on Registered Alexandria Voters
  7. Alexandria Announces Rolling Expansion of Bikeshare Program to the West End Next Year
  8. Man Shot in Old Town, Police Increase Patrol Coverage with Spike in Shots Fired Calls
  9. Beyer Blasts Metro Plan to Cut Service and Eliminate Alexandria Stations
  10. Del Ray Christmas Tree Lighting Scheduled This Week

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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With Alexandria poised to potentially lose two Metro stations due to funding cuts, Rep. Don Beyer issued a statement blasting the proposed cuts as “apocalyptic” and said Congress should rally to pass a new set of funding.

Proposed cuts include ending service after 9 p.m., ending weekend service, reducing the number of trains, and closing operations at 19 stations. Two of those stations, Eisenhower and Van Dorn Street, are located in Alexandria.

“The proposed WMATA budget cuts would be apocalyptic for Metro service and devastate its workforce,” Beyer said in a press release. “This catastrophe must not be allowed to happen, and Congress can prevent it by passing a new aid package. WMATA is not alone in its massive funding shortfall, which is a direct result of the pandemic. Cuts like this will hit across the country without robust aid for state and local governments and specific targeted funding for transit.”

Metro had already been facing a death spiral before the pandemic, but the bad situation was significantly exacerbated by the loss of ridership — around a 90% decrease — due to COVID-19.

“On the Joint Economic Committee we predicted massive, urgent need for state and local government funding at the beginning of April,” Beyer said. “The House passed a legislative package that addressed that problem and included $32 billion in transit funding in May, but Mitch McConnell has blocked additional aid.”

WMATA is currently facing an estimated $500 million shortfall.

Beyer was not alone. Other local leaders also shared frustration at the proposed cuts and said measures must be taken to prevent the worst-case-scenario cuts.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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