Alexandria, VA

The intersection near the George Washington National Masonic Memorial is a mess, and city staff are hoping to give the traffic-logged crossing an overhaul to make things run a little more smoothly.

There are three alternative plans presented for the access street that runs parallel to the west of Callahan Drive. Staff’s recommendation is to convert the lane into a one-way, southbound street that allows traffic headed down to Duke Street a left turn before the main intersection.

Staff said the proposal would remove some pedestrian/vehicle conflicts at the intersection and hopefully cut down on congestion.

Currently, the lane is a two-way street, which is one ongoing option. Another is to make the lane accessible to emergency vehicles only, which would be one less crossing for pedestrians, but would increase traffic at the main Callahan Drive and King Street intersection.

Part of the project will be optimization of the signal timing. The project will also hopefully improve the pedestrian and cyclist experience at the crossing, with upgraded crosswalks and pedestrian signals, a curb extension for shorter crossings, and bicycle facilities through the intersection. Currently, the bike lanes down King Street end abruptly near the bottom of the hill.

The proposed change is headed to city review at the Tuesday, Feb. 23 City Council meeting.

Map via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

City Wants Feedback on Paving Schedule — “The City will be paving: *Braddock Road (from King Street to Russell Road) *Montrose Avenue (from East Raymond Avenue to Richmond Highway) *Richenbacher Avenue (from North Van Dorn Street to North Pickett Street) …and we would like your feedback!” [Twitter]

Collective Bargaining Ordinance Proposed In Alexandria — “Collective bargaining had existed in 19 Virginia localities, including Alexandria, until a 1977 Virginia Supreme Court ruling stopped local governments from collective bargaining with their employees. On May 1, 2021, A Virginia law will take effect allowing counties, cities and towns to adopt ordinances to recognize labor unions or employee associations as a bargaining unit and enter into collective bargaining.” [Patch]

Friday is Bike to Work Day — “GoAlex is excited to host Winter Bike to Work Day in Alexandria for the first time! Stop by this Fri., Feb. 12 to get 50% off a hot beverage at Swing’s Coffee from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m ” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Cloudy skies early, followed by partial clearing. High 51F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph… Partly cloudy early with increasing clouds overnight. Low near 30F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Professional Newborn Nanny — “Seeking candidates who are outgoing, energetic, self-motivated and passionate, service heart and actively engaging with the children’s activities and learning. Candidates must have 5+ years newborn care experience. (NCS Certificate preferred)” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Beyer Calls for Accountability in Wake of Capitol Siege — “The idea that we would just move on and not hold those responsible for this accountable is immoral.” [Twitter]

Stonebridge Sells Piece Of Oakville Triangle Site To Townhouse Builder — “Stonebridge is under contract to sell a 3.5-acre piece of the site to Winchester Homes to build an 84-unit townhouse project, Stonebridge principal Doug Firstenberg tells Bisnow.” [Bisnow]

City Warns Against Icy Roads — “With potential winter weather in the morning, roads may quickly turn icy. If you’re commuting Thursday morning, plan for extra travel time and use caution.” [Twitter]

Emergency Utility Assistance is Available — “If you were unable to pay your Virginia American Water or Washington Gas bills between March 1 and October 31, 2020 as a result of COVID-19, you may be eligible for assistance. Deadlines to apply are Jan 29 for water bills and Jan 31 for gas.” [Twitter]

Italian War Bride Turns 100 in Alexandria — “For Ada’s 100th, a few close friends and family, including daughter Daria, granddaughter Nathalie, and friend Betty, socially-distanced at The Hermitage. The party ensued with a sheet cake, flowers, gifts, a myriad of birthday cards from friends unable to attend, and video-chatting with her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson.” [Zebra]

City Seeks Feedback on Old Cameron Run Trail — “Ending Sun. Jan. 31: the feedback period to provide input on the proposed design for the Old Cameron Run Trail: alexandriava.gov/116739 The 0.53-mile shared-use path btwn Hooffs Run Dr. in Eisenhower East & S. Payne St. in the Southwest Quadrant. The City wants to hear from you!” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Windy. Cloudy skies will become sunny in the afternoon. High 36F. Winds NNW at 20 to 30 mph. Higher wind gusts possible… Mainly clear early (in the evening), then a few clouds later on. Low 23F. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph.”[Weather.com]

New Job: Private Piano Teacher — “Old Town Music School, an old fashioned preparatory Music School in Old Town Alexandria for over 20 years, is expanding and hiring a community of professional musicians/teachers who offer a nurturing, positive and personal approach to piano lessons. Students are beginning through advanced intermediate levels. Seeking out-going, motivated and fun teachers to join our faculty.” [Indeed]

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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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Crime, hazardous weather, debates over city transportation policy: it’s another week down in Alexandria.

With courts being back in session, news coverage of trials and convictions is back in full swing with the sentencing of a local teen who murdered a young couple that gave him a ride to southern Virginia and a pastor’s wife who had money laundering added to earlier fraud convictions.

It’s also been a busy week for transit policy in Alexandria, with new projects moving forward on the east end of Eisenhower Avenue all the way to prioritizing a transit hub in the West End.

What stories impacted you this week? Let us know in the comments.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. Eisenhower’s ‘Too Expensive to Cancel’ Project Moves Forward This Month
  2. Francesca’s Permanently Closed in Old Town
  3. Alexandria Pastor’s Wife Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering Scheme
  4. Landmark Transit Hub Tops List of Alexandria’s Transportation Priorities
  5. City Council and Developers Clash Over Last Minute Changes to Affordable Housing Requirement
  6. New Oakville Triangle Plan Sails Through City Council Approval
  7. Southern Towers Residents Protest Eviction Amid Pandemic
  8. Man Robbed at Gunpoint on Duke Street Tuesday Night
  9. Man Hospitalized After Fall at Eisenhower Rock Climbing Gym Sportrock
  10. Winter Weather Advisory Issued Ahead of Expected Snowfall Tomorrow
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As the city prepares to head into 2021, staff and Transportation Commissioners have been putting together a New Year’s resolution of top transit priorities for the next two fiscal years.

In a report prepared for tomorrow’s Transportation Commission meeting, 20 planned transit projects were ranked by their priority to staff and commission members.

The top scoring item was the Landmark Transit Hub, a planned nexus of bus rapid transit, Dash and Metro bus traffic in the West End.

“[The goal is to] provide an urban transit hub within the neighborhood… to serve as a stop and transfer point for bus rapid transit, DASH, and Metro Bus service,” staff said in a description of the project. “Bus stops will be provided as on-street parallel spaces.”

The new transit hub was listed as costing over $5 million with a ten-year timeframe to start construction. A presentation from staff in 2018 said that Landmark Mall is the most-used non-Metro station transit location in Alexandria and is a critical transfer hub for various bus lines.

Part of the new hub would be a series of bus terminals to allow smooth transfer between bus routes, as well as access to the planned transitway in the area.

The next highest ranked priority was the expansion of bike trails in Alexandria based on earlier-identified needs.

“Bike and multi-use trail projects were prioritized for the 2016 update to the Ped/Bike Chapter of the Master Plan,” staff said. “This project compiles at least 7 of the 10 prioritized projects that call for the construction of 4.8 miles of new trails.”

Image via City of Alexandria

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Say your farewells to the traffic circle at the end of Eisenhower Avenue, because later this month work is scheduled to start on a widening and roadway improvement project that will replace it with a T-intersection.

A construction open house is scheduled for Tuesday, December 15, at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

“Join us to learn about the improvements planned for East Eisenhower Avenue and plans for mitigating impacts during construction,” the city said. “Staff will also be on hand to answer your questions.”

The project was approved earlier this year, though with some frustration from the City Council that the project was primarily moving forward because it was too expensive to cancel.

During construction, city said access to nearby businesses will be unimpeded, but traffic along Eisenhower Avenue and Holland Lane could experience slightly longer travel times.

According to the city website, planned improvements include:

  • Adding an additional left turn lane at the Eisenhower/Mill Road intersection on westbound Eisenhower Ave.
  • Upgrading the receiving lanes on Mill Road to accept the dual left turns from Eisenhower Ave.
  • Convert the traffic circle at Eisenhower and Holland to a “T” intersection from John Carlyle Street to Holland Lane.
  • Upgrading the street lighting and sidewalks on the north side between Mill Road and Elizabeth Lane, and both sides between John Carlyle Street and Holland Lane.
  • Full width resurfacing of Eisenhower Avenue between Holland Lane and Mill Road.

Photo via Google Maps, map via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Historic Old Town Home Uprooted and Relocated — “If you were driving down Washington Street Wednesday, you may have noticed a historic brick townhouse being moved on beams and dollies.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Duke Street’s Transit Focused Redesign Starts — “In early 2021, city staff will begin collecting community input for the future of the Duke Street Corridor from Landmark Mall to the King Street Metro Station.” [Alexandria Times]

Best Places for Christmas Lights Around Alexandria — “An increasing number of cars are driving around with Christmas trees on top and slowly but surely, homeowners are decking their homes with lights and holiday displays. Here are a few places to see the region’s best holiday displays.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Local Salvation Army Handles Decreased Giving but Increased Demand — “At the same time, the organization is seeing an increase in demand. Already serving more than 23 million Americans each year, the Salvation Army expects to help an additional 6.5 million people this holiday season.” [Alexandria Gazette]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The City of Alexandria has announced that the Capital Bikeshare will be headed to the West End ahead of schedule starting early next year.

Bicycle use has increased regionally, to the point where it was difficult at times to get a bicycle in Alexandria. With hopes for a rebound in ridership in the coming spring, Alexandria said seven previously deployed stations still in good condition will be purchased and located in the West End. The purchase will accelerate the expansion of the program by several years, the city said.

“The interim stations, which are anticipated to be installed in January and February, will be replaced with new equipment once grant funding becomes available,” the city said in a press release. “City staff is finalizing locations for stations and coordinating an installation schedule.”

The city said locations will primarily be chosen based on sites identified in the Transportation Master Plan. Sites are scattered throughout the West End, partially concentrated in the high-density areas like near the Van Dorn Street Metro station. It’s unclear how potential plans to close the Van Dorn and Eisenhower stations could affect that implementation.

The press release noted that sites will be determined after discussions with nearby property owners and the Bikeshare operator.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Morning Notes

Beyer Denounces Trump’s Sunday Drive-By — “Why did they approve it? What precautions were taken? Who else did they interact with? The continuing lack of transparency from the White House is unsustainable and dangerous.” [Twitter]

Mayor Congratulates After Successful Flu Clinic — “Thanks to our Health Dept, @AlexandriaVAPD @AlexandriaVAFD @AlexVASheriff & our Medical Reserve Corps volunteers for administering another 962 flu vaccines today (1,802 at 2 clinics) in an extremely well-organized operation. Get vaccinated, Alexandria!” [Twitter]

Second Virtual Read-In on T.C. Williams’ Racist Past This Thursday — “Who was T.C. Williams and what was his impact on our students decades ago? What does T.C. Williams the high school represent today? See the highlights from our first Community Read-In: T.C. Williams the Superintendent.” [Facebook]

Councilwoman Jackson Shares Mom’s Breast Cancer Story — “My mother received her breast cancer diagnosis during my sophomore year of high school – she was 46 years old. Young. Very young. My world, as an only child of a single mother, collapsed. I was devastated.” [Zebra]

City Holding Public Hearing on Mobility Plan —  “The Alexandria Mobility Plan (AMP), a strategic update to the City’s 2008 Transportation Master Plan, will guide decision-making and outline priority strategies to ensure that transportation in the City continues to serve the needs of residents, businesses, and visitors as the region grows and new technology adds to the ways we get around. The City will hold a virtual town hall presentation, including Q&A, on Thursday, October 15 at 6 p.m.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Sunshine along with some cloudy intervals (during the day). High around 70F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph. Clear skies (at night). Low 47F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Property Manager — “Full Time Property Manager needed for a 160 unit apartment community. This position requires a take charge, reliable individual with strong management skills and excellent verbal and written communication. Qualification requires at least 2-5 years of property management experience managing the site staff and day to day operations” [Indeed]

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