A straight nine-mile shot down Route 7 from the City of Falls Church brought members of the Falls Church City Council and key City staff members right to Durant Center, a block of Rt. 7 in downtown Alexandria, on Tuesday night.
That’s where and when an historic, first-ever meeting of its kind was held, bringing together the leaders of three adjacent Northern Virginia jurisdictions – Falls Church, Arlington and Alexandria – to discuss common issues in transportation, emergency communication services and the regulation of popular new unconventional businesses.
“You can find the entire history of the U.S. along our common Route 7 corridor,” Falls Church Councilman David Snyder told the group. Indeed, from farm to market rolling roads and their toll gates, to George Washington’s Alexandria church’s connection to its mission outpost that became the Falls Church, to key Civil War sites in Bailey’s Crossroads and Munson Hill, to the first rural chapter of the NAACP and much more, the route abounds with history.
Alexandria’s claim to Revolutionary War era history is acknowledged in its use of an official “town crier” in the mode of that age, and such person, appropriately costumed, showed up Tuesday night to ring a bell and read a parchment loudly with the agenda for the evening’s meeting.
Falls Church Mayor David Tarter spoke up, saying he wants one of those for Falls Church (it hasn’t clear if any of the other F.C. officials there, including City Manager Wyatt Shields, City Attorney Carol McCoskie, Clerk Celeste Heath, Planning Director Jim Snyder, Chief of Police Mary Gavin, Revenue Commissioner Tom Clinton and Council members Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly, Letty Hardi, Phil Duncan, Karen Oliver and David Snyder) felt the same way.
But more importantly, at the end of the two hour meeting, Tarter invited all present to a follow-up meeting in the City of Falls Church. There was a lot of support expressed for having such information and idea-sharing joint meetings on a regular basis.
Five members of the Arlington County Board – Chair Libby Garvey, Vice Chair Jay Fisette, Christian Dorsey, John Vihstadt and Katie Cristol – along with Arlington County Manager Mark Schwatz were present, along with members of the Alexandria City Council, led by Mayor Allison Silberberg who chaired the meeting, Vice Mayor Justin Wilson, Paul Smedberg, “Del” Pepper, Timothy Lovain, John T. Chapman and Willie Bailey, and City Manager Mark Jinks.
“We all work best when we work together,” said Silberberg, which was the oft-repeated theme of the historic gathering. “With all the division at the national level, it is great seeing us working together,” Bailey chimed in.
The first presentation, that included Jim Snyder from Falls Church on a three-member panel, addressed “Connecting Multimodal Transportation and Land Use, with a discussion of “shared transportation issues and collaboration opportunities.”
The modes of walkable places, bicycling, trails and transit improvements were discussed in terms of the key growth corridors of Route 7, the Van Dorn/Beauregard Corridor of Alexandria that is called its West End Transitway, a 5.3-mile corridor served 19 hours a day by bus rapid transit with 2.2 miles of bus-only lanes, Route 1, Columbia Pike and the Orange/Silver Line Corridor that centers on initiatives feeding the East Falls Church Metro station.
A shared regional economy, involving rideshare and shared vehicle programs, and expanded regional travel options such as Capital Bikeshare, a trail network and transit corridors, centered on a multimodel regional solution were discussed.
Presentations on an enhanced 911 System, with backup and alternate sites was the follow on topic and then proposed new Airbnb regulations were discussed, led by Deborah Albert of Arlington County.
At the close of the meeting, the issue of housing affordability was raised by F.C. Council member Letty Hardi, which drew support from a number of other participants and suggested that the topic may be central to the next, if there is one, meeting of this historic conclave.