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Council Notebook June 13-20

<b>Transportation Funding Meeting Announced

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A public hearing has been scheduled for July 12 by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) "to hear from communities throughout Northern Virginia" concerning the implementation of the transportation funding bill passed during the last session of the State General Assembly. That was the report given by Tom Biesiadny, chief of Coordination/Funding Section for NVTA, to City Council at its meeting Tuesday night.

The meeting will be held at the Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School adjacent to George Mason University beginning at 6 p.m., according to Biesiadny. The primary purpose of the meeting will be to garner local government input to the various taxing proposals in the legislation.

HB3202, which passed the legislature April 4, provides for a series of revenue raising methods to fund transportation projects in Northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads area. It calls for seven taxing initiatives to raise an estimated $300 annually for transportation projects, including both highways and mass transit.

According to Thomas Culpepper, deputy director/transportation for Alexandria Transportation & Environmental Services Administration, the revenue distribution would break down to 50 percent for Metro, VRE, and regional projects and 40 percent for urban road projects/local public transportation. "Alexandria would receive an estimated $20 million per year if all the taxes are implemented," Culpepper told Council.

"We have taken this responsibility very seriously. There have been a variety of meetings since the legislation passage," said Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille, who serves on the NVTA Board.

<b>Alexandria's Prepares For National Harbor

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In further preparation for the opening of National Harbor next April, City Council received a briefing concerning City initiatives to maximize the economic possibilities from representatives of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association and others who make up the "National Harbor Collaborative."

In their handout to Council, the Collaborative identified a list of 18 items they are addressing in preparation for the event. That handout also included the stakeholders that are part of the Collaborative. However, as noted by Councilman Paul Smedberg, it did not include a representative from The Office of Historic Alexandria on the main committee.

"Why are they not included? Is it because you don't want them?" Smedberg asked Richard Dorman, president, Alexandria Chamber of Commerce who led the multi-group presentation. Dorman explained that the Office of Historic Alexandria would be involved in specific projects.

Smedberg countered that Alexandria's historic significance is the City's prime asset. "I would think they should be a part of the main committee," he said. No final explanation was offered by Dorman.

<b>Cameron Run Flood Potential Reviewed

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The potential for a repeat of last year's devastating flood along Cameron Run was downplayed by Richard Baier, director for Transportation & Environmental Services Administration. "The rainfall in the storms that caused that flooding was equivalent to a 300-year flood," he said in a report to City Council.

He also explained the various measures Alexandria has taken since then to alleviate flood dangers which included a presentation from the Army Corps of Engineer Report on the June/July 2006 flooding along Cameron Run. The most devastating effects occurred

in the Huntington area of Fairfax County's Mount Vernon District and in the garages at the Alexandria Tech Center on Eisenhower Avenue.

At the conclusion of Baier's presentation, Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille said, "The big question is 'are we out of danger?'"

There was no definitive answer.

<b>Pedestrian Plaza a No-Go

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With the advent of summer, Council received a report evaluating the second trial program for the weekend pedestrian plaza in the 100 block of King Street. It was recommended that Council "keep the 100 block of King Street open on weekends on a regular basis."

During the original test, Council had stated that "the measure of success for the pedestrian plaza would be if the program was judged beneficial to residents, business and users." According to a staff survey, "While pedestrian users of the plaza supported it, the view from the merchants was mixed. Some merchants reported a drop in sales, and no merchant reported a significant increase in retail sales in either the 100 or 200 block of King Street."

Based on a survey after the second trial period, staff recommended that "the City not close the 100 block of King Street for a weekend pedestrian plaza." However, they noted, that it can be done to accommodate special events which may entail a one-day or one weekend closing periodically.

In analyzing the impact of the street closing on local sales tax revenue, staff found that during the closings, restaurant sales tax revenue increased by 14 percent and retail sales tax revenue declined by 28 percent. A survey of businesses within the pedestrian plaza area found an even split, 18 percent to 18 percent, of those surveyed for and against the closing.

—Chuck Hagee