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Posted at 6:53 PM ET, 02/11/2011
LOCAL BLOG NETWORK

Arlington's roadblocks to traffic relief

By Pat Herrity, Springfield

For more than a decade, the members of the Arlington County Board have thumbed their noses at every motorist sitting in traffic on our region’s congested highways. Harsh words, yes. But given the board’s gutter-style tactics to block and delay critical transportation improvements, it’s time to get real. The Arlington board is a major roadblock to improving transportation in Northern Virginia and our region.

The Arlington board’s shenanigans to stop the Interstate 95/Interstate 395 high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes project, a major transit and highway improvement to one of the most congested interstates in Virginia, have been particularly shameless. The board has attacked cabinet members of Republican and Democratic administrations for trying to deliver more travel choices. It even resorted to claims of racism and sued a federal worker for personal damages — a dangerous precedent for all our federal, state and local government workers just doing their jobs. And because of Arlington’s actions, the commonwealth is pulling the plug on the HOT lanes project inside the Beltway.

By delaying major improvements on the I-66 and I-395/I-95 corridors, the board’s bunker mentality has contributed to the region’s top ranking as the worst congested metro area in the country.

According to the recent Texas Transportation Institute study, the Washington area is now tied for first in traffic congestion, with commuters wasting an average of 70 extra hours and 57 gallons of gas a year in traffic. Those numbers don’t really illustrate the real-life, everyday impacts that traffic has on residents. But think of the parent trying to pick up a child from day care. The grandparents trying to make their grandchild’s game or dance recital. The plumber who stops taking service calls after 3 p.m. The emergency dash to reach a loved one at the hospital. For many families, gone are the days when parents and kids sit around the dinner table. They don’t have time. They are stuck in traffic.

Residents have tried to fight back against traffic congestion. On I-395/I-95, commuters have discovered the world of slugging, in which drivers pick up passengers at carpool lots so they can use the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. I am a regular user of this system. I pick up two strangers (although I have gotten to know many of them very well) working in Rosslyn to get around most of the congestion on I-95 and I-395.

While slugging has been successful, however, even HOV lanes are regularly congested. We need more choices, and the I-395/I-95 HOT lanes project would help to accomplish this by providing a toll option commuters could use when they need it.

Instead of rallying around such projects, Arlington stands in the way. Year after year, project after project, the board hurls roadblocks in the name of good government by uttering its famous three words — “need more studies.” After eight years of intense review, public hearings and studies for the I-395/I-95 HOT lanes project, why can’t we move the project forward? The same is true on widening I-66 inside the Beltway. People are suffering. We don’t have time for more studies. We need to get moving.

By delaying critical improvements to I-66, I-395 and I-95, the Arlington board isn’t just punishing Virginia motorists, it is punishing anyone who drives in our region. When traffic backs up on these major interstates, the Beltway and other roadways start to back up like dominos. People cut through residential communities to get to their destinations. Workers and goods are delayed getting to destinations. Revenue from tourism in our nation’s capital falls, as tourists can’t get to the downtown restaurants and attractions. They decide to stay home or go elsewhere.

So while our region’s commuters, businesses and visitors deal with the nation’s worst traffic congestion every day, the Arlington County Board continues to show its true colors by saying no to traffic relief. It’s past time for a change, and one can only hope the Arlington board gets the message.

The writer, a Republican, is a member of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors.

By Pat Herrity, Springfield  | February 11, 2011; 6:53 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Virginia, traffic, transportation  
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Comments

1. The transit "choices" would actually remove a lane from 395, adding to congestion. Arlington was right to fight this. HOT lanes would have increased congestion.

2. Noting the careful language used by the author, the opinion is probably written by a lobby/pr firm associated with firm contracted to build the HOT lanes...hence all of the references to Texas (transurban FLUOR, the contractor building/maintaining the hot lanes, is a Texas based engineering firm who mainly specializes in large oil drilling equipment)

Posted by: dcProBizFan | February 11, 2011 11:44 PM | Report abuse

In addition. VDOT signed an 80 year contract for the operation of the HOT lanes to be run by an out of state firm. Dollars collected from the tolls...will most likely leave the state never to come back again.

I hate socialism as much as the next guy. But this HOT lane thing is a perfect example of captive capitalism. VA should at least be able to run its own roads.

Posted by: dcProBizFan | February 11, 2011 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Obviously Arlington Government does not believe there is a Transportation issue in their County. Therefore, the state should cut off all Transportation funds to Arlington and put all road work in the county on the back burner. The state will get to it when they have fininshed work in Cities and Counties participating in improving our roads.

Posted by: j5ghughes | February 12, 2011 6:31 AM | Report abuse

You think Virginia/Arlington county is bad, there isn't a single highway that cuts from Montgomery county or any part of the northern suburbs of DC to downtown. The rich folks of NW DC and Chevy Chase are just too precious a national commodity I suppose to endanger their natural habitat.

Posted by: xandersun | February 12, 2011 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Besides going through Arlington to get to the District, another reason workers commute into Arlington is because much of their housing is too expensive for those of modest means.

One of these days businesses will say "enough" and move out of Arlington and closer to where their employees live. What will Arlington's government have to say when that happens?

Posted by: jjlc125 | February 12, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Arlington was RIGHT!. Why do we need HOT lanes? We need to just widen the Interstate. We do not need Lexus lanes so that the affluent can pay a little to avoid being stuck with the rest of us in traffic. Why can't 495 simply be 6-7 lanes in each direction in key areas, i.e. Tysons. Why isn't 395 4-5 lanes between Glebe Rd. and the Edsall Rd. Arlington (and DC) were wrong about 66, 266, and several other highways that could have significantly helped traffic, but HOT lanes suck.

Posted by: keirreva | February 12, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse

How can you justify widening I-66 when Metrorail runs right down the center of it? Park your cars, please, and ride the train.

Posted by: zmrzlina_35 | February 13, 2011 10:08 AM | Report abuse

As a resident of Fairfax County, I'm often amused that our BOS rants about Arlington and Alexandria, wanting other jurisdictions to solve OUR transportation problems. The fine people of Arlington don't want their county to become a Fairfax County throughway, just as Alexandria refused Fairfax County's request to widen Rt. 1 in the late 1980s. The fact that Fairfax County has overdeveloped, failed to create and at times resisted developing high density communities that could be serviced by public transportation isn't Arlington's problem, Pat. It's out problem.

People of the Washington suburbs, we live in a major metro area. Most people in Philadelphia, NY and Chicago recognize that fact, and they behave accordingly. They live close to their jobs. If you don't want to spend your life on the road, live closer to work. If you don't like traffic, take Metro or VRE. Yes, there are trade-offs, but stop pretending like the choice you've made (living 20+ miles from your job and trying to drive everyday) isn't a trade-off.

Posted by: dshutika | February 13, 2011 10:39 AM | Report abuse

As a resident of Fairfax County, I'm often amused that our BOS rants about Arlington and Alexandria, wanting other jurisdictions to solve OUR transportation problems. The fine people of Arlington don't want their county to become a Fairfax County throughway, just as Alexandria refused Fairfax County's request to widen Rt. 1 in the late 1980s. The fact that Fairfax County has overdeveloped, failed to create and at times resisted developing high density communities that could be serviced by public transportation isn't Arlington's problem, Pat. It's out problem.

People of the Washington suburbs, we live in a major metro area. Most people in Philadelphia, NY and Chicago recognize that fact, and they behave accordingly. They live close to their jobs. If you don't want to spend your life on the road, live closer to work. If you don't like traffic, take Metro or VRE. Yes, there are trade-offs, but stop pretending like the choice you've made (living 20+ miles from your job and trying to drive everyday) isn't a trade-off.

Posted by: dshutika | February 13, 2011 10:39 AM | Report abuse

As a resident of Fairfax County, I'm often amused that our BOS rants about Arlington and Alexandria, wanting other jurisdictions to solve OUR transportation problems. The fine people of Arlington don't want their county to become a Fairfax County throughway, just as Alexandria refused Fairfax County's request to widen Rt. 1 in the late 1980s. The fact that Fairfax County has overdeveloped, failed to create and at times resisted developing high density communities that could be serviced by public transportation isn't Arlington's problem, Pat. It's out problem.

People of the Washington suburbs, we live in a major metro area. Most people in Philadelphia, NY and Chicago recognize that fact, and they behave accordingly. They live close to their jobs. If you don't want to spend your life on the road, live closer to work. If you don't like traffic, take Metro or VRE. Yes, there are trade-offs, but stop pretending like the choice you've made (living 20+ miles from your job and trying to drive everyday) isn't a trade-off.

Posted by: dshutika | February 13, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Mr Herrity is just upset that Arlington blocked the latest boondoggle from Fairfax.

If your citizens want a faster commute, pay for more metro lines. People have to learn that there are trade-offs to living further out. Accept it. Car-pool, take metro, or use the VRE. If you have to drive, buy a place closer in.

I like one comment so much, I am repeating it here:

As a resident of Fairfax County, I'm often amused that our BOS rants about Arlington and Alexandria, wanting other jurisdictions to solve OUR transportation problems. The fine people of Arlington don't want their county to become a Fairfax County throughway, just as Alexandria refused Fairfax County's request to widen Rt. 1 in the late 1980s. The fact that Fairfax County has overdeveloped, failed to create and at times resisted developing high density communities that could be serviced by public transportation isn't Arlington's problem, Pat. It's out problem.

People of the Washington suburbs, we live in a major metro area. Most people in Philadelphia, NY and Chicago recognize that fact, and they behave accordingly. They live close to their jobs. If you don't want to spend your life on the road, live closer to work. If you don't like traffic, take Metro or VRE. Yes, there are trade-offs, but stop pretending like the choice you've made (living 20+ miles from your job and trying to drive everyday) isn't a trade-off.

Posted by: dshutika | February 13, 2011 10:43 AM |

Posted by: Whazzis | February 13, 2011 12:26 PM | Report abuse

The former section of DC now known as Arlington County was illegally ceded back to Virginia by legislation. A review of the US Constitution states that parts of MD and VA will cede parts of their States to create the Federal District. The only time the Constitution can be changed or altered is by an amendment. Can anyone find an Amendment to the Constitution that allowed for Virginia to take back its ceded land?

Posted by: robertmthomasjr | February 13, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse

The writer does a great job of summing up Arlington's pathological obstructionist behavior as well as the effect it has had on the region as a whole.

Arlington long ago decided that it wanted to become a dense exclusive, upscale urban transit-oriented community.

Fine. I don't think anyone has a problem with that. The problem is with Arlington's smug, mean-spirited attitude of "screw you" to anyone who lives further out. That attitude is manifested in Arlington's thinly-vieled policy of discouraging commuters from the further-out suburbs from driving through Arlington to reach their jobs. It all started when I-66 was in the planning stages some 40 years ago.

In a big way, regional officials and planners are to blame for Arlington's actions. They caved in with I-66, severely reducing its footprint and agreeing to HOV-only use, thereby greatly reducing capacity and making the road unavailable to most drivers at peak times when its most needed. VDOT's recent backing down in the face of Arlington's lawsuit against the HOT lanes -which can only be described as malicious - will only serve to encourage Arlington to continue its obstructionist actions.

Arlington needs to be reminded that it is part of a regional whole. We are inter-dependent on one another. The government - the Feds as well Virginia should seriously consider punitive measures against Arlington in response to obstructionism, starting with the withholding of transit funding and other revenue-sharing.

Posted by: ceefer66 | February 13, 2011 3:25 PM | Report abuse

The former section of DC now known as Arlington County was illegally ceded back to Virginia by legislation. A review of the US Constitution states that parts of MD and VA will cede parts of their States to create the Federal District. The only time the Constitution can be changed or altered is by an amendment. Can anyone find an Amendment to the Constitution that allowed for Virginia to take back its ceded land?

Posted by: robertmthomasjr | February 13, 2011 12:58 PM | Report abuse


First of all, it says 'particular states', not Maryland and/or Virginia. Second, it gives Congress authority to exercise legistation over the District, which, it can be easily and successfully argued, includes the physical size. Congress voted to return what was then Fairfax County in a very legal way. Third, what the h*&% does any of this have to do with HOT lanes?

Posted by: AlexVa1 | February 13, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

@jjlc125

"One of these days businesses will say "enough" and move out of Arlington and closer to where their employees live. What will Arlington's government have to say when that happens?"

That's already happening. Northrup Grumman is moving out of 1100 Wilson in Rosslyn to the former Verizon building at Fair View at Route 50 and the Beltway.

@dshutika
"People of the Washington suburbs, we live in a major metro area. Most people in Philadelphia, NY and Chicago recognize that fact, and they behave accordingly. They live close to their jobs. If you don't want to spend your life on the road, live closer to work. If you don't like traffic, take Metro or VRE. Yes, there are trade-offs, but stop pretending like the choice you've made (living 20+ miles from your job and trying to drive everyday) isn't a trade-off."

Besides, showing that you don't know what you're talking about, your comments are just plain stupid.

If you've ever BEEN to New York, Philly, or Chicago you would know that close-in housing in those areas is unaffordable to all but the wealthiest. MOST people commute from further out and only in NY do most use mass transit.

One more thing: all of the cities you mentioned built out their planned freeway/expressway,Interstate systems, unlike us.

Besides, we simply don't have the density to support a 24/7/365 ubiquitous rail system, no matter how much transit advocates would like it. THe DC height restrictions and the region's overall aversion to tall buildings are mainlt to blame, but that's another conversation.


Even NY, the transit advocates' posterchild, has an extensive road network - more lane-miles, in fact than Los Angeles, the city transit advocates and road-haters like to hold up as the worst example of car-centric sprawl.

You DID know that, right?

@zmrzlina

"How can you justify widening I-66 when Metrorail runs right down the center of it? Park your cars, please, and ride the train."

Another simplistic and idiotic comment.

Do YOU ride the the train down I-66? If you did, you would know that it's full to capacity and the parking lots are full by 7:30.

Plus, have you ever imagined that maybe (horror of horrors!) some people just might be going someplace where Metro doesn't go. Might be hard for you fathom, but that's quite possible.

Posted by: ceefer66 | February 13, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

It's clear Pat Harrity knows nothing about this suit. If it was "shenanigans" the state would have fought the suit - they didn't, because they knew they wouldn't win. Meaning, Arlington had good reason to file suit.

He's also too thick-headed to know that more lanes do not mean a quicker commute. Ask the people who use I270 if all those lane widenings have resulted in less congestion? The answer is a resounding no.

And if anyone thinks that business is turning away from Arlington, our business assessments were up 12% this year and we have many new office buildings under construction. How's that going for you out in Fairfax and Loudoun?

Posted by: CourthouseGuy1 | February 13, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

@CourthouseGuy1

"It's clear Pat Harrity knows nothing about this suit. If it was "shenanigans" the state would have fought the suit - they didn't, because they knew they wouldn't win. Meaning, Arlington had good reason to file suit."

If you want to believe that nonsense, fine. But the real reason VDOT dropped the suit was they didn't want to see the civil servants that Arlington viciously sued as individuals for simply doing their jobs face the possibily of financial ruin defending themselves from Arlington's malice.

And Arlington's use of the race/class card in the lawsuit was laughable. Arlington has deliberately promoted development that most so-called minorities and most middle class people can't afford, hence pushing them out to the far-out suburbs from which they need road access.

Arlington even allowed the destruction affordable apartment complexes in Arlandria - along 395 - and replaced them with upscale housing. And now we're supposed to believe that the Arlington Board sued to block the HOT lanes out of concern for racial minorities and people who can't afford to use them and "had good reason" to do so? Are you SERIOUS?

Arlington has made it clear that they don't WANT "those people" in their little neo-urban enclave and they don't give a damn about anyone else in the region.

For you to say "Arlington had good reason to file suit" is a clear indication of either being poorly informed of the facts or having a severe lack of empathy. Either way, you should be ashamed.

Posted by: ceefer66 | February 13, 2011 4:59 PM | Report abuse

@CourthouseGuy1

"And if anyone thinks that business is turning away from Arlington, our business assessments were up 12% this year and we have many new office buildings under construction."

The tallest of those buildings under construction has no sizable tenant and the tenant in the tallest existing building is hightailing it to Fairview, citing the diffult commute as a deciding factor.

Like I said, you're poorly informed.

Posted by: ceefer66 | February 13, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Gee, Pat, sorry, but this is nothing but self-serving bullshit. People LIVE in Arlington, which is only 25 square miles, and our county government is right to fight on our behalf efforts to pave over even more miles of what little land there is, and to increase the volume of exhaust gases we have to breathe. Further, they're correct to try to insist that other regional governments honor the modus vivendi that was established when the original I-66 was permitted.

For you Fairfaxians I'd suggest if you work in the District, LIVE in the District (or maybe close-in Arlington).

I'm not against helping to solve our regional transportation problems but study after study shows that building more and more roads does NOT reduce congestion. You should know that, Pat.

One of the biggest problems we face is that some of our main close-in arteries like I-95, I-395, and I-66 are heavily used by locals AND by north-south interstate traffic. One of the best solutions is to establish other roads to enable through traffic to circumvent the center. Let me be the first to propose such a road - six lanes should do for a start - through western Fairfax county.

Posted by: threeoaksgone | February 13, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

@ceefer66

You're very poorly informed on how the real estate market works. If there wasn't confidence on the part of developers and the real estate finance folks, those spec properties would never be built. This is one of the few places in the country where that type of development has resumed. All translating to a high level of confidence in our commercial markets.

Arlington is in a unique situation - the Pentagon isn't going away. National Airport isn't going away. Our metro stops aren't going away. And the smart growth that has occurred here keeps our real estate in demand and the prices high. Can't say the same for all of EBF Fairfax, can we?

Try to at least show a modicum of education, Ceefer66, before you call others poorly informed.

Posted by: CourthouseGuy1 | February 13, 2011 5:11 PM | Report abuse

@ceefer66

Oh, I missed your other incorrect rant. Sorry, no where did anyone say that this suit was dropped because two individuals were sued. Riiiight... the state dropped the suit because of two individuals. Now you're just grasping at straws... and missing the straws.

Say what you want about the suit, but if it was so "laughable" the state could have fought it. They didn't. They folded. Most would see that as them not having a case. Arlington won. Move on. Or not. But it's not happening in your lifetime. Put the money into metro. The silver line is a perfect way to ease congestion. Fund more lines. But you don't get to pave my backyard to get to work.

And btw, I have a GREAT commute. Keep stewing on yours. ;)

Posted by: CourthouseGuy1 | February 13, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse

@CourthouseGuy1,

You want ME to "show a modicum of education"?

YOU'RE the one mis-stating facts and making yourself look foolish being an apologist.

What you said about about the Pentagon, Metro stations, and the airport are the only accurate statements you've made. As for bad-mouthing Fairfax, come back when your household income equals that of Fairfax.

As for your "smart growth" and its attendant property values, people like you make me laugh.

You're too scared to REALLY live in the city because that would mean rubbing elbows with all those minorities and poor people in DC. So you build up Arlington around Metro stations and "smart growth" priced to keep out anyone not like yourself and PRETEND you live in the city. You're a joke and a sick joke at that.

You have the last word. I don't debate smug, snobbish full-of-themselves yuppies who contribute nothing worthwhile. And Arlington is full of them.

Posted by: ceefer66 | February 13, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

ceefer66 has been very busy in commenting on this topic, wow. One thing that stands out is an obsession with Arlington as some "exclusive" "neo-urban" enclave.

Yet the truth is that more than 40% of enrollees in Arlington public schools are Latino (mainly) or other foreign-born, and Arlington has a very active and successful affordable housing program.

No, this commenter has something more than concerns about transportation in his mind; did he try to buy property in Arlington and couldn't? Was he/she perhaps fired from an Arlington county government job? The owner of an Arlington business that failed?

(ceefer, I'm sure you'll say I'm "poorly informed" so save your breath, that's getting old.)

Posted by: threeoaksgone | February 13, 2011 5:26 PM | Report abuse

@ceefer66

While you rant and the spittle flies from your mouth, you didn't mention which facts I'm misstating.

Arlington has a huge minority population and it's only growing and yet hear I stay. I love the diversity here as opposed to bucolic Fairfax.

As for being too scared to go into DC, you have no idea what you're talking about. I'm in the city at least twice a week and actually lived there for years before I bought in Arlington.

What about smart growth and its related properties values make you laugh? Our real estate dropped less and recovered faster than the rest of the region. I wouldn't call that laughable, I'd call that laudable.

Any more uninformed rants coming from you?

It seems like you're really just a bitter, angry person who can't stand losing. Pat Herrity, is that you?

Over and out, Ceefer. I have the facts on my side (and a win with this lawsuit). You have your anger, bitterness and an horrible commute. I win. Bye.

Posted by: CourthouseGuy1 | February 13, 2011 5:34 PM | Report abuse

I hate to break it to the people in Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford, but Arlington isn't just something you have to drive through to get to Washington, and we are not going to allow ourselves to be paved over for your commuting pleasure.

Posted by: ksu499 | February 14, 2011 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Very easy solution. If Arlington wants to encourage mass transit and block widening of I-66 and 395 through their jurisdiction, then fine - that's their perogative. In return, those of us who live in Fairfax expect that most all I66 exits in Arlington should be closed. If Ballston is supposed to be a high density urban mass transit mecca, then there should be absolutely no west bound entrance ramps at Washington Blvd or at Lee Highway. Force their traffic through the local streets out to the ramps out by Westmorland. As for east bound traffic, get rid of the east bound ramps on I66 at Glebe. If you live in the Ballston area and want to get to DC, DCA, or Alexandria, there is absolutely no need for you to take I66 when you can take metro.

Additionally, Route 50 should have medians installed with no left turns other than at intersections with appropriate turn lanes installed.

Posted by: Chris-n-Fairfax | February 14, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I guess Pat Herrity wasn't around when his father (and the Board of Supervisors) granted every single construction permit in the 70s and 80s (and the roads were an afterthought). I knew shortly after I moved here in the late 1980s that I would NEVER live in Fairfax County. I love that the Arlington County Board refuses to kowtow to Fairfax's bad planning.

Posted by: EAHarrison | February 14, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

If congestion is "so bad" then why not increase mass transit capacity rather than single automobile capacity. More people can fit in a small space on a train or light rail system than in thousdands of cars contuning to clog the highway. If you can drive into DC, you can drive to a transit station. Stop blaming Arlington.

Posted by: bikeDC | February 14, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Gosh - this editorial just chaps my behind. Why should Arlington become a throughway for all of you people who traded in proximity for space? I took my smaller condo in Arlington (relative to one in, say, Fairfax) because it was a closer commute. Those of you who didn't - too flipping bad! This 'cake and eat it too' mentality is getting real tired. You want your bigger place in the 'burbs? Guess you gotta drive a little farther. Not Arlington's problem. Shut up and move closer you whiners...

Posted by: keberg2003 | February 14, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Gosh - this editorial just chaps my behind. Why should Arlington become a throughway for all of you people who traded in proximity for space? I took my smaller condo in Arlington (relative to one in, say, Fairfax) because it was a closer commute. Those of you who didn't - too flipping bad! This 'cake and eat it too' mentality is getting real tired. You want your bigger place in the 'burbs? Guess you gotta drive a little farther. Not Arlington's problem. Shut up and move closer you whiners...

Posted by: keberg2003 | February 14, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

What really kills me about this is that the who looses the most with the hot lanes going past Seminary RD is the drivers on 395, because the worlds largest bottle neck would be at the 14th street bridge, no matter what your still trying to shove 50 pounds of poo in a 2 pound bag. Why a metro line or light rail connector service was not thought of a a positive and long term solution was not the immediate answer I can never say for sure; but i have a feeling it has to do with those McMansion dwellers who have lux cars and refuse to use public transit, "because it's full of smelly immigrants and vagrants," I heard those exact words out of some ones mouth who lives in Reston.

Also the people who had the most to lose, are the residents of Parkfairfax in the city of Alexandria, were the smallest gap between 395 and a building is 4 and a half feet. So chew on that Fairfax county.

Posted by: city_chick | February 14, 2011 9:30 PM | Report abuse

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