In December, the Arlington County Board and Arlington School Board will be considering a funding agreement to build the first phase of a stormwater detention vault under the athletic fields at the new elementary school at the Reed site to alleviate flooding concerns in the Westover area following devastating impacts from recent storms.
The proposed stormwater vault at the new elementary school at the Reed site is a community-driven project following the devastating losses and impacts to surrounding businesses and homes from the July 2019 storm event. The School Board received an update on the proposed project changes to make these stormwater improvements at the December 3 School Board meeting.
This is an important step towards the goal of building a Flood Resilient Arlington, a strategy to use public land for multi-purpose goals to overcome significant space constraints and conflicts that frequently hinder the County’s ability to expand the capacity of the stormwater management system. This project will not impact the opening of the school, scheduled for August 2021. The school will open on schedule with full access to the playground and courts. While the field project is completed, students will also have access to the County’s outdoor space located at the Reed site. The fields will be available after the stormwater facility has been completed.
“This project represents a first of its kind partnership between the County and Arlington Public Schools. It maximizes the use of public land and will benefit the entire community, especially the Westover area.” said Libby Garvey, Arlington County Board Chair. “The Westover Commercial District is a vital component of the economic, cultural and social core of the neighborhood, and it has suffered repeated flooding losses from increasingly volatile storms. This type of investment is part of a larger effort to achieve a Flood Resilient Arlington in a time of climate change. It will help prevent further devastation and enhance public safety when major rain events occur.”
About the Project
A smaller stormwater detention tank scaled for on-site impacts was already included in the approved plans for the school project for temporary storage of stormwater for post-event, managed release. In response to community appeals, the County collaborated with Arlington Public Schools to design and build a much larger detention vault under the athletic fields that will form a cornerstone to a watershed-scale solution in the Torreyson Run watershed. The construction of the stormwater vault is being planned in two phases to ensure the construction of the improvements does not impact the timely completion of the school construction for the start of the school in 2021, and to prevent excavation of newly–placed asphalt and concrete adjacent to the school along 18th street.
Having a contractor already mobilized on site creates a unique opportunity that streamlines the timeframe to design and construct the required improvements. A Memorandum of Agreement is being developed by the County and APS which provides that the APS contractor responsible for construction of the Reed School will design and construct the first phase of large stormwater facility as part of the school construction.
Phase 1 of the project consists of new underground pipe and junction fixtures and is funded by the County and will cost $1.54M. Phase 2 includes the stormwater detention structure itself and is still under design. Both phase 1 and phase 2 are specifically being designed and scheduled to not impact school opening or operations. The school playground will remain open and available throughout, but the large athletic field that operates as an extended playground will be closed during construction of Phase 2.
In November 2020, Arlington County voters approved a $50.4 million stormwater bond referendum to help fund watershed-scale projects and local capacity improvements such as this project to mitigate high risk flood areas, as part of a path toward a Flood Resilient Arlington. The smaller phase 1 will be funded primarily with existing program revenue and Phase 2 will likely be completed using bond proceeds.
The preliminary cost estimate for both phases is between $14.1M – $16.0M for design and construction. The length of construction will be determined during the design process.
Communication about the proposed stormwater facility has been ongoing with representatives from the nearby civic associations, the Westover commercial district, and the Arlington County Civic Federation. As the design for the phase 2 stormwater vault is developed early in 2021, the County will conduct a thorough public engagement process with the impacted communities.