Arlington temporarily halts bus stop construction

The new “super stop” in Arlington, Va., has a stainless steel design, heated concrete floors, a state-of-the-art computerized bus schedule... and a price tag of $1 million. Post humorist Alexandra Petri hits the streets to ask bus riders what they think about it. (The Fold/The Washington Post)

Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan has stopped the planned construction of super bus stops following public outcry after the first of 23 went up at a cost of $1 million.

“Although our Walter Reed Super Stop is a prototype, and has only been operating for about a week, I’ve heard the community’s concerns about its design and cost,” Donnellan said in a statement. “I have asked staff to pause the program while we look for ways to improve the design and reduce costs of future Super Stops.”

The revelation of the stop’s price tag prompted hundreds of public comments on articles published online by local news organizations. The cost also came up this week during a forum on planned streetcars. Donnellan said the construction delay was ordered because of those comments, and she asked residents to e-mail suggestions to des@arlingtonva.us, with Super Stop in the subject line.

“This project took longer and cost more than it should have,” Donnellan’s statement said. “We have an obligation to the taxpayers of Arlington, the Commonwealth and the nation to ensure that our infrastructure projects are delivered in a timely, cost-effective manner. We will do better.”

The Super Stops were created to serve the buses along Columbia Pike, which carry 16,000 riders a day, and the streetcars, which have yet to be built. The prototype stop, near Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive, features a swooping roof, which some said would not keep passengers dry, heated pavement to reduce snow and ice, and an electronic display of real-time bus schedules.


Arlington County's new $1 million bus stop at Walter Reed Drive and Columbia Pike, features an electronic bus tracking map and posts arrival times. (Dayna Smith/For The Washington Post)

The much-delayed construction of the stop, which took 18 months, was managed by Metro and built primarily with federal and state transportation funds. The county would oversee the construction of future stops.

Deputy County Manager Mark Schwartz and Assistant County Manager Diana Sun said the stops are important to the Columbia Pike revitalization effort. In addition to the planned streetcars, the county is burying utilities, widening sidewalks and installing streetlighting, and new zoning will allow denser housing while preserving affordable housing options.

“When [Donnellan] found out there was an invitation to bid out for the second stop, she said pull it because we need to assess,” Schwartz said. “It’s very possible there will be a new design. . . . We want to make sure we get it right.”

Patricia Sullivan seeks out news about Alexandria and Arlington County for the Washington Post.
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