Arlington County to hire independent contractor to review $1 million bus stop

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 officials said Monday that they will hire an independent contractor to review the cost and design of the $1 million bus stop that opened in March along Columbia Pike and the plans for 23 additional bus-and-streetcar shelters.

County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in April that the county and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority would review the cost and design after the cost of the bus stop became the focus of complaints and ridicule. On Monday, however, Donnellan issued a statement that said the county would use “independent, third-parties to ensure unbiased reporting and focus.” Officials could not immediately say how much the review would cost.

The three-month-old shelter is called a “super-stop” because it can accommodate a proposed streetcar as well as buses.

The county had previously said $575,000 of the “super stop” price was for construction and fabrication, while $440,000 was the cost of management and inspections. Arlington designed the stop, which was built to serve both buses and a future streetcar, while WMATA built it.

But it wasn’t just the cost of the bus shelter that upset residents. It took 18 months to build, and riders have said the slanted glass roof does not keep rain and snow off them while they wait for the bus. County officials said the design was approved only after many community hearings.


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, pictured at right. (Dayna Smith/The Washington Post)

Donnellan ordered a temporary halt to the construction of the additional stops, which were expected to cost $900,000 each. A typical bus shelter costs between $10,000 and $20,000, county transportation officials said at the time.

The stop, located on Columbia Pike near the intersection with Walter Reed Drive, has 10-inch-high curbs and 90 feet of concrete, large enough for two buses to pull up at once. It has heated concrete flooring and a real-time digital display of when the next bus will arrive. The space can shelter 15 people at a time, an important benefit for the people who contribute to the 16,000 trips each day on the Columbia Pike buses. More transit users are expected as new and densely developed housing is built in the area in the next 20 years.

A proposed 4.5-mile streetcar line down Columbia Pike, from Fairfax County to the Pentagon, will also add more traffic.

“Arlington is committed to investing in the Columbia Pike corridor and providing quality transportation options to meet the community’s current and future transit needs,” Donnellan said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to the findings of these reviews and will take steps necessary to ensure the construction of future stops at a significantly lower cost while maintaining functionality and the amenities needed for a high-capacity station.”

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