Crystal City bus, street car stops to cost far less than infamous $1 million ‘superstop’


Arlington County's $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 bus and street car stops planned for the new Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway will cost significantly less than the notorious $1 million “superstop” along Columbia Pike, Arlington County officials said Saturday.

The new transit stops will cost $345,000 to $530,000, including the sidewalk, boarding platform, benches, trash cans, lighting, information signs, canopy, bike racks and windscreen, transportation planners told the county board before the it unanimously approved a $10.5 million construction contract for Arlington’s half of the 4.5-mile transitway.

When the Columbia Pike superstop, a prototype for 24 stops along that road, opened last year, public reaction was overwhelmingly negative. A simple, old-style bus shelter would have cost $10,000 to $20,000, officials acknowledged. In addition, the design of the Columbia Pike stop’s roof did not keep rain and snow off waiting passengers, and the metal bus bench was freezing in winter and scalding in summer.

The Crystal City stops have many of the same features as the Columbia Pike stop. The price is much lower, Arlington Transportation Director Dennis Leach said, because “this project was planned, designed and will be constructed by Arlington. The right-of-way here is Arlington’s right-of-way. Columbia Pike was a state right-of-way until very late in the process. That makes a huge difference.”

The Columbia Pike superstop was designed by Arlington and built by Metro, and it had cost overruns during its lengthy construction period, said Steve Del Giudice, the county’s transit bureau chief. This time, “we’re confident we can deliver at that price,” he said.

County Manager Barbara Donnellan, who ordered a halt to further bus stops on the Pike and an analysis of the costs last year, said that report will be available “no later than the end of March.” The delay has resulted in improvements, she said.

“I’ve had them redesign [the stops] with different materials. We surveyed the users to give us input in how the stops work for them,” she said Saturday.

The construction of street car routes on the Pike and in the Crystal City and Potomac Yard areas is key to Arlington’s plans to manage congestion and support redevelopment. It would link portions of Fairfax County, Arlington and Alexandria into a single system.

While the Columbia Pike street car is awaiting funding and is still years away from operating, the Crystal City transitway could begin full operations within a year with buses.

The transitway in Alexandria will be bus-only lanes from Braddock Road Metro stop down the middle of Route 1 to the city’s border with Arlington at Four Mile Run. Arlington’s portion will feature bus-only lanes for less than half of its length. Arlington, unlike Alexandria, plans to convert from buses to street cars sometime in the future.

In addition to the construction costs approved Saturday, Arlington’s portion of the project will cost $690,000 per year for road maintenance, traffic enforcement and trash pickup.

Metro will run the buses.

The total budget for Arlington’s portion, including an as-yet-unapproved extension to Pentagon City, is $21.3 million. That extension would allow the transitway to meet the Columbia Pike street car line. The money for it comes from federal and state sources and a local transportation tax paid by commercial property owners.

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