The cost of waiting for a bus is higher than you might expect in Arlington

The new bus-streetcar stops along the Crystal City-Potomac Yard corridor might cost half what the Columbia Pike $1 million “superstop” did, but Arlington County residents remain skeptical about how, exactly, a bus stop can cost $345,000 to $530,000.

Arlington County and the city of Alexandria are jointly building a bus rapid-transit corridor from the Crystal City Metro stop to the Braddock Road Metro stop that government officials say will help manage congestion in the Route 1 corridor and support redevelopment in an area that provides about 40 percent of Arlington’s property tax revenue. It’s supposed to make travel faster between offices, shopping and residences by running buses in dedicated lanes. Alexandria said all its bus lanes will be separate from other traffic; Arlington says 44 percent of its lanes will be exclusive bus-only lanes.

In Arlington, the bus route is a precursor to a streetcar line that is planned to connect with the controversial Columbia Pike streetcar at Pentagon City. Alexandria has no plans to replace the buses with streetcars.

In e-mails and online comments to The Washington Post that followed earlier coverage of the transitway, readers sought details about the 10 stops that Arlington will build along Crystal Drive, South Bell and South Clark streets. The answer, from government documents, is that these stops are not just simple shelters from the wind and rain.

For one thing, they’re bigger. Whereas a traditional bus shelter platform is 28 by 14 feet, the transitway shelter is 75 by 14 feet to accommodate not just a bus, but also a streetcar. The shelter will be more than six times larger than a typical shelter, based on square footage, a spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services said, and he pointed to a cost comparison of other municipalities that have built similar transit stations .

The design of one transitway station to be built in Arlington County. Arlington and the city of Alexandria are jointly building a bus rapid-transit corridor from the Crystal City Metro stop to the Braddock Road Metro stop. (Arlington County)

“We’d like [community members] to understand these stations are long-term community investments, designed to serve Arlington for the next 30 years,” said Eric Balliet, the DES spokesman.

A breakdown of the cost of station construction shows that the canopy, structure and foundation are estimated to cost $91,400; benches, signs and landscaping $22,940; real-time information signs $44,000; and windscreen with artwork $37,468.

Below ground, the costs add up rapidly. The civil engineering work, which includes the sidewalk, 10-inch-high boarding platform and grading, will cost about $74,468. Electrical work is expected to run $74,471.

That puts the total price of a station at just under $345,000, at the low end of the cost range that the staff predicted to the Arlington County Board. The board on Saturday approved a $10.5 million construction contract with W.M. Schlosser for the project, which has been planned for more than 10 years.

A separate construction management contract, not subject to the approval of the County Board, will cost $937,000, and a third contract, to make glass windscreens, will cost $205,000. An independent inspection service will cost an additional $90,600. The cost of county staff and technical support will add $551,000.

Although the bulk of the project’s cost is for the stations, $2.9 million is expected to be spent on road work. It does not include track and overhead lines for the planned streetcar.

The annual operating cost for Arlington to operate all 10 stations is expected to be $690,000. These costs do not account for the operation of buses, which will be handled by WMATA, and do not take into account the cost of setting up off-bus fare collection, which transportation officials say will speed up boarding. Daily ridership, by 2017, is expected to hit 3,570 passengers, the department said.

None of these bills take into consideration the cost of land, because when the area was developed, Arlington reserved the right-of-way for future transportation needs.

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

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