For more than a decade, officials from Arlington County, Alexandria and WMATA have talked about creating a dedicated bus lane in the Crystal City-Potomac Yard area. It would free riders from the clogged traffic on Route 1, they said, and provide faster and more reliable public transit in an already dense area — hopefully enticing more residents to leave their cars behind.

Alexandria is close to completing the bus-only lanes between Four Mile Run and the Braddock Road Metro stop, and expects to start launch its part of the route this summer. Arlington officials on Friday showed off the route they plan to use, a day before the Arlington County Board is expected to award a $10.5 million construction contract.

The 4.5-mile Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway — the region’s first buses-only travel lanes — will save travelers up to 10 minutes as they journey from the concrete canyons of Crystal City through rapidly developing Potomac Yard and on into Alexandria’s shopping and residential districts, officials say.

The rapid bus route will serve residents of the 13,000 housing units expected to be built over the next several years in Potomac Yard, a 295-acre former railroad facility, along with 8 million square feet of offices and commercial space.

Arlington plans to replace the bus transitway in the future with a streetcar; Alexandria intends to stick with buses on its portion, and focus future funding efforts on a new Metro stop in Potomac Yard.

A map of the Crystal City Potomac Yard transitway (Laris Karklis/The Washington Post/Source: WMATA)

“We think [the transitway] represents part of the future for this region,” Dennis Leach, Arlington’s transportation director, said of the two-jurisdiction project. “Transportation doesn’t stop at regional boundaries.”

Alexandria’s section of the transitway is a few steps ahead of Arlington’s, with a dedicated lane nearly finished in the middle of Route 1 and a bridge built across the city-county boundary at Four Mile Run. Arlington’s portion, expected to be completed in early 2015, will run roughly adjacent to Route 1.

Both worked on the project with WMATA, which will operate the buses. They are expected to carry about 3,000 passengers on weekdays, with buses coming every six minutes during peak hours and every 10 minutes off-peak.

Passengers will pay their fares before boarding, at seven newly designed bus stops, to speed the process. The shelters will feature real-time arrival information, 10-inch-high curbs to bring passengers to the same level as the bottom bus step and extended platforms so more than one bus, or eventually a longer streetcar, can stop there.

Buses will run entirely in dedicated lanes in Alexandria. The city has spent about $21 million for its half of the project, including the cost of the buses, stations and roadway, officials said.

In Arlington, bus-only lanes will be built along Crystal Drive in Potomac Yard. In Crystal City, the buses will run on S. Bell and S. Clark streets in an existing lane that will be bus-only during peak traffic hours, but will be shared with all traffic during off-peak hours.

Arlington’s share of the project, including construction, is budgeted at $21.3 million. The money comes from federal and state sources, and a local transportation tax paid by commercial property owners.