County Board Approves Improved Columbia Pike Transit Stations Project

Published on October 26, 2016

  • Changes aim to further reduce costs

  • Stations will serve planned Premium Transit Network for Columbia Pike, Pentagon City, Crystal City 

  • Part of County's effort to transform Pike into Main Street

  • Engaging community in "Placemaking on the Pike"

The Arlington County Board voted Tuesday to further reduce costs for the Columbia Pike Transit Stations project by choosing a design concept that includes the option of the stations being partially assembled in a factory, rather than built in place. The Board reaffirmed a "kit-of-parts" design concept, which offers high-quality design and materials for the 23 planned stations.

The larger, more accessible transit stations will serve the planned Premium Transit Network for the Pike with near-level boarding, longer platforms, real-time bus arrival information and off-vehicle fare collection. Combining a custom look with standardized parts that can be replaced at lower cost than fully customized structures, the transit stations will help spur economic development along the Pike. They will add to the long-term effort by the County to bring the Pike closer to the feel of a "Main Street" by improving the streetscape, widening sidewalks, creating great public spaces, encouraging ground-floor retail, adding lighting and more.

"The County continues to invest in transforming Columbia Pike into a vibrant Main Street, with rich transit options and a great mix of public spaces, retail, office and residential development, " Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said. "We believe the approach we have adopted today will bring attractive, durable transit stations along the Pike to serve a premium transit network and help give the Pike a sense of identity."

The Board considered several options for the transit stations before voting 5-0 at a work session to accept the Manager's recommendation.

View the staff presentation.

Board retains kit-of-parts design

In May 2014, the County announced a new conceptual kit-of-parts design for the transit stations that reduced costs from the original custom design. The Board later directed the County Manager to investigate options for using prefabricated bus shelters to further reduce costs.

Prefabricated shelters, which can be purchased as off-the-shelf designs from a manufacturer's catalog, are less expensive than either custom-built shelters or kit-of-parts shelters, but staff found that they offered a shorter useful life, lower capacity and did not meet the design intent of the kit-of-parts option.

The Board voted to approve the staff recommendation that the County adopt a hybrid approach — maintaining the kit-of-parts design and allowing potential contractors to propose different ways to build and install the shelters. Partially assembling the stations at a factory and then installing them on-site could reduce estimated project costs by 14 to 18 percent and minimize construction impacts by reducing the time needed for on-site construction.

Premium Transit Network

The transit stations are a major feature of the County's planned Premium Transit Network connecting Columbia Pike, Pentagon City and Crystal City. The premium network, included in Arlington's recently approved 10-year plan for improved bus service, will offer service that is fast, frequent, reliable and easy to use, with features including simplified bus routes, increased weekday and weekend service, and a new direct "one-seat ride" from Skyline to Pentagon City-Crystal City.

The Board approved $13.3 million for the planned 23 stations in the County's FY 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Plan.

County staff conducted outreach meetings in 2015 for the community to review the transit stations design and provide input on station amenities. Design and construction will be coordinated with the County's plans for Columbia Pike street improvements and utility undergrounding. Construction of the transit stations is expected to begin in 2018 and proceed in phases through 2021.

Remaking Columbia Pike

The County's long-range plan, fashioned with broad community involvement over many years, is to remake Columbia Pike by creating vibrant, sustainable neighborhoods with a better mix of office, retail and residential development; preserving affordable housing and creating great public spaces served by robust transportation options. Learn more about Columbia Pike planning on the County website.

Multimodal street improvements are making the Pike a safer, more accessible route for all users. In addition, extensive work is occurring below the roadway to replace aging water and sewer pipes and to relocate existing overhead utilities underground. The next segment of the Pike to be improved will be the west end, from Four Mile Run to the Arlington/Fairfax line, with construction expected to start in spring 2017. At its November meeting, the Board will consider a contract for construction management services for the street improvements and transit stations projects.

Engaging the community in a "Placemaking on the Pike" initiative

During the transit station review, the County Manager initiated a staff working group to look at placemaking on Columbia Pike. The transit stations improvements provide another opportunity to incorporate elements that further define the Pike's identify. Earlier plans, including the Form Based Code, and public and private investments during the last 15 years have built a framework for such placemaking.

The Board approved the placemaking initiative as a separate project running parallel with the Transit Stations project. County staff will organize the effort and resume a dialogue with the community on placemaking ideas for the station areas and the pathways to transit between the stations.