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Arlington Launches Review of $1 Million Bus Stop

New Super Stop at Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) Arlington County is launching a planned independent review of the $1 million Walter Reed “Super Stop” on Columbia Pike this week.

In a press release, the county says contractors will be conducting a “comprehensive review of the performance, cost, design and construction” of the bus stop. The review will include three primary components: interviews with bus stop users, a design review, and a financial and performance assessment.

Clarendon-based NeoNiche Strategies has been tapped to survey Super Stop users, per a $7,500 contract, while Arlington is still in negotiations with firms for the other two contracts, according to county spokeswoman Laura G. Smith. She declined to estimate the cost of the remaining two contracts, citing the ongoing negotiations.

“The goal of the review… is to facilitate the construction of the remaining planned stops faster, at lower cost and with improved functionality where necessary,” said the press release.

Completed in March, the bus stop features shelter for some 15 passengers, lighting, heating, and an electronic display that shows when the next buses are coming, but at a construction cost of more than $1 million.

Super Stop bus stop at Columbia Pike and Walter Reed DriveThe cost of the stop, and some of its perceived shortfalls — like lack of shelter from the elements — sparked a controversy that became national news and prompted the county to announce a “reassessment” of its design and cost within just two weeks of its opening. Twenty-three other planned Super Stops on the Pike, expected to cost around $900,000 apiece, were put on hold.

County Manager Barbara Donnellan says the project will proceed once the review is complete and an acceptable, lower-cost alternative is found.

“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 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.”

The review process is expected to wrap up in late fall 2013.

“The County Manager, after consulting with Arlington County Board Members and WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority), will announce her decision later this year,” according to the press release, which blamed the high cost of the first stop on a number of factors.

The Walter Reed Super Stop was a first-of-its-kind, high capacity transit stop. The Super Stop was designed to serve the growing number of riders along this heavily utilized transit corridor and to handle the projected increase in future riders expected with Columbia Pike streetcar. The completed prototype features a design to attract new riders, and includes expanded shelter and seating, lights, real-time electronic arrival displays, level boarding for bus passengers, transit maps, signage and more.

Over the course of the construction of Walter Reed Drive prototype stop, set-up costs, construction challenges and delays, and design refinements increased the total cost of the project. Due to the higher-than-expected cost and functionality concerns, the County Manager placed construction of the future 23 Super Stops on hold pending completion of the review.

Earlier this year, county officials directed blame for the extra costs and delays on WMATA, which managed the construction of the first stop.

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