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Second Entrance at East Falls Church Metro Station May Be On Hold For a Decade Or More

Arlington likely won’t be able to add a second entrance at the East Falls Church Metro station until sometime in the 2030s, as county officials re-examine their funding priorities for the next decade.

The county has hoped for years to build a western entrance to improve pedestrian access to the station, particularly with plans to someday re-develop the parking lot and properties surrounding the station.

But the project’s roughly $96 million price tag makes it difficult to afford as officials grapple with a tight revenue picture. County Manager Mark Schwartz is proposing delaying any funding for the second entrance until at least fiscal year 2028 in his new ten-year Capital Improvement Plan.

“Given the pipeline of existing, high-priority stations, it really made sense to move this out,” county transportation director Dennis Leach told the County Board during a work session last Tuesday (June 26).

Schwartz is calling for the county to dedicate $8.8 million in state and regional transportation dollars for design work at the station starting in 2028, pushing back any construction spending indefinitely. The Board’s last CIP, approved in 2016, called for the planning process to start in fiscal year 2022, and construction to start in 2024.

As Leach mentioned, the county is eyeing second entrances at both the Crystal City and Ballston Metro stations as well, and officials are also struggling to fund those efforts as the county copes with increased Metro spending to provide the service with dedicated annual funding.

Complicating matters further is that the county was hoping the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a group that hands out money for transportation improvements around the region, would be able to fund the bulk of the construction of all three projects. But the same dedicated funding deal for Metro involved pulling away about $80 million from the NVTA each year, meaning the group is scaling back how much money it can offer all but the most large-scale projects.

“We can’t do them alone,” Leach said.

For the East Falls Church Metro entrance, the county was hoping to earn about $57.2 million from the NVTA. But with the group barely able to find any money for the Crystal City project, and no money for the Ballston second entrance, the county doesn’t have any clear sense for where to find funding for East Falls Church if its fiscal situation doesn’t improve.

That’s not to say that the county is abandoning the project, however.

Sarah Crawford, the county’s assistant director of transportation, told the Board that she fully expects the East Falls Church entrance “would score well” and earn money generated by the tolls on I-66 inside the Beltway. The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission hands out some of that revenue as part of its “Commuter Choice” program for local transportation improvements, and Crawford said the county plans to submit the East Falls Church project for consideration in the coming months.

Karen Finucan Clarkson, a spokeswoman for the NVTC, says the group finished its most recent round of funding through the program last month, but will solicit a new round of projects “this fall, most likely in October.” The NVTC would then select its preferred projects sometime next spring, and the county is hoping to win roughly $6.6 million in funding for the effort.

Meanwhile, Leach also noted that the county will probably apply for more state funding through the “SmartScale” program for the Crystal City entrance project — applications are due by Aug. 1.

The County Board is set to vote on its final CIP by July 14.

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