Arlington, VA

Officials are considering lowering Route 1 in Crystal City to ground level after Amazon moves in.

Details remain scant, but officials appear to considering a plan to remove several highway overpasses that span over roads from 12th Street S. to 18th Street S. in favor of at-grade intersections with traffic signals. Currently, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is studying the project.

“The study for Route 1 is still in very preliminary stages, where VDOT and Arlington County are looking at feasibility of different concepts, and the best potential balance to accommodate all modes of travel — buses, pedestrians, bicycles, vehicles, etc,” VDOT spokeswoman Jennifer McCord told ARLnow Monday.

When asked, McCord said VDOT did not yet have a cost estimate for the potential project. However, a 2018 Virginia Economic Development Partnership presentation and an entry in the state’s Six-Year Improvement Plan indicate work could cost some $250 million.

McCord noted that the ongoing study for the project is funded with $2 million from the state.

Theoretically the changes wouldn’t affect the commuter route’s vehicle throughput, given that there are already traffic signals up and down Route 1 from Alexandria to Arlington. Pedestrians, however, would have to cross Route 1 at grade along 18th Street to get from the Crystal City Metro station entrance to points west.

Authorities are considering several changes to the streetscape around its HQ2 like a protected bike lane on S. Eads Street and new bus stops. As part of the state and local incentive package used to woo the company to Arlington, officials also pledged to fund a slew of transportation projects which could include this Route 1 revamp.

The 2018 presentation noted that $138.4 million (55%) of the projected cost could be paid for by the state as part of the incentive package for Amazon’s new second headquarters.

Lowering the (newly renamed) Richmond Highway predates Amazon with a reference in the 2010 Crystal City Sector Plan to turn the highway “into an asset of the overall multimodal transportation network.”

A diagram in the plan depicts Route 1 as more of an urban boulevard, lined with trees.

Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, head of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, said Monday that the way the highway cuts through the area “forms a physical and psychological barrier separating Crystal City and Pentagon City.”

The BID is expanding its boundaries and is currently considering renaming itself “National Landing” to reflect a unified identity of the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard neighborhoods, which are poised for significant growth with the additions of HQ2 and a new Virginia Tech campus just over the Alexandria border in Potomac Yard.

“As various public and private projects are developed throughout the area, there is an even greater need for enhanced connectivity and a safer way to move between the neighborhoods,” said Gabriel, of the possible Route 1 changes.

“Transforming the roadway into a multi-modal, pedestrian-friendly, and urban-oriented boulevard presents the largest and most comprehensive opportunity to create a truly walkable, connected, urban downtown,” she added.

When discussing the plan back in November, Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said it could “lead to the total reimagining of Route 1.”

Image 1 via Arlington County, Images 2-5 via Google Maps

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