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County Board Poised to Advance Virginia Railway Express’s Crystal City Station Project

(Updated on 10/18/19) This weekend, the Arlington County Board will consider whether to help advance the overhaul of the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) Crystal City station.

The County Board is poised to vote this Saturday, October 19 on a resolution supporting the VRE’s application for $15.8 million in regional funding, which would help pay for the long-discussed plans to expand and redesign the station.

Arlington’s buy-in is required as part of the VRE’s funding application to the regional transit planning board Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), per a staff report to the Board.

The new station will feature 850-foot-long platforms to accommodate commuting trains. The station’s current 400-foot long platforms are too short to accommodate the trains’ length, forcing passengers to walk to the front cars to disembark at Crystal City.

The County Board previously approved a somewhat controversial site behind 2011 Crystal Drive for the new platform space. The new site would make the station more accessible to Crystal City Metro station (via a future second entrance) as well as 18th Street S. (via a tunnel) and Crystal Drive (via a pedestrian bridge.)

“VRE’s project will enhance station capacity and convenience for passengers; expand railroad capacity, operational flexibility, and resilience; improve commuter rail reliability and on-time performance; reduce highway congestion; and reduce transportation- related air pollution,” staff wrote in the Board report.

VRE renewed pushes to fund the $44.5 million project after Amazon chose Arlington for its second headquarters, bringing the promise of 25,000 Amazon workers in the Crystal City and Pentagon City area.

The station redesign is part of a slew of transportation upgrades scheduled for the area, some funded by state incentives to woo Amazon.

VRE said its Crystal City station is already the railroad’s most heavily-used station, with about 18% of riders using it.

The Board previously supported VRE’s requests to the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to fund a majority of the project earlier this year.

As of today (Thursday), the resolution supporting VRE’s application for the remaining funding was listed on the County Board’s consent agenda — a place usually reserved for items members expect to pass without debate.

VRE is currently finalizing designs of the project and estimates construction will wrap up around 2023 or 2024, the same time Amazon is expecting to open its permanent Met Park headquarters.

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