Arlington, VA

The Arlington County Board is set to vote this weekend on a funding agreement that would advance the proposed Crystal City-National Airport pedestrian connector to a preliminary design phase.

The county plans to use up to $9.5 million in federal funds for an environmental impact study and preliminary design work.

The design work is expected to be complex: figuring out how to connect pedestrians along Crystal Drive, and potentially the VRE station, with the airport Metro station — across active train tracks, the GW Parkway and National Park Service land.

“The goal of the project is to create an intermodal connection, focusing on pedestrian access from the core of the Crystal City business district to DCA,” says a county staff report. “The funding agreement allows the County to use Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality federal funding, distributed through VDOT, to develop the required documents and level of design required for federally funded projects.”

“Although the terminals are less than 2,000 feet from Crystal Drive, current pedestrian access is a circuitous network of trails and road crossings that is difficult to traverse,” the report adds.

The project has been championed by the Crystal City Business Improvement District, which envisions a High Line-esque bridge, with park-like features. The primary goal, however, is to make it easy for people to get from Crystal City to the airport without a Metro or car trip — which is seen as an attractive amenity for office tenants and residents. The design work will determine whether a bridge or a tunnel is the best solution for that.

“This weekend’s Arlington County Board vote represents a key step towards advancing our vision for a bold new connection linking Virginia’s largest downtown and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport,” said Robert Mandle, Chief Operating Officer of the BID. “CC2DCA provides a unique opportunity to leverage existing transportation assets into a multi-modal hub, while also delivering a truly special and iconic piece of urban infrastructure.”

The state’s Commonwealth Transportation Board identified $9.5 million in federal funding in the wake of the Amazon HQ2 announcement. That’s on top of $500,000 in local funding previously allocated.

Once the funding is secured and this phase gets underway, the next phases for the Board to consider will be final design and construction. Last year a study by the BID estimated that construction would cost about $38 million, with annual maintenance fees of $100,000.

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