County to temporarily relocate some ART bus operations to Va. Square property

(Updated 2:15 p.m.) The county has crystallized plans for temporarily storing and dispatching Arlington Transit (ART) buses near Washington-Liberty High School while a new bus facility in Green Valley is built.

Nearly 30 ART buses will come and go from the site, on the 1400 block of N. Quincy Street, where the county currently parks some fire and police vehicles, as well as a portion of the Arlington Public Schools vehicle fleet. The site also has warehouse storage for Covid-related supplies and serves as the drop-off center for E-CARE recycling events.

In 2015, the county agreed to pay $30 million to acquire the six-acre property, which is across from W-L to the west, I-66 to the north and houses to the south and east.

Meanwhile, construction on the Shirlington Road facility in Green Valley — intended to address the need for more space to park and maintain Arlington’s growing fleet of ART buses — is expected to start in the summer of 2022, Department of Environmental Services Director Greg Emanuel told the County Board during its recessed meeting yesterday (Tuesday). The county bought that site, along the 2600 block of Shirlington Road, for $24 million in 2018.

Ahead of construction, DES says it has to move 41 buses, including 12 to a bus site on S. Eads Street, which opened in 2017 near Crystal City. The other 29 are going to the N. Quincy Street site because it’s the only available and affordable site zoned for vehicle storage, Emanuel says.

Buses will be parked at and dispatched from the N. Quincy Street site on weekdays, with a majority of movement happening between 5 a.m. and midnight, he said. Weekend operations will be run out of the Crystal City facility.

Although the facility neighbors the high school, DES says traffic related to school pickup and drop-off should not pose a problem.

“We don’t anticipate conflict with W-L traffic across the street because the peaks are outside the normal peaks here,” Emanuel said.

Expected activity for the temporary bus facility on N. Quincy Street (via Arlington County)

Still, the news is not exactly welcome among some neighbors, who told the County Board and county staff their concerns about noise during quiet hours, as well as how this decision was communicated. Residents previously opposed the relocation of APS bus parking to the Virginia Square site, also known as the Buck site.

Board members indicated support for the temporarily relocation but said they were sensitive to residents’ concerns.

A noise study conducted earlier this year concluded that the new bus activity will increase noise levels upwards of three decibels, with overall noise “still in the comfortable range,” Emanuel says. Currently, a row of trees lines the southern edge of the property, but additional noise mitigation measures are a possibility down the road.

Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol said the county needs to make long-range plans for building attractive, landscaped noise buffers, as the site will continue to support other “back-of-house functions” for northern parts of Arlington.