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Plans for Crystal City Metro second entrance changed to lower costs

(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) Arlington County and JBG Smith are changing up plans for a second entrance to the Crystal City Metro station due to projected cost overruns.

An east entrance to the station — a long-standing goal of county transportation planners — is being built through a public-private partnership with the developer, which the County Board authorized in the summer of 2020.

JBG Smith had initially proposed an underground entrance at the corner of 18th Street S. and Crystal Drive. As those plans came into focus last summer, however, they were estimated to cost Arlington County $123-$126 million, which far exceeded the county’s budget of $95 million.

So JBG Smith went back to the drawing board during the winter and came back with the idea to build the entrance at street level and save the county at least $13 million.

This Saturday, the Arlington County Board is slated to approve changes to its agreement with JBG Smith, giving the developer until September to further design an at-grade entrance. Under this scenario, fare gates and a manager’s kiosk would be at street level with primary access from 18th Street S. and secondary access from Crystal Drive.

“This alternative offers cost savings over the current design by significantly reducing the amount of excavation required, reducing the number of elevators from five to three, and removing the need to penetrate the station vault wall,” according to a county report. It also reduces the construction time by three months.

An at-grade entrance still meets county goals and has the support of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, per the report.

“Both the Underground Entrance Design Concept and the At-Grade Alternative equally achieve the goals of adding capacity to meet future growth, creating a multimodal transportation hub, and improving access and accessibility to the Crystal City Metrorail Station from Crystal Drive,” the county said.

The change to the agreement will cost around $232,000 and bring the total cost of the design phase — funded by a $5 million Northern Virginia Transportation Authority grant — to $3.9 million.

County staff say there will be an update on the project for the public this spring. JBG Smith plans to submit a proposal based on the updated designs in October with the goal of County Board approval in November.

If members approve of the designs and cost estimates, construction could start in the winter of 2023 and end in the spring of 2025 — similar to the existing timeline. The project would be extended if the County Board asks the company, or county staff, to find someone else to do it for less money.

Ultimately, Arlington County is on the hook to oversee the project, as it agreed to get the second entrance online by 2025 as part of the incentive package to bring Amazon to Pentagon City, provided the state partially funded it.

The site of the future east entrance is also slated to see new retail, but JBG Smith has put redevelopment plans on hold due to the pandemic, the county says. The east entrance designs leave room to build the retail spaces later on.

As part of the stalled retail project, JBG Smith agreed to hand over land for a public open space called “Metro Market Square,” according to a memo from the developer. The company is working with the county to build this space concurrently with the entrance project.

A map of the east Crystal City Metro station entrance and proposed Metro Market Square open space (staff image)

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