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Ground officially breaks on $29 million Transitway extension to Pentagon City

Ground was officially broken yesterday morning on the first phase of the $29 million extension of the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway.

At a brief ceremony on Monday (May 9) near the site of a future Crystal City bus station, at the intersection of 12th Street S. and Long Bridge Drive, local officials gathered for remarks and photos with golden shovels to christen the first phase of the long-planned transit project.

“The transit way extension is really important because it is going to support the increase in regional travel demand in Pentagon City, Crystal City, and our partners in Potomac Yard,” said County Board Chair Katie Cristol during the ceremony. “As they continue to boom with the arrival of new businesses.”

Just last week, aerospace company Boeing announced it was moving its corporate headquarters to its existing Crystal City office — a short distance from where the groundbreaking was taking place.

The planned Pentagon City extension will add just over a mile to the 4.5-mile rapid bus transit corridor, eventually to connecting Amazon HQ2 and the Pentagon City Metro station. The Transitway will include center-running transit-only lanes cutting through 12th Street.

The first phase is expected to take about a year to finish, with an estimated April 2023 completion date. The work over the next 12 months will include the installation of two new transit stations at Crystal Drive and 15th Street S. and at 12th Street S. and Long Bridge Drive.

Locals will also see streetscape improvements along 12th Street S. between S. Eads Street and S. Clark Street, as well as the intersection of 12th Street S. and Crystal Drive. Some existing street parking  along the route will become part of the dedicated bus lane.

Added transit stations that are set to be constructed during the first segment of the Transitway to Pentagon City extension (image courtesy of Arlington County)

Surveying work started last month with actual construction expected to start in June, a county spokesperson told ARLnow. Street parking will be limited in some of those areas when construction begins, but residents will be notified prior.

The Transitway is dedicated infrastructure for the Metroway rapid bus transit line. It first debuted in 2014 and was hailed for being the first of its kind in the region. While it has achieved some of its initial goals,  a lack of ridership, planned features not yet implemented, and confused motorists sometimes driving the wrong way in bus-only lanes have been ongoing challenges.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) is contributing most of the funds needed for the extension, including $19 million to the first phase alone.

Despite recent significant shifts in commuter patterns due to the pandemic, NVTA chair Phyllis Randall says the project remains a necessity and a good investment.

“I believe in the scope and I believe in the extension,” said Randall, who is also the Loudoun County Board Chair. “We know that people are going to keep moving to Northern Virginia… for jobs, for schools, for so many reasons. We need these transit options because people are coming here. I don’t think the need is diminished at all.”

Boeing’s increased presence in the neighborhood was noted several times in the ceremony as further proof that this extension is needed.

While it may not result in many new jobs, Cristol said the corporate giant’s decision shows that the county’s efforts in becoming more business-friendly are working.

“Arlington has spent a lot of time during my tenure on the [County] Board to reoriented ourselves to be more business friendly, to be more creative, to be more flexible, and to build better relationships with our commercial tenants. So, it feels like validation,” she told ARLnow.

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