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APS poised to add Walter Reed Drive road upgrades to Career Center project

Arlington Public Schools is poised to tie planned S. Walter Reed Drive upgrades into its $180 million Arlington Career Center project.

This past Saturday, the Arlington County Board approved a memorandum of agreement permitting APS to appoint the same contractor for the Career Center’s construction to handle the road improvements — part of the county’s Neighborhood Complete Streets program — from 5th Street S. to Columbia Pike.

Next, the agreement will head to the Arlington School Board for approval in January.

The upgrades to S. Walter Reed Drive will include new trees, protected bike lanes, a traffic light at the 9th Street S. intersection and improved bus stops. The community broadly supported these enhancements following a series of public feedback sessions held from fall 2020 to spring 2021, per a county staff report.

Currently, construction of the five-story Career Center at 816 S. Walter Reed Drive, slated to start next spring, is set to overlap with the road work. County and school officials agreed to merge the two projects to avoid traffic congestion and construction snags.

“So, essentially, when you have two contractors trying to work in the same place at the same time, somebody gets delayed,” APS Director of Design and Construction Jeffrey Chambers told School Board members during their meeting last Thursday.

Under the plan, the county will foot the bill for the road work, estimated at $7 million, and reimburse APS for any extra administrative costs, the report said.

APS is not required to contribute financially to the road improvements. Still, it must inform the county of any additional expenses due to construction delays. Should the road work exceed its budget, APS must obtain county approval before proceeding.

The bulk of the road work is expected to be completed within the first year of construction, with the final paving and overlay scheduled just before the Career Center opens in August 2026, Chambers said last week.

The funding for the S. Walter Reed Drive road improvements has already been earmarked in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan.

APS is still in the process of securing a contractor for the Career Center, which will host up to 1,619 students and include a four-story parking garage.

Officials plan to present the combined bids for the Career Center construction and road improvements to the County Board in early 2024. The Board will then approve the fund transfer and any additional construction financing.

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