Arlington County Cuts Costs, Improves Design of Columbia Pike Transit Stations Project

Updated, 05/07/2014, 2:10 p.m.: In response to queries, we are providing additional information about the funding for this program. The $12.4 million transit stations program, for 23 stations, is funded primarily by federal ($6.4 million, or 52%), state ($1.7 million, or 14%), and local Transportation Capital Fund ($3.5 million, or 28% — these are revenues from commercial real estate assessments that can only be used for transportation investments) sources. General Obligation bonds are providing $800,000, or 6% of program costs — some of which was used for local match to federal grants. We have also provided a link to a PowerPoint presentation and other related documents, as well as a comparison of other similar transit stations in the nation.

Original press release, as issued:

  • Total project cost reduced 40%
  • Improved design, functionality, based on rider feedback
  • County to directly manage project
  • Stations needed to serve busiest bus corridor in Virginia

ARLINGTON, Va. – Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan today announced plans to substantially reduce the cost of new transit stations along Columbia Pike and improve their functionality. The new station design will cost significantly less to build and maintain than the prototype at Columbia Pike and South Walter Reed Drive, which opened in March 2013. The total project cost has been reduced 40 percent, from $20.9 million to $12.4 million.

Donnellan launched a comprehensive review of the project last year after declaring that the Walter Reed station, formerly called a “Super Stop,” had cost too much, taken too long to build, and had some functional problems, including poor weather protection.

“I said that we would only proceed with this project when I was satisfied that we had a functional design that would cost substantially less than the prototype to build. Staff has accomplished those goals,” Donnellan said. “These stations will serve Arlingtonians for decades to come, at a cost comparable to stations serving similar transit needs.”

“People ask – why won't a simple bus stop do. The answer is a bus stop cannot give us what we need on Columbia Pike. To transform the Pike into a walkable, transit-oriented Main Street, we need transit that entices more people to use it. These stations will be well-lit, comfortable and provide real-time arrival information. They will take the guesswork out of using transit on the Pike,” added Donnellan

New design based on rider feedback

The County enlisted Parsons Transportation Group to review the prototype's functionality and develop recommendations for future stations. Parsons incorporated the results of an extensive community consultation process that included users of the Walter Reed prototype, those who ride transit along Columbia Pike, neighbors and businesses. The community and riders said clearly that they want a more functional and lower-cost transit station.

The new design concept developed by Parsons includes several key improvements:

  • Larger canopy and side windscreens to enhance coverage area and weather protection.
  • Reduced footprint to improve pedestrian circulation and ADA accessibility.
  • Seating that is more comfortable, covered and flexible.

Substantially reduced project cost

The new station design reduces costs in two ways: (1) use of standardized components reduces complexity, lowers construction costs and offers better control over long-term maintenance costs; and (2) a modular design allows the option of creating smaller or larger stations based on conditions and ridership demands at individual sites.

Taking advantage of this modular approach, County staff determined the optimal station size for each location along Columbia Pike. The new mix of station sizes, which includes single and standard (or double) units as well as a constrained version for narrower sites and an extended version for higher ridership locations, reduced the total cost for the Columbia Pike Transit Stations Project from $20.9 million to $12.4 million.

Transit Stations:

Cost estimate for new design

Single-size station

Standard-size station

(comparable to Walter Reed prototype)


$279,000 *

$361,000 *

Site design and project management






* Construction estimate includes 30 percent contingency due to conceptual nature of the design.

The estimated costs for the redesigned transit stations are comparable to stations for the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway and other light rail, streetcar and bus rapid transit systems across the nation.

County will implement stronger project management

CliftonLarsonAllen, an independent accounting and consulting firm, has been assessing the delivery of the Walter Reed prototype and reviewing project costs. This assessment is not yet complete, due to difficulties in documenting a project that spanned a decade and involved multiple agencies, including the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

It is clear from the review to date that many factors contributed to increased project costs and delays. As a result, Arlington plans to implement several project management changes. For future Columbia Pike transit stations, the County will:

  • Directly oversee construction – All consultants and contractors will work directly for the County. In comparison, Arlington designed the Super Stop prototype and WMATA managed its construction.
  • Control costs throughout design and construction – This includes identifying risks early in project development, and enhanced monitoring and management of costs.

Encouraging people to use transit

New transit stations along Columbia Pike will serve two purposes: accommodate riders on what is the busiest bus transit corridor in Virginia, and serve the planning vision of transforming the Pike into a more transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly “Main Street.”

Arlington will move forward with the transit stations project in phases, starting with the next increment of eight, located where the County has improved Columbia Pike as part of its utility undergrounding and streetscape project.

>>View a PowerPoint presentation and other related documents.

Arlington Va., is a world-class residential, business and tourist location that was originally part of the “10 miles square” parcel of land surveyed in 1791 to be the Nation's Capital. Slightly smaller than 26 square miles, it is the geographically smallest self-governing county in the United States, and one of only a handful with the prized Aaa/AAA/AAA bond rating. Arlington maintains a rich variety of stable neighborhoods and quality schools, and has received numerous awards for Smart Growth and transit-oriented development. Home to some of the most influential organizations in the world — including the Pentagon — Arlington stands out as one of America's preeminent places to live, visit and do business.