It seems Arlington County is obsessed with development. Having approved plans to increase the density of Crystal City by 50 percent, construct a 600,000 sq. foot high rise on the EFC Park and Ride lot and redevelop Columbia Pike at triple density, County Board will soon approve plans to construct a 532 unit apartment complex on Wilson Blvd. between Kansas and Lincoln Streets in Ballston (Virginia Square Towers) and a new six story headquarters for Boeing in North Crystal City (Monument View). Also on the drawing boards are plans to construct a 22 story office tower (Penn Square) behind Costco’s in Pentagon City. County Board touts these projects as proof of its commitment to “Smart Growth,” i.e. dense development along transit corridors. The idea behind Smart Growth is to coax people out of their cars from the nether world of sluburbia and into so-called walkable communities.Yet most of the planned additions to Arlington’s landscape include large scale parking facilities and will have major impacts on the county’s limited school and transportation infrustructure.
The question whether Arlington County can absorb the influx of people attendant with high density development was answered for me on October 11, when due to an incident at Clarendon Metro all westbound trains were offloaded at Rosslyn Station at the height of rush hour. Thousands of westbound passengers pushed and shoved to the escalators as hundreds of eastbound passengers entering the station blocked their exit. This crisis situation, which could have easily have resulted in a stampede, was directly attributable to the inadequacy of Metro infrastructure. If Metro isn’t safe now, how can it possibly handle the hordes that move into the county when County Board’s plans to double or triple the density of the Crystal City and Rosslyn-Ballston corridors are realized? Development isn’t smart if the infrastructure can’t support it, and Metro is woefully inadequate right now.