VRE Crystal City Rail Station Needs More Study

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on 9/19/2017.

The fact that VRE is planning a new rail station for Crystal City points to the success of its rail operations in Northern Virginia. The fact that it has actively solicited input from VRE rail riders demonstrates its commitment to serving them. Unfortunately VRE’s consensus building efforts have excluded residents of Crystal City, who challenge VRE’s claims that construction of Option 2 will have no significant noise or pollution impacts.

Crystal City residents’ concerns might be written off as nimbyism were it not for VRE’s skewing of the alternatives analysis for the new rail station.

VRE relies on Census numbers to show that there are significantly more jobs within a half mile radius of Option 2 than Option 3. Yet the VRE rider survey indicates that both locations have approximately the same number of riders within one half mile. In addition Option 3 shows significantly more residents within a half mile than Option 2, a statistic that’s critical to VRE’s plans to expand service to reverse commuters. Clearly Option 3 is competitive for local accessibility. Yet it scored low while Option 2 scored high on this criterion in the Summary Evaluation Table on page 54.

The findings show that Option 2 is significantly closer to both Metrorail and Metroway than Option 3, demonstrating superior regional accessibility. Excluded from the ratings for this criterion, however, was Option 3’s significantly greater proximity to Reagan National Airport. This doesn’t make sense, considering that DCA is a major national transportation hub.

While the findings report that noise levels will “increase due to horn sounds from VRE trains” and the realigned tracks will be closer to the built environment than before, it incongruously concludes “that the proposed station options did not result in any significant changes in noise or vibration.”

Most troubling, however was the cost comparison. Option 2 will require a tunnel and a bridge on either end of the platform to provide access to Crystal Drive. Option 3 will require two bridges. In general bridges cost less than tunnels. So on that basis alone Option 3 should cost less. But VRE concluded just the opposite, while providing no numbers to back up its claim.

Due to the lack of hard numbers and contradictory claims in the alternatives analysis, I do not believe that Arlington County has sufficient information to make an informed recommendation on where to put the new VRE rail station.

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