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NoVA authorities will dedicate funding to study the environmental and engineering feasibility of a pedestrian bridge from Crystal City to Reagan National Airport.

NoVA authorities will dedicate funding to study the environmental and engineering feasibility of a pedestrian bridge from Crystal City to Reagan National Airport.

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AMAZON MIGHT MEAN A PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE TO REAGAN NATIONAL AIRPORT

NoVA authorities will dedicate funding to study the environmental and engineering feasibility of a pedestrian bridge from Crystal City to Reagan National Airport. The new money, connected to Amazon’s second headquarters next to the airport, could also be used to construct the pathway. The project has disputable cost-benefit merits

Virginia Making Room for Pedestrian Airport Connection in Amazon HQ2 Upgrades

A new “Pedestrian Connector Bridge from Crystal City to National Airport” is in the $195 million offered up by Virginia for transportation upgrades connected to Amazon’s arrival. Money from Arlington and Alexandria ($570 million) could also go into funding for this bridge. It could also be a pedestrian tunnel.

Funding From Amazon Arrival For Study of Feasibility for Crystal City-Airport Connection

According to the detailed transport upgrades map (Page 6), the new financing “advances the environmental documentation, engineering, and (if feasible) construction of a pedestrian bridge project that would effectively connect Crystal City and DCA airport; implementation of this project requires the support of the National Park Service and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.”

17,000 Jobs In Walking Distance of Reagan Airport with Pedestrian Bridge

The Crystal City Business Investment District released a feasibility study of the project in February 2018.

According to Crystal City BID, the pedestrian bridge puts up to “10.5 million square feet of office space, 3,600 hotel rooms, and 5,600 residential units” within walking distance of DCA (Page 13). Continuing their study of the pedestrian impact, the BID says their preferred design “provide over 179,000 square feet of meeting space across 113 individual meeting rooms. Using Census data and LODES Jobs numbers, it is estimated that nearly 17,000 jobs would be within a 15-minute walk of the airport.”

$16 to $45 Million for Pedestrian Connection in National Landing to National Airport

The Crystal City BID summarized the cost of a pedestrian airport connection in their Executive Summary:

“The project team developed two potential alignments between Crystal City and DCA, and selected the most feasible alignment between 2011 Crystal Drive and the airport’s Parking Garage C for a bridge or tunnel option. Based on a high-level feasibility analysis, both bridge and tunnel options were deemed feasible and range from $16 million to $26 million in construction costs for a bridge and $28 million to $38 million for a tunnel.”

However, “tunneling costs are variable and could be upwards of $45 million depending on the engineering needed to ensure that the railroad corridor and Parkway will not be disrupted and that the build-out meets the objectives of the CC2DCA project.” (Page 16)

The BID summarized their operating costs for the preferred bridge design on Page 15:

“Maintenance may vary depending on type of structure—a covered open-air bridge may cost $20,000 per year to maintain, while a covered climate-controlled bridge may cost $70,000 per year. The cost-effectiveness of a bridge is high due to its potential to attract users through increased connectivity and enjoyment.”

Operating costs would be higher for a tunnel. Page 16:

”...initial calculations estimate $120,000 per year. In addition, because the length of the tunnel exceeds 800 feet, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requirements will be needed to meet ventilation and egress requirements. For example, the tunnel will require an exit located less than 400 feet from any point. NFPA requirements could cause the cost to rise as the planning and permitting processes become more complicated. “

Pedestrian Bridge to DCA Probably Better than a Tunnel

Building a pedestrian tunnel to DCA costs more money than a bridge and also provides less connectivity to other transportation facilities. Again, from Crystal City BID’s Executive Summary:

“The bridge option affords potential connections to VRE’s relocated station and the Mount Vernon Trail, as well as an opportunity to celebrate the history of NPS’s Parkway from a unique vantage point; however, it has associated challenges by crossing above the Parkway, a cultural and natural resource on the National Register of Historic Places. The tunnel option preserves the Parkway; however, it crosses below an active railroad corridor, and doesn’t allow for a direct connection to VRE’s relocated station and the Mount Vernon Trail.”

Current Connections Between Crystal City and DCA Suck

From Page 8 of Crystal City BID’s study:

“There are currently eight ways to travel between Crystal City and DCA ... All the connections are more than 15 minutes long, or cost money. Of the existing connections, Metrorail is the fastest mode between Crystal City and DCA, outside of the more expensive taxi and [Uber/Lyft/etc.].”

Continuing on Page 8:

“Taxi and TNC [Uber/Lyft/etc.] have trip-specific destinations, and are significantly more expensive than all the other options. Hotel shuttles only operate between the airport and specific hotels. The Metrobus 10N route operates too infrequently to be a dependable solution for weekday travelers.”

“The existing walking routes follow the Mount Vernon Trail and the 26th Street Bridge. ... For the first walking connection via the Mount Vernon Trail, pedestrians can exit DCA through the parking garage, navigate around and under the airport access road, and take the Mount Vernon Trail to the Crystal City Connector to connect into Crystal City. This walk is not Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant ... The second walking connection, along the 26th Street Bridge, is similar in length, is not ADA compliant because of the steep slope of the on-ramp from Crystal Drive to the 26th Street Bridge, and has a similar lack of wayfinding signage.”

There is No Specific Timeline for Next Steps on the Crystal City - Reagan Airport Pedestrian Bridge

Crystal City BID’s report listed lots of steps and inter-governmental coordination required for the project to proceed but offered no specific timeline.

Critics are sure to voice their opinions in the meantime. Via Greater Greater Washington:

“The project has so far been polarizing — most people seem to either love it or hate it. Those in the “hate it” category have criticized spending taxpayer money on something with very little direct return on investment. However, return on investment is not measured by a conventional cost-return estimate, but rather the cost of the bridge being rewarded by enough revitalization of the area. Others argued that it could only be used by nearby residents because no one would want to get off one stop before the airport and walk the rest of the way just so they can use the bridge.”

“Some Facebook commenters argued that even people in the area would rather take a ride-hail to the airport. That’s certainly true for many travelers, but we shouldn’t forget factors like traffic and tardy Ubers. For neighborhood residents, the bridge has a similar travel time with no obstacles and will provide an option for people who prefer to walk. City planners’ goal is to have a number of efficient mobility options, since this promotes socio-economic development.”

“Because of its location over a highway and on pre-developed land, the project is facing some challenges including visual obstruction, noise, and possible light contamination from the site. Some residents seem to see the connection as an alien element invading their space, rather than a bonus or an improvement.”

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