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$1M Bus Stop Under Review

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

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Authorities in Arlington, VA, will review the design, construction, performance and cost of their controversial, million-dollar bus stop before the next 23 stops are built.

The high-cost of the so-called “Super Stop” prototype has sparked national attention and debate.

Arlington County’s assessment, initially announced in April, will take a three-pronged approach and is set to be complete in late fall 2013, according to a release Monday (June 24) by officials.

Arlington County Super Stop
Arlington County

The Walter Reed Super Stop in Arlington, VA, is the first-of-its-kind, high-capacity transit station. But its million-dollar price tag and design features have generated a public outcry.

After the independent review process, the county manager will consult with county board members and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, also known as Metro), which served as the general contractor for the stop.

The county will then announce the fate of the other stops planned.

“The goal of the review… is to facilitate the construction of the remaining stops faster, at lower cost and with improved functionality where necessary,” the county said.

Taxpayer, Rider Furor

When news of the costly Walter Reed bus stop first surfaced in March, the public was not pleased.

The actual construction and fabrication of the stop cost $575,000, while $440,000 was spent on construction management and inspections. Federal and state transportation money paid 80 percent of the tab.

Besides the Super Stop’s price tag, many claimed the design had flaws. The stainless-steel benches were too cold to sit on, and the architectural glass and steel canopy offered little in terms of shelter from the elements, reports said.

Walter Reed under construction
Arlington County

Set-up costs, construction delays, and design refinements increased the cost of the project, officials said.

Initially, the county officials defended the prototype, saying it was an investment in infrastructure to support renewal and anticipated growth, as the stops would also accommodate a streetcar system planned for the area.

Later, they admitted that “set-up costs, construction challenges and delays, and design refinements” had increased the total cost of the project and announced plans for review.

The county’s website lists a number of other similar transit stations and costs, including a $762,000 shelter in Norfolk, VA; a $757,000 station in Charlotte, NC; and $1.755 million light rail transit stop in Minneapolis, MN.

Other Super Stops on Hold

The 23 remaining stops in the Washington, D.C., suburb were expected to run about $904,000 each. A typical bus shelter costs $10,000 to $20,000, according to county transportation officials.

However, “due to the higher-than-expected cost and functionality concerns, the County Manager placed construction of the future 23 Super Stops on hold pending completion of the review,” the county said.

The three-pronged review will include a financial and performance assessment; community consultation process aimed at users of the stop, and a design review. The financial and performance review and design review will use independent third parties to ensure unbiased reporting and focus, the county noted.

Current riders are invited to provide feedback on the design using this survey. Additionally, non-riders interested in providing feedback can submit comments to

“We look forward to the findings of these reviews and will take steps necessary to ensure the construction of future stops at a significantly lower cost, while maintaining functionality and the amenities needed for a high-capacity station,” said Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Construction; Design; Good Technical Practice; Government; Public Transit; Transportation

Comment from John Fauth, (6/26/2013, 8:38 AM)

If it were not for national exposure and public ridicule, another government entity would go happily about their business of wasting taxpayer money for no better reason than they can. Cost is no object when it's not your money. I want to believe they have been shamed by this experience, but that would require a conscience.

Comment from John Royal, (6/26/2013, 9:05 AM)

"The actual construction and fabrication of the stop cost $575,000, while $440,000 was spent on construction management and inspections." As bad as a $575,000 construction cost for a bus stop is, an 80%-of-construction-cost CM fee is even worse. Unbelievable. On state projects here in North Carolina, our architectural/engineering design *and* CM fee combined is less than 15% of the construction cost.

Comment from Andrew Piedl, (6/26/2013, 11:17 AM)

It comes out to something like $5,000/sf.

Comment from Fred Wittenberg, (6/26/2013, 10:48 PM)

The Virginia bus stops are small potatoes. Here in the Chicagoland Area, $25 and $4O million have been spent on two "EL" stations, one in suburban Skokie and one over Lake St. in Chicago. Another is in the planning stage for Evanston, to the tune of another $20+ Million. They can't figure it out what austerity means in a down economy!

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