The Crystal City to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Pedestrian Connection Feasibility Study was funded by the Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID) to assess the feasibility of building a pedestrian connection (CC2DCA project) between Crystal City, Virginia and the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). The study investigated the potential for a connection to achieve the following objectives:
- Generate economic development
- Create a direct and enjoyable experience
- Develop a practical and implementable solution
- Provide multi-modal access and connectivity to the region
- Celebrate and preserve recreational, cultural, and historic resources
- Align or integrate with existing and planned infrastructure projects
These objectives were used to assess alignments and ultimately select a bridge and tunnel option for the connection. Ultimately, the study sought to identify the implementation steps for the potential connection. This study serves as the first assessment of the potential connection, and includes ownership, preliminary cost and maintenance, access and usage, and constructability considerations. Further review will be required as the Project moves forward.
Connected, safe, and enjoyable access is key to a thriving urban environment. Reducing once burdensome trips between destinations, whether through transit or walkability, can create and promote long-term economic sustainability more significant than the improvement itself. In Crystal City, this improvement lies in its ability to connect, interconnect, and serve as host to a dynamic range of transportation options. The Crystal City to DCA pedestrian connection embodies this mission and has the potential to create a vibrant urban environment unlike any other in the United States.
Many cities across the country are actively pursuing, through significant investment, the idea of an airport-city or "aerotropolis." Crystal City, however, has one strategic advantage that other cities do not: its location, so close to DCA, already positions it on the cusp of becoming an aerotropolis. Few, if any, airports in the country have the existing proximity to an urbanized business district area that DCA has. Although DCA sits at number seven on the list of airports closest to their downtowns, the report measures the distance from DCA to Washington, DC. Conversely, if you were to instead measure the distance from the airport to Crystal City, DCA would beat the top airport almost three times over. None of the airports listed have the type or scale of office and retail space that could be accessed within a 15 to 20-minute walk that Crystal City offers. Crystal City has an enormous opportunity to create something unique in this regard.
Developing a pedestrian connection between Crystal City and DCA solves three primary challenges that hold back Crystal City from fully capitalizing on its proximity to the airport:
- The current walking connections between Crystal City and DCA are cumbersome, not ADA compliant, and long;
- Existing vehicular routes between Crystal City and DCA are approaching or are at capacity and are indirect; and
- The existing transportation amenities serving thousands of passengers per day are not interconnected.
The project team established a three-step approach to developing and understanding the connection. DISCOVER – focused on collecting background information from stakeholders and the public, and gathering all available data sets including development and transit usage. The first phase aimed to create a platform to evaluate the connection. SYNTHESIZE – analyzed background information and available data to understand the potential constraints and opportunities for the connection. This process included developing and studying a series of alignments and options both above and below grade. The synthesize phase resulted in a preferred alignment and set of potential options for the connection. PLAN – culminates the study and offers a vision of how the CC2DCA project could move forward. The plan phase focuses less on the design and recommended connection but instead paints a roadmap for how the project would be implemented, including a proposed timeline, approvals, and potential funding sources. It also identifies short-term improvements to existing conditions to address existing safety and accessibility issues for pedestrians and cyclists in the study area.
The Crystal City BID oversaw the study and convened a working group to aid the project through all three phases. The working group consisted of the following groups:
- Arlington County Department of Environmental Services
- Arlington Economic Development
- CSX Transportation (CSXT)
- Crystal City Civic Association (CCCA)
- Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA)
- National Park Service (NPS)
- National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC)
- Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT)
- Virginia Railway Express (VRE)
- JBG Smith
- Washing Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)
In addition to the working group, the project team held two public meetings, one on September 5, 2017 during the DISCOVER phase, and another at the conclusion of the PLAN phase on November 15, 2017.