By Chris Teale (Image/City of Alexandria)
With the West End Transit- way making progress towards construction and the new Gate- way at King and Beauregard development approved by city council, work has begun on improving the intersection of King and Beauregard streets on the West End.
A ground-breaking ceremony was held last month to mark the project’s commencement. Officials expect it to be finished in 2019, after two phases of construction and utility line relocation.
“This marks decades of hard work and the start of a revitalized West End King Street corridor,” said Mayor Allison Silberberg in a statement. “This project addresses long-term safety, infrastructure and aesthetic concerns.”
Mitchell Bernstein, the city’s director of project implementation, said that while the project has been revised several times since it was first conceived more than 20 years ago, its aim is to improve the experience for all users, especially pedestrians and transit users.
“To be honest, the project has been scaled back a little bit, because it’s been so long in coming, the money has slowly drifted away, and also things have gotten more expensive,” he said. “So we’ve had to revise the scope somewhat, but still the intent is the same: to improve traffic movement and to make it much more pedestrian friendly.”
The first phase of the project began last month, and consists of grading, curb, and
gutter and retaining walls that need to be constructed prior to the relocation of utilities that run in and around the intersection. That helps the city, in conjunction with Dominion Virginia Power, relocate the utilities and then begin the more visible roadway improvements.
“The phasing is driven by the utility relocations,” Bernstein said. “In coordination with Dominion Virginia Power, the new utility relocations are in existing roadways. We need to do some temporary work, just enough so that Dominion can move everything, and then we come through and finish it. It’s basically three separate operations.”
Bernstein said the need to relocate utilities was something that the city usually would look to carry out beforehand, but their current location in travel lanes complicates matters.
“One of [the slip ramps] is going to have an overhead utility pole in the location of the existing ramp,” he said. “Normally, we would move everything before we awarded the contract, even. In this case, we were unable to do that. We needed to do some work to get us to the point where we could get into more of the normal process where we relocate all the utilities and then award the bulk of [the rest of] the work.”
The relocation of utilities is expected to be complete by early 2018, and then will bring about the final phase of construction at the intersection, which will include the improvements for all users. Those improvements include an additional turn lane in each direction on King Street, medians, improved curbs, gutters, sidewalks and pavement as well as enhanced drainage and storm water management. Traffic signals and crosswalks will be upgraded as well.
The Gateway at King and Beauregard promises to revitalize an area in the city’s northwest corner near its border with Fairfax County filled with mostly vacant lots, the former site of the Jefferson Memorial Hospital and a strip mall.
The new development would be anchored by a 24-hour, 72,000 square-foot Harris Teeter grocery store, with 352 residential — including 74 affordable — units, 94,374 square feet of office space and 40,000 square feet of retail space. It would include 822 parking spaces, most of which would be underground.
One of the biggest concerns raised during that project’s approval process was about heightened traffic congestion in the area, but the staff report said a traffic impact study performed by D.C.-based consulting firm Gorove/Slade Associates indicated there will not be any significant negative impacts.
The report noted that the traffic levels at the intersections of King and Beauregard streets and Beauregard Street and Seminary Road are already unacceptable, but said the applicant — developer Abramson Proper- ties — has agreed to participate in the city’s plan to encourage alternative means of transportation.
The West End Transitway was first approved in 2012 by city council. The plan links the Van Dorn Street and Pentagon Metro stations with a bus route through a combination of dedicated transit lanes in one or both directions and travel in mixed traffic. The buses also will make use of some of the high-occupancy vehicle lanes on Interstate-395 leading to the Pentagon.
Officials said they are excited to help contribute to the new projects in the area and help alleviate any future traffic congestion while making the area safer for other users.
“By tightening up the crossings and by making this more of an urban intersection, we’re actually making some improvements that are going to contribute to the planned land use,” said city transportation director Yon Lambert. “As The Gateway at King and Beauregard comes on board, it’s a very significant development for that part of the city, and so ultimately we want this intersection to be a gate- way to Alexandria and a place [where] all users can move.”