To the editor:
Alexandria should prioritize building a bridge across Backlick Run and Norfolk Southern to Van Dorn Station, expanding the amount of housing on the West End within walking distance to the Metro and mitigating displacement from Amazon in Crystal City.
Amazon’s new headquarters in Crystal City will invariably lead to some displacement, pushing both current and future residents further down the Blue and Yellow lines, and possibly outside the city. Although most of Alexandria’s focus has been on development and impact at Potomac Yard, the West End will also be affected by the inevitable cascade of residents, and should be part of the solution.
Currently residents on the West End must detour onto busy Van Dorn Street to reach Van Dorn Station, tripling the walk distance and time, encouraging the use of cars and increasing traffic on Duke Street, Route 1 and I-395. Amazon’s new headquarters has been critical to securing infrastructure projects that otherwise would not have been funded without guaranteed demand, including a bridge from Crystal City to National Airport, reducing travel time from 20 to five minutes.
According to WMATA, ridership was 3,321 at Van Dorn in 2015, with only 343 residences falling within a half-mile walking distance, compared to 4,739 at similarly residential but better connected Braddock Road. The established community of 3,600 at Cameron Station alone, with a feeder bus route to the Pentagon, would support an increase in ridership before any additional development.
Enabling further growth by improving this interconnection would help the city retain current and future residents that cannot be absorbed by Potomac Yard or Old Town. Moreover, improving access would balance the loss of affordable housing relocated from more metro accessible locations to the West End. Combined, this would help stabilize the population base to support local small businesses and bolster the future viability of redevelopment at Landmark Mall and West Eisenhower.
This one missing link is as much about infrastructure and transportation as housing, including affordable housing, and the future of the West End. A bridge would in effect increase the effective housing and transportation supply, allowing Alexandria to better mitigate displacement from both Amazon and decadal regional growth, achieve its affordable housing goals, relieve traffic and potentially transform the West End.
-Matt Quan, Alexandria