The board is now asking the Virginia Department of Transportation to formally support its request. VDOT has signaled it will allow the closure to move forward if Arlington agrees to cover most of the costs associated with its deconstruction, which includes removing the tunnel’s above ground entrances.
VDOT has agreed to kick in $87,500 while the city will cover the remaining $385,860. The tunnel connects the nearby underground mall to area restaurants.
One of the biggest pushes to close the tunnel is the cost of maintaining it.
“The county cannot afford to maintain it in perpetuity at the level it would take to keep it clean, well-lit and secure. With a safe, grade-level alternative available for pedestrians, it just makes sense that the state close this tunnel,” said Arlington County Board Chair, Christian Dorsey, referring to the street-level crosswalk most pedestrians choose to use instead.
Once the project is approved, removal of the tunnel is expected to begin this fall and last six weeks.
The next step is to reconstruct and realign 23rd Street over the next few years to make way for the Crystal City Sector Plan, which aims to make the area more walkable and bring in more retail space — but the plan depends on the tunnel’s removal in order for major redevelopment plans to move forward.
The removal of the tunnel and major improvements to the area could be accelerated as part of promises to Amazon.