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City council OKs plan for Bus Rapid Transit system in Northern Va.

WASHINGTON — Plans for a new Bus Rapid Transit system in Northern Virginia are moving ahead after an Alexandria City Council vote Wednesday.

The West End Transitway, initially approved in 2012, can now proceed with environmental and federal funding request phases.

Stretching between the Pentagon and the Van Dorn Street Metro Rail Station, the West End Transitway will create dedicated bus lanes where it can, and shared use lanes where necessary.

Construction will be predominantly in the middle of right of way property already owned by Alexandria and will include new bike lanes, street landscaping and intersection improvements to address pedestrian safety.

During the meeting, Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg and City Councilmember Redella “Del” Pepper raised vigorous objections and concern about the project removing old growth trees that create a canopy along a portion of North Beauregard Street between Sanger Avenue and the Mark Center.

“We’re still very early in this. We’re at 15 percent … we have quite a bit of design work to do,” Alexandria’s Director of Transportation and Environmental Services Yon Lambert responded at one point during multiple and lengthy tree topic visitations.

“We will be planting additional trees on both the sides and in the median, and we do have time to continue to work with the community on the final location, on the species … there is quite a bit of planning work that still remains to be done and for which we will actively be seeking community input on,” Lambert explained.

“20 years from now I’ll come back and haunt you, if you don’t do that,” Pepper said referring to her demands that extra consideration be given to trees in “special places.”

The project will increase the number of trees in the North Beauregard Street, Sanger Avenue area by 43 percent. Overall, Lambert said the project will increase the tree count in the Transitway corridor by 60 percent.

Specific project designs are just getting underway, but if all goes well planners told the city council the new West End Transitway Bus Rapid Transit system could be ready for service by 2020-2021.

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