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Only in Arlington County: Spending to Save Money

We growled about about Arlington County's $1 million "Super Stop" bus stops on March 29, 2013. We even included a picture so that every Arlington taxpayer can see what a $1 million "Super Stop" bus stop looks like.

Now we learn the county will let three contracts to "hire (a) independent contractor to review $1 million bus stop," according to Patricia Sullivan in today's Washington Post. Here's how Sullivan begins her report:

"Arlington County officials said Monday that they will hire an independent contractor to review the cost and design of the $1 million bus stop that opened in March along Columbia Pike and the plans for 23 additional bus-and-streetcar shelters.

"County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in April that the county and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority would review the cost and design after the cost of the bus stop became the focus of complaints and ridicule. On Monday, however, Donnellan issued a statement that said the county would use “independent, third-parties to ensure unbiased reporting and focus.” Officials could not immediately say how much the review would cost.

"The three-month-old shelter is called a “super-stop” because it can accommodate a proposed streetcar as well as buses.

"The county had previously said $575,000 of the “super stop” price was for construction and fabrication, while $440,000 was the cost of management and inspections. Arlington designed the stop, which was built to serve both buses and a future streetcar, while WMATA built it.

"But it wasn’t just the cost of the bus shelter that upset residents. It took 18 months to build, and riders have said the slanted glass roof does not keep rain and snow off them while they wait for the bus . . . ." (embedded links in the original)

But three separate reviews. apparently by three separate consultants? In today's Arlington Sun Gazette, Scott McCaffrey writes:

"County officials announced June 24 they were hiring consultants to conduct three reviews – one on transit riders’ views, one on design and one on cost issues – before moving forward with the remaining 23 high-tech transit stops in the corridor. Those stops are designed to serve bus riders today and a combination of bus and streetcar riders down the road.

< . . . >

"The SuperStops project is a joint effort between Arlington officials and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, but the cost of the review will be paid through county dollars.

"Emanuel said county staff had conducted its own in-house dissection of the situation, but hiring consultants would “give us another perspective.”

“We’re committed to doing an independent, third-party review,” he said."

We have all these highly-paid county employees, but, apparently, neither they, nor the County Board masterminds can make a decision on how to construct 23 functional, yet moderately-priced, bus stops. Sheesh!

You can read the county's press release here.

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