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Congestion and air quality state grant could be a vital piece of major Alexandria transit program

Traffic backup heading eastbound along Duke Street near Eisenhower Ave (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated 11:30 a.m.) As Alexandria sizes up Duke Street for dedicated bus lanes, a regional grant aimed at reducing congestion and improving air quality could be a vital piece of funding the transit line’s operation.

The bus lanes, part of a bus rapid transit (BRT) refit, is part of the Duke Street in Motion project, which aims to boost transit accessibility along Duke Street.

Nothing is set in stone, but a few of the several options being considered for sections of Duke Street include blocking off sections of the roadway for dedicated bus lanes.

“The City anticipates enhanced transit operations on Duke Street beginning around FY27,” Yon Lambert, the director of the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services (T&ES), said in a memo to City Council. “The City began an engagement process in early 2021 followed by the Duke Street in Motion initiative in 2022. Transit improvements are being coordinated with other City projects along the corridor, including the intersection of Duke Street at West Taylor Run Parkway.”

At a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 13, the City Council is set to review requests for $4.5 million in Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) grants from the FY 2029 Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program and Regional Surface Transportation Program.

The request includes a $750,000 ask for the Alexandria Mobility Plan, but the lion’s share of the grant request is $3.75 million to the Duke Street Transitway.

The $4.5 million request is in line with around how much the city has been granted over the last five years. To date, a report said the city has already received a total of $87 million in NVTA funding for design, right-of-way, construction and buses for the Duke Street Transitway project.

The grant proposal could be critical to supporting the Duke Street Transitway as the city heads into a lean budget season. Transitway programs can be expensive — a lack of funding killed dedicated bus lanes in a planned West End Transitway.

A presentation planned for the City Council says the grant would fund operations for transit service for the first 3-5 years of the BRT’s life.

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