|Streetcars scheduled to start running in DC next summer|
The fate of the proposed Columbia Pike Transit Initiative could be decided within the next couple of weeks.
The Arlington County Board will vote on Monday, July 23, whether to adopt the streetcar as “the locally preferred alternative” and authorize the county manager to file a joint application with Fairfax County to request funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider the streetcar proposal July 31.
The Arlington County Board appears divided on whether to support streetcars, which would run on electricity, or the other options under consideration—an enhanced bus system or a system of longer, articulated buses. Applicants for DOT’s New Starts/Small Starts grant program are required to evaluate multiple alternatives.
Streetcars would cost more than enhanced or articulated bus systems, but proponents say they would pay off in the long run by encouraging more economic development. Those who oppose streetcars say they wouldn’t reduce traffic congestion because there won’t be a dedicated lane for them.
A study published this month evaluating the return on investment of the Columbia Pike Transit Initiative concluded that investing in streetcars “would add significant value to the Columbia Pike corridor.” However, the study raised two concerns: Limits on higher density would need to be increased, and higher property values could lead to the loss of existing affordable housing in the corridor.
Mason Supervisor Penny Gross, vice chair of the board, supports the streetcar initiative, but it’s unclear how the other Fairfax County supervisors will vote. Once the Columbia Pike system is in place, Gross would like to see it extended along Leesburg Pike. It would also be great if streetcars could run all way up Columbia Pike to Annandale.
If you’ve got ideas on how transit should be developed around here, now is the time to let Fairfax County officials know. The county has begun a Countywide Transit Network Study of 2050 and is seeking input from the community on where Metrorail or other light rail systems should be developed over the next few decades.
The county is holding a public meeting on the study Thursday, July 19, at Hayfield Secondary School, 7630 Telegraph Road, Alexandria, at 6:30 p.m. You can also submit comments and take a survey online.
If we want Annandale to develop the right way, transit is crucial. All the current investments seem to be going to commercial centers close to transit facilities, like Tysons Corner and Merrifield. Annandale could be left behind if our transportation needs are neglected.