The Columbia Pike streetcar line edged a little closer to reality following the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ (BOS) endorsement of the project. The BOS voted 6 to 2 July 31 to approve a streetcar line as the locally preferred option for transit along the Columbia Pike corridor.
The “no” votes were cast by supervisors Michael Frey (Sully) and Pat Herrity (Springfield). Linda Smyth (Providence) abstained.
The Arlington County Board approved the streetcar option July 23. The two counties will now submit a joint application for funding to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The 4.9-mile Columbia Pike streetcar line would extend along Columbia Pike from Pentagon City in Arlington to S. Jefferson Street in Bailey’s Crossroads, ending on Route 7 across from the Skyline Center. There would be three stops in Fairfax County—at Goodwin House, a senior housing complex in Bailey’s Crossroads, Jefferson Street, and Skyline.
According to a statement from the BOS, the streetcar line would be “key to redeveloping Bailey’s Crossroads into a walkable, mixed-use, urban center.”
“The streetcar will relieve congestion and present economic development opportunities for the Skyline area and serve a population with the demonstrated support and need for transit,” BOS Chairman Sharon Bulova said. “Light rail has the potential to become an important part of the transportation network as we look to add new options and expand service in Fairfax County.”
Mason Supervisor Penny Gross, a longtime advocate for the Columbia Pike streetcar line, hopes it could eventually extend to other points in Fairfax County. “We need to get it to Skyline, prove its viability, and then expand it,” Gross told the Washington Post. “This has a lot of potential.”
A joint study by Fairfax and Arlington counties projects a 4 to 10 percent increase in property values within a quarter mile of the streetcar line. This amounts to a $126 million to $315 million spike in values along the corridor.
The study also estimates the streetcar could result in 10 percent net new development along the corridor. Over 30 years, this added development would generate $82 million in new revenue from sales taxes, business licenses, and other fees. This increased development would produce $156 million in property tax revenues over the same period.
In a joint survey of developers by the two counties:
- 60 percent of developers said higher-quality transit, like a streetcar, was very important or important in choosing to develop along the Columbia Pike corridor.
- 64 percent said a streetcar would cause them to add more residential units to their developments.
- 70 percent said a streetcar would increase retail sales volume per square foot.
- 40 percent reported that they are more likely to develop along the corridor as opposed to other places in Fairfax or Arlington without rail service.
The estimated cost of the streetcar line is $246 million. Fairfax and Arlington will seek more than $107 million in federal and state funds to finance the project. Both counties will share the remaining costs. Arlington is expected to contribute the lion’s share, since most of the streetcar line will be in that jurisdiction, but the details of how the costs will be split still need to be negotiated.