A streetcar line in Crystal City is essential for keeping the area from becoming clogged with traffic as the population and workforce grows over the next 30 years, Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in an opinion piece published in the Arlington Connection on Wednesday.
Making a case for the large investment required to build a streetcar system, Hynes argued that the streetcar is part of Arlington’s “smart growth” philosophy.
“Traffic on many major Arlington streets is less than it was in 1970, even though our population has doubled in that time,” Hynes wrote. “The secret sauce is Arlington’s commitment to ‘smart growth’ planning — our commitment to transit-oriented development that keeps density along our transit corridors, while preserving neighborhoods. In fact, more than half of Arlington’s real property values are on just 11 percent of our land — our Metrorail corridors. It is a philosophy that is the backbone to Arlington’s success, the envy of many in the region and the nation.”
Hynes said that by 2040, Crystal City and Pentagon City are collectively expected to add 8,500 residents to the existing population of 17,400. Through the Crystal City Sector Plan, Hynes also expects the neighborhoods to add 35,500 jobs during that time.
That growth doesn’t necessarily have to result in additional traffic headaches, but it will if investments are not made in transit, according to Hynes.
“The modern streetcar for Crystal City — a line that will initially connect Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — is an important first step,” Hynes wrote.
“Eventually, this ‘Route 1′ line will meet up in Pentagon City with the planned streetcar line on Columbia Pike, providing riders with a one-seat option to travel from Potomac Yard to the Skyline area in our partner jurisdiction, Fairfax County,” Hynes continued. ”Without these strategic investments, our streets could become clogged with traffic, our quality of life could decline, and our robust economy could be at risk — the exact opposite of what we’ve achieved since the 1960s and what we know is possible when a community plans carefully.”
Hynes’ op-ed comes at a time when the county is seeking public comment on the planned Columbia Pike streetcar line. It also comes as Arlington and Alexandria engage in a mini war of words over federal funding for the potential Alexandria portion of the Route 1 streetcar line.
“We hope [the streetcar] may even stretch further south into Alexandria one day,” Hynes wrote.