(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Alan Howze, the Democratic candidate for the Arlington County Board, has announced a new platform to improve the planned Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar.
Howze reiterated his support for the half-billion-dollar system that is slated to run from the Skyline area of Fairfax County to Crystal City to Alexandria. He also reiterated his support for a public referendum on the streetcar — which needs General Assembly approval to be placed on the ballot — and called the project a “once-in-a-generation investment.”
“The streetcar has been used as a wedge issue by those who seek political gain by dividing our community,” Howze said in a press release. “Rather than use the streetcar to score political points, let’s focus on responding to community questions and using innovation to make the planned streetcar even better.”
After “talking to thousands of Arlington residents at their doors,” Howze created five proposals to improve the streetcar system. The proposals are:
- “Speed and accountability in government matters. Timely construction should be a key contract requirement. This will minimize disruption, protect taxpayers, and accelerate the benefits from the streetcar.”
- “Create a small business contingency plan to support small businesses affected by streetcar construction.”
- “Create a business and residents advisory council to ensure community issues that arise during construction are dealt with in a timely manner.”
- “Examine the feasibility of using streetcars that can run without wires for sections of the streetcar line to reduce the use of overhead wires.”
- “Secure 100% renewable energy power supply for the streetcar. This would ensure that the streetcar is a zero emissions system.”
County Board member John Vihstadt is Howze’s opponent in the November general election. It’s a rematch of their April primary in which Vihstadt, a Republican-endorsed independent, won by a 57-41 percent margin. In response to Howze’s statement, Vihstadt responded in a press release, saying “Let’s be careful about who is calling whom divisive.”
“We have a strong contingent of voters who oppose streetcars, and are ready to vote in November,” said Vihstadt, who voted, along with County Board member Libby Garvey against the county’s 10-year Capital Improvement Plan last month because it included the streetcar.
“I’m glad to learn that my opponent is hearing the same concerns that I am in door-knocking and listening to constituents up and down Columbia Pike, along Route 1 and across the County,” Vihstadt said, “including deep anxiety about construction time and cost, disruption to small businesses, commuters and residents alike, unsightly and potentially unsafe overhead wires, environmental and energy concerns and more. Unlike my opponent, I believe that the way to deal most effectively with these concerns is not to build the streetcar in the first place!”
Howze compared the debate over the streetcar to the 1960s debate over building Metro’s Orange Line underground instead of in the median of I-66, saying “for 50 years, transit opponents have used the call for more buses to attempt to block the expansion of rail transit.”
Vihstadt fired back to that claim, referencing the vote Arlington residents took to approve building the Metro along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
“My opponent’s references to Metro are inaccurate,” he said. “I support and take Metro every day. The fact is that Metro was put to a vote in the late 1960s and Arlingtonians embraced it. They have voted to continue to support Metro in bond votes nearly every two years since. Metro ties our entire region together across Maryland, the District and Virginia. None of this is — or ever will be — true of a streetcar.”
To try to reverse falling ridership, some are suggesting that the three-year-old Tide light rail line in Norfolk eliminate its $1.50 one-way fare.
Making the seven-mile Tide line free, say advocates, would help boost ridership and achieve the system’s true goal: encouraging more transit-oriented development around its 11 stops. The line simply isn’t long enough to attract ridership sufficient to offset its $8 million in annual operating costs, they say.
(As pointed out by the Sun Gazette, Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey has held up the Tide as an example of why the county shouldn’t build the Columbia Pike streetcar system.)
Economic models presented by Arlington County suggest that the Columbia Pike streetcar’s estimated $287 million cost will be offset in the long run by new development and increased real estate values. Given that development is such an important component of the Pike streetcar’s return on investment, should rides on it be free?
Photo by Xshadow via Wikipedia
Candidates Push for Streetcar Referendum — Both Democrat Richard “Rip” Sullivan and Republican David Foster promise to introduce legislation in Richmond to allow Arlington residents to vote on the Columbia Pike streetcar. Last month, Arlington County Board members said they do not have the authority to put such a referendum on the ballot. Even if the measure would pass through the General Assembly and were approved by Gov. McAuliffe, it likely wouldn’t take effect until July 2015. [InsideNova]
Politico Moving in Rosslyn — Politico is leaving the space it shared with WJLA and NewsChannel 8 at 1100 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, but it’s not moving far. The publication has signed a long term lease at 1000 Wilson Blvd. [Washington Business Journal]
McCoskrie Lands Falls Church City Attorney Position — Carol McCoskrie, Arlington’s former Assistant County Attorney, has been approved as the new City Attorney for the City of Falls Church. McCoskrie spent 24 years working for Arlington County, mostly focusing on land use and development. [City of Falls Church]
Last Days for APAH School Supply Drive — There are only two days left to help the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing with its backpack and school supply drive, which benefits Arlington children in need. APAH will accept donations of new supplies like pencils, glue, backpacks, scissors and erasers at its office at 2704 N. Pershing Drive until Friday (August 15). [APAH]
Att’y General to Consider Streetcar Referendum — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) will be asked by Del. Patrick Hope (D) to weigh in on whether Arlington County has the legal authority to hold an advisory referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar project. County officials say they don’t have the authority, and without General Assembly approval can only use a referendum for a general obligation bond issue. [InsideNova]
County Fair Adds Pentagon City Shuttle — The Arlington County Fair this year is adding a new shuttle option. In addition to shuttles from the Arlington Career Center, Ballston Metro and the I-66 parking garage, a shuttle will now run every 30 minutes from the Pentagon City Metro station. The fair runs from Aug. 6-10. [Arlington County Fair]
Falls Church, Arlington Treasurers Are Friends — Carla de la Pava and Jody Acosta, the new interim treasurers of Arlington County and Falls Church, are lifelong friends who grew up together in Alexandria. [Falls Church News-Press]
Rand Paul Makes News at Arlington Event — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made some headlines after speaking at the Young Americans for Liberty convention in Rosslyn last night. Paul told the libertarian group that he will no longer appear on MSNBC until the network apologizes for “lousy lies” about his position on the Civil Rights Act. [CNN]
Half-Priced Cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory — The Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Clarendon (and others around the country) are offering half-priced slices of cheesecake for the second day in a row today in honor of National Cheesecake Day. The restaurant chain this week got some unwelcome attention with several “Xtreme Eating awards” for its calorie-laden meals. One slice of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecake alone has 1,500 calories. [Cheesecake Factory, Fox News]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Arlington County has hired a lobbying firm to help facilitate a planned land swap between the county, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Department of Defense.
As outlined in a memorandum of understanding last year, the county is planning to hand over the right-of-way for Southgate Road, near the Air Force Memorial, to the DoD, which plans to use the land — along with the former Navy Annex grounds and part of the state’s current Columbia Pike right-of-way — for an expansion of Arlington National Cemetery’s burial grounds.
As revealed in a recent public disclosure, the county has hired Alexandria-based lobbying firm Congressional Strategies LLC to help move the transaction along. The land swap has already passed the House of Representatives and is now included in the under-consideration U.S. Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act, according to Brian Stout, the county’s federal liaison.
The county’s contract with Congressional Strategies calls for a $5,000 monthly retainer for all services and runs through October, with an option to be extended through June 2015, according to county spokeswoman Mary Curtius.
“The purpose of the lobbying contract is to facilitate and bring to closure the Navy Annex Land Exchange project,” Curtius said. “This involves advocacy in both the legislative and executive branches to supplement the efforts of County staff.”
The land swap will benefit the county in several ways.
Arlington will receive a sizable parcel of land south of Columbia Pike, on which the county hopes to build an Arlington County and Freedman’s Village history museum, additional parking and facilities for the Air Force Memorial, and other amenities that do not detract from “the dignity, honor, and solemnity of Arlington National Cemetery.”
Also, the exchange will facilitate a realignment of Columbia Pike and its intersection with S. Joyce Street. The realigned Pike will take a more direct path to S. Joyce Street, through the former Navy Annex parking lot, and will provide a better alignment for the future Columbia Pike streetcar.
In addition to an expansion of Arlington National Cemetery, the DoD plans to use some of the land in the swap, near the Pike/Joyce intersection for a future visitor center for the Pentagon Memorial. The Senate is expected to vote on the NDAA later this year.
Though controversial, the streetcar was just one component of the approved Capital Improvement Plan. The Board also gave a thumbs up to the School Board’s capital plan, a $534 million spending agenda over the next 10 years that includes a $105.8 million bond request that will be put to voters as a referendum.
The school bond will be placed on the Nov. 4 ballot along with $60.24 million for Metro and transportation, $39.9 million for community infrastructure and $13 million for parks and recreation. The county asked the Circuit Court to place its $219 million bond package on the ballot on Saturday, after the meeting, according to the Sun Gazette.
The streetcar was the main impetus behind County Board members John Vihstadt and Libby Garvey’s “no” votes, but the CIP passed 3-2 with Chair Jay Fisette, Vice Chair Mary Hynes and Board member Walter Tejada voting for approval. None of the $485 million in streetcar funds will come from local residential taxes; instead, it will be funded by a mix of state dollars and dedicated transportation funds.
“Regardless of the mix of federal state or local funds, it’s the public’s money after all, and it’s an unwise public expenditure regardless of where the streetcar is,” Vihstadt said. “I cannot vote for a CIP whose single biggest legacy from a funding share standpoint will be a financial and operational albatross for decades to come.”
In addition to the bond referenda, the CIP includes an estimated $28 million for reconstruction the Lubber Run Community Center, expected to occur in 2017-2018. It pledges $1.1 billion to the Metro system over the next 10 years and $25.1 million for a new Fire Station 8 and Office of Emergency Management operations center, the site for which has yet to be determined.
“This CIP reflects the values and goals of our community,” Fisette said in a press release. “The Board’s adoption of this plan comes after months of dialogue with Arlingtonians. Together, we’ve produced a balanced plan that maintains our existing infrastructure and makes strategic investments in our future. This is a prudent, financially sustainable plan that will meet the needs of our growing community and help maintain our triple-Aaa bond ratings.”
One of the biggest ticket items is a substantial increase in funding for street paving and maintenance. The Board approved $128.1 million over the next 10 years for street paving, a $14.1 million increase over the previous CIP. The Board also greenlighted $317.7 million in water and sewer maintenance and $61.3 million for stormwater management.
The changes the Board made to County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed CIP were largely schedule-based. The Board elected to accelerate $1.4 million renovations to Tyrol Hills Park and $1.5 million for the Aurora Hills Community Center. Both projects are now scheduled to begin design and planning phases next year.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan presented an alternative streetcar funding plan to the Board this afternoon, one that includes no federal funding, accelerates the project’s schedule by a year and slashes the estimated budget by $25 million.
Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt, the County Board’s two streetcar opponents, grilled county Transportation Director Dennis Leach and other county staff about the reliability of state funds and the county’s projections. Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne announced last week that the state would contribute up to $65 million to the project.
“I was just trying to figure out how sure this money is,” Garvey is, noting words like “anticipate” and “up to” in Layne’s letter. “It seems like you’re very sure about it but it doesn’t sound like you can take it to the bank.”
County Board Chair Jay Fisette issued a strong rebuttal to the concerns, claiming that in his nearly two decades on the County Board, “the state funding in this plan is the most reliable state transportation funding we’ve ever had.”
Fisette and Board members Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada voted to place the alternative funding plan onto the county’s Capital Improvement Plan to be voted on in Saturday’s County Board meeting, while Garvey and Vihstadt voted against it. Vihstadt made six motions to strike the streetcar and all of its allocated and related funds from the CIP, but all of the motions failed, 2-3. In his motions, Vihstadt called the county’s streetcar PR campaign “Madison Avenue advertising,” a charge Fisette described as “offensive.”
Earlier in the work session, Garvey asked whether $2-3 million allocated for bus shelter improvements can be paid out of Transportation Capital Funds, which are currently earmarked for the streetcar. County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac said while it’s a possibility the funds could be used for bus shelters, he said they are intended by law for capacity improvements or building transit.
If the CIP is passed on Saturday, county staff can begin design and engineering on the streetcar project with hopes that it can deliver the system within the next decade. One result of the change in funding sources resulted in staff believing the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar lines can be delivered simultaneously.
The Sierra Club issued a statement today urging the County Board to approve the CIP and move forward on the streetcar.
“The sooner we can get more people riding on a clean Columbia Pike Streetcar and out of their polluting cars the better,” said Rick Keller, Chair of the Sierra Club’s local Mount Vernon Group. The group has supported the streetcar plan since 2007, saying that “only the streetcar will meet the growing ridership needs of the Corridor, promote environmentally sustainable transit oriented development, and ensure the continued availability of affordable housing.”
Other elements approved for inclusion in the CIP on Thursday did not generate the same back-and-forth debate as the streetcar.
When County Manager Barbara Donnellan presented the CIP in May, her presentation about “Public Land for Public Good” drew controversy. Fisette, however, in the beginning of the work session, tabled the discussion on that platform until September, after the Board returns from its August recess.
Other items Fisette placed on Saturday’s CIP, approved unanimously by the County Board, include $1.37 million for Tyrol Hill Park, improvements to Courthouse Plaza and transportation improvements in the East Falls Church neighborhood.
Arlington Boy Hit and Killed by Car — An 8-year-old Arlington resident was struck and killed by a car while crossing an intersection in Chagrin Falls, Ohio — near Cleveland — on Saturday. Police say Eli Sachar, 8, died at the hospital. His mother and father were also struck by the car and injured. It’s unclear why the 62-year-old driver of the car didn’t stop for pedestrians; she was also transported to a local hospital. [Cleveland Plain Dealer, ABC 5 Cleveland]
Million Dollar Homes Now the Norm in Arlington — Of 222 homes on the market in Arlington late last month, 57 percent were priced above $1 million. Real estate agents say they’re aware of the trend of home prices increasingly exceeding the $1 million mark and “expect it to continue.” [InsideNova]
Dem Delegate Candidate Calls for Streetcar Referendum — Rip Sullivan, the Democratic candidate to replace Del. Bob Brink in the 48th District House of Delegates special election, says if elected he would push for General Assembly approval of an advisory referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar project. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber
The county says the new funding will enable to Arlington and Fairfax to proceed with the streetcar project more rapidly — accelerating the construction timetable by at least a year — partially thanks to eliminating the need to obtain federal funding.
“The Commonwealth is committed to supporting the Columbia Pike project as a funding partner,” Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said, in a letter to Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova.
The new funding will also help save $25 million in project costs, according to an Arlington County press release. The Columbia Pike streetcar is now estimated to cost $333 million, about half of which will be funded by the state. The other half of the cost will come from regional transportation funds and local commercial property taxes dedicated to transportation projects.
“No Arlington County homeowner-funded General Obligation bonds will be used to finance design and construction of the streetcar,” the county said.
County Board member Libby Garvey, who along with recently-elected Board member John Vihstadt oppose the streetcar, slammed the state’s decision. Garvey issued the following statement, in which she expresses hope that “the wise voters of Arlington” will vote out Board members who support the streetcar.
I could not be more disappointed in the quick decision by Secretary Layne to devote much needed and scarce transportation dollars to a project as foolish and wasteful as the Columbia Pike streetcar. This project will not improve transit on the Pike. In fact, it will make traffic worse as slow streetcars clog up an already congested thoroughfare. Fortunately, I am pretty sure that within 2 years the wise voters of Arlington will have voted out board members who support the streetcar. That will end the project and allow the Commonwealth, despite this ill advised decision by the Secretary, to spend its money on much more worthwhile and needed projects. I hope that will include a modern and cost effective bus rapid transit system on the Pike in Arlington. That’s what both Arlington and the region need.
Vihstadt also issued a statement, in which has charged that the Commonwealth “rushed to judgment and failed to perform the independent due diligence expected of a state agency to fully analyze this ill-advised local government request.”
“Many valuable transportation projects for which there is a broad public consensus, ranging from improved Metro and bus service to road and pedestrian safety enhancements, will be sacrificed for this controversial project that has deeply divided Arlington County and contributed heavily to my election on April 8 as the first non-Democrat to the County Board since 1999,” Vihstadt said.
The county’s press release, after the jump.
Arlington County’s PR campaign to inform residents of the benefit of the streetcar continues.
This week we reported — followed by other local TV, print and online outlets — that the county had produced more television spots that try to explain “why streetcar.”
Among the expected benefits along Columbia Pike are more development, increased county tax revenue, increased transit ridership, and the preservation of affordable housing.
The videos are part of the county’s renewed effort to justify the massive streetcar investment to the public. The controversial project — which includes streetcar tracks in Crystal City and along Columbia Pike — is supported by County Board members Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada, but opposed by members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt.
The four most recent videos include Tejada and housing advocate Holly Bray saying the streetcar will help preserve affordable housing on the Pike; planning commissioner Inta Malis saying the streetcar will reduce traffic congestion and benefit the environment; and real estate developer and former Arlington Chamber of Commerce Chair David DeCamp saying the streetcar will attract 6,600 new jobs and add $3-4 billion in new real estate value over 30 years.
Previous videos released by the county included the following titles: “Because more people will want to ride the streetcar;” “Because Metro was a success and streetcars will be, too;” “Because buses alone can’t carry enough people;” “Because streetcar improves connections;” and “Because it will broaden our tax base.”
The streetcar remains a source of controversy, with ardent advocates and detractors among local residents. The county plans to fund the streetcar system with federal, state and transportation-designated local funds, though Fisette recently asked county staff to come up with a way to pay for the streetcar without federal funding.
(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette says the streetcar is a “strategic investment” that will drive economic development. But he acknowledges that it has an image problem.
Delivering his State of the County address to members of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Fisette said “the workhorse modern streetcar” gets a bad rap from critics who say it would be waylaid frequently by vehicle accidents and other possible obstructions on the tracks.
Fisette pointed to an image that has popped up on blogs and in Powerpoint presentations given by critics. The image, above, shows the aftermath of a minor vehicle accident in Toronto that caused at least a half dozen streetcars to back up behind a damaged car on the tracks.
“It’s an image emblazoned in people’s minds that has distorted the debate a bit,” Fisette told the crowd.
In reality, Fisette said, such accidents will happen “very infrequently.” When it does, obstructions will be cleared from the tracks as expediently as possible. “There is a protocol in place for dealing with that quickly,” Fisette said.
Plus, Fisette argued, it’s not exactly uncommon for accidents to cause delays for vehicle traffic.
“Backups happen daily on the Beltway due to broken down cars and accidents,” he said.
Critics, like Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt, say an enhanced bus system would offer many of the benefits of streetcar without the high cost and inflexibility of fixed rail. They have at times pointed to a “streetcar-like bus” in use in Las Vegas (pictured, right) as an alternative.
Fisette said fixed rail is, at least partially, the point. People — himself included — are more likely to ride a train with a fixed route than get on a bus.
“I fundamentally disagree” that buses are better than streetcar, Fisette said. “Streetcar is much more comfortable, much more accessible… multiple doors, better for wheelchairs, much smoother ride. I myself know that when I go to another city, do I jump on buses? No. Really, would I get on a rail system that’s fixed and tells you where you’re going? Yes.”
Fisette’s most oft-repeated argument for the streetcar was its higher ridership capacity. He said that prior to the Board’s streetcar approval, during a long planning process that asked Columbia Pike residents what they wanted, the community signaled that it did not want Metro and the density that would come with it, but did want more amenities.
In order to continue to revitalize Columbia Pike — and thus build more housing and retail — Fisette said there needs to be more capacity for transit than buses can provide. Already, the Pike is Virginia’s busiest bus corridor, with 600 bus trips daily carrying more than 17,000 passengers. With the Pike and Crystal City expected to account for 65 percent of the county’s population growth and 44 percent of its job growth over the next 30 years, Fisette said the streetcar is the right system to get people to where they need to go.
On the issue of how to pay for the streetcar – which carries a total price tag of more than half a billion dollars — Fisette said 93 percent of streetcar funding will come from “federal, state and regional money,” including a 12.5 cent commercial real estate tax designated for transit. He said he opposes using homeowner tax dollars for streetcar
At the same time, Fisette said he’s looking for a possible way to move forward without federal funds, since federal funding would come with strings attached, would increase costs and would slow the project down.
Board Members Spar Over Streetcar PR Funds — Of the $7-8 million contract with Parsons Transportation Group to serve as project manager of Arlington’s streetcar system, up to $650,000 will be spent on “public-education efforts during the first year of the contract.” That isn’t sitting well with Board member and streetcar critic Libby Garvey. “We should not be wasting $650,000 on PR,” she is quoted as saying. [InsideNova]
DJ Pleads Guilty to Assaulting Women — DJ Joey Flash, who counts A-Town Bar and Grill in Ballston among his former clients, has pleaded guilty to charges of rape and sexual battery. The nightlife fixture, whose real name is Joseph Rivera, admitted to bringing highly intoxicated women back from bars, having sex with them while they were unconscious, and filming the encounters. [Washington Post]
Capital Bikeshare Runs Out of Membership Keys — Anyone wanting to sign up for Capital Bikeshare will have to wait until the second week of July. CaBi says it has run out of membership keys “due to issues with our supplier, and heavier than anticipated member sign ups.” [DCist]
Animal Hospital Coming to Shirlington — Two veterinarians will be opening a new facility, Shirlington Animal Hospital, this fall at 2770 S. Arlington Mill Drive. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Sinclair Hoping to Close on WJLA Sale Soon — Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is buying Rosslyn-based TV station WJLA (ABC 7), is hoping to close on the sale by July 27. The company is selling TV stations in Harrisburg, Pa. and Charleson, S.C. to facilitate FCC approval of the acquisition of WJLA and six other Allbritton Communications stations. [Arkansas Business]
Flickr pool photo by David Bender
Board to Consider Sign for Rosslyn Skyscraper — The Arlington County Board next month will consider lifting a prohibition on rooftop signs on two new Rosslyn office towers. The action would potentially allow the JBG Cos. to begin work on its Central Place office tower, which is expected to be anchored by the Corporate Executive Board. [Washington Business Journal]
Fisette Asks for Alternative Streetcar Funding Plan — Federal funding is currently expected to pay for half of Arlington’s $287 million share of the Columbia Pike streetcar system’s costs. But federal funding is not guaranteed and, at last night’s Capital Improvement Plan work session, County Board Chair Jay Fisette asked Arlington Director of Transportation Dennis Leach to work on an alternate streetcar funding plan that does not use federal dollars or county funds from residential taxpayers. [Mobility Lab]
Green Party Endorses Vihstadt Again — The Arlington Green Party, which endorsed independent County Board candidate John Vihstadt in this spring’s special election, has announced that it will endorse him again in November’s general election. [InsideNova]
UberX Lowers Fares — Two weeks after Virginia started cracking down on ridesharing services, UberX — the service where regular people drive you around in their personal cars — has lowered its fares in the D.C. area by 25 percent. The new fares are significantly lower than comparable cab fares, the company says. [InTheCapital]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada all read statements at Tuesday’s County Board meeting, stating opposition to a referendum on the streetcar and giving reasons why they support the $585 million project.
The Board members said they oppose using general obligation bonds to build the streetcar lines on Columbia Pike and in Crystal City. Rather, they expect to fund the streetcar with a mix of federal and state funds and with transportation-designated local business tax revenue.
“After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that I do not support a referendum on streetcar,” Fisette said in his statement. “Under Virginia law… a referendum question must be tied to a vote on General Obligation bonds — and it is my commitment that we will use zero homeowner-financed general obligation bonds to build the streetcar.”
(About $71 million of the expense will be shared with Fairfax County, since the Pike streetcar will extend to Skyline.)
Fisette also ruled out waiting for Virginia General Assembly authorization to hold an advisory referendum.
“The time has come to act, to move forward without delay to build a streetcar system,” Fisette said.
Hynes, meanwhile, refuted arguments that the streetcar will take money away from other community needs, like schools. She and Tejada cited a study that suggests the streetcar will generate $735 million in new take revenue, thanks to added development along the streetcar line, over a 30 year period.
Tejada said he only supported the Columbia Pike streetcar after the county put plans in place to retain 6,200 units of affordable housing along the Pike while adding 14,000 new residences.
“There are better ways than a referendum to address concerns people have about this project,” said Tejada.
The coordinated statements from Fisette, Hynes and Tejada were accompanied by pro-streetcar materials generated by county staff. Among them were a press release (below, after the jump) and a series of 30-second video commercials explaining reasons why the county is building the streetcar, including:
- “Because more people will want to ride the streetcar“
- “Because Metro was a success and streetcars will be, too“
- “Because buses alone can’t carry enough people“
- “Because streetcar improves connections“
- “Because it will broaden our tax base“
“The County needs to do a better job of communicating the clear benefits of the modern streetcar, and we will do better,” Fisette said in his statement. “I would ask Arlington residents to study and learn about the issue — to go beyond the sound bites and give the matter the full consideration that this community always gives important issues.”
Apparently no one communicated anything about the referendum statements to Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt. Garvey and Vihstadt, who oppose the streetcar and advocate instead for enhanced bus service, both expressed surprise at the statements.
“Reasonable people… can differ about whether to hold a referendum, and whether the streetcar itself is worthwhile,” said Vihstadt, who then spoke of his reelection in the fall. “Fortunately there are other ways that the voters are able to express themselves on this issue, including elections in which candidates stand for office. There will be another such opportunity in November and the people look forward to it.”