The following letter to the editor was submitted by David DeCamp.
Sometimes when you fly into National Airport you get a perfect view of the buildings that comprise the Rosslyn-Ballston (R-B) corridor.
The tallest buildings are clustered around the metro stations and then taper off to garden apartments, single family houses and lots of trees. This is my “visual” for a turn-around story of epic proportions, and a template for why I am sure the streetcar system will benefit all of Arlington.
In the face of economic decline and even a shrinking population in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, visionaries like Arlington County Manager Burt Johnson boldly campaigned and cajoled naysayers to get the Blue and Orange Lines routed through Arlington with nine or ten stops inside the County. Then enlightened urban planning processes, starting with a document known as “R-B ’72,” articulated the tapered bulls-eye build-out around the future metro stations. The Blue Line opened in 1977 followed by the Orange Line in 1979. Arlington started to grow again. Because the urban planning and the rail-transit investments were coordinated early on, Arlington got more economic return out of Metro than any other jurisdiction.
How much more?
Consider this. I was fortunate enough to be part of a development team that built a mixed-use project on most of a city block near the Clarendon Metro Station. When we bought the parcel in the early 2000’s, it looked like a typical part of today’s Columbia Pike (a two-acre parking lot surrounding an old grocery structure). The annual real estate taxes were $100,000. Now that the ten-story Station Square project is built and occupied, it produces over $1,500,000 in real estate taxes each year. That’s an astounding 1,500% increase. Arlington collects this payment year after year and the occupants use almost no county services.
Take this one example and multiply it by about 200 other buildings in the transit-oriented development corridors that pay us a handsome annual dividend on our investment in transit and that is “The Arlington Miracle.”
As a result, Arlington’s businesses and residents enjoy the lowest tax rate in Northern Virginia and arguably the highest quality of life. We have more office space than downtown Dallas or Atlanta. Forty-nine percent of all tax receipts in Arlington come from businesses. Our businesses pay enough taxes to cover Arlington’s entire annual transfer payment for our high-achieving public school system. Believe me, when it costs around $18,000 a year for each student in the public schools, and most single family home-owners in Arlington pay less than $8,000 in real estate taxes, we need to encourage a robust and growing business tax base in Arlington.
The streetcar routes planned for Columbia Pike and continuing through Crystal City are using the same tried-and-true combination of coordinated urban planning in conjunction with appropriately sized transit investments. The transit and the enhanced development are inextricably linked. You can’t have one without the other. Scores of new buildings, comprising millions of square feet, have been planned through extensive community processes and scaled to suit the aspirations of the neighboring stake-holders. Buses alone do not have the required characteristics or capacity to move the projected growth.
And note: while the density increase is significant, the planned buildings for the Pike are not even half as large as those found in Rosslyn or Ballston. However, harkening back to The Arlington Miracle, early indications show us that we can expect the streetcar corridors to induce new transit-oriented buildings that yield a 500% increase in real estate taxes on re-developed sites. The Arlington streetcars will pay us back with a handsome and increasing return on investment.
Quoting retired Virginia state Senator Mary Margaret Whipple, from her April 2013 Washington Post Op-Ed, “Metrorail turned Arlington around, streetcars will keep it moving forward.”
David DeCamp is a real estate developer and sales agent. He is the immediate past-Chair of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and serves on the board of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO). David is a 2004 graduate of Leadership Arlington. According to DeCamp, he owns interests in commercial property in North Arlington but has no financial interest in any real estate in South Arlington. His views are his own.
To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to email@example.com. Letters to the editor may be edited for content and brevity.
Vihstadt Says His Election Won’t Stop Streetcar — Even if Republican-endorsed independent Arlington County Board candidate John Vihstadt were to be elected, the Columbia Pike streetcar project would likely continue unabated. Currently, Libby Garvey is the lone anti-streetcar vote on the five-member board. With Vihstadt in, the number still favor the streetcar: 3-2. Still, Vihstadt suggested that increased community opposition could derail the project. [Sun Gazette]
Why There Are Tiffany Windows in County Buildings — In case you’ve ever noticed the Tiffany stained glass windows in the Arlington Arts Center, Westover Library and Fairlington Community Center and wondered how they got here, the answer is: somewhat by accident. The windows were salvaged from a mausoleum next to Arlington National Cemetery that was slated for demolition. It was during the salvage operation that workers noticed the very sought-after signature of Louis C. Tiffany on the windows. [Preservation Arlington]
Arlington National Cemetery Documentary — A public television documentary on Arlington National Cemetery will premiere tonight. The hour-long documentary is scheduled to air locally at 8:00 p.m. on WETA. [WETA]
Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk
County Board Approves Glencarlyn Park Playground — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday approved a $485,000 construction contract for a new playground at Glencarlyn Park. The playground is intended for 5-12 year olds and includes a swing set and a “treehouse” log play structure. [Arlington County]
Demand Rises at AFAC – The Arlington Food Assistance Center “has seen a 20 percent surge in families visiting the food pantry in need of groceries over the past six months.” The director of AFAC says cuts in food stamp (SNAP) benefits has increased need in the community. Those cuts are expected to deepen if Congress passes a new compromise farm bill that includes $800 million in annual food stamp reductions. [Patch]
Grant Accepted for Innovation Initiative — Arlington County has accepted a $350,000 from the state to help fund “an innovative public-private initiative that will connect fast growth technology product companies with national security agencies headquartered in Arlington and the Commonwealth of Virginia.” Arlington will contribute a $175,000 matching grant to the project. [Arlington County]
Dem Caucus Is ‘Basically About the Streetcar’ — On its Twitter account, the blog Greater Greater Washington opines that this week’s Democratic Arlington County Board caucus is “basically about the streetcar.” Alan Howze and Peter Fallon, who GGW recommends voting for, generally support the Columbia Pike streetcar project while Cord Thomas has spoken out against it. [Twitter, Greater Greater Washington]
New African American Book Club — Arlington Public Library has launched a new African American Book Club. The club will “discuss the novels of both new and well-known authors, thought provoking non-fiction about the African American experience.” [Arlington Public Library]
Pageview Problem on ARLnow.com — We are currently trying to resolve a problem that is causing the pageview counter on each article to significantly undercount the actual number of views. The problem is impacting articles published within the past 24-48 hours.
Flickr pool photo by Mrs. Gemstone
Streetcar Support Remains High in Fairfax County — The McLean edition of the Sun Gazette newspaper reports that Fairfax County officials are not nearly as divided over the Columbia Pike streetcar project as their Arlington counterparts. “While some Republicans on [the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors] have expressed concerns, support among Fairfax officials remains high,” the paper reported. “And with good reason: Fairfax will be responsible for only about 20 percent of the local cost of the project, but plans to use the streetcar’s arrival to spur the redevelopment of Baileys Crossroads.” [Sun Gazette]
Dominion Reports Record Power Demand — Dominion Virginia Power met record demand for electricity during Tuesday’s frigid temperatures. Use of heaters during this week’s “polar vortex” helped push energy demand to 19,730 megawatts during the day on Tuesday. That’s well above the previous peak winter demand record of 18,079 megawatts, set in February 2007, but below the company’s summertime record of 20,061 megawatts, set in July 2011. [Dominion]
Malinosky Elected ACDC Chair — Kip Malinosky, a middle school civics teacher and well-respected Democratic organizer, was elected chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee last night. Malinosky, who succeeds outgoing chair Mike Lieberman, told the Democratic faithful that the local party will remain united despite contested primaries for County Board and School Board. “We’re all in this together,” he said. “When the caucus is over, we will rally behind our candidates.”
Bill Would Outlaw Sex Acts Among Minors — A new bill proposed in the Virginia General Assembly would make oral sex and other “consensual sodomy” legal for adults but illegal for minors. The bills was proposed several months after courts struck down Virginia’s “crimes against nature” law. [Think Progress]
Delegate Wants More I-66 Lanes Inside the Beltway — Del. Jim LeMunyon, a Republican representing part of Fairfax County, has introduced legislation requiring the state to plan a project that would “increase the lane capacity on Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway to include at least two-non-high-occupancy vehicle lanes in each direction.” That idea, suggests reporter Michael Neibauer, will likely not sit well here in Arlington. “Arlington officials would probably chain themselves to highway signs before letting it happen,” he wrote. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder
Two of Three Dem Candidates Endorse Streetcar — Two of the three Democratic candidates for County Board — Alan Howze and Peter Fallon — have voiced support for the Columbia Pike streetcar project. The third Democratic contender — Cord Thomas — has concerns about the proposal. [Sun Gazette]
Lack of Decal in Fairfax Affects Arlington — Eight years ago Fairfax County became the lone jurisdiction in Northern Virginia to abandon car tax decals, and Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary believes that’s costing Arlington $300,000. O’Leary said it’s too labor intensive to check every single vehicle parked in Arlington without a decal to determine if the vehicle is from Fairfax or if the owner didn’t pay Arlington taxes. [Sun Gazette]
Civic Leadership Program Deadline Extended — Arlington County has extended the deadline for residents interested in signing up for the eight week Neighborhood College program. Participants will learn communication and influencing skills, how to organize for action and how to give and receive feedback, among other things. The deadline to sign up for the free series is now January 10, and classes begin February 13. [Arlington County]
Police Officer Profiled — A member of the Arlington County Police Department — Capt. Kamran Afzal — has been profiled in Asian Fortune. The Pakistani American studied economics in college before turning to a life in law enforcement. He has been with the department for 20 years. [Asian Fortune]
Christmas Tree Collection Begins — County workers began collecting discarded Christmas trees yesterday. The trees are collected curbside until January 17 and will be turned into mulch. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by wolfkann
Campaign to Remove Confederate Name from Roads — An Alcova Heights resident has asked county officials to remove the name “Jefferson Davis” from Arlington roadways. He says its tie to slavery and segregation is offensive. County officials, however, point out that the removal process is complicated and would require state approval. [Sun Gazette]
Will Board Candidates Support the Streetcar? — There are questions regarding what will happen to the Columbia Pike streetcar project now that one of its biggest supporters — Chris Zimmerman — is stepping down from the Arlington County Board. So far, no candidates vying for his spot have come forward as outright supporters of the project, although two — independent John Vihstadt and Libertarian Evan Bernick — have voiced opposition to it. [Greater Greater Washington]
Rosslyn: The Brooklyn of Washington — Ghosts of DC posted a throwback advertisement from 1889, which claims Rosslyn is the “Brooklyn of Washington.” [Ghosts of DC]
Flickr pool photo by wolfkann
(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) Democratic Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey is explaining in more depth why she has decided to endorse an independent candidate to fill the Board seat to be vacated by Democrat Chris Zimmerman at the end of January.
Garvey is endorsing self-identified Republican John Vihstadt, who announced last week that he would run as an independent in the spring 2014 special election.
Garvey stated that none of the three announced Democratic candidates likely will change the way the current Board members set priorities. She decided to endorse Vihstadt instead because she believes he can provide change.
“The issue is that I don’t think there is a Democratic candidate that has or is going to announce for the endorsement that is going to alter the dynamic on the County Board right now… Vihstadt by far is so much closer to my values, my way of working,” Garvey told ARLnow.com. “He’s going to be the one to help me take the county in the direction I think it needs to go and the others will not. I am a Democrat, but in this case there is not a Democratic candidate that can do what needs to be done for Arlington. John can do that. So I’ve got to support him, why would I not? That’s what’s right for Arlington.”
She said Vishstadt “gets it” and he can help change the way current Board members operate.
“My colleagues are all good people, but they’ve been doing things a certain way for a very long time,” Garvey said. “I think we need a new perspective and a fresh way of looking at things, and John will bring that.”
One of the key reasons Garvey will not provide support to a fellow Democrat is her opposition to the Columbia Pike streetcar. Vihstadt also opposes the streetcar, writing in his announcement of candidacy last week, “Now that the County’s application for federal funding has been rejected, Arlington taxpayers may be directly on the hook to finish a five mile line that will displace small businesses and affordable housing, will not connect to the Pentagon, and which fails to materially improve Pike transit.”
Although Arlington currently maintains a triple-A bond rating, Garvey believes the streetcar eventually could prove “financially disastrous” for the county. She noted that the project still can be re-evaluated considering it will be a while before final votes are taken.
“I know they all talk about how it’s a done deal, but it’s not a done deal until we sign a contract with a company and commit hundreds of millions of dollars to pay that company to build this thing. We’re not anywhere near that yet,” she said.
“The streetcar is useless and will actually make things worse on the Pike,” she continued. “A streetcar is nothing more than a bus on tracks with wires, but it costs a whole lot more… There are ways to accomplish what you want to for a whole lot less.”
Garvey believes a significant amount of money in the county’s Transportation Capital Fund that’s set aside for the streetcar could be used for more beneficial projects such as Metro funding and street paving.
“We’d have to raise taxes to do that right now because all of this money is sitting in a fund that is, as I understand it, reserved for the streetcar,” she said. “This is, again, why I’m supporting John, because I believe he will help me to get the Board to sort of re-examine some of these things and work through the community with it.”
Safety Improvements Approved for Custis, W&OD Trails – The County Board on Saturday (December 14) approved funding for safety improvements for the Custis Trail and the W&OD Trail. The approval is the first step toward constructing federally-funded improvements for the Custis Trail along Lee Highway at N. Oak Street, N. Quinn Street and N. Scott Street. Improvements will also happen along the W&OD Trail at S. Four Mile Run Drive where it meets S. George Mason Drive, S. Oakland Street and at the entrance to the Barcroft Sport and Fitness Center. [Arlington County]
Tejada Pens Streetcar Opinion Piece — Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post over the weekend. Titled “A streetcar is the right choice for Arlington,” the piece explains why Tejada believes the streetcar is the best option for “transforming Columbia Pike from merely a thoroughfare into a livable ‘Main Street’ served by a variety of transit options.” [Washington Post]
Vornado’s “Dominant Position” in Arlington — Developer Vornado is seen as having a “dominant position” in Arlington’s economy, with $3.7 billion in total real estate holdings. Its presence is only expected to increase with its work on the county’s largest apartment building and the massive PenPlace office project. [Washington Business Journal]
Historical Society Hosts Ornament-Making Event — Arlington residents will get a chance to make their own Art Deco holiday ornament on Saturday (December 21). The Arlington Historical Society will host the event from 1:00-4:00 p.m. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by christaki
The lingering questions that surround the planned Columbia Pike streetcar project have given developers pause as they look to build along the corridor, according to one of the Pike’s biggest boosters.
Takis Karantonis, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, says he’s seen a slowdown in development and business interest in recent months, as local politicians and residents have continued to debate the merits of the streetcar project. With Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman, a key streetcar supporter, retiring early next year, that debate is likely to continue unabated as candidates vie to fill his seat in a special election.
Despite some uncertainty about how and when the Pike streetcar will be funded, Arlington County is still moving forward with the project. Karantonis is pushing for the streetcar to be built sooner rather than later.
“There isn’t uncertainty around the streetcar, but there are lot of people who want to create uncertainty,” Karantonis told ARLnow.com Monday. “This is concerning the business community because people want to be able to at least make medium-term decisions, and they don’t welcome this kind of prolonged debate about the streetcar itself.”
Karantonis said the ongoing questions about when the streetcar will actually be built has slowed both commercial and residential development. Modern development strives for a mix of uses, Karantonis said, so when one form development is slowed, all forms are.
Small businesses could also be impacted by any delays in the streetcar project, Karantonis said. The thousands of daily passengers the streetcar is projected to carry can’t come soon enough for Columbia Pike merchants. Pockets of retail space along the Pike have been vacant for years, Karantonis said, and the streetcar will help boost businesses in neglected areas.
“It’s not easier for [small businesses] to wait,” he said. “They look at the streetcar as a catalyst and a game-changer. The more challenging the economic times are for us with the government sputtering along, this hardens the demand on local government to deliver the investment goods it has planned for.”
County Board Member Libby Garvey — who was elected last year on an anti-streetcar platform and is currently the lone voice of streetcar dissent on the Board — isn’t so sure about Karantonis’ hypothesis.
“It would surprise me if there were many businesses very concerned about delays in the streetcar,” Garvey wrote in an email. “Remember, we are talking about adding 10 streetcars to 34 buses along the Pike. Hardly a major change in transit, just a major change in expense and disruption of traffic as 10 fixed rail vehicles run in mixed traffic creating headaches for everyone.”
Those who live in and around Crystal City questioned the noise and safety impacts of the planned Crystal City streetcar at a public forum last night (Wednesday), but many in attendance seemed generally pleased with the county’s presentation.
County officials gave a presentation explaining the current vision for the streetcar now that the planning process is underway. The six-stop transit system will connect with the Columbia Pike streetcar in Pentagon City to the north, and will go as far south as Four Mile Run, running primarily along Crystal Drive.
One change to the design since the last community forum on the streetcar earlier this year is moving the southbound streetcar alignment directly adjacent to Jefferson Davis Highway, and off Clark and Bell Streets, as had been previously planned. The northbound and southbound tracks will both be on Crystal Drive from S. Glebe Road to 18th Street before diverging.
About two dozen residents were in attendance, most of whom asked questions of Senior Transportation Planner Matthew Huston, who gave the presentation. Huston said the impacts to environmental and cultural resources in the surrounding area were close to nonexistent, and said the noise generated is consistent with a busy urban, commercial area like Crystal City. Some attendees seemed unconvinced, however.
“My understanding of the Crystal City Sector Plan is a better balance between residence and commercial,” said one woman in the audience. “You’re putting a streetcar in an area that’s largely residential. I think you need to consider treating the residents not as office buildings.”
Many of Huston’s answers were simple acknowledgments that residents’ concerns would be addressed in the ongoing environmental study, which will continue until next spring.
“We consider residential buildings sensitive users,” Huston said. “We specifically look at the impact to sensitive users in the environmental study.”
Other residents questioned the alignment — one wondered why it the streetcar tracks don’t run further along Jefferson Davis Highway, which he said would make it more accessible to the residents of Aurora Highlands to the west and would reduce what he sees as a potential safety hazard at the intersection of Crystal Drive in 12th Street.
Still, opposition to the streetcar was relatively subdued, especially compared to some of the heated public dialogue over the Columbia Pike streetcars system.
“I’m pleased that they’re looking at all the right issues and asking the right questions,” said Crystal City resident Gerry Fuller after the forum. “There’s a lot of things they can’t do much about, like the width of the street… I’m in favor of any proposal to get people out of their cars. I think it’s the direction they have to go.”
Huston said “the assumption” is the Crystal City streetcar will connect with the Columbia Pike streetcar once both systems are complete, and that travelers will be able to ride from the Skyline section of Fairfax County to Four Mile Run with no transfer. Huston said the streetcar would be funded with a mix of state and local funds.
The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
The County Board announced it has awarded a $97,000 contract for yet another study of the Columbia Pike trolley. The study will look at data about the current trolley and bus plans versus bus-only alternatives.
In the past, the Board has ignored the data and input it does not believe fits the narrative that a trolley on Columbia Pike is, well, a big shiny ball of awesome. And, the consensus among people I talk to who are regular “Board watchers” is this study is a play to see if the Board can take another run at federal funding. As Chairman Tejada said, the trolley is “County Board policy.”
Not that you need reminding, but the trolley’s poster child thus far is a $1 million “super stop” that is so super, you cannot really stay dry under it when it rains. The “super stop” is for buses now, but is one of over 20 that will be used for the trolley as well.
One point about the not-so-super bus stop that is often missed in the debate is that it took 18 months to build. If you commute on Columbia Pike, imagine if it takes 18 months to install all the necessary infrastructure for the trolley. Worse, if you own a business along the Pike, imagine how many people will want to brave the construction to visit your store during the construction.
It is no secret that I have endorsed a bipartisan group of Arlingtonians who view this trolley project as a boondoggle. Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit not only opposes the trolley, but offers real insight into the alternatives. But, no cost estimates, usage data or public concerns have been able to move the Board from its position thus far.
Unfortunately, the Board’s ongoing “trolley at all costs” approach should not surprise us.
Thanks to Frank O’Leary, we know our Board has built up a record surplus after telling us for years that it was facing “tough choices” caused by “budget shortfalls”. After spending millions of dollars in excess revenues in the closeout process on non-budgeted items each fall, they have implored us to be OK with raising our taxes the next year because there was “just no way to avoid it.”
The average Board Member has 15 years of experience spending our money in this manner and are showing no signs of stopping. Until voters change a Board Member or two, it is safe to assume the Board will see no real incentive to change its behavior.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
Arlington to Update Streetcar Analysis — Arlington County has hired a consulting firm to update its analysis of the transit capacity needed for Columbia Pike and the potential return on investment of the county’s planned Columbia Pike streetcar system. The new analysis, which should be complete by December, will take into account changes in population and employment since the original analysis was done. [Arlington County]
Rosslyn Planning Halloween Film Fest — The Rosslyn Business Improvement District is planning a Halloween film festival on Saturday, Oct. 19. The festival will feature a kid-friendly Halloween film, followed by something more adult-oriented. The BID is asking the public to vote on which films they would like to see. [Survey Monkey]
Va. Senator Defeats Journalist in Spelling Bee – Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) was declared the victor in a journalists vs. lawmakers spelling bee at the National Press Club last night. Sen. Kaine won with the spelling of “nonpareil,” against runner-up Rebecca Sinderbrand, of Rosslyn-based Politico. [Twitter]
Preservation Arlington Lauds Residential Redevelopment — Preservation Arlington is lauding the redevelopment of a residential property on the western end of Washington Blvd in Arlington. About 10 years ago, the 1940s-era colonial-style home at 6315 Washington Blvd was renovated, preserving its unique architecture, while two new homes were built on the large tract of land. Thanks to “foresight and good planning,” the project prevented the stately home from becoming “just another in-fill development site.” [Preservation Arlington]
Exhibit Looks at Civil War Soldier — The Arlington Historical Society has a new exhibit highlighting the life of “everyman” soldier that was stationed in Arlington during the Civil War. About 10,000 soldiers were stationed in Arlington at any one time, compared to the population of Arlington at the time: 1,400. [Sun Gazette]
Streetcar Supporters Throw Party — About 100 people turned out at the Party for the Pike, an inaugural event organized by the pro-streetcar group Arlington Streetcar Now. The chairman of the group says he’s seeing growing support for the streetcar, especially among younger residents. [Patch]
Arlington Capital Bikeshare Video — Arlington County has produced a video highlighting the expansion of the Capital Bikeshare system in the county and encouraging more residents to use it. Arlington even offers classes for residents who need to learn how to ride a bike. [YouTube]
Arlington: Top ‘City’ For Successful, Educated, Single Women — Arlington is the top “city” in the country for women who are college graduates, who have a high income, and who are single, according to the real estate website Redfin. As an added bonus to the single, successful women, there are 6 percent more single men than women. [Redfin]
Homeless Twins Still Recovering from Assault — Two homeless, 26-year-old twins are still recovering from a vicious attack that took place outside Arlington Central Library last month. Through donations and determination, they are attempting to overcome their injuries and get their lives back on track. [Washington Post]
Pike Business Owners Waiting for Streetcar — Though it’s controversial with residents, many Columbia Pike business owners are counting on Arlington County’s plan to build a streetcar system along the corridor. Among those business owners is Adriana Torres, owner of Cafe Sazon, who recently had to take a full-time job at Home Depot to pay the business’ bills. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Lawrence Cheng Photography
The County Board approved an agreement with Fairfax County to move forward as partners in the Columbia Pike streetcar project Tuesday night, but the basic step with the already-approved transit system was again faced with opposition in the board room.
A number of speakers used the opportunity to again denounce the project. They were joined on the dais by Board member Libby Garvey, who made a motion to defer the vote until after a cost-benefit analysis could be done. Her motion died after it did not receive a second.
“This project feels so un-Arlington in its approach,” Garvey said. “We’re not quite sure what it’s going to need, what it’s going to cost… or where the money is coming from, but we’re determined to build it no matter what.”
The agreement passed Tuesday – which is expected to be approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors later this month — puts Arlington in line to pay for 80.4 percent of the planning and design phase of the project while Fairfax pays for 19.6 percent. The motion passed 4-to-1, with Garvey dissenting.
Board Chair Walter Tejada and Board member Chris Zimmerman reiterated that the streetcar project had already been approved following a public process, and the partnership agreement with Fairfax County was simply another in many steps the Board will need to approve before the streetcar can be built.
“This is essentially a routine matter to carry out a policy that’s already been established,” Zimmerman said. “Just saying a cost-benefit analysis hasn’t been done doesn’t make it true.”
The speakers came to the podium during the public comment portion of the meeting to air their grievances, which ranged from balking at the cost to accusing the County Board and County Manager Barbara Donnellan of “fraud.”
“We all know how congested Columbia Pike can get, and sadly, we remember tragedies that occurred there,” said Paul Watlington, a streetcar critic. “What I don’t understand is how we think we can have cars, bicycles, buses, school buses, and industrial vehicles all sharing lanes with a streetcar.”
Arlington was designated the lead partner in the agreement, and the Board also approved awarding a planning and design contract to AECOM for $999,131.
“I can think of several better things to spend $1,000,000 on than a trolley we don’t even know we have the money to build,” said Pike resident John Antonelli. We need to decide if we have the funds to build an expensive, maintenance intensive, and inflexible trolley system or if a rapid bus can fill the bill.”
In December, AECOM was the subject of some local intrigue after it was revealed that Zimmerman had done paid consulting work for the contractor’s Canadian division. In March he said he only made $510 from the arrangement.
Several speakers showed up in support of the streetcar project, with some saying they had bought houses along Columbia Pike once they heard of the streetcar.
“The streetcar is clearly the best option for the Pike,” Lander Allin said. “It will get the most people out of their cars and onto public transit, it will move the most people, it will do the most to spur the development that the community has decided that it wants.”