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Columbia Pike Now Under County Control

by ARLnow.com October 13, 2010 at 3:36 pm 5,164 49 Comments

(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) This winter, the sight of VDOT plows clearing snow on Columbia Pike will be replaced with the sight of Arlington County plows doing the same.

On Oct. 1, following final approval by the county board and the Commonwealth Transportation Board, Columbia Pike was officially transferred from state control to county control.

The transfer is intended to speed up redevelopment along the Pike, as the county no longer has to go through a bottleneck of VDOT approvals to complete its Columbia Pike projects.

From a more practical standpoint, the change will mean that maintenance tasks once handled by VDOT will now be handled by the county. VDOT was formerly responsible for signs, storm water, sewers, paving, lane striping and snow removal on the Pike. Arlington will now assume control of those tasks, in addition to its existing commitment to maintain the streetscape, traffic lights and street lights.

The added responsibility will cost the county about $660,000 per year.

Despite the transfer, the intersection with Glebe Road and the Washington Boulevard interchange will remain under VDOT control.

  • Lou

    Oh the irony. Suing the feds and the state because they say all the proper approvals for the HOT lanes were not sought, and then taking over Columbia Pike to avoid all the VDOT approvals.

  • OddNumber

    Why is the intersection with Glebe Rd still under VDOT? Does VDOT control Glebe Rd?

  • NorthAdams

    I’ll never forget Walter’s first big event on Columbia Pike and the County translated everything into Spanish but they used the translation for the fish called Pike instead of Turnpike. Ah yes Arlington knows better.

  • YTK

    oh whoopee…. I still see grit on the curbs and sidewalks left over from the February Blizzard — do you think Arlington County will ever clean it up or should we leave it there for the NEXT big blizzard???

  • Deb

    So when it snows, will the county trucks lift their plows when they cross Glebe and start plowing again on the other side of the intersection?

    • As I understand it, the VDOT-controlled intersections will be maintained by Arlington through a special agreement.

  • KA

    So should Arlington just secede from the Commonwealth and get it over with?

    • G

      Yes they should

    • SoArlRes

      Ha! Good one.

  • Jeff Miller

    The other big impact is financial. Arlington County will now have to pay the maintenance costs for Columbia Pike (about $500,000 per year).

    That’s money which could have been used to avoid cutbacks in library service, or to reduce the size of the last County tax increase. But Zimmerman and the County Board were more interested in grabbing control of the Pike, so they can pursue the $250 million trolley project.

    • Lou

      I thought I read somewhere that part of the approvals in Richmond included adjusting the “maintenance payment” to Arlington, or something like that. Sounded like they shift money from the VDOT budget and write Arlington a check. But I may have misunderstood.

    • G

      Investment in Columbia Pike (and the streetcar project) will likely result in higher property values (and taxes) along the Pike. Thus the county should eventually make up for the increased costs in maintenance and will probably bring in more than they’re paying.

      • NorthAdams

        oh the fallacy of economic development. We will bring in growth to help pay taxes; now we need to widen/expand something and to fund that we raise taxes; but then new growth will pay those taxes. The circle continues and continues and continues. Zimmie gets his trolley we pay the bill. redevelopment is a joke.

        • Jack

          how can you say that redevelopment is a joke? remember when the only reason to go to clarendon was for chinese food and shoe repairs, and the only reason to go to chinatown was to get shot?? redevelopment is good and should be encouraged. BRING ON THE TROLLEY!!!

          • Frenchy B

            +1

          • NPGMBR

            +2

          • SoArlRes

            +3

          • Skeptical

            “Redevelopment,” in practice, always seems to mean “more places to eat, drink, see performances and spend money on things nobody really needs.” These are the high profit items that bring in the taxes needed to pay for all the civically underwritten upscaling.

            No one has explained how the trolley will interlock smoothly with other parts of the area’s transit system or put forth any convincing argument that it will constitute an improvement on the frequent bus service the Pike already has.

            Meanwhile, what I need in my daily life is a hardware store, a bank, a natural-foods store; places to buy small auto parts, office supplies, gardening sundries. The Pike already has some of these and used to have others. But stores that sell things you actually need and use usually can’t survive the traffic clusterf**k of construction or pay the inflated rents that follow “redevelopment.” So, banks excepted, the bleeding of useful small businesses will continue and we’ll be left with another Arlington night-life zone. Why is this progress?

          • PikeHoo

            Hey Skeptical, there’s a gigantic Home Depot on 50 in case you haven’t noticed and the days of the local hardware store are just about gone.

          • South Arlington

            I’m pretty sure it’s not the oncoming trolley contruction that is keeping small businesses that sell office supplies, tools, auto parts and gardening supplies from opening on Columbia Pike. It’s the existence of big box stores and franchises like Staples, Advance Auto Parts, and Home Depot that draw from a very wide geographic area. The hardware stores that everyone misses were not able to sustain the volume needed to support them, regardless of rent, due to the superior selection and pricing of Home Depot coming into town. If anything, the increasing density along the Pike will cause more businesses to move in, not less (or will at least fill in the ample vacant storefronts that have been on the Pike for years now).

          • Katie

            +4

            (Yup, I’m a homeowner in the area.)

          • Suburban Not Urban

            +1 to Skeptical

            And you are right South Arlington if you value a dozen Starbucks and 6 Subways as businesses

          • South Arlington

            Suburban Not Urban, the franchise ship sailed years ago when it comes to small hardware, office supply, gardening or auto parts stores. Big box has killed them off nationwide. These Mom and Pop stores closed down years ago on the Pike not because of the demonized trolley (that will raise all of our property values and provide increased tax revenues), but because of Target and Home Depot as sad as it may be. As far as your fear mongering of the onslaught of Subways and Starbucks, I haven’t seen too many chains moving into the new retail space on the Pike. Seems like we’ve gotten locally owned pubs and restaurants so far.

    • G

      Let me guess, you don’t live on or near the pike.

      • Skeptical

        I live near the Pike and I think this trolley thing is the biggest crock to come along in dog years. I just can’t wait for the complete traffic shutdown during construction.

        • el fat kid

          the trolley will inevitably turn into a fiscal, if not operational, boondoggle.

          Not saying Arlington is DC but has anyone been to H st? Are you ready for the Pike to be like that for a couple years? It will be a mess and i’m not convinced of the return on investment.

          • NPGMBR

            When is the last time you were on H St? It used to be the dregs but new businesses have changed that part of DC and the impending trolly has only encouraged more businesses to open in that corridor.

          • Jack

            NPGMBR is right… H Street is really starting to flourish after 40 years of nothing. this is in large part because of the future trolley… i’m excited about what the trolley will bring to the Pike. BRING ON THE TROLLLEY!!

          • PikeHoo

            Yeah, I don’t think you’ve ever been to H street. That place used to be a complete dump and it only now attracting new residents and businesses.

          • el fat kid

            not sure why it double posted earlier but anyway…

            yes i have been to H st, in fact i go there often. I have seen the growth of the last ten years but i’ve also seen how much of a disaster the trolley line has created for 2 years now. It’s taken two years and the project is still not anywhere near completion while costing budding businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars while turning the area into a pedestrian/traffic nightmare — And that’s only for 12 or so blocks of construction on the main drag – just think what will happen on a stretch of a couple miles.

            I’m not saying it’s a bad idea in general and there will likely be some long term benefit – but in terms of people who live on the Pike now, and who will live there over the next five years, i think they’re going to see a far more negative impact than what’s being discussed.

          • Joey

            @el fat kid,

            H Street has been a bit of a disaster the past several years, but it’s not really because of the trolley. H Street has been undergoing an enormous street redesign, including sidewalks, pavement, curbs, utilities, etc.

            DDOT decided that it made sense to add the tracks as well now rather than rip up the street a second time two years later.

            The track installation hasn’t added that much time to the project.

        • el fat kid

          the trolley will inevitably turn into a fiscal, if not operational, boondoggle.

          Not saying Arlington is DC but has anyone been to H st? Are you ready for the Pike to be like that for a couple years? It will be a mess and i’m not convinced of the return on investment.

      • S. Arl. resident

        No Jack probably doesn’t live on or near the Pike and doesn’t realize that SOMEONE has to pay for the estimated $250M cost of the trolley. It would be nice if the citizens had a chance to vote on it. If other jurisdictions don’t complete their links will it become “The Trolley to Nowhere?”

        Since Mr. Brown pointed out before he “resigned i.e. was let go by the Board” Arlington is expected to have a $35M deficit next year. Why are we adding the Pike maintenance to that?

        • Skeptical

          If they other jurisdictions bail out, we can get Mr. Zimmerman a conductor’s uniform to wear and he can ride the trolley car back and forth, up and down the Pike, going ding ding ding.

        • Jack

          i absolutely live near the Pike – and i’m ready for north arlington to start paying for my trolley. after paying tens of millions each year for north arlington’s metro all these years, i’m ready to get south arlington’s poor-man version. BRING ON THE TROLLEY!!!

          • G

            THANK YOU JACK!

          • PikeHoo

            Hear, hear!

          • el fat kid

            yeah, so that’s a pretty dumb argument considering NA probably contributes 2-3x what SA does to county’s tax base… so you’ve already been freeloading for far too long. I guess I have too, but your mom makes the best breakfast. 🙂

          • Joey

            @el fat kid,

            Actually, I think the bulk of the County’s tax dollars come from the businesses in Crystal City (south Arlington, sort of). I believe I heard a statistic to that effect in the past month, though I can’t remember where.

        • Teyo

          If I understand correctly, the trolley will go to Skyline City, so you can go to the Olive Garden and the Target and all that fun stuff. I am a little confused about the frequency of service compared to the current 16 line though. I like having a bus come every few minutes during rush hour and I wonder if the trolley will be able to maintain such a schedule or if the trolley’s higher capacity would mean that frequency would be sacrificed.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    That’s what I want, less money back(in this case in the form of road maintentance money) from the state. I believe I heard it was something like 10cents per dollar in taxes and fee’s we send. A big fat bill for the road maintence to boot.

  • ElSalvador

    Bring the trolley to CoPi! Ahora!

  • Let’s Be Free

    Columbia Pike needs to be repaved between Four Mile Run and George Mason. I betcha the folks at VDOT are laughing at ARLCO for thinking it can satisfy that need on a $650K per year budget. And oh yeah, VDOT was running 3, 4 and 5 snowplows along Columbia Pike to clear during last winter’s storms. Where is ArlCo going to get that kind of firepower for snow removal? Whatever the maintenance costs are now, they will triple or more with the advent of a trolley, its tracks and supporting infrastructure (which if it gets built at all should be funded by the developers who supposedly are hot to develope property along the Pike). This is a fools errand.

    • el fat kid

      good pt. Columbia Pike was one of the better roads in the middle of the storm. that’ll change soon tho!

    • CHouse

      If the County doesn’t have the trucks, won’t it just contract them out to the hundreds of businesses that attach a plow to the front of their vehicle? I also question using the snowpocalypse as the standard for measuring snow fall.

  • Katie

    ArlNow, a bit off topic, but do you have the link to the latest tax scofflaws who own restaurants?

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