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Arlington County Board to Consider Gondola Study Partnership

Rendering of Georgetown-Rosslyn gondola (image via Georgetown BID)The Arlington County Board on Thursday will consider joining a partnership to study the feasibility of a gondola running from Rosslyn to Georgetown.

County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending approval of the multi-party partnership, which calls for Arlington County to contribute $40,000 to the study’s expected $250,000 cost.

Among the parties to the proposed Memorandum of Understanding are the Georgetown Business Improvement District, which first floated the gondola idea, along with the District of Columbia Dept. of Transportation, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, Georgetown University and property owners JBG, Gould Properties and Vornado.

The Georgetown BID would be the biggest contributor to the study, with $75,000 pledged. The other parties, besides Arlington, are slated to contribute between $35,000 and $5,000.

County staff said that an aerial gondola system running above the Potomac could draw more visitors to Rosslyn and could help ease vehicle and pedestrian traffic on the congested Key Bridge. Georgetown is the largest employment center in the District without a Metro system — more than 22,000 people work there, including 10,000 at the university — and the walk from the Rosslyn Metro station across the bridge is about a kilometer, a chilly and windy 0.6 miles in the winter.

“A more efficient and reliable transit connection between Rosslyn and Georgetown would benefit both communities socially and economically,” county staff wrote.

The county’s Transportation Commission voted 6-3-2 in favor of the study. Opponents worried that “the primary purpose of a gondola would be for tourism rather than for transport.”

“The Commission is of multiple minds on this proposal,” wrote Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt in a letter to County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “There is a fear that the gondola proposal does not solve a real transportation need, and many commissioners fear that even contributing to a study will provide substantive fodder for transit-naysayers.”

The gondola study is expected to take seven months to complete and could be complete by October 2016.

Rendering via Georgetown BID

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