Arlington, VA

About 150 people crammed into Walter Reed Community Center last night to discuss the current state of planning for the Columbia Pike streetcar project.

Planners revealed that the streetcar line is expect to go into service in 2016 and is expected to cost $160 million to build. Of that, Arlington will pay $135 million and Fairfax County will pay $25 million, according to planners. However, county staff warned those cost estimates will change as further planning is done. The Pike Transit Initiative, as the project is called, is also seeking funding from the Federal Transit Administration, which could cover part of the cost of construction.

The streetcar would travel east from Skyline/Bailey’s Crossroads, down Columbia Pike, past the Air Force Memorial to end at South Eads Street. The plan also calls for one of two extensions to be built, either to the NOVA Community College campus near Skyline or to Long Bridge Park, near the Pentagon, to accommodate a streetcar storage and maintenance shed.

The public forum was expected to be contentious, as a number of streetcar critics had announced in advance they would attend. There were no fireworks or shouting matches, but during a question and answer session a few people did pelt planners with questions about the value of having a streetcar line at all.

Steven Del Giudice, head of transit operations and planning for Arlington County, suggested that there were other means for critics to express their dissent and that this meeting was “not the forum” to discuss the value of having streetcars on the Pike.

“Reasonable people can disagree,” said Del Giudice after the meeting, shrugging off the criticism.

Streetcar skeptic and Pike resident John Antonelli said he was concerned about the project’s cost, which some critics believe could reach past $300 million (Del Giudice disputed this, saying a quoted $336 million figure included 30 years of operating costs).

Antonelli argued the streetcar won’t save much money on existing bus service (Del Giudice says it will likely eliminate two to three bus lines), and noted that service could easily be disrupted by road repairs, a traffic accident, or a stalled car. He called the forum “a typical Kabuki theatre Arlington meeting.”

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Words by Barry Skidmore of People-Powered Arlington. Photos by Mark Blacknell.

Australian sprinter Hilton Clarke overcame blazing temperatures, rough roads, and a challenging field to win the 13th annual Air Force Cycling Classic Clarendon Cup men’s pro race on Saturday. Clarke, racing for the first time with the United Healthcare team, outpaced a group of five other cyclists to take the win.

Brooke Miller of Team Tibco won the women’s elite race, sprinting to a dramatic finish that saw her one of her competitors flip her bike and crash 50 meters from the finish line.

Dozens of teams and hundreds of cyclists competed on the one-kilometer course in the heart of Clarendon, billed as one of the most challenging cycling courses in the United States.

Hundreds turned out to watch some of the best cycling teams in the world, despite temperatures that reached well into the 90s. Many spectators stood near the course wall, while others set up folding chairs or sat at nearby sidewalk cafes.

The men’s 100k race began at 12:15 p.m. and a minor crash in the first few laps proved a prelude to what would be a brutal and hard-fought competition. There were several crashes throughout the race and many cyclists would end the day bloodied and bruised.

In the early laps, many teams jockeyed for position with no single group of cyclists able to establish dominance. There were multiple attacks but the breakaways were all eventually reabsorbed and served mostly as “probing attacks” allowing the teams to assess both their competition and the course.

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More than a thousand runners braved heavy wind and driving rain on Saturday to compete in the inaugural Four Courts Four Miler road race, part of an early St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

“How do you like this traditional Irish weather?” an organizer called out to the crowd just before the race began.

The race started at Ireland’s Four Courts in Courthouse and took runners along an out-and-back course down Wilson Blvd, through Rosslyn, and past the Memorial Bridge on Route 110.

The course made for a relaxed downhill first half with a tough uphill return including a steep quarter-mile hill just before the finish line.

“The climb from Rosslyn was incredibly arduous, but seeing the crowd at the final hill really inspired me to finish strong,” said race participant Elyssa Lacson.

The rain, which had been coming down in sheets before the race, relented to a light drizzle by the 9:00 a.m. start time. The initial deluge left participants soggy, but in good spirits.

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