Arlington streetcar planning to continue despite funding rejecti - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Arlington streetcar planning to continue despite funding rejection

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Although federal transit planners have initially said "no" to funding a proposed streetcar line in Arlington, local planning on the project continues.

Columbia Pike in Arlington is a very busy roadway, day and night. An estimated 16,000 people per weekday use bus service on this roadway.

And Arlington, which has already seen a decades-long building and population boom in and around its many Metro stops, anticipates that more people will be moving in, especially around Columbia Pike, which does not have Metro stations nearby.

County Board Chairman Walter Tejada strongly believes that Columbia Pike needs, what he calls, "a modern streetcar line." Supporters, like Tejada, say streetcars can carry more people than buses.

And there are other advantages.

"One of the important things to remember is this will not run on petroleum. It will be electrical[ly] powered," explained Tejada, a Democrat. "How to do you put a value on helping our environment? We'll have less pollution and less cars on the road."

The initial streetcar line supporters envision would run from the Skyline area of Fairfax County to Pentagon City. There's also still a possibility of federal money from other programs.

But fellow Arlington Democrat Libby Garvey believes streetcars may slow the commute down Columbia Pike, especially if there's a breakdown.

"Any number of things can happen on the tracks," said Garvey during an interview. "The streetcar stops. And everything stops behind it. All the streetcars stop. If you have a bus, it's flexible. It pulls around [the blockage] and keeps going."

Board Member Libby Garvey also says the latest estimate for the streetcar line is $310 million and will likely climb higher. She advocates a modern bus transit system with synchronized traffic signals and platform boarding.

So far, the streetcar proponents hold the majority, and planning continues for a line that could be in operation as early as 2016.

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