Friday, March 16, 2012

Another D.C.-area streetcar plan appears

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Washington, D.C.-area municipality Alexandria and nearby Arlington County, both in Virginia, are jointly planning a five-mile streetcar line that local media suggest may come to fruition more quickly than the higher-profile Columbia Pike streetcar project.

The lesser-known service proposal would also use MetroRail's Pentagon City Metro Station in Arlington County as a terminus, before crossing 12th Street to Crystal Drive, down Crystal Drive to Potomac Yard, and then down U.S. Route 1 to the MetroRail Braddock Road Metro Station in Alexandria. "The Route 1 Corridor Streetcar Conversion Project" is currently under environmental assessment and the Alternative Analysis process.

A website for the project focuses on "high-capacity and high-quality bus transit" as the first step in the process, while in the long term, "In the long term, a BRT or LRT service in the corridor would utilize the busway and stops constructed as part of the initial service."

But in an interview with ARLnow.com, Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said a Crystal City streetcar could open before the more-publicized nearby Columbia Pike line. "I think it's actually more likely that we'll get the Crystal City segment built first, because we know how we're paying for it." Hynes said. "We were hoping 2016, 2017 to have that segment open."

Financing for the Crystal City streetcar is expected mostly from the Crystal City tax increment financing area (TIF), approved in 2010. By contrast, the $250 million Columbia Pike streetcar plan relies heavily on anticipated federal funding support.

Work on the Crystal City and Columbia Pike streetcar projects are managed separately, but plans call for them to connect at the Pentagon City Metro Station.

Inside the district itself, work continues in fits and starts on the H Street/Benning Road line, linking Union Station with other stops in the Northeast quadrant.