Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Arlington, Alexandria set to merge streetcar plans

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Arlington, Alexandria set to merge streetcar plans Arlington County

Two Washington, D.C. Virginia suburbs, each originally with its own plan for reinstating streetcars, are ready to merge their projects into one larger plan.

Under the proposal, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria, Va., would jointly build the Route 1 Corridor Streetcar Project. The five-mile line would roughly north/south from the Metrorail's Pentagon City station across 12th Street to Crystal Drive, down Crystal Drive to Potomac Yard, and then along U.S. Route 1 to Metrorail's Braddock Road Station.

Staff of the Arlington County Board is recommending the joint streetcar project with neighboring Alexandria, Va., which among other advantages would broaden the scope of funding sources for the combined project and offer political flexibility as well.

Alexandria's streetcar extension will depend largely on federal funding, but Arlington plans to fund its portion of any project using state funds and the Crystal City tax increment financing area, a special assessment district, was approved by the County Board in 2010. Arlington thus would avoid the need to perform a federal Alternatives Analysis.

"It ends up being a win-win situation for both of us, and I think everybody is quite pleased," Arlington County spokeswoman Mary Curtius said to local media. And with Arlington moving ahead with its portion of the project first, "We think this will strengthen Alexandria's application" [for federal funds], Curtius said.

The joint effort also is significant because it could move ahead of Arlington's proposed Columbia Pike streetcar line, also being planned. The Columbia Pike streetcar also begins at Pentagon City Station and runs west along its namesake road. But unlike Arlington County's other line, the estimated $250 million plan would require federal capital funding assistance.

The joint effort has been in development since at least April 2011, when the Arlington County Board awarded URS Corp. a contract worth about $3.2 million "to conduct alternatives analysis, environmental planning, and conceptual engineering for the Route 1 Corridor Streetcar Project."

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has been providing counsel to Arlington County and Alexandria to maximize passenger transfer potential to and from Metrorail services.