Friday, March 13, 2009

Arlington County presses streetcar preliminary design

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Virginia’s Arlington County, west of Washington, D.C., is set to commit $3 million for environmental planning and preliminary design of the Columbia Pike Streetcar, expected to cost $120 million.  The county board is expected to approve the measure.

County transportation staff says about one-third of the funds eventually would be reimbursed by state funding. Initially, the $3 million will come from a transportation-dedicated commercial real estate tax. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority would contribute $148,000, while Fairfield County’s share would total about $912,000.

The 4.7-mile streetcar line would run from Pentagon City Metro station to the Skyline development in Bailey’s Crossroads. Arlington County expects to cover 80% of the cost; neighboring Fairfax County would contribute the remainder. 

The route currently handles 14,000 bus riders traveling from Virginia points to Pentagon City Metro station and the Pentagon proper. But bus capacity is nearing the limit, according to Jim Whittaker, executive director of the non-profit public/private partnership Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. 

Initial streetcar study efforts will determine specific streetcar stops, currently planned to average one-third of a mile between stations. Additional funding sources also will be sought.