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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

For Arlington County streetcar, a PPP option

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Arlington County (Va.) Board members Monday approved plans to explore a public-private partnership arrangement to advance its proposed Columbia Pike streetcar. But the approval was strongly contested by a recently elected board member, whose campaign included strident disapproval of any streetcar project.

Board member Libby Garvey says guidelines in the Virginia Public-Private Transportation Act do not include adequate public safeguards to protect taxpayer funds, potentially letting a private company offer an unsolicited bid and bypassing any public review.

"If we vote today, we are one vote away from awarding the contract for the streetcar," Garvey said, according to local media.

Board Chairwoman Mary Hynes, rebutting the assertion, said, "If a large, complex project comes in, we will take a sufficient amount of time. No one wants to make a bad investment in this community. Everyone wants to try to achieve our goals."

Last July the Arlington County Board approved spending $2.4 billion during the next decade for numerous infrastructure projects, including investment in its two streetcar lines, each extending from Metrorail's Pentagon City Station. The Columbia Pike streetcar project is being advanced without federal funding assistance.

Arlington County and neighboring Fairfax County, outside Washington, D.C., joined forces in 2009 to pursue the Columbia Pike Streetcar plan, a five-mile route running from Washington Metrorail's Pentagon City Station to Bailey's Crossroads, Va.