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Dueling Community Groups Form to Oppose, Support Streetcar

Planned transit system would connect Pentagon City to Bailey's Crossroads via Columbia Pike.

Love the idea of a Columbia Pike streetcar? Hate it? Either way, there's a group for you.

Over the past couple of months, community groups have formed to both oppose and support the planned $249 million transit system that would connect Pentagon City with the Bailey's Crossroads area of Fairfax County.

Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit came first. This group is bent on getting the Arlington County Board to agree to a cost-benefit analysis to prove whether a bus rapid transit, or BRT, system is a better option.

"It is premature to know whether a fixed-rail street car is the best option for the Columbia Pike revitalization because other viable options, such as a modern BRT have not been fully and fairly considered," wrote Arlington resident Josh Petty on that group's website. "Until a current and comprehensive analysis is conducted, the County does not know if a BRT could be far less expensive, less disruptive, more scalable, and an overall better solution. The County must compare both options and refresh its 2006 assumptions…"

Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit counts several political activists among its ranks, including former Arlington County Democratic Committee Chairman Peter Rousselot, former Arlington County Board candidates Kim Klingler and Mark Kelly, and Gordon Simonett, past president of the Arlington Young Democrats.

But this past weekend, a group supporting the project announced itself, and Arlington Streetcar Now has some well-known supporters of its own — including former state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, Arlington Chamber of Commerce Chairman David DeCamp and Douglas Park Civic Association President John Snyder.

"My personal experience in riding both streetcars and buses is that streetcars offer a more comfortable, more reliable trip. Also, I think the streetcars connecting Alexandria and Fairfax through south Arlington will improve our local economy and overall quality of life," Clarendon resident Peter Owen said in that group's collection of testimony.

Both groups seem to be steering their numbers toward a March 27 town hall at Kenmore Middle School.

The topic, announced earlier this year by county board Chairman Walter Tejada, is the streetcar.

The streetcar project has been discussed for years and enjoys the support of four of the five county board members. Board member Libby Garvey has given the opposition a voice on the board — she's responsible for the longest debate on county procurement policy in recent memory — though she's just one of five members.

The Arlington County Board is in the initial stages of its budget process for the fiscal year that begins July 1. About 46 jobs and a tax hike are on the line.

County Manager Barbara Donnellan has said putting major projects on hold is always an option, though board members have not said they would consider doing so.

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