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Feds Skip Funding Columbia Pike Streetcar in 2014

Arlington and Fairfax officials are seeking clarification and say they will continue to pursue federal funding for the controversial project.

Arlington and Fairfax counties announced Friday afternoon that federal funds expected to cover nearly one-third of the cost of the $250 million Columbia Pike streetcar project will not be available next year.

The controversial project would connect Pentagon City with Bailey's Crossroads, and public outcry has sharpened thanks in part to opponents finding a champion in Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey.

Arlington and Fairfax counties applied to the Federal Transit Administration's Small Starts program for partial funding in September 2012.

The streetcar's funding plan assumed the feds would kick in $75 million, the largest amount the FTA program awards. State and local dollars would pay for the balance.

Arlington and Fairfax counties have been informed that the streetcar was not included in the FTA's funding recommendations for fiscal year 2014.

Arlington has not received any evaluation of the project or explanation of the FTA's decision, county board Chairman Walter Tejada said in a statement. The county is seeking clarification.

“Arlington, in partnership with Fairfax County, is committed to building a modern streetcar line along Columbia Pike as the best long term transit investment. We will continue to explore all financing options, including federal financing. While we are disappointed at not being included this year, we believe our application was strong, and will continue to work with FTA for inclusion into the Small Starts/New Starts program," Tejada stated.

“The Pike streetcar will address the community’s needs by providing greater capacity on one of the Commonwealth’s most heavily traveled corridors. It will encourage more people to use transit, will reduce congestion, help us meet our affordable housing goals, and will support the sort of development that the community wants.”

The Arlington County news release points out that the transportation bill Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed this year "makes more money available to Northern Virginia for infrastructure investments such as the streetcar." That bill allows for a 0.7 percent sales tax increase in Northern Virginia to fund transportation projects.

Work on the streetcar project continues, including conceptual engineering and environmental efforts, the news release states.

Arvin Vohra April 12, 2013 at 10:25 PM
why on earth would the federal govt fund transportation within a city or state? Why should people in all other states, from Alaska to Florida pay for something that can only benefit Virginians?
Jason Spencer (Editor) April 12, 2013 at 10:38 PM
Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, or AST, which opposes the streetcar, issued this statement/bullet points Friday evening: · AST may have more to say when we find out FTA's specific reasons why they declined to fund this project, but · We know they decided not to fund it · We know they decided to fund other projects around the country · This is just the latest wake up call and negative assessment of this project coming on the heels of the $1 million superstop fiasco · The superstop went 100% over budget · The superstop is one of 24 stops on the proposed streetcar line · If the streetcar goes 100% over budget, it will cost 1/2 billion dollars · This is just the latest warning signal to Arlington that it is time to hit the pause button on the streetcar just like they had to hit the pause botton on the superstop, and · commission an independent cost benefit analysis of this project
Robin April 12, 2013 at 10:53 PM
Thamk God! , ! .hopefully the County will rethink this debacle....toooooo much money in times that require restraint.
Janet April 13, 2013 at 12:19 AM
STOP Pike Streetcar Planning - IMMEDIATELY !!! This project has gone from being foolish to being totally irrational. Chris Zimmerman wants millions to be used for additional ART bus service, no matter what the current ridership. WMATA wants tens of millions to fund cosmetic makeovers for Metrorail stations in Virginia. So where is the funding coming from for the Pike streetcar? Dedicated commercial real estate tax surcharge revenue that's already been dedicated? Meanwhile the Patch and other local media have provided their readers and viewers with about ZERO information about state of the art BRT. Why do I have visit the Arlington Yupette blog to see what a successful state of the art BRT system (Las Vegas ACE) even looks like?
A.B. April 13, 2013 at 01:12 AM
Jason, I agree with Janet. Patch has provided ZERO information about BRT and alternative bus systems designed and pit into operation over teh past 5 years. Why do I have to visit the Arlington Yupette blog to see what a state of the art, cool looking, bus rapid transit vehicle that lots of people will want to ride looks like? This Vegas BRT vehicle has actually been in operation for more than four years with a high approval rating from Las Vegas residents and tourists. Aoril
Joey April 13, 2013 at 07:59 AM
If you had any clue of the requirements for a BRT system you would know Columbua Pike is not a viable candidate for BRT, besides the County's agreement with the state for the transfer of Columbia Pike from VDOT to the County specifically precludes what is needed to implement a BRT system. So a BRT is not a possibility and will never happen. Wake up.
CSG April 13, 2013 at 01:24 PM
State of the art BRT systems run in dedicated lanes, or on city and suburban streets, dedicated lanes not required. Time for local media and local government to provide information about advanced bus transit options for the Pike, Crystal City, and elsewhere in the County. Here is a link to the Vegas BRT in actual operation - not a hypothetical (also check out the double deck bus in the same video): www.youtube.com/watch?v=x30ivqQEGao
Allie April 13, 2013 at 03:30 PM
So these double deck buses and articulated BRTs have been successful in Vegas for the past FOUR YEARS? What have the local media been printing? Press releases from the County Manager's office extolling the Pike Streetcar.
Rob Whitfield April 13, 2013 at 06:48 PM
Double deck buses have operated successfully in London and other British cities for over a century. They have also been used for over 50 years in former British colonies including Hong Kong and Singapore. The Fifth Avenue Coach Company operated double deckers in New York City after World War II. Most US double deckers have until recently been used for tourist sightseeing. Las Vegas has operated The Deuce double deckers since 2005. According to wikipedia, RTC Transit of Las Vegas operates Scottish built 130 Alexander Dennis Enviro 500s, the same type as used by some DC tour operators: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Deuce Megabus, the East Coast budget intercity coach company, now operates over 100 Belgian built VanHool TD 925 Astromegas seating 81 passengers plus driver. Several times in the last two years, I have suggested to local politicians, including Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, also a WMATA Board member, that double deckers have a place in the future of Northern Virginia bus transit service. Were they even considered by the Arlington County Board?
Barbara April 13, 2013 at 07:39 PM
I'm with Arvin. Local projects should be paid for with local money. The streetcar is Arlington's very own "bridge to nowhere."
Allie April 14, 2013 at 12:09 AM
No reason why double deck buses can't operate on the Pike. New bridge over Washington Blvd. will have over 17-foot clearance.
Lyle Lanley April 14, 2013 at 11:58 AM
Arlington County needs to concentrate on the urgent problems, not these boutique projects. Since the Route 50 exit closings, traffic has been streaming through once quiet community streets. I have seen no signs that the County is concerned except for the one stop sign on Pershing to calm traffic. I feel sorry for my neighbors on Barton and Edgewood Streets during rush hour, they have to wait for minutes to walk across their own roads.
julie April 15, 2013 at 01:35 AM
What has Patch had to say about state-of-the-art bus transit (2013 not 1993) on the Pike and elsewhere, besides running pro-streetcar PR from the County Manager's office on Patch for the past 3 years?
Rob Whitfield April 15, 2013 at 01:48 AM
Isaac Laquedem 4/3/13 The Portland Streetcar's real purpose revealed One of the ongoing discussions about the Portland Streetcar is whether it is faster to walk or take the streetcar. When I want to travel along the streetcar's route downtown, I trot briskly along the route until a streetcar catches up with me, or until I catch up with the streetcar, or until I get to my destination. Usually I beat the streetcar. Every time I follow the tracks, I notice others also jogging or walking briskly along the route, apparently with the same purpose. Twenty years ago I visited the Multnomah Kennel Club and watched the greyhounds run around the circuit, chasing a mechanical rabbit that's pulled along a channel next to the track. It struck me today as I noticed people trotting along the rail line that the Portland Streetcar is not primarily a means of transportation, nor is it mainly a subsidy to lucky if inept contractors and suppliers. It's a public health measure, designed to not to move people from Point A to Point B, but to improve the cardiovascular fitness of downtown workers and residents who strive to outpace the trolleycar. It's the rabbit, and we're the greyhounds.
Rob Whitfield April 15, 2013 at 02:06 AM
Numerous press articles about Portland streetcar that Arlingtonians would do well to review and consider further. Still no sign that certification has been granted to first US built streetcar in Oregon. Brad Schmidt of The Oregonian is a good source. First, from the Columbia Pike Streetcar website: http://www.columbiapikeva.us/streetcar-transit/columbia-pike-streetcar-faqs/ 3. What alternatives were analyzed? Enhancing the Pike’s current transit service, Enhancing the Pike’s current bus service plus adding articulated buses , and Building a modern streetcar line, coupled with continued bus service. http://blog.oregonlive.com/portlandcityhall/2013/01/portland_receives_first_street.html The long-delayed streetcar will be tested for about two weeks and, if all goes well, it could be put into fare service next month or in early March....United Streetcar, the Clackamas-based company hired as part of a $19.5 million contract with the city of Portland, is woefully behind schedule. United Streetcar is looking to become the only American company to produce a modern streetcar...November and December deadlines came and passed, too. According to one schedule, set last summer, Portland was slated to receive four of five streetcars by Jan. 23 -- and all five were supposed to be in service by Feb. 19. Then read this: http://azstarnet.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/injured-cyclist-files-million-claim-over-tucson-streetcar-tracks/article_416e5462-9d74-5261-a913-79ee3019d0b4.html
julie April 15, 2013 at 03:18 PM
Seen on another blog: "We don't have 'journalism' in Arlington, we have a bunch of newsies printing press releases". Why else won't Patch show us a photo of what the Vegas BRT looks like?
Jason Spencer (Editor) April 15, 2013 at 04:50 PM
The only thing preventing a Vegas BRT photo on this site is you: Anyone can blog for Patch. Those posts are separate from news and appear in the Local Voices column on the front page (if they are featured, that is; if not, they still appear in our list of blog posts accessible from the front page). To contribute, click on "Start a blog" on the home page and you can write all you'd like about the Vegas system, which I'm sure will be well-sourced with links and include a photo. I should point out that just because you disagree with the subject matter of a news story, that doesn't make it biased. You're basically asking me to legitimize your argument, which I'm not comfortable doing at this point. That's not to say I won't learn things that make me change my mind. Also, we have printed a great deal of comments and opinions that support BRT over a streetcar. Finally, I'm going to have to ask our tech team to start monitoring for duplicate accounts again. Please, let's be adults.
Rob Whitfield April 15, 2013 at 05:59 PM
Here's a news item from Everett, Washington about the 23 Enviro 500s operated in the Seattle area by Community Transit. http://www.commtrans.org/projects/doubletall/ The double decker buses are 42 feet long and 14 feet tall. They seat 77 passengers – 49 upstairs, 28 downstairs – plus have designated standing room. Compared to the 60-foot, 60-seat buses they are replacing, Double Talls seat more passengers in less road space, easing crowding on popular commuter routes as well as on Seattle streets and at Community Transit’s Kasch Park base in Everett. Thanks to our zealous grant writers, federal and state funding paid 89 percent of the cost of these buses, which are needed to replace articulated buses in service since 1998. Only 11 percent of the funding for the Double Talls came from Community Transit's capital reserve budget. The Double Tall buses require less maintenance (since there’s no joint in the middle) and use less fuel than the articulated buses, and are expected to handle better in snowy road conditions. Then there is this April 1, 2013 Community Transit news release: Make That a Double Venti: New Buses Will Quaduple Rider Capacity http://www.commtrans.org/newsrelease/1519 Caution! Check out the last line!
julie April 15, 2013 at 07:10 PM
That is like being told by Arlington Independent Media that I have to take a production course so I can produce a program to show Arlingtonians what BRT alternatives to streetcars look like. Same Patch from that features shoplifting from convenience stores as major local news? Give us a break, Mr. Spencer. Somebody or somebodies is/are putting a lot of heat on the local media to prevent information about BRT from appearing. You won't even post a photo of the Vegas BRT.
Janet April 15, 2013 at 10:45 PM
What kind of 'journalism" is the following excuse for not posting information about alternatives to streetcars on the Pike: "You're basically asking me to legitimize your argument, which I'm not comfortable doing at this point". Who or what is making you uncomfortable about posting relevant information? Here's a link to a video about the successful Las Vegas Super Deuce double deck bus...another Pike transit option that's not being discussed in the local media: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dctwqxy6Ohg
julie April 16, 2013 at 12:34 AM
FYI, it's illegal for anyone to repeatedly threaten the news media with loss of revenue for posting newsworthy information. Do a search on the term RICO
A.B. April 16, 2013 at 02:01 AM
Why don't the local media tell the truth about about news blackout of information about bus alternatives to the Pike streetcar? It's being coordinated by the County Manager's PR team. Why do I have to visit the Arlington Yupette blog to know what's going on in this County?

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