Garvey, Vihstadt: County Throwing 'Good Money After Bad' in Awarding Contract to Manage Streetcar

Two county board officials say Arlington residents should vote on project.

Rendering of Columbia Pike streetcar; courtesy of Arlington County
Rendering of Columbia Pike streetcar; courtesy of Arlington County
(Editor's note: The following is a statement released Monday morning by Arlington County Board members Libby Garvey (D) and John Vihstadt (I), regarding the announcement last week that the county has awarded a contract to Parsons Transportation Group to manage the streetcar project.)

“The contract’s initial work, estimated at $7 million to $8 million, throws good money after bad and flies in the face of growing community sentiment against the streetcar, now projected to cost $358 million to build for the five mile Columbia Pike stretch and $227 million for the 2.4 mile Route 1/Crystal City segment,” said the two officials.

“Both John Vihstadt’s Independent special election victory to the County Board on April 8 with 57% of the vote and the growing chorus of Democratic elected officials calling for a public referendum on the streetcar (including State Delegate and Congressional candidate Patrick Hope, County Treasurer Frank O’Leary and Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy), unequivocally demonstrate sagging support for the costly and ill-advised project,” Garvey  remarked.

“Arlington voters deserve to know what other transit projects and community priorities will be sacrificed outright or delayed as a result of streetcar spending.  We can implement a form of bus rapid transit service in both corridors for a fraction of the streetcar’s cost, much more quickly, with much greater regional connectivity, more flexibility, less business disruption and displacement, at virtually the same capacity and with comparable economic development benefits,” Vihstadt concluded."

Hawa Coulibaly June 02, 2014 at 12:39 PM
I agree with both Vihstadt and Garvey. This corrupt, arrogant county board just love to waste tax payer dollars on their pet projects ( luxury 1.6 million dog parks, aquatics center etc.). If Vihstadt's win didn't teach them a lesson. When will they learn? We need to Vote out Tejada and friends and start over with new board members who will actually work for the residents and not against.
Solange Kincaid June 02, 2014 at 02:02 PM
I, too, agree with Vihstadt and Garvey. The county board masks reality. Priorities in Arlington are so esoteric - pools, streetcars, dog parks, getting rid of benches in county building lobbies so the homeless cannot use them during daylight hours... Thank goodness the homeless can still use the seats in county libraries. The county board ignores real problems and paints Arlington as a little mecca of the rich and elite and a community devoted to biking and equality for all. Ba! Humbug! Read the weekly crime reports to see that Arlington is disenfranchising the poorest among us...
highway_69 June 03, 2014 at 06:47 AM
Aside from the construction cost ballooning up, I have not seen what the expected yearly operational cost and the best guess for annual maintenance and repair.
Drew Chapman June 03, 2014 at 01:01 PM
Sorry, you all, but if you look at the County's history (and I should know, having been born, raised, and lived most of my life in Arlington), they've done a fantastic job of managing the growth and making Arlington a highly desirable place. You clearly don't know about or remember the bland wasteland that used to be Shirlington, the Wilson Blvd corridor, Pentagon City, and other areas. Rosslyn was a ghost town at night. All the arguments against the streetcar are exactly what was said in the '70s opposing the Orange Line. And look how it turned that stretch into a nationally recognized mixed-use "walkable community." Having grown up in South Arlington, I remember how it was always the last place to get any County funding and support. It's about time the County is giving Columbia Pike the attention it deserves. Lastly, when you fear the huge price tag on this project, you need to understand what these things cost. It only sounds incredibly expensive when taken out of context. Look up the cost of major infrastructure improvements around the area, and you'll see that this is normal. Compared to the cost of the Orange Line through North Arlington, adjusted for inflation, this is nearly a bargain.
Mark Carolla June 03, 2014 at 08:51 PM
As a consulting transportation writer I have to agree with Drew Chapman. There is an excellent article on streetcars in this month's Trains magazine. (Disclosure: I'm a news correspondent for Train's "Newswire" and free lance for several transportation related publications) that outlines the advantages for the elderly and handicapped as well as the economic advantages of streetcars over the often illusory short term advantages of bus rapid transit (insufficient bus capacity, etc. etc.) Buses do indeed have a role in an integrated transportation infrastructure but the bus network is at full capacity with inadequate frequency and developers and "green" urban planners prefer light rail and streetcars because of their permanence, capacity and the fact that many potential transit customers do not like buses because of difficulty with fares, confusing routes and apparent erratic schedules.


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