Arlington Cancels Streetcar Program

  • “Arlington works best when we work together”
  • County Board instructs County Manager to terminate all County streetcar contracts
  • State, federal grant applications to be withdrawn

The Arlington County Board today voted to cancel the streetcar program that would have built a modern streetcar system along the Columbia Pike and Crystal City/Potomac Yard corridors.

The Board voted 4 to 1 to cancel the program and asked that the County Manager:

  • terminate all County streetcar projects;
  • withdraw or modify applications for state and federal grants and terminate state agreements to fund the project;
  • assess the implications on the County's land use plan and Zoning Ordinance; its plans to build and preserve affordable housing in the Columbia Pike corridor; the Master Transportation Plan and the Capital Improvement Plan;
  • develop alternate transportation strategies to improve transit options and capacity for the Columbia Pike and Crystal City/Potomac Yard corridors without a streetcar;
  • report to the County Board on the financial impacts of discontinuing the program.

The Board's actions came just hours after Board Chair Jay Fisette and Vice Chair Mary Hynes (who together with Board Member Walter Tejada were the pro-streetcar majority on the five-member Board) announced that they had decided the program must be cancelled to heal divisions that were distracting the community from a range of pressing issues. The action puts an end to the Columbia Pike Streetcar program, which was first approved by the Arlington County Board and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in 2006.

Painful decision

“This was a painful decision for me and Ms. Hynes,” Fisette said. “Both of us continue to believe that the streetcar is the best long-term transit option for the two corridors that are expected to absorb much of Arlington's population and job growth in the coming decades. We both still believe that fixed rail would both transform Columbia Pike and attract development that would generate the revenue necessary to support our excellent community services and enhance our regional competitiveness.”

“We know how deeply disappointing this decision will be for the many residents of south Arlington who spent years crafting their Main Street vision for Columbia Pike and their plan for Crystal City,” Fisette said. “We remain strongly committed to the revitalization of these neighborhoods, and to their transformation into more walkable, livable, vibrant places. Their success is essential for the economic sustainability of the whole County.

“We remain committed to Arlington's smart-growth vision,” Fisette said. “And we remain committed to revitalizing Columbia Pike and the Crystal City-Potomac Yard corridor.”

Voters have spoken

However, Fisette said, “We must deal with political realities. It is a fact that on Nov. 4 voters convincingly re-elected the candidate who made opposition to the streetcar a centerpiece of his campaign. This was a serious message. Debating the streetcar issue further – with continued discord and dueling facts – will not serve our community and will distract us from addressing the other pressing issues before us . We need to refocus and address the challenges posed by our growing school enrollment, a historically high office vacancy rate, and a lack of affordable housing.

“Arlington,” he said, “works best when we work together toward a common vision.”

Arlington Va., is a world-class residential, business and tourist location that was originally part of the “10 miles square” parcel of land surveyed in 1791 to be the Nation's Capital. Slightly smaller than 26 square miles, it is the geographically smallest self-governing county in the United States, and one of only a handful with the prized Aaa/AAA/AAA bond rating. Arlington maintains a rich variety of stable neighborhoods and quality schools, and has received numerous awards for Smart Growth and transit-oriented development. Home to some of the most influential organizations in the world — including the Pentagon — Arlington stands out as one of America's preeminent places to live, visit and do business.