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Columbia Pke Streetcar? Feds Say Not in Fiscal Year 2014

In a brief 4-sentence news item at 6:15 PM this evening, the Arlington Sun Gazette writes:

"Federal Transit Administration officials have opted, for now at least, not to provide $75 million in funding toward the Columbia Pike streetcar project.

"Arlington officials announced Friday afternoon that the project had not been included for fiscal 2014 funding under the federal government’s "Small Starts" initiative.

"There was no immediate reason given for why the funding was not forthcoming.

"Arlington and Fairfax officials had hoped to use the funding to offset local costs of the five-mile streetcar line, which has an estimated cost of $250 million."

The complete news item, however, increased in length by including the complete text of the County government's press release, which you can read here. The following paragraph from the two-page press release seems to be the most relevant:

"Arlington County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada today reaffirmed the County’s commitment to the Columbia Pike Streetcar Project and noted that the County has not received any official evaluation of the project or explanation for the FTA’s decision. He cautioned against speculating about the reasons for the FTA’s action pending clarification."

In other news about the Columbia Pike streetcar, the Arlington Sun Gazette reported on the debate held Wednesday evening at Marymount University and sponsored by the Arlington Committee of 100. In a short item on Thursday, the newspaper reported that perhaps "140 people attended the dinner meeting, which featured David DeCamp representing the pro-streetcar position and Peter Rousselot urging a further study before moving forward."

Then this morning, Scott McCaffrey posted a longer piece at the Sun Gazette website about Wednesday evening's Committee of 100 streetcar debate, noting that it focused "on who would ride what kind of transit." Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or streetcar? Here is how McCaffrey wrote about one exchange:

“Newcomers prefer rail . . . and will actually leave their cars and use rail,” DeCamp told a crowd of about 140 at the meeting . . . .

"That view is simply a myth, sniffed Peter Rousselot, a leader of the Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, which wants there to be consideration of a modern bus rapid transit (BRT) system rather than a streetcar down the Columbia Pike corridor.

"A BRT system would be “stylish, sleek, cool” and “will attract lots of choice riders,” Rousselot said.

"Across the nation, the two types of systems – bus rapid transit and streetcar – “attract basically the same people,” he said."

By the way, the video of the March 27 Streetcar Town Hall forum at Kenmore Middle School. You can view the 2 hour, 13 minute long video at You Tube. Or if you prefer, the video is available at Arlington Streetcar, a part of the county's website, along with handouts, which present the county's side of such issues as streetcar capacity and funding.

As we growled on March 28, 2013, we recommended the website of Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit (AST) for logical and well-presented information in support of the BRT alternative. Arlington Streetcar Now has material supporting the county government's streetcar alternative.

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