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Gondola Loses Out to Higher Priority Projects

The Washington Post's Patricia Sullivan on Saturday reported that "Arlington says 'no thanks' to Georgetown-Rosslyn gondola."

Here are the opening paragraphs in her report:

"A proposed gondola connecting Georgetown and Rosslyn across the Potomac River won’t be funded with money from Arlington because other transportation projects, such as Metro and Columbia Pike transit, take priority, the Arlington County Board said Friday.

"'Given our identified and pressing transportation needs, along with some ongoing concerns about the long-term value of the gondola, the Board is not in favor of any further funding of the gondola project,' the board’s chairman, Jay Fisette (D), said in a letter to the gondola study committee.

"But the project — which has been touted by the Georgetown Business Improvement District, among others, as a cheaper way to get mass transit access between the two booming neighborhoods — is far from dead, Joe Sternlieb, president of the Georgetown BID, said."

Sullivan links to the following letter that was posted on the Arlington County Board's webpage:

"Dear Members of the Executive Committee,

"On behalf of the Arlington County Board, I am writing to you regarding the Rosslyn-Georgetown Gondola study and to share our collective position on the project.

"First, I want to thank you for giving Arlington County the opportunity to join you and other partners in exploring the potential opportunities for constructing and operating a gondola service in our region.

"Board members, along with our staff, have reviewed the conclusions of the feasibility study for the proposed aerial gondola between Rosslyn and Georgetown. The study addressed many of the important components, including ridership demand, cost of installation, cost of operations, engineering, technical issues, and permitting requirements. An estimate of $80-$90 million was included in the study as the order of magnitude construction cost of the project.

"Arlington already has a large number of transportation projects in the County’s Master Transportation Plan, including several in Rosslyn that will require substantial resources and attention over the next several years. The Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola is not a project included in our recently approved Capital Improvement Plan.  Given our identified and pressing transportation needs, along with some ongoing concerns about the long-term value of the gondola, the Board is not in favor of any further funding of the gondola project.

Thank you again for your joint efforts in exploring this particular alternative transportation option.  We look forward to our continued partnership on other regional transportation initiatives.

"Sincerely,

"Jay Fisette, Chair"

Both Sullivan's report and the County Board's letter contain additional embedded links.

The Post article also points out:

"In truth, the participation of the Arlington County Board was extremely unlikely. Even when the board agreed a year ago to kick in $35,000 for a feasibility study, several board members expressed deep skepticism.

"The study, which came out in November, estimated an $80 million to $90 million construction cost for the system over the Potomac at the Key Bridge, as well as $2 million to $3 million in annual operating costs. That weighed heavily on the board, said Vice Chair Katie Cristol (D). But she said it couldn’t compete with more-pressing priorities."

WTOP radio's Dennis Foley also reports on Arlington County's decision to say "'no' to Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola."

Unfortunately, it cost Arlington County taxpayers $35,000 to learn the pros- and cons- about the gondola. But at least the Arlington County Board now seems to know the meaning of prioritizing the spending of taxpayers money. An expensive lesson, but at least the Board seems to have learned an important lesson of governing.

If you have a question or comment about the Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola, take a few minutes to ask your question(s) or make your opinion known to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130.

And tell them ACTA sent you.

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