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County, Landowner Agree to Extend Time for Bus Facility

A staff report in the Arlington Sun Gazette last Wednesday said, "Arlington officials and a Fairfax County landowner are giving themselves a little more time to work out the details for the county’s purchase of land in Springfield to use for maintenance of Arlington Transit (ART) buses."

The staff report went on to say:

"County Board members in late June approved amendments to the purchase agreement, which extends the time limit for the Arlington government to complete its due diligence in evaluating the site, and also extends the time frame to garner Fairfax County government approval for land-use changes that will be required before the parcel can be used for its intended purpose.

"Arlington officials late last year announced plans to buy the 2.2-acre site on Electronic Drive for $4.65 million. County officials already have tendered a check for $100,000, which will become non-refundable once the due-diligence period is over.

"Under amendments agreed to by both the county government and property owner, the due-diligence deadline was shifted from June 19 to Sept. 29, while the deadline for the county government to file applications for land-use amendments with the Fairfax County government was extended from Sept. 19 to Dec. 30.

"Under the agreement, Arlington officials hope to have Fairfax County zoning approval in hand by next July."

The Arlington County Board "approved a contract to purchase a $4.65 million site, zoned for industrial use, at 6701-6705 Electronic Drive in Springfield to be used for construction and operation of a heavy maintenance facility for the County’s growing Arlington Transit (ART) bus fleet" on December 14, 2016, according to a county press release. In addition to the price to be paid, the press release highlighted the "new facility would accommodate ART bus fleet growth" and "will bring certainty to ART operations."

According to this county webpage, the county is also constructing an ART bus facility in "Crystal City at South Eads Street and 32nd Street South." The county says, "Construction started in September 2015 -- anticipated completion is summer 2017," and will "provide crucial operational space for its growing bus fleet." The webpage also comments on additional space leased for ART buses, saying:

"Until this ART bus facility is completed, the majority of buses will move to the newly leased 2631 Shirlington Road site, while the balance will be temporarily housed at the Water Pollution Control Plant.

"Once completed, the new ART facility and the Shirlington site will accommodate all of the ART bus fleet. However, the Shirlington site is not a long-term solution, since the County's lease expires in 2023. A long-term solution will be examined as part of the Joint Facilities Advisory Committee."

The same webpage provided links to three community meeting presentations of the public process -- June and December 2915 and June 2016. In addition, the country provided the following information about funding:

"The total budget for the ART bus facility and streetscape improvements is $17.6 million, which includes design, construction, construction management and related costs. Funding comes from a combination of state and regional funds and local commercial real estate tax revenues that may only be used for transportation."

A May 16, 2015 county press release provides the details on the Crystal City ART bus facility. It emphasized two points. First, the need to support a "growing ART bus operation," and, second, "even more space needed to maintain, park buses." The lede paragraph said:

"The Arlington County Board today approved a $12.4 million contract with W.M. Schlosser Company, Inc. to build a new Arlington Transit (ART) bus facility in Crystal City, at South Eads and 32nd Streets. The facility, long included in the County’s Capital Improvement Plan, will provide crucial operational space for the County’s growing ART fleet, which has nearly 60 buses today and plans to grow to 90 by 2022."

There is also a May 14, 2016 press release, which said, "The Arlington County Board today approved a lease in Nauck for property that will house County vehicles, including some Arlington Transit (ART) buses.The 7-year lease for property at 2631 Shirlington Road, next to the CubeSmart storage lot off Interstate-395, is with NOBE I, LLC and SHCH, LLC." The release also said:

"The County will pay $720,000 in rent the first year, and another $460,000 to prepare the site, for a total first-year cost of $1.1 million. Construction costs will be funded through a combination of state and regional transit grants and funds."

The press release's first bullets said "supports growing ART bus fleet."

In his Right Note column for ARLnow.com on Thursday, July 6, Mark Kelly tries to make senses of the continual need to find space for its ever-growing ART bus fleet, urging the county panjandrums to "Stop 'Saving' Us Money."

According to Kelly:

"After spending over $17 million for the yet-to-be-opened ART bus light maintenance facility in South Arlington, the county announced it is close to acquiring land for a third ART bus facility in Springfield.

"The land cost for the heavy maintenance facility in Springfield itself is reported to be $4.65 million before up to $32 million could be added in the design and build process.

"County officials admitted when the first facility was announced that it was too small to meet actual maintenance and storage needs, but that did not stop them from moving forward with it. The maintenance facilities are on top of the acquisition of land for ART bus parking in Shirlington.

"As noted at the time, the South Arlington facility would save tax taxpayers $57,000 a year that Arlington pays to use existing Metrobus maintenance facilities. At that rate, the facility will pay for itself in about 308 years. If Arlington taxpayers are lucky, the heavy maintenance facility will pay for itself in 100 years or less.

"Sure, Metro could stop allowing us to use their facilities, though it is hard to imagine they are looking to shed any extra revenue sources right now. Yes, it’s nice to have a facility that is our own. But spending millions on a “nice to have” project is the type of decision that can eventually get governments into financial hot water.

"To put this in business terms, the decision to move forward with these maintenance facilities represents a negative return on investment. Only in government would you justify them as saving taxpayers money."

We've growled at least three times about Arlington County's ART buses -- April 30, 2015, August 31, 2016, and December 14, 2016.

On April 26, 2017, the county issued a press release after receiving a national planning achievement award for smart growth from the American Planning Association. Based upon  the narrative above, it certainly doesn't appear those planning skills don't extend to Arlington County's ART bus program.

If you are a Growls reader concerned about Arlington County's ART bus program, and whether your tax dollars are being used efficiently, take a few minutes and write 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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