Arlington County to control Columbia Pike

By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 23, 2010

Arlington County will take full control over Columbia Pike after a decision Sept. 15 by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, a 17-member panel that handles administrative actions for Virginia's roads.

"By owning the road, Arlington will be able to speed up the pike's transformation from suburban highway to main street," County Board Chairman Jay Fisette (D) said in a statement. "This is a big step forward in our efforts to make the pike more accessible, pedestrian and transit-friendly."

Since 2002, county officials have been working to redevelop the Columbia Pike corridor, including plans for a street car line and turning lanes. Once the pike transfer is completed, the county will no longer have to go through lengthy state approval and permit processes to complete projects, officials said.

"There is no state money, and our community needs certain kinds of improvements," said County Board member Chris Zimmerman (D), who has championed the project for years.

"If we have to wait for the state every time we are doing [a project], the cost just goes up. It would be better if we just took it over," said Zimmerman, who added that the county had to wait four years to get all the necessary Virginia Department of Transportation approvals and permits to build a crosswalk.

"We'll have the ability to control the public environment and not have to wait for several levels of bureaucracy to run permits form desk to desk," he said. "It makes it much more practical to try to implement any major change."

The county will take over the stretch from the Arlington border with Fairfax County to Joyce Street and about $660,000 in operations and maintenance from the Virginia Department of Transportation. The state will maintain control of the Glebe Road and Washington Boulevard intersections.

The County Board will discuss a memorandum of understanding with state officials at its Saturday meeting. The transfer could take effect next month, county officials said.

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