Virginia’s budget cuts won’t reduce the state’s promise to help pay for the Columbia Pike streetcar project, a state official said late Friday, even as two County Board members urged the Commonwealth Transportation Board to drop its funding.
Jennifer Mitchell, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, said in an e-mail response to a Washington Post inquiry that the state remains “fully committed” to providing Arlington and Fairfax counties with $65 million over six years, in addition to other state funding.
“This project is an important regional priority and a key part of the economic redevelopment along Columbia Pike and the Pentagon City and Crystal City corridors,” she said.
But the two anti-streetcar board members, Libby Garvey (D) and John Vihstadt (I), said the transportation board should drop its spending on streetcars and instead fund rapid-transit buses along the congested corridor.
“John and I strongly support a world-class transportation solution for Columbia Pike,” Garvey told the state board earlier this week during a meeting in Fairfax County. “But that solution is bus rapid transit (BRT) — not the streetcar, which is currently in your plan. In fact, we believe BRT is a good solution for the entire region.”
The pair has been on the losing side of a series of votes about the streetcar project, which is planned to run from the Skyline area of Fairfax County, northeast along Columbia Pike to Pentagon City, then over to Crystal City, where it will connect with a separate but related Crystal City to Potomac Yard streetcar.
Vihstadt is in the midst of an election campaign in which the streetcar project has become a major issue.
Separately, the County Board agreed to participate in the state’s revenue-sharing program, which is expected to provide $4.2 million for seven transportation projects, ranging from a Shirlington Road bridge renovation to sidewalk construction along Military Road. The state money will be matched with county funds.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority is also about to distribute another $18 million to Arlington from last year’s transportation funding. About $12 million will go toward the Columbia Pike bike boulevards and utility undergrounding; $1.5 million for bus bays and streetcar stops in the Crystal City area; $1 million to buy four buses; and $4.3 million for an interchange at Boundary Channel.