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.
“People on this side of the river will continue to have conversations for the next year or so, and if a coalition of regional leaders decide to go forward, we’ll try to re-engage Arlington at that point,” Sternlieb said. “By no means is this a death knell.”
A cable-propelled transit system, like those in Portland, Ore., and connecting New York City’s Roosevelt Island to Manhattan, could serve as an alternative to a Metro station, Sternlieb said.
The six-tenths of a mile between Georgetown and the Rosslyn Metro station attracts 50,000 vehicles per day over the Key Bridge. The bridge’s sidewalks are Arlington County’s busiest, and bicycle commuters often use the bridge as well. Currently, DC Circulator buses, Georgetown University and hospital buses, and Metro and Arlington County buses shuttle over the river multiple times per day.
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.
“We want to send a strong signal to folks that Metro and Columbia Pike — that’s where our priorities are in the years ahead,” she said. “If this goes forward with private investment money, we’d be happy to have a conversation about easements, et cetera.”