There’s a widespread misperception among elected officials in Northern Virginia that Arlington County is obstructionist, because it opposes widening of I-66 inside the Beltway. Nothing could be further from the truth. You are looking at the only Arlington resident who publicly opposed the ill fated Spot Improvement project–which has widened I-66 piecemeal–by suing VDOT in federal district court.
I lost the court battle but not the war. Rush hour bottlenecks on westbound I-66 persist at the locus of Spot 1, because most outbound traffic is forced back on the I-66 main line at the Sycamore Street exit. In fact the only drivers who benefit from Spot 1 are local motorists who use the added merge lane as an alternative to parallel arteries between Ballston and Falls Church.
The County’s proposed ten year capital budget (CIP) allocates over half a billion dollars for the Crystal City and Columbia Pike trolleys. This represents more than half the transportation capital budget and 19 percent of the total capital budget of $2.7 billion. Yet according to the Underlying Assumptions section of the Debt Capacity Analysis (B-15), the debt ratios utilized to determine the County’s bond rating do “not include revenue bonds anticipated to be issued for transportation projects [including the trolleys] and supported by the commercial real estate tax or the Crystal City TIF.”
In effect the debt service on $137 million worth of bonds to be issued to finance the Crystal City and Pike trolleys is off budget. Why? (more…)
The Washington Examiner recently reported that Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton is promoting tolled express lanes as the solution to congestion on I-66 from the Beltway to Gainesville. He wants to link them to the Beltway’s toll lanes to provide those who can pay with a seamless ride through much of northern Virginia. According to the Examiner, Connaughton isn’t currently planning to install express lanes on I-66 inside the Beltway right now because of political opposition. But it quotes him saying:
“If you don’t want us to widen the road, then we’re going to have to figure out a way to get more capacity out of the road, and I think express lanes are a way to do it.” (more…)
On May 2 Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit (AST) apprised voters of new developments in the Columbia Pike streetcar saga. First, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) rejected Arlington’s bid for $75 million in Small Starts funding, because Arlington low balled the cost at $250 million to meet the cost cutoff for such projects. Yet according to FTA the actual cost exceeds $310 million. So the project was disqualified. (more…)
On December 10 County Board scuttled a plan to put 40 electric powered cabs (EVs) on Arlington streets, bowing to pressure from cab drivers who packed the County Board hearing room with gags in their mouths to signal their opposition both to the EVs and to Board Chair Mary Hynes’ decision to cut off public comment. As an inducement to approve the project EV Taxicabs had promised to install dozens of electric recharging stations around the county that would be available to the public free of charge. At first blush, EV taxis looked like a win-win for both Arlington residents and the environment. However, the Arlington Transportation Commission vetoed the project over concern whether the cabs could provide reliable service to/from Dulles Airport. (more…)
I’m sure County Board members are squriming over the report recently released by transportation consultant and Democratic Party leader Peter Rousselot which recommends BRT (bus rapid transit) for Columbia Pike instead of the trolley. According to Rousselot, the bus alternative actually performs about as well as the trolley on a number of key criteria but costs far less, $53 million for the bus v. $250 million for the trolley. (more…)
Last Friday at around 3:30 p.m. I was biking on a pedestrian bridge over I-66 and noticed traffic backed up all the way from Fairfax Drive to the Sycamore Street exit. So what else is new, you ask? Well, the fact that a little more than a year ago, VDOT spent about $15 million dollars of taxpayer money earmarked by Congressman Frank Wolf to construct an extended merge lane to alleviate congestion between Fairfax Drive and Sycamore Street. (more…)
In a recent blog, WP columnist Steve Pearlstein attacked as nazis, zealots and nimbys Arlington activists who opposed recent road widening projects inside the county. He’s outraged that Arlington forced VDOT to abandon its plans to widen I-395 absent an environmental assessment of the project. Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smarter Growth replied: (more…)
There are three problems with the Columbia Pike Trolley: 1) excessive cost; 2) increased congestion due to the narrowness of the roadway; 3) the elimination of affordable housing along the Pike due to the escalation of property values from trolley induced development.
Supporters of the Trolley acknowledge that a bus rapid transit system serving the same number of passengers, could be built for $50 million, but they nevertheless favor the Trolley at five times the cost. While developers will benefit from a Trolley, Arlington taxpayers will be stuck with the $250 million bill. (more…)
Recently the Sun Gazette reported that the state legislature is going to eliminate $100,000 in county road maintenance funds to cover legal fees to defend former state Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer in connection with the I-395 HOT lanes project that Arlington County Board sued to stop in 2010. This move reflects a bipartisan consensus in Richmond that County Board was wrong to sue Homer and other transportation officials in an individual rather than official capacity, thus making them personally liable. (more…)