Entire Arlington General Assembly Delegation Strongly Supports Columbia Pike Streetcar

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    Impressive that the entire Arlington General Assembly has signed onto this letter. Also, see the parts I’ve bolded for a few key points. Go streetcar!

    P.S. Del Alfonso Lopez totally nails it in his ArlNow column, which utterly demolishes the absurd “Garvey-Vihstadt plan.” Great to see them being called out.

    October 22, 2014

    The Honorable Aubrey L. Layne, Jr.

    Secretary of Transportation

    Commonwealth of Virginia

    P.O. Box 1475

    Richmond, VA 23218

    Dear Secretary Layne,

    As Members of the Arlington County General Assembly delegation, we strongly support the Commonwealth of Virginia’s commitment to provide funding for the regional streetcar system that the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) has included in its six year improvement program.

    We are particularly pleased to see that Jennifer Mitchell, Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, confirmed in response to a press inquiry that the Commonwealth remains fully committed to providing Arlington and Fairfax Counties with $65 million over the course of the six-year improvement program in addition to other state funding.

    We concur with Director Mitchell that 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.” We strongly disagree with the efforts of Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt to deprive Arlington of those state funds dedicated to the streetcar project. In testimony before the CTB, Libby Garvey noted that although she and John Vihstadt are Arlington County Board members, she was speaking in her individual capacity and on behalf of Mr. Vihstadt in his individual capacity.

    The reason for that distinction is that it is official County policy to support the planning, development, construction and operation of the streetcar system and the majority of County Board members in Arlington and Supervisors in Fairfax remain strongly supportive of the streetcar project.

    We urge you and Governor Terry McAuliffe to keep this critical funding for the streetcar project in place. We agree with Director Mitchell that the addition of the streetcar is vital to the economic growth and redevelopment of the corridor served by the streetcar system. And we agree with you and Governor McAuliffe about the importance of diversifying and strengthening the Virginia economy – and the importance of key transit projects to that effort.

    An independent study confirmed that the streetcar will generate $3.2 billion to $4.4 billion in new real estate value (compared to $1 – $1.4 billion generated by additional bus service), nearly $1 billion in new tax revenues and create 6,600 jobs for the region. It is simply irresponsible to request the removal of state funding for a project with such a strong impact on jobs and the economy.

    Your July 10, 2014 letter to local officials indicated that “implementation of a seamless streetcar system between Columbia Pike and Crystal City will provide significantly more mobility benefits than enhanced bus service”. The Commonwealth’s recent pledge of up to $65 million in additional state transportation funds to the streetcar project reflects the importance of well planned, fiscally prudent transit solutions for our region.

    Modern streetcar systems have consistently shown around the country to reduce congestion, move people, promote regional connectivity, enhance capacity, reduce environmental impact and foster economic development. Studies of the proposed streetcar system in Arlington show that we can expect all of those benefits to occur here once the system is operational.

    We concur with numerous experts that have concluded that bus rapid transit does not work well without dedicated lanes – which are not possible along Columbia Pike – and that buses cannot match the capacity that a streetcar system affords. There simply cannot be enough bus traffic along the Pike to accommodate the ridership expected over the next 25 years. No buses that match the streetcar’s capacity have been approved for use in the United States because of the heavy damage such buses would inflict on roadways. Only a rail-based solution can be safely and effectively operated to meet the projected demand for rides along Columbia Pike.

    We cannot allow the Garvey-Vihstadt position to affect the Commonwealth’s commitment without jeopardizing the careful plans adopted by Arlington County based on the Columbia Pike Neighborhood Plan and Crystal City Sector Plan. These reflect years of sound planning and wise transit-oriented development that promise to create jobs, move people, protect neighborhoods, develop our economy, and protect the substantial affordable housing  that exists along these corridors.

    Their flawed strategy would not save any taxpayer dollars, but would instead move funding to other transit projects around the state that would not match the economic development and diversification that the streetcar would promote along the Pike, in Pentagon City, in Crystal City and in neighboring jurisdictions.

    We call on you, Governor McAuliffe, and the Commonwealth Transportation Board to keep the dedicated funding for the Arlington streetcar project in place, because we know it is the best investment for the future of Arlington and the Northern Virginia region. Sincerely yours,

    • Great stuff, you’ll see nothing like this from Republican John Vihstadt, that’s for damn sure!

      HOWZE LAYS OUT PLAN FOR REDUCING CARBON EMISSIONS AND IMPROVING COMMUNITY RESILIENCE

      Actions to lower carbon footprint and protect critical infrastructure

      Today, Alan Howze, the Democratic Nominee for the Arlington County Board, laid out detailed plans for lowering Arlington’s carbon emissions and making our community more resilient to the effects of global warming.

      Said Howze, “global warming is a long-term threat to our world, our country and our community. We must take action to improve energy efficiency and reduce our local carbon emissions. At the same time we need to make our community more resilient in the face of global warming and more severe storms/weather in the future. Critical infrastructure such as our wastewater treatment plant is vulnerable to flooding and must be protected.”

      Concluded Howze, “We cannot solve global warming on our own, but there are concrete actions we can take to reduce our carbon emissions and to make our community safer and stronger in the face global warming. I am proud to have the endorsement of the Sierra Club and environmental leaders across Arlington who share my commitment to addressing global warming.”

      Howze Plan to Lower Carbon Emissions

      Accelerate implementation of the Arlington Community Energy Plan

      Set action plan for Arlington County Public Sector

      Build all new schools and county facilities to Net Zero energy standards

      Set energy reduction targets for Arlington county fleet

      Set energy reduction targets for Arlington owned buildings

      Biosolids digester for wastewater treatment plant

      Streamline Arlington permitting process for solar installations – get a permit and pre-approved design plans in 45 minutes or less

      Create an Arlington solar map to support installation of solar panels

      Build regional streetcar system and utilize renewable power

      Enhance community infrastructure to support safe walking and cycling

      Work with legislative delegation to remove barriers to solar generation

      Include efficiency and renewable energy production in new commercial construction

      Examine creation of an energy conservation revolving loan fund to help homeowners fund energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades

      Create education program to assist homeowners and small businesses in making energy smart choices in remodeling and new construction

      Utilize the expertise of Arlington’s growing “Green Tech” sector led by companies such as Opower in Clarendon to reduce local carbon emissions.

      Building Community Resilience to Climate Change

      The derecho that struck Arlington in 2012 and the effects of Hurricane Sandy on New York and New Jersey showed how much damage can be done to communities that are not prepared. We can protect critical assets and reduce the cost and disruption associated with storm events.

      Create a community resilience plan that identifies vulnerabilities and makes recommendations to protect the community.

      Protect the water pollution control plant from a storm surge event

      Work with Washington Airport Authority on National Airport protection

      Harden key water, sewer, electrical, utility and communication assets (such as the 911 and emergency response centers) for storm events

      Accelerate coordination with Dominion Power on plans to underground power and communication lines

      Support stormwater master plan to reduce flooding and stormwater discharge

    • JimWebster

      …and then some for the Arlington delegation. Let’s hope this solid support is reinforced by the votes in the County Board race Nov. 4.