Fairfax County has taken the next step in advancing the Columbia Pike streetcar line, a project that would introduce an additional type of transit to the county.
The Board of Supervisors’ latest vote allows the project partners to proceed with environmental and design work. Fairfax County will pay just under $200,000 for its share of the design work.
The proposed 5-mile streetcar line is primarily in Arlington County but would extend into the Baileys Crossroads and Skyline area of Fairfax County, with stops at Goodwin House, Jefferson Street and Skyline.
Both counties are hoping the streetcar will spur revitalization and redevelopment in the aging Columbia Pike corridor, although they are still working out how they will finance the estimated $250 million cost of the project.
Columbia Pike is already home to a high-ridership bus line, said Supervisor Penny Gross (D-Mason), so it is a good fit for a streetcar.
“We’ll get it to Skyline, prove its viability and then it will be the start of a network to get to Annandale” and other areas of the county, Gross said.
Some supervisors are expressing concerns about the cost of the project, however. Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) believes that the county could get similar benefit from enhanced bus service with dedicated bus lanes.
“I think it’s a worse solution,” Herrity said of the streetcar. “It’s six times the cost of the more flexible solution.”
Arlington County contends that there is not enough room to widen Columbia Pike to add a dedicated bus lane. A streetcar does not require an additional lane because cars can still drive in the lane where the tracks are.
Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) said there is already sufficient density at Skyline to support a streetcar. She believes the streetcar line will help revitalize the community.
“This is economic development to me, this is not just transportation,” she said. “This is the kind of neighborhood where young people, especially, want to be.”
There will be additional votes and discussions on the streetcar project in the future as it moves forward, Gross said.