Arlington launches TV campaign to promote, garner support for streetcar project

ARLINGTON, Va. (NewsChannel 8) - Buses rule the road along Columbia Pike in Arlington, but Arlington County is promoting a new form of public transportation.

“Our streetcar will encourage private investment and development along the Pike, including more housing,” said Arlington County Board Member Walter Tejada.

A television campaign on Arlington public television is underway which highlights the benefits of the controversial decade-long proposal.

"We need to go back and work again with the community on the kinds of decisions we need to make now," said Arlington County Board Member Mary Hynes.

Three out of five members of the Arlington County Board favor the streetcar that would run from the Skyline in Fairfax County to Pentagon City.
Board member Libby Garvey said the public service announcements are misleading.

"The Pike is congested [and] now it's going to be worse. This is not metro running under ground -- that to me is the stupidest argument that they make," said Garvey.

The cost is more than $350 million dollars for the Columbia Pike route. Hynes said they have committed to do it without raising property taxes.

"Everything from it bringing three times the return on investment that a bus-only system would do. We have really re-envisioned the Pike as a much more lively Main Street," said Hynes.

Commuters are divided.

“Well I think it's costly. The costs are much higher than the benefits," said Themis Ballis, a bus rider.

"I believe it would cause a lot of traffic problems, but I am game for it if they can figure it out," said David Saffelle, a bus rider.

"For that price, it's not really that important, especially if there are buses that are already run. That's just another way to waste money, especially with as much traffic as we have now," said Christine Ortiz, who works along Columbia Pike.

In June, the board voted against a public referendum. Garvey thinks that referendum will happen another way.

"I think they will have a say, and I think that is the point. The say is going to be in November when we have an election for the county board,” said Garvey.

That election will involve John Vihstadt with the Arlington County Board. Vihstadt was out of town, but spoke with NewsChannel 8 by phone.

“They are doing a marketing blitz for a streetcar that may never get built,” said Vihstadt.

Arlington’s county manager is expected to bring board members a new funding plan that does not include federal funding.

There are also plans to build a streetcar route along the Crystal City corridor, but that has been less controversial.

If you would like more information about the county’s plans for a streetcar you can visit its website: