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Arlington Streetcars Won't Go To Referendum. Now What?

Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 12:39 PM

Lawmakers are debating the transit future of Columbia Pike in Arlington (Arlington County/flickr)

Both sides in the battle over Arlington County's proposed streetcar lines are weighing in on a big decision by the county board.

The question of whether Arlington should build the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar lines will not go to a public referendum. A 3-2 majority on the county board decided on procedural grounds to keep the controversial projects from being decided by voters. That decision is being applauded by streetcar supporters.

"It's the right decision because Arlington has done its homework. They have studied this for years," says Stewart Schwartz, executive director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth. "They've had dozens and dozens of public meetings. They have a track record of doing great analysis and that is what they have done."

Preventing a voter referendum does not mean either streetcar line is guaranteed to be built. For starters, Arlington County has to figure out how to pay for the projects. Their combined costs exceed $500 million. And streetcar opponents say they will work to elect board members who promise to kill the projects.

"We are perfectly happy to continue to elect new members of the county board who will oppose the streetcar and have our referendum that way," says Peter Rousselot, founder of Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, an opposition group.

Next year seats held by Democratic board members Walter Tejada and Mary Hines, both streetcar supporters, are up for election.

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