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Arlington, Alexandria At A Stalemate On Streetcars

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Leaders in Arlington and Alexandria may be on track for a conflict involving a new transit corridor.
Leaders in Arlington and Alexandria may be on track for a conflict involving a new transit corridor.

At the border between Arlington and Alexandria, the tension between the two governments is reaching a boiling point. Late next year, a new transit corridor will open in a stretch of Potomac Yard -- a bus-rapid transit system with dedicated lanes connecting Pentagon City to the Braddock Road Metro.

Arlington is making plans to upgrade the bus system to streetcars in the next five years. But Alexandria leaders say streetcars are just too expensive, and so city leaders there have no plans to upgrade.

Walking her dog at the border, resident Rebecca White says Alexandria should be able to afford streetcars.

"Alexandria always has extra money," she says. "We are one of the richest cities with all of our taxes. So I don't see why it should be a problem."

Arlington resident Lili Shelton stops for a moment on the way to the grocery store. She's not so sure about the county's plans.

"Many years ago when I was in France, we had streetcars," says Shelton. "They were wonderful, but they had the track." Shelton says she prefers the aesthetic of Crystal City.

Alexandria City Councilman Rob Krupicka says the city has no plans of upgrading to streetcars, at least not now.

"We've come to the conclusion that rail is something to consider in the future, but it is not something that is financially viable right now in the short term," he says.

That means that one day soon, transit riders might have to get off the Arlington streetcar at Potomac Yard and get on the Alexandria bus, unless the two jurisdictions come to some kind of agreement.

Newly elected Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey says that would be a mess. Garvey campaigned on creating better collaboration between Arlington and its neighbors, and she says coming to a resolution on streetcars versus buses might be a good place to start.

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