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Columbia Pike Streetcar Project Moving Forward Without Federal Funds

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Columbia Pike is already served by the 16 bus line, and critics of the streetcar argue expanding bus service is a cheaper alternative.
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Columbia Pike is already served by the 16 bus line, and critics of the streetcar argue expanding bus service is a cheaper alternative.

Arlington County leaders say it's time to press forward with a proposed streetcar line, even though federal officials recently declined to fund the project.

The Federal Transit Administration says it will not bankroll the $250 million project in its 2014 Small Starts funding, rejecting an application for the money from Arlington. County leaders say they will press ahead with the streetcar project anyway, despite calls for an independent economic analysis of bus-rapid transit as a alternative  to the streetcar line.

"We've done the analysis. We've done all the studies that need to be done," says County Board Chairman Walter Tejada. "And if there is anything else we will take a look at it down the line."

Peter Rousselot, former chairman of the Arlington Democratic Committee, say that claim is false. He is now with a group known as Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit. He says none of the studies so far include a cost-benefit analysis for a bus-rapid transit system.

"They computed the cost of the two alternative things, but they never explained why it was worth spending $200 million more on one versus the other," Rousselot says.

Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman disagrees with calls for an independent cost-benefit analysis of bus-rapid transit.

"If you are against the project and you don't want to do it, then you can argue endlessly that there's some study that should be done by somebody else that will produce the results you want," Zimmerman says.

Newly-elected member Libby Garvey is the lone dissenting vote on the all-Democratic Arlington County Board.

"There are some statements made that, on just sort of general survey data, how people feel about buses and there are little pie charts there," Garvey says. "There's not real data there at all."

Critics say they want more financial analysis, and fewer pie charts about feelings.

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