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Opinions Divided Along Columbia Pike About Streetcar System

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Arlington County officials hope to see a streetcar run down Columbia Pike, but some residents aren't so sure.
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Arlington County officials hope to see a streetcar run down Columbia Pike, but some residents aren't so sure.

On Columbia Pike, opinions are divided about whether or not Arlington County should invest $300 million for a streetcar system connecting Bailey's Crossroads with Pentagon City. Some say it would create a sense of vibrancy. Others say it would be a boondoggle.

"I can see the good and the bad in both scenerios. Yes, it's true. I don't choose to have an opinion one way or another," says Sonja Eberly, the wine director at Twisted Vines.

Next door at Frank's Engraving Service, opinions are more aligned against the streetcar, especially now that the federal government has denied about $60 million in federal funds. Owner Josephene Whipbley says she's afraid taxpayers are going to get stuck with the bill.

"I know how they are going to finance it. They're going to raise the taxes. Our rent is going to go up already. I live in the county, and I know my real estate tax went up. And that's where they are going to get the money," she says.

"Well, there's a reason why the trolleys went exctict because they are limited. They cannot go left and right, etc. And that causes traffic. There is a reason why we have Metro buses these days," agrees Joe Whipbley.

Down the street at Atilla's Restaurant, manager Mehmet Dogan says he thinks the streetcar would be good for business.

"Well I think it will be beneficial to be honest with you becuase people come on, get on and see the restaurant, you know, see here, what's going on here. And they will be curious and come in. I will get more customers, I believe," he says.

County Board members still need to figure out how to pay for it, though. They could apply for more federal money, although competition is fierce. Or they could try to get their hand on some of the new transportation money available in Virginia, although the streetcar project is not on the list of approved projects—at least not yet.

Critics say board members should abandon the idea and go with a less expensive bus-rapid transit system instead.

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