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Fate Of Columbia Pike Streetcar Could Be Decided By Special Election

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

In Virginia, voters are about to head to the polls in Arlington for a special election to select a new member of the Arlington County Board. The results of the election could help decide whether or not a new streetcar system is built along Columbia Pike.

Critics of the $300 million streetcar proposal say they would like to see a side-by-side comparison between a streetcar system and a bus rapid transit system. Supporters of the streetcar say Columbia Pike could never have a BRT system because it's not wide enough for dedicated lanes.

"The biggest weakness of the streetcar system on Columbia Pike is that it will have to operate without a dedicated lane, and that is a much bigger problem for streetcars than it is for BRT," says Peter Rousselot, who is with a group known as Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit.

But supporters of the streetcar say it's the only way Arlington will be able to handle the crush of passengers that's expected as a result of development.

"The problem that they are having is that it doesn't hold enough passengers, and that's a fundamental flaw in their proposal that they don't want to talk about," says John Snyder is with a group known as Streetcar Now.

Voters will have the final say when they head to the polls next week. Candidate Alan Howze supports streetcars, and candidate John Vihstadt is critical of them.

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