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Columbia Pike Businesses Divided Over Streetcar Proposal

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Columbia Pike is currently served by both the ART and the Metrobus Route 16.
Brett VA: https://flic.kr/p/cXRSWS
Columbia Pike is currently served by both the ART and the Metrobus Route 16.

Business owners up and down Columbia Pike in Arlington are divided about the wisdom of spending more than $350 million on a new streetcar system.

Now that leaders in Arlington County have increased the cost estimate for the controversial Columbia Pike streetcar proposal, many business owners up and down the pike are starting to have second thoughts about the idea.

Barry Cox is a freelance writer who owns a business near an infamous $1 million bus stop. County leaders now say they have been able to reduce the cost of the superstop, which would service buses and streetscars, by 40 percent. But the cost of the overall streetcar system would increase more than 40 percent — adding about $100 million to the project. Cox says that's a boondoggle.

"$350 million? I guess that's not much in comparison to a $1 million bus stop, but I just don't see how it's efficient transportation or efficient use of money, and from a selfish standpoint I'm going to be putting up with a lot of construction noise," Cox says.

Some along the pike say the streetcar will be good for business. Dania Perdomo is a stylist at Beatriz International Hair Salon.

"Of course it will help not only the businesses but the employees and even the customers. It will be better for everybody," she says.

That's a view shared by Vicky Sanchez, a stylist across the street at Le Touche Beauty Salon.

"We're going to have more traffic, and the neighbors are going to be walking and they are going to know more about us," Sanchez says.

Frank's Engraving owner Josephine Whipbley says she believes the streetcar is a waste of money.

"I know how long it would take for them digging up the street, and people wouldn't even be able to get to our business," Whipbley says. "So I resent that part of it, and I live in Arlington County and I don't like what my taxes are."

Ultimately , members of the County Board will consider the issue in the coming months as they consider their budget for capital spending over the next decade.

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