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Columbia Pike Streetcar Moves Forward Without Federal Money

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Supporters of the planned Columbia Pike streetcar say moving forward without federal funding is the right way to go.
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Supporters of the planned Columbia Pike streetcar say moving forward without federal funding is the right way to go.

The Arlington County Board is ready to move ahead on a plan to pay for the Columbia Pike streetcar, and the county is planning to build the controversial project without federal money.

Applying for federal dollars is time-consuming and potentially fruitless, so the county board is expected to approve a plan tomorrow to pay for the $330 million streetcar system without federal funds. That is the right move, according to Chris Zimmerman, a former board member and long-time streetcar supporter.

"I've thought all along that it was a mistake to be going for federal funding," Zimmerman says. "I think that has only delayed the project and increased the cost."

A 3-2 majority of the board supports building the streetcar. One of the opponents, Republican-turned-Independent John Vihstadt, just won his seat in a special election to fill the vacancy created by Zimmerman's resignation. Vihstadt will be up for re-election this November. Next year, seats held by two streetcar backers will be up for election. So opponents hope to block the project by taking control of the board.

Peter Rousselot is a leader of the group Arlingtonians For Sensible Transit, which favors buses to streetcars. He says tomorrow's vote is not the final word. "It's only a matter of time before the project is stopped," he says.

Virginia recently announced it would pitch in up to $65 million.

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