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'Rail-Volution' Conference Eyes Anacostia, Arlington

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Project leaders explain the city's massive 11th Street bridge project to conference-goers during one of the "Rail-Volution conferences "mobile workshops."
Jonathan Wilson
Project leaders explain the city's massive 11th Street bridge project to conference-goers during one of the "Rail-Volution conferences "mobile workshops."

They're calling it a "Rail-Volution." The district is hosting hundreds of transportation officials, urban planners, and leaders from across the country for an annual transportation conference this week, and that trains a national eye on local transportation projects.

Arlington touts transit development

Few people like to talk transit as much as Arlington County's current County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman. That's probably why he's already been a featured speaker on two panels at this year's conference. This past weekend, he led one of the week's many mobile workshops on a tour through of the heart of Arlington.

Zimmerman wants people to know that the entire D.C. region has a lot than monuments to show off when it comes to transit-oriented development.

"They're seeing things that are different from the Washington area that they've seen in the past, and seeing things they might not have gone to if they just came here to visit Capitol Hill or something like that," Zimmerman says.

In Anacostia, transit's role in revitalization

Monday's mobile workshop took about 30 conference-goers to Anacostia's Historic District in Southeast D.C. D.C. city planner Stephen Rice helped lead the tour, explaining how streetcars, Metro, and the new 11th Street Bridge project play key roles in revitalizing a neighborhood that's long struggled with poverty, vacant storefronts, and high unemployment.

Greg Chaimov, a city council member from Milwaukee, Ore., a suburb of Portland, hadn't heard of Anacostia before this week, but he was taking notes. Milwaukee is getting its first light rail system in two years.

"We have some of the same challenges Anacostia has, in that we've got large underdeveloped areas," Chaimov says. "I'm trying to learn as much as I can about how to do it right."

Ira Hart sits on the board of the transit system in Grand Rapids, Mich., and though he liked what he saw during the mobile workshop in Anacostia, like any good planner, he's taking the long view.

"This is pretty unique, this is a work in progress here, so I'm interested to come back in the next couple years," he says. It's a good bet area residents are interested as well in what he'd find in Washington in the next couple of years.

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