Arlington County Board cancels streetcar; Fisette cites “political realities”

After nearly 10 years of planning, the Arlington County Board has decided to end the Arlington-Fairfax Streetcar project. At noon on Tuesday, Nov 18, County Board Chair Jay Fisette announced that the board would discontinue the streetcar project. Fisette cited Democrat Alan Howze’s loss earlier this month to independent and incumbent John Vihstadt as one of the main reasons for the decision.

“We cannot ignore the political realities,” said Fisette in his statement, “On Nov. 4, Arlingtonians went to the polls. They rejected the candidate who supported the streetcar and voted – convincingly – for the candidate who made opposition to the streetcar a centerpiece of his campaign. This was a powerful message to the board.”

Fisette commented that further discussion of the streetcar issue would not serve the community and would take away from the other issues the board must deal with. The proposed streetcar would have run a 7.4 mile path between Fairfax County and Arlington, much of it along Columbia Pike in Arlington. The route was estimated to cost between $250 million and $400 million.

“The Coalition of Smarter Growth is disappointed by the Arlington Board’s decision,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the group, in a statement following the announcement, “but far more so by the deeply negative and frequently inaccurate campaign against the streetcar.”

The Office of Sharon Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, released a similar statement expressing sadness and disappointment in the Arlington board’s decision.

“Although we believe the decision to end the project is short-sighted,” said Bulova in a statement, “we recognize that the project cannot happen without the support of the Arlington Board.”

Not all Arlingtonians expressed disappointment with the board’s decision.

“On behalf of Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, we’re very gratified that after two years of hard work and generating educational materials, that our County Board has decided to cancel,” said Peter Rousselot, leader of the group that opposed the streetcar. “It’s a good day.”

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