Arlington County is making a bid to control a 3.5 mile stretch of Columbia Pike now owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). The proposal would give Arlington County control of the right-of-way from the Arlington-Fairfax County Line to Joyce Street. A press release from the County sites that Arlington is already absorbing most of the cost, and that VDOT is basically standing in the way of progress. Ouch.
The progress Arlington is looking for is the new streetcar line (streetcars are the new blog...everyone's got one). Barbara Favola, the County Board Chairman, said taking control, "will make it easier for Arlington to ensure the transformation of Columbia Pike from a suburban highway to an urban, pedestrian focused and transit-oriented main street." The county will pay for maintenance and other expenses ranging from $180,000 to $450,000. A small price to pay for a progressive County, tired of review processes and applying for design exceptions from VDOT, which often led to project delays. Over the past 10 years, the County has spent about $12 million on capital projects along the Pike with another $9.5m slotted for the future.
Joan Morris, VDOT Public Affairs representative for Northern Virginia, told DCMud that "this was a first" but that the County's plan had been in the works for a while and VDOT had been kept abreast throughout. The project ultimately has to get approval from the Commonwealth Transportation Board, a 17-member board appointed by the governor to oversee VDOT. The board meets monthly and the Columbia Pike issue should go before it in the fall, either October or November, and barring unforeseen complications, the exchange should take place in January.