06.16.2014 0

Washington’s Northern Virginia suburbs grapple with ‘smart growth’

arlington_CountyBy Bonner Cohen

Even in one of the most politically correct enclaves in the country, resistance is growing to elaborate and expensive transportation projects favored by elite planners.

In Arlington County, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C, the local equivalent of a political bombshell exploded in an April special election for the county board.  A heavily favored proponent of installing a controversial streetcar line was soundly defeated by a candidate who called the project wasteful.

At issue was a proposed 4.9-mile streetcar that would run on Columbia Pike from the Pentagon City Metro stop to Baileys Crossroads.  The Washington Post recently reported that the cost of the project at $358 million, up $100 million from the previous estimate by the county, and $48 million above what federal transportation officials predicted last year.

Million-Dollar Super Stops

In addition to the skyrocketing cost of the streetcar, Arlington officials also have to defend proposed construction of new “Super Stops” for buses that will cost an estimated $1 million each.  Caught off guard by the groundswell of resistance to their taxpayer-funded schemes, Arlington officials are now considering a refere-BikeLanes-ndum on the streetcar project and they may scale back plans for their million-dollar bus stops.

Things may be heating up for the planners in neighboring Fairfax County, too.  There, a proposed $100 million transportation referendum includes $85 million for new bikeways and pedestrian paths.  Not included in the referendum is another county project that would spend $92 million on an overpass spanning the Dulles Toll Road that sets aside more than 35 feet of the 59-foot-wide bridge for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Risking Life and Limb

And there’s more.  Watchdog.org’s Virginia bureau reports that Fairfax County is concerned that acquiring right-of-way for bike lanes may be too expensive.  Their solution?  “Sharrows.”  Bikes and cars would share the same lanes on certain roads. It seems not to have occurred to them that assigning cars and bikes to the same lanes could pose a huge risk to bicyclists.

Arlington and Fairfax Counties are home to tens of thousands of government workers.  These are folks who make a living spending other people’s money.  If they are raising questions about sense of these extravagant transportation projects, then something truly remarkable is going on.

It’s about time.

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., is a senior policy analyst with the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT). 

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