Columbia Pike Street Car Project
Annandale’s Future Redevelopment:  
Light rail would certainly help.

                                                                                                                          By M. Callahan


Modern street car, also known as light rail, uses the sidewalks as loading platforms.

In 2010, Arlington County approved $3,000,000 for a two year plan and design study of the proposed 4.7 mile streetcar line running from Pentagon City to Skyline (Bailey’s Crossroads). This money will come from a fund created through a commercial real estate tax.  On Columbia Pike the electric cars would run along the curb lane allowing passengers to use existing sidewalks as platforms while alleviating some rush hour traffic. This environmentally friendly transportation project will have 15 stops approximately one third of a mile apart with cars running every 6 minutes during rush hour.  A constant flow of foot traffic will be created which allows for businesses to prosper and encourages redevelopment of the area translating into the addition of a variety of new retail and business establishments.

It had been hoped that Fairfax County would elect to extend the line along the remainder of Columbia Pike into Annandale.   For now, this is not to be.  In the County Comprehensive Plan the Board of Supervisors recognized that,

“One of the primary implications of the trends and forecasts for Fairfax County is that traffic conditions are likely to deteriorate further, even with extraordinary expenditures to improve the transportation infrastructure... A keystone policy for future planning and facilities includes achievement of a multi-modal transportation system to reduce excessive reliance upon the automobile.”

Annandale needs redevelopment.  Annandale needs to attract a vast variety of new retail & restaurant establishments.  Annandale needs immediate relief from rush hour traffic. The streetcar line extending to Annandale held out promise.  Hopefully, the issue is not dead, just delayed.

Officials in Arlington County promote the benefits of a modern Streetcar Line:

  • Attractive vehicles with large windows are compatible with the urban scale of the area and with the walkable “main street” environment Arlington is developing along Columbia Pike
  • Electric motors and steel tracks provide a quiet, comfortable ride and encourage transit use
  • Streetcars are large enough to handle increased ridership as the corridor redevelops
  • Vehicles are powered from a single overhead wire that would have minimal visual impact

The streetcar line would encourage the private sector to invest in the revitalization of the corridor. (Based on the experience of cities such as Portland, Oregon and Tampa, Florida, the streetcar system would promote new development along Columbia Pike.)

For more information on the Street Car project or Fairfax County transportation issues:    


ENDEAVOR, April 2011
Columbia Pike Streetcar Project ...update

A short summary of the Columbia Pike Streetcar Project was made available in the County’s annual report on the Environment.  Currently, the project is in the Environmental Assessment phase.  During this phase the following are being examined:  environmental impacts, ultimate alignment, minor preliminary engineering, and financial strategy.  Also being identified is a project sponsor or operator who will advance the project through full engineering, construction and operation.  It is anticipated that funding will be provided through the Federal Transit Administration along with local and state transportation fund fees and taxes.  Other funding options may also be required. Implementation is not in the immediate future.

For  more information see:


December 2011
Columbia Pike Streetcar Update

In December 2011, Arlington County announced that the estimated cost, including contingencies, for the Columbia Pike Streetcar five mile line would be between $242 and $261 million.   Both monetary inflation and the project scope has increased the costs.  Federal funding will be sought to cover some of the costs.

"The project will both enhance the regional transit system by extending transit options beyond Arlington’s two Metro corridors, and benefit thousands of people living and working in and around Columbia Pike,"  remarked Arlington County Board Chairman, Christopher Zimmerman.  Over the next 30 years, 2.2 millions square feet of commercial development and 7000 jobs are expected to be added to the Pike corridor.  Additionally, 7,300 individuals in 3,900 homes are expected to take up residence.

In order to create environmentally friendly, convenient mixed-use centers throughout both Arlington and Fairfax Counties, reliable mass transit must be available.  This streetcar project coupled with a user friendly bus system would enhance Columbia Pike's revitalization and livability

“Clearly, a streetcar-and-bus system is the best solution for people who live and work on the Pike and the people who travel along it between two major employment centers,” he said. “A streetcar will enhance the Pike’s livability, help realize the vision that Arlington and Fairfax have for this vital corridor, and help ensure its long term economic and environmental sustainability.”


Update:  July 31, 2012
Columbia Pike Streetcar Plan approved for Skyline

By:  M. Callahan

The Columbia Pike Streetcar Plan (a joint project with Arlington County) has been approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors after many years of consideration.  According to Chairman Sharon Bulova, “The streetcar will relieve congestion and present economic development opportunities for the Skyline area and serve a population with the demonstrated support and need for transit,”  Bulova continued, “Light rail has the potential to become an important part of the transportation network as we look to add new options and expand service in Fairf

ax County.”

The line will run 4.9 miles from Pentagon City in Arlington County to Skyline in Fairfax County.  Three stations are planned in Fairfax County's portion of the line at Goodwin House, Jefferson Street and Skyline where the highest bus ridership in Northern Virginia at 16,000 riders per day can be found.  Since streetcars can accommodate more riders than buses and ridership is expected to double in the next eighteen years, this is good news.    

According to a joint study released by Chairman Bulova’s office, Fairfax and Arlington surveyed developers who viewed the following as benefits to the streetcar plan.

  • 60 percent said that higher quality transit, like a streetcar, was very important or important in choosing to develop along the corridor
  • 64 percent said that a streetcar would cause them to add more residential units to their developments (32 percent indicated a 25 percent or greater increase in    units while another 32 percent reported a 4 to 14 percent increase)
  • 70 percent said that a streetcar would increase retail sales volume per square foot
  • 40 percent reported that they were more likely to develop along the corridor as opposed to other places in Fairfax or Arlington without rail service.
  • 4-10% increase in property values within a quarter mile of the line
  • 10% new development along the corridor
  • Addition of $82 million in sales revenue, taxes, businesses licenses and other fees over 30 years.
  • $156 million of additional property tax from increased development over 30 years.

The Bailey's area is expected to experience a population growth of 21% and a job growth of 23% by 2030.  In this revitalization area, as in most, the transit oriented development strategy is a vital component in creating a mixed-use urban center.  The streetcar plan will also reduce pollution and the dependency on automobiles.

It is hoped that this streetcar line will be extended further along Columbia Pike, sooner rather than later, through Annandale's portion of Mason District and on into Fairfax via Route 236.  Without a county backed project to jump start redevelopment in Annandale's Central Business District, revitalization does not seem likely.

For  more information see:


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