Alexandria, Arlington to Continue Joint Route 1 Corridor Streetcar Conversion Project

Page archived as of November 18, 2015

News Highlights:

  • Agree on two-phased project
  • Reaffirm commitment to working together
  • Authorize amendment to original coordination agreement

The Alexandria City Council (voted 6-1) and Arlington County Board (voted 5-0) today reaffirmed their commitment to work together on their joint Route 1 Corridor Streetcar Conversion Project. The two Boards approved moving forward with a two-phased project and authorized an amendment to their Route 1 Corridor Streetcar Coordination Agreement to reflect the new approach. 

“This joint project lends itself to two phases, allowing our jurisdictions to make strategic choices that will serve residents who are near Route 1,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “Arlington will move forward this year with its portion of the streetcar line - running from Crystal City through Potomac Yard to Four Mile Run. Alexandria preserves its option to apply for federal funding for an extension of that line into Alexandria.”

The two jurisdictions agreed that in the first phase of the project, Arlington will begin preliminary engineering for a Route 1 streetcar line in 2013 that will extend from Crystal City to the County’s border with Alexandria in Potomac Yard.  Arlington’s streetcar would likely be up and running in or before Fiscal Year 2019.

Alexandria is currently working to finalize the proposed new Potomac Yard Metrorail station through the ongoing Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) study process.  The City will begin the streetcar conversion project’s second phase in 2014 by pursuing an environmental study and Alternatives Analysis to assess the conversion from bus rapid transit to streetcar in Alexandria. This process is necessary for the City to preserve its federal funding options. Alexandria’s streetcar extension could be operable in 2021.

“The City of Alexandria values its partnership with Arlington County, and we will continue to coordinate the City’s transportation network--including streetcar options--into our collective, long-term plan,” stated Mayor William D. Euille. “However, our immediate attention and funding is focused on completing work toward a new Metrorail station at Potomac Yard.”

Since July 2011, Arlington and Alexandria have been working together to complete the environmental work necessary to document the impacts of converting the Crystal City – Potomac Yard bus transitway to streetcar. This original coordination agreement between the two jurisdictions included an option to complete an Alternatives Analysis (AA), required to apply for federal funding through the New Starts/Small Starts program.

Arlington has chosen not to seek Federal funding for its segment of the Route 1 Streetcar and so does not need to exercise the AA option.  Arlington intends to fund its portion of the project from local and state funding.  Alexandria is interested in completing the AA so that the City can apply for federal funding through the New Starts/Small Starts program.

The revised agreement, by dividing the project into two phases, ensures that the two jurisdictions can continue to coordinate their investments in this vital corridor.
Under the agreement:

  • Arlington County will complete the Environmental Assessment for the streetcar project within Arlington.
  • Once Arlington County completes the Environmental Assessment, it will proceed to preliminary engineering for the Crystal-City-Potomac Yard segment of the Route 1 streetcar line.
  • Thereafter, the City of Alexandria would initiate Alternatives Analysis and environmental studies to assess the potential extension of the streetcar line into Alexandria, after completing the environmental process for the proposed new Potomac Yard Metrorail Station.

The design of the initial streetcar segment in Arlington would not preclude a later extension into Alexandria and would ensure a smooth transition with Alexandria’s bus rapid transit system.
This two-phase approach offers many benefits:

  • It allows Arlington to complete the Pentagon City- Crystal City-Potomac Yards segment no later than Fiscal Year 2019, with a second segment in Alexandria’s portion of Potomac Yard to be potentially operable two years later, should Alexandria choose to pursue it.
  • Alexandria can focus its resources on completing the environmental work necessary for the Potomac Yard Metrorail Station.
  • The phased approach may make Alexandria’s future New Starts/Small Starts application more competitive, because Alexandria’s project would be connecting a future designated Potomac Yard Metrorail station site with a planned Crystal City streetcar line.  These types of small projects that link existing rail systems and add operable segments to existing lines are very good candidates for federal funding.
  • In 2014, when Alexandria initiates the Alternatives Analysis, the City would decide whether or not to study the streetcar extension only to the Potomac Yard Metrorail Station site or to study extending the streetcar to the existing Braddock Road Metrorail Station.