Streetcars dominate Arlington County Board race

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Photo - An Arlington County rendering of the proposed streetcar line along Columbia Pike.
An Arlington County rendering of the proposed streetcar line along Columbia Pike.
Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

A dispute over streetcars has taken center stage in the race for the Arlington County Board in which a recently added incumbent faces two challengers.

Democratic incumbent Libby Garvey, elected to the board in March, joined the campaign debate over the proposed $249 million streetcar project along Columbia Pike, saying she now opposes the project and believes the planned streetcars should be replaced by buses.

Garvey's challengers, Republican Matt Wavro and Green Party candidate Audrey Clement, who announced their opposition to the costly streetcar plan earlier, chided Garvey for failing to take a stand on the issue when it would have counted most -- when the county board voted in July to approve the project. Garvey abstained during that vote, saying it was a "very complex" issue that required greater study.

"I'm glad that after seven months of consideration, Ms. Garvey has come to a conclusion," said Wavro. Garvey was elected to the board seven months ago.

All three of the candidates now support replacing the planned streetcars with buses that would that would run from Pentagon City to the Skyline area of Fairfax. Buses would be cheaper and better connect Arlington to other parts of the region that are already running buses, such as Fairfax and Alexandria.

The three candidates are competing for a seat on the Arlington board in the Nov. 6 election.

In addition to opposing the streetcar program, the three candidates also agree that the cost of office space in the county is too high.

In Rosslyn and Ballston, especially, the costs of office space are some of the highest in the region. The candidates said they are concerned that the high costs could drive out employers like the Ballston-based National Science Foundation, which has 2,000 employees and a $7 billion annual budget, but which is now looking elsewhere for cheaper space before its two leases expire next year.

Wavro and Clement said the county could help lower rental costs by eliminating a real estate surcharge that property owners are now paying to help finance the construction of the Columbia Pike streetcar project.

Garvey, who was elected to the board in March after then-member Barbara Favola won a seat in the state Senate, suggested working directly with area businesses to find the way to best cut down their costs.

The three candidates will debate three times before the Nov. 6 election.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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Taylor Holland

Staff writer
The Washington Examiner