Arlington County was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency last week as one of the best places in the nation to be a commuter. Getting to work could get easier if voters approve two proposed bond issues on the ballot asking for a more than $50 million for upgrades to Metro and local transportation infrastructure.
The first is a general obligation bond for $35,944,000. The county wants to combine $10,195,000 of that bond to its existing funds to make the county more “walk-able,” according to Dennis Leach, head of Arlington’s transportation division.
“That’s an on-going project we have,” Leach said. “The money will go to putting new signals in at crosswalks, improving sidewalks and some features for handicapped accessibility.”
County buses will also get a boost from the money.
“Many of the buses we use now are old and over-used,” Leach said. “Some of the money is designated to rehabilitating the old fleet or replacing the old buses with newer ones.”
The bond largely addresses the basic needs of Arlington’s transportation system. Improvements to storm drains on public roads make up $2,955,000 of the proposed funding according to the transportation division. The largest portion, $13,024,000, is slated for neighborhood conservation efforts reducing traffic and noise.
METRO'S TAB on the ballot runs to $18,536,000 — funding for construction costs and maintenance. A key feature of the upgrades is the addition of eight car trains on the Orange and Blue lines running through the county.
“As a commuter, when I try to get home at the Courthouse station going west, I can’t get on sometimes at rush hour because the train is over-filled,” said Peter Owen, chairman of Arlington’s Transportation Commission.
The added cars are expected not only to alleviate congestion in the stations but on the roads too.
“The more people we can get to ride Metro rather than drive to work, the fewer cars we’ll have on the road and highways like 66,” Owen said. “That means fewer traffic jams, less accidents and a faster commute.”
Added cars are a response to the rising commuter population both in Arlington and neighboring Fairfax county.
“What happens further down the Metro lines effects transportation here in Arlington,” Owen said. “We are seeing more people on the Metro from Vienna, Falls Church and other areas. If the transportation system was, say, your house, you know that you have to maintain you house, make repairs and that kind of thing so that it doesn’t get rusted or worn down. That’s a little bit like what this bond is.”
He added the bond is one way the county hopes to fund its participation in the Metro Matters program, an agreement signed by all of the municipalities surrounding Washington, D.C. that commits them to the upkeep of Metro.
But bringing the added cars to Arlington also means revamping the rail’s electrical system. The transportation division has yet to come up with projections stating whether or not the work will cause delays while it is in progress. Both Owen and Leach stressed that they must remain neutral when it comes to the bond. Their work with the county prevents them from endorsing it.