Arlington elects Tejada board chairman as disagreement continues over streetcars

Hank Silverberg,

ARLINGTON, Va. – It’s a New Year’s Day tradition, one that is unique to the Washington region — the reorganization of the Arlington County Board. But this year, the meeting reflected an ongoing disagreement among the usually harmonious board.

The Arlington County Board held their annual reorganization meeting Tuesday electing Walter Tejada to serve as their chairman for 2013, the second time he’s held the post.

Jay Fisette will serve as vice chair. The board chairmanship rotates among each of the members.

The board, which is made up of five Democrats, is rarely contentious and jointly leads a county with the lowest unemployment rate in Virginia and a diverse population. Tejada referenced that unity numerous times during his address to the board.

But the county’s plans for a five-mile streetcar line along Columbia Pike continues to spark debate.

Libby Garvey, the newest member of the board elected just nine months ago, continued to express her opposition to the line, which she says would be too expensive at $200 million to $300 million.

“It is about five times what a Bus Rapid Transit system would be,” says Garvey. “If you have an accident on the tracks, it’s got wires up in the air, the wires go down and the whole system tops.”

But Tejada, who has worked to save affordable housing options along Columbia Pike, says the public has already expressed support for the streetcar line.

“There was a lot of skeptics at the time Metro was created. And there are some now. But by in large we are gonna stay steady and move forward with the streetcar,” says Tejada.

The Arlington line is designed to connect to a smaller line being proposed in neighboring Fairfax County. The counties would pick up about 56 percent of the cost with the state and federal government chipping in the rest.

In his presentation to the board about his priorities for 2013, Tejada noted the county’s rare AAA bond rating and says that the county is in good shape financially. He promised to focus more on urban agriculture plus pedestrian and bicycle safety.

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(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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