ANC Nods in Favor of Gondola Moving Forward

Last night at the ANC meeting, the commission considered the BID’s proposal to construct a gondola between Rosslyn and Georgetown. Following an abbreviated presentation by Joe Sternlieb, the BID CEO, the ANC passed a resolution in favor of the project moving forward, with certain reservations.

Much of the talk regarding the gondola over the last couple weeks has been about the fact that the Arlington County Board wrote a letter stating that they did not intend to provide any money for the project. The reticence on the part of the board has much to do with the fact that the board has recently been taken over by Tea Party-like members who are intent of stopping, or significantly diminishing, all significant capital projects in the county. Most central to their effort was the plan to kill the Columbia Pike Streetcar project, which they did once elected. They also promised a replacement plan that would provide improved transit to the corridor. Spoiler alert: they didn’t.

This Tea Party-like spasm will likely subside long before the gondola project would be constructed, and a future Arlington board may be more willing to chip in. But it may not really be necessary, as some sort of private funding may be able to take care of the Virginia side.

Regardless of how things go in Arlington, two things really have to be done now in DC for the project to have any hope: the city must secure a landing site and must initiate a multi-year environment impact analysis.

The only location that makes sense on the DC side is essentially either right next to the Exxon at the bottom of the Exorcist steps, or at the top along Prospect. What imperils those options is that a developer has approved plans to construct the building that Eastbanc never got around to building where the Exxon is. If that gets built, then it’s unlikely the station could be located there (since it will need some of that building’s planned footprint).

If the city wants to secure that site, it will either have to negotiate with the developer, purchase some or all of the property, or use eminent domain to acquire the property. That is why the BID went to the ANC for support.

After a relatively brief discussion, the ANC unanimously adopted a resolution proposed by Commissioner Lisa Palmer. GM doesn’t have the text, but it expressed a general support for the idea moving forward, and specifically called on the city to secure a DC landing site and to initiate the environmental impact review. But those specific recommendations were preceded by a good deal of hedging, including the observation that many details are unknown and the expressed determination to continue to ensure that the project does not get built without public support.

It’s still a long shot that this can get built, but if it does, last night was a key step.

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