One of the great victories of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce this year was to help defeat a burdensome and unfair commercial add-on tax being considered by the city council. We strongly opposed this form of taxation, arguing that transportation benefited everyone and therefore, everyone should pay their fair share. Thankfully, with the help of our community businesses and civic associations the council squashed the proposed tax.
With fairness in mind, elected officials created a reserve for transportation uses throughout Alexandria. The Chamber supported this method to fund our much needed transportation projects. We also said we would watch closely how the city spent the funds, to ensure appropriate use and provide the best return on investment for Alexandria.
We reviewed the citys 10-year, $145 million transportation improvement plan and I am happy to report our transportation reserve funds are planned to be spent wisely.
The lions share of the plan are slated for the planning and construction on the citys three high-capacity transit corridors: Washington Street, Duke Street / Eisenhower Avenue and Van Dorn Street / Beauregard Street.
The high-capacity corridors will combine an integrated system of facilities, equipment, services, and amenities that improve the speed, reliability and identity of transit. They serve populations are reliant on transit for mobility, as well riders who have access to a car but instead choose to use transit. This market could be very large if services were made attractive and competitive.
The city is first moving forward quickly with the Van Dorn / Beauregard corridor, which will be one of the largest (about 4.5 miles) transit improvements within Alexandria. The plan is to provide dedicated passage for transit along this high-density corridor with major redevelopment opportunities. Several options were studied and balanced against competing objectives, such as cost and neighborhood context, including bus rapid transit and streetcars.
City Hall has recommended Alexandria move forward with bus rapid transit. The Chamber agrees with this option as the best way to improve transit in this area quickly and get the best bang for our buck.
Bus rapid transit is a rubber tire service, unlike standard bus services, that generally operates in dedicated or preferentially treated running ways, which reduce travel times.
City Hall staffers will bring the recommendation to the Alexandrias transportation and planning commissions this week and present it to council September 17 for approval.
There is much more to the transportation improvement plan, including the other major Corridors, street enhancements and extensions to major intersections, increased and expanded bus and trolley services, as well as a modest amount of non-motorized transportation initiatives (trails, multi-use paths, etc.).
Rest assured that the Chamber will continue to watch and work with the city on these transportation projects to help ensure we are all getting our moneys worth.
The writer is president and CEO of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.