Color me not terribly surprised that a number of news outlets didn't get it quite right when reporting yesterday on the state government's plan to pump money into the Columbia Pike streetcar project.
One online-news site, citing an Arlington government press release, stated definitively that the state government had committed $65 million more funding to the project. Wrong. Another newspaper's reporting was mostly accurate, but then was undermined by an online headline that suggested the money was on its way.
(Headline-writers don't have an easy job, but they do have the tendency to make reporters crazy by taking necessary short-cuts that can change the meaning of a story before readers even get to the first paragraph.)
Facts are funny things, so let's whip them out: The state government says it will provide "up to" $65 million in additional funding, and gives itself so many outs in the letter to Arlington and Fairfax officials that I wouldn't bank on the money.
Clearly, the McAuliffe administration wants to support the project, but the state government, having given up control of the Columbia Pike right-of-way through Arlington to the local government some years ago, will not have the final say.
As the Sun Gazette long has reported but some others seem not to grasp, Arlington and Fairfax officials are now engaged in a game of "beat-the-clock" (thanks, Wayne Kubicki, for that apt analogy). They need to get a construction contract signed, sealed and delivered before Jan. 1, 2016, when it's possible - don't know if it's likely, but it's possible - that the anti-streetcar side could take control of the Arlington County Board and, in its first action, scrap the project.
The Arlington government is being somewhat, and probably purposely, nebulous about timing, financing and more. Trying to pin down the facts has not been easy.
Bottom line: Friday's action moves the streetcar project one step closer to reality. But unless a construction contract can be approved before the 2015 election season is wrapped up, there's no guarantee the streetcar is going to be built.