City of Alexandria Explains How Potomac Yard Metro Plans Changed

In a press release issued just before the close of business on Monday, May 21, the City of Alexandria gives an explanation of the process involved and how they were forced to make revisions to the original plan, reprinted here in its entirety:

City of Alexandria Provides Overview of Potomac Yard Metrorail Station Design Change Process

For Immediate Release: May 21, 2018

The City of Alexandria is providing the following overview of the process leading to changes in the design of the new, $320 million Potomac Yard Metrorail Station, including the City’s participation in the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) confidential procurement process.

Throughout this complex project, the City has been required to follow the rigorous processes of its federal, regional, and state regulatory and implementation partners. WMATA only agreed to allow the City to participate in its procurement process after repeatedly emphasizing the need for strict confidentiality as the process proceeded. City staff believed this included changes to the station design, and WMATA has indicated this conclusion was reasonable. As soon as WMATA confirmed a few weeks ago that the changes in station design issued to bidders could be publicly disclosed, the City provided the information to the public and held a public meeting to discuss it.

“Our goal throughout this entire process has been to keep the new station affordable and moving forward, and I believe all City staff acted in good faith and reached reasonable conclusions to accomplish that,” said City Manager Mark Jinks. “I regret the level of confidentiality that the City believed was required and the community concerns that have resulted, and I am committed to engaging the public as much as possible as the project continues. Building a Metro station at Potomac Yard has been a City goal for decades, and now that we are as close as ever to achieving that goal, we must proceed.”

The project’s initial budget was $268.1 million, but the initial bids WMATA received in March 2017 significantly exceeded that amount. At that point, City officials had to choose between reducing the scope of the station design, cancelling the solicitation for bids and starting over with a new design, or cancelling the project altogether. Although starting the process over again would have allowed for more public engagement, it would have delayed the station construction by several years, risked losing key financing sources, and could have resulted in even higher costs than the revised $320 million budget.

City staff informed City Council that, based on the bids, the project could not proceed with the original scope and budget and that the bidders would be asked to remove specific elements from the scope of the contract.  WMATA permitted City Council to be notified on the condition that only limited information be provided and the process remain confidential.

Bidders were asked in July 2017 to submit revised proposals without a south entrance. The station will continue to have entrances from both sides of the rail tracks and allow pedestrians and bicycles to cross without entering faregates, and the north entrance will be modified to improve access from the south. The City will pursue design components that could leave open the possibility of adding a south entrance in the future. Ridership is projected to be far heavier in the area closest to the north entrance, and revenue from development on the north side is a primary funding source for the construction of the station. Parallel with the design changes, City Council has eliminated the planned special tax district on residential properties on the southern end of Potomac Yard, pending right-of-way easement revenue from a proposed new underground power line.

The station will be funded through a variety of sources – including new tax revenue gained primarily from development in Potomac Yard over the next 30 years; regional transportation authority grants; and developer contributions – without drawing on any local money from the City’s General Fund. This means nearly all residents and businesses in Alexandria will not have to contribute existing local tax revenues to the station’s construction.

Once WMATA awards a construction contract, the contractor will apply for an amendment to the previously approved development special use permit for the station to incorporate the design changes. This process will include extensive public outreach in fall 2018 and consideration of stakeholder feedback. The permit amendment must be approved by the City’s Planning Commission, Board of Architectural Review, and City Council. The National Park Service will also review any revisions to the station design. The Potomac Yard Metrorail Implementation Group will continue to meet on a regular basis throughout the project, and will provide the forum for community and stakeholder input, feedback and project updates as it did during the initial planning and design phases. Construction activities are expected to begin in late 2018, with the new station in service in late 2021 or early 2022.

The Potomac Yard area represents one of the most significant redevelopment and tax base growth opportunities for Alexandria, with the potential to achieve the vision for an urban mix of uses near transit. The new Metrorail station, to be built on Metrorail’s Yellow and Blue Lines between the existing Braddock Road and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport stations, will provide an extensive range of benefits for Alexandria and the surrounding community. The station, which will provide walkable access to regional transportation systems for neighborhoods in the northeast area of the city, is expected to generate billions of dollars in new private sector investment over the long term, and eventually support 26,000 new jobs and 13,000 new residents.

For more information about Potomac Yard projects, including additional information about the Potomac Yard Metrorail Station, visit alexandriava.gov/PotomacYard.