Alexandria, VA – At the June 25 meeting of the Alexandria City Council, a 6-0 vote allowed plans for a south entrance at the Potomac Yard Metro Station to continue. The Council chose the first of three options: a south access pavilion with a bridge at the north entrance.
The other ideas proposed were a southwest access pavilion with a small mezzanine and a ramp at East Glebe Road with a moving walkway at the north entrance. Council members chose the least expensive option with an estimated cost of $75 million.
“Over the past six months, the Potomac Yard Metrorail Implementation Work Group (PYMIG) has provided input to the project team regarding potential enhancements to the Southwest entry to the future Potomac Yard Metrorail Station,” said Mayor Justin Wilson in a June 17 memo.
As part of the Amazon Incentive Package, the Commonwealth has allotted $50 million to fund the project. Based on city documents, it appears the remaining $25 million will be taken from the city’s General Fund and will do away with other city capital investments or funding of programs and services. In effect, this could result in a project with neighborhood/localized benefits crowding out projects with citywide benefits.
The cost, however, may be reduced or even brought close to the available funding with further design refinements. Such changes would include removal of escalators, the reduction of a pavilion footprint, and less mechanical and electrical components.
WMATA has indicated that the option selected by City Council should not create a significant delay in the opening of the station. If delays occurred, records indicate the longest would be six months. Still, WMATA informed City Council that the station may be operational from the north entrance, even if the south access point was still under construction.
“The one thing that’s been consistent throughout this process,” said Wilson last week, “is a desire not to see this process get delayed any longer and not to do anything that’s going to threaten this project.”
Project leaders have reached out to the community numerous times throughout the decision process. The June 22 public hearing, where the topic was covered briefly served as the most recent occasion.
PYMIG held a meeting on June 10, during which staff presented the pricing information and received feedback from PYMIG and community members in attendance. Several PYMIG staff questioned whether a modified plan with stairs and an escalator provided a significant improvement over the ramp option included in the Development Special Use Permit (DSUP), as it did not result in any significant travel time savings.
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Seven days earlier, staff attended a meeting of the Potomac Yard Civic Association to discuss a May 31 memo sent to PYMIG regarding cost and the groups recommendation. Staff also answered questions from the community. The Potomac Yard Civic Association has expressed support for the staff recommendation to further advance the plan City Council selected.
That memo circulated throughout Alexandria as the result of an e-News email. It directed readers to a link on the city website where the memo could be reviewed.
PYMIG is recommending that the city request WMATA to direct Potomac Yard Construction (PYC) to improve the plan’s design. Changes should reflect the elimination of the escalator in the pavilion.
Also requested, as mentioned previously, is a determination of whether the cost can be reduced so that it meets or is near the $50 million of state funding available, In addition, it must be verified that revising the plan would not cause delay to the scheduled station opening.
WMATA has indicated that PYC would require two to three months to further advance the engineering necessary and provide updated pricing information. Staff plans to work with WMATA and PYC to bring this information back to PYMIG in September. At that time, City Council will make a decision on how to proceed with the new findings.
“For more than 40 years, our community has explored and worked towards the possibility of adding a Metro station in Potomac Yard,” said City Manager Mark B. Jinks. “The new station will improve neighborhood walkability and transit options while reducing traffic congestion.”
The Potomac Yard Station is expected to open in 2021.