Metro sta­tion’s new ETA: 2020

More plan­ning, build­ing time needed for Po­tomac Yard stop

The Washington Post Sunday - - COMMUTER - BY FAIZ SID­DIQUI faiz.sid­diqui@wash­post.com

A plan to build a Metro sta­tion in Alexandria’s grow­ing Po­tomac Yard com­mu­nity is inch­ing along, but the es­ti­mated open­ing date has been pushed back to spring 2020 — more than a year out from ear­lier pro­jec­tions.

Alexandria City Man­ager Mark Jinks said the latest de­lay came when Metro de­ter­mined that it would need more time than an­tic­i­pated to plan and build the sta­tion.

“It’s not a set­back,” Jinks said. “Clearly, we would pre­fer to get the sta­tion open as soon as pos­si­ble. This sta­tion is in per­pe­tu­ity. There­fore, what­ever we build is go­ing to have to be there look­ing like that for well over 100 years, and so we have to do it right.”

The $268 mil­lion sta­tion will serve Metro’s Blue and Yel­low lines be­tween the Brad­dock Road and Rea­gan Na­tional Air­port sta­tions, break­ing up a 3.1mile stretch of track that is the long­est in­side the Cap­i­tal Belt­way with­out a sta­tion.

“The Metro sta­tion has al­ways been en­vi­sioned as a key trans­porta­tion amenity for the en­tire city, but par­tic­u­larly for this area, which is be­ing de­vel­oped as a transit-ori­ented node,” said Yon Lam­bert, the city’s trans­porta­tion di­rec­tor.

The area is cur­rently served by Metroway, a ded­i­cated bus rapid transit ser­vice that started last year and con­nects Crys­tal City, Po­tomac Yard and Brad­dock Road.

On Thurs­day, Metro ap­proved an ad­di­tional $5.8 mil­lion for the pro­ject’s de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing, bump­ing the cost of that por­tion of the pro­ject to $11 mil­lion.

The pro­ject’s costs are be­ing fully cov­ered by the city, which is en­ter­ing a re­view phase for the sta­tion that will cul­mi­nate in it pre­sent­ing a pack­age of pre­lim­i­nary de­sign and build spec­i­fi­ca­tions to po­ten­tial bid­ders, ac­cord­ing to Alexandria’s Trans­porta­tion Depart­ment spokes­woman, Kath­leen Leonard. The pack­age is slated to be com­pleted and ad­ver­tised to bid­ders next fall and a con­tract awarded by spring 2017, Lam­bert said.

The sta­tion is Metro’s sec­ond in­fill sta­tion — ones con­structed be­tween ex­ist­ing stops — af­ter NoMa-Gal­laudet U opened on the Red Line in 2004, and it will be built at ground level with a side-plat­form lay­out. The track lo­ca­tion, north of Po­tomac Greens be­tween the Ge­orge Washington Me­mo­rial Park­way and the CSX rail­road tracks, is al­ready used by Metro, Lam­bert said, so con­struc­tion will have to be com­pleted along­side ac­tive tracks. The latest de­lay, he said, stretches the 30-month build pe­riod used for the NoMa sta­tion to 36 months.

“They learned some lessons in the NoMa-Gal­laudet sta­tion pro­ject in their ex­pe­ri­ence with build­ing an in­fill Metro sta­tion on ac­tive tracks,” Lam­bert said, ex­plain­ing the ad­di­tional time.

Fund­ing for the pro­ject will come from a va­ri­ety of sources, in­clud­ing devel­oper con­tri­bu­tions, state grants, the lo­cal and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, tax rev­enue, and rev­enue spurred by de­vel­op­ment. The city was awarded a $50 mil­lion loan from the Vir­ginia Trans­porta­tion In­fra­struc­ture Bank in Jan­uary and ex­pects to soon se­cure other fund­ing deals, in­clud­ing nearly $70 mil­lion from the North­ern Vir­ginia Trans­porta­tion Au­thor­ity.

Jinks said that any loans will be re­paid us­ing tax rev­enue — mostly real es­tate taxes — gen­er­ated by Po­tomac Yard de­velop- ment.

The Po­tomac Yard area is ex­pected to gen­er­ate about $2.4 bil­lion in new tax rev­enue over the next 35 years, ac­cord­ing to pro­jec­tions pro­vided to the city. Still, the pro­ject may face ad­di­tional hur­dles, he said.

“This is prob­a­bly one of the largest in­vest­ments the city has ever un­der­taken,” Jinks said. “It is a com­pli­cated process and a com­pli­cated pro­ject. You’re fit­ting a new Metro sta­tion above and on ei­ther side of ex­ist­ing Metro tracks. There’s not a lot of room to work with. There are is­sues that are go­ing to come up. On a pro­ject like this, you work through each one — you find al­ter­na­tives, and you fig­ure a path for it.”

The city ap­proved a spe­cial tax dis­trict at north Po­tomac Yard for the sta­tion’s con­struc­tion in 2010, with a slated open­ing in 2016. But the plan stalled af­ter con­cerns were raised about the scenic ease­ment that pre­serves views of the Ge­orge Washington Me­mo­rial Park­way and an en­vi­ron­men­tal study was con­ducted de­tail­ing the ef­fect on the com­mu­nity and view­shed.

The Fed­eral Transit Ad­min­is­tra­tion re­leased a draft of the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment in March, but it is not ex­pected to be fi­nal­ized un­til next year. The study out­lines the sta­tion’s po­ten­tial ef­fect on over­all de­vel­op­ment, area wet­lands and views from the park­way. The study pro­jected that daily rid­er­ship re­sult­ing from the new sta­tion could hit 11,300 trips — and lead to 5,000 fewer auto trips on area roads.

With the new sta­tion, Alexandria hopes to cap­i­tal­ize on the for­mer rail­road yard that now com­prises a 295-acre “city within a city” and serves as a daily stop­ping point for thou­sands of res­i­dents and work­ers.

The area, south of Na­tional Air­port and down­town Washington, is home to 3,000 residential units and 5 mil­lion square feet of of­fice, ho­tel and re­tail space. City of­fi­cials en­vi­sion that a Metro sta­tion would spur more de­vel­op­ment and fur­ther es­tab­lish the area as a com­mer­cial cen­ter.

Metro still hasn’t given its ap­proval to the city’s pre­ferred lo­ca­tion for the sta­tion. That vote is ex­pected to come be­fore the end of the year, said Metro spokesman Dan Stes­sel.

De­spite the hur­dles, Lam­bert was en­thu­si­as­tic about the pro­ject and the ef­fect it will have on the com­mu­nity.

“There is a gen­eral recog­ni­tion of the power of transit and how it can con­trib­ute to mak­ing this part of the city walk­a­ble and sus­tain­able and de­vel­op­ing in a fash­ion that con­trib­utes to over­all ben­e­fits of all of the res­i­dents,” Lam­bert said. “These are things that ul­ti­mately will make the city a more de­sir­able place to be.”

MCCAF­FERY IN­TER­ESTS

The new sta­tion will serveMetro’s Blue and Yel­low lines be­tween the Brad­dock Road and Rea­gan Na­tional Air­port sta­tions. It will help the Po­tomac Yard area gen­er­ate about $2.4 bil­lion in new tax rev­enue over the next 35 years, Alexandria’s city man­ager says.

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