Alexandria citizens expressed concerns with the construction of a Potomac Yard Metrorail station that would impact nearby wetlands and the George Washington Memorial Parkway during a community meeting Thursday at Cora Kelly Recreation Center.
Project planners with the city used the event to brief the crowd on three build alternatives for a station under evaluation as part of an environmental impact study for the project.
A no-build alternative is also being evaluated. It includes improvements to existing transit options in the area.
Two of the three station alternatives—an at-grade station located between the parkway and CSX tracks on a new track alignment north of Potomac Greens and an aerial station located west of the CSX tracks almost directly behind Target—require significant construction access along the parkway.
In one alternative, a section of the right, southbound lane on the parkway would close during off-peak hours for construction vehicles to decelerate and access the construction site through wetlands.
“To cut into the parkway this way makes absolutely no sense,” said Old Town resident Andrew Macdonald, who is running for mayor as an independent. “I love Metro, but this is an ostensibly expensive project. I’d like to see the money spent on other options and in other ways along Route 1.”
Cost estimates for the three alternatives will be completed in the fall. With differences in the amount of new track and other considerations, the cost of each alternative will vary.
In 2010, city officials estimated the station would cost $240 million to build.
Other speakers at Thursday’s meeting said it was “appalling” and “ridiculous” to breach the parkway with construction vehicles. Currently, large trucks are not allowed on the parkway.
“Do we know the cost of damage to the parkway for rebuild and repair?” asked Bert Ely.
Abi Lerner, a deputy director with the city’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, said no one involved in the project is advocating trucks using the parkway or destroying wetlands.
“We need to quantify and ask questions to get a thorough assessment on the best way to construct a station,” Lerner said.
Susan Gygi, the city’s project manager, said any impacts on the wetlands would be restored “at a better rate” after construction.
Potomac Greens residents expressed concerns about an alternative that would put an at-grade station directly to the west of the neighborhood in a parcel of land that was reserved for a station in 1970 by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
Construction cannot be done on live tracks, so much of the work would have to be done at night and would “keep people awake,” one speaker said. Another Potomac Greens resident said the aerial station alternative would put commuters at eye level with their bedroom windows.
Potomac Greens resident Rebecca Mosbruger urged planners to “move forward” on the project and said that two years of construction would be worth the nuisance, otherwise traffic in the area would only intensify.
City Council candidate Boyd Walker (D) said he had concerns about the cost of the project and asked that ridership and the cost of a streetcar system be compared to the Metro station project.
Project officials hope to conclude the environmental impact study in 2013 and begin building the station in 2014 with the intent to open the station in late 2016.