What city officials are calling the most complicated project facing Alexandria appears to be getting even more problematic.
Waylaid by issues related to constructing the preferred option for a Potomac Yard Metro station, including encroachment onto National Park Service land along the George Washington Memorial Parkway and a scenic easement in the north end of Potomac Greens, Alexandria officials are now examining moving the existing CSX tracks through the area to accommodate a station.
The city has delayed its environmental impact study of three station alternatives—two at-grade stations east of the CSX tracks and a third aerial station to the west of the tracks—as it sorts through some of the issues facing the project.
Cost estimates for the three alternatives currently range between $195 million to $462 million. The second at-grade station option, dubbed Alternative B, is considered the preferred option from the city and developers because it puts the density of the development closest to the station.
The selection of Alternative B also carries a $49 million contribution to the city from the developer of the Potomac Yard Shopping Center, which is slotted for a massive redevelopment after a Metro station is constructed.
Planners briefed City Council on the possibility of moving the CSX tracks to accommodate an alternative to Alternative B this week, an effort that would add tens of millions to the project price tag and years to its timetable.
The plan calls for realigning the CSX tracks behind the Regal Cinemas at Potomac Yard to move Alternative B north and away from any encroachment issues. That’s something the city would have to pay for, but it’s something CSX would consider despite it occurring to one of the busiest stretches of track on the East Coast.
“What it does, moving the CSX tracks, it straightens the tracks, which they like,” said Rich Baier, Alexandria’s director of Transportation and Environmental Services. “It also solves drainage issues.”
The realignment of the track would also call for moving fiber optic lines, the removal of the movie theater (which has a lease on the property into 2018) and some re-planning of the shopping center overhaul.
“It’s not a silver bullet,” Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks said of moving the CSX tracks.
Jinks said the developer of the shopping center has itself requested some re-planning.
Council approved the initial redevelopment plan in 2010, but the developer would like to do some reconfiguring to meet a change in the market and in preferred building design.
“We need to have a better idea of where Metro is going to be before we move forward with that,” Jinks said.
Despite the complications, Mayor Bill Euille said the construction of a Potomac Yard Metro station remains ever important.
“The maximum tax benefit does not accrue if we don’t have a station,” he said.
The city’s Potomac Yard Metrorail Implementation Work Group will meet in early January to discuss the project.