Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks says Alexandria is “closer than it has ever been” to finalizing a plan for a Potomac Yard Metro station but several obstacles must be cleared before the shovel hits the soil.
Specifically, project planners are dealing with issues related to constructing Alternative B, what is seen as the city and developers’ preferred build option for the station. Those include an encroachment onto National Park Service land and a scenic easement in the north end of the Potomac Greens neighborhood.
Alexandria and collaborating agencies (including the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Federal Transit Administration and NPS) are currently plugging away at the required environmental impact statement process, which assesses everything from sound and noise issues to air quality and wetland impacts related to three proposed build options.
“The EIS process pulls in all the stakeholders,” Jinks said Monday at a Del Ray Citizens Association meeting. “It’s almost like we have more stakeholders than stakes. It’s like ‘Downton Abbey’ with so many special interests involved.”
Projected costs vary between the three station alternatives—two at-grade stations east of the CSX tracks and an aerial station to the west of the tracks. Early projections were between $195 million and $462 million, with the aerial station carrying the highest price tag. Such a cost pushes the aerial station out of consideration, Jinks said.
In 2010, Alexandria City Council approved a special tax district for the construction of the infill station—just the second in Metro’s history. The revenue from the district will be added to developer contributions and a soft tax increment financing area to pay bond debt financing over 30 years. With federal and state money tied up construction of Metro’s Silver Line, the city is expected to carry the majority of construction costs,
In May, Mayor Bill Euille said the current council has made financing the construction of a Potomac Yard station one of its “top capital improvement priorities over the next two years.”
The selection of Alternative B, an at-grade station that would be centered near the intersection of E. Glebe Road and Potomac Avenue, carries an agreed upon $49 million contribution from CPYR, the developer of the Potomac Yard Shopping Center. The shopping center is planned for a massive, mixed-use redevelopment after the station is built.
Alternative A, an at-grade station to be built farther south, is seen as “too far away” from the center to value CPYR, Jinks said. Alternative A would cost about $50 million less than Alternative B.
The city hopes to find a way to resolve issues concerning Alternative B.
“The Park Service concerns are serious and they strongly articulated them, but they left the door open to find a solution,” Jinks said. “I wish we could say we’re near the end… but unfortunately at this particular juncture we’re not there.”
Jinks said the NPS asked about shifting the CSX tracks to prevent encroachment on to its land. That's a possibility, but cost is a concern.
“We’re shopping that with CSX to see if they could consider it,” Jinks said. “If that is successful and not cost prohibitive, it’s one way of mitigating the Park Service’s concerns.”
The city and WMATA are also discussing changing the design speed of the track around the station to allow it a little more of a curve and keep it off the NPS property. However, that wouldn’t solve the scenic easement issue.
The EIS process hit a delay in May when the FTA and NPS recommended technical changes and amendments during a review of the statement, creating more work for planners.
Jinks said the delay has also offered more time to work through the land and scenic easement issues.
“Hopefully by end of fall we will have made some progress,” Jinks said.