Metro Bus Garage in Southwest Rolls Along, Scheduled to Open in 2012

By James Hohmann
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 17, 2009

Metro broke ground Wednesday on a bus garage in Southwest Washington to replace the 72-year-old Southeastern Bus Garage, which the agency stopped using last year because it was so close to Nationals Park.

At a festive and carefully choreographed ceremony intended to emphasize the kind of positive development that's been rare lately for the beleaguered transit agency, about two dozen federal and local officials lined up with shovels after an hour of speeches about the facility, scheduled to open in 2012.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who chairs the Metro board, called it a "great day."

"We haven't had much of a chance recently, as all of you know, to say that," said Graham, emceeing the event. "No one loves a ribbon-cutting or a groundbreaking more than I do . . . but this year has been different."

Plans for the facility have not been finalized, and the agency is reviewing bids from would-be contractors. Metro Chief Financial Officer Carol Kissal said the garage will probably cost about $95 million.

The federal government provided $30 million of that in stimulus funding.

The old garage was sold to a real estate development company for $69 million, and Metro paid the District $8 million to buy 16 acres. D.C. Village, an emergency shelter for homeless families that was closed in 2007, used to be on the site, at Shepherd Parkway SW and Blue Plains Drive. Crews will demolish those buildings.

After the first phase of construction, 114 Metrobuses will fit in the garage.

A second phase could increase capacity to 250 buses. The facility also will dispense compressed natural gas to buses.

For Metro, the groundbreaking is the culmination of a long effort to find a site for the garage. Over the past few decades, the D.C. Department of Transportation identified more than 50 possible locations, according to its director.

For financial, legal and environmental and other reasons, none panned out.

Nearly every speaker Wednesday made a point of expressing confidence in Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr., who has led the agency through a series of tragedies and setbacks since the June 22 Red Line crash that killed nine people and injured 80.

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