correction: A previous version of this article misidentified the location of a special tax district that could be used to help pay for the Potomac Yard Metro station. It is not Potomac Greens, but a residential neighborhood west of the Metro line in Potomac Yards.
Money intended to help pay for the planned Potomac Yard Metro station won’t be coming to Alexandria from Dominion Energy. And while the $15 million is a small portion of the estimated $320 million cost, the news did nothing to assuage the anger of nearby residents Wednesday who are still upset over last spring’s removal of a south entrance from the station plans.
Residents turned out in force Wednesday night to fire questions at officials from the city, Metro and the just-announced contractors who will design and build the long-sought station on the Metro’s Blue and Yellow lines between Reagan National Airport and Braddock Road.
“Because of the last-minute cancellation of the south entrance, there’s a built-up level of distrust, and that’s what you’re trying overcome,” Steve Crime of the Potomac Greens Homeowners Association told the gathered officials.
In an effort to keep the cost of the station within reach, Metro and the city last year removed the south entrance nearest a large number of homes, but kept the north entrance closer to the commercial district. City Council members were informed but were told that they could not disclose the information because of confidentiality agreements, and that doing so would further delay the awarding of bids.
Enraged residents promptly refused to reelect council member Paul Smedberg (D), who sits on the Metro board. That anger has not abated; residents hurled questions at Smedberg, Vice Mayor Justin Wilson and others at the Potomac Yard Metro Implementation Work Group on Wednesday night. They asked about “plan B” in case the Army Corps of Engineers does not sign off on an environmental study; the impact of the construction on nearby wetlands; the design of the ramp that will let people east of the station cross CSX railroad tracks to get to Metro; Metro’s ability to control costs and operate the station safely; and why city money going to the National Park Service, originally designated for Dyke Marsh in Fairfax County, would now be dedicated to the C&O Canal in Maryland, at the request of the Park Service.
Just beneath the surface was the news that the city has lost $15 million that was going to replace a special tax district assessment on homeowners in a residential neighborhood west of the Metro line.
Dominion Energy notified the city on Sept. 21 that it would drop its proposed underground transmission line from its Glebe substation on the Arlington-Alexandria border to Pepco’s substation in north Old Town. That controversial proposal, first made in 2014, ignited years of controversy between the city and the power company over the route and impact of the line.
Dominion had agreed to pay the city $40 million for access to the right of way under Potomac Avenue. At least $14.6 million of that money was going to replace one of the tax districts set up to help pay for the Metro station’s construction. A Dominion representative told the City Council on Tuesday that adjustments in power sources and congestion elsewhere in the region meant that the new transmission line was not needed in Alexandria for the next 15 to 20 years.
City Manager Mark B. Jinks told the council he will have a recommendation to them by the end of year about how to handle the loss of the funds.
Most of the money to pay for the station construction is coming from taxes expected from new development in the area.
The Potomac Yard Metro stop, expected to be completed in early 2022, is considered vital to the city’s financial future. The mixed commercial, office and residential development that Alexandria hopes to attract there is expected to make fewer demands on city services such as schools, libraries and emergency responses, while bringing in significant tax revenue. While the effort to build the station long preceded Amazon’s search for a second headquarters site, the Potomac Yard area is part of a joint Arlington and Alexandria bid for what is expected to be a lucrative development.