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And the Potomac Yard Metro station site will be…

A model of the proposed Potomac Yard Metro station. From this view you can see  the city’s pick, Alternative B, looking west from the Potomac River. (Courtesy of City of Alexandria)
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Staff for the city of Alexandria have picked a preferred site for the proposed Potomac Yard Metro station. The City Council is slated to vote on the recommendation next month.

The preferred plan is to build a $268 million station just east of the existing Potomac Yard Retail Center, on a site that intrudes on the George Washington Parkway’s scenic easement, but “yields the most economic benefit to the city,” according to a city report. The site is the best location to leverage the high-density development of office, commercial and residential uses envisioned for the area, officials say.

The city has been considering four sites for the new station as part of the federal environmental review process.  Staff concluded that this pick, known as Alternative B, would enable the most high-density development for North Potomac Yard, and have “the most economic, community, and transportation benefits of all the alternatives.”

The city projects that building at this site would result in $1.5 billion in net revenue to the city over 40 years. Once the area is completed developed, it is projected to produce about $98 million in annual revenue that can be used to pay for city services and amenities.

Of the other alternatives, the first site would be the cheapest to develop at an estimated cost of $209 million, but it would put the station closer to the residential community of Potomac Greens, and farthest from the densest office and commercial area planned at Potomac Yard.  Some residents opposed that site saying  the station would draw crime to their neighborhood. That choice would have also generated fewer rail trips, and less development and revenue, according to projections.

The other two alternatives were viewed as not financially feasible from the beginning. They would have required the most land acquisitions and the displacement of the movie theater at the Potomac Yard Center shopping complex.

The Potomac Yard Metro station will be built on the Yellow and Blue Lines, between the existing Braddock Road and National Airport stations. It is expected to generate billions of dollars in new private sector investment.

The staff preferred alternative will put the new station between the George Washington Parkway and the CSX tracks, north of Potomac Greens and east of the existing Potomac Yard Retail Center. The station would be at-grade, with a side-platform layout. The facility will have two pedestrian bridges from the station over the CSX right-of-way to the planned development in Potomac Yard and a pedestrian bridge to provide access to Potomac Greens and Old Town Greens.

The city would need to purchase 0.16 acres of parkway property from the National Park Service.  The city  has reached an agreement with the National Parks Service to settle the impact on the parkway land, according to officials. As part of the deal, NPS would release the easement on approximately 1.71 acres of city property where the station would be located. In exchange, the city would transfer 13.56 acres of local parkland near the parkway to the United States.  Alexandria also would also invest $12 million in improvements to the Mount Vernon Trail and Daingerfield Island; and in other parkway needs. The city would commit to limiting building heights, lighting and signage near the parkway.

In an April 20 letter to the city, Robert A. Vogel, regional director of NPS, said the agency would not object to the city’s preferred site. He said the agreed measures to address the intrusion on the scenic easement and the loss of parkland “mitigate those impacts sufficiently.”

A developer has agreed to contribute nearly $50 million to the project if this site is chosen.  The city says the station also will be financed with funds from a special tax district for properties around the station, new tax revenue from development around the station, and $69 million from funds administered by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

The staff report also recommends the construction access point from the Potomac Green neighborhood, instead of through the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which would require tree removal and temporary traffic disruptions.

Officials say the city will have a plan in place to minimize the impact on residents, including limits on construction hours.

The City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposal May 16, and the panel is expected to vote on May 20. Metro is holding a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Cora Kelly Recreation Center. Comments can be sent through May 18 via e-mail to comments@potomacyardmetro.com or via postal mail to Potomac Yard Metrorail Station EIS, P.O. Box 16531, Alexandria, VA 22302.

Once the city approves a preferred alternative, it can produce a final environmental impact statement and approval by the Federal Transit Administration and the National Park Service. This will allow the city to move to design and construction of the new station. Alexandria officials have said they would like to open the station in 2018.

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