Meanwhile, the Alexandria City Council on Thursday is expected to review– and grant– a rezoning and other critical special use permits necessary to build the $268-million Metro station, slated for a 2020 opening. City officials say a package of preliminary design and build specifications could be presented to potential bidders as early as this summer.
The completion of the federal review process moves the project a step closer to construction and lays the groundwork for what could be the realization of an important transit addition to the regional Metro system. The Potomac Yard station will be built on Metro’s Yellow and Blue Lines, between the existing Braddock Road and National Airport stations.
In addition to bolstering mass transit, a Metro station is viewed as a crucial part of the city’s vision for Potomac Yard, a 295-acre former railroad yard immediately south of the airport and downtown Washington that is being transformed into an urban center. It is expected to generate billions of dollars in new private-sector investment and accelerate development in an area where growth has taken off with the construction of hundreds of rowhouses and apartments. The resulting development around the station would support thousands of new jobs and new residents, while removing thousands of private vehicles from the congested Route 1 corridor, officials say.
The environmental impact statement supports a plan backed by the city to build a station just east of the existing Potomac Yard Retail Center, on a site that intrudes on the George Washington Parkway’s scenic easement, but “would best meet the project purpose and need.”
That location, the federal report says, “provides a new direct access point to the regional transit system and maximizes potential transit ridership, the shift of automobile trips to other modes, and accessibility to the regional transit system for the greatest number of area residents and employees.”
The station would generate 11,300 weekday boardings by 2040, about 13 percent more riders than other options considered during the federal environmental review process. According to the report, building the station would get as many a 6,700 daily automobile trips to shift to transit by 2040.
Alexandria 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 completely developed, it is projected to produce about $98 million in annual revenue that could be used to pay for city services and amenities.
In the site selection process the city considered four locations for the new station. Two of the other sites were viewed as not financially feasible from the beginning and another, though cheapest to develop at an estimated cost of $209 million, would have put the station closer to the residential community of Potomac Greens, and farthest from the densest office and commercial area planned at Potomac Yard. That choice would have generated fewer rail trips, and less development and revenue, according to projections.
Residents and other stakeholders can comment on the final environmental statement until July 11. After the comment period closes, the FTA and NPS are expected to release a record of decision, which could give Alexandria the final blessing it needs to begin construction. Alexandria will fund the project but Metro will oversee the construction.
The new station is anticipated to be funded through a variety of sources, including new tax revenue primarily from development around the station, regional transportation authority grants, developer contributions, and revenue from a special tax district.
Once the station opens, Alexandria’s share to Metro’s operating budget will increase from its current annual contribution of $13.6 million. According to estimates, the city’s share will require an additional $2.79 million annual contribution to meet the additional costs associated with the new rail station.
The Metro station has been in Alexandria’s plans for more than two decades and was once slated to be completed this year. The project stalled because of issues related to the scenic easement that protects views from the George Washington Parkway and more recently when Metro determined that it would need more time than anticipated to plan and build the station.
During the almost five-year environmental review process, Alexandria negotiated an agreement with the National Park Service to settle the impact on the Parkway. Through the agreement the federal agency would release the easement on approximately 1.71 acres of city property where the station would be located and the city would transfer 13.56 acres of local parkland near the parkway to the federal government. Alexandria would also invest $12 million in park improvements.
Jason Kacamburas, the city’s Potomac Yard Metro coordinator, said Tuesday that the city is very confident the project will move toward construction and a 2020 opening. If the city gets the go-ahead from the federal partners this summer, he said, Metro will be able to make the official call for contract bidders this summer and award a contract next spring.
“It’s a pretty critical next couple of months as we try to cross a pretty significant milestone to the project,” he said. “We feel good about those dates right now and we are going to do everything we can to make sure those dates are met.”
A full copy of the environmental review statement, is available on the project’s website. Comments may be submitted through July 11 to email@example.com or via mail to: Potomac Yard Metrorail Station EIS, P.O. Box 16531, Alexandria, VA 22302. The city’s public hearing on the special use permits for the project is at 7 p.m. Thursday.