Summary of the May 9, 2018 Potomac Yard Metrorail Implementation Work Group (PYMIG) Meeting
A PYMIG meeting was held on May 9, 2018 to provide the public with significant project updates.
While the Potomac Yard Metro Station design will remain consistent with the City’s original project objectives, costs have escalated significantly due in part to increased labor and materials costs. For the project to move forward, the City and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) had to rescope and reduce plans for station construction. Even with this descoping, the station budget needed to be increased by $52 million, from $268 million to $320 million.
The station will continue to have entrances from both sides of the rail tracks and allow pedestrian and bicycles to cross without entering any faregates. The City also plans to include a southern access to the northern station entrance. However, the station will no longer include the previously planned south station entrance. The reductions also include removal of two pedestrian-bicycle ramps that provided access to the southern mezzanine. Park improvements have also been reduced, as the station construction will now have a minimized impact on the existing parks. Access to the station from Potomac Greens (east side) of the station will be maintained.
City staff will facilitate a
design process with the community and the to-be selected design/build
contractor starting this summer. This design process will include exploration
of options for accessing the station from near Potomac Avenue at East Glebe
Potomac Yard Metrorail Station Project FAQs
What modifications were made to project?
At this time, the station no longer includes a south station mezzanine, a south pedestrian bridge or its associated ramps, or a pavilion at East Glebe Road. Improvements will be made to the north entrance to enhance access from East Glebe Road.
Why were the changes made?
Changes were made to keep the station project affordable and allow it to continue to move forward through the WMATA procurement process. As a result, the City and WMATA have reduced the scope of planned construction so that the station can be built.
Since the station will be on the east side of the live track corridor (WMATA, CSX, and Amtrak), how will the station be accessed from the east and west?
There is direct access from the east side of the station. Residents will walk along the east side of the station and have a direct access point at the north end of the station.
Access from the west:
There will be access from the west side to the station including a bridge crossing over the CSX tracks. This north access crossing can be used from the north pavilion or from a to-be-designed southern access from the East Glebe Road area. City staff will facilitate a design process with the community and the contractor starting this summer. This process will include exploration of access and design options from Potomac Avenue at East Glebe Road to the north entrance.
What is the impact to riders who would have used the south entrance and mezzanine?
Riders will now use the to-be-designed access point from the Glebe Road area and walk north to cross the north access crossing and enter the north mezzanine. This is an increased walking distance of approximately 350 feet (or approximately one Old Town city block) and can be seen here on this illustrative conceptual graphic.
Can I cross the rail and Metro tracks if I am not riding the Metro?
Yes, you will be able to cross the rail and Metro tracks without paying to enter the fare area of the station.
Why was the north crossing and mezzanine preserved rather than the south crossing and mezzanine?
The City still plans to include a southern access, to the north entrance, from near the area of East Glebe Road and Potomac Avenue. However, a dedicated southern entrance needed to be removed due to its substantial cost. Density and ridership projections conducted as part of this project show ridership will be far heavier in the area closest to the north entrance. The station is expected to generate billions of dollars in new private sector investment, and support approximately 26,000 new jobs and 13,000 new residents. The future station design will offer close proximity to transit for those living and working in and around Potomac Yard, and businesses and organizations that are currently in, or are planning to move to, the area.
Will the changes have a negative impact on the planned commercial development?
A fundamental economic and station financing premise of the land use and transportation planning for Potomac Yard has been to focus commercial uses (office, retail and hotel uses) in close proximity to the Metrorail station. While a new station design is expected to result in a minor reduction in the amount of commercial uses within a 1/4 mile of the planned Metrorail station, 80% of the commercial uses are still within a 1/4 mile. A full 100% of the commercial uses are located within a 1/2 mile. The development uses are shown on the original conceptual station design and the current conceptual station design ¼ mile and ½ mile radii exhibits. There continues to be a significant amount of commercial opportunities within Potomac Yard within a ¼ mile of the Metrorail station. The table below depicts all of the uses within a ¼ and ½ mile of the Metrorail station.
Will Potomac Yard continue to be a transit-oriented development?
Potomac Yard will continue to be served by two Metrorail stations (Braddock and Potomac Yard). Reference the current conceptual station design ¼ mile and ½ mile radius exhibit. In addition, Potomac Yard is already served by the transitway (Metroway) on Route 1 and within Potomac Yard. In addition, the mix of uses and the pedestrian-oriented design of Potomac Yard will enable Potomac Yard to continue to be a transit-oriented development.
What is the current project budget?
The project budget is $320 million. The budget was increased by $52 million in April 2018.
Why did the project budget increase?
The initial project budget was calculated in 2015 following usual and customary federal Standard Cost Categories (SCC) procedures. The project costs were presented as a range from low ($160 million) to high ($315 million), and a representative value of 85 percent of the high end was used as the budget ($268 million). There are numerous factors as to why the project budget has increased which include (a) general construction cost escalation; (b) increased labor and material costs; (c) various risk factors which include working in the proximity of the live track corridor, challenging geotechnical conditions, likely contaminated soil issues, complex multiple stakeholder coordination, limited site access, and a constricted project site. Due to its extremely constrained site between National Park Service land and an active Metrorail and passenger and rail freight corridor, the Potomac Yard Metrorail site is a “unicorn” in that there is sparse precedent in costing. In the nearly half-century of the Metrorail system, there has been only one infill station (NoMA-Galludet U) ever constructed on the Metrorail’s 100-mile plus system.
How is the station being funded?
The table below provides a general breakdown of the total funding sources for the project. The total project costs are expected to equal $320 million, including WMATA project costs of $290 million and City-managed costs of $30 million. The funding sources include $70 million from Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) that has already been awarded, and a $50 million loan from the Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank (VTIB) that has also been secured. The remaining $200 million is expected to be comprised of a combination of long term General Obligation (GO) bonds and a loan from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Build America Bureau, formerly known as a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan.
Sources of Funds Millions ($)
Northern Virginia Transportation Authority Grant Funds $69.5
Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank Loan $50.0
General Obligation Bonds 1 $65 to $83.0
Build American Bureau Funding (TIFIA) 1 $88 to $106.0
Cash and Other Sources $29.0
Total Sources $320.0
1 The City is currently under consideration for a Build American Bureau loan from the federal Department of Transportation. The Letter of Interest has been accepted and the City is currently working through the creditworthiness phase. If the project is selected, the amount of general obligation borrowing will be reduced by the amount of project costs that are eligible for funding through the Build America Bureau. The NVTA grant funds have been awarded and the VTIB loan agreement is secured.
Will there be an opportunity for the Potomac Yard Metrorail Implementation Work Group (PYMIG) and other community members to have input on the proposed changes?
Yes, the City will lead a community engagement process in the summer or fall of 2018 as a part of the station design. The Development Special Use Permit (DSUP) approved by City Council for this project will need to be amended. The DSUP amendment is anticipated to be considered by the Planning Commission and City Council in December 2018. In addition to the DSUP amendment process, all design changes will be reviewed by the City’s Old and Historic Board of Architecture Review and the National Park Service.
How will the Summer 2019 Metro station maintenance closures affect the project?
In May 2018, WMATA announced a summer 2019 temporary shutdown of all Blue and Yellow Line stations south of the Reagan National Airport Station. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day 2019, the stations will close to allow the work on outdoor station platforms. WMATA and the City will coordinate with the contractor to ensure the project can take full advantage of this 90-day shutdown window. While the 90-day temporary shutdown is a negative for Alexandria Metrorail riders, it produces a positive opportunity window for the Potomac Yard Metrorail Station construction project.
When will construction start?
There could be some early construction activities occurring as early as late 2018 (e.g., site access, construction trailer installation, initial clearing, geotechnical work). More substantial construction activities are forecasted to commence in early 2019, following the forecasted approval of the Development Special Use Permit (DSUP) by City Council in late 2018.
When will impacted communities learn more about construction in the neighborhoods?
Once a contractor is in place, which is expected to occur in the summer of 2018, the City will work with WMATA, the contractor, and the community in regard to construction impacts. This fall City, WMATA and the contractor will meet with individual homeowner’s associations and community groups to discuss the project schedule and specific community impacts in more detail.
When will the Potomac Yard Metrorail Station be open for service?
The station is expected to open in late 2021 or early 2022.
- Why do we need a Metrorail Station at Potomac Yard?
- How is the Potomac Yard Metrorail station to be financed?
- Does the Potomac Yard Metrorail station require using tax monies raised in other areas of the City to pay for the proposed station?
- How will the City fund the design and construction of the Potomac Yard Metrorail Station?
- How does the Potomac Yard Metrorail station represent a major economic development opportunity for the City?
- Why a Metrorail station in this location?
- What is the National Environmental Policy Act?
- What are the roles of the City, FTA, WMATA, and NPS in the NEPA process?
- What is the public's role in the NEPA process?
Building a new Metrorail station is central to the vision for the redevelopment of Potomac Yard as a smart-growth, walkable mixed-use community, with access to high-quality retail, entertainment, and parks. A new Metrorail station will help to accommodate the growing transportation demand in the Route 1 corridor. A Metrorail station in Potomac Yard will provide benefits to the community and region by:
- Maximizing the number of people taking transit to and from the Potomac Yard area by providing direct access to Metrorail;
- Removing thousands of cars from the Route 1 corridor every day;
- Enabling a mix of uses in an environment where people can walk or bike to destinations in Potomac Yard for their daily needs;
- Providing a vibrant destination for all Alexandrians with a mix of uses, including significant shopping and public parks;
- Strengthening and diversifying the tax base to improve the long-term economic stability of the City.
The Potomac Yard Metrorail station is planned to be financed by a combination of taxes generated from new development in Potomac Yard, a real estate tax levy surcharge on Potomac yard property, as well as grant monies from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.
The funding plan for the Metrorail station will use money generated by the redevelopment of Potomac Yard. These revenues are deposited into a pot called the "Potomac Yard Metrorail Station Fund" which can only be used for the design, construction, and financing of the Metrorail station. The fund includes developer contributions; revenue from two special tax districts in Potomac Yard; regional, state, and federal grants; and net new tax revenues in Potomac Yard (existing tax revenues and new revenues needed to support City and school public service demands from Potomac Yard development will go into the City's General Fund).
The City updates the bond rating agencies annually regarding this project, and they continue to give the City of Alexandria the best bond rating (AAA/Aaa). The City has recently updated the financial analysis for the Metrorail station. The analysis found that the City can finance the Metrorail station with no funds diverted from the General Fund. Both alternatives also have a positive return on investment over the long term. In addition, the analysis found that the City will make a surplus after 30 years of debt service. This surplus will be used to pay for services throughout the City.
A Metrorail station will attract more businesses and jobs to the City. Over 80% of all office building construction in the DC Metropolitan area is taking place within ¼ mile of an existing Metrorail station. Potomac Yard represents smart-growth transit oriented development in generating new tax revenue for the City. When completed, Potomac Yard could add as much as 26,000 new jobs to the City which would represent over a 25% increase in the City's employment base. It is estimated that over about a 30 year period as much as some $888 million in net new tax revenue will be generated to be available to help fund services and capital investments citywide.
Potomac Yard is a 235 acre site which was one of the largest freight rail yards on the East coast of the US until it closed in 1989. Given its acreage, location in the inner urban core of the DC metropolitan area, and adjacency to the Metrorail Blue and Yellow lines, building a Metrorail station at this site would help unlock and increase the economic development potential of Potomac Yard. Currently the 3.1 mile distance between the Braddock Road and Reagan National Airport Metrorail stations is the longest stretch of Metrorail line inside the Beltway without a station.
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) requires federal agencies to undertake an assessment of the environmental effects of certain proposed projects prior to making decisions. The NEPA process is meant to help public officials make better informed decisions, and to enable community involvement with those decisions. The NEPA process is required for the Potomac Yard Metrorail Station process so that the project can be eligible for federal funding and because some of the alternatives may affect the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
- The City of Alexandria is the project sponsor and joint lead agency.
- The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is the lead federal agency, because the City will be seeking federal funding for a portion of the project.
- The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is a cooperating agency because they would operate the station once it is built.
- The National Park Service (NPS) is a cooperating agency because of its role in administering the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
Throughout the NEPA process, members of the public have provided oral and written feedback at public meetings and have also submitted written feedback through email and postal mail. Public feedback helped to shape the alternatives analyzed as part of the Draft EIS, and highlighted resource areas of particular concern to the community. The public has been engaged through:
- Public meetings and community group meetings
- Project newsletters
- Interaction with community organizations
- The Potomac Yard Metrorail Implementation Group (PYMIG), which was created by the Alexandria City Council to assist in the EIS process. PYMIG members include representatives from City Council, various City commissions, and the public. Members of the public are also invited to attend PYMIG meetings and offer feedback.