This story has been updated with comments from Potomac Yard resident Elena Caudle Hutchison.
Metro and the City of Alexandria have scrapped plans to build a south entrance to the new Potomac Yard Metro station, and have eliminated other elements of the project to save costs.
In a letter to the Alexandria Mayor and City Council late Friday, city manager Mark Jinks outlined the discussions to “descale” the Potomac Yard project in an effort to reign in escalating costs.
Under the new plans, the Potomac Yard station will no longer have a south entrance at East Glebe Road, nor will it have a south station mezzanine. Ramps to the east and west will be eliminated, along with south pedestrian/bicycle bridge. The city said it will also no longer make park improvements, except for the restoration of existing park features.
The city and Metro have struggled to find bidders able to meet proposed budgets for the project. The two bodies in April approved an increase in budget to $320 million after all bids exceeded the previous budget of $268 million. Even with that increase, the city and Metro said it would have to descale the project to make the numbers work, due to increased labor and materials costs.
The details of the de-scoping were kept secret until Friday, as city staff members were required to sign non-disclosure agreements. The Potomac Yard Metrorail Improvement Working Group (PYMIG), which includes city council members and citizens, was not told of the changes. PYMIG will meet Wednesday from 7-8:30 p.m. at Alexandria City Hall to be briefed on the changes. But, the city noted that it is now too late for elements to be added back.
“Even if significant monies to add back the descoped elements were identified, the station construction procurement process is now too far along to add back the descoped project elements such as the south entrance,” Jinks wrote. “If those elements were added back the station construction start date would be significantly delayed.”
The lack of an entrance to the south would make the station more distant for many nearby residents, as well as some commercial buildings including the new offices of the National Federation of the Blind. The proposed Oakville Triangle development would also be located further away from an entrance.
“It may only be a quarter mile, but a quarter mile can make or break neighborhoods,” said Elena Caudle Hutchison, who has lived in Potomac Yard since 2013.
Caudle Hutchison said she was caught off guard by the descaling plans. She said she does not want to see the project delayed, but said she hoped city and Metro officials would pause any major decisions until the community could weigh in.
Jinks wrote that it’s possible the south entrance could be added back after the station is complete. He noted that the King Street Metro got a new North entrance 22 years after it was built.
“While the station design will be amended now to remove these elements, the City will actively consider future grant opportunities that may expand capacity and improve access to the station based on need,” Jinks wrote. “It will be the City’s intent that…construction at the new Potomac Yard Metrorail Station now will not preclude the future improvements of adding back the south entrance at Glebe Road at some point after the station is constructed and opened for revenue operations.”
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