The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) took the Potomac Yard Metro Station discussion outside of City Hall and into the affected neighborhood for the April 30 public hearing at the Corra Kelly Recreation Center. The project had as many detractors in the crowd of local citizens as it did supporters.
James Ashe, manager for Environmental Planning at WMATA, began with a presentation of the four identified Potomac Yard Metro Station options, as well as a no-build alternative, but Ashe also noted that the “no build” option was considered not consistent with Alexandria and regional transit plans.
Build Alternative A is located along existing metro tracks between the CSX Transportation railroad and the north end of the Potomac Greens neighborhood. Build Alternative B is located further north, between the George Washington Parkway and the Potomac Yard Shopping Center. City staff has previously expressed a preference for Alternative B, which places the metro station closer to the existing shopping center, but also encroaches more into the adjacent national park land.
Ashe noted that both plan A and B have sub-variants, one with access to the George Washington Parkway and one without. Commercial vehicles are prohibited from the parkway, but Ashe said waivers could be granted if the site is inaccessible through other means. While the site is, technically, accessible through other routes, those paths travel through residential zones. Ashe said that the noise levels are not expected to exceed Federal Transit Administration standards, but conceded that further study would need to be done.
Jack Summe, a resident of the nearby Potomac Greens neighborhood, was the first to speak at the public hearing. Summe works at the Pentagon and moved to the area with his family for a safe and friendly environment, but says this metro yard would be installed right in his backyard. After a pause, he said that he supported the construction of the metro station and supported build alternative B in particular.
“Alternative B clearly meets the intent of the Potomac Yard Metro Station,” said Summe.
The crowd at the public hearing was fairly evenly divided between those supporting the new metro station and those opposed, either to the whole project or to certain facets. Aimee Custis, a communications officer with the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said the metro station is walkable and inclusive, and endorsed Alternative B as the best solution.
“Alternative B will have an impact on the parks,” said Curtis, “but we support the mitigation measures and the plan is closer to the planned mixed use development. Alternative B is critical to supporting this development.”
Walter Clarke, chairman of the Board for the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, endorsed Alternative B as the most commercially viable option.
However, not all of those at the public meeting were as enthusiastic about the new station.
“I’ve been a metro rider for all the time I have lived here, but the Metro bus can fill the need for mass transit,” said Dino Drudi. “[Bus rapid transit] can distribute all the people who would use the metro and it’s far less expensive. WMATA is over allocating, trying to do too much and it can’t do it all well.”
Most of the complaints regarding the proposed metro station came from local neighbors concerned about safety and those worried about the stop’s impact on the George Washington Parkway.
“Alternative B damages the George Washington Parkway,” said Katy Cannady. “Even if you don’t care about American history, this is the nicest drive in the city. We should not even be considering this.”
Like Drudi, Cannady called for the city to consider bus rapid transit as an alternative to the metro station. However, if the city was intent on having a metro station, Cannady said option A was the best out of a set of undesirable options.
Ashe said that the comment period on the Potomac Yard Metro station is open until May 18. On May 20, City Council will make a selection on its preferred alternative.