All things considered, for a train derailment, the May 19 crash of a freight train on Wheeler Avenue wasn’t as big a nightmare as it could have been. More than 100 train cars spilled off the tracks, throwing garbage, sand and shingles across the rails.
“It’s a mess,” said City Manager Mark Jinks at the City Council’s May 22 meeting, “but the good news is no one was injured.”
A statement from rail operator CSX said there was no structural damage from the derailment. City Council members still expressed a fair amount of skepticism and concern, but Jinks said early reports indicated that the cause of the derailment was that the weight of the train cars was off-centered.
Affordable Housing Cost Increases
Hot on the heels of the Potomac Yard facing structural changes, Alexandria’s Affordable Housing renovation projects are also feeling the brunt of a region-wide increase in labor and resources costs. At the May 22 City Council meeting, the council approved a modification to the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation’s (AHDC) plan to refinance Lacy Court Apartments and an increased loan to the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority’s (ARHA) Ramsey Homes redevelopment.
Helen McIlvaine, director of the City’s Office of Housing, said the AHDC modification would relieve the corporation of an earlier requirement to repay $500,000 to the city as part of a loan on the property. In January 2017, AHDC requested the $7.1 million loan on Lacy Court Apartments be reduced to $3.8 million, which the organization would then try to finance with a tax credit application. In exchange for the loan forgiveness, AHDC agreed to repay $500,000 in proceeds from the refinancing, but an unexpected increase in costs led AHDC back to the council to request to keep the additional funding as part of the project.
For Ramsey Homes, ARHA requested an increase of $1.6 million to the project’s existing $2 million budget. According to a letter to the council from ARHA Executive Director and CEO Keith Pettigrew, the project was hit with both a decline in tax credit pricing after the enactment of tax reform decreased the corporate tax rate and an increase in cost. Since the initial cost estimates, the price of steel has increased 20 percent while lumber has increased 28 percent. The building designs were also altered to meet code and green building compliance.
The City Council unanimously approved both changes.