Hope remains for Potomac Yard Metro west of CSX tracks
While most plans for a Potomac Yard Metro station place it along the current tracks, hope remains alive for a better option: placing the station on the west side of the CSX tracks, closer to planned infill development. This would maximize the number of potential riders and best reduce traffic.
At a meeting last night on station alternatives, staff revealed that they're still evaluating this option, D3. They don't yet have a cost estimate, but expect to know by February. Meanwhile, this option is tentatively listed as "technically and financially feasible."
The Potomac Yard infill metro station began its environmental review process late last year. There are 4 general alternatives, A through D, with various sub-options. Alternatives A and B propose a station in the current Metrorail right-of-way, separated from existing and future development by the CSX tracks.
Alternative C, meanwhile, proposed an underground station to the west of the CSX tracks under the existing shopping center. The station entrances would be between Potomac Avenue and Jefferson Davis Highway.
While this location would maximize projected ridership and effect on development, the underground station would be extremely expensive. Based on the EIS scoping document, they were ruled out as technically and financially unfeasible. The proximity to Four Mile Run and the CSX tracks appears to be to blame.
Finally, Alternative D proposed an aerial station where the tracks would rise over their current location, cross over to the west side of the the CSX tracks, then return to the east side after the station to rejoin the existing tracks. This alternative doesn't have the station as far west as the underground alternatives, instead leaving it just to the east of Potomac Avenue.
Like the underground options, the original two aerial alternatives, D1 and D2, had been deemed prohibitively expensive and/or technically unfeasible. But during the scoping phase of the EIS, a new D3 option arose that would place the station inside the Potomac Yard development footprint.
Though D3 was listed as financially feasible, at the meeting to review the report last night, it was revealed that an estimate for option D3 hasn't been nailed down yet. However, the implementation group must have a ballpark figure in mind to list D3 as financially feasible. An estimate will be revealed by a meeting on February 6.
While the A and all 3 B alternatives that remain also meet these four criteria, D3 has a benefit the others do not.
Alternative D3 is the last remaining alternative which places the station on the west side of the CSX right-of-way. This is important, because options the Route 1 side of the CSX tracks move the Metro closer to more potential riders and will therefore increase potential ridership. Proposed development will surely increase the number of trips to and from the area, so capturing the most possible trips via transit is essential for traffic mitigation.
With option D3 still on the table, the Potomac Yard Metro station could serve almost as many people as the underground and alternate aerial options for a much smaller cost.
The advisory group found that the D (aerial station) and C (underground station) alternatives significantly increase the amount of potential development, and therefore people, that fall within the ¼-mile and ½-mile walkshed. They move the station further into the eventual PY development area, and closer to the existing medium density neighborhoods to the west.
Alternative A would serve significantly fewer people without a lengthy walk. This will drive many away from Metro as a feasible transportation option. The new D3 option is closer to options B1, B2, and B3 than the other rejected aerial options, but will still save a lot of walking as well as stairs, escalators, and elevators required to go up, over the CSX tracks, and back down to a Metro platform.
Unfortunately, options D1 and D2 were rejected as they did not prove technically feasible. Both aerial options were farther north and so would have served the densest part of the planned development most conveniently. You can review the scoping presentation for more information about feasibility.
Other new alternatives that were considered during the scoping session and found incompatible with stated goals were a VRE station, parking garages, and additional stations developed in other parts of Alexandria. When a final alternative is chosen, it will be compared with the no-build scenario.
At that point, the PY Metro Station Implementation Work Group will send the EIS forward to WMATA. The public has opportunities for input throughout. Here is the high level project schedule, with the station projected to open in 2016.
The final decision on the station alternative is far from made. One of the reasons the 'D' series of alternatives was rejected earlier was the developer didn't want to deal with building out the PY development while working around Metro construction. This is still a possible concern, though the new alignment may have been devised to mitigate this impact.
It is also possible that option D3 is still more expensive than option 'A' and the various 'B' options. However the D3 option remains the last possibility to make the Potomac Yard metro station truly the center of a future transit oriented development node.
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