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Metro Leaving the Station?

Excerpt from Justin's November Newsletter

The Federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process is a long cumbersome process designed to assess environmental impacts of proposed actions and help shape decision-making by presenting policymakers with the full range of costs and benefits.

We are now nearly four years into the EIS process on our efforts to bring a new Metrorail station to Potomac Yard. While the duration is in the norm for a project of this size, it is frustrating that it has taken this long. However, we are now nearing a critical juncture in the effort, as the draft statement will be released to the public in the Spring.

Once the statement is released, there will be a series of public hearings and workshops held by both the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and the City. That public input will lead into a Council decision on the locally preferred option.

While the EIS process began considering many options for the location of the Metro, the process boiled down to three "build" options, and the "no-build" option.

We have been considering Alternatives A, B and D. Alternative A is the site of the original reservation for Metro. Alternative B is the location that had been agreed upon with the landowner in 2010 when the North Potomac Yard Plan was approved. Alternative D was an option utilizing an aerial station to place the station in a more central location.

Those three build options grew to four, as our Federal partners asked us to consider a variation of Alternative B, called B-CSX, which involved moving the existing CSX freight and passenger rail tracks in order to prevent any of the impacts of Alternative B on existing National Park Service land adjacent to the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

While all five alternatives will be addressed in the draft report, it has been clear for some time that both alternatives B-CSX and D are simply not feasible for a variety of financial and logistical reasons.

Of the build options the choice of a locally preferred option comes down to Alternatives A and B.

Late last month, the Potomac Yard Metro Implementation Committee, on which I serve on along with the Mayor, received an update of the financial analysis for the construction of the Metro.

While the report continues to consider all four build options in detail, it also confirmed what we have long known: construction of the Potomac Yard Metro is the largest economic development project this City has undertaken. It will positively impact the future of our City for generations to come.

Most importantly for the taxpayers of this City, the construction of the Metro is not funded with General Fund tax dollars. The adopted funding plan included a developer contribution, proceeds from a new Special Tax District for landowners in Potomac Yard, and a portion of tax revenue from the development in Potomac Yard (utilizing a form of Tax Increment Financing).

Since the approval of that plan, we have also added $69 million from the new regional transportation funds originating from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, from a variety of taxes approved by the General Assembly.

Both alternatives A and B generate positive cash flow for the City, create thousands of jobs, and diversify the City's tax base in a way that we have only dreamed about.

For those reasons, and many others, it should come as no surprise that when the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce released their 2015 Legislative Agenda last week, it affirmed Potomac Yard Metro as its number 1 priority for the City's economic vitality.

While there is certainly more work to do, this project continues to make progress.

With a little luck, we hope to have a station opened within 5 years.

 

 

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