Moran: Don’t expect federal aid for Metro project

Moran: Don’t expect federal aid for Metro project
The Potomac Yard Metro station has been delayed in opening. (File photo)

By Derrick Perkins

When Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg prodded U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) on the odds of garnering federal dollars for the proposed Potomac Yard Metro station, she got a blunt response.

“There’s a great possibility you could seek those funds,” Moran deadpanned during the June 11 city council meeting. “The chances of getting it are about zero.”

Northern Virginia has received more than its share of federal money for major transportation projects, Moran said, citing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and construction of the Metro Silver Line extension. The first phase of the rail expansion will receive about $900 million from Washington.

“I don’t think you’re going to get any federal money anytime in the near future for the Metro,” Moran said. “We’ve gotten more than our share.”

But that’s not news to city officials who have worked on the estimated $240 million rail project. It was clear from the beginning that planners couldn’t count on Washington for financial help, said Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks.

Since the station doesn’t extend the rail line — it’s considered an “infill” project — the development was never eligible for two major federal grants. And because the region’s congressional delegation put its weight behind the Silver Line project beforehand, going back to Capitol Hill and asking for more wasn’t feasible, Jinks said.

“We got that approval and for the region’s congressional delegation to ask again — we were told it was not in the cards,” Jinks said.

In the past, officials have relied on Moran using earmarks to secure dollars for local projects, but with Congress eschewing them, planners had to find other funding sources.

“From a funding point of view, we were going to have to look for sources within Potomac Yard,” Jinks said.

The project’s budget relies upon a mix of developer contributions, revenue from special tax districts and the expected influx of tax dollars from the neighborhood’s ongoing redevelopment.

But City Hall hasn’t given up on securing support from the federal and state governments. Jinks believes it’s likely Alexandria will receive help from Richmond as well as possibly line up a federal loan — with a much more palatable interest rate — to cover up to as much as half the project’s cost.

The Potomac Yard project was scheduled for completion in 2016, but a delay in the environmental impact study may push that date back. The presence of the Metro station is expected to fuel redevelopment in the neighborhood.