Letter to the community: An apology for the Potomac Yard Metro process

Letter to the community: An apology for the Potomac Yard Metro process
Mark Jinks (Courtesy photo)

To the Alexandria Community:

Since the 1970s, the city has worked closely with residents and businesses toward the vision of a new Potomac Yard Metro station. After decades of hard work, we are closer than ever to the significant transit, environmental and economic benefits the station will provide.

While there has been extensive communication, consultation and engagement among stakeholders throughout this long and complex process, this was not the case for the procurement phase of the project last year and this year. On behalf of your city government, I apologize that we did not live up to the standards we set and our community expects.

To maintain the integrity of the competitive procurement process, we were required to curtail some of our communication with the public while Metro reviewed confidential
bids from prospective construction contractors. City staff were permitted to participate in the process only if they adhered to Metro’s strict confidentiality rules.

The station was originally designed to have two entrances on the west side of the tracks – one on the north end of the platform and one on the south end – and another entrance on the east side of the tracks. When initial bids far exceeded the project’s budget, the only practical way to keep the $320 million station financially viable was to remove the south entrance along Potomac Avenue. The north entrance will be accessible about a block away.

We believed we were prohibited from informing the public of cost-saving design changes. It now appears there was a critical misunderstanding about what could be released.
In hindsight, city staff and I should have pressed harder to clarify the basis for keeping the design changes confidential. This would have allowed us to have a more informed conversation about communicating changes to the public.

Many members of our community are understandably upset. We typically provide better communication, and the community rightfully expected better. We would have preferred to communicate the design changes much earlier and more directly than we did, and we commit to more thoroughly reviewing how confidentiality applies or does not apply to future situations and projects.

The Potomac Yard Metro station will dramatically improve transit options, help the environment by taking cars off the road, spur economic growth through new homes and jobs and provide increased tax revenue to meet vital community needs. We are committed to providing timely and accurate information about this project and look forward to a new station that will make our entire community proud.

– City Manager Mark Jinks