Contractor named for controversial Potomac Yard Metro

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An image generated by WMATA that shows the revised Potomac Yard Metro plan with a northwest entrance and planned southwest access point. The original plan called for three entrances. (Image courtesy WMATA)
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By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com

WMATA and the City of Alexandria have named Potomac Yard Constructors, a
dual venture from Halmar International and Schiavone Construction Co., as the contractor in the long-in-the-works and often fraught Potomac Yard Metro project.

The contract totals $213.7 million and puts into motion the construction of the Metro station after delays and controversy. Deputy City Manager Emily Baker said that, though the Potomac Yard Constructors’ bid was $106.3 million less than the increased $320 million budget approved by council in April, it was still necessary to eliminate the southern entrance because of other expenses the city will incur during the process.

“We increased the budget by about $50 million in the spring because there are other costs to delivering the Metro station,” Baker said. “… There’s a lot of expense that goes into just the management of the contract on the WMATA side. The construction cost is not the
full cost.”

Some of those expenses include acquiring right of way, easements and environmental
mitigation for the land exchange, Baker said.

“We needed to reduce the scope and increase the budget in order to pay construction costs and other costs associated with the project,” she said.

Despite the planned southern entrance being eliminated, Baker said language in the contract with Potomac Yard Constructors includes an access point for residents that live to the south. Improved plans also call for extending the scope of the northwest entrance to Potomac Greens, Old Town Greens and neighborhoods on the east side of the station.

What the southwest access point would look like would be decided at a later date, though.

“We have some ideas, and there was a specific description, but we want to make
sure we have some dialogue before we finalize,” Baker said. “… The language in the contract talked about a ramp connection to part of the north entrance, and we want to make sure we get input from the community that the ramp is the best way to provide that access.”

The project has drawn ire throughout the process, which came to a head in May when City Manager Mark Jinks announced that the station’s southern entrance would be eliminated from the plan.

After Jinks made the announcement in a memo, it was revealed that the city manager and city officials, as well as at least some members of city council, had known about plans to eliminate the southern entrance since mid-2017.

Jinks said city employees were bound to secrecy about the potential elimination by a WMATA non-disclosure agreement, but emails released as part of a FOIA request filed by Potomac Yard residents indicate that there was no need to keep the elimination secret.

Baker continued to maintain it was WMATA’s procurement process that prevented earlier engagement with the community. Baker said, though, that the city’s planned public engagement process with the community this fall is a departure from how it was handled during that process.

“This is how we like to do business: engage the community. We recognize that many members were frustrated that while we were in [WMATA’s] procurement process that we weren’t able to talk,” Baker said. “We’re very much interested in engaging with the
community, as we would with any DSUP.”

The first community engagement effort of the fall is a meeting of the expanded Potomac Yard Metrorail Implementation Work Group scheduled for Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. at the Charles Houston Recreation Center. Baker said other community meetings will follow, and the planning commission and city council are expected to consider the redesigned Metro station in December.

The Potomac Yard Metro, as of now, doesn’t have a project manager. Former Project Manager Jason Kacamburas left the position to return to a company he formerly worked for, Baker said. Kacamburas left the position after Jinks’ memo was released in May.

Construction is expected to begin on the Metro station in spring 2019 and completion is scheduled for late 2021 or early 2022.

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