Council approves southern entrance for Potomac Yard Metro station

Council approves southern entrance for Potomac Yard Metro station
The approved design for the Potomac Yard Metro station's southern entrance, featuring a pavilion and bridge. (Image/City of Alexandria)

By Cody Mello-Klein |

City council unanimously approved the design plan for the Potomac Yard Metro station’s much-discussed southern entrance during Saturday’s public hearing, which was held remotely via Zoom.

Throughout the Metro station’s design process, the southern entrance has been a controversial topic. Residents were outraged when they found out in May 2018 that the southern entrance had been removed from plans for the station. Less than a year later, following Amazon’s HQ2 announcement, state funding brought the entrance back.

The approved design now includes a southern entrance pavilion, including elevators and stairs, with a pedestrian bridge that connects to the northern entrance.

Over the past year, the city and WMATA have debated whether the southern entrance could be constructed within the $50 million allocated in a state grant, after the contractor came to the table with price estimates higher than $50 million for three design options.

In June 2019, council voted unanimously to simplify the design for the southern entrance and directed city staff to work with WMATA to scale back the design from a $75 million cost estimate to one closer to $50 million.

City staff introduced two design options in March. When given the choice between a ramp that was planned for in the special use permit and a pedestrian bridge and pavilion, 13 out of 14 members of the Potomac Yard Metro Implementation Work Group favored the latter.

The contractor for the project came forward with another estimate that the city and WMATA agreed to, one that could be met by the state funds, plus credit from the original ramp design, according to a staff presentation.

The approved design will replace the ramp with a flat, covered 520-foot bridge which can be accessed via a pavilion. The ramp option would have cost about $10 to $15 million less than the new design, according to a March 20 city news release.

Mayor Justin Wilson expressed his relief that the negotiations over the southern entrance were finally coming to a close and asked whether the new design would impact the project’s schedule.

The southern entrance should not impact the schedule and the full $320 million Potomac Yard Metro station construction project is still planned for completion in March 2022, Daphne Kott, a civil engineer in the Department of Project Implementation, said.