To the editor:
The Alexandria Times should be commended for devoting so much print to getting to the bottom of the Potomac Yard Metro station opening-delay fiasco. This exemplifies what newspapers have always done well and why they continue to be important, even as younger generations abandon them for algorithmically curated, superficial, bias-confirming, on-line infotainment masquerading as news.
Your accompanying editorial’s thesis is that the delay due to the unstable soil underneath the tracks was due to a failure to fully investigate the underlying geotechnical conditions in the marshy site where city hall insisted on locating the station to suit maximal development.
But WMATA did know that the underlying soil was unstable because WMATA built 1,500 concrete columns 50 to 60 feet deep to support the weight of the station structure. It would, consequently, appear that WMATA’s geotechnical reports did adequately document site conditions. Why, then, didn’t WMATA bother to calculate whether the soil could support the weight of the trains, leading to having to remove and relay 1,400 feet of track?
In a previous letter on this topic, I pressed the question as to who screwed up: Was it the city for asking for the impossible, WMATA for failing to adequately spec the job for which it was letting a construction contract, or the construction company? And who is on the hook for the enormous extra cost associated with having to remove and amend the soil under 1,400 feet of trackage?
Mayor Justin Wilson dismissed the condition of the soil as a “minor obstacle,” when the Alexandria Times interviewed him, but said nothing about the additional associated construction costs or who is on the hook for them – although he did dismiss those of us opposed to the station’s siting as “a small group.”
A project of this magnitude should be subject to a bond referendum, as it would be in many places, because so much money from various taxpayer sources is involved. Virginia’s distinction between counties having to hold bond referenda, while cities do not, is arbitrary.
A bond referendum would have allowed Wilson’s contention that those of us opposed to the station’s siting are “a small group” to be tested and would force more transparency into the process because bonding for a cost overrun would subsequently also have to undergo a referendum.
-Dino Drudi, Alexandria