Neighbors, businesses angry at changes to Potomac Yard Metro station

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A long-planned entrance to the proposed Potomac Yard Metro station has been eliminated, upsetting several residents and businesses in Alexandria.

The decision comes weeks before Metro is expected to award a construction contract for the Blue and Yellow Line station along Route 1, south of Crystal City.

In a May 4 memo to Mayor Allison Silberberg and the city council, Alexandria City Manager Mark Jinks detailed changes to the station, including the elimination of the south station entrance at East Glebe Road, as well as the south mezzanine, the south pedestrian-cycle bridge and the east ramp, according to the Washington Business Journal.

The decision was made to keep the project within budget, according to the memo. Last month, the Alexandria City Council raised the project’s budget from $268 million to $320 million, citing material and labor costs.

However, the decision to eliminate a planned station entrance has rankled residents of existing neighborhoods and businesses which have been banking on and, in some cases, advertising Metro access in the near future.

The National Industries for the Blind, one of the first organizations to commit to a new headquarters, built its 100,000 square-foot facility within The Exchange at Potomac Yard, near where East Glebe Road crosses Route 1.

Now, the entrance that had been planned at the intersection won’t be built.

“Proximity to the Metro station was a key factor in choosing to locate our new national training center in Potomac yard,” NIB said in a statement, reported in the Business Journal. “This change in plans will require people who are blind to navigate a longer, more hazardous path to access public transportation.”

The newly disclosed plans will still retain the entrance planned for the current Potomac Yard shopping center, which contains big box stores and a movie complex. The shopping center will be transformed into a mixed-use neighborhood, including housing, restaurants, and retail.

Alexandria officials are attempting to assuage concerned residents and businesses by pointing out the city will consider future grant opportunities that may expand capacity and improve access to the station.

“For instance, the city in 2005 added a north entrance and mezzanine to the King Street Metro station 22 years after the original station opened,” Jinks wrote in the memo.

The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce said scrapping the planned entrance diminishes the economic impact of the new Metro station, and called it “a violation of trust with the businesses and residents who have already invested in Potomac Yard based on the promise of a fully functioning Metro station.”

“To spring this on them now, when many have already signed leases or begun construction, suggests a partner acting in bad faith,” the chamber said in a statement.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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