Potomac Yard Metro Station has opened in Alexandria. This is a long-awaited realization of a dream for many residents of the city. It's also a pillar of Alexandria's economic development plans in conjunction with National Landing, Amazon.com Inc., and its HQ2.
This is the 98th stop in the largest public transit system in the country, and the second infill since NoMa-Gallaudet U was opened on the Red Line of Washington D.C. in 2004. This is a key component of National Landing. It's the branded corporate-academic submarket that spans the Alexandria-Arlington County border. The area was redesigned in 2018, after Amazon and Virginia Tech announced plans to build second corporate headquarters there and a graduate-level technology campus.
It is a big deal that the station has finally opened its platforms for the Blue and yellow lines. The economic importance of Alexandria is difficult to overstate. It is expected that the station will support thousands of new jobs and generate enormous amounts of private investments as well as new tax revenue over time.
The station was made a reality after 'a very long time', said a positively giddy Justin Wilson. He spoke to hundreds of people, including past and current public officials, during a celebration held Friday outside the north entrance of the station. The event was held just yards away from Virginia Tech's new $1 billion innovation campus that is expected to meet the needs of regional tech, aerospace, and defense companies. It is also only a few hundred yards from the Potomac Yard Shopping Center, anchored by Target, and the National Landing mixed-use development led by JBG Smith Properties.
The station has not only required the support, focus, and motivation of political and business leaders but it also requires a lot of money. This will continue for many years. The price tag for the station is $370 million. A portion of the money came from the federal government, and some from the state. Around $70 million was reimbursed to the city in cash by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. This authority distributes funding for transportation projects, primarily supported by regional sales taxes.
The city pays the majority of the $250 million. The city will guarantee the entire amount of $225 million through bonds. The debt will be repaid with the special tax revenue generated by existing and future developments that the station will stimulate.
Any arrangement has a downside risk if the new development is not as anticipated, and all of the taxes and other revenues generated by the development aren't realized. No matter what, the debt must be repaid.
Potomac Yard, once a huge rail yard, and proposed for a new NFL Stadium in the early 90s, is now a development area with offices, mixed-use and residential buildings. Inova is building a new health center at Oakville Triangle, just across Richmond Highway. The center is scheduled to open in the next year.
Metro's future financial situation is uncertain, causing a general euphoria about the new station. Under Covid-19, ridership and fare revenue plummeted. The numbers have recovered a bit, but are still nowhere near the pre-pandemic level. As long as hybrid and remote work continues, there is little chance of them returning to that level. Potomac Yard may be closed down or even abandoned if regional, federal and state officials do not find a way to fund the system. This will almost certainly require additional public revenue, whether from localities in the region, the state, or another dedicated source.
This would be a financial gut punch.
Holly Sullivan said that the Metro between Maryland, D.C., and Virginia has made it easier for residents, commuters and business people to get around. It's important that commuters continue to have a viable alternative.