Concept rendering for an aerial station at Alternative D2.

Alexandria is weighing five potential locations for a future Potomac Yard Metrorail station, along the Yellow and Blue Lines between National Airport and Braddock Road. The Potomac Yard section of Alexandria represents a huge opportunity for walkable, transit-oriented development right on a major Metro corridor. As presentations from the project team make clear, the potential amount of residential and office space, as well as the prices Alexandria will receive for its land and its future tax revenue, depend enormously on building Metro and on the proximity to the station.

An existing reservation allocated space for the station alongside the existing Metro tracks. However, the tracks run along the east side of the CSX tracks, while the potential development is all to the west. Except for the Potomac Greens townhouses, there’s little on that side of the tracks besides the GW Parkway, parkland, and the Potomac River.

All told, 77% of the land within a half mile of the station has no potential for development. In addition, the reservation sits along the flight path to National Airport, and the FAA limits building heights in that area. In Arlington’s Smart Growth Journey, Chris Zimmerman explains that along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, 75% of Metro riders come from the quarter mile closest to each station, making maximizing the station’s walkshed extremely important.


Station location alternatives.



Two alternatives keep the station on the railroad tracks, but move it to the north, away from the flight path. Those locations area closer to the existing Potomac Yard shopping center, which is one of the largest redevelopment opportunities in the area. Both alternatives (B2 and B3 on the above diagram) would move 2 million square feet of future development into the ¼-mile circle, and 4 million into the ½-mile circle, while costing little or nothing more than the existing reserved location (alternative A).

Alternative C2 would construct segment branching off the Metro tracks, running parallel to and closer to Route 1, then rejoining the current line around Four Mile Run. It would combine aerial and underground segments, with the station itself being underground. It would place the station closest to the greatest number of residences and offices, including almost three times as much within ¼ mile, but would also cost about three times as much to build.

The D alternatives seem most promising. These would be aerial lines that run closer to the tracks than C2, but still provide a stop in the middle of what’s now the Potomac Yard Center. Each reaches almost as much development, 9.5 million square feet within ¼ mile compared to 10 million under C2 and 3.5 million under A. However, D1 would only cost about 65% more than A and B, and D2, the most recent addition, only about 44% more.

D2 seems to provide the best benefit for the buck. Spending that buck is definitely in Alexandria’s best long-term interest. The transportation study estimates that 35% of trips to and from the office, retail and residential development would take transit with a Metro station at Alternative A. More would under Alternative D. Meanwhile, only 14% would take transit without a station.

Just having a Metro station also significantly increases the development potential of the site as well as the tax revenue per square foot Alexandria will receive. Opportunities to develop infill Metro stations on the existing system are extremely limited.


Left: Development potential of Landbay F (current Potomac Yard shopping center) with and without Metro. Right: Potential density within ¼ and ½ mile of station for alternative locations.


Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor covers only 7.6% of the county’s land area, but generated 33% of its tax revenue. For Alexandria, maximizing the potential of the existing Metro line will relieve the need for higher taxes and reduce development pressure in existing residential neighborhoods farther from transit.

Via The Arlandrian.

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David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle.