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Southern Entrance Debate Resurfaces at Potomac Yard Metro Groundbreaking

(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) After 20 years of planning, work has started on the Potomac Yard Metro station.

Officials past and present came together at 2 p.m. today (Thursday) at the future Potomac Yard Metro station, currently the parking lot of Regal Potomac Yard movie theater.

The goal is to have the station opened by March 2022.

“This has been a quarter-century in the making,” Mayor Justin Wilson said, who then jokingly quoted former Vice President Joe Biden. “This is a big… deal.”

The Potomac Yard Metro station is helping to spur new development throughout the area, including a new Virginia Tech campus and a new mixed-use redevelopment where the Potomac Yard Shopping Center is today. Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington was also cited during the ceremony several times as a new development bound inextricably to the Potomac Yard Metro station.

Wilson credited former Mayor Patsy Ticer, who died in 2017, with leading the fight in the 1990s to keep a Washington Redskins stadium from being built at the site. Wilson then recognized the string of mayors that followed her: Kerry Donley, Bill Euille, and Allison Silberberg for each pushing the effort to have the station built forward.

Wilson also credited staff, particularly City Manager Mark Jinks, and local residents.

“This station will happen because of the persistence of residents,” Wilson said. “This will be their station.”

Not all of those residents are happy with the way the station is currently structured. A southern entrance to the station was initially promised to local residents, but swelling costs for the site resulted in the entrance being eliminated. Almost as controversial as the change was the revelation that members of the City Council and staff privately knew about the change but continued to say publicly said the south entrance was still planned.

A group of local residents were at the groundbreaking with a banner and signs demanding the south entrance be restored. The entrance has continually been brought up in the Potomac Yard Working Group meetings, including earlier this week on Tuesday, but while a ramp may be built from the southern neighborhoods to the area outside the station, it’s not the true southern entrance many residents are hoping for.

Staff said at the meeting that changing the design now to include a new southern entrance would significantly increase the cost of the project.

“What is annoying is that they sold us a bill of goods and it was a lie,” said Michael Whitehead, a nearby resident.

“It’s been a frustrating process,” said Adrien Lopez, a leader in a group of local residents calling for southern access to be restored.

On the dais, Mila Yochum, President of the Potomac Yard Civic Association, recognized the ongoing debate but said that local leaders shouldn’t mistake it for a lack of excitement about the Metro station.

“We’re excited to be a part of [this] development,” Yochum said. “I can’t wait to walk down to my favorite restaurant. I’m eager to see the station come to completion and we will continue to work on a southern entrance.”

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