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WMATA vows to learn from past mistakes as Potomac Yard Metro station nears completion

Construction work at Potomac Yard Metro station, photo via City of Alexandria

(Updated 6:50 p.m.) As the Potomac Yard Metro Station nears the finish line, WMATA representatives told Alexandria leaders at a meeting this week they’re trying to learn from previous mistakes and avoid fumbling the ball this close to the endzone.

Alexandria will be cut off from the rest of the Metro system from Sept. 10 to Oct. 22 while WMATA works to bring the Potomac Metro station in line. At a meeting of the Potomac Yard Metrorail Implementation Work Group on Monday — where city staff also discussed additional commuter options — WMATA explained what will be going on inside the station during the shutdown.

The opening of the station was delayed by approximately half a year.

Fred Robertson, project manager for the Potomac Yard Metro station, said that starting on Sept. 10, WMATA will begin cutting the old track and working to install new track through the station.

Like Hernán Cortés burning his ships, WMATA said an early part of that work will involve cutting the existing rails connecting Alexandria to the rest of the Metro system, after which there’s no going back until the station opens.

“Let’s say you complete two weeks of work and testing doesn’t go well: at that point is the only option to go back to the other section of track?” Mayor Justin Wilson asked.

“There is no other section of track once we cut it,” Robertson said. “It’s gone.”

The cutover work is expected to last from Sept. 10-Sept. 28. From Sept. 28 to Oct. 22. Robertson said WMATA will be running tests on the systems, safe braking and more.

Trains will start moving through the station — but not stopping there — on Oct. 23.

Roberson also acknowledged that construction and testing will likely be disruptive to neighbors, with trains moving at all hours between National Airport and the Braddock Metro station. That will involve train horns and braking sounds extending even after hours.

“Let your HOA know: there’s nothing we can do about that,” Robertson said.

There’s no fixed date for when the station will fully open. WMATA would not commit to a specific date beyond the existing fall 2022 time. Construction will also likely continue through January even after the station opens, Robertson said.

One of the members of the group told Robertson that if anything changes and there is a delay, that information needs to be made public as quickly as possible.

“We talk about that often so as not to happen again,” Robertson said. “I bring it up all the time with the south entrance. I wasn’t a part of it, so I can say that.”

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