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Metro work vehicle struck on Oronoco Street at N Henry Street (staff photo by James Cullum)

It’s been a rough week for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), and to top things off: someone hit a Metro work vehicle in the Braddock neighborhood this afternoon.

The crash occurred around 2:30 p.m. on Oronoco Street near the intersection with N Henry Street.

There were no injuries in the crash and Oronoco Street was not closed, though the lane closure did cause a significant backup — though at least this time WMATA isn’t to blame for the delay.

James Cullum contributed to this story

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Last Friday, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) announced that the Potomac Yard Metro station would not be opening this fall, as they’d been insisting it would for months.

The new opening date is set as sometime in 2023. The announcement also came with an update that the shutdown cutting Alexandria off from the rest of the Metro station would be extended into November.

The delay is the latest in a long series of screw-ups connected to the Potomac Yard project, from a delay earlier this year to Metro and city officials concealing information about the station losing a southern entrance back in 2018.

Beyond Potomac Yard, the announcement came on the heels of a new report casting serious doubts about the safety on the rail line after the Metro system reportedly failed to fully address the issues that caused a train derailment last year.

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

(Updated 2:15 p.m.) The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) announced that the Potomac Yard Metro station’s opening will be delayed yet again.

WMATA said in a statement that the Metro shutdown impacting all of Alexandria will be extended into November and the station, set to open this fall, will not open until sometime in 2023.

Just as WMATA had been vague about when in the fall the station would open, there’s no timeline for when in 2023 the station will open. Given that the station was originally set to open in April 2022, it’s possible the station’s opening could be delayed a full year past the original opening date.

“Regretfully, Metro announces that the new Potomac Yard Station will not open this calendar year,” WMATA said in a release. “The delay in completing construction of the station is due to the contractor’s failure to meet the project delivery schedule. Metro will continue to work with the contractor to produce an achievable schedule and will provide an update by the end of this year.”

WMATA said as site work got underway at Potomac Yard, crews discovered issues with underlying soil that affected the structural stability of the ground beneath the tracks. A remediation plan was developed and implemented, but WMATA said that reinforcing the ground below the tracks “required removing any work already completed, excavating additional soil beneath 1400 feet of track, and installing new subgrade materials to provide the required stability.”

According to Executive Vice President of Capital Delivery Andy Off:

We are frustrated with these developments on the Potomac Yard Station project. The team has been working around the clock to push the project delivery team to perform in accordance with the schedule. Recently, it has become clear that the published schedule will not be met, unfortunately delaying the opening of this important station. On behalf of our customers and the City of Alexandria, we apologize for this inconvenience. We will continue to work as quickly as possible to deliver a high-quality station, and we are doing everything within our power to move the project forward in a safe and responsible way.

Currently, Alexandria is cut-off from the rest of the Metro system. That was supposed to end on Saturday, Oct. 22, but WMATA said that ending has been pushed back to Nov. 5. WMATA officials previously said that once work had started on the station, it would be virtually impossible to reconnect Alexandria to the rest of the Metro system until the station was ready to open.

“Metro is extending the closure of six stations south of Reagan National Airport due to unexpected site conditions and remediation efforts for the future Potomac Yard Station,” WMATA said in a release. “The announcement today comes three weeks before stations were scheduled to reopen to give our customers time to plan their trips accordingly.”

WMATA said free shuttle bus service will continue to be available through the extended shutdown.

“As always, Metro will continue to work collaboratively with the City of Alexandria and the contractor to resolve these scheduling issues and continue our commitment of transparency to the local community,” the release said.

Mayor Justin Wilson called the delays “unacceptable” and said the project needs more direct oversight by WMATA:

The numerous delays to the Potomac Yard construction project are unacceptable. This critically important project requires more intentional oversight by WMATA. Our residents and businesses deserve better from our partners.

This latest setback must be met with urgency and significant actions by WMATA and its contractor to recover from the time and money lost. The City of Alexandria has provided specific operational actions to WMATA that we believe will more effectively manage the contractor’s efforts to complete this project in an expedited and efficient manner.

The City is also demanding that the financial impacts of the numerous delays be assessed and adjusted by WMATA to the benefit of our community. We will continue working with our partners to ensure transit riders have accessible alternatives during this continued shutdown.

We cannot continue to repeat these failures.

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We’re just a nebulous amount of time away from the opening of the Potomac Yard Metro station, but the station is already showing up on new Metro maps.

The ongoing shutdown for Alexandria to bring the Potomac Yard Metro station into the system is scheduled to finish on Oct. 22. Metro officials said trains will be passing through but not stopping at the station.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has said the station will open this fall, and Fred Robertson, project manager for the Potomac Yard Metro station, said there’s no more definite date available even as the year slides into fall.

The station was supposed to open in the spring but was pushed back to fall because of a contracting error.

The new map shows the Potomac Yard station as just a white dot lacking the black circle of its completed peers — indicating that the Potomac Yard Metro station is a “future station”. If WMATA keeps to its “fall” timeline, the new map should only be up to date for two months at most.

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National Landing-Potomac Yard Metroway (image via Google Maps)

One of the many frustrations facing Alexandria commuters during the Metro shutdown has been buses stuck in traffic next to dedicated bus lanes, but WMATA says adding shuttles would overload the existing transitway.

Among the many frustrations, which included long lines for shuttles, commuters were left wondering why their buses traveling up Route 1 were stuck in mixed traffic next to the mostly empty bus lanes.

While Metro and the City of Alexandria worked together on Metro replacement plans, Sherri Ly, media relations manager for WMATA, said that adding shuttles to the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway’s dedicated bus lanes would have overloaded and broken that system.

“Metro worked with the City of Alexandria to come up with a traffic management strategy that would not impede on Metroway and other transit services that use the transitway,” Ly said. “The signal timing on the transitway is designed to balance the existing bus routes and traffic on Route 1. Adding shuttle buses to the transitway would quadruple the number of vehicles on the roadway, well beyond the capacity.”

Ly said the additional buses would have added congestion to the transitway, which is also being pushed as an (albeit more local) Metro alternative.

“Adjusting the signal timing to accommodate four times the number of buses would create extensive back-ups on Route 1 and the additional buses would add congestion to the transitway, impacting routes like Metroway which are an important travel alternative for customers during the shutdown,” Ly said. “Additionally, the transitway does not extend the length of the shuttle bus routes which operate to/from Crystal City.”

The Yellow Line shutdown as the Potomac Yard Metro station is brought into the system is expected to last until Oct. 22, though it’s unclear when the station itself will open. A longer shutdown, which will close the connection between the Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations for repairs, is expected to continue until spring 2023.

The City of Alexandria worked with transit organizations to put together alternatives to the Metro for commuters, from buses to boats. Some of those have hit snags, however. The city’s bus network, DASH, lacks the manpower to take over additional bus routes to make up for the loss of Metro service.

The Virginia Railway Express offered a fare-free September for commuters around the region, but the entire system could be paralyzed by a potential freight rail strike. As of Thursday afternoon, however, it seems the strike has likely been averted.

Photo via Google Maps

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Alexandria Metro riders will be cut off from the rest of the system starting next Saturday (Sept. 10), the start of a series of Metro closures planned through early next year.

The worst of it for Alexandrians will be the stretch from Sept. 10 through Oct. 22 as WMATA works to bring the new Potomac Yard Metro station in line with the rest of the system. After that, the Yellow Line Tunnel connecting the Pentagon station to L’Enfant Plaza will be closed for repairs until spring 2023.

While city staff have said Metro ridership is still only around 30% of what it was pre-pandemic, those who do make use of the Metro will have to find other ways of getting around.

The most obvious replacement is the bus. WMATA has said that multiple shuttle buses will be running along the Yellow and Blue Line routes through Alexandria, with additional shuttles connecting into D.C.

The next closest replacement is the Virginia Railway Express (VRE), a train system that stops at King Street adjacent to the Metro station and continues up to Union Station in D.C. The VRE will be offering free rides all along the route in September and free passage between the Alexandria and D.C. locations in October.

But the city has also been looking at other alternatives to boost to help get commuters to and from Alexandria.

Capital Bikeshare will be offering free rides to anyone going to or from Alexandria, or riding inside of Alexandria, with use of a special code at checkout.

City staff also said in a recent meeting that they are working with the Potomac Water Taxi to get earlier service in Alexandria, shifting the boat’s role from tourism to a commuter focus.

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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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While buses and trains are centerstage in efforts to replace Metro during an extended closure planned through earlier next year, Alexandria is also looking to bicycles and boats to help make up the difference.

Alexandria will be cut off from the rest of the Metro system from Sept. 10 to Oct. 22 as WMATA works to bring the Potomac Yard Metro station in line with the rest of the system. Then, from September through spring 2023, the Yellow Line Tunnel connecting Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations will be closed for repairs, forcing Alexandria commuters to loop up into D.C. through the Blue Line.

In a meeting of the Potomac Yard Metrorail Implementation Work Group on Monday, Thomas Hamed, an urban planner with the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services (T&ES), outlined some of the other methods the city is looking at to get commuters back and forth between Alexandria and D.C.

“Capital Bikeshare will be free for people coming to and from Alexandria,” Hamed said. “We will have a code with Capital Bikeshare operator Lyft to allow people who either live or work in Alexandria to use the Capital Bikeshare for free for any trip that comes to or from the city or within the city.”

The offer resembles bike share deals from previous Metro shutdowns, though Capital Bikeshare has been significantly expanding the number of bicycle docking stations around Alexandria.

Another commuter option used previously is the Potomac Water Taxi, which runs from the Old Town waterfront up to Georgetown and The Wharf or down to National Harbor. The Potomac Water Taxi is a private service, but Hamed said the City of Alexandria is working on partnering with them for increased service.

“We will be adding water taxi boats earlier in the morning,” Hamed said. “Right now, it’s a private service that starts later in the day and is geared mostly toward visitors to and from Alexandria. It’s not really practical for commuters. We partnered with them in 2019 to add boats [earlier in the morning] and we will be doing that again. We are working with the operator of the water taxi to throw in a little extra incentive.”

Someone in the room quipped that the incentive might be life jackets, but others suggested various types of alcoholic drinks might be an added boon.

One of the other Metro replacements planned is VRE, which will offer free rides throughout September throughout its system. A VRE representative at the meeting said the train will be free in October as well, but only for the Alexandria-Crystal City to L’Enfant section of the line.

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

Like waiting for a Yellow Line train to Huntington, Alexandria’s Metrorail riders are bracing for a ride to disappointment.

Early next month, the first of two Metro shutdowns affecting Alexandria is scheduled to hit the city. All told, the city will have some level of suspended service until next spring.

The first hit will be from Sept. 10 to Oct. 22, when Metro will suspend all rail service south of National Airport to connect the new Potomac Yard station with the rest of the Metro system.

The second will run from September through spring 2023, when Metro will suspend Yellow Line service between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations for the Yellow Line Tunnel and Bridge Rehabilitation project. Alexandrians will still be able to get to D.C. and the rest of the Metro system but will have to go through Arlington.

Alexandria and other localities have been planning around the changes for months. Today, the City of Alexandria put out a quick guide for how to get around the shutdown:

Residents and visitors are encouraged to take advantage of the following alternatives:

  • Seven free shuttles that will be available to rail riders, including local and express shuttles replacing Blue and Yellow line service in Virginia, and three limited-stop shuttles crossing the Potomac River.
  • Free parking at the Van Dorn Street, Franconia-Springfield, and Huntington Metrorail station garages and lots during the rail service suspension.
  • Alternate transit service, including free DASH bus service, the Metroway-Potomac Yard Bus Rapid Transit Line (offering free service between Braddock Road, Crystal City, and Pentagon City stations through October), and Virginia Railway Express (VRE), which is offering free rides in September.
  • Travel alternatives, including free Capital Bikeshare, water taxi, ridesharing, and dockless mobility devices such as scooters. To learn more about traveling in and around Alexandria, visit alexandriava.gov/GOAlex.

As noted above, the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is planning to offer free rides in September to coincide with the Metro station. The VRE train stops at King Street and continues up into D.C. and down to Manassas and Spotsylvania.

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There was a crash in the area of N. patrick and Montgomery Streets in the Braddock area on July 29, 2022. (Via Google Maps)

A 27-year-old Washington, D.C. man is being held without bond after allegedly crashing his car into a Metro Bus in the Braddock area and ditching a “ghost gun.”

The incident occurred at around 4:45 p.m. on July 29 (Friday) in the area of N. Patrick and Montgomery Streets — just a few blocks from the Braddock Road Metro station. No one was injured in the crash.

The Metro Bus Driver told police that the driver of a black Nissan was driving “extremely fast” westbound on Montgomery Street and “blew through an intersection hitting the Metro Bus,” according to a search warrant affidavit.

“”There was significant damage done to the Nissan showing a crash at a dangerous speed,” police said in the search warrant affidavit. “(The driver) admitted to driving the vehicle when it crashed at a dangerous speed… consuming alcohol, and smoking marijuana approximately 30 minutes before operating the vehicle. (The driver) stated he was coming from D.C. to go to his girlfriend’s house.”

A witness then told police that the driver of the Nissan took a gun from his glove compartment and threw it in a bush in the 900 block of N. Patrick Street.

“I was able to recover that firearm, which is not serialized,” police said in the search warrant affidavit. “(The driver) denied knowledge of the firearm, but admitted to me he is on probation for firearms.”

The driver was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, driving without a license, intent to distribute marijuana and driving while intoxicated. He goes to court on August 31.

Via Google Maps

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