November 2 Community Meeting Q and A
Metro has prepared the below questions and answers (Q&A) addressing comments raised at the November 2, 2020 community engagement meeting on Metro's Northern Bus Garage Replacement Project.
Q* indicates a question asked by a Section 106 consulting party representative.
Historic Properties/Section 106
Q: Could you provide an explanation of some of the limitations or criteria that affect what can or cannot be done for the design of the building?
A: The primary goal is to minimize any adverse effects on the historic property. At the same time, it is also important to have a design that complements the existing historic façade, but is clearly distinguished from the original existing historical facade. This explains the difference between the colors or materials that are used.
Q: I read the report from the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB); they said they didn’t like the original design WMATA had because they were tearing down the wall out in front, is this true?
A: As required, Metro submitted the proposed design to HPRB for review of potential impacts to the historic structure. Metro intends to retain the historic façade, which faces 14th Street along with a portion along the southern end which includes the masonry chimney. In addition, a portion of the northern-most historic wall will be retained and an additional portion will be restored from its current condition beyond what was shown in the HPRB report. The remaining historic walls will be removed to provide the required clearances for safe and efficient bus movements in the maintenance area and bus storage area. At the May hearing, HPRB asked Metro to consult further with the community to address concerns that were identified during the hearing.
Q: Why can’t more historic pieces be preserved? Are there choices for other architectural firms?
A: The goal of the project is to ensure a functional bus facility that can accommodate the transportation needs of the community for decades to come, while maximizing historic preservation. Much of the historic building has already been substantially modified and no longer features its original integrity. The remaining historic fabric in the interior of the bus garage cannot accommodate the future operational demands of the facility and bus fleet. The design plans, however, enhance the exterior historic fabric including along the 14th Street façade. Multiple experienced engineering firms are working on this project, in addition to the Clark Construction team, to produce designs that are sensitive to preservation of historic resources.
Q: Will the community be invited to the December meeting with HPRB?
A: Yes, Historic Preservation Review Board meetings are open to the public. A public notice of the meeting date and time will be posted on their website and anyone interested in attending will be able to join the meeting. A public notice will also be posted on the Northern Bus Garage site with details of the hearing.
A: The Historic Preservation Review Board and SHPO have emphasized the importance of having a design that complements the existing historic façade, but is clearly distinguished from the original existing historical façade. To differentiate the two materials, the design incorporates another type of masonry material based on feedback so that the building could blend in color but differentiate in scale of the material from the historic façade. In fact, the coloring was one topic in the draft designs that received a significant number of positive comments. During consultation, the community indicated a preference for a stone, brick, or concrete material, rather than metal panels that were originally proposed.
Q: What is the intention for the wall, the lighting, and the pathway?
A: The current non-historic northernmost wall along the Decatur cut-through will be removed as part of the project. A new fire-rated wall will be built in a similar location. This wall will integrate light fixtures that will follow DDOT requirements for sidewalk lighting. In addition, the project will provide an opportunity for Art in Transit along the wall. Metro is also working with DDOT to provide a wider path than the existing walkway. The team will further refine the streetscape plans in coordination with respective District government agencies.
Q: Will the new wall and the design of the building help prevent pollution?
A: The new wall will be more robust than what is there currently. Furthermore, the air in the bus garage will be “scrubbed” prior to leaving the facility. The ventilation system is designed to “scrub” the exhaust air using specialized equipment, and high-speed vehicle entry/exit doors will be used to maintain proper airflow and ensure bus exhaust in the garage is treated before exiting into the environment.
Q: It looks like the exit on Decatur got smaller from the February original design. Why do the doors have such a low-class look to them?
A: The façade has been lowered based on comments regarding the scale of the building and requests for it to more closely reflect the adjacent neighborhood. The doors shown in the renderings reflect a high-speed coiling door. These doors would help maintain an energy efficient building by allowing a minimal amount of exterior air to infiltrate the building by opening and closing quickly as a bus approaches and exits the building. The building is negatively pressured so that interior air does not escape to the exterior without going through the scrubber system.
Q: Is there a rationale around having buses exit on 14th Street?
A: One of the main reasons for retaining the Decatur Street exit at 14th Street is that it has a signalized intersection. This provides safe means and control of movement in the garage and interfacing with pedestrians, bikes, and vehicles.
Q: On view 4, the wall elevation is different between the views. What are the heights from the parking deck?
A: View 4 of the exterior design options presented the wall along Iowa Avenue in a different manner based on the overall design. Design option 3 was selected as the preferred overall design based on community input, and the wall height shown in view 4 was lowered for the final design based on additional public feedback.
Q*: Why has the project budget changed?
A: In February 2020, Metro established a Target Price for design and construction of $175m (this figure does not include any soft costs or consulting support costs). However, a contractor’s cost proposal in the Summer 2020 indicated a cost that was more than double the Target Price. Since the re-design effort took place, many changes were made to the project scope. Metro intends to develop a revised independent cost estimate by the end of January 2021.
Q: What is the budget for the conversion to the electric fleet? Is it by any chance cheaper to build the garage today with electric infrastructure?
A: The budget for conversion to an electric fleet has not been established. The Northern Bus Garage project incorporates several design choices that will facilitate electric bus technology conversation in the future, including:
- Space to accommodate Switch Gear and Transformers
- Plans for conduit to feed the future chargers
- Adequate ceiling height to allow overhead electric bus charging
We are also working with Pepco to identify long-term power sources and electric grid improvements to support not only Metro’s future bus electrification needs but also across the region.
Q*: How much will FTA be involved and contributing to the project?
A: The amount of Federal funding for this project remains to be determined, but could range from 0% to 50% of the total project cost. Metro is seeking Federal funds from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). As a result, the project is subject to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Section 106 requires FTA to consider views of invited Consulting Parties and the public on identification of historic properties and the effects of the project on historic properties, and to seek concurrence with the State Historic Preservation Office. Community Meeting #2 on November 2 served as a Section 106 “Consulting Parties Meeting.” FTA also is the Federal agency overseeing the environmental review process regarding the Northern Bus Garage Reconstruction Project. FTA must review and approve Metro’s Documented Categorical Exclusion before project demolition and construction can begin.
Q: Sculpture is interesting but is there any guidance given to artists on proposals? Is there an opportunity for the community to give guidance?
A: Yes. The “Art in Transit” process typically begins with gathering input from the community on what sources of inspiration they would like the artist to explore. This would be part of the Art in Transit proposal solicitation process which will take place later in the project schedule. We also highly encourage the artists to go out and speak to the community to have an idea that resonates with community members.
Q*: Are there opportunities to incorporate art beyond the murals?
A: The primary “Art in Transit” opportunity for this project includes murals on the facility walls, particularly since the walls come close to the edge of the property line, leaving little space for additional art pieces. However, we will consider other possible art opportunities beyond murals, but any such art proposals will require a closer review for feasibility.
Q: Will questions in the survey be responded to?
A: A public survey report was published to the Northern Bus Garage project website following the meeting. While this document does not address all open-ended questions regarding the design, Community Meeting #2 was designed for the community to ask any questions they have about the specific design details. The survey report includes a breakdown of the specific survey results along with an overview of the open-ended comments in context of the project.
Q: The survey does not show which parts of the older historic building are being removed. Is there some way the community could see your detailed architectural designs?
A: The design submittal to HPRB shows the extent of the historic structure that will be removed. Removal of these features is necessary to achieve the project’s purpose and need. Design details may change based on continued feedback from the HPRB and community.