October 13 Community Meeting Q&A
Metro has prepared the below questions and answers (Q&A) addressing comments raised at the October 13, 2020 community engagement meeting on Metro's Northern Bus Garage Replacement Project.
Q. What is Metro's community engagement plan for this project?
A: Community feedback has played a major role in the ongoing project redesign and we continue to actively request and value community input, including on the new exterior building design options presented to the community on Tuesday, October 13, 2020. Metro has planned three additional community meetings during the next month, including a meeting of consulting parties under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Presentations and meeting recordings are publicly available in the “Project Updates” section of the project website. Based on project enhancements reflecting community feedback, we plan to participate in another concept review hearing before the Historic Preservation Review Board for this project.
Q: Have you engaged with the new Councilwoman and ANC for Ward 4?
A: Yes. Metro has been in regular communication with Councilmember Brandon Todd, Councilmember-elect Janeese Lewis George, and local ANC Commissioners regarding the latest updates on this Project. We have also asked their assistance in disseminating the exterior design survey throughout the community.
Q: How will the exterior design survey be distributed to ensure maximum participation?
A: The Northern Bus Garage exterior design survey is located online at wmata.com/NorthernBusGarage and available for anyone to complete. While the survey is open for public comment, Metro will:
- Send the survey link to the Northern Bus Garage email distribution list
- Share the link with elected officials and community members for distribution through their email and other social media channels
- Post a link for community members on Nextdoor
Q: What was WMATA's original budget amount for the project?
A: The original target price for the construction contract only (includes design and construction services) was set at $175 million. This price excludes other project expenses such as soft costs, consulting support, contingencies, etc.
Q: Has the project budget changed?
A: Metro is conducting a budget reevaluation following its receipt of a contractor proposal nearly doubling the original target price. The new proposed budget for this project is being developed and more information will be available in the first quarter of 2021.
Metro Transit Police Department
Q: What is the purpose of the MTPD office space within the project?
A: The Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD) office space will be used for administrative purposes, allowing MTPD officers who patrol the Northern portions of the District of Columbia and areas located in the State of Maryland to have an additional location where they can access the Metro computer system to complete administrative matters, such as routine report writing, attending required computer based in-service training, and reviewing emails from citizens and senior management. The space will also provide a location where MTPD members can meet with community members and Metro employees in a private setting to discuss issues that affect them. Finally, MTPD presence will provide an additional security measure for the Metro employees, contractors, commercial employees, and the customers who utilize the commercial business within the building.
Q: Does MTPD plan to move from its current location off of Riggs Road near the Fort Totten Metro Station?
A: No. The Northern Bus Garage Project plans have always included space for an MTPD administrative office. MTPD’s current location should remain the primary location for uniformed patrol officers.
Q: What types of buses will be at the facility?
A:Current plans include the bus garage hosting Clean Diesel Buses and Hybrid buses, with future alteration of the garage to service Battery Electric Buses (BEB). Transition to the BEB fleet will be discussed at the environmental meeting.
Q: How will the facility accommodate the original 150-bus capacity?
A: The current design for bus storage has 143 assigned parking spaces. The remaining seven buses will be staged within the maintenance level.
Q: When will the garage be completed?
A: The exact completion date is dependent on third party approvals required for construction to begin. If these approvals are granted in 2021 then project completion is expected sometime in 2026.
Q: Is natural gas currently being supplied to the building?
A: Yes. The building is currently and will continue to be served by natural gas as the principal fuel source for the HVAC systems.
Q: Have you been able to incorporate a wider pedestrian walkway along the north of the bus garage in line with Decatur St?
A: Yes. We don't have an exact width yet, but the northern facade has been moved to the south, which will allow for a wider walk than currently exists. As the pathway approaches 14th Street, it may narrow because the garage exit for buses must maintain alignment with current traffic signals. Additionally, we plan to meet with DDOT and seek recommendations from them on any modifications to the surrounding areas, such as sidewalks.
Q: What are your plans for the brick wall on 14th St., Decatur St. and Iowa Ave.?
A: The existing wall will be removed as part of the reconstruction efforts, but a new wall will be built along a similar alignment that will provide full separation from bus operations. The area will be further enhanced by the introduction of fast acting overhead doors at the exit that will further help isolate bus operations from the adjacent properties.
Q: What lighting changes will occur along the walkway on 14th & Decatur Streets along the Metro brick wall.
A: As the project progresses and we obtain all required approvals, we will be coordinating with the District Department of Transportation on all streetscape upgrades, including lighting.
Q: Will the “bus exit” at Decatur be preserved as an exit?
A: Yes. The Decatur & 14th Street building driveway has functioned as an exit since at least the building renovation in the 1980s. Based on required bus circulation in the new garage, it will continue to be an exit. The building ramp will be fully enclosed and the air in the building will be “scrubbed” prior to the discharge into the environment – this includes the bus ramp portion of the building. There will also be fast acting overhead doors at the exit, so until the bus is ready to exit, the doors will remain closed. These high-speed exit doors will be used to maintain proper airflow in the building and ensure all vehicle exhaust is treated before exiting into the environment.
Q: Is the Arkansas Ave side of the building going to be taller than the existing building? If so, how much taller?
A: No, the majority of the structure facing Arkansas Ave will be lower than the building structure today, except for a small portion of the car parking lot access ramp near the center of the block.
Q: Regarding access and exposure of the retail spaces, it appears they will not have individual entries through the façade so there will be a central corridor in the commercial space with retail businesses on the east and west sides of the corridor?
A: The Historic Preservation Review Board disfavored new doorways in the place of current windows. The HPRB did accept one additional window being converted for fire/life safety requirements. There will still be entrances into the existing historic administration building, near the tower and additionally towards the southern end. The retail area will be another entry.
Q: Do all options allow for the possibility of public art or does just one of the three?
A: Yes, all options can accommodate public art.
Q: Under Option 1, what would pedestrians be looking into through those large windows?
A: For all three options, the floor plan being shown at the time of the question shows a stairway that will be at the corner of 14th Street and Buchanan Street. As you move a little further along 14th Street, you will see the main entrance and the lobby for the facility. It will be an open lobby, stairs and an elevator.
Q: What environmental review is occurring for the project?
A: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA), as lead federal agency for this proposed project, determined that the likely class of action under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a documented categorical exclusion (the most common type of NEPA process). More information about categorical exclusions is available on the Federal Transit Administration website here: www.transit.dot.gov/regulations-and-guidance/environmental-programs/categorical-exclusion. Concurrently, FTA is leading the Section 106 consultation process focused on effects to historic resources.
Q: How does reduction in bedrock removal affect environmental assessments – whether NEPA/Sec. 106 Categorical Exclusion or not?
A: The reduction of bedrock removal quantities is expected to help minimize project effects.
A: No. Two years ago, Metro studied possible site housing. This site was determined to not be a good candidate for both a bus garage and housing. When we issued a Request for Expressions of Interest two years ago, there was little interest from developers in putting housing over the bus garage. Current zoning does not permit residential development on the site and limits the height to 50 feet. The Historic Preservation Review Board also has made clear that it would not view additional height favorably. Lastly, adding columns to support housing atop the garage would further constrain much needed space inside the garage.
Q: Do you have interest from retail/businesses to rent in the space? What type of retail do you envision will want to be in the same space as diesel buses?
A: We have not put out a call to businesses at this point, as it is too early for most retail entities to make location decisions. We have done a market study and demand for retail space, and our strategy includes first recruiting for a small grocer and then recruiting for complementary retailers. If there are no grocers interested in this location, then we would move to recruiting a pharmacy as the anchor tenant and subsequently reaching out to complementary retailers.
Q: Have studies been done on whether or not retail wants to occupy the same space as a bus garage?
A: Retailers make decisions primarily based on the strength of the marketplace and the quality and cost of the retail space available. Also, buses are not typically running while inside the garage. The garage will have state-of-the-art ventilation systems, and walls will separate the retail spaces from the garage. Metro’s retail experts, Streetsense and CBRE, see no inherent conflict between retail and a bus garage.
Q: How can the project support additional businesses without adding residential density?
A: The retail study conducted by Streetsense demonstrated that there is demand for more retail options. Generally, a mix of types of services and goods in a concentrated area supports retail success. For example, a neighborhood grocer at the bus garage (that would not require more residential density) would bring more local neighborhood people to this section of 14th Street and support the existing businesses.
Q: Is there any parking for retail customers (as opposed to retail employees)?
A: No. We will work with DDOT to determine if there are street improvement configurations that might create more parking than what is currently available along 14th Street. Parking demand will also be part of the retail market surveys. However, anticipated uses are likely to be centered around businesses that should attract a neighborhood-centric customer base (largely “walk-up” customers). The 14th Street corridor has strong public transit coverage as well.
Q: Will adding commercial uses along 14th Street add congestion in the neighborhood?
A: No. It is expected that most of the businesses added to the east side of 14th Street will be neighborhood-supporting retail rather than destination retailers that would draw customers from across the District or region.
Q: What are the DBE, CBE and SBE goals?
A: Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) goals are set for the design phase only and are 25 percent. DBE and other small business type utilization goals will be set for future work once Metro negotiates the construction contract with the contractor.