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Audio: Incoming VA Sen. Majority Leader Scott Surovell “cautiously thinking [Potomac Yard arena project] might go through,” BUT Youngkin “needs to come to our position on some things like Metro funding”

"Metro has some long-term problems and we've got to solve them so they don't keep coming up every six years."

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Yesterday, incoming VA Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) was on WAMU’s “The Politics Hour” with Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood to talk about the proposed Wizards/Caps arena at Potomac Yard in Alexandria. See below for audio and a partial transcript, including:

 

Sen. Surovell: “I heard it might happen maybe about three or four weeks ago. But no, we didn’t we don’t play any role in it in the legislature;  there’s a separate committee called the major economic  investment commission that looked at it. I don’t serve on that yet, and so I didn’t have any role in the actual terms, but I was briefed on the possibility of a deal. But not, we we don’t have any role until the legislative process takes place here…”

Sen. Surovell: “You know that the majority leader in the Senate doesn’t have quite the powers that the Speaker of the House of Delegates does. It’s really…sort of being the chief border collie.”

Tom Sherwood: “…Alexandria is not prepared to handle the traffic; Mayor Wilson of Alexandria says most of it will come by Metro, that little teeny tiny Metro stop that’s being built there is not nearly enough. Are you going to be able to handle the traffic for what this major development is which is not just the arena you?”

Sen. Surovell: “Well listen, I think people are right to ask  questions about it. I think it’s important to remember that when the Verizon Center was built in ’96, ’97, I don’t think there were any road improvements that came with it; it was built right on top of a Metro station. And there’s no question that this Metro station needs to be built to handle the kind of pedestrian traffic it’s going to be seeing going forward. I also think we ought to be talking about a VRE station on the line that’s right next to it. People don’t realize that when this Long Bridge opens up in about 2028, 2029, that we’re going to have bidirectional sort of European style commuter rail service going on that on that rail line even from Maryland into Virginia. And I think  that’ll also help to alleviate the stress. Alexandria just built a Bus Rapid Transit median dedicated down Route One, and I think that there’s a lot of good infrastructure in there already. But we definitely need to continue that conversation…”

Kojo Nnamdi: “Virginia is upposed to be offering $200 million in transportation improvements as part of this deal, what would that money be used for?”

Sen. Surovell: “I’ve heard there’s been a piece of that and I have not seen the specifics on what that is supposed to be or exactly who’s paying for it. What I thought I was told was that part of it had to do with enhancements to the actual Metro station, as I said, to get more people in and on and off the trains, because it wasn’t built to handle those volumes. The rest of it I think was probably road capacity improvements that are going to be needed to get the cars from Route One over to where the stadium is, there where the movie theater used to be, behind the Target. That’s my assumption, but I haven’t seen a full briefing on exactly those improvements yet.”

Tom Sherwood: “Senator, District officials are of course shell-shocked over this, although many people are blaming the mayor and the council for not acting more aggressively a year ago. But they’re hoping that this deal falls through, they say that the transportation issues and congestion could get enough people to turn against it, that it won’t go through. Despite that, do you think bottom line, whatever the concern are that are being raised now – Don Beyer the congressman has raised an issue about traffic – do you think this will fall through or do you think the deal will go through, bottom line?”

Sen. Surovell: “Let me put it this way, I’m cautiously thinking it might go through. But I’m telling you, we’ve got a lot of issues with this governor. The governor’s tried to make an issue of Metro funding and how Metro operates, which is ironic to me given that this entire project is dependent on Metro. We have to get the Metro funding piece done. I know our finance chairman Senator Lucas has said there’s some things that are important for her. You’ve got to remember, this deal has to be passed by the entire legislature, not just the northern Virginia delegation, and we have to show that there’s benefit for the entire state in this project and not just our Northern Virginia region in order for all them be able to vote for it. And so we have some work to do with folks, and we also have some work to do with the governor, because the governor needs to come to our position on some things like Metro funding.”

Kojo Nnamdi: “Would you say you’re cautiously optimistic?”

Sen. Surovell: “I think that’s probably a fair statement. I mean, I think it’s a very interesting project…it’s a lot better than a football stadium, you know, 200 events a year and the kinds of economic benefits it bring…it’s a very, I think, important project. We’ve seen what stadiums have done for Washington DC…Nats Park and what the Verizon Center did for downtown, and I know it’s why Tom and many others are upset, but I think it’s an interesting project.”

Tom Sherwood: “Let me quote you, what you’ve said about the transportation in Metro and getting the governor involved: ‘the only reason this project is going where it is is because it’s sitting next to a Metro station, and screwing around with Metro funding is a great way to poison the goose that lays the golden egg for this entire Commonwealth.’ So the governor, as big as the smile he had on Wednesday morning, he’s got to put his hand in his pocket.”

Sen. Surovell: “Yeah, I mean listen, the construction cranes in Northern Virginia are around Metro stations, they’re not anywhere else, it’s where people want to live and locate their businesses. It’s why we got Amazon to relocate to Virginia. We have to get this Metro problem solved, not just for this year but for the long term…Metro has some long-term problems and we’ve got to solve them so they don’t keep coming up every six years.”

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