It was a good morning for the HokieBird. Virginia Tech’s mascot was all over the new Potomac Yard-VT Metro station on Friday morning, a fuzzy reminder of the two letters at the end of the station’s formal name. It posed for selfies, waddled into shots with politicians, and reinforced that Tech was a big part of the deal that finally got this station over the finish line after a 25-year wait—the school’s partnership with Arlington and Alexandria’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters is a physical representation of the talent pipeline that helped land HQ2.
The station opened at 5 AM Friday, and more than 1,300 people had passed through its gates by the time politicos took a victory lap at an event in a tent next door, as WMATA General Manager Randy Clarke told the assembled crowd. Alexandria mayor Justin Wilson said that he’d been there at the crack of dawn to ride the first train and joked that he’d gone through the gate 1,300 times. “I am now the sixth Alexandria mayor who has stood up here eagerly awaiting the opportunity to say these words,” Wilson proclaimed with somewhat alarming vigor. “Alexandria, your Potomac Yard station is open!”
Speeches followed. US Senator Mark Warner took the opportunity to roast his fellow dais-sitters: He asked Wilson, “Justin, what in the hell did you take this morning?” He ribbed grandees from Maryland that the station would be a gateway to a new FBI facility in Springfield. He made fun of Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands’s loud sport coat. (“Orange and maroon are an acquired taste,” Sands acknowledged.) Warner even made an “infrastructure week” joke. In his speech, US Representative Don Beyer returned to the mascot: “With all due respect, I’m calling it the Hokie Landing station.”
Well, good luck with that. For most people, as it was spelled on the banner behind the politicos, the station is named Potomac Yard, a nod to the area’s past as a railroad hub around which the town of Potomac, now the Alexandria neighborhood Del Ray, sprung up at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The station has been a longed-for project for what seems like much of that time, with the pandemic and many delays along its most recent timeline.
Some practical matters: This station has no parking, though there’s a pretty nice bike room. And it’s the 98th station on the Metrorail system, following six others that opened late last year along the Silver Line, another long-delayed project. “I think most people never thought it was actually going to happen,” Wilson told Washingtonian after the ribbon-cutting. The bird was, of course, nearby.