Study in Progress to Determine Extension of Manassas VRE Line

| November 19, 2015 | 0 Comments | News
VRE arriving at the Manassas Station.

VRE arriving at the Manassas Station.

The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) recently held a meeting at Gainesville Middle School to get public input on extending commuter rail service 11-miles from Manassas through Gainesville and into the Town of Haymarket. VRE held the meeting to get public input during the study phase.

Christine Hoefner, the project manager for the VRE Gainesville-Haymarket (VRE-GHX) study, said the meeting was primarily intended so that the community could feedback on potential station locations and potential impacts.

Aerial photographs showed where stations might be located along the Norfolk Southern Railway “B-Line” route. Possibilities  include a station near Innovation Park, another in the Gainesville area and a third near the intersection of U.S. 15 and Interstate 66 just north of the Town of Haymarket.

Questions raised by people who attended the meeting revolved around land acquisition, noise and the number of trains that would run.

Hoefner said the process was a lengthy one and thus some of the questions would be answered in time. The study will help decide the best service plan along with station locations based upon expected population growth and community feedback. It is being conducted in coordination with several groups: VRE, Prince William County, the City of Manassas, the Town of Haymarket, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, the Potomac Rappahannock Transportation Commission, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

Hoefner’s presentation showed that by 2040 the population within five miles of the proposed extension is expected to increase by 68,000. Additionally, they expect 51,900 new jobs will be created within the same are and time period.

According to Hoefner, VRE believes that population growth will warrant the new stations.

“We believe that this extension will attract new riders and not just shift the existing riders around. So, there will be some level of increase,” Hoefner said.

Cooperation with Norfolk Southern will also be considered during the study phase. The Norfolk Southern B-Line is a priority route for the freight rail company and the track would have to be shared. Since the corridor is home to many natural and cultural resources such as wetlands, historic sites and parks, environmental impact will also be considered.

The study is scheduled to continue until the end of 2017, with final design expected to be completed by 2020. Funding for the project will rely on a mix of federal, state, regional and private money. With final design, Norfolk Southern approval and sufficient funding, construction could begin as early as 2020, and trains could begin running by 2022.

Trish Mathis of Bristow picks up a commuter train at the Broad Run Station regularly. She said she is happy to learn that the study for potential extension is underway.

“I hadn’t realized the three areas they were considering for the station. I understand that it takes a long time to do these projects. I wish, of course, that it wouldn’t take so long. I think they’re going to take the time to do it right and really listen to what people want.”

The GHX study, which includes planning, environmental documentation and preliminary engineering, is budgeted at $4.3 million. Money for the study comes from a combination of state and regional funds including a $2.8 million Rail Enhancement Fund grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and $1.5 million in regional transportation funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.

Visit the Virginia Railway Express website to see the full project presentation.

 This article has been submitted by Keith Walker, Prince William County Communications Specialist

 

© 2015, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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