Change in federal funding could doom VRE

Hank Silverberg,

FAIRFAX, Va. – An alarm is being sounded in Northern Virginia over a change in federal funding that could put the future of Virginia Railway Express in doubt.

In the past, federal money, which in 2012 amounted to $9.6 million, has been dedicated directly to VRE.

Because of a change in the rules, the money for 2013 will instead be sent to Virginia’s general transportation fund where it could be diverted.

If that happens, Fairfax County Supervisor John Cook says the railway could be forced to shut down.

“This is not a small budget matter,” Cook says. “It would be so significant that we’re not sure we could keep VRE going.”

Cook says if the money is diverted, VRE might have to cut 12 trains a day, or raise fares by 28 percent and local government subsidies by as much as 58 percent.

He says that’s not a viable option.

VRE carries 10,000 riders a day on the Manassas and Fredericksburg lines.

Political leaders in VRE’s service area are now pressing the state not to use the federal money for anything else.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board will likely make the decision, though the ultimate approval lies with the General Assembly which reconvenes in January.

A spokesman for VRE says they are hoping to hear what will happen with the funding, next month, when Gov. Bob McDonnell outlines his 2013 budget adjustments.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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