ALEXANDRIA, Va. — New options to avoid traffic are at the heart of a study moving forward with new community input to extend VRE rail service from Manassas to Gainesville and Haymarket.
VRE Manager of Project Development Christine Hoeffner says the plans long in the works could bring new service along the Manassas Line and make VRE a better option for thousands of commuters from Prince William, Loudoun and Fauquier counties among others, but the service changes are likely years away.
“We don’t have a firm date, we’re going to be identifying that in this study, but some time between 2020 to 2025, probably closer to 2025,” she says.
“In addition to just extending the train about 11 miles farther … we’re looking at new service plans: what is the potential demand for VRE service both in the Gainesville/Haymarket area and people that are living a little farther out that might not be taking VRE … but also looking at our whole Manassas Line as part of this study and what can we do to improve service for everybody,” she adds.
The next steps include a public meeting Nov. 10 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Gainesville Middle School. There will also be new advisory committees for the project meant to represent the various people who may be interested.
VRE has a survey open through Tuesday for community members interested in joining a committee.
“VRE believes that the demand is out there and that we can provide the service. It is subject to having the money to complete the study, right now we’re only funded through this current phase of study,” Hoeffner says.
The current funding is through the state and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.
Hoeffner hopes to hear where people are interested in coming from and going to in addition to preferences or concerns about station locations and types of service.
The new stations under consideration would be in Prince William County, which ridership surveys show is already home to more VRE riders than any other jurisdiction.
“We are working with Prince William County. They have developers that are interested in proffering stations as part of their development approval similar to what happened at the Potomac Shores station, so, if there’s interest, and that’s something that Prince William County is willing and interested in doing, that can help to expedite it by bringing both additional private sector funding to accomplish it and they can also build it,” Hoeffner says.
VRE is going through the lengthy study process in hopes of qualifying for federal funding for the project too.
“We believe it’s another solution to getting people out of traffic and giving them an option to get to work,” she says.
“It would be construction of stations, which would include platforms, park and ride lots or parking structures, but right now there is only one track in the railroad and we believe that at a minimum there’s going to be a need for two tracks,” Hoeffner explains.
Norfolk Southern owns the railroad, which is currently a very busy freight line. VRE is in talks with them about sharing the railroad and the potential for building another track that would allow VRE to add more trains on the line.
“We’ll be looking at other types of service that we don’t currently operate on the Manassas Line like express trains or skip-stop service, so everything is on the table at this point,” Hoeffner says.
VRE’s very long range plans call for more service going in both directions at more times of day.
Hoeffner says weekend service is not likely anytime soon, but could be added later if potential riders express enough interest.
This weekend only, VRE is offering special weekend service to Clifton Day along the Manassas Line between Manassas and Rolling Rd. The first and last trains of the day will include stops at Broad Run departing eastbound at 9:05 a.m. and ending service at Broad Run at 6:30 p.m.