VRE Studies Extension of Service to Gainesville and Haymarket
Provided by Prince William County
The Virginia Railway Express, or VRE, has completed the first phase of its study on the proposed 11-mile commuter rail extension of the Manassas line that would run through Gainesville and into the Town of Haymarket. Doug Allen, VRE s chief executive officer, recently briefed the Prince William Board of County Supervisors on the results of the study, which showed that the projected population growth in the western end of the county would provide enough riders to warrant up to three new commuter rail stations along the route. Possibilities for the station locations include one near Innovation Park, another in the Gainesville area and a third station near the intersection of U.S. 15 and I-66 near the Town of Haymarket. The study also showed that there is adequate available land along the route for parking lots or garages. The Gainesville-Haymarket Extension study area included the I-66 corridor between Manassas and Haymarket, which is considered part of a Corridor of Statewide Significance. These corridors are designated as significant because they connect major centers of activity and promote the movement of people and goods for the economic good of the state. The corridors are broadly drawn to include highways, rail lines, transit services, port facilities and airports. They must connect regions, states or major activity centers, carry high volumes of travel and provide a unique statewide function to qualify for state and federal funding.
The I-66 Corridor would qualify for federal and state funding under the state s criteria and would benefit from a commuter rail line, Allen said. VRE is one way to add capacity to that corridor. The right-of-way along the corridor is owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad, and cooperation with the railroad will need be taken into account as the project continues. The Norfolk Southern B-Line is an important, priority route for the freight rail company. Allen said that Norfolk Southern would need to be assured that its business would remain 100 percent undisturbed by the commuter rail before it approved the project. With the initial study phase complete, VRE is ready to continue into the planning phase and launch an environmental impact study since the corridor is home to many natural and cultural resources such as wetlands, historic sites and parks. PWL The environmental impact study should be completed by the end of 2017, according to VRE documents. Preliminary design is underway and advance preliminary engineering would need Norfolk Southern approval.
Allen s presentation showed that perhaps 50 percent of the funding to build stations and parking facilities, enlarge rail yards, lay the tracks and buy new locomotives would come from federal grants. Allen said that VRE expects that another 40 percent of the funding would come from the state with the remainder to come for the local sources. The overall 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. The final design for the project is scheduled to begin in 2018 with construction scheduled to begin in 2020. Allen said VRE expects to start rail service by 2022.