Virginia Railway Express Proposed Extension to Gainesville/Haymarket
At their September 6, 2016, Board meeting Prince William County Supervisors finalized a list identifying the County’s transportation priorities for submission to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
The proposed VRE extension to Haymarket/ Gainesville was originally included on the list but removed before Supervisors approved the final list of priorities.
There are two main options for VRE:
- High-Cost Option: Build 11 miles of track, three new stations, and a new rail yard to bring commuter trains to Haymarket. The High Cost Alternative proposes to spend $250,000,000 - $350,000,000 more than the Low Cost Alternative. That extra cost would reduce traffic on I-66 by only 100 extra cars/day. The High Cost Alternative would also cost an additional $9 million each year for operating trains. That is equal to $30,000/year for each car removed from I-66.
- Low Cost Option: Move the existing Broad Run station to Godwin Road or Innovation, expand the rail yard at Broad Run to store additional trains, and run those trains throughout the day back and forth to Alexandria (connecting to Metrorail there).
VRE appears to be shaping the alternatives so the low-cost option is limited, excluding the potential of running trains to Alexandria throughout the day. That leaves VRE as just a commuter rail system providing service at rush hour.
VRE could be a smart investment, worth extra funding – but only if PWC directs funding wisely. We need more VRE trains running throughout the day – not more track and more parking lots. Realistically, we need elected officials to direct funding towards cost-effective transportation infrastructure.
Expanding VRE service into the urban core – rather than adding 11 miles of track into the Rural Area – may be the best way to spur economic development in Prince William over the long run. Employers need to be confident they can hire competitively in order to staff offices located at Innovation or Godwin Road.
If VRE is converted from a commuter railroad into a transit system that runs throughout the day, PWC would offer access to the skilled labor pool. If Prince William offers just low-cost land, the County will not attract enough commercial development to affect the property tax rate.
However, if Prince William can offer low-cost land AND an easy way for the tech-talented workforce to get to jobs in Prince William, then we might get commercial office development.