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To Attract Jobs, VRE says $2 Billion Needed to add Southbound Service from Washington

By Uriah Kiser August 1, 2014 8:00 am

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VRE Chief Doug Allen [Mary Davidson -- Potomac Local News]

VRE Chief Doug Allen [Mary Davidson -- Potomac Local News]

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – Prince William County has been slow to attract many Fortune 500 companies to the region, unlike its neighbor to the north Fairfax County which boasts many.

Part of the problem is its lack of a the Metro rail system which workers who live in the urban core of Washington, D.C., Alexandria and Arlington can use to get to job centers in Fairfax County. Employers are looking for easy access to mass transit so workers can avoid the daily peril that is commuting while driving on Interstates 95 and 66. Just this week, Springfield, and two locations in Prince Georges County, Md. – all near Metro stations – were named finalists in the search for a new headquarters for the FBI.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said a new Virginia Railway Express station in Woodbridge’s Potomac Shores neighborhood will be a new node in Northern Virginia’s transit system that hopes will help attract new companies to the region when it opens in 2017.

“The companies that I’m trying to bring to Virginia are the 21st century jobs – the cyber, the genome sequencing, all the bio life sciences… if you look at study after study, the folks who work in these industries want to be in communities that are walkable, ride a bike, that’s what they want, and this community is a place where they can do that,” said McAuliffe.

Right now, VRE is designed to ferry commuters from Northern Virginia north into Washington, D.C. on weekday mornings and then back home again in the afternoon.

These high tech, high-paying jobs that the governor wants to bring to Prince William will require VRE to rethink its service, and develop a plan to offer new trains that leave Washington on weekday mornings headed south, to bring workers from the urban center to fill these jobs.

“That is part of our plan, to run trains in both directions, so people can work out here and live in the city,” said VRE CEO Doug Allen.

The cost for this new service is expected to top more than $2 billion for the addition of new track, new rail cars, all to do what the commuter rail system is already planning to do: double it’s ridership to 50,000 riders per day by 2040. The money, Allen says, could come from federal grants.

Improvements to the Long Bridge, which carries VRE and freight trains across the Potomac River into Washington, D.C., will also need to be improved if more trains are to be added to the system, said Allen. While the new infrastructure will cost, operating costs for the system are expected to remain about the same is southbound service is added, said Allen.

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