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VRE nixes expansion to Gainesville, Haymarket. It’ll study expanding, relocating its Broad Run station in Manassas

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

As we originally reported it would do in December, Virginia Railway Express this month decided to end its study of expanding commuter rail west of Manassas to Haymarket and Gainesville.

From VRE: 

“The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) Operations Board unanimously voted to advance the Broad Run Terminus Expansion alternative of the Gainesville-Haymarket Extension Study. This alternative, which was recommended by the VRE staff and endorsed by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, allows for capacity expansion along the Manassas line by expanding storage at the Broad Run train yard, and potentially realigning the current station and adding new parking at the Broad Run station.

The vote allows VRE to advance into “Phase 2” of the current project, which will include the completion of preliminary engineering and preparation for National Environmental Policy Act evaluation. An early step in the next phase will be continuing coordination with the Norfolk Southern railroad, working toward their approval of the necessary railroad infrastructure.

The Broad Run Terminus was one of five alternatives studied by VRE with input from the local community and the various jurisdictions along the Manassas line. The other alternatives included eliminating the Broad Run station and expanding the line as far as Gainesville or Haymarket. In approving the Broad Run Expansion alternative, the Board noted its decision was based on an analysis that showed this was the most cost effective means of addressing future service needs along the Manassas line.

VRE Chief Executive Doug Allen stated, “I am pleased VRE conducted a thorough technical analysis with robust stakeholder involvement to provide the Operations Board and Prince William County with the information they needed to reach their conclusion.” He added, “with the decision, the Board demonstrated its vision to ensure VRE remains a critical component of the Northern Virginia transportation system well into the future, while at the same time being committed to ensuring investments provide the most value for the taxpayers’ dollars.” This process moves VRE toward expanding its ability to add more service on the Manassas Line. A Broad Run terminus expansion would allow the commuter rail service to meet ridership demands along the Manassas line by letting it to run longer and more frequent trains.”

The study that examined a possible extension to Gainesville and Haymarket found those areas are not slated for the type of residential or commercial development that would support up to three new stations along the rail line.

Prior to the VRE Board of Directors vote, Prince William County Supervisor Jeanine Lawson said the state’s only transit agency must be mindful of the county’s land use plan and expand only where appropriate. 

“With regard to the VRE Extension study, I believe at the very least, we have enough information coming out of Phase 1 of the study to suggest that VRE should discontinue any further study work on VRE to Haymarket.

Concerning Broad Run, it does not appear that VRE has identified any viable sites for the relocation of the Broad Run station but if the VRE Operations Board desires to make improvements at the existing Broad Run station that of course is consistent with our board’s policies. 

If the VRE Operations Board wishes to continue their work, any Phase 2 of the study must keep as a key consideration Prince William County’s land use policies and economic development goals.  VRE can pursue any additional study work within the current allocated funding or seek other outside funding sources.” 

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