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20 years in the making, Arkendale project on track to speed up train service

QUANTICO — Nine miles of new track and improvements to Quantico’s rail station is underway and are hoped to help alleviate some of the congestion on the busy Interstate 95 corridor between Stafford and Washington, D.C.

The Arkendale to Powell’s Creek ‘third track project’ on the Potomac River is a $115 million-dollar investment of federal and state funds to benefit intercity passenger rail service in the I-95 Corridor.

Part of a larger initiative, The Atlantic Gateway, the Arkendale project includes construction of a third track between Richmond and Washington. The third track segment will be used to enhance the performance schedule for intercity passenger service, high-speed passenger rail service, and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) commuter service while preserving freight operations by allowing trains to meet, pass or overtake other trains.

Project improvements also include structures such as under-grade and overhead railroad bridges, railroad crossings and signal systems.

Improvements to Quantico Station include conversion of a side platform to an island platform with a pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks, enabling all three tracks to serve the passenger station.

Construction of the third main track runs from milepost 71.0 at Arkendale in northeastern Stafford County to milepost 81.3 at Possum Point in Prince William County. This corridor includes the Potomac River and wetlands on either side.

“Construction for the overall initiative has been incrementally underway since 2000,” said Jeremy Latimer, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT)’s project manager.

In 2009, the Obama Administration recognized the project as vital to the construction of a national network of high-speed trains. In 2012, the federal government provided $78.4 million in recovery act to the project. Despite delays, that money has been spent and the track built.

“Some of the challenges come in from working with low-lying water areas,” said Latimer. “There have been some delays because bridges are part of the project. There is also the coordination of different agencies and trying to make sure the third track serves both freight and passengers pedestrians. The long-term plan of building out the third track between Richmond and D.C. is to have it serve all stations and all stations to utilize all three tracks.”

The section of the I-95 corridor just between Fredericksburg and Washington carries more than 350 million tons of freight each year and more than 400,000 people per day. The Arkendale project will increase those numbers even more, though it is hard to specify how much because the track will accommodate passengers and freight trains not currently using the system.

The expected completion date for the Arkendale project is 2020.

Overlap with Potomac Shores Station project

The Potomac Shores Station project, a planned station at the Potomac Shores mixed-use community, near Dumfries, overlaps with the Arkendale project in design. While the third track does not go through Potomac Shores, DRPT is assisting in the design work.

“The Potomac Shores Station is being funded and built by the private developer of the Potomac Shores Development (SunCal). The station project does not involve building the third track,” said VRE Chief of Staff Joseph M. Swartz.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is building a third track, but it will not do so all the way to Potomac Shores. SunCal proffered the station based on the development being built. The station will belong to the county.”

“Potomac Shores is a higher ground area, so that’s easier,” says Latimer, comparing progress to the Arkendale project.

Ground breaking for the Potomac Shores station took place July 31, 2014. An open of of the station was originlaly planned for this year, however, it could be 2018 before passengers start using the station. 

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