Some long-serving members of the Virginia Railway Express Operations Board — some of whom date back to the founding of the commuter railroad in 1991 — said goodbye.
Sharon Bulova, who represents Fairfax County on the commission, and who is the retiring Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman, served decades on the commission. She described how it took an act of congress to create the commuter railroad, explaining how the host railroads, Norfolk Southern and CSX demanded to be let off the hook an accident were to happen on the tracks used by VRE trains.
“Now, to leave when we’re going to have our own right-of-way, we’re going to be able to take our place at the regional transportation table,” said Bulova.
Just before Christmas, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced a $3.7 billion deal to purchase 350 miles of the railroad right of way for new track to be laid in next to the existing track on the Fredericksburg line. It’ll mean VRE trains will no longer have to fight with CSX for a spot on the rails, allowing VRE to double service by 75%.
The deal will also bring the construction of a nearly new $2 billion Long Bridge across the Potomac River, linking Arlington and Washington, D.C. The bridge will double the capacity of the number of trains that currently travel through the corridor.
Maureen Caddigan, who has a VRE locomotive named for her, is also retiring from public service. “It’s been an honor to be a part of this organization,” she said.
VRE Operations and Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol credited Caddigan with opening many doors for women to serve. “I’m grateful for that,” said Cristol.
Caddigan has been the Potomac District Supervisor (formerly Dumfries District) since 1992 and has long advocated for Potomac Shores, a mixed-use neighborhood near Dumfries that is slated to soon have a new VRE station.
“We’re going to take care of Potomac Shores for you,” said Jeanine Lawson, Prince William County’s Brentsville District Supervisor and VRE Operations Board member.
Outgoing Prince William County Coles District Supervisor Marty Nohe is also leaving the VRE board. “For the last 11 years, I’ve got to be the face of the solution of the thing Northern Virginians hate most,” said Nohe. ”Northern Virginians hate traffic like the rest of the world hates Mondays.”
Also departing is Fairfax County Braddock District Supervisor John Cook and Stafford County Rock Hill District Supervisor Wendy Maurer.
“When you serve as long as you have with these people, they become like family… this is an end of an era for this organization,” said Matt Kelly, who serves on the VRE board and on the Fredericksburg City Council. This was the leadership that got us to the long bridge decision yesterday, now passing to a new generation… I hope everyone recognizes the accomplishments you’ve made.”
The new VRE Operations Board is expected to meet in January 2020.