VRE to Gainesville/Haymarket… or not?

Did you get an invitation to the VDOT public open house and workshop for the VRE Gainesville-Haymarket Feasibility Study & Alternatives Analysis on July 30 (details below)…

Prince William has imposed an extra 2% tax on local gasoline sales to finance our contribution to VRE, which is one reason Prince William’s gas prices are often higher than in Fauquier and Warren counties.

The Virginia Railway Express Gainesville/Haymarket Implementation Plan presumes that we should spend big bucks (think $200-300 million for infrastructure, plus more annually for operational costs) to extend commuter rail.  The alternative is to focus on improving service on the current lines, running trains more often and offering greater reliability.

Even if you think more is better, we should at least recognize that we have a choice on deciding how far is far enough.

Extending VRE across Route 29 all the way to Haymarket invites people from Fauquier and Warren counties to drive to the commuter station and hop the train.  However, those counties do not pay for VRE; there’s no payment to VRE based on a 2% gas tax.

Any VRE expansion plan to Haymarket that is not synchronized with an expansion of funding partners is an invitation for non-residents to drive to Haymarket and get a subsidized train ride, courtesy of PW County taxpayers (and taxpayers in other counties/cities that are paying their fair share).

Expanding VRE to Haymarket might make a lot of sense if you live in Warrenton or Front Royal, but is this a smart strategy for Prince William?

Might make more sense to stop the VRE extension east of Route 29, near University Boulevard.  That would improve service for current residents on Linton Hall Road, and for future residents at Innovation Town Center and the proposed developments at Brentswood/Latsios properties, without inviting further sprawl into the Rural Crescent or adjacent counties.

Here’s a copy of the invitation:

You’re Invited to the first
for the VRE Gainesville-Haymarket-Feasibility
Study & Alternatives Analysis
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Stonewall Jackson High School
8820 Rixlew Lane • Manassas, VA 20109
6:30-7:00 p.m. Open House
7:00 p.m. Presentation & Public Discussion
9:00 p.m. Close


4 comments so far

  1. Jacob Frank on

    How can one argue with an extension of the VRE that will help to remove some cars/traffic from the road and provide a transporateion convenience to many in Haymarket and Gainesville and areas beyond?

    The infrastructure is mainly in place, even if a second track is needed. There seems like little harm could be done to the environment while removing vehicles from the road is certainly a plus for the environment.

    When it comes to transportation there are few alternatives right now to alleviate traffic in general.

    The only question is how will this increase in the frequency of trains upset local traffic patterns on roads that the tracks cross. This should be explored to see to what extent this can be minimized. the Route 15 and 29 crossings are the big questions.

    Otherwise I see very little rational for objecting to the Haymarket extension of the VRE.

    Jake Frank

  2. Mom on

    Well then, you obviously don’t live in Haymarket or understand the constraints under which VRE operates.

    Should they choose to extend the line to Haymarket, it would create a nexus of traffic from all directions that the current infrastructure (15, 55, 66 and their attendant ramps and intersections) can not presently handle and for which no funds for improvement are available. The arguement that the line will take a substantial number of cars of the road in that area is a myth as the capacity of the system is such that it amounts to little more than a spit in the ocean. Further, there is an environmental impact in that the widening would have to take place in large portions of North Fork Creek, a variety of wetlands and the floodplain, not to mention a great number of people’s backyards.

    What’s the upside, commuter parking for those who live in Fauquier, Warren, Loundon and Frederick counties? I think not, similarly, VRE’s own experts note that the station would not provide any appreciable boon to local businesses as their commuters generally go straight to their cars and directly home. There is also the issue of the requirement for a yard at the end of the line, read more encroachment on environmentally sensitive areas and more noise.

    I will give you that the increased number of trains would detrimentally impact the at grade crossings of which there are several including the one on 15.

    With regard to the operational aspect, putting the end of the line in Haymarket would impact the system much as the Vienna station impacts the Orange line, you max out your capacity at the first stop and make the system more inconvenient to use by those further up the tracks. Given the development that has been proposed to make use of existing or the planned Gainesville station, a terminus in Haymarket would disincentivize usage of those stations and endanger the viabliity or profitablity of existent or planned development at those other stations.

    Above and beyond that, you get much more bang for the buck by investing those dollars in road improvements given the limited reach of the VRE, the NY subway it is not.

  3. Big Dog on

    Expanding the VRE to Haymarket/Gainesville is a
    mute question because, if nothing else, lack of money
    at all levels of government. The most recent
    blame game in Richmond left little to even
    maintain and support our current level of transportation
    services – much less fund a major VRE expansion.

  4. cgrymes on

    > How can one argue with an extension of the VRE?

    Yes, it is a bit like arguing against apple pie. Yes, expanding VRE to Gainesville is certainly better than doing nothing about traffic, or just building another lane for cars on I-66.

    But we have options regarding congestion. “Do something” is not the same as “we must expand VRE.”

    Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) on the I-66 corridor is an attractive alternative, especially if the Federal government agreed to pay a high percentage of the construction costs. (BRT requires that we dedicate one lane to just buses at rush hour – otherwise, we’d just have Bus Slow Transit.)

    BRT offers far more flexibility than rail-based transit. VRE will never get commuters to Reston, Tysons, or Dulles. Buses could take PW residents wherever new job/retail centers emerge in Northern Virginia.

    The best alternative: use the county’s zoning powers to stimulate new town centers that encourage both jobs and residences in the Gainesville area. We need a higher percentage of commuters (and increased property taxes) to stay right in PW County.

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