VRE Extension to Haymarket Proposes to Remove 100 Cars/Day from I-66… At Cost of $468 Million
In 2004, the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) adopted a Strategic Plan that considered building an extension to Gainesville/Haymarket. Expanding the rail network was predicted to generate 3,100 – 5,500 new riders/day.1
VRE chose to focus on increasing capacity within the existing network of stations, rather than proceed with more-detailed planning for the extension.
In 2009, VRE completed a new feasibility study to consider the extension again. That study used the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) computer model to forecast travel demand. VRE estimated the extension would generate 500-1,800 new riders/day (also described as 1,000 to 3,600 trips/day, since each rider going into DC would be matched by a return trip in the evening).
The higher number of riders initially projected in 2004 assumed that VRE could run an unlimited number of trains into DC. The lower 2009 projection was based on the capacity limits in the contract with freight railroad CSX, which owns the railroad tracks. The contract allows VRE to make only six more trips/day on the Manassas line; the commuter rail system can add only three more trains for the morning rush hour, and three returning trips in the evening.2
In 2014 VRE adopted a new long-range plan called VRE System Plan 2040. It affirmed again “VRE’s mission is to provide a safe, reliable, convenient, and cost-effective passenger rail service as an alternative to driving congested highways from the northern Virginia suburbs to Alexandria, Crystal City, and Washington DC employment centers.“3
In 2015, VRE began planning the expansion again, and advertised the #1 public benefit for the extension to be “Adding capacity to the I-66 corridor.“4
Studies are now underway to identify where new passenger stations could be located, where the existing railyard at Broad Run for parking/maintaining trains could be relocated, and what would be the costs of adding one or two new tracks on the 11-mile stretch to Haymarket and building three new stations.
VRE plans to add three additional trains on the Manassas Line. The CSX contract allows only three more trains to go all the way into DC and to return (expanding the current 16 trips/day to 22 trips/day on the Manassas Line). VRE is also considering running trains during the day from Prince William County to the Alexandria station, where riders could switch to Metrorail.
At its public meeting on April 27, 2016, VRE revealed that the proposed Gainesville/Haymarket extension would generate 300 new riders/day in 2025, compared to the “no action” alternative of staying at the current Broad Run station with no construction of an extension to Gainesville/Haymarket.
Over the next 15 years, the extension would generate just an additional 50 more riders. VRE graphs display the numbers as 600 more trips in 2025 (13,800 trips/day with the extension vs. 13,200 trips/day without it) and 700 more trips in the year 2040 (14,700 trips/day vs. 14,000 trips/day).5
If the extension is built, it will go into operation after I-66 implements a requirement that High Occupancy Vehicles carry 3 passengers. Under HOV3, the 300 additional riders carried by VRE into DC each day would reduce traffic on I-66 by 100 cars/day in 2025, and by 116 cars in 2040.
Estimated cost of the VRE extension to Haymarket is $468,013,156.6
1. Phase 2 Report, VRE Strategic Plan, Virginia Railway Express, May 2004, p.76, http://www.vre.org/vre/assets/File/gainesvillehaymarket/strategic-plan.pdf (last checked April 30, 2016)
2. “Executive Summary,” VRE Gainesville-Haymarket Feasibility Study Report, Virginia Railway Express, September 28, 2009, pp.5-6, http://www.vre.org/vre/assets/File/gainesvillehaymarket/VRE_Executive_Summary_09_28_2009.pdf (last checked April 30, 2016)
3. “VRE System Plan 2040,” Virginia Railway Express, February 2014, p.4, http://www.vre.org/vre/assets/File/2040%20Sys%20Plan%20VRE%20finaltech%20memo%20combined.pdf (last checked April 30, 2016)
4. “Project Benefits – Why GHX Now?,” Frequently Asked Questions, Virginia Railway Express, http://www.vre-ghx.org/learn-more/project-benefits/ (last checked April 30, 2016)
5. “Initial Ridership 2025,” Gainesville-Haymarket Extension Study Community Meeting, April 27, 2016, slides 18-19, http://www.vre-ghx.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/GHX-Community-Meeting-2-April-2016-web_Optimize.pdf (last checked April 30, 2016)
6. “HB2 Project Scores in Excel,” NB2 Projects, Virginia Department of Transportation, http://www.virginiahb2.org/projects/default.asp (last checked April 30, 2016)