Frequently Asked Questions

The following answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) are supplemented and maintained on a regular basis to ensure that you have access to the latest information.

Is VRE only considering a full extension to Haymarket or are there other options under consideration?

VRE is evaluating four alternatives for Manassas Line improvements and service expansion:

RELOCATED BROAD RUN STATION: no extension via the NS B Line; increase service frequency from 16 to 22 trains per day at a new Broad Run terminal station; and expand the existing VRE equipment storage and maintenance facility.

INNOVATION TERMINUS: extension of VRE service via the B Line to a new station in Innovation Park; increase service frequency to 22 daily trains, construct a new equipment storage and maintenance facility near Innovation Park; eliminate service to the existing Broad Run station.

GAINESVILLE TERMINUS: extension of VRE service via the B Line to new stations in Innovation Park and in the Gainesville area; increase service frequency to 22 daily trains, construct a new equipment storage and maintenance facility near Gainesville; eliminate service to the existing Broad Run station.

HAYMARKET TERMINUS: extension of VRE service via the B Line to a new station in Innovation Park, Gainesville and the Haymarket area; increase service frequency to 22 daily trains, construct a new equipment storage and maintenance facility near Haymarket; eliminate service to the existing Broad Run station.

Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) must approve any VRE improvements or service expansion that uses NS right-of-way. VRE does not currently have an agreement with NS for any of the alternatives being evaluated. As VRE continues to study the various expansion alternatives, they will coordinate the proposed improvements with NS and work to obtain their formal approval.

How did you identify and develop the Innovation terminus and the Gainesville terminus alternatives? These are new since the last public presentation.

During the spring committee and public meetings VRE heard a lot of interest from stakeholders in exploring shorter extension alternatives that could still expand VRE’s service and increase Manassas Line ridership, while at the same time minimizing project costs. In response to this input VRE has completed additional analysis to better understand the potential benefits and costs of these other terminus alternatives.

Several sites at the north end of the Innovation Park have been identified for a terminal Innovation station. In the Gainesville area two potential station locations were identified – near US29 and VA55, and near University Boulevard. VRE has looked at constructing a Gainesville station at one or both locations to better understand potential differences in ridership, cost and station accessibility among the two sites.

Has VRE decided not to build an extension to Haymarket? If no decision has been made, what is the timeline for making a decision?

Between October and December 2016, VRE staff will be sharing the results of the initial planning phase of the GHX Study with the VRE Operations Board, local governing bodies, GHX stakeholder committees, and the public and seeking their feedback about the VRE expansion alternatives considered, including building an extension as far as Haymarket or expanding the Manassas Line and existing Broad Run-area station. After the December community meeting, the VRE Operations Board will be asked to recommend one or more alternatives to advance for further analysis, including National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) studies and more detailed engineering.

If none of the Gainesville-Haymarket extension alternatives are recommended to advance for NEPA analysis, no further study of the extension would be conducted. The environmental studies and preliminary engineering activities would commence in early 2017 and likely conclude by early 2018. Any VRE expansion plans are also subject to approval by NS.

Are the other alternatives that were previously under consideration no longer being evaluated?

The alternatives presented to the VRE board at this week’s meeting are those for which we have new technical information and which have been determined to best satisfy station size, access and railroad requirements. VRE shared findings of its planning analyses for the initial range of service, station location, and yard location alternatives during the spring project meetings and July Operations Board meeting. All of those alternatives will be presented at the December community meeting along with information on the evaluation process undertaken to arrive at the smaller number of alternatives now being considered.

If VRE service is extended to a terminus at Innovation, could VRE still use the Broad Run equipment storage and maintenance yard

No. With any VRE extension, a new yard would be required at the end of the line to avoid adverse impacts to NS freight operations and to minimize long-term VRE operating costs.

Can we wait for a few years to make the decision about expanding VRE Manassas Line service along the B Line?

VRE growth is constrained by the size of its Broad Run equipment storage and maintenance facility. In order to continue to expand passenger capacity as demand for VRE service grows, VRE must operate longer trains than it does today and/or operate more frequent trains as is proposed in the GHX study. More passenger coaches and locomotives will be needed and the Broad Run yard facility must be expanded to store them. Because the existing yard is surrounded by floodplains and wetlands to the west and the Manassas Regional Airport to the south, the only place to expand the yard is the Broad Run station parking lot. That requires relocating the Broad Run station; two sites are being studied on the other side of the airport about a mile from the current station location.

Physical expansion is needed in order for VRE to continue to serve its riders and be an effective transportation solution. If VRE decides to expand by purchasing more equipment, relocating the Broad Run station and increasing the size of the Broad Run yard, it will require a significant capital investment that will have a life span of 20 years or more. If that investment is made, it will set the course for the VRE system for the foreseeable future.

Additionally, if a VRE extension to the Gainesville-Haymarket area is not advanced now, and the land required for new stations and railroad infrastructure reserved, that land will likely be developed for other purposes and be unavailable for VRE use at a future date.  The cost to build stations, track and other facilities needed for a VRE B Line extension will also continue to increase over time, making the GHX project even more costly than it is today.

Who is paying for the GHX study? Who will pay for an extension?

The current study is funded through a Commonwealth of Virginia Rail Enhancement Fund grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and regional funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA).

VRE will continue to work with DRPT and NVTA, as well as the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Prince William County, and other potential funding partners during this study to develop a detailed financial plan for implementing the VRE expansion alternative(s) that may advance for further study.

What is the VRE Gainesville-Haymarket Extension (VRE GHX)?

The VRE GHX is a proposed 11-mile extension of the VRE Manassas Line commuter rail service via the Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) B-Line branch, extending from the City of Manassas through Gainesville to the Town of Haymarket near the intersection of U.S. Route 15 and I-66.

How many stations will be built and where will they be located?

The number and location of station sites as well as the number of parking spaces at each station will be defined through the current VRE GHX study, beginning with additional analysis of the general station areas identified in prior studies. Information about the prior studies is available on the Project Library page. Public input and comments will be critical to help us define station locations. Please share your comments here.

What are the benefits of the extension?

Extending VRE service to the Gainesville-Haymarket area will improve mobility and provide a new travel choice in western Prince William County, the Town of Haymarket and the I-66 Corridor. It is envisioned that more VRE service will be provided on the Manassas Line once the VRE GHX is complete. More frequent trains throughout the day will provide greater travel options for all Manassas Line riders including Prince William County, Manassas, Manassas Park and Fairfax County residents. For more information on project benefits, visit the Project Benefits page.

How much will the VRE GHX project cost?

Preliminary cost estimates are being defined, including elements such as stations and park and ride lots, additional track, more VRE equipment and land acquisition. Having a wide variation in the estimated cost is not unusual at this stage of the project. These preliminary cost estimates will be updated during the current study as the engineering designs are refined and more project details are developed.

Why is a VRE Extension needed if Express Lanes and bus service are going to be added to I-66 in Haymarket and Gainesville?

Taken alone, the Express Lanes and bus service proposed in the VDOT I-66 Outside the Beltway project will not provide the transportation capacity to accommodate long-term travel demand in the I-66 corridor. Prior studies by VDOT and DRPT determined that a mixture of multimodal improvements – including the VRE Gainesville-Haymarket Extension – was the best solution to address future demand, provide new travel options and reduce congestion.

In addition, the VRE System Plan 2040 determined that expected population growth in the VRE service area will continue to increase demand for commuter travel in corridors served by VRE, including the I-66 corridor. System Plan 2040 investments such as the VRE GHX, and the more frequent service proposed in the plan, will enable VRE to serve a greater share of the longer-distance trips to and from the Washington, DC/Arlington/Alexandria activity centers that are VRE’s primary market.

Why not extend Metro to Haymarket in the median of I-66?

The VDOT recommended design concept for Transforming I-66 Outside the Beltway includes space in the median of I-66 for future transit service, which could be a Metrorail extension. This approach is consistent with the transportation plans of both Fairfax and Prince William Counties, which include the extension of Metrorail within the I-66 right of way. At this time, however, Metro is focusing on ensuring that equipment and facilities are in a state of good repair, increasing system capacity by purchasing and implementing eight-car trains across the system, and improving core capacity in Washington, DC. Metro does not anticipate any extensions of the system until these priority projects are complete. For more information, see Metro’s Momentum Report.

What is the best way to contact the project team or find out more about the project?

For more information about the VRE GHX project please visit other sections on this website, www.vre.org/ghx. Inquiries or comments can be e-mailed to the project team at ghx@vre.org or click here to submit a comment or question. Media inquiries should be directed to Joseph Swartz at jswartz@vre.org or 703-838-5425.

What is VRE?

The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is a transportation partnership of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC). Established in 1992, VRE provides commuter rail service from the Northern Virginia suburbs to Alexandria, Crystal City and downtown Washington, D.C. The VRE Fredericksburg Line is part of the I-95 travel corridor and includes stations in Spotsylvania, Stafford, Prince William and Fairfax Counties as well as the City of Fredericksburg. The VRE Manassas Line is part of the I-66 travel corridor and includes stations in Prince William and Fairfax Counties, the City of Manassas and the City of Manassas Park. The two lines merge at the City of Alexandria and continue through Arlington County to Washington Union Station.

For additional information about VRE service visit www.vre.org.

For additional information about VRE, click here.