By Jennifer Buske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The federal government awarded nearly $14 million in stimulus funding to two mass transit providers in Northern Virginia, allowing them to expand their fleets and enhance services.
About $9.8 million, administered by the Federal Transit Administration, will go to Virginia Railway Express, and the rest will go to the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC). This is the first money the organizations have received under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"These funds are creating jobs now, while investing in the future of our transit systems," FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff said in a statement. "The public's demand for transit service continues to grow, and these dollars will help meet that need."
Most of VRE's share of the money will go toward the purchase of 12 locomotives, which will cost a total of $44 million, VRE spokesman Mark Roeber said. The rest of the money, about $98,000, will be used to extend the canopy at the Manassas Park station.
The commuter service has 20 locomotives that carry an average of six passenger cars. The new locomotives, which will arrive in about a year, will be able to pull 10 cars -- each holding about 144 riders -- and will operate more efficiently, Roeber said.
"In the current fleet, some of the locomotives are up to 50 years old and have exceeded their life expectancies," he said. "The new ones are more environmentally friendly and can carry greater loads, which will benefit the entire region."
PRTC, which provides bus service in Prince William County and up Interstate 95, will use the money to add two buses to its 126-bus fleet. One bus will seat 30 and the other 43, and they will be available in about a year, PRTC Director Al Harf said.
The agency will use the rest of the money for new bus shelters and other capital costs. A small portion, Harf said, will be passed to Fredericksburg's bus system so it can purchase shelters and signs.
PRTC has about 13,000 riders daily, and VRE served an average of 15,600 riders daily in July.
The $13.7 million the two transit agencies received is part of about $1.2 billion the FTA is distributing as part of the recovery act. The money is being used to improve state and local transit systems nationwide.