Two commissions that oversee the Virginia Railway Express commuter railroad approved an offer late last week to settle a dispute with Manassas Park over resident-only parking spaces.
If the deal is approved by Manassas Park officials Tuesday, the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission and the Northern Virginia Transportation District Commission would drop a lawsuit against the city filed in federal court last month.
The proposal, approved unanimously by the commissions Thursday, would construct an addition to the Manassas Park VRE train platform and pay for sidewalks along Manassas Drive in exchange for eliminating the station's 151 parking spaces reserved for Manassas Park residents.
"The commissions have spoken," said Mark Roeber, a VRE spokesman. "It is now in the city's hands, and we're hopeful that the city will accept the terms."
After complaints from out-of-town riders who use the Manassas Park station, the Federal Transit Administration ruled that the special parking spaces must go. Because parking at the station was recently expanded with $1.9 million in U.S. funds and federal law prohibits discrimination, residents' parking privileges must cease. If they don't, federal funds for VRE could be in jeopardy.
The plan in essence would exchange one amenity, reserved parking, for another, better walking and waiting conditions for passengers.
VRE has estimated that a platform and roof extension would cost about $350,000. VRE also would pay for about $100,000 worth of sidewalks around the train station. City officials want to extend sidewalks on Manassas Drive to the station.
The resident-only spaces were set aside in 1998 as part of an agreement to allow nonresidents to park in the lot for free.
In 1999, VRE bought city-owned land to double parking at the station, using federal money. The expansion project included improvements to the original lot. VRE and the city agreed that the resident spaces could stay.
City officials say that although federal funds were used to double the number of parking spaces at the station to 600, the new spaces constitute a separate, adjacent 300-space lot.
After months of negotiations, the two regional transportation commissions sued Manassas Park in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. According to the resolution passed by the regional transportation commission, the lawsuit would be dropped if the city agreed to its provisions.
The resolutions also give the commissions authority to amend a 1999 memorandum of understanding between the city of Manassas Park and VRE on the parking lot to reflect the changes.
For the past three months, the city has suspended enforcement of the resident-only regulations, which used to be enforced with $20 tickets. But the city has not taken down signs designating the spaces.
Manassas Park City Attorney Dean Crowhurst said he could not predict the outcome of the vote by Manassas Park officials scheduled for Tuesday, but added, "If you look at what the governing body approved a few weeks ago and what the commissions approved Thursday, there's remarkably little difference between them."