The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission today will ask state legislators to seek funding for a two-year commuter rail service experiment between Washington's Union Station and Fredericksburg and Manassas.
"It will be an uphill battle" to get the money, said state Del. David G. Brickley (D-Prince William). He and other officials said they are nonetheless optimistic about getting the $8 million in local and state funding the project needs.
Stephen T. Roberts of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission briefed Rep. Stan Parris, a Northern Virginia Republican and longtime supporter of the project, on its status yesterday. Area legislators will be briefed on the proposal today at the commission's headquarters.
Roberts, Parris and others predict that the lines could be running as early as next summer. The two-year experiment would cost a total of $14.5 million and use existing rail lines to carry commuters fromWashington, Manassas and Fredericksburg, as well as Quantico, Woodbridge, Clifton, Fairfax Station, Burke and Springfield at a maximum of $6 round trip.
In addition to the $8 million that the commission hopes to get from local and state governments, the transit commission estimates it can raise $7 million through ticket sales.
Officials hope the rail lines would relieve traffic congestion on highways, especially on I-95 during commuter rush hour.
Fairfax and Prince William counties have already contributed $65,000 for a consultant to review the proposal, and the legislators plan to ask Stafford County, Fredericksburg and Manassas to contribute money for the study, which is expected to take 90 days.
In order to cut costs, the commission hopes to lease used equipment from another transit authority. Parris, Brickley and Roberts are planning to visit southeastern Michigan and Toronto May 28 to try to work out a leasing agreement with one of the areas.
The authority said it would probably contract for workers with the two railroads that own the lines -- Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac, and Norfolk Southern. However, the current rail labor agreements with those companies call for up to five-person crews, and the commission would like to operate with two-person crews.
Roberts said that the negotiations would be between the railroad companies and the unions, but he is hopeful accommodations could be made to reduce the operating costs.
To minimize the expense of ticket selling, the commission has proposed the use of passes sold by mail. It also suggested "train-meisters," or volunteer passenger ticket collectors, who would check tickets in exchange for free travel. Such volunteers are used on Reston and Prince William buses.