The Virginia Railway Express will fund a switch project that will open up storage space and pave the way for future expansion.
The VRE Operations Board voted Friday to add a switch outside L’Enfant station, which will allow trains to back up from Union Station and be stored at L’Enfant. The board authorized up to $250,000 of the roughly $2 million needed for the project. The board will be asked to approve more funding in the future.
VRE is plagued with overcrowding. The system, built to hold 20,000 riders, has surpassed that on numerous days. So far this month, the commuter-rail system has seen, on average, 19,400 riders a day.
In order to eventually add trains, VRE needed more storage and has built a storage track at L’Enfant. The rail line planned to terminate two added trains there, but riders protested. Because Union Station was the final destination for many of them, riders said, any added trains should terminate there.
VRE officials approved the switch project so that any new trains would be able to stop at Union Station. CSX, which owns that set of tracks, has agreed to allow the VRE trains to then move back to L’Enfant after the switch is in place.
VRE officials said the project will take 12 to 18 months.
Also at the meeting, VRE approved renovations to the Franconia-Springfield station and a new Kiss-and-Ride lot in Woodbridge.
VRE budgeted close to $588,000 in state, federal and local funds for renovations set to begin in July. At Franconia-Springfield, VRE will replace the stairs, platform canopy roof, gutter and down spouts. An official with CSX will be at the station during construction to assure passengers remain safe. The repairs are expected to be finished in November.
The board approved up to $613,500 for the new Kiss-and-Ride lot, which will be located along Route 1 at the Woodbridge station. The project was supposed to be completed as part of a planned Route 1/123 interchange. But since the interchange won’t be built anytime soon, VRE and Prince William County officials decided to go ahead and build the lot. The project should be complete by the end of the year, VRE officials said.