VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

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ThirdRail7
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VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

Post by ThirdRail7 »

As VRE looks at their long range plans, they are contemplating a few bold and daring ideas.

Please allow a brief "fair use" quote:


VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans
http://www.freelancestar.com/2013-07-20 ... ion-plans/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
A presentation by VRE, along with consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff, showed that VRE ridership has increased an average of 8 percent annually over the past 15 years. And that opened the floor to one key topic of VRE’s future: how to handle capacity, which officials say is all but tapped out.

“Everybody knows this, our trains are full,” said Christine Hoeffner, VRE’s planning manager.

During the workshop, Doug Allen, VRE’s chief executive officer, said new federal funding is geared to help systems like the commuter rail service increase capacity.

But expanding service is complicated by agreements with CSX and Norfolk Southern, which own the tracks VRE uses.

With that in mind, Operations Board member Chris Zimmerman said VRE should consider a way to get its own tracks so it wouldn’t have to rely on a “host railroad.” Other members agreed.

Board member Jonathan Way said VRE also needs to consider how big it wants to be.

The strategic plan covers ideas both big and small.

On the modest end would be an initiative to simply add rail cars to trains and possibly add a train to each line during peak hours.

Other ideas in the plan would be major changes.

New stations, mostly along the Manassas line’s corridor, could be built.

Reverse commutes, from the Washington, D.C., area south, and all-day service are other scenarios included in the plan.

Expansion into other localities also could happen. The plan names Fauquier and Caroline counties as potential future VRE members.

The most radical idea in the plan would create a regional network, merging VRE with Maryland’s MARC train
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Arlington
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Re: VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

Post by Arlington »

Its time they merged with MARC!

NS has (in the past) floated the idea of selling out its Culpeper-to-Manassas tracks and its Manassas-to-Front Royal (B-Line) in favor of a Culpeper Cutoff (Culpeper to Front Royal). It seems unlikely, bit it is ideal: the railroad eliminates a circuitous routing from its Crescent Corridor, and the passenger services gain control of their growing corridor (Amtrak Virginia operates Manassas to Culpeper-Charlottesville-Lynchburg-etc.) and VRE wants to expand westward out the B-line for its Haymarket extension.

There's a very limited number of places where VRE could "get its own tracks" free of a host railroad:
- A new Long Bridge from DC to Arlington (and owning the WUS southern approaches thorugh L'Enfant and the Tunnel)
- Alongside CSX and NS in its district
- buying Culpeper-Manassas-Alexandria/Front Royal from Norfolk Southern (if part of a VA DRPT -brokered Culpeper Freight Cutoff)
- Along the W&OD trail (Winchester/Martinsburg/Frederick to Leesburg to Tysons could probably support commuter rail, but how would you tie to "the rest of the world")?
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

MattW
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Re: VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

Post by MattW »

So what exactly are the capacity problems? I know the Long Bridge is one chokepoint. Is there an issue with the station platforms all being on one side? At the very least, that would prevent any kind of reverse peak service since trains can't pass each other while serving the stations. I've also wondered if it isn't time for Virginia to make an offer on the RF&P with an eye toward making a southern extension of the electrified NEC to Richmond. I'm not saying electrify every train south out of D.C., the LDs can still make their engine change in DC like normal along with the Lynchburger and Hampton Roads Regionals. But back to VRE, at the very least, it would allow expanded commuter rail service (assuming the chokepoints north of and including Alexandria can be solved).

mmi16
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Re: VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

Post by mmi16 »

CSX purchased the RF&P from the State of Virginia in the early 90's after much wrangling over price and other conditions. The likelyhood of it being sold back to the state is somewhere between slim and none and slim is out of the country on permant vacation and cannot be reached. CSX is not investing the Billion$ into the National Gateway project that it is and giving up control of the RF&P.
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Station Aficionado
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Re: VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

Post by Station Aficionado »

Arlington wrote:Its time they merged with MARC!

NS has (in the past) floated the idea of selling out its Culpeper-to-Manassas tracks and its Manassas-to-Front Royal (B-Line) in favor of a Culpeper Cutoff (Culpeper to Front Royal). It seems unlikely, bit it is ideal: the railroad eliminates a circuitous routing from its Crescent Corridor, and the passenger services gain control of their growing corridor (Amtrak Virginia operates Manassas to Culpeper-Charlottesville-Lynchburg-etc.) and VRE wants to expand westward out the B-line for its Haymarket extension.

There's a very limited number of places where VRE could "get its own tracks" free of a host railroad:
- A new Long Bridge from DC to Arlington (and owning the WUS southern approaches thorugh L'Enfant and the Tunnel)
- Alongside CSX and NS in its district
- buying Culpeper-Manassas-Alexandria/Front Royal from Norfolk Southern (if part of a VA DRPT -brokered Culpeper Freight Cutoff)
- Along the W&OD trail (Winchester/Martinsburg/Frederick to Leesburg to Tysons could probably support commuter rail, but how would you tie to "the rest of the world")?
Sorry to be late to the game. I think you're a little off on what NS had at one time suggested, Mr. Arlington. The topography and the presence of Shenandoah NP would preclude anything like a direct line from Culpeper to Front Royal. IIRC, what they proposed would have been a cutoff from near Warrenton to around The Plains or Marshall, roughly paralleling Rte. 17. The main purpose of this cutoff would have been to avoid the congested and accident-prone grade crossing on the B-Line at Rte. 29 in Gainesville. That crossing is now being bridged (maybe NS was simply trying to nudge the state forward on that). Moreover, the cutoff would likely have come much too close to Great Meadow, and that assuredly would not have happened.

As for the W&OD, the railroad never went any further than Bluemont and the trail ends at Purcellville, and I don't think there's a good route through the Blue Ridge from Purcellville to Winchester (part of the reason the railroad was never extended).

Arlington
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Re: VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

Post by Arlington »

Station Aficionado wrote:Sorry to be late to the game. I think you're a little off on what NS had at one time suggested, Mr. Arlington. The topography and the presence of Shenandoah NP would preclude anything like a direct line from Culpeper to Front Royal. IIRC, what they proposed would have been a cutoff from near Warrenton to around The Plains or Marshall, roughly paralleling Rte. 17. The main purpose of this cutoff would have been to avoid the congested and accident-prone grade crossing on the B-Line at Rte. 29 in Gainesville. That crossing is now being bridged (maybe NS was simply trying to nudge the state forward on that). Moreover, the cutoff would likely have come much too close to Great Meadow, and that assuredly would not have happened
Its all plenty fuzzy (nobody really knows or wants to be pinned down on *exactly* where it would go), but everyone--I've seen presentations by both Virginia and NS--seems pretty sure that the V-shaped freight routing (into Manassas and "back out") is slow and circuitous on a NS Corridor that wants to be oriented from The South to Pennsylvania, and so wants to cut off as much as possible from Culpeper to Front Royal (cutting off the most V mileage with the proportionately-shortest cutoff length). Whatever the bits being "cut off" are, they will either drive (or be driven by) what VRE needs for growth beyond Manassas. If NS is paying, they'll drive VRE's options. If Virginia is paying, I think the VRE's needs will drive: the farther West and South the cutoff will go, and the more that VRE could ultimately acquire.

Here's what the State of Virginia had to say in a freight-oriented study (on Page 4-3 of its Feasibility Plan for Maximum Truck to Rail Diversion in Virginia’s I-81 Corridor )
The Culpeper Cutoff is a concept that should be on the radar screen. It would involve construction of a new double track railroad, engineered for 60 mph intermodal train speeds, between Culpeper (on NS’s Manassas-Charlottesville line) and near Linden (on NS’s ManassasFront Royal line). At 36 miles in length, the Cutoff would reduce the distance traveled of each Crescent Corridor-Piedmont route train by over 38 miles and reduce running time by more than an hour. Shenandoah route trains using the Cutoff would incur a few more miles in distance, but save running time. The Cutoff – or a comparable infusion of new capacity – will be necessary long term to accommodate NS traffic growth beyond 2035, and it might be needed sooner if I-81 Corridor traffic is consolidated on either the Piedmont or Shenandoah lines.
And the picture (since removed from NS's PR site, where it appeared in a presentation) generally fit the consultant-written description of a Linden-area tie-in (and so as few as 4 miles from Front Royal city limits, but at least 8 miles from US17 and 12 miles from Marshall and 15miles from The Plains. I don't recall where they estimated it between Culpeper and Warrenton. Nobody is going to hold anybody to an exact location of a highly-conceptual plan, but the further west the Cutoff gets pushed on the B-Line and the farther south toward Culpeper it goes, the more VRE will have a clear shot at acquiring the cut-off miles of radial commuter routes from DC
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

jb9152
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Re: VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

Post by jb9152 »

mmi16 wrote:
MattW wrote:So what exactly are the capacity problems? I know the Long Bridge is one chokepoint. Is there an issue with the station platforms all being on one side?
A big issue is Washington Union Terminal. Limited platform access for VRE trains, and no storage facility north of the station at which to layover trains. Everything that comes into the station has to turn and leave.

Arlington
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Re: VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

Post by Arlington »

An additional stop for VRE in Greenbelt with Green and Purple Line tie in or in Bowie should be on the map for VRE almost without Marylands help--simply because it is likely the cheapest solution and would likely pay for itself in marginal patronage (even as MARC does in WVa or the MBTA has sought to do in new termini in Nee Hampshire)
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

ThirdRail7
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Re: VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

Post by ThirdRail7 »

This is an interesting article that deserves to be read in its entirety. You can never shake the political aspects from these situations.


Caroline divided over joining PRTC
http://www.freelancestar.com/2013-12-26 ... ning-prtc/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

A brief fair use quote:

The Caroline board sent a letter of interest in joining PRTC over the summer.

In November, supervisors met with Doug Allen, chief executive officer of Virginia Rail Express, and Al Harf, executive director of the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission. They fielded questions from the board, but made it clear they were not there to make a sales pitch for Caroline to join the commission or VRE.

VRE created a long-range system plan this summer that included expansion into Caroline as one of many possible scenarios.

However, some PRTC commissioners representing other localities in the Fredericksburg region aren’t sure that Caroline County would be a good fit now.

“We are struggling to meet the current demand of service of the trains just in the areas we currently serve,” said Fredericksburg Councilman Matt Kelly, who represents the city on PRTC and the VRE Operations Board.

He said he doesn’t see how expanding VRE to Caroline makes sense at this time. There are currently fewer than 100 riders from Caroline using the commuter rail service on a regular basis.

“We know they don’t have enough ridership yet to justify a train,” said Stafford County Supervisor Paul Milde, who serves on PRTC and is the incoming chairman of the VRE board. He hasn’t formulated an opinion yet, but is willing to discuss it.
I want my road foreman!

Arlington
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Re: VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

Post by Arlington »

ThirdRail7 wrote:This is an interesting article that deserves to be read in its entirety. You can never shake the political aspects from these situations.
Caroline divided over joining PRTC
http://www.freelancestar.com/2013-12-26 ... ning-prtc/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
A brief fair use quote:
The Caroline board sent a letter of interest in joining PRTC over the summer....He said he doesn’t see how expanding VRE to Caroline makes sense at this time. There are currently fewer than 100 riders from Caroline using the commuter rail service on a regular basis.

“We know they don’t have enough ridership yet to justify a train,” said Stafford County Supervisor Paul Milde, who serves on PRTC and is the incoming chairman of the VRE board. He hasn’t formulated an opinion yet, but is willing to discuss it.
Seems to me they'd be better off finding a way to get an Amtrak station in Milford/Bowling Green area--call it "halfway" between Fredricksburg and Ashland to serve the one-a-week business trip market first. {EDIT} but in the 2010 Census the county had only 28,000 people...pretty thin...maybe something like going halvsies with Spotsilvania to assure enough parking at the Spotsylvania station (where the rail meets US 17)
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

Arlington
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Re: VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

Post by Arlington »

VRE has a new document out called VRE System Plan Summary, January 2014 [PDF] which projects about 2.5billion in capital investments (and shows how they "get" lots of new peak users and peak passenger-miles for this money vs roads)

Among the bigger chunks are:

$1,100M Long Bridge Replacement (added Potomac crossing in DC)
$ 540M CSX Triple Tracking (Fredericksburg line)
$ 300M Gainesville-Haymarket Extension

(the rest ~$500M is locos, coaches, parking, platform-lengthening, yard space, stations, etc.)
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

Toaster718
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Re: VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

Post by Toaster718 »

jb9152 wrote:A big issue is Washington Union Terminal. Limited platform access for VRE trains, and no storage facility north of the station at which to layover trains. Everything that comes into the station has to turn and leave.

This problem can be solved easily although costly in DC. The 2 tracks on the lower level could be reconstructed. For example, track 22 and 30 could be upgraded with loading/unloading passenger platforms. Track 30 could be extended into A interlocking. I think the 1st street tunnel should be rebuilt to a 3 track tunnel.

Joke Insurance
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Re: VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

Post by Joke Insurance »

I'd also like to see the Warrenton Spur/Warrenton Branch Greenway convert into VRE use.

Joke Insurance
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Re: VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

Post by Joke Insurance »

Station Aficionado wrote: - buying Culpeper-Manassas-Alexandria/Front Royal from Norfolk Southern (if part of a VA DRPT -brokered Culpeper Freight Cutoff)
I'm sure if they extend VRE to Front Royal, the B-Line would have to be double-tracked and straightened out in some areas, correct?

Arlington
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Re: VRE steams ahead on future expansion plans

Post by Arlington »

Joke Insurance wrote:I'd also like to see the Warrenton Spur/Warrenton Branch Greenway convert into VRE use.
Give the 2040 Plan a read, because it gives you a sense of what's "possible" in the next 25 years. As far as new trackage goes, there's nothing in the works beyond Haymarket and Spotsy. Mostly you get additional tracks and platforms and the addition of peak-express, reverse-peak, and off-peak (weekend) trains, and potentially through-running with MARC once we get a new Long Bridge over the Potomac (an extension of VRE to Silver Spring, Greenbelt and New Carrollton would be easier to finance than anything in Warrenton. No sexy map growth, but it's going to put trains where the proven demand (and "free" tracks) and growth are.

I'd also say that Warrenton is too much of a "dead end" and restoration is *sooo much more expensive* (especially for so very few trains per day as a Warrenton branch would command) than plopping a platform next to a currently operating well-maintained freight line (with whom the ROW costs can be shared). Until we run out of currently-operating freight lines that could support service, Warrenton isn't worth restoring to passenger-only service. Either they'll drive to Gainesville or from "beyond", expect to take a growing number of Amtrak trains from Culpeper (a new pair of Amtrak trains to/from Lynchburg that'll serve Culpeper and Manassas is in the works for 2017ish and is probably a better solution for exurban supercommuters (who live that far out because they don't go into DC every day).

Haymarket is going to get the extension because it isn't a rail-restoration project and it is "on the way" to future destinations along the B-Line.

For anything beyond that, we're talking beyond 2040.
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

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