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Fairfax Board Requests VRE Funding from Richmond

VRE might not get $9.6 million from the federal government for access to tracks.

Concerned that lack of funding could hurt commuter rail in Northern Virginia, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to request funding for the Virginia Railway Express from Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton.

VRE officials were told in a letter from the Commonwealth last month that they might not be receiving $9.6 million in funding from the federal government this year. In the past, the funds were used to pay for “access fees” to rail lines so that trains could use their tracks. But this year they’re being put into a general purpose transportation fund and could possibly be allocated elsewhere.

But Chairman Sharon Bulova told the Board of Supervisors that this lack of funding could spell trouble for the VRE’s use of the tracks.

“If VRE does not receive this vital support, drastic steps like eliminating 12 trains, raising fares 28 percent or increasing support from jurisdictions by 58 percent would be required to cover the lost revenue,” she said in a statement.

The Board will join the VRE and Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish in asking Connaughton for funding.

Supervisor John Cook (R-Braddock) feared that if the VRE didn’t get the money, it would be forced to stop running.

“Plan B, if we don’t get this money, is the liquidation of the VRE,” he said, noting that VRE officials agreed with the statement during last week’s meeting of the VRE Operations Board.

The motion to requests funds from Connaughton passed unanimously, although Supervisor Gerry Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

The General Assembly will have final approval of where the money goes during its 2013 session.

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