Northern Virginia Communities: Virginia Railway Express

In my last Northern Virginia Communities post, I talked about Burke, Virginia. Railroads played an important part in the history of Burke, so this week I thought I would highlight one of the successors of that legacy: the Virginia Railway Express (VRE).

The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) (reporting mark VREX) is a regional/ commuter rail service that connects the Northern Virginia suburbs to Union Station in Washington, D.C., via two lines: the Fredericksburg Line from Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the Manassas Line from Broad Run/Airport station in Bristow, Virginia.

Service to Manassas began on June 22, 1992, the Fredericksburg service on July 20, 1992. As of July 2010, VRE transports an average of 17,600 passengers per day. Rail service operates Monday through Friday only and is suspended or reduced on select holidays

VRE is owned by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission. The NVTC and PRTC are governmental entities that were created by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Local governments (e.g. counties, cities) within each commission’s geographic area are members of each commission.

In 1989, NVTC and PRTC executed a Master Agreement with the jurisdictions participating in the VRE project. The participating jurisdictions agreed to pay for VRE through a formula that weighted ridership by jurisdiction of residence with a factor of 90% and population with a factor of 10%. Arlington and Alexandria agreed to contribute to the project and have paid each year approximately what their formula share would be. The cities of Fredericksburg and Manassas Park joined PRTC in 1990 and signed the VRE Master Agreement and became VRE participating jurisdictions in 1992. Spotsylvania County joined in February 2010.

Through a cross-honoring agreement, VRE and the MARC Train allow passengers to transfer to a train on the other system provided that it is going in the opposite direction of the rush-hour commuters.

VRE operates on lines owned and maintained by Amtrak, Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation. Most of the Fredericksburg Line is on CSX tracks, while the portion of the Manassas Line west of Alexandria is mostly on Norfolk Southern tracks. Union Station in Washington, DC, which is the northern terminus for most VRE trains, is owned and operated by Amtrak, including the station tracks.

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