Virginia Railway Express: Regional benefits and informed expansion

The Washington, D.C. region consistently ranks towards the top of the list of US cities with the highest levels of traffic congestion. One way the region and the Commonwealth of Virginia are helping to reduce the peak period congestion is with a robust commuter rail system – the Virginia Railway Express (VRE). Doug Allen (VRE’s Chief Executive Officer) gives an insight on how the project’s expansion will help reduce congestion.

Virginia Railway Express: Regional benefits and informed expansion

One stretch of I-95 in Northern Virginia, a little south of Washington, D.C., won the honour of being named the worst traffic ‘hot spot’ in the nation. The effects of the greater Washington area’s over-saturated interstates have been felt for decades and the familiar bumper-to-bumper daily grind in Virginia extends as far as 60 miles south. With Virginia Railway Express1 (VRE) already credited with removing approximately one lane of traffic from both I-95 and I-66 in the peak periods, VRE’s planned expansion is expected to play a vital role in the area’s long-term congestion relief.

What is the Virginia Railway Express?

VRE serves Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. as a joint project of its two parent transportation commissions; the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC). Running on railroad tracks owned by CSX, Norfolk Southern and Amtrak, the VRE carries long-distance commuters along two lines into Alexandria, Arlington and the District of Columbia every weekday morning and returns them in the evenings.

Regional impact

Although discussion for a rail system to alleviate Northern Virginia’s commuter-filled roadways began as early as the 1960s at NVTC, it wasn’t until 1992 that VRE was introduced in the region. Ridership in VRE’s first full month averaged about 3,000 per day, but as VRE celebrated its 25th anniversary in summer 2016, it reported a daily average ridership upwards of 20,000 and growing.

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