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McConnell Honored For Rail Efforts

Supervisor Elaine McConnell's efforts made the Virginia Railway Express metro-like rail service available to residents in an area that lacks Metro stops in western Springfield. Early on in VRE's history, McConnell recognized the value of public transportation in this area of the county and was recently recognized by the Virginia Transit Association who awarded her for "Outstanding Contributions by a Public Official" award for 2002.

VRE representative Mark Roeber praised McConnell's efforts.

"She was one of the ones that was for the early meetings," he said.

McConnell was elected supervisor in 1983 and started dialogues with the RF&P and Norfolk Southern Railroads in 1984 about the use of their tracks for a commuter rail, which later became the Virginia Railway Express.

Roeber noted the advantage of utilizing the existing tracks which saved an undetermined amount of time for the rail becoming a reality.

"The rail already existed," he said.

She has served on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, where she is currently vice chairman, the Fairfax Transportation Coordinating Committee, chairman of the Transportation Subcommittee as well as a special appointee by former Gov. James Gilmore to assess emergency and transportation needs for Virginia.

VRE's chief operating officer Pete Skinnik, Jr. noted McConnell's contribution.

"As chairman, Supervisor McConnell was the driving force behind working with CSX to allow VRE to run more trains. She worked hand in hand with me to help us find ways to get more high-capacity rail cars running now, so that the people had the needed seats," he said in a statement released by VRE.

Ridership has gone up 17 percent according to McConnell.

Their ridership surpassed the 12,000 rider per day mark in April which was a milestone according to Roeber.

"Our ridership keeps growing. That's 20 percent greater than that time last year," he said.

VRE has been looking to expand in Prince William and Fauquier sometime in the future, as well as another station in Fairfax. Possible sights include Centreville and Clifton, as well as one in central Fairfax. They've looked at 30 possible sites for that, according to Roeber.