Fairfax County’s vibrant economy keeps unemployment and taxes low, while allowing us to provide world class services for our residents. But, as we are all too aware, with growth comes serious traffic congestion, which diminishes our quality of life and could impair our economic future.
Help is coming as new transportation money from the State will help us repair and improve our roads. In addition we are building a more robust transit network.
The Virginia Rail Express is already a smashing success, serving up to 20,000 trips per day riding on the two lines – The Fredericksburg line which parallels I-95 and the Manassas Line, which parallels I-66. The service is clean, safe, efficient, and, most importantly, on time upwards of 95 percent of trips. It’s time to think about expanding rail service on VRE, helping take more cars off the road, reduce emissions, and improve the quality of life of Virginians.
The VRE Operations Board, of which I am an executive committee member, will consider adopting a "system plan" next month that aims to increase ridership by 30 to 50 percent, eventually serving up to 30,000 trips per day. VRE hopes to do this by adding two more cars onto each train, adding two new trains, and increasing the number of trips in both directions. The result would be a more robust transit system for Northern Virginia. Better connections to existing and new bus routes will also make VRE a more viable option for workers in Tysons and even Reston.
The need for expansion and VRE’s ability to expand are perfectly in sync. VRE is paying off a significant amount of debt this year, giving us significant debt capacity for new projects. I’ve worked hard, along with my colleagues on the Capital Committee of the Operations Board, to draft a new set of financial principles that ensure VRE is expanding in a fiscally prudent way. Total debt will not exceed the level recommended by our outside financial advisors and VRE will establish new operations and maintenance reserves. These reserves will ensure that VRE can maintain, and eventually replace, the new cars and locomotives it purchases without causing future fiscal crises. We believe the new VRE financing principles could serve as a nation-wide model for fiscal prudence in transit systems.
These exciting changes will bring VRE service to more commuters and help support our economic growth. Sound fiscal planning will ensure responsible measures so VRE will be financially sound decades into the future. All this has been accomplished by dedicated public servants who came together, setting partisan politics aside, to address the common good.
See you on the train!
Supervisor John C. Cook (R-Braddock) has served on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors since 2009 and on the VRE Operations Board since 2010. Currently he serves as Secretary to the Board’s Operations Committee and Chair of its Audit Committee.