The Atlantic Gateway is underway. Gov. Terry McAuliffe discussed the details of the $1.4 billion plan to reform regional road and rail projects at Alexandria’s Union Station on July 8. For Northern Virginia, the program means road expansions and more express lanes, but for Alexandria a big piece of the proposed improvements could be the rebuilding of the Long Bridge parallel to the 14th Street Bridge.
According to Nick Donohue, Deputy Secretary of Transportation, the plan is to expand the rail access from two tracks to four. Currently, the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) has to compete for rail access with other freight lines moving through D.C. and Donohue said the rail capacity is at its maximum usage. The expanded rail lines will run from D.C. down into Alexandria’s Union Station.
“This will improve reliability and it adds capacity,” said Donohue.
But the Long Bridge project is the only one of the listed improvements that is only partially funded. The project is a partnership with Washington D.C., which still has to perform an environmental study on the project before it will commit funding.
“We want to be able to advance the Virginia side so we’ll be ready when D.C. is,” said Jennifer Mitchell, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.
Alexandria’s political leaders in attendance at the meeting expressed support for the project and for the Long Bridge improvement.
“I’m excited that it’s not just roads improved,” said state Sen. Adam Ebbin. “I’m happy about the multimodal improvements. The VRE is an important economic driver for the region.”
While the VRE improvements are the primary benefit in Alexandria, officials said any improvements that ease congestion in Northern Virginia is going to be a benefit to Alexandria. A large part of the Atlantic Gateway has been improvements to I-95 south. In Alexandria, this will include an addition of a fourth lane on Edsall Road in the West End. Yonn Lambert, Alexandria’s director of Transportation, said the city has been pushing for the improvement for years in its legislative packages. According to Lambert, the improvements are moving into a public outreach phase, and the city will be part of the effort to include citizen input into the improvements later in Fall 2016.
“This is going to help improve our city in terms of congestion,” said Mayor Allison Silberberg. “It’s a huge announcement, this is a transformation for the area.”