The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is considering transit improvements between the Franconia-Springfield Metro station and Marine Corps Base Quantico, floating possibilities such as expansion of Virginia Railway Express, bus rapid transit or even Metro in a new survey of area residents.
Part of a feasibility study that kicked off last year, the survey asks a series of questions about commuting and travel patterns before the pandemic set in and since the proliferation of work-from-home for many.
The survey also includes questions about the kinds of improvements – from shorter trip time to extended service and safety – that would motivate people who live and work in the study area to use public transit more frequently.
The study area runs from just south of Alexandria down to Quantico, including Fort Belvoir, Woodbridge, Dale City and Southbridge along the way.
“Population and job growth will continue to increase demand for multimodal commuting options,” the study’s fact sheet reads. It noted that the population in the study area is expected to grow by 24% to a total of roughly 550,000 by the year 2045 and that jobs in the area are expected to grow by 34% to a total of 270,000 in the same time frame.
A number of transit improvements are already underway in and around the corridor over the next decade, but public transit accessibility falls off quickly south of Alexandria from Fairfax to Prince William counties. Construction on the Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit, which will run from the Huntington Metro station to Woodlawn, is expected to occur from 2025 to 2030.
Meanwhile, the $3.7 billion Transforming Rail in Virginia agreement between the commonwealth, Amtrak and CSX will dramatically increase VRE and Amtrak service in the corridor. The Department of Rail and Transportation says it’s hoping to supplement those improvements in the area.
The study’s technical advisory committee includes representatives from Fairfax and Prince William counties, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, the Potomac & Rappahannock Transportation Commission (OmniRide), the Department of Defense, VRE and WMATA.
The group’s last meeting featured a presentation on a number of possible alternatives, including Metro Yellow and Blue line extensions, a Fort Belvoir to Dumfries bus rapid transit service, and express bus service enhancements. Advanced bus rapid transit systems mimic light rail with dedicated right of way and platform boarding, but come with substantially lower construction costs.
The committee’s presentation also featured an in-depth look at the area’s land use and zoning.
“A parallel task will include an assessment of the planned land use in the corridor to identify potential station areas and development opportunities,” according to the presentation. “Throughout the study, the [DRPT] study team will seek input from the public, including local organizations and communities along the corridor.”
A virtual public meeting on the study will be held May 4, and the survey will close May 15.
Ultimately, a final report is expected to be submitted to the General Assembly by December. The study was funded in last year’s state budget after being pushed by state Sens. Scott Surovell, D-36th, and George Barker, D-39th, as well as Dels. Luke Torian, D-52nd, and Elizabeth Guzman, D-31st.
Last year, Guzman said the possibility of extending Metro service into Prince William was a long-term goal of hers. In 2015, Metro officials made a presentation for the Prince William Board of County Supervisors that said extending Metrorail into the county would cost between $100 million and $600 million per mile.
“We have the second largest population in the commonwealth,” Guzman told InsideNoVa last February. “And this is not going to be a short-term project; this is definitely a long-term project.”