VRE station on track for 2022 opening

A dirt pile at the site of the future VRE station in Potomac Shores (rendering at right), now planned for 2022.

The large Potomac Shores development near Dumfries is now expected to welcome a commuter train station in early 2022.

For now, there’s a VRE sign on top of a mound of dirt on a cliff overlooking the Potomac River where the station will be built. As a Virginia Railway Express train passed the development on Tuesday, it was barely visible through the trees.

The company that owns the tracks, CSX Transportation, approved a concept design this week that includes a station building with retail space, a 550-space underground parking garage and two station towers, both about 50 feet tall, said Andrew Wagner, project manager for Potomac Shores.

The design must be developed further and agreed upon by stakeholders, including officials with Amtrak, VRE and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

The towers are planned on either side of the tracks, with a pedestrian bridge above to connect them, he said. The station building could include a restaurant with a view of the river, retail stores and access to underground parking.

Potomac Shores Parkway will be the main road leading to the station, Wagner said. The developer is working on extending that road to the future station.

California-based developer SunCal owns and manages the 1,920-acre Potomac Shores property. SunCal is putting $20 million toward construction of the station. The firm has worked for years with CSX and multiple agencies, including VRE and state regulators, to agree on a concept design of the proposed station and the structures, said David Soyka, SunCal’s senior vice president of public affairs.

“Construction is probably the easy part,” he said. “We’re still working through details on the train station.”

Construction could start in the summer of 2020 and the station could open in early 2022, Soyka said. The station was originally set to open in 2017.

“It is all contingent on their approval,” he said. “We expect it will take two years to construct. It’s the same construction timeline; it just depends on the various agencies to give us the final go-ahead, and of course CSX is the most important.”

After comments from CSX last month, SunCal lowered the height of the towers and moved the parking underground, Soyka said.

The station will be available to the public and convenient for Potomac Shores residents, he said.

“We are very anxious to see this train station happen,” Soyka said.

SunCal has developed about 700 homes, townhouses and duplexes, Potomac Shores Golf Club and more since it bought the property in 2011, Wagner said.

SunCal provided the land for Covington-Harper Elementary School and a middle school currently under construction

with a 2021 opening date. SunCal also provided the site and built the Ali Krieger Sports Complex within the development, Wagner said.

When the station at Potomac Shores is built, it will serve two tracks; but the design accommodates a proposed third track to help trains move through the area, Soyka said.

The proposed station at Potomac Shores shows there is a demand for access to a rail station, said Jeremy Latimer, the state’s director of rail transportation programs. The agency puts a priority on Northern Virginia projects because of the existing road congestion and demand for passenger rail service.

“We want to add that capacity,” he said. “We’re not just thinking about today’s demand, we’re thinking about demand in the next 30 or 40 years.”

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