The Virginia Railway Express commuter service is ironing out details to expand into Spotsylvania County, with plans to open its first station there late next year.
Train officials are working out the details with the county on building a new station and platform to become the new end for the Fredericksburg line. The service now runs on two lines, shuttling Northern Virginia workers to their D.C.-area jobs. But the march outward signals the continuing reach of the D.C. region's sprawl and workers' desire for an alternative to sitting in traffic.
Spotsylvania County Supervisor Gary Skinner has been hoping to get a station in the county for about five years and made it a campaign issue when he ran for county supervisor. He used to ride the system in the 1990s, before changing jobs.
VRE plans to start running the service into the county in Dec. 2013, but Skinner hopes to have it begin even earlier.
Already between 910 and 990 riders from Spotsylvania County ride VRE daily, said VRE spokesman Mark Roeber.
But the service expects more when the new station opens because one of the current limiting factors is the commuters' parking lot at Fredericksburg, where the 826 spots often fill up each morning. The new station will have its own lot.
Skinner expects to have 1,300 riders per day from the county within the first six months.
But officials forecast more to come. A mixed-use development is also being considered around the station, which could draw more people to the area.
"We undoubtedly will get more from Spotsylvania as it continues to grow rapidly," Roeber said.
Also, the service expects to attract other new riders from counties farther away, as the leapfrog effect extends outward. King George and Caroline counties already contribute some regular riders, Roeber noted, but others will likely opt to make the drive to a closer Spotsylvania station.
VRE expects the station and platform to cost about $3.7 million, Roeber said. The design work is already nearly 70 percent complete, he added.
Skinner estimates the whole project will cost about $30 million, though, including the track, station and parking lot, paid for with a combination of grants and federal and local funds. Already, VRE has a rail yard nearby where it parks trains for the night, so the project entails building less than 5 miles of track, Roeber said.
The county also has fully joined the operations board of VRE, contributing money to run the train service, he said.