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VRE station in Spotsy pushed back again

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Spotsylvania County’s Virginia Railway Express station won’t open anytime soon, but officials at least expect work to start soon.

Before that work can begin, though, the county has to strike a deal with the owners of the land needed for the station’s parking lot and a new third track.

Spotsylvania Supervisor Gary Skinner gave an update on the new station and third track during the VRE Operations Board meeting Friday. He said county and VRE officials hope to break ground on both projects in the next two months.

In an interview after the meeting, Skinner said officials hope to open the station and third track by June.

The station is going to be built in the Crossroads Industrial Park off the U.S. 17 bypass.

The county and VRE are negotiating with the property owners, businessmen George Lester and Fitz Johnson.

Skinner said the county made an offer two weeks ago to the owners for the approximately 25 acres needed for the station’s 1,500-space parking lot. The station will be built on CSX property, so the county does not have to purchase that land.

Skinner expects a counteroffer from the owners next week.

Meanwhile, VRE was negotiating with the landowners for easements needed for the third track.

He said the agency hopes to start work on the third track by Dec. 1. The 2½-mile third track will connect the new Spotsylvania station to the mainline.

Work on the station and parking lot could begin by mid-January. But Skinner acknowledged that negotiations on that land could prove difficult if the property owners “play hardball.”

If that happens, he said it’s possible the county would go to court and condemn the property. That would allow work to start while the price could be settled in court.

“I would love to avoid it,” Skinner said, noting that such a process could delay the project.

VRE and Spotsylvania officials had originally hoped to open the station by December, but complications with necessary track improvements pushed back that deadline.

In other items during Friday’s meeting, the VRE board:

  • Voted to amend a contract for new railcars. The change will allow the commuter rail provider to buy seven additional cars to replace the last of the Legacy cars. The change added $14.8 million to the original contract for 15 new railcars. The total contract now stands at just more than $36 million. The additional costs, according to Doug Allen, VRE’s chief executive officer, are covered by increased federal funding.
  • Agreed to a new lease for 127 spaces in Parking Lot H on Prince Edward Street in Fredericksburg. The lot is owned by the New City Fellowship church.

The church notified VRE last December that it wouldn’t renew the lease, so a new deal was negotiated. The new lease is for five years at a cost of $446,320.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436