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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Inaugural intercity train to stop in Manassas, Va.

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An inaugural train set to usher in new intercity rail service in Virginia will stop Sept. 30 in Manassas, local media report. The train, billed as taking a whistle stop tour, will leave Washington's Union Station at 8:30 a.m. bound for Lynchburg. It is scheduled to arrive in Old Town Manassas at 11:40 a.m.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Pierce R. Homer is expected to be joined by Manassas Mayor Harry J. "Hal" Parrish II, Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, R-at large, local delegates as well as the presidents of Amtrak and Norfolk Southern for a presentation that will last about 20 minutes. Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine is expected to meet the train in Charlottesville and again in Lynchburg.

The train will begin regular service Oct. 1, headed north from Lynchburg. It will stop in both cities and towns along the line, including Charlottesville, Culpeper, Manassas and Washington, before connecting to the northeast rail corridor, ultimately terminating in Boston.

"Anytime you add transportation you add opportunities for business. People traveling north on board these trains will take opportunities to stop in these towns, and the more people you have walking around Old Town Manassas, the better," said Manassas City Manager Lawrence D. Hughes.

The train will arrive Thursday in Manassas at 10:21 a.m., according to Amtrak, which will operate the trains. Since it is later in the morning, Hughes said the city expects fewer commuters to use the train, except for those who may need to go into work later in the day.

The new train - along with a proposed $1.5-billion worth of rail improvements from Washington to Petersburg awaiting approval from the Federal Railroad Administration - show transit in the state is on the right track, said Stewart.

"While we must remain focused on economic development within the county, it is encouraging that the commonwealth and the federal government recognize that an investment in the quality of life of Prince William and Manassas commuters will pay dividends to the rest of the state and region," Stewart said.

The state approved $25.2 million to fund the rail service earlier this year. Some of the money, $8 million, will be used to refurbish Amtrak rail cars and locomotives, according to a Virginia Department of Rail and Transportation spokeswoman.

A state-funded Amtrak train from Richmond will begin service Dec. 15. That train will also connect passengers to Amtrak's northeast corridor, from Richmond to Boston.

The state estimates a combined total of 93,000 passengers a year will use the new Amtrak service.

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