City, VRE debate garage size

The city of Manassas and Virginia Railway Express are finalizing plans to build a parking garage south of Old Town, with only the size of the garage still under debate.

City and the railway officials hope to have a parking deck built between Battle and Main streets south of the downtown area by 2005.

On Nov. 15, the VRE Operations Board adopted an agreement between the city and the commuter railway to work together on the project. Manassas City Council approved the agreement Oct. 28.

All of the agreement — except the environmental assessment for the site — has now been submitted to the Federal Transit Administration. Manassas and the VRE have yet to settle on the size of the parking garage.

For now, the agreement specifies a four-level, 320-space parking structure. But Manassas is hoping for a five-deck garage that would house more than 400 vehicles.

“I think these things will be worked out, and we’ll move forward on this,” said Mike Moon, Manassas’ public works director.

A parking deck of more than 400 spaces might have extra room for customers wanting to patronize Old Town businesses, something Tricia Davis, the executive director of Historic Manassas Inc., says is needed.

“You see people walking down the streets of Old Town all the time, filling the area’s restaurants. And they’re always looking for parking. We really need it now, don’t we?” she said.

The VRE is expecting little trouble from the FTA if the size of the parking garage is expanded, said Mark Roeber, spokesman for the railway.

“I think it would be considered proactive. We’re building for capacity that we know is going to come,” he said.

Engineering and design, as well as environmental work, was approved by the FTA on Sept. 19, said Gail Taylor, spokeswoman for the agency.

At this time, almost 75 percent of the project is already funded with local and federal funds. And the VRE is lobbying to get the rest of the money for the project worked into federal appropriations bills early next year.

“We’re well on our way,” Roeber said.

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