M. Park defies parking order

Manassas Park residents still have reserved parking spots at the city’s Virginia Railway Express station, despite a recent order from two regional transportation authorities to get rid of them.

On Nov. 7, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, the two authorities who ordered removal of the signs, passed a resolution to find a way to meet Federal Transit Administration requirements and still let Manassas Park residents keep their parking spots.

However, a commission official says the resolution does not authorize the city to ignore the order to take the signs down for now.

“There are reasonable efforts being made to resolve this in a mutually agreeable way and avoid litigation,” said Al Harf, executive director of the PRTC.

The commissions ordered the signs be taken down in August when the FTA ruled the 144 reserved spaces, sitting in a parking lot expanded with $1.9 million in federal funds, were favoring city residents. Harf said recently that the NVTC and PRTC might lose federal funding if the reserved spaces are not removed.

“We’ve asked the city to comply. And we’ve communicated to the city that neither commission is prepared to bear an expense,” Harf said.

The presence of the reserved spaces continues to be a source of frustration for VRE riders from outside the city, who often have trouble finding a place to park in the crowded 600-space lot.

“We’ve been wondering for some time why [Manassas Park] is putting so much effort into something that provides so little benefit for so little people in their community,” said Tom DeWispelaere, a rider who lives just outside the city limits in Prince William County.

Manassas Park has insisted there is a difference between the original parking lot built by the city and the federally funded expansion. If so, federal regulations would not apply to the reserved spaces, which are on the original lot.

The Nov. 7 resolution passed by NVTC and PRTC calls for negotiations with the FTA to see if there is a way to change the parking lots enough that the FTA will consider them two separate lots.

“Having the PRTC buy two steps and a curb egress might be a way to defederalize the city-owned lot,” said Manassas Park City Manager David Reynal.

Both Manassas Park and VRE riders from outside the city have tried to involve U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th District, in the dispute. The congressman has asked the FTA for more information.

“I think we’re going to wait and see what they inform us,” said Dan Scandling, spokesman for Wolf.

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