Manassas Park, VRE ready to agree

Manassas Park has reached an agreement with Virginia Railway Express over the removal of 151 parking spaces reserved for city residents at its train station off Manassas Drive.

The Manassas Park City Council voted 4-0 Tuesday night to approve an agreement with the VRE#&039;s two governing bodies — the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission — in which the city stops reserving the spaces in return for incentives.

The agreement, which took effect Wednesday, settles a federal lawsuit filed against the city by the VRE.

“This agreement provides us with almost a million dollars in improvements,” said Manassas Park Mayor William J. Treuting Jr. “While it is not a perfect solution, it is the best one possible.”

Councilman William Wren, who also serves as the PRTC#&039;s chairman, abstained from the vote Tuesday night. Councilwomen Vonna L. Privett and Noreen Slater were absent.

For months, the Federal Transit Administration has been telling the VRE to get the city to remove the spaces, which it said were giving city residents special treatment.

If the city had insisted on keeping the spaces, the VRE would have had to pay back the $1.9 million in federal funds it used to expand the city#&039;s parking lot early last year. For the PRTC, failure to meet the FTA#&039;s requests would have endangered its ability to receive grants for large capital projects.

To get the city to stop reserving the spaces, the VRE has now promised to expand the platform at the city#&039;s station within the next two years, at a cost of $500,000. An amount of $100,000 will be given to the city to pay for sidewalks leading to the station.

The agreement has proved a source of frustration for Tom DeWispelaere, the Prince William County resident who filed the initial complaint over the spaces.

“The solution to get someone to stop breaking the law is not to pay them off,” he said.

The incentives, however, were merely a way to make sure Manassas Park#&039;s interest in the matter was respected, said Al Harf, the PRTC#&039;s executive director.

“We tried to negotiate something that was mindful of all the parties legitimately involved,” he said.

Harf pointed out that the extension of the station platform in Manassas Park was already a priority for the VRE.

Pete Sklannick Jr., the VRE#&039;s CEO, says the agreement ends what proved to be a time-consuming, contentious process, spanning months.

“We reached a position where all the parties involved were satisfied,” he said.

Staff writer Chris Newmarker can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 119.

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