VRE may lose federal funding

Virginia Railway Express is in danger of losing federal funding, officials for the commuter rail line say. And it’s all because of 144 parking spaces Manassas Park has reserved for city residents in its train station parking lot.

“It has the potential to put the VRE and other commissions at risk for receiving federal dollars if the [Federal Transit Administration] wanted to say, ‘We gave you an order to comply, and you didn’t comply,'” said Mark Roeber, a spokesman for VRE.

Manassas Park City Council will decide Tuesday whether to cover the signs marking the parking spaces, giving VRE the chance to comply with Federal Transit Administration regulations for the time being.

“After input from citizens, the council will vote on whether to do that, whatever consideration [VRE’s two governing bodies] would like us to make,” said Manassas Park City Manager Dave Reynal.

The two boards in charge of the railway — the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission — recently ordered Manassas Park to get rid of the special parking spaces by Thursday.

Both commissions made the decision after the FTA warned that the parking spaces might be discriminatory. Since $1.9 million in FTA funds paid for an expansion of the parking lot earlier this year, the agency says the signs must come down.

Manassas Park owns the parking lot. And yet the situation leaves the organizations running the VRE at risk of losing federal funding. Of the $30 to $35 million the PRTC presently has for construction projects, all but $5 million comes from the federal government, said Al Harf, executive director of the PRTC.

If Manassas Park fails to remove the resident-only parking spaces, there are a number of actions the FTA might take against the PRTC.

“They range from a proverbial slap in the wrist to the withholding of federal funds that an organization, such as PRTC might be a recipient of,” Harf said.

The need to have the reserved spaces removed has led VRE to offer Manassas Park some kind of compensation, possibly monetary, Roeber said.

“We want to get to a point where they agree to a concession that would be good for the entire family,” he said.

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

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