City ordered to remove reserved parking at VRE

Manassas Park has until Oct. 17 to remove signs reserving parking spaces for city residents next to the Virginia Railway Express station off Manassas Drive.

The two boards in charge of the railway — the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission — passed resolutions Thursday night calling for the signs to come down.

Both commissions were ordered to make the change by the Federal Transit Administration, which considers the reserved spots to 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.

“We are going to be complying with the FTA directive. And we’re in the process of communicating that outcome to the city,” said Al Harf, the FTA’s executive director.

Of the 600 parking spaces next to the VRE station, 144 are reserved for city residents.

Manassas Park City Manager David Reynal says the city is now studying the situation and will soon decide how to proceed.

He insists that the parking spaces reserved for city residents are on the “original parking lot.” Except for a few feet of sidewalk and some paint for handicapped-only spaces, there is nothing in the area paid for with federal funds, Reynal says.

“It’s miniscule,” he said.

Councilman William Wren, who sits on the PRTC, says something will have to be worked out.

“These aren’t just local residents. These are VRE riders. There’s a reason our train station has been so successful,” he said.

Fear that other jurisdictions would lose grant money played a role in the PRTC’s decision, Wren said.

The FTA has been insisting on removal of the reserved spots since August, when it received a complaint from a non-Manassas Park resident. FTA lawyers looked into the matter and decided that discrimination was taking place.

“Therefore, city resident preferred parking must be eliminated immediately from this parking lot,” Susan E. Schruth, an FTA regional administrator, wrote in an Aug. 22 letter to the PRTC.

The city received notice of the matter Aug. 30.

Since then, Manassas Park and the PRTC have been asking the FTA to reconsider.

But on Oct. 2, Schruth informed Harf that the spaces need to go. While admitting that the “original” lot was paid for with city funds, FTA money has made the parking lot accessible to the disabled.

“Accordingly, city resident preferred parking must be eliminated from this parking lot,” she said.

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