The Quantico train station will reopen to the public in two weeks, giving commuters and Amtrak riders shelter from the elements and the opportunity to buy tickets, or grab a cup of coffee and a newspaper.
“This is something that I have looked forward to,” said Quantico Mayor Mitchel P. Raftelis. “It’s a dream come true for me.”
The Virginia Railroad Express had hoped the station’s reopening would coincide with its planned community celebration that was held last week.
VRE officials wanted participation from the neighboring Quantico Marine Corps base. April 27 was the date Quantico officials gave that they could provide the Quantico band and a Marine color guard for the ceremonial opening, said Mark Roeber, VRE spokesman.
The contractor, however, did not have the custom-made train station doors installed in time for the ceremony. VRE officials did not want to leave the newly refurbished station unsecured.
“The decision was made that until we can firmly lock down the station and ensure it is being taken care of, it would not reopened,” Roeber said.
The contractor is supposed to have the train station doors in place May 10. Three additional working days were added to the construction schedule to ensure all incidental work is complete, Roeber said.
The reopening will take place May 16.
The station, which was built in the 1950s, closed in 1971 due to a drop in train ridership. More people were foregoing the rails and taking to the highways.
“Now the situation is reversed,” Raftelis said. “We are all going back to public transportation.”
Raftelis and county officials worked hard to keep Amtrak and then the VRE at least using the platform of the station. Raftelis said railroad officials wanted to make sure that at least three passengers a day used the platform.
That was tough for a while, but ridership did rise steadily. VRE now estimates that 500 people use the station daily.
When the station building reopens later this month, more riders are expected with the obvious draw of a quiet dry place to wait for a train as well as the amenities of a little store and restrooms.
Roeber said VRE has solicited bids from vendors to operate a little store as well as to sell tickets within the station. While a vendor may not be in place by May 16, the station will still open that day.
“There will just be a different set of services available,” Roeber said. “[Commuters] will still have access to the bathrooms and be able to stay out of the elements.”
Raftelis has been working with county, state and federal officials since at least 1994 to reopen the station located at the entrance to the town of Quantico along Potomac Avenue.
The persistence has paid off. About $1 million, mostly from federal funds, was spent to renovate the building.
It also will become the home of a like-minded organization. The Prince William Model Railroad Club will establish its headquarters in about one-fourth of the building. While it set up a model demonstration for the ceremony last week, a permanent train display is being constructed, Roeber said.
When the club is ready, it will be open to the public, Roeber said.
“It will be wonderful. It will draw other train hobbyists, children, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts,” Raftelis said.
The model trains as well as the station itself should go far in attracting more people into the little town with its business district full of restaurants and shops.
“That’s the whole idea,” Raftelis said.
He also is hoping that when the National Museum of the Marine Corps opens in 2006 outside the Quantico base, many of the hundreds of thousands of projected visitors will choose to travel by rail to reach it.
“We’ve been waiting a very long time for this,” Raftelis said.
Staff writer Aileen M. Streng can be reached at (703) 878-8010.