Alexandria, VA

A series of new improvements to Alexandria’s Union Station — a Virginia Railway Express stop — proposed late last year are moving forward toward city approval.

The plan is to create new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant access with a grade-separated pedestrian tunnel and elevator access. The expansion will also allow the station to take two trains at any given time, with one at each platform. The change is part of a regional effort to reduce the system’s bottleneck around the D.C. area.

According to the VRE website:

The project will provide an ADA-compliant, grade-separated pedestrian tunnel and elevator access between the two platforms at the VRE/Amtrak station in Alexandria and modify and extend the east platform at the station to accommodate eight-car trains and enable the platform to service two trains simultaneously, from a track on each side of the platform. The west platform adjacent to the station building will also be modified to raise its height relative to the top of rail as part of the project. Project funding sources include state SmartScale and Federal funds (through VDOT) to eliminate railroad grade crossings. Currently the project schedule is slightly ahead of the final year of funding allocation, which must be addressed with VRE’s funding partners through either reprogramming of funds or short-term borrowing.

The project is scheduled to go to the Planning Commission on September 1. The project was originally scheduled to be presented to the City Council in May, according to the VRE website, but the pandemic limited the scope of council meetings.

Construction on the project is estimated to start in 2022.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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A pedestrian was killed this evening by a Virginia Railway Express train behind the Regal Cinemas at Potomac Yard, according to Alexandria Police.

The person died at the scene, and the incident occurred at around 6:30 p.m., according to Alexandria Police spokesman Lieutenant Courtney Ballantine.

It is not clear if the pedestrian was male or female, and their identity and age have not been disclosed. Police are also investigating why the person was on the tracks at that time, and it is not clear who witnessed the incident.

Police also reported that there was no derailment because of the incident.

According to The Washington Post, the train was the southbound VRE train 313 to Fredericksburg, which stops nearby at Crystal City.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Morning Notes

Freedom House to Expand — “An expansion of the Freedom House Museum and renovations to the historic building it is in are in the works. Earlier this year, the Northern Virginia Urban League put the historic townhouse at 1315 Duke St. it owns up for sale for $2.1 million, after going through a difficult period keeping up payments on the property.” [Alexandria Living]

Former NFL Cheerleader Opens Salon — “From a loft-like space off a busy street in Alexandria, Stephanie Prinzbach runs the one-woman-show that is District Chic Hair Co., providing hair styling to over 115 customers spanning from Washington, DC to Richmond.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Treatment Court Shows Results — “In August, the City of Alexandria launched the Alexandria Treatment Court (ATC) as an alternative to jail for people accused of nonviolent felonies with significant substance use disorders… re-arrest rates of treatment court graduates are approximately half or less than that of non-treatment court graduates — which not only saves the judicial system money but also changes lives.” [Zebra]

New Rail Bridge, Expanded VRE Service Announced — “Virginia will build a new rail bridge over the Potomac River connecting Arlington and the District to significantly expand commuter and passenger train service over the next decade, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced Thursday.” [Washington Post, ARLnow]

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Morning Notes

A Look at the Cannabidiol Store in Old Town — “The Zebra wanted to find out the latest on the CBD craze and visited Your CBD Store at 301 S. Washington Street! Shells Karle opened the shop in May. She also individually owns two other locations in Alabama and is looking to possibly expand to Richmond.” [Zebra]

Good Tidings at Port City — Port City Brewing has released Tidings, its holiday seasonal spicy Belgian style blond ale. [Facebook]

VRE Santa Train Returns — “A holiday tradition cherished by thousands of Northern Virginia families, VRE Santa Trains will run Saturday, December 14… Santa, Mrs. Claus and their elves will be on board listening to children’s holiday wishes and handing out goodie bags.” [Zebra]

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(Updated at 11:45 a.m.) Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is moving forward with plans to upgrade Alexandria Union Station — not to be confused with D.C.’s Union Station.

On Oct. 24, the VRE submitted concepts for a requested development site plan to improve accessibility to the train station at 110 Callahan Drive, which also serves Amtrak.

Katherine Carraway, an urban planner for the Department of Planning and Zoning, told ALXnow in an email:

Proposed improvements are to improve passenger safety, operations and accessibility. Some of the proposed improvements include the following upgrades:

  1. The installation of two new elevators to provide an ADA‐accessible route to the east platform.
  2. Elimination of the existing at‐grade crossing between the east and west platforms.

The improvements will create a safer passenger crossing between the two platforms, according to a VRE statement.

Funding for the project is provided by the Federal Highway Administration, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and grants.

If approved, construction for the project is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2021.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Alexandria firefighters and police responded to a collision between a train and a vehicle this morning on the 4100 block of Wheeler Avenue, near Port City Brewing.

A VRE train loaded with hundreds of passengers struck a construction vehicle that was too close to the tracks. No injuries were reported and the train did not derail, but the crash drew a large emergency response.

As of 9 a.m., the train and tracks had been inspected and the train was given the all-clear to resume its journey.

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