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Fredericksburg is the end of the VRE line, but a Spotsylvania station is on the horizon.
BY SCOTT SHENK
A potential problem has cropped up with the third rail that is a necessary part of the planned Spotsylvania Virginia Railway Express station.
Freight-rail giant CSX Transportation has notified the VRE that it wants to upgrade portions of the third rail so it would tie into a future high-speed network.
Such upgrades could add millions to the $20.3 million price tag of building the third rail between Spotsylvania and Fredericksburg.
Also, CSX could take over construction of the rail. So far, the commuter rail service has handled the project, which is in the design phase.
Gary Skinner, a member of the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors and the VRE board, said there are some "sticking points," but he believes everyone involved is working toward getting the project done.
And he's holding out hope that, whatever happens, the Spotsylvania station and third rail will be completed by August 2013.
"Right now, I don't think the red flag needs to be hoisted," he said during Friday's VRE board meeting, when the issue came up.
Spotsylvania joined VRE in February 2010, and part of the agreement included a new station, which will be built in the Crossroads Industrial Park off of the U.S. 17 bypass.
The 2.6-mile third rail was a required component of the station to keep trains moving.
VRE is working on schedule with the project, said spokesman Mark Roeber.
The original plan for the third rail was to focus primarily on getting it completed, without an eye on the high-speed system, said Kevin Page, chief operating officer with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, which oversees VRE.
But plans changed to focus on making sure the third rail's crossovers, switches and ties would integrate with a high-speed rail network. That way, they wouldn't have to come back later and upgrade the Spotsylvania third rail.
"The object isn't to slow the project," Page said. "It's to make the system fully integrated."
Still, he added, "there are a lot of moving pieces on the project."
One issue is that officials will have to find the additional funds for the upgrades, he said.
Page, VRE's Chief Operating Officer Dale Zehner and CSX officials will meet soon to discuss the situation.
Page doesn't think the project will be delayed.
Skinner said he doesn't have a problem with CSX's desire for the upgrades, unless it delays the project.
"I think within two weeks we'll know more," he said. "I feel confident that VRE and CSX are working towards our goal."
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436